Thursday, May 28, 2015

Big wins could mean big fines in SEC this fall

By: Christopher Hall

I’ve been watching college football nearly my entire life and although I’m just on the cuff of turning 23 next week, I’ve seen my share of big upsets and victories…victories which led to the home team rushing the field to celebrate.

I’ve always seen rushing the field one of the many great traditions of college football. Unfortunately, the scene of thousands of fans, players and coaches on the field celebrating after a big win could become a less frequent scene in the SEC.

Many schools across the country already have collapsible goal post in both end zones. This came into play after a string of injuries over the last decade or so occurred across the nation when fans would storm the field and tear down the goal post after pulling a big upset or win.

Now, rushing the field at all could slowly be coming to a halt, at least in the SEC (Southeastern Conference). The Power-5 conference has been fining its schools for rushing the field or storming the court dating back to 2004.

But according to a new report released by ESPN’s Edward Aschoff Wednesday, the fine is going up, (and I mean way up) beginning this fall. The report states that the SEC plans to “substantially” increase the fines for teams that violate its on-field policy.

Previously, first time offender schools were forced to pay a $5,000 fine which was increased to $25,000 and $50,000 for second and third subsequent offenses. Discussions are still in the works, but all signs are currently pointing to the initial fine becoming a $50,000 offense under the new system. 
Of the 14 league schools, only five (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Texas A&M) haven’t been fined since the initial rule took effect in 2004. The report from ESPN stated last season, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and LSU were fined for rushing the field following victories.

“It’s an attempt to change behavior,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “I think we have changed it considerably, but there are times when it happens and I think our folks thought that the current fine structure is not sufficiently large enough to be a quality deterrent,”

I’m not so sure the new system will work. Before moving to Dayton to take my current position at The Herald-News news back in February, I worked part-time for Event Partners, Incorporated; the event staffing/security staffing company for Clemson football and all other athletic and on-campus concert events.I can tell you first hand, there are only so many people you can have on their post and so much we can do when we are so highly outnumbered by fans.

We can tell people all day long, “hey, you can’t jump across that barrier and onto the field but when you have literally thousands of fans coming at you at once, what are you supposed to do?
I tell you what you do. You either move out of the way or get ran over by a stampede of intoxicated and excited fans ready to celebrate a big win on the field.

At Clemson it has even become a tradition to rush the field after EVERY game. That’s right. Win or lose, Tigers fans meet at the paw to face the band in the corner of the East endzone by the Hill to sing the alma mater together following each home game.
There has been a system put into place where you are technically only allowed to enter the field from the bottom of the hill or the opposite end of the field’s endzone. However, we all know everyone doesn’t follow the rules.
Furthermore, after a big win—especially a night game when fans have been “tasting” all day long—they end up coming from each and any direction, and there’s little you can do to stop them.
That being said, I fully understand the reasoning behind the system change; safety. It’s not ideal to have that many people running together in the same direction jumping over each other, etc after a game. People can trip, get knocked over and stampeded in a heartbeat.
Coming from someone who has rushed the court at Littlejohn and stormed the field in Death Valley multiple times after Clemson games, it’s like the running of the bulls. You have to commit to it and just hope and pray you don’t trip and fall.

I think LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva hit the nail on the head, “You can’t have armed guards and horses out there. I hope all the fans realize it is about safety and will comply. There’s only so much you can do, you can’t put up barbed wire or build a wall around the field,” he said.
While I do think the new system will help cut down on the frequency of storming the field or rushing the court in the SEC, I don’t think it will completely come to an end. It will probably take a year or two before we really see a difference or notice how the rule effects post-game celebrations.

Unlike my boys in Tigertown, I’m willing to bet most schools only have a legitimate reason to storm the field or court on average about once per season. Easy for me to say since it doesn’t come out of my pocket, but I think after knocking off a top 10 team or your rival at home, paying a $50,000 fine once a year might not be all that bad.

Monday, May 18, 2015

No shortage of storylines in this year’s conference finals

By: Christopher Hall

The stage is set for the Conference Finals in this year’s NBA playoffs with Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers set to take on the Atlanta Hawks for the Eastern Conference Title. Over in the west, it’s the Golden State Warriors led by league MVP Stephen Curry facing off against the Houston Rockets. 

With the field now set, Golden State has emerged as the favorite to bring home the trophy according to the experts over in Las Vegas.  In order to do that, they’ll have to find a way to get past Houston. A team that just stunned the L.A Clippers coming back down three games to one, to take the series in Game seven behind a 31-point performance from James Harden.

The Rockets became part of an elite group of nine teams that have overcome a 3-1 advantage in a best-of-seven series and won the series in game seven. Harden said after the game it was simply the team’s determination and refusal to give up that made the difference.
 “It was our will to win, we didn’t give up,” Harden said. “We’ve faced adversity all year so we just kept fighting.” 

