Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jalen Hurts: The battle for the starting spot

After the College Football National Championship in January, Alabama has been figuring out if quarterback Jalen Hurts will start next season. It’s obvious he didn’t play up to his full potential when his team needed him most. Then, along came the backup quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, stealing the spotlight in the second half of the National Championship. The competition is really tight between the two, but who will come out on top as the leader of the offense?

Jalen Hurts

Hurts has been the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback for two years. He has a strong arm, and he is able to run the ball. Hurts came in as a freshman, won the starting spot, and led his team to a 14-0 record in 2016 and a trip to the National Championship. The Crimson Tide lost to the Clemson Tigers in overtime 35-31. He led the team to a one-loss season the following year with the Auburn Tigers exposing the Tide.

Alabama

Jalen Hurts (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Alabama still made it to the National Championship, but Hurts didn’t play like Hurts. He only threw for 47 yards, Georgia’s defensive devoured him in the backfield and he threw the ball out of reach of his receivers. Nick Saban’s patience was running low, and it was Tagovailoa’s turn to take over. He sparked a major comeback and threw a 41 yard touchdown in overtime to win the championship. Overall, Tagovailoa had a total of 166 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Tua Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa is a true freshman heading into his sophomore season. He was mainly called in games for the final minutes when the Tide were up by a lot. The young quarterback has a lot of comparisons to Hurts. He is a fearless, young quarterback who is able to make throws in traffic and is extremely dangerous with his feet. The only difference between the two quarterbacks is size and experience.

Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa
(Sports Illustrated)

What’s Next?

Now that Tagovailoa had made a name for himself, coach Saban has put the quarterback job up on the market. The two quarterbacks competed for the starting spot during the spring game; and from the look of things, Hurts lost confidence in himself. He only completed 19 of 39 passes, threw one interception and didn’t throw any touchdowns. Tagovailoa suffered a major injury during spring ball, which caused him to miss most of the season.

There have been rumors that Hurt’s dad told Bleacher Report that he would be transferring if he doesn’t get the starting position.The fight for the starting spot isn’t over yet. These two, young, talented quarterbacks still have room left to grow. The final decision will be made during fall practice and the first two games of the 2018 season. For now, the job is up for grabs between the two. Who will win it?

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We need baseball back

We need baseball back ASAP

Alabama football just won its fifth National Championship in nine years. The New England Patriots have been to seven straight AFC Championship games and are favored to win its third Super Bowl in four years.

In 20 of the last 21 seasons, Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils have earned a four seed or better in the NCAA Tournament. This season, they are off to an 18-2 start, and when it comes to next year, the Blue Devils will have the nation’s top three recruits all wearing blue and white. That’s right, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish, the three highest recruited players in the country, have all committed to Duke. UConn women’s basketball has been to 10 straight Final Four’s and have won four out of the last five NCAA Tournaments.

We need baseball back

In the last three Finals, we have seen these two square up. (Photo from slamonline.com)

Barring an epic collapse, the Golden State Warriors will win its third championship in four years. Despite what the media says, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, in all likelihood, will face the Warriors in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season. This would mark LeBron’s eighth straight Finals appearance.

In October, the Warriors opened as a -240 favorite to win the title. The best odds given to any 2018 MLB team to win the World Series is +525.

In 2016, the Minnesota Twins went 59-103, which was good for the worst record in baseball. A year later, with virtually the same roster, they were competing against the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. From 2011-13, the Houston Astros averaged 54 wins per year. In 2017, they won 101 games and were World Series Champions.

Translation: baseball is the most competitively balanced sport, and it’s not even close. Sure, dominance like Brady and Belichick, Nick Saban, LeBron, the Warriors, Coach K and Geno Auriemma is awesome to see, but as a fan, isn’t it better to have more parody and uncertainty when it comes to sports?

Systems

Not only is baseball the most competitively balanced sport, but it is also the only sport in which we can accurately critique someone’s skill level on a yearly basis. We know college is all about recruiting. The best coaches recruit the best players.

Last season, in the NFL, we saw the Rams finish 4-12 under coach Jeff Fisher (4-9) and John Fassel (0-3). Quarterback Jared Goff went 0-7 as a starter, and Todd Gurley rushed for under 890 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

Now was this because these players were bad? Of course not. They were just in a garbage system, and an offense that, according to Gurley, “looked like a middle school offense.”

We need baseball back

Gurley averaged less than four yards per carry a season ago. (Photo from CBS Sports)

This season, with head coach Sean McVay, the Rams looked like a completely different team. They beefed up the line, and Goff threw 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Gurley had 19 total touchdowns and over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 15 games. He became one of 11 running backs in the history of the sport to accomplish these two feats in the same season.

Tom Brady is widely considered as the greatest quarterback of all time, but have you ever seen Aaron Rodgers throw a football? Do you know how many top-10 defenses, in regards to scoring, Aaron Rodgers has played with in his 10 seasons as a starter? Only two. One of them being the time Rodgers helped them win the Super Bowl, and another when they won 11 games.

Since Brady took over as the starter in New England, the Patriots have had 12 top-10 defenses. If Rodgers played with a better coach and personnel, we would probably be telling a different story in regards to the best quarterback.

Case Keenum and Blake Bortles just brought their respected teams into Championship weekend. They were behind center for two of the final four teams, and now the sports media is questioning if any team should pay them “starter” money next season. You know why? Because they are both in good systems with top defenses, and coaches who did a great job hiding their flaws.

Basketball too?

In the 2016-17 season, Victor Oladipo was a solid player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged about 16 points and four rebounds per game.

