Young, No. 2 Alabama roll over Louisiana-Monroe, 63-7

Louisiana-Monroe v Alabama
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama scored on a long touchdown pass, a pick-six and a blocked punt.

And that was just the first six minutes.

Bryce Young passed for three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth, Will Anderson Jr. scored on an interception return and No. 2 Alabama rolled to a 63-7 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide (3-0) scored on offense, defense and special teams in the first six minutes and raced to a 28-0 first-quarter lead. It was a whirlwind start against the 49 1/2-point underdog Warhawks (1-2) a week after a much closer-than-expected victory over Texas cost Alabama the No. 1 ranking.

Afterward, Tide coach Nick Saban challenged the team to play to the program’s always lofty standard more consistently.

“There’s some evidence out there that this is the standard we want to play to,” Saban said, noting that the competition gets tougher with Southeastern Conference play upcoming.

It wasn’t a seamless performance throughout for either the Tide offense or Young, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. But special teams came through, including a school-record for punt return yards.

Young completed 13 of 18 passes for 236 yards but also threw his first two interceptions of the season. He did run for a 7-yard score, where he spun near the goal line and dove across.

Anderson returned his first career interception 25 yards for a touchdown, one play after Young’s initial pick. The national sacks leader a year ago, he also got his second sack of the season.

“What can’t he do?” cornerback/return man Kool-Aid McKinstry said.

“He was probably surprised he caught it, I ain’t gonna lie,” linebacker Henry To'oto'o said. “He had a little stiff-arm and he was just watching it when they did the highlights on the board. And he was like, `I can’t believe I did that.”‘

Malachi Moore got a short scoop-and-score after Ja’Corey Brooks’ blocked punt.

Chandler Rogers completed 11 of 21 passes 96 yards for Louisiana-Monroe and was intercepted once. Malik Jackson ran for an 11-yard touchdown, set up by the Tide’s failed fourth-down attempt.

“It went like most people thought it would go,” Louisiana-Monroe coach Terry Bowden said. “They were just too good for us in every phase of the game. You could watch the video and say that’s kind of what you’re stepping into, but you still prepare for them not to play well or something to go wrong. And you have a better game.

“And as I talked to the team afterwards, they were so good in every phase.”

Jahmyr Gibbs remained the Tide’s most versatile weapon. He gained 36 yards on nine carries and caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown when he juked one defender and shed a couple of downfield tackle attempts.

The Tide outgained Louisiana-Monroe 509-169.

THE TAKEAWAY

Louisiana-Monroe: Managed to keep a horrid start from snowballing even more for awhile and actually was only outgained 132-125 before Alabama’s final drive of the second half. Bowden is now 3-4 against the Tide, with the first six meetings as coach of rival Auburn from 1993-98.

Alabama: This one won’t mean much in the big picture for Alabama’s season, but it started out as a nice, swift rebound from the Texas game. The Tide did have a lull before a pristine Young-directed TD drive in the final two minutes before the half.

LONG RETURNS

Alabama had 262 punt return yards to break a 75-year-old game record set against LSU in 1947. McKinstry flirted with scores on returns and Brian Branch produced one in the fourth quarter. McKinstry averaged 34 yards on his first four returns. Then Branch returned a punt 68 yards for a TD. Gibbs also had a 57-yard kick return.

“The blockers did their job and I can’t do anything but give them thanks for creating the lanes for me to take,” McKinstry said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

There’s no chance Alabama will overtake No. 1 Georgia on Sunday after the Bulldogs beat South Carolina 48-7. Chances are the Tide will stay put.

TIGHT ENDS

Alabama’s receivers, for the most part, are having quiet seasons. The tight ends, however, came up big on the final first-half drive. Cameron Latu had three catches, including a 38-yarder when he reached over a defender downfield. Freshman reserve Amari Niblack then caught his first pass, a 15-yard TD.

UP NEXT

Alabama hosts Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference opener.

Louisiana-Monroe hosts Louisiana.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”