L.A. was sitting pretty after three double digit blowout wins over the Rockets. They had even built a 19-point lead on their home court with a chance to close things out and advance to the Western Conference Finals in game six.. However they would fold—and fold in a major way—inexplicably letting game six get away from them and unable to withstand the Rocket’s momentum into game seven. But let’s get back to the teams still vying for the hardware. 

You have to tip your hat to the Rockets and how they were able to do the unthinkable. With their backs against the wall, against a squad that had dominated the series nonetheless. It would have been easy to lay down and accept defeat. But Houston continued to battle and Harden, MVP runner-up, continued to make big plays.

In the West, it will be a battle between the MVP Stephen Curry and the Runner-Up, James Harden. Four times in the last 20 seasons, the MVP winner and runner-up have met in the playoffs. 
In two of the last three meetings, (Lebron James/Kevin Durant in 2012, Michael Jordan/Karl Malone in 1998) the MVP prevailed and won the series. 

I’m very interested to see who will rise to the occasion with both guys playing at a high level and putting their teams in position to win ball games. 

Over in the East, there is plenty to discuss as well. First, and what most people might draw to, is Cleveland. The Cavs are four wins away from playing for the title. It would be the first for the Cavs franchise.
 I don’t think I need to explain how big it would be for Cavs fans for James to return home and come through with his promise of a tile in only his first year back in Cleveland. 
ESPN with their obsession with Lebron James and bandwagon fans everywhere would lose their minds. SportsCenter would ultimately become LebronCenter at least until football returns. (Which seriously can’t get here fast enough!) 

But before Cleveland can start lighting fires and rioting in the streets in celebration, first they’ll have to find a way to retire the Atlanta Hawks. Talk about another team that is beyond desperate for a World Title for one of their beloveded Pro Sport teams, you’ve got that right here.  As rough as times have been for the Cavs and Browns it hasn’t been all that pretty for the Falcons and Hawks, either. 

Atlanta is set to play in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time ever and chasing the 1st title since the franchise moved to ATL from St.Louis in 1968. While the Hawks know they are the underdogs, they don’t mind it. 

Furthermore, they know they took care of business against this very team three out of four times during the regular season. That has to give them even more confidence as they enter this series. 
When you throw the health of the Cavs into the mix with Kevin Love out for the post-season and Kyrie Irving battling injuries as well, the Cavs are definitely a little fragile right now. This could be a one-time opportunity for the Rockets; will they be able to take advantage? 

Outside of the games themselves, which are already pretty intriguing in my book, there are plenty of storylines surrounding the Conference Finals matchups. Whether it’s the battle of cities chasing history in the East bracket or Curry v.s. Harden in the West, I’m sure the media outlets in Atlanta, Cleveland, Oakland and Houston will have plenty to discuss as we approach the NBA Finals. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Golson to transfer from ND

News broke Thursday that Fighting Irish Quarterback Everett Golson will transfer to another school to play his senior season. The 6-1, 200 pound signal caller graduated this semester and is now free to transfer elsewhere to utilize his final year of eligibility without having to sit out a year.

Last season, Golson thew for 3445 yards for 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He's quickly closing in on 6,000 yards passing and 50 touchdowns for his career.

While there is no word on where he intends on going, speculation is flying high on where the Myrtle Beach, SC native will go. Among the rumors floating around, it appears that Florida State might be the most probable destination.

With Winston headed for Tampa Bay, it kinda makes sense for Golson and would offer him the opportunity to not only win, but excel and have a solid season as he prepares for the 2016 NFL draft. Sean Macguire is currently leading the pack as the starter for the upcoming season but the addition of Golson to the Seminole roster has the potential to be a game changer. With all due respect to #10, I think it is safe to say--at least from a skill set point--Golson has what it takes to beat out Maguire for the starting role. In short, FSU makes a lot of sense to me...for both the Seminoles and Golson personally.

There has also been word Georgia, Florida, Texas and South Carolina are all interested in acquiring the services of Golson in the fall. A report Friday stated that he had scheduled visits to South Carolina and UGA for Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

 Georgia and Florida I guess would make sense as both are again in a situation where they could use a more proven and mobile QB such as Golson under center. Not so sure about Texas as much. Can't quite put my finger on it but for some reason that just doesn't seem like it'd be a good fit for him. Not to mention the fact he'd have to face off against the likes of Baylor and TCU within the conference...have fun with that.

South Carolina is an extra interesting possibility to me as a Clemson fan and while it makes sense in some ways, in others....not so much. Sure the Gamecocks need a quarterback and Golson could be a difference maker from day one in doubt about it.

But lets be real...outside of being a QB under Spurrier and the learning experience that would be, why else would he choose Carolina? There are too many unknowns and in all likelihood Carolina will not win 10 or 11 games in 2015. Further, they return only four offensive starters...why transfer to a place where you aren't going to win?