After being dealt to the Indiana Pacers in the Paul George deal, Oladipo is now an All-Star. He is averaging 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He is also shooting a career-best field goal percentage, as well as 3-point percentage. Oladipo is playing the same minutes he did last year, except on the Pacers, he does not have to play alongside Russell Westbrook, a ball-dominant player.

As a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love was a monster. He was a three-time All-Star, and averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game over six seasons. He is the only player in NBA history to have multiple seasons with averages of at least 26 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting over 80 percent from the free-throw line. In 2010-11, he became the only player to ever average 20 points and 15 rebounds, while shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line.

Since being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Love has made just one All-Star game (soon to be two) and averages less points and rebounds. Of course, this is because he has been the third option in the offense for essentially all of his four seasons in Cleveland.

America’s Pastime

In 57 games as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2017, J.D. Martinez hit .305 with an OPS of 1.018. In the last 62 games of the season after being traded to the Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .302 with an OPS of 1.107.

Justin Verlander was dealt to the Houston Astros, and he continued to be the same old Justin Verlander. In fact, he was even better than we expected.

Even though they joined new teams, which meant new coaches and new teammates, these players continued to excel. This is because baseball is the purest sport, and the only sport we can examine someone’s statistics, and without hesitation, declare if they had a good season or not.

We need baseball back

No matter the coach, teammates or system, good MLB players produce. (Photo from Over The Monster)

The point is this. In the NBA and NFL, blaming the system, coaches and teammates can all be valid excuses, to an extent, as to why your production is not where it could be. In the MLB, this is not the case. As a starter, you are given the same amount of chance to succeed as any other starter in the league.

A player cannot blame his batting average on the coach, or his teammates. A pitcher can’t tell the media that “the system” is the reason he walked all those batters. As an MLB player, you are either good or you are not. You had a good hitting season, or you didn’t. You either pitched well, or you didn’t.

Luckily, we are a month away from Cactus League and Grapefruit League games. 2018 will be another unpredictable season. The New York Yankees picked up Giancarlo Stanton, which means they have arguably two of the best four right fielders in baseball.

Once Kevin Durant moved to the Warriors, it was obvious they would win the title. In the MLB, big moves like this do not guarantee anything. Baseball will always be America’s pastime, due to its batter vs. pitcher, “You vs. Me” style of play.

 

Featured image from Grantland

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2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

The SEC is going to win the National Championship, it’s just a matter of which team. Both Georgia and Alabama were able to win their semi-final matchups and now will go to Atlanta for the big game. Nick Saban will go up against his former defensive coordinator for a shot at his fifth national championship. Here is the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview:

4 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

Jalen Hurts (Photo by seccountry.com)

Alabama didn’t struggle at all with Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Saban had his team ready to play with the defense not even allowing a touchdown. A lot of critics said that Alabama didn’t deserve to be in the College Football Playoff, but they used that as fuel to beat Clemson. Now they find themselves in the same position most great Alabama teams find themselves in: a chance to win a National Championship.

The offense wasn’t explosive, but got the job done against Clemson. Jalen Hurts completed 66.7% of his passes for 120 yards and two scores. He did what he has been doing all year, protecting the football and moving the chains. Hurts still has just one interception on the season. Protecting the ball will be at a premium once again when he goes up a very good Georgia defense.

Top receiver Calvin Ridley wasn’t the most productive he’s ever been, but had four receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown. Surprisingly defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne scored the other receiving touchdown when he was in as a fullback on the goal line. They have talent at the wide receiver position, especially with Ridley, but the key is making the most of their chances since Alabama isn’t the greatest passing offense.

Only three rushers got the ball in the semi-final against Clemson. Damien Harris led the way, like he has all year, with 77 rushing yards. Hurts added 40, while Bo Scarbrough could only muster 24 yards on 12 carries. They played an elite defensive front in Clemson, so this wasn’t a great surprise. Georgia’s defense is good, but the defensive line isn’t nearly as good as Clemson’s, so Alabama should have more success running the ball.

The defense stepped up to the challenge against Clemson and held the Tigers to under 200 total yards. They allowed wide receiver Deon Cain to do well, but for the most part didn’t let receivers get separation and completely shut down the running game. Rashaan Evans stepped up at linebacker with nine tackles, which was needed due to a lot of injuries at the linebacker position for Alabama. There are a lot of good players on this defense, who will have to step up against the Bulldog’s great running backs.

3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1)

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

Nick Chubb (Photo by fanragsports.com)

Georgia looked like they were going to lose to Oklahoma right before the half, when they were down by 17 points. They were fortunate to get a field goal before the break and then the defense started to play up to their potential in the second half. The game went into two overtime periods. In the second, Bulldog linebacker Lorenzo Carter blocked a field goal attempt and then Sony Michel ran in a touchdown to seal the victory for the Bulldogs.

Jake Fromm also did a great job of protecting the football with 210 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. If he can protect the football and help move it a little bit, the offense usually does well with the great running backs they have. He completed 20 of 29 passes in the game and didn’t waste too many opportunities.

The top receiver for the Bulldogs against Oklahoma was Javon Wims, who had six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Sony Michel showed again that he can do more than run the ball with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Like Alabama, the passing game isn’t the strong point of the team. The Bulldogs’ strongest position on offense is running back.

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are the most dynamic duo of running backs in the history of college football. It is a great one-two punch, but Georgia also has freshman D’Andre Swift in the mix as well. Chubb and Michel had great games in the semi-final with 367 total yards and six touchdowns between the two. While Chubb is the more physical runner, Michel is multi-talented and has great quickness. They compliment each other really well and will need to have good games against Alabama.

