Thursday, June 18, 2015

Manziel finally showing signs of maturity

By: Christopher Hall

June 18, 2015

It took a while and only time will tell how sincere he is but it appears that Johnny Manziel is finally growing up. After a rocky rookie reason that ended with a 10-week stay in Rehab, it appears that the flashy but talented gunslinger out of Texas A&M has finally begun to show signs of maturity.

Dating back to this days in College Station being dubbed “Johnny Football” and flashing the money sign after touchdowns, it was no surprise when his antics and distractions—both on the field and off—carried over to the NFL.

However, speaking out publicly for the first time since his representatives stated he was entering rehab (which he concluded in the spring), Manziel seems to have learned from his mistakes and ready to get to business.

As part of this new start, he told the media Wednesday that he is retiring the money sign and will begin taking steps to be less of a distraction for his teammates and the franchise as a whole.

“The money sign will not be back,” he told reports. “I feel bad about throughout the last months of my life really thinking back and seeing how much of my life outside of this field and outside of this locker room was documented,” Manziel said.

He went on to explain how he regrets the effects his decisions have made on those around him and he bought into all the hype while in college and wants to get back to his roots and focus on the important things.

“I think (the hype) just overtook who I was as a person, I didn’t do my best to push it down. My focus is football. It’s what I’m here to do and what I love to do,” he said. “Its not fair to my coaches and teammates to be out here having to answer questions about me every day.”
Manziel says he ready to turn over a new leaf and become not only a better player on the field but better person off the field as well.  So far, he appears to be pointed in the right direction.

Outside of an isolated event in which Manziel tossed a water bottle at a persistent fan seeking an autograph a few weeks ago, he has remained quiet and out of the limelight since rehab. He even made a few public appearances at Cavs game throughout the playoffs.

As of right now, it’ll be more of a waiting game. He’s been working with the second team offense during summer workouts as newcomer Josh McCown, who signed with Cleveland in the off-season, is expected to get all the first-team reps heading into training camp.
Who knows, maybe he can get back on track and be a valuable asset for the Browns this year. I sure hope so and will be pulling for him to get his act together—and more importantly—keep it together moving forward.

However, don’t expect Cleveland to have a major turnaround this season. But in the least, maybe Manziel can prove to a solid back up for the Browns and see significant playing time. If he can stay out of trouble and the spotlight, he might be able to provide a little excitement for a city that’s desperate for someone other than Lebron James to be proud of.

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.