Sure the location might be appealing but for someone who left the Palmetto State and jetted for ND in the first place, I don't think being close to home is so much of a high priority for Golson...especially with it being for just one last season.

However, it should be noted that for Golson to transfer to any SEC school at all, he would need a waiver as he doesn't meet one of the criteria for a SEC graduate transfer rule.

The rule states: "The student-athlete has not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution [excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team]."

The quarterback did not play in 2013 after being from school for "poor academic judgement". He returned to campus last fall and struggled down the stretch when it mattered most.

He spoke well of his now former team during a press conference Thursday : "To all the Fighting Irish fans I want to thank you for the support over the past four years and let you know I truly love Notre Dame! To my former teammates, who I will miss tremendously, I wish much success in the future and will be your biggest fan from afar."

I for one was disappointed but not shocked when I heard the news. This had been speculated for some time now leading up the end of this semester. I was looking forward to a Golson vs Watson battle in Death Valley this fall when the Irish head to Clemson.

And while he may be wearing a different uniform, there is a slight chance I might still get to see them go head-to-head. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the ends up in Tallahassee. Assuming he doesn't get the waiver from the SEC ( or even if he does) I think FSU would be a great choice for both parties. As someone who doesn't have many nice things to say about that team from Tallahassee I wouldn't be crazy about the idea of him joining the Noles but hey, it'd give me my wish this season for a Golson vs Watson showdown in Death Valley.

Where do you think he'll end up?

Quotes taken from article posted on via Brett McMurphy 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's a Cole World: Tigers dismantle Sooners in Orlando

I have a feeling Clemson fans will be talking about this one for a long, long time. The Tigers entered the game last night as the underdog, some having the Sooners as much as 6.5 point favorites. However, from the first few minutes of the game until the final whistle, it was clear who the better team was. The Tigers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead via a 65-yard touchdown pass from Stoudt to Freshman wideout Artavis Scott who went basically untouched all the way to the house on the first play from scimmage and never looked back. Stoudt looked to be the guy we saw early in the first half in Athens and in Boston and Winston-Salem and less, MUCH LESS than the guy we say against Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Cole looked much more comfortable and confident and played at the level he was capable of after a rough senior season. We all knew the game would hang on how he performed and he rose to the occasion (and then some) leading his Tigers to a dominating 40-6 win over Oklahoma. The senior was 26-36 for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns and also rushed for 1 touchdown. Easily the best game of his career in Tigertown and well deserved to a guy that gave his all to this program. Fans across the nation called him every name in the book this year (I had a few choice words at times myself, I'll admit) and he played injured the entire season but finished his career in Clemson with a dominating performance. He felt that his game wasn't a redemption game but rather just his last game and him wanting to go out on top...and that's exactly what the bowl MVP did...playing like a true veteran and leader all night for his team. 

I think its safe to say that it looks like Coach Swinney has made yet another home run decision with his coaching staff in promoting former Tigers Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott to Co-Offensive coordinators and bringing in Brandon Streeter as the new Quarterbacks coach. The offense didn't skip a beat last night and the Tigers came up with some big plays throughout the game to ensure there would be no Sooner comeback. I can't wait to see how this offense looks next year with a healthy Deshaun Watson and a stable of running backs and wide receivers that could play (and start) at many Division 1 schools across the nation. Hats off to Streeter, Elliot, Jeff Scott, Swinney and of course Stoudt for what looked like perfect game prep and execution last night down in Orlando. The future of this offense looks bright and next year should be a lot of fun for Tiger fans especially if we can get put together a solid offensive line. Watson, Gallman, Artavis Scott, Mike Williams, Deion Cain, Ray Ray McCloud and more all possibly on the field at once...that is going to be a dangerous offense. Make no mistake about it.

If you are a Clemson fan, last night's defensive performance was probably not that big of a surprise. They have played with their hair on fire all season long and you just knew Coach Venables was going to make sure he brought his A game and best performance against his former team. The defense played lights out last night causing five turnovers including a pick-six by LB Ben Boulware who started the fist half for Stephone Anthony who was suspended the first half for a horrible targeting call in the regular season finale against South Carolina. Boulware was in the backfield early and often last night and will be a solid replacement for Anthony next season. The Tigers held the Sooners to just 275 yards of total offense and off the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter en route to their second worse bowl loss in the Stoops era. Last night was special and I hope Clemson fans took the chance to sit back and appreciate what was unfolding before their eyes. We have the #1 ranked defense and proved it once again last night. From Vic Beasley to Grady Jarrett to Anthony to Mackensie Alexander and I could go on and on about the future NFL talent and leadership of this defense. It is truly remarkable and will go down as among the best to ever take the field at Clemson.