The defense started off slow against Mayfield, but in the second half looked completely different. Oklahoma was only able to score 14 second half points, with seven of them coming from a defensive touchdown. While they allowed 48 points, no one is going to completely stop Oklahoma’s offense, but they hope to slow it down like Georgia did.

Roquan Smith had a rough first half, but when he stepped it up in the second half, the whole defense played better. He led the team with 11 total tackles. Smith did a good job spying on Mayfield, which will also come in hand against Alabama and Hurts. The other linebackers of Georgia are special too and will have to aid the defensive front in stopping the run.

Prediction

Beating Alabama at their own game is very tough and that is what Georgia will have to do. LSU has tried the blue print of having a pro-style offense, running the ball and playing tough defense for a while and have been largely unsuccessful against the Crimson Tide. Alabama definitely has the edge due to their history of beating teams who play similar styles.

Stopping the run is going to be something both teams focus on, which means it will likely come down to which quarterback and receivers can make the most plays. Hurts is the more experienced, has less turnovers and can run the ball well if he is pressured. He also has Calvin Ridley, one of the best receivers in college football, to throw to. The Crimson Tide have the advantage here too.

On defense, Georgia has the better linebackers. They have so many good ones they can’t even get all of them on the field all the time, while Alabama is struggling to stay healthy at the position. On the rest of the defense, Alabama is better than Georgia.

Expect a low-scoring game that centers around that style of running the ball and stopping the run. Alabama will let Hurts run, while feeding Scarbrough and Harris. If it doesn’t work, Hurts will protect the football and get it in Ridley’s hands. The Crimson Tide defense will at least be able to slow down the Georgia running backs, helping them secure the win.

 

 

2018 Sugar Bowl preview

The Sugar Bowl features a rematch of the last two National Championship Games. Clemson and Alabama will be fighting for the right to go to a third straight National Championship. While some are upset this game isn’t happening for a title, it will be a great matchup of familiar foes. Here is the 2018 Sugar Bowl preview:

4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

2018 Sugar Bowl preview

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by youtube.com)

Alabama lost one game to Auburn and had to watch the SEC Championship Game from home. They were still able to get into the College Football Playoff despite not playing in the final week. Their best wins are over Fresno State, LSU and Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide aren’t just happy to be here, they are in it to win it.

The offense scores 39.1 points per game and is based off of the running game. They rank eighth in the country with 265.3 rushing yards per game. Damien Harris is the leading running back with 110 carries for 906 yards and 11 touchdowns. His backup, Bo Scarbrough, has added 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is a dual-threat who has 768 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

Hurts isn’t the greatest passer, but has protected the football. He has thrown for 1,940 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception on the season. They have one receiver that produces a lot in Calvin Ridley. Ridley has 896 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.

They have the best scoring defense in the country that allows 11.5 points per game. They are first in rush defense and sixth in pass defense. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the best players in college football. He has 52 total tackles six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and six passes defended.

1 Clemson Tigers (12-1)

2018 Sugar Bowl preview

Kelly Bryant (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Tigers are the ACC Champions and number one seed in the College Football Playoff. They lost on the road to a bad Syracuse team, but didn’t have their quarterback, Kelly Bryant, for the entire game. Clemson beat nine bowl eligible teams with their best wins coming over Miami, Virginia Tech and Auburn.

Offensively, they scored 35.4 points per game. Their run offense isn’t as good as Alabama’s, but is still solid at 204.1 rushing yards per game. Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster have split carries and done well. Etienne has 744 rushing yards, while Feaser has 659. Bryant is also a threat to run from the quarterback position with 646 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Bryant is efficient in his passing at 67.4% completion. He has 2,678 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Three receivers do a lot of damage for the Tigers. Deon Cain leads the team 659 with receiving yards and six touchdowns. Hunter Renfrow leads the team with 55 catches and to go with it, has 571 yards. Ray-Ray McCloud has 502 receiving yards and one touchdown.

The Tigers have the second best scoring defense in the country at 12.8 points per game. They rank 12th against the run and seventh against the pass. Clemson has the most sacks per game at 3.38 this season and are led by the likes of Austin Bryant (7.5 sacks) and Clelin Ferrell (8.5 sacks).

Prediction

While Alabama looks better statistically, Clemson has played the tougher schedule and has still gotten to the College Football Playoff as the number one seed. The defensive line will pressure Hurts and make it hard to throw the ball. Alabama will be one dimensional with the run game, which is easier to stop. Bryant is mobile and can throw, which has caused problems for Alabama’s defense in the past. With all this, Clemson should be able to edge out a win.

Clemson Tigers 34 Alabama Crimson Tide 29

Five things we learned in college football week 13

For most teams, the college football regular season has wrapped up and conference championships are coming. It may be late in the season, but something can be learned from every game of college football. Here are five things we learned from week 13’s action:

1. Alabama still doesn’t have any great wins

Alabama lost their rivalry game with Auburn and will be in misery for about a year. The Crimson Tide are out of the SEC Championship Game and don’t control their own destiny for the College Football Playoff. Losing to Auburn also makes them very vulnerable to the committee, because they don’t have many great wins this season.

Saban’s squad was able to beat Florida State in a highly anticipated season opener, but the Seminoles ended up struggling this season. Alabama beat LSU and Mississippi State, both of which are solid wins, but not great. The Crimson Tide had their chance against Auburn, but were unable to get the job done. Now they are at the mercy of the CFP committee.

2. J.T. Barrett is a legend and will have a story to tell

College football week 13

J.T. Barrett (Photo by sportingnews.com)

J.T. Barrett started his fourth straight game for Ohio State against Michigan. Although he has had to leave two of these games due to injury, Barrett has been able to go 4-0 as a starting quarterback in one of the biggest rivalries in sports. He may get criticized a lot, but going 4-0 as a starting quarterback has never happened in this rivalry. Barrett also has plenty of records and memories to keep his legacy in tact, even if there are a lot of haters.

