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Saban Explains Why Expansion Should Cover New Ground

In the minds of many, conference expansion isn’t about business, it’s about simplicity and fun.  You grab a list of last year’s standing and your latest Rand McNally atlas and you pick two teams with good records who happen to be a short drive away.

But that’s not how things work anymore.  The goal is to expand outward, not inward.  Leagues want bigger television revenue, so they look for new state’s worth of fans to reach and new TV markets to annex.

They also look for new recruiting ground.  Like Texas, for example.

Nick Saban was coaching at Michigan State as an assistant when Penn State was added to the Big Ten’s roster.  He remembers the impact that move had on his program, a couple of states away:

“I wouldn’t oppose (expansion because of) my experience in the Big Ten.  At the time Penn State came in, there were all kinds of naysayers… saying, ‘Why would we let a team as good as Penn State in the league?  It’s going to mess up the balance of the league.

The fact of the matter was that Penn State opened up the whole East (as recruiting territory) for the Big Ten.  Before that, we could never get a player anywhere in the East at Michigan State.  When Penn State got in, it became one of our best far-away recruiting areas because the Big Ten got a tremendous amount of exposure in the East that they never had before.

So it actually helped Michigan State that Penn State got in the league.  It was another tough game we had to play, but we always played one more tough game than we had to anyway.”

Saban added that the SEC is a great league that “doesn’t need to get changed… unless change benefits the league as a whole.”

Change like adding the states of Texas, Virginia or Missouri to the SEC’s footprint.

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Alabama Offers Michigan Lineman; Tennessee Still Leads

Alabama has extended a scholarship offer to defensive tackle Danny O’Brien from Flint (Mich.) Powers Catholic High School.

“I’m pretty excited,” O’Brien told “I was kind of waiting on this one for a little while, and it’s great to get it.”

Alabama is the second SEC school to offer O’Brien, who told the website he still favors Tennessee. O’Brien also has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

O’Brien, who said he would like to make his college decision before his senior season begins, has upcoming trips scheduled to Michigan State and Alabama.

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Alabama, Auburn Finalists For Illinois Lineman

Alabama and Auburn are two teams being considered by offensive lineman Dan Voltz, who will announce his college decision on Tuesday.

Voltz, who attends Barrington (Ill.) High School, is also considering Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Iowa and Northwestern.

Notice that in-state Illinois is not on the list for Voltz. He took a visit to Auburn earlier this month and most recently visited Northwestern on March 9.

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Lots Of Money Still On UK In Basketball

Wondering what the gamblers think of your favorite basketball team?  Wonder no more.  Here are the current Vegas odds on the SEC’s teams when it comes to winning the NCAA Tournament:

Kentucky — 12/1 odds (opened at 10/1)
Only Duke (3/1), Ohio State (5/1) and Kansas (8/1) are heavier favorites than the Cats right now.  Pittsburgh and Michigan State are on the same line with UK at 12/1.

Florida — 35/1 odds (opened at 18/1)
The Gators are 12th on the list in terms of being a favorite.  At 35/1 they’re bunched in with Georgetown and Baylor.

Tennessee — 50/1 odds (opened at 30/1)
The Vols are tied at 16th along with Memphis, Missouri, and Arizona.

And that’s it, folks.  The nine remaining SEC teams are all categorized as being part of the “Field” which carries 20/1 odds.

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UM Receives Warning As NCAA Gets Tough With Secondary Violations

The NCAA is getting tougher on crime.  College sports’ governing body is now threatening to hand out suspensions to coaches over recruiting violations that have to date been secondary violations in nature.

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo had to sit out a game in December over a person that was hired to work at an MSU basketball camp.  Now Houston Nutt has been served with a warning.

Last September, Ole Miss sent written scholarship offers to seven high school juniors.  That’s a no-no.  The Rebel athletic department discovered and reported the matter to the NCAA.  The NCAA accepted UM’s self-imposed penalties.