With the win, that makes it four straight seasons with at least 10 wins and three straight bowl wins over Les Miles and LSU, Ohio State and Urban Meyer and now Oklahoma and Bob Stoops. Not too shabby for a little guy from Pelham, Alabama, ehh? Clemson is one of only four other schools who have won 10 plus the past four years. They join Alabama, Oregon and Northern Illinois as the only teams that can make that claim. Many college football fans had the Tigers losing and some losing big last night but it was Oklahoma who ended up being on the wrong side of a woodshed beating. As ESPN's Chris Fowler tweeted "The only preseason top five team not in the playoffs is spending today behind Clemson's woodshed. Wow, Sooners" It was a dominating game from start to finish and after the first few minutes you just got that feeling that it was the Tigers night to shine. Coach Swinney said after the game, "It was our night tonight. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge but we were ready." he said. With the final countdown to signing day closing in, a win like last night can go a long way to sealing the deal with recruits. Guys want to be a part of games like you saw last night and what is to come for this program. Very proud of what this team accomplished in their "rebuilding year". It is very, very nice to not only expect, but consistently have 10 wins seasons. Its definitely something I can get accustomed to moving forward.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year: Bowl Season

So its been a while since I made my last post. I'm currently in the middle of an internship with the local newspaper in my hometown of Seneca, SC and I have been pretty tied down with that and getting into the swing of things. Its been very interesting so far and I've written on about just about everything so far. I've been on assignment for a Christmas play at the local community theater, talked to a veteran about the services of the DAV, covered a few high school basketball games and talked with the organizer of a quilt show being held through the holidays downtown. So I've been forced out of my comfort zone a bit but it has been good and will help make me more versatile. As for this blog, you won't find any play reviews or write-ups about the local school council meeting's debate over whether or not to invest in new school buses. I'll save that for my job at The Journal. Anyways, I'm back today to talk about the bowl season and the inaugural college football playoffs. I think the committee blew it but I'm not in the least but surprised. I knew they were in trouble when I heard Condoleeza Rice was selected to be on the staff to make the decision of who would make it in. Personally, I think there should be eight teams. The Power 5 conference champs each get an automatic bid and then there are three as-large bids after that. Any more teams than that is just too much although you wouldn't see me complaining about more college football to watch throughout December and January. I think eight is just the best number. But that's just my opinion. And hey, its the first year! If you expected the system to be perfect in year one.....I'm not really sure what to say about your intelligence level. It'll take some time, but eventually it will get better. (Strong emphasis on better and not perfect!) For now, lets just enjoy what we have and the fact that we don't let computers decide who the best team is.

Duck Commander Independence Bowl:
South Carolina vs Miami 
Shreveport, Louisiana December 27 @ 3:30 PM

To say it has been a rough past month for the Gamecocks would be an understatement. The tide finally turned in its annual season finale against Clemson as the Tigers took down South Carolina behind a one-legged Deshaun Watson. They were unable to lure in Will Muschamp's services, six recruits have decommited and some have their eyes set on Clemson. Earlier this week we learned that WR Shaq Roland had left the team effective immediately and yesterday Mike Davis confirmed he's headed for the draft a year early. Now they must prepare to get back on the field one last time this season and find a way to slow down another beast of a running back in Duke Johnson who has rushed for 1520 yards this season. It will be curtain call time for Gamecock QB Dylan Thompson and some would say the verdict is still out if Spurrier will actually return in 2015. Both teams enter the game at 6-6 and have had a better seasons but I think this one comes down to South Carolina's defense. Can they find a way to rise up and make some plays for once? Who knows. I really feel like this one is a toss-up but think Johnson gives the Hurricanes the advantage. Miam's Kaaya is not too shabby, either.

The Pick: Miami

Russell Athletic Bowl: #17 Clemson vs Oklahoma
Orlando, Florida December 29 @ 5:30 PM

Can the Tigers find a way to get it done without star QB Deshaun Watson who underwent MRI surgery earlier this month? We know the defense will keep them in the game against pretty much any team in the country but can Cole Stoudt complete passes to his teammates and not the opposing defense? If not, I sure hope the Tigers can run the ball like they did late in the season and against the Gamecocks. The Tigers must get Wayne Gallman involved early and often against an OU defense that is giving up just over 100 yards per game on the ground ranking 10th in the nation. However, they rank near the bottom when it comes to pass defense. If Clemson had Watson in this game I'd say the Tigers would have the advantage but with Stoudt under center that changes the entire outlook and energy of the team. Stoudt has played terrible down the stretch, make no mistake about it. But he has played injured most of the season and did "just enough" in Watson's absence (outside of the Georgia Tech game, of course) to keep the Tigers moving in the right direction. I'm sure he's rested (and ready) to go out on high note in his final game. After suffering late season injuries the Sooners are expected to have RB Samaje Perine, QB Trevor Knight and WR Sterling Shepard back in the fold and they will try to attack Clemson's stout defense. Tigers pull out a close one late in the game with a defensive stand.