Interestingly enough, Barrett had to leave the game against Michigan due to a re-aggravated knee injury. While most fans thought Barrett was hurt during the game, he actually disturbed his injury when warming up. Reportedly, a cameraman ran into Barrett right before kickoff. Barrett was tough enough to gut it out for over two quarters, but was unable to complete the game. Luckily, Ohio State has Dwayne Haskins as a backup, who made some key throws down the stretch to win the game for the Buckeyes.

3. Coaching Changes already in motion

This is the point of the season that always has coaching changes, so that new coaches can come in and start recruiting. Some coaches have already been fired and need to be replaced with one such opening already being resolved.

Jim Mora was fired and recently replaced by Chip Kelly at UCLA. Arkansas didn’t even let Bret Bielema leave the field before firing him. Mike Riley had one of the worst seasons in Nebraska history and won’t be returning. With Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Oregon State searching for coaches, there should be an active coaching carousel. Kevin Sumlin, as usual, is also rumored to be fired which opens up yet another power five job.

4. Baker Mayfield can pencil in his name for the Heisman

college football week 13

Baker Mayfield (Photo by usatoday.com)

Baker Mayfield sat out the first drive, which lasted all of two plays, due to suspension against West Virginia. He made obscene gestures and had some choice words for the Kansas Jayhawks after they refused to shake his hand before the game. While some people have said they won’t choose him as their Heisman winner, he has had the best season in college football and deserves it.

In the game against West Virginia, Mayfield went 14-17 for 281 yards and three touchdowns to add to his impressive season. With over 4,000 passing yards, some key wins and a likely CFP appearance, Mayfield is clearly the guy that should be voted as this year’s Heisman.

5. Clemson has the best CFP resume

Clemson was able to win comfortably over South Carolina to finish the regular season at 11-1. While some people will complain about their loss to a bad Syracuse team, they still have the best case to be the number one team in the CFP rankings.

The Tigers beat four different eight win teams on the road: Louisville, Virginia Tech, South Carolina and N.C. State. On top of these good wins, Clemson also beat Auburn, who now is going to be in the CFP top four. With wins over Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida State, Clemson has literally had a schedule littered with bowl eligible teams.

 

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Five things to watch for in college football week 13

Rivalry week is now upon us, which means good football games are back. While not everyone is playing a rival, week 13 is going to be crazy for all college football fans. Here are five things to watch for in college football week 13:

1. The Iron Bowl

Alabama and Auburn is a great rivalry that has gotten even better over the last ten years. A lot of times at least one team has national title aspirations by the time the game comes around and some times both teams are in that position. This year both teams control their own destiny in terms of making the College Football Playoff.

The Crimson Tide are undefeated and haven’t even really been challenged too many times. This will definitely be a test for Alabama. Nick Saban has tried to get his team away from “rat poison” this season, but the Crimson Tide average the seventh most points per game and allow the least. They are ridiculously good.

Auburn has two losses, one to Clemson and one to LSU. Their season has been so great because of their defense and running game. They have a top ten defense and average 244 yards per game. The Tigers are tough to beat and have really come on the last few weeks.

The winner of this game will come as a result of better quarterback play. Jalen Hurts and Jarrett Stidham will need to make throws in key situations in order to get the win. The running games will be slowed due to the good defenses, so keeping the defense honest will win the game.

2. The Game

College football week 13 preview

Curtis Samuel in 2016 (photo by usatoday.com)

Ohio State and Michigan meet up for their annual game this weekend. The Buckeyes still have a feint hope of making the College Football Playoff and need to win. For Michigan, they don’t have too much to play for, but in this game, they don’t need much.

J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes have been one of the most inconsistent teams in college football, yet they still only have two losses. When the offense is clicking, the team is one of the best in the country. If Barrett and the offense can limit turnovers they will be in a good position to win the game.

Michigan’s strength is its defense. They allow the 11th fewest points per game in the country and are especially tough against the run. They slowed down Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor for most of the game before wearing down in the second half. If Ohio State’s offense shows up, Michigan’s defense will need to have its best game of the season.

3. Running backs in Notre Dame vs. Stanford

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has decided that one of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals is Stanford. He decided wrong, but it is still a good game. The Fighting Irish still have a very slim chance to make the College Football Playoff, but should be thinking more about a New Year’s Six bowl game.

A week after beating Navy, Notre Dame gets a chance to finish the season with 10 wins. They have a good ground game and are great at causing turnovers. Their running back, Josh Adams, has had a great season behind a great offensive line. He will highlight a matchup of elite college running games.

Bryce Love is the other quality running back in this game. Love actually still has a chance to win the Heisman with his great statistical season. The offense runs through Love and if the Cardinal have any chance of winning, he will need to have a great game.

4. The Apple Cup

College football week 13 preview

(Photo by mercurynews.com)

One of the better emerging rivalries is the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State. This year the Pac-12 Championship Game is on the line for the Cougars and both teams are ranked to make it a very appealing game.

Mike Leach has turned Washington State’s program completely around. This season they only have two losses and are knocking on the door for the Pac-12 Championship Game. That is something a lot of people would have never expected. A thing most people expect is how much Washington State throws the ball, as they have one of the best passing attacks in the country.

Washington had College Football Playoff hopes entering the season after making it last season. They are out of that picture now due to having two losses and a weak non-conference schedule. The Huskies are still a talented team that could sneak into a New Year’s Six bowl game with a win and some help.

