Jacksonville State’s unprecedented Football Championship Subdivision run ended on a red field Saturday. The Gamecocks lost 35-24 to Eastern Washington in the quarterfinals to finish 11-4 after scoring their first two playoff victories in the school’s post-Division II era.
Now, first-year coach Bill Clark begins the work of building on what he has delivered.
Auburn (12-1) returns to practice Monday to prepare for the VIZIO Bowl Championship Series final showdown with Florida State. The game is set for Jan. 6 in Pasadena.
Meanwhile, Texas’ coaching search begins, with both BCS final coaches being mentioned as possible targets. Who’s ready for the next round of wild speculation, less than two weeks after Gus Malzahn agreed to a new deal with Auburn?
Alabama (11-1) gets back to practice Tuesday, the Crimson Tide’s All-State Sugar Bowl clash with Oklahoma set for Jan. 2 in New Orleans.
This comes after a week of wild speculation linking Nick Saban to Texas, culminating in his agreeing to a new, long-term deal with Alabama.
JSU: What was, could be
The Gamecocks went to Eastern Washington having already made history in their FCS era, and the scary part? They could have made more.
JSU wasn’t out of its depth, playing the No. 3 national seed on the road in the quarterfinals. Far from it.
The Gamecocks matched Eastern Washington score-for-score in the first half and made defensive adjustments in the second that left anyone watching on ESPN3 to wonder what could have been, had quarterback Eli Jenkins and running back DeMarcus James not gotten hurt.
That’s what Clark can take forward. JSU will come out of this season with a new confidence in what can be, because the Gamecocks know that more could have been.
JSU athletics director Warren Koegel spoke this past week about how nice it would be to see 24,000 fans fill JSU Stadium someday soon. One year under Clark has given JSU fans more reason than they’ve had since the school left Division II in 1992.
Alabama: Hooked ’Horns again
Texas’ football program hasn’t been the same since Alabama beat the Longhorns for the national title in Pasadena four years ago. With the events of this past week, Alabama handed Texas another beating.
Based on last week’s “sources” reports out of Texas, there must have been a high degree of delusion among the school’s supporters about luring Saban from Alabama. Delusions would appear to have gone up the fractured command chain.
What we know is that Saban and Alabama have agreed on a contract extension that will pay him nearly $7 million per year through 2020. We know that because of Friday’s official announcement of such.
We know that Texas coach Mack Brown announced his pending resignation, effective after the Alamo Bowl, a day after Alabama announced its agreement with Saban. That had to feel good for Brown, who endured months of whispers then shouts that Saban was mere a truck load of money away from taking his job.
We also know that Saban has since said that going to Texas was never a consideration or conversation.
It must feel chilly in Texas --- like when Colt McCoy left that BCS final against Alabama with a shoulder injury in the Longhorns’ first possession.
If talk of Texas’ coaching search becomes a distraction during Auburn’s preparations for the BCS final, then it will be an equal-opportunity distraction. Names bandied about include Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, as well as Malzahn.
If either coach is tempted by Texas’ money, facilities and recruiting base, then Texas-sized distractions just might get them over it. Brown talked about distractions of the job at his Sunday news conference, declaring that resigning “will add 10 years to my life. Maybe 20.”
If Fisher is the Saban clone that he’s purported to be, then clutter isn’t his thing.
Malzahn gives off a sense that anything outside of time with his coaches and players is a necessary evil, at best. It’s hard to see him enjoying three shows a week for the Longhorn Network, let alone talking to traditional state media and various constituencies in Texas.
They’d all have to get used to his can-we-get-this-over face, accentuated by his time-saving answers.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.