The Pick: Clemson

Belk Bowl: #13 Georgia vs #21 Louisville 
Charlotte, North Carolina December 30th @ 6:30 PM

Georgia. The team that at times looked every bit of a team that could make the playoffs. Then at other times found themselves losing to South Carolina and Florida which led to them falling short of the SEC title game yet again. To make matters worse, they also went on to blow it against their rival, Georgia Tech in overtime and will be without the services of Mike Bobo who is now the head guy in charge at Colorado State. I've been hearing the call to fire Bobo on and off the past few seasons...well he's gone now, you got your wish, Dawg fans. You think at some point UGA has gotta make that next step, they've won 9-10 games consistently recently but can't seem to quite knock down the door and win an SEC title. Not sure they will motivated for a Belk Bowl meeting with ACC newcomer, Louisville. The Cards had a pretty decent first year in the conference but had an ugly early season loss to UVA. They will certainly make the Atlantic division race more interesting as they gave both FSU and Clemson a run for their money this year. As for their bowl game, with Gardner on the sidelines with an ACL injury, can either the freshman Reggie Bonnafon step up or will it be Kyle Bolin who led the team to rally and victory over Kentucky in the regular season finale. Huston Mason has turned into a reliable replacement for the departed Aaron Murray and despite not having Gurley for one last hurrah, I think UGA's rushing attack is still probably the best in the nation as a unit.

The Pick: Georgia 

Rose Bowl-Semi Final: #2 Oregon vs #3 Florida State
Pasadena, California January 1st @ 5:30 PM

The first ever playoff game in college football. This year's Heisman trophy winner on one sideline, last year's winner on the other. This should be a good one. In my opinion this matchup is far better than the Ohio State/Bama contest and should be an all out battle to the end. Outside of my Tigers bowl game this one is second on my list of games to watch. The Ducks only loss this season came back in early October to Arizona, a team Oregon beat soundly in the Pac 12 Championship game. They are averaging over 46 points per game and have two top ten victories and two top twenty victories under their belt this season. I'll be the first to say I hate everything about the Seminoles. All that being said, there is something to be said about a guy that has never lost a game as a starter in his collegiate career. You'd think their luck has to run out at some point and I think it will but also just can't quite push myself to pick against them. They find ways to win ball games. Bottom line. I don't like it, but that's just how it is.

The Pick: Florida State

AllState Sugar Bowl-Semi Final: #1 Alabama vs #4 Ohio State
New Orleans, Louisiana January 1st @ 8:00 PM 

It hasn't been a work of art every single week but you gotta tip your hat to Urban Meyer and what he has done with Ohio State this year. First they loss Braxton Miller before the season even started then JT Barrett went down in the Michigan game forcing third string QB Cardale Jones into the spotlight. He responded like a true veteran leading the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Championship over Wisconsin. However, Alabama is not Wisconsin and he will have a much, much, harder time moving the ball against the Crimson Tide defense. Meyer is a heck of a coach and I'm sure he's eager to make up for last season's trip to the Orange Bowl and pull the upset over Nick Saban. Bama's offense has looked pretty solid this year with Kiffin calling the shots and QB Blake Sims, RB T.J. Yeldon and WR Amari Cooper at his disposal. I see Ohio State keeping this one close early on but Alabama's depth and overall talent wearing down the Buckeye defense and offensive line and taking control in the latter stages of the ball game. Nothing but respect for what Meyer has done this year but I think its time to roll the credits on their 2014 season.

The Pick:  Alabama

***I'll see you guys in the new year with one final prediction for this season as we take a look at the National Championship. Thanks for coming along for the ride in 2014 and keeping me motivated to keep this thing going. Best of wishes for a prosperous and healthy year in 2015! 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Streak Snapped!

Five years of anger, frustration, annoyance and repeatedly hearing chants of "GAME.....COCKS!!" after I walked out of both Death Valley and Williams Brice FINALLY came to an end Saturday afternoon. Deshaun Watson and his host of outstanding freshmen along with the #1 defense in the nation finally got back on the winning side of the Palmetto Bowl, knocking off Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks 35-17. In the process they gave South Carolina their 6th loss on the season and snapped the five game losing streak in the annual rivalry game. Behind yet another impressive defensive performance and a record breaking day from Clemson freshmen Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott and Wayne Gallman, the Tigers ran past Carolina and celebrated their first win in the series since 2008 in exciting and convincing fashion.