The big matchup to watch is the Cougars’ passing attack against the Washington pass defense. If the Huskies can shut down the passing attack they can win.

5. UCF vs. USF

A couple weeks ago the thought was that this could be a matchup of undefeated teams. Unfortunately USF lost to Houston to ruin that. The Florida teams in the AAC still have a lot to play for. The winner of this game will get to play in the AAC Championship Game and could make a New Year’s Six bowl game.

UCF has had a tremendous turnaround under Scott Frost. The year before he got there, they were 0-12. Last season, Frost’s first year, UCF went 6-6. Now they have a chance to turn it all the way around and finish with a 12-0 regular season record. The Golden Knights will make an exciting game out of this one way or another, as they have the highest scoring offense in the country.

The Bulls were the team that were thought to be undefeated at this point in the season. They had an easy schedule and a lot of players returning from a successful team last year. While they do have a loss, they can still reach a great bowl game, something that was likely their ceiling this year anyways. With Quinton Flowers at quarterback and a good defense, they can spoil UCF’s perfect season.

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Ten best non-conference games for college football in 2017

The college football season is just about to start and most teams will start with non-conference games to start their seasons. There are some great non-conference games this season that not only feature matchups of teams with a lot of history, but also games that will impact the College Football Playoff. Here are the ten best non-conference games for the 2017 college football season:

10. 22 West Virginia vs. 21 Virginia Tech (Landover,MD), Sep. 3

Best Non-conference games

(Photo by manhattanhokies.com)

This is on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend to help kick off the college football season. There will be no NFL games to compete against, so this game will have a lot of viewers.

Both teams came out in the AP Top 25 poll that was recently released. This game may be a little overshadowed by some other big games in the opening weekend, but it will have a huge impact on the college football season.

West Virginia finished last season with a 10-3 record and get new life at the quarterback position in Will Grier. In the first year of the new Big 12 Championship Game, the Mountaineers could beat out Oklahoma or Oklahoma State for a spot. With a win in the non-conference against a good team like Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers can catapult their way to the College Football Playoff if a lot of things go their way.

Virginia Tech won the ACC Coastal Division last season and will likely do so again this season. They have a great back seven of the defense, which will be challenged by Grier. The offense will give us the first view of Josh Jackson who will be a good dual-threat quarterback for the Hokies.

9. Notre Dame at 14 Stanford, nov. 25

Best Non-conference games

One of many close games in the Stanford-ND rivalry happened two season ago. (Photo by youtube.com)

Notre Dame may have missed out on the AP Poll for the Preseason, but have a lot of intriguing games considering their history and talent. They still received 65 votes, which means if they win in week one they will be in the top 25. This rivalry game happens on the last weekend of the regular season, so Notre Dame will have to win some games to help earn this spot on the list.

It is a make it or break it year for Brian Kelly. If the season is going poorly this could be his last game at Notre Dame. If the Fighting Irish can play up to their potential and only have two or so losses heading into this game, a win in this game could get them into a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. For Stanford they could be in a position where they have won the Pac-12 North and this game comes before the Pac-12 Championship game, or they could be trying to make their resume look better because they lost the Pac-12 North.

This game features a good offensive line at Notre Dame against a very good Stanford defense, that ranked 18th in the country in scoring last season. If all goes as planned for both schools, some of the bigger names on the team could be fighting for draft position or for postseason awards. Mike McGlinchey can cement his status as a top tackle in the NFL Draft, while Bryce Love of Stanford can rack up more rushing yards.

8. 15 Georgia at Notre Dame, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Notre Dame Stadium will be packed for the Georgia game. (Photo by und.com)

SEC teams don’t often play Notre Dame, but two staffers met at a seminar and now we have two historic teams playing once this year and once in 2019 in Athens. If both teams win in week one, this will be a game between ranked opponents, making it even bigger.

Georgia is on a quest to win the SEC East and doing so is very possible. If they get to the SEC Championship with only a loss or two they could be in a “win and you are in” situation for the College Football Playoff. That is easier said than done, but a win at Notre Dame would be a nice feather in their caps. Jacob Eason, Nick Chubb and the Georgia offense will have a chance to light up a Notre Dame defense that struggled last season. The defense can help set the tone on what could be a great season.

The Fighting Irish will likely be in the AP poll in the second week and be tested with a very good Georgia team. Brandon Wimbush will be thrown into the fire against a Bulldog defense that returns 10 starters. The matchups to watch in this game are endless for a variety of different reasons: How many yards can the Georgia offense get? How will Wimbush fair against a good Georgia defense? How will the NFL talent on the Notre Dame offensive line do against the NFL talent in the Georgia front seven?

Even if this game becomes a blowout for one side or another, it will give fans a good idea of where each program is headed this season.

7. 4 USC at Notre Dame, oct. 21

best non-conference games

No matter what side you root for, everyone remembers the “Bush Push”. (photo by insidesocal.com)

USC will take a break from their Pac-12 schedule to play this rivalry game with Notre Dame. Yes, Notre Dame is in a third straight game on this list, but they do play a great non-conference schedule with their 12 games to fill.

The Trojans want to make the College Football Playoff this season, that is for sure. Sam Darnold could be the next in a long line of Heisman Trophy winners out of USC. He has a chance to light up the scoreboard at Notre Dame Stadium and do it in front of a national audience.

After the Georgia game, the Fighting Irish have a chance to go on a win streak. They play Boston College, Michigan State, Miami (OH) and North Carolina before their two weeks to prepare for USC. Optimally they would be 6-0 at that point, but they have more talent than everyone, but Georgia. If they are 5-1 with a loss to Georgia this game would have huge implications. If their record is anything less than 4-2 at this point of the season, Kelly is likely looking at a new job.

