D’Shawn Hand, considered by ESPN to be the No. 6 high school prospect in the country, announced Thursday he has chosen Alabama over Michigan and will sign a scholarship with the Crimson Tide in February. Hand, a 6-4, 262-pound defensive end, is rated as a rare five-star prospect.
"The campus life is amazing," Hand said in making his announcement at his high school in Woodbridge, Va. "I know half the team already. The coaching staff is amazing. Why not go where it's a great possibility you could win a national championship?
"When I took my visit, I took two visits. I got to see what the campus life is outside of football season as well as my official. I saw how the gameday atmosphere is, the culture. They have a winning tradition. They don't lie to you. I know when I go in, I won't be No. 1 on the depth chart."
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On his weekly radio show last week before playing LSU, a caller asked Nick Saban what movies his players enjoyed watching before big games. "The players really like 'Cinderella Man, they like 'Seabiscuit,' they like 'Secretariat,' they like 'Gladiator,' and Tom Cruise being the samurai soldier, 'The Last Samurai," Saban said candidly. "Those are probably the five of the ones we've watched before big games that the players really, really like. That's kind of the go-to five.
"The thing about it is you've got to wait about five years until everybody graduates," Saban laughed, explaining showing the same movies over and over would begin to bore the players. "Once you've seen them, you can't show them over and over. The other one they like is the Miracle on Ice," Saban added, mentioning the 2004 Disney film "Miracle" starring Kurt Russell as hockey coach Herb Brooks, the coach who guided the American team over the Russians in the 1980 Olympics.
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Florida center John Harrison was thrown out of the Oct. 5 game against Missouri when he touched an official after a heated on-the-field exchange and recently he explained what really happened.
“What happened was, one play I got face-masked, then the next play I got called every version of the ‘N-word” known to man. And I went to the ref and I’m like, ‘Ref, please, you have to control this player. He’s been calling me every racial slur.’
“I talk with my hands as you guys probably have seen this whole time and I touched the ref in his chest. I didn’t poke him, but I was talking like this (waving his hands).,” Harrison said.
“I didn’t even know I got ejected. I was sitting on the sideline talking to the coach and I heard my number, and they just walked me off the field. There was no malicious intent. I wasn’t trying to be an (jerk) or anything like that. I was honestly just trying to tell the ref to get his play because I was getting attacked, I felt like I was getting harassed, and it was beyond football.
“Calling me the N-word and everything is not football anymore. It is just going out of your way,” the player added.
That said, here is how I am picking this Saturday’s top college football games:
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TROY (5-5) at OLE MISS (6-3, 3-3 SEC), 12:00 Noon on ESPNU – The Rebs, winners of the last three in a string that started with LSU, are favored by 30 so this will be a waltz. Much harder will be Missouri next week before the away game at State winds up the regular season but what a year for Hugh Freeze, who is also turning out to be a magical recruiter. MY PICK? Mississippi, 45-10
KENTUCKY (2-7, 0-5 SEC) at VANDERBILT (5-4, 2-4 SEC), 12:21 p.m. on SEC Network – Vanderbilt is a 14-point favorite to become bowl eligible tomorrow but don’t laugh away Kentucky. The Cats scared Mississippi State in late October before losing a 28-22 thriller and, while Vandy was at its best in last week’s 34-17 win at Florida, the Commodores are light years away from overlooking any SEC team. If UK makes this close, it will heighten the drama for next week’s “state championship” in Knoxville. MY PICK? Vanderbilt, 42-14.
No. 25 GEORGIA (6-3, 4-2 SEC) at No. 7 AUBURN (9-1, 5-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m. on CBS – It is said the home-field advantage is worth 3 points so when the Tigers are favored by 3, you gotta’ figure these two are darn-near even in what will be the best slugfest of the day. The Bulldogs, with a healthy QB Aaron Murray and bold RB Todd Gurley, are a force, I am telling you, and you’ll do better flipping a coin than trying to analyze what happens when the oldest rivalry in the South is renewed. Auburn, the comeback team of the year, is playing with discipline and power so factoring in the glorious Auburn “family” setting, my coin comes up War Eagle. MY PICK? Auburn, 31-27.
No. 14 MICHIGAN STATE (8-1, 5-0 Big10) at NEBRASKA (7-2, 4-1 Big10), 3:30 p.m. on ABC – "We've never run from facing Nebraska, but that is the one football team that we have not beaten since coming here, so that remains a goal of ours," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said, keenly aware UN has won seven straight over the Spartans. “I think there are bigger and more important things to worry about; we've got to beat Nebraska to accomplish our goals, and that's why it's such a big game." The fact State beat Michigan by 23 the week before Nebraska topped the Wolverines by 4 is telling but this one is in Lincoln and MSU is just a 7-point favorite. MY PICK? Nebraska, 31-24.