"Clemson was better than us.
"They were better than us today. They played better, they coached better...and we got beat. Simple as that. They are a real good team...give those guys credit, they were just better than us, " a clearly frustrated Spurrier told reporters following Saturday's loss which might keep the Gamecocks home for the holidays. It just seemed to be the Tiger's day and turn to get back on the winning side. They came up big time after time on 3rd down holding the Gamecocks to 6-15 on 3rd down and 1-3 on 4th down while also forcing a turnover which was turned into a touchdown for the guys in orange. A switch of roles to what has been the story of this game in the five previous meetings. Dylan Thompson had pressure nearly every snap he dropped back to pass and the defense just played relentless and simply would not be denied Saturday. The coaching staff put together and executed a great game plan and set the tone for a big day for the ACC which went 4-0 against its SEC rivals Saturday.

Watson came up big for his team playing on what we later found out was a torn ACL the entire game. You surely couldn't tell and his teammates did their part to help him out and take the pressure off. Artavis Scott finished the day with 7 receptions for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns, both went for over 50 yards. Wayne Gallman continued to be a force in the running game accounting for 191 yards and 1 touchdown on 7 carries. You can't say enough about the offensive line that paved the way for 491 yards of total offense on the day and didn't give up a single sack on the afternoon. Not sure the last time that could be said about the Tigers. Watson was all smiles after the game "It feels good to be State Champions," he said. Behind the performance of  the freshmen trio of Watson, Gallman and Scott the future looks bright for the Tigers and they could be gearing up to rattle off a little win streak of their own in the rivalry.

Clemson held the Gamecocks to their lowest point total this season...the same offense that dropped 35 against both Georgia at home and on the road at Auburn. It was an all around team effort that led to a dominating outcome and satisfying win to stop the bleeding and nightmares that have haunted the Tigers the past few years. It was an absolutely beautiful day in Tigertown and it was quite the electric atmosphere in a packed-out Death Valley. It wasn't all great news Saturday though. With the ACL injury, Watson will need surgery once the season is over and will be out until Summer Camp however he should be okay to play for the bowl game. He will again have to wear a brace but has been told he can't cause any more damage so as long as he can play through the pain, he should see the field when the Tigers head to their bowl game destination. That location is to be determined but will likely be in Orlando.

In addition, Chad Morris is expected to take the head coaching job at SMU and be officially announced as the new coach sometime Monday according to reports out of Dallas Sunday afternoon. That means that Jeff Scott will likely serve as the offensive coordinator for the bowl game and possibly moving forward. He has been Morris' understudy the past few years and has been prepared to run the system as we all knew that this day was coming. It looks like it has arrived so it will be interesting to see if Dabo looks internally to fill the position or makes it a national search. While Morris will be missed he opens up A LOT of money for the Tigers to go make another home run hire and hopefully keep their top ten ranking recruiting class in-tact. For now its time to enjoy this win and celebrate beating the Gamecocks in dominating fashion...just like the old days. All is right with the world and order has been restored in the state of South Carolina. The Tiger seniors took their final bow in Death Valley and will leave Clemson has one of the winningest classes in program history with a BCS Bowl victory and wins over numerous top 15 teams. Glad to reclaim OUR state. Clemson Football......We. Too. Deep.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Week 14: Rivalry Weekend

It's one of the best weekends of the year. Families are divided, relationships and friendships are put on hold and bragging rights are put on the line as rivals square off Saturday. There is nothing quite like rivalry weekend and the atmosphere at games this weekend is as hostile and heated as ever. Times have changed a bit in a few of the rivalries compared to recent years but quite a few have major playoff/major bowl implications. Arizona and Arizona State will go at it over in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, AZ. Alabama will be seeking revenge from last year's "kick-six: as they host rival Auburn in Tuscaloosa in the Iron Bowl. Florida State welcomes Florida to Doak Campbell for their annual showdown in Tallahassee. Mississippi State will hit the road and head to The Grove to face Ole Miss in one of the biggest games in the rivalry that I can ever remember. Louisville and Kentucky will give it a go in Cardinal Stadium in a battle of SEC vs ACC. Georgia and Georgia Tech will face off down in Athens in what should be an interesting game. Ohio Stadium will be the site of Ohio State and Michigan. And finally, Clemson looks to snap the five game losing streak to Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks as they battle down in Death Valley. Let the madness begin!

Alabama vs Auburn

Revenge will be on the mind of the Crimson Tide as they look for payback from last year's wild finish at Auburn. Alabama only loss this season came to Ole Miss and while they didn't look so great early on this year, they have come on strong at the finish and look about as good as anyone. Amari Cooper is a BOSS and should be in NYC for the Heisman trophy presentation. He's in another league when it comes to wide receivers this year. College Gameday will be on site for this showdown and despite Bama being nearly a 10-point favorite many have marked this one as the game of the weekend. I tend to disagree but I do feel the game might be closer than the experts and guys in Las Vegas are predicting. But hey, what do I know? It should be interesting for sure but I think Alabama wins this one. Of course, I thought the same thing last year also and didn't really give Auburn a chance and we all saw how that turned out. Good thing I'm not much of a gambler.