One interesting battle to watch from this game is Iman Marshall and Jack Jones covering Equanimeous St. Brown of Notre Dame. All will be playing on Sundays in a few years and will like the challenge of playing against one another.

6. 23 Texas at 4 USC, Sep. 16

USC certainly didn’t take it easy in the non-conference schedule. They get a rematch of the BCS National Championship Game, arguably the greatest one of all time, when Vince Young ran in the game-winning touchdown and unofficially ended the USC dynasty under Pete Carroll.

The Trojans are a little bit ahead of the Longhorns right now in terms of getting back to a National Championship, but this game will be big nonetheless. With their aspirations to make it to the College Football Playoff, USC needs to take care of business out of conference. A key to this game is that they play Texas a week after Stanford and will likely be banged up from a physical game.

Texas has hired Tom Herman to get them back to their winning ways. They have the talent on the roster, but needed a man in charge to get them where they want to go. Shane Buechele will get a chance to show his improvement against a USC defense that should be pretty solid. Malik Jefferson is a star at linebacker for the Longhorns and will want to play well against a good offensive unit like USC to improve his NFL Draft stock.

5. 17 Florida vs. 11 Michigan (Arlington, Texas), Sep. 2

Best non-conference games

Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain will square off in week one. (photo by youtube.com)

The second best game of the opening weekend features two teams that finished with nine wins last season and two teams that struggled on offense. Both will try to have their defenses lead them to victory again in 2017.

Florida made the SEC Championship Game last year and have the capability to do it this year as well. They have talented players on their defense, but only four returning starters, so new stars will get their chance in a big game. The offensive line returns four starters, but the thing that they have lacked is a quarterback as Feleipe Franks tries to give them one. They will have to deal with seven players being suspended for the misuse of financial aid, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

The Wolverines have problems of their own to worry about. They only have one returning starter on defense and four on offense, which struggled against good competition last year anyways. Their hope is that Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting pans out. Wilton Speight needs to take a step forward on offense, while the defense needs star recruits like Rashan Gary to step up.

This game will provide the chance to get to know a lot of the new faces on both of these teams and also allow fans to see if these teams have what it takes to win their divisions.

4. 3 Florida State at 17 Florida, Nov. 25

Best non-conference games

Florida State celebrating after a victory over Florida (Photo by cbssports.com)

At this point in the season, Florida State may be trying to stay in contention for the College Football Playoff, while Florida may be getting ready as the SEC East representative in the SEC Championship Game. Whether this rivalry game has as much riding on it as we expect is unknown, but it will be a good way to cap off the regular season for both teams.

The Seminoles may have one or two losses at this point in the season, but could still make the College Football Playoff. Deondre Francois will have already been tested by the defenses of Alabama, Clemson and Louisville, so this will provide him with another opportunity to see what he can do.

Florida lost to Florida State last year in this game and then had to prepare for the SEC Championship the next week. They will have a good defense again, but will need Franks to step up in this game especially. The Gators will need him to have a career day against the likes of Tarvarus McFadden and Derwin James.

This game will likely have a lot riding on it, as it did last season and will also feature a lot of talented players going up against each other once again.

3. 12 Auburn at 5 Clemson, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Gus Malzahn and Dabo Swinney will square off again. (Photo by seccountry.com)

Clemson’s first big test as reigning champs is taking on Auburn, a team that has a lot of high expectations themselves. Auburn is looking to get back in the National Championship picture and can use this game to show people that they are for real.

The Clemson defense will likely be very good again with seven returning starters and a lot of good recruits waiting to fill in. Offensively Deshaun Watson will be replaced by Kelly Bryant (or Hunter Johnson), an this will be the first time to shine for a new quarterback. It won’t be an easy task for the new quarterback because Auburn was seventh best scoring defense in the country in 2016 and returns eight starters.

Auburn looks to Jarrett Stidham to get them back to their high-scoring ways on offense. He was successful at Baylor before transferring. With six starters on offense back, he should have a lot of the tools he needs to make things happen. The defense will be good again and will be trying to force an inexperience quarterback into turnovers.

The fun part of this game to watch is Stidham and the Auburn offense against the talented Clemson defense. If Stidham can live up to the hype, it could be a great game.

2. 7 Oklahoma at 2 Ohio State, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett will go head to head a second time. (Photo by thefootballbraniacs.com)

This game last year featured a lot of trash talk leading up to it, but Ohio State escaped Norman victorious, 45-24. With both teams having legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations, it makes it easy to call it one of the top two non-conference games of 2017. This will give fans a chance to see how Lincoln Reilly does in his first big game as head coach of the Sooners.

Ohio State lost a lot of talent to the NFL, but returns 15 starters and a lot of talent. J.T. Barrett will try to get back on track with new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. He had a great game against the Sooners last year and will likely do so again in 2017. The defense has an inexperienced secondary that will be tested by Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield should put up points, but needs new weapons to step it up after losing a lot of key players to the NFL and graduation. His offensive line returns to protect him, which is a huge factor in this game. Defensively, Oklahoma isn’t great and needs that to improve for this game in particular. They have talented players, but because they can’t stop that many teams, they need to force turnovers.

The players to watch in this game are the ones in the trenches. Oklahoma features a good offensive line, including Orlando Brown. Ohio State has a good defensive line with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa. A lot of NFL talent will be going at it in this game.

While this game doesn’t rule a team out of College Football Playoff contention, Ohio State’s margin for error would be less and Oklahoma would have a lot of help needed with a loss.