But as Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger points out, the NCAA sent a warning to the school as well.

“… please note that future similar violations may result in more significant penalties, including suspension of coaching-related activities for one or more contests.”

Nutt doesn’t sound worried as he told The JCL that the violation was inadvertent.  “I think the NCAA knows where our heart was and where our mind was on this thing, and I feel good about what was said.”

“I’m on the rules committee, and I understand where we’re going with secondary violations and I agree 100 percent,” Nutt added.  “The coaches that are trying to get an advantage by doing secondary violations, they’re going to be punished.  There’s no question about it, and that’s the way it should be.”

(Click the headline for a closer look at the photo.)

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Big Ten’s Delany Says The SEC’s The Strongest Conference

Bowl records can be deceiving.  Let’s start right there.

Is it fair to say that Conference-USA is stronger than the SEC because the champion of one league inched by the 9th-slotted team from the other?  No.

Is it fair to say that the Pac-10 is better than the Big 12 simply because Washington topped Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl… when Nebraska crushed the Huskies in Seattle earlier in the season?  No.

Long layoffs have an impact.  Bowl pairings (SEC #5 vs ACC #2, for example) have an impact.  And motivation has a huge impact. 

But when two leagues go head-to-head in three New Year’s Day bowl games that are paired evenly, well, that’s a different story.

As you know by now, the SEC ran roughshod over the Leaders and Legends of the Big Ten on New Year’s Day:

Alabama 49, Michigan State 7

Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14

Florida 37, Penn State 24

Brutal.  Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany admits as much.

“The SEC has demonstrated over a period of time that they’re the strongest conference,” he told  “The rest of us are looking to close the gap, but we’ve still got a little ways to go. … We got beat pretty good by Alabama, but that’s not a shock.  The one thing I knew for sure was that Alabama was not the 15th-ranked team in the country.”

Delany also admits that tomorrow’s Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Arkansas taken on added importance.

“It’s more important now than if we were 7-0 (in bowl games).”

For the record, the Big Ten went an embarrassing 0-for-5 in New Year’s Day action.

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SEC Bowl Game Headlines 1/2/2011

Alabama 49 – Michigan State 7

1. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio: “Sometimes there’s an avalanche that comes upon you.”

2. Difference in total yardage - 546 to 171.

3. A different mindset for this team vs. the 2008 team that lost to Utah.

4. Jon Solomon: “Can’t think of a more impressive defensive performance against a highly-ranked team.”

5. Bill Bryant: “Michigan State is no Auburn, just like the Big Ten is no Southeastern Conference.”

6. Michigan State’s All-American linebacker didn’t make a difference against the Tide.

7. Greg McElroy goes out a winner.

8. We seem to get this story after every Bowl game.  Tide underclassmen not ready to discuss possible jump to the NFL. But it’s probably time for Mark Ingram to head to the pros.

Mississippi State 52 – Michigan 14

9. Gator Bowl record for points.

10. 42-0 over the last three quarters.

11. Vick Ballard sets a single season TD-rushing record for the Bulldogs.

12. Missippi State fans will savor this victory for awhile.

Florida 37 – Penn State 24

13. Urban Meyer wins his fifth bowl game in six tries at Florida.

14. Gene Frenette: “A nightmarish season ended in feel-good fashion Saturday.”

15. One last gift for  Meyer.

16. Pat Dooley: “It was the perfect ending.”

17. Meyer on Ahmed Black.  ”He’s the best safety in college football.”

18. Solomon Patton plays field general for the Gators.

19. Out with the old – in with the new.  Charlie Weis and Aubrey Hill headed to Florida as assistant coaches. The view from Kansas City.

20. What was the Penn State mascot up to?

21. Just a horrible day for the Big Ten.

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SEC Headlines – 12/28/10 Part Two

1.  Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof sees similarities between Oregon’s offense and the Tigers’ offense.  “… They score a lot of points and they go up and down the field real fast.”