The Pick: Alabama

Florida @ Florida State

We know now that Will Muschamp will not return as head coach of the Gators so this is the end of his run in Gainesville. Florida has struggled this year and even let South Carolina, a team that has choked in the 4th quarter as of late, get the best of them with the game on the line late in the game two weeks ago. That apparently was the last straw has the news about Muschamp came out the following morning. Nobody really has luck anymore cause Florida State has all of it. They yet again avoided another loss and squeezed past Boston College to improve to 11-0 on the year. I find it hard to believe that Florida is just going to lay down and take it from the Seminoles but even with the craziness of rivalry weekend, I just can't pull myself to thinking Florida could pull the upset. Especially on the road. I do think the Gators play inspired and fight hard for their coach (and dignity) but it won't be enough. Florida State will do what Florida State has done all year and find a way to win the second half. Seminoles win but it once again will be close.

The Pick: Florida State

Mississippi State @ Ole Miss 

Ole Miss has fallen apart right in front of our eyes after looking like a solid playoff contender through the first half the season. However they haven't been able to maintain that success down the stretch and officially knocked themselves from contender to pretender after a 30-0 defeat to the hands of Arkansas. Now they have to regroup and get ready for Mississippi State who is 10-1 and still very much in the playoff conversation with their only loss coming to Alabama two weeks ago in a hard fought game. Despite having to go on the road I think Mississippi State gets the job done. The Rebels have lost three out of the last four with the only win coming against my alma mater, Presbyterian. They seemed to have lost their mojo....or maybe "The Rebels are exactly who we thought they were" and their early season run as come to an end. Rivalry games are weird and it wouldn't shock me if Ole Miss pulls it off..especially considering how wild the SEC has been this year...and college football overall, for that matter. I would love to see it happen to create more playoff chaos but don't think it will nor am I crazy enough to predict it.

The Pick: Mississippi State

Georgia vs Georgia Tech

Both of these Georgia schools have had a solid season and if Arkansas can knock off Missouri giving Georgia the division crown, both will play for a conference championship next weekend. This is an intriguing match-up. You know what you get out of Tech's offense and triple option. Justin Thomas is very athletic and a good fit for Paul Johnson's scheme. Georgia's offense continues to impress and if you missed it the first ten times I said it, Nick Chubb is a bad, bad, dude. I think when its all said and done he'll prove to be better than Gurley and go down in history as one of the greatest to tote the rock for the Bulldogs. Huston Mason has also matured and become a solid game manager. He does what he has to do and makes smart decisions with the football. The defense is molding into what Pruitt is known for and overall Georgia is a pretty good football team. If they can handle business Saturday and sneak their way into the SEC Championship (with a Missouri loss) and somehow take down Alabama, the Dawgs will be right there in the discussion for the playoffs, and rightfully so. As for the Yellow Jackets, I'm still a little suspect about them as a whole. This will be only the second ranked team they have faced this season and its on the road in a hostile environment against your rival. Add in the fact they are going up against a defense that continues to improve and I just don't know how I feel about their chances. All that said, I gotta play it conservative.

The Pick: Georgia 

Featured Game of the Week: 

#21 Clemson (8-3) vs South Carolina (6-5) 
Time: 12 pm Noon
Location: Clemson, SC (Death Valley)
Latest Line: Clemson -6.5
Overall Series Record: Clemson leads 65-42-4 
Last Clemson Win: Nov 29th, 2009 (31-14)
Last South Carolina Win: Nov 30th, 2013 (31-17)

 Players to Watch: 

South Carolina

QB Dylan Thompson
WR Pharoh Cooper
RB Mike Davis
DT JT Surratt


QB Deshaun Watson
RB Tyshon Dye
WR Artavis Scott 
DE Vic Beasley
LB Stephone Anthony



This one is a little tricky depending on who gets the start for the Tigers. South Carolina's offense has been one of the best in school history production wise and is averaging nearly 35 points per game while averaging 280 through the air and 180 on the ground. Mike Davis is a hard running back and not the easiest guy to take down but he's no Gurley or Chubb. Pharoh Cooper has come up big for the Gamecocks down the stretch and is a talented individual with speed and athleticism. Thompson has done well filling in the shoes of what most would say the best QB in school history in Conner Shaw. Any offense ran by Spurrier has to be respected. Bottom line. He knows how to find ways to score and exploit weaknesses. Clemson's offense has been suspect and really depends on who is the quarterback. When Watson is in the offense as a whole looks better and plays at a higher level. He's been running this style offense since he was in high school and has that raw and pure talent. Clemson finally is beginning to have a running game. Wayne Gallman has come up big down the stretch and Tyshon Dye had his coming out party against Georgia State. He is as good as we thought he would be and now that he's healthy and has a full game under his belt, is ready to run loose on the Gamecocks next weekend and moving forward. He's got some moves and speed but size and power as well. He's gonna be a good one. I can only imagine that he'll have some success against this South Carolina defense but the offensive line will have to step up and do their job. I like the possibilities with Watson, Gallman and Dye all in the backfield at the same time.