1. 3. Florida State vs. 1 Alabama (Atlanta,GA), Sep. 2

Best non-conference games

Deondre Francois and Jalen Hurts. (photo by sbnation.com)

This is a game that we could be seeing again in the College Football Playoff. Both teams are that good. It is the perfect way to kick-off the season and both teams will be trying to make a statement.

Alabama is coming off of a loss to an ACC team in the National Championship Game. Nick Saban is going to try to make the ACC pay in this one. Jalen Hurts is back, but won’t be able to run as much on this very athletic Florida State defense. He will have to use his arm, which was average at best last year. He will have help from Calvin Ridley on the outside. The defense will continue to plug in players like they do every season and will once again be elite.

Florida State has a lot of tough games this season, so winning this one would be a huge relief and give them a chance to make a mistake later on in the season. The offensive line will be tested by the good Alabama defense. They have to protect Deondre Francois long enough for him to make good throws. On defense the Seminoles will try to make Hurts beat them with his arm, which will be tough with McFadden and James in the secondary.

Watching Calvin Ridley and the Alabama receivers try to get separation from the Florida State secondary will be fun to watch in this game.

Thank the football gods for this game. It is a great game in week one and should get everyone hyped for a great season.

 

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 5-1

The college football season is about a week away and even the things that most fans take for granted can’t come soon enough. Good guard play, a gunslinger quarterback, hook and ladders and craziness are all things that need to happen sooner rather than later. The rest of the rankings are out and we are down to the top five teams, who will all be trying to make the college football playoff.

For the last installment of the rankings: click here.

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

College football top 25

Saquon Barkley (Photo by youtube.com)

Penn State surprised everyone by going 11-3 and making the Rose Bowl in James Franklin’s third season as the head coach. The good news for the Nittany lions is that they return 16 starters from that team and should be a force in the Big Ten again this season.

Saquon Barkley is one of the best players in college football and returns at running back. He totaled 1,496 rushing yards last year and will produce again this season. Four of his offensive linemen return to help pave the way for him. With that, Barkley should be in the thick of the Heisman race if he can have some big games against good competition.

The quarterback position is filled by Trace McSorley, who was a catalyst to taking their team to the Rose Bowl last season. He threw for 3,614 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2016, but will need to improve his efficiency. He also provides an extra running threat for Penn State. He has plenty of good targets returning in DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki. Gesicki is one of the best tight ends in the country.

On defense, Penn State returns seven starters and brings a little experience back at every level of the defense. Two new starters will be needed at defensive end, but Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran return at defensive tackle. They will be tasked with stopping the run, which they did at an average rate last season.

Jason Cabinda thought about leaving for the NFL draft, but elected to return for his senior season. He is a great linebacker, who will lead the defense this season. Marcus Allen, a safety, also considered leaving early for the NFL, but came back and is the leading returning tackler. With Grant Haley and John Reid returning at the corners, Penn State’s defense should improve this season.

Penn State plays in one of the toughest divisions in all of college football, the Big Ten East, which results in a tough schedule. In all, their tough games will be against Pittsburgh, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska. While the schedule does have some tough opponents on it, the Nittany Lions should be able to get through the regular season with only a loss or two and put themselves in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.

4. Washington Huskies

College football top 25

Jake Browning (photo by si.com)

The third year at a school must provide some magic, because Chris Petersen took Washington to the College Football Playoff in just his third season as the head coach. Although they lost to Alabama, they have a lot of talent returning this season, which could result in them getting back to the College Football Playoff this season.

Jake Browning is back at quarterback and should have gotten more consideration for the Heisman last season. He threw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns. While John Ross is on to the NFL, Dante Pettis is a good receiver in his own right and will step up. The speedster Chico MClatcher also returns to provide a unique weapon for Browning.

Three offensive line starters return from last year’s team and should be a good unit. Behind them, Myles Gaskin was able to rush for 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns. He will produce again this season, making Washington’s offense multi-faceted and dynamic.

Only five starters return on defense, but a lot of these players have experience. Greg Gaines returns on the defensive front, while Vita Vea has the potential to be a star at nose tackle and had five sacks last season. Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria are both talented linebackers who are returning.

The “Death Row” secondary needs to be revamped with the departures of Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Budda Baker. JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp both have experience at safety, while Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller will need to play well at corner. Murphy was redshirted last season after being a solid recruit and should have the tools to be a lock-down corner.

Washington plays no one outside of the Pac-12 that is worth noting, but do play Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Colorado and Washington State in conference. All in all that is a pretty lousy schedule, which will allow the Huskies to escape with only a loss or two before likely heading to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

College football top 25

J.T. Barrett (Photo by sportingnews.com)

The Buckeyes were good enough to get to the College Football Playoff last season, but got blown out by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Urban Meyer continually loses talent to the NFL, but has 15 returning starters this season. The goal for Ohio State every season should be to get to the College Football Playoff.

J.T. Barrett is back for what seems like his tenth season at Ohio State. He’s a senior now and has completed 63% of his passes over his career for 6,381 passing yards. The problem is that the people he is throwing to don’t have too much experience. Parris Campbell and Marcus Baugh return, but need to step up their production, while others will need to succeed early in their careers.

Four of five offensive linemen return and are a great unit. Billy Price is a good lineman could have gone pro, but decided to stay on for his senior season. Mike Weber will be a sophomore at running back and had a solid freshman season. He finished 2016 with 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns and will build on that this season.

The front four starters all return and features a lot of talent. Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa are all very good players and are fighting for playing time at the defensive end positions. Lewis led them in sacks with eight. Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill return at the tackle position.

