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Welcome to the party: Houston, Texas and old standby Alabama make playoff statements

HOUSTON, ARLINGTON and AUSTIN, Texas — His entire team had already trickled into the locker room, but Texas coach Charlie Strong lingered on the field at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Sunday, stopping for extra photos, hugs and handshakes as fans in each end zone chanted, “Char-lie! Char-lie! Char-lie!”

Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary ran toward him, giving him the signal to wrap it up.

“Man, you’re the last one at the party!” he yelled. “Let’s go!”

Texas hasn’t partied like this in years.

“We needed tonight to get this program back in the spotlight, and this is a big win for us to get the program headed back,” Strong said after an instant-classic, 50-47 double-overtime win against Notre Dame. “I know one game does not make a season. We have many more to go, but this is a great start for us, a record crowd.

“Our fans really needed that. We’ve been down for so long and people have been talking about us. It was a night for us to just make it right. At least for one game, for one game.”

It was an epic culmination to a Texas-sized tripleheader that featured Houston-Oklahoma, USC-Alabama and Notre Dame-Texas. Those three games revealed the juxtaposition of college football’s newest contenders in the College Football Playoff conversation — the Cougars and Longhorns — and its mainstay, the Crimson Tide.

In a whirlwind tour of three games in two days in one state, it became clear that Alabama is still No. 1; Houston is to be taken seriously until it loses; and Texas has the potential to be a dark horse under the two-quarterback system of 18-year-old phenom Shane Buechele and senior battering ram Tyrone Swoopes.

“We know how to win,” Buechele said.

Texas won in the most entertaining fashion, but it was Houston’s shocking 33-23 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma that resonated most in the premature playoff picture.

Houston freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the No. 4 recruit in the country last year, bounced through a swarm of his celebrating teammates on Saturday evening, soaring from the Cougars’ shocking upset of the Big 12’s front-runner.

“I knew I made the right choice when I committed here,” Oliver shouted to nobody in particular as he disappeared into the red-clad celebration at NRG Stadium.

Houston seems to be winning everyone over lately.

Oliver and the Cougars, though, are like the freshmen in the fraternity — they’ve pledged, but haven’t exactly been initiated into the exclusive CFP house. A few hours after Houston’s win and about 270 miles away, Alabama reminded us who has lasted the longest in a sport steeped in tradition.

“We’re still rollin’,” center Bradley Bozeman said after his team’s 52-6 dismantling of USC in Arlington. “We’re still trying to hold up to the Alabama name.”

This weekend in Texas was tangible proof that college football isn’t just alive again; it was inhaled with every grill that was fired up, and consumed with every beer, brat and burger in sight. Fans have been thirsty for these high-risk, high-reward marquee matchups, and Week 1 delivered, thanks in large part to the emphasis placed on strength of schedule by the CFP selection committee.

The beauty of these games is that nobody was eliminated. Notre Dame is not doomed if it wins out. USC certainly won’t be penalized for losing to the defending national champs if it goes on to win the Pac-12. And OU still has Ohio State and Big 12 play on tap — but it certainly can’t afford to lose to Texas again.

Each game was significant to the CFP race, and it felt like all signs in the state of Texas pointed to the biggest opening weekend in the history of college football.

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REPORT: Bama to add ex-USC head coach as offensive assistant

Alabama is set to add ex-USC head coach Steve Sarkisian to its staff as a special offensive assistant, according to Clay Travis of Fox Sports.

The move, which is expected to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 6, would be Sarkisian’s first coaching position since he was fired by USC last October, due to alcohol abuse issues.

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Currently, Sarkisian works as an analyst for Fox Sports 1.

The former Trojans coach has had stints at Washington as well as the Oakland Raiders.

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Ex-USC coach Steve Sarkisian joins Alabama's staff as analyst


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has been hired by Alabama as an analyst, coach Nick Saban announced Monday.

“We talked about it quite a while ago,” Saban said. “I told him we’d love to have him as a part of the organization.”

As an analyst, Sarkisian can watch film of games and practice and provide input on the overall direction of the team, including the game plan. He is, however, not allowed to have a hands-on coaching role, interacting with players on the football field.

Tosh Lupoi was hired by Alabama as an analyst in 2014 and was promoted to linebackers coach in 2015.

Sarkisian, 42, reunites with former colleague and current Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. The two coached offense together at USC under Pete Carroll.

Sarkisian, who was fired by USC in the middle of his second season, had previously reached an agreement to work as a television analyst during games for Fox Sports. He sued USC for wrongful termination, alleging discrimination because of his alcoholism and breach of his contract.

Saban said Sarkisian has worked to “get himself in a positive situation.”

“We’re going to continue to help him as an organization,” Saban said. “We’re glad to have him.”

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Much of the media’s College Football Playoff coverage over the last couple of days has centered around various teams suspending players, sales but the biggest University of Alabama off-the-field story probably won’t get the attention it deserves.

When the Crimson Tide take the field against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on Thursday, find they will do so with 29 players who have already earned a college degree — a national record — including three players who have earned a master’s degree.

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Perhaps Wednesday, discount Aug. 24, 2016, might go down in history as the first time Alabama football has ever been welcome in Baton Rouge.

Southeastern Conference football rivalries were put aside Wednesday as the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa community delivered supplies and donations to Baton Rouge.

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