2.  Defensive tackle Zach Clayton didn’t get a lot of pub… and he’s fine with that.

3.  These beatwriters believe Oregon’s offensive line gets the edge over Auburn’s defensive line.

4.  Nick Saban moved yesterday’s practice indoors due to high winds.

5.  Receiver Julio Jones is still weighing his NFL options.

6.  On Saturday he’ll test an eager Michigan State secondary in the Capital One Bowl.

7.  Alabama’s basketball team will host Pepperdine tonight.

8.  Arkansas is getting ready for its biggest bowl game since 1989.

9.  John Pelphrey says Marshawn Powell escaped a car accident on Christmas Day without injury.

10.  Meanwhile, forward Michael Sanchez is expected to return from a foot injury for the Hogs’ SEC schedule.

11.  Forward Malcolm White came off the bench (for a change) to lead the Tigers to victory.

12.  The LSU basketball team pulled away from Southern U. 62-41 last night after another slow start.

13.  Job One for Ole Miss?  Find a quarterback for 2011.

14.  The Rebels did get some good news with tailback Brandon Bolden’s decision to return for his senior season.

15.  Cool the basketball arena talk… UM AD Pete Boone tells this writer that Tad Smith Coliseum won’t be replaced for five or six years.

16.  The Rebels’ weak schedule could come back to bite them come tournament time.

17.  Dan Mullen needs to continue to improve Mississippi State’s offense.

18.  Mullen said his team looked rusty in its first Florida practice for the Gator Bowl.

19.  Surprisingly, a few tickets still remain from MSU’s original allotment.

20.  This writer says, “It appears the (Renardo) Sidney experiment — a calculated risk to begin with — has failed.”

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SEC Christmas Day Headlines

1. Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey suspended indefinitely by Mississippi State.

2. Tough couple of weeks for LSU sports.

3. Alabama will get $4.6 million from the Capital One Bowl – where does it all go?

4. A sophomore walk-on is the top scorer on the Alabama football team.

5. Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones’ last challenge before an NFL career is the Alabama offense.

6. The AD saga at Georgia was this writer’s top story of the year.

7. Bruce Pearl’s challenge to his basketball team: “Do you want to act like the team that was picked fourth in the [SEC] East? Because teams that get picked fourth in the East don’t go to the NCAA tournament. They don’t.”

8. How John Calipari learned that charity begins at home.

9. With a win over St. Louis, Ole Miss finishes third in the Cancun Governor’s Cup.

10. LSU’s Patrick Peterson is the state of Louisiana’s defensive player of the year.

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SEC Headlines – 12/10/10 Part Two

1.  Another Southern voter explains his decision to back Cam Newton.

2.  Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer praises Urban Meyer for having the “courage” to walk away from coaching.  (No puns or sarcasm, just a nice comment from one of Meyer’s old victims.)

3.  The UT basketball team will need to upset #3 Pittsburgh to become Bruce Pearl’s first 7-0 squad in Knoxville.

4.  Vandy is working to hire Gus Malzahn with James Franklin waiting in the wings, but Greg Roman and Don Treadwell are still in the picture should Malzahn say no and Maryland fight to keep Franklin.

5.  Alabama and Michigan State are seeking a happy ending.  (Aren’t we all?)

6.  Nick Saban continues to say great things about his “good friend” Meyer.

7.  Anthony Grant says that JaMychal Green — fresh off a three-game suspension — will eventually have a chance to rejoin the starting lineup.

8.  Cecil Newton announced yesterday that he’ll skip the Heisman presentation.

9.  Cam — spawn of Cecil — will be in New York tomorrow.

10.  This writer says not enough folks are kissing Gene Chizik’s ring.

11.  This writer expects the Florida vacancy to be filled shortly.

12.  Pitt’s Dave Wannstedt will reportedly coach in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Kentucky… giving his team some extra motivation.  (Meanwhile, UK’s quarterback has been arrested.  Things are starting to lean toward the Panthers, no?)

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