Advantage: South Carolina

South Carolina has not been the same team defensively that we have grown accustomed to the past few seasons. They rank 95th in the nation in scoring defense giving up about 30 points per game. They've given up at least 30 points five times this season. Clemson is having a great year on defense ranking in the top ten in many defensive categories. They enter Saturday's game coming off another shutout performance and the nations top ranked defense. They lead the pack in total defense, tackles for loss and 3rd down defense. Clemson is stopping opponents for negative yards or no gain on 44% of their plays. They have a solid front backed up by one of the nations best linebacker core. They play even better at home and look to be having fun while they are out there. It won't be fun and games Saturday but I'll tell you what....this defense is the real deal. 

Advantage: Clemson 

Special Teams: 

Never thought I'd live to see the time where Clemson would be winning games with special teams and their defense. After a rough start for Kicker Ammon Lakip, he has made 14 out of his last 15 field goals and is a perfect 34 out of 34 on extra points. Bradley Pinon has done his job all season on kickoffs and pinning the opposition deep on punts. Outside of the Gurley kickoff return in week one, coverage as been solid and expect Ben Boulware's name to be called multiple times before the day is over. He's an animal. Elliot Fry for South Carolina is 46/46 on extra points and 16/20 on field goals. And like Lakip has struggled at times. Most notably against Tennessee at home when he was 0/2 including a extra long FG that would have tied the game in overtime. Lakip missed a few crucial field goals in Athens and Tallahassee earlier in the year. While Humphries had a nightmare-ish performance in Columbia last year he is a solid returner and I'm sure he's eager to come up big this time around. 

Advantage: Even


This is a big one. Steve Spurrier is one of the best to ever walk the sidelines as a coach at the college level. He is genius and knows how to utilize his players and play to their strengths while also exposing the weakness of the defense.We all know the OBC loves to talk and brings his A game when it comes to facing off against his rivals. Lorenzo Ward has had a tough year with his young defense this year that never really seemed to find their groove this year. Dabo has built one of the best overall coaching staffs in the nation with Chad Morris and Brent Venables but is not on the same level as Spurrier. But not many people are. Chad Morris' offense is hit or miss and kind of an all or nothing deal. Either the offense is wheeling and dealing and can't be stopped or simply can't get started at all. Clemson's defense is as good as it has ever been but still has to eliminate giving up the big play.

Advantage: South Carolina 


Can the Tigers end the streak? Will Deshaun Watson play? And he if he does, will he be effective? Can the Tigers avoid the turnovers that have plagued them the past five years? Will the Gamecocks be able to move the ball against the Tigers #1 ranked defense and impressive front seven? Is Chad Morris really leaving? How about Spurrier? So many questions surrounding this game that we just simply do not have the answers to. What we do know is that all signs are showing that Deshaun Watson will indeed play Saturday and the get the start. While I think that is obviously the biggest factor I think there are two other equally important factors. We know South Carolina doesn't have the greatest defense...109th overall to exact. If Clemson can run the ball effectively and get 5 or 6 yards when they keep the ball on the ground I think that will be huge....HUGE!! Wayne Gallman has ran very well here at the end of the season and Tyshon Dye looks like he could be the X-Factor for the Tigers. If those guys can get going early, that will take pressure off Watson including the pressure for him to run as much. Either way, I think this is a game where the Tigers are going to have to weather the storm and grind it out for the win....I don't care who is a quarterback. We know we are going to get the Gamecocks' best effort regardless of how they have played this season. Likewise, Clemson wants this streak to end and the seniors are hungry to go out on top. I think behind our defense that has played well all season long we keep this one close and find a way to get it done in the 4th quarter...where the Gamecocks have not been able to seal the deal this year. Dylan Thompson has shown that he is not the same guy if you can get him moving and put a hand in his face. When that happens he has made some very poor decisions and that could be the difference in what I'm expecting to be a low-scoring affair. Throw into the mix the home field advantage and I just feel that Clemson is due for a win at home to snap the five game losing streak. It won't be pretty, it won't be easy but the Tigers grind it out and find a way in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win. Bring on the hate and SPOT THE BALL!

The Pick: Clemson 23 South Carolina 21

Other Predictions:  

Texas over TCU
Arizona over Arizona State 
Louisville over Kentucky
Ohio State over Michigan 
Baylor over Texas Tech