No. 23 MIAMI (7-2, 3-2 ACC) at DUKE (7-2, 3-2 ACC), 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU – If you thought last year’s game was a horse race (Miami won 52-45 in the end), consider the fact UM is averaging 35 points per game while Duke is putting up 33.4. Both teams are averaging over 400 yards in offense per game, too, so look for a show in Durham. Miami has been badly beaten in the last two games but Duke, a 3-point underdog tomorrow, has now won five straight and will be favored against Wake and UNC later this month. MY PICK? Duke, 34-27.
No. 12 OKLAHOMA STATE (9-1, 8-1 Big XII) at No. 23 TEXAS (7-2, 6-0 BigXII), 3:30 p.m. on Fox – Banged-up Texas is a 4-point underdog in Austin, only the third time that has happened in the last 10 years, so you know why things are edgy around the Longhorn campfire. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have won five straight since the 9-point loss at West Virginia and are playing like a Top 10 team. One more thing: OSU has remaining games at Baylor (8-0) and Oklahoma (7-2) while Texas will play Texas Tech (7-2) and then Baylor (8-0) after tomorrow. By the time the Big XII shootout is over nobody will have any bullets left. MY PICK? Oklahoma State, 28-20.
FLORIDA (4-5, 3-4 SEC) at No. 11 SOUTH CAROLINA (7-2, 5-2 SEC), 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2 – Who would have ever thought the Gators would be a two TD underdog to South Carolina in November? Crippled by injuries and rife with rumor, UF will struggle to have a winning season with Florida State yet to come unless embattled Will Muschamp can come up with a miracle tomorrow. Then again USC hasn’t been that great after the 23-21 letdown at Tennessee but this one is under the lights at Williams-Brice Stadium, where Carolina has now won 15 straight to claim the longest home streak in the nation. Incidentally, USC will also host Clemson on Nov. 30. MY PICK? South Carolina, 34-13.
No. 4 BAYLOR (8-0, 5-0 Big XII) at TEXAS TECH (7-2, 4-3 Big XII), 7:00 p.m. on Fox – First-year Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was still a player for the Red Raiders in 2000 when a successful high school coach named Art Briles was brought in to coach the running backs. Now Briles will return to his alma mater under different circumstances with his unbeaten Bears and a hefty 10-year contract he just signed this week. Baylor, after scalding Oklahoma 41-12 last Thursday, is favored by 27 over TTU. The Bears have a hard row in November with remaining games against Oklahoma State (8-1), Texas Christian (4-6) and Texas (7-2). MY PICK? Baylor, 36-24.
No. 1 ALABAMA (9-0, 6-0 SEC) at MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-5, 1-4 SEC), 7:45 p.m. on ESPN – A.J. McCarron, the Crimson Tide QB, says the team won’t get haughty after last week’s 21-point win over LSU, “I think we've got enough really good leaders on this team and older guys to lead this team in the right way," he said. "We're not going to get caught up in this one win. It happened to us last year. We'll be ready to go." So, with Alabama a 26-point favorite, look for a lot of UA jerseys. MY PICK? Alabama, 42-3.
No. 5 STANFORD (8-1, 6-1 Pac12) at SOUTHERN CAL (7-3, 4-2 Pac12), 8:00 p.m. on ABC – The Trojans have won three straight, causing some to think interim coach Ed Orgeron should stick around, but Stanford’s 26-20 upset over Oregon is all most are talking about. US has whipped USC the last four times these two have played and, while Ed can now take the Trojans to a bowl game, Stanford comes into the Coliseum as a 4-point pick. Keep an eye on USC’s Stepfan Taylor as a double-threat QB but Cardinal RB Tyler Gaffney is the real deal. MY PICK? Stanford, 28-21.
SEC TEAMS IDLE THIS SATURDAY
ARKANSAS (3-7, 0-6 SEC) will play Miss. State in Little Rock on Nov. 25 at 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network)
LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) will host Texas A&M on Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
MISSOURI (9-1, 5-1 SEC) will visit Ole Miss on Nov. 23 at 7:45 p.m. (ESPN)
TENNESSEE (4-6, 1-5 SEC) will host Vanderbilt on Nov. 23 at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
TEXAS A&M (8-2, 4-2 SEC) will play at LSU on Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
AND ONE MORE …
UT-CHATTANOOGA (8-2, 6-1 SoCon) at SAMFORD (6-4, 4-2 SoCon) in Birmingham, 3:00 p.m. on ESPN3 – The Mocs already have a share of the conference title but this the biggest game of the year; the winner is guaranteed a berth in the playoffs. UTC is ranked 17th in the subdivision polls and Samford is not in the Top 25 but got some votes. So a peek at this week’s computer-generated Sagarin Ratings shows Samford is No. 138 out of 252 Division 1 teams while UTC is No. 143. Once we add 3.91 points (home field advantage) to Samford’s power rating it jumps to 59.18 points while UTC’s rating is 54.73. Thus, a hypothetical difference gives the Birmingham boys about a 4 ½ point edge but I like the Chattanooga guys much better. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 27-18.