Jerome Baker and Chris Worley both are back at linebacker. Baker had 83 tackles last season. The only returning starter in the secondary is Damon Webb at safety. The defense was the third best scoring defense in the country last season and will be great again this season.

Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan are all going to be tough games for the Buckeyes. With Urban Meyer as head coach and a talented roster returning, Ohio State should be able to get out of the regular season with at most two losses, but could go undefeated if they reach their potential.

2. Florida State Seminoles

College football top 25

Derwin James (Photo by zimbio.com)

Florida State finished last season at 10-3 and won a thrilling Orange Bowl against Michigan. Jimbo Fisher has a lot of returning talent including some of the best players in all of college football. They have a tough schedule, but should still be able to make the College Football Playoff.

Deondre Francois had a good freshman season, despite bad offensive line play in front of him. He threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. Ryan Izzo returns as a starter at tight end, but no starters are back at wide receiver. Nyquan Murray did have 441 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year and will be the go-to-guy this season.

The offensive line only returns two starters, but that may not be such a bad thing given how poorly they played last season. The hope is that Fisher’s recruiting will pay off. Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers will split time in the backfield for the Seminoles. Patrick is a junior and Akers is one of the best freshman in the country.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seminoles have a lot of key players that should help them improve immensely. Josh Sweat, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas all return on the defensive line, but Brian Burns, who didn’t start last year, comes back with 9.5 sacks. Their front four will make plays all year. The linebackers aren’t as talented as in year’s past, but they do have experience with three starters back from last year’s team.

The secondary always produces NFL-level talent. Derwin James sat out most of last season with an injury, but is back this season. He not only is a great NFL Draft Prospect, but if healthy, could be the best defensive player in college football this season. Tarvarus McFadden returns at corner and will be a high draft pick himself.

Florida State should be a team that has the offense and defense take a small step forward from last season. Their schedule is brutal and will give them challenges. They have games against Alabama, Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida. The Seminoles should be able to get out of the regular season with only a loss or two, which should put them in the ACC Championship Game, if things fall their way.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

College football top 25

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by draftblaster.com)

Losing in the National Championship Game has left a sour taste in Alabama’s mouth. Nick Saban is ready to lead his team back to prominence again this season and they will have another great season.

Jalen Hurts led the team to the title game last season and will be attempting to throw the ball better this season. Saban has admitted that he should’ve let Hurts throw more last season and it may have cost them. He did manage to throw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. O.J. Howard and ArDarius Stewart are gone, but Calvin Ridley returns. Other playmakers on the outside need to live up to their recruiting ranking this season.

The offensive line has three starters coming back and will be solid again with all the good recruiting Saban does. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough return at running back to provide an elite one-two punch. Harris is shiftier, while Scarbrough runs with power. They create a great dynamic.

The defense has five starters that are returning for this season, but Alabama always has talented replacements waiting. Da’Ron Payne returns on the defensive line and will be flanked by Da’Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier. All of which will stop the run well. Shaun Dion Hamilton is back in the middle of the defense to patrol things as the next man in line to be Alabama’s top inside linebacker. Rashaan Evans had four sacks last season from his outside linebacker position.

Minkah Fitzpatrick can do anything in the secondary, but will line up safety this year. Ronnie Harrison will be at the other safety and is the leading returning tackler with 86. Anthony Averett and Trevon Diggs will be the corners and will need to prove to Saban, a former defensive backs coach, that they are up to par with previous Alabama secondary players.

Alabama too has a very tough schedule. Their tough games are against Florida State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. While predicting anyone to go undefeated in today’s college football is tough, Alabama should be able to get out of the season with a maximum of two losses and a minimum of none. Either way they will be in the SEC Championship Game and will be in contention for the College Football Playoff.

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Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

Cleveland Can’t Pass on Watson

Cleveland can’t pass on Deshaun Watson. It is that simple. We all know the sad story that is the current Cleveland Browns. Their history is littered with unfortunate events and bad decisions. Their biggest success came in 1964 when they won the NFL Championship. Since then, there has been little to cheer about in Cleveland.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.ramweb.org)

Cleveland came close to glory twice in the 1980s. The first unfortunate event was later called “The Drive” that took place in the 1986 AFC Championship game. With just a little over five minutes left in the game, the Browns led the Denver Broncos 20-13.

The Broncos had the ball at their own two-yard line. John Elway proceeded to lead the Broncos on a 15-play 98-yard drive to tie the game at 20 with only 37 seconds remaining. The wind had been sucked out of Cleveland and the Broncos won in overtime 23-20.

The second unfortunate event is labeled “The Fumble” and took place the following year in a rematch with the Broncos in the AFC Championship game again. The Broncos jumped out on the Browns early with a 21-3 halftime lead.

Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw four second-half touchdowns, but the game was tied 31-31 in the third quarter. With six minutes remaining in the game, John Elway threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 38-31 lead.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.elacommoncorelessonplans.com)

With only 1:12 remaining in the game, the Browns had driven down to the eight-yard line. Earnest Byner took a handoff and looked like he was about to tie the game when he was stripped at the 1-yard line and the Broncos took an intentional safety and won the game 38-33. For the second season in a row, the Browns were devastated in the game prior to the Super Bowl.

One of the last major unfortunate events for the Browns franchise was “The Move.” Browns owner Art Modell announced in 1995 that he was moving the franchise to Baltimore and thus, the Baltimore Ravens were born.

The history of the franchise would remain in Cleveland, but what hurt the most for the city is that the Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl just five seasons later. Cleveland fans have always felt that that championship should have been theirs.

The Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999 and have had 28 different starting quarterbacks. 28 is a ridiculous amount of quarterbacks in just an 18-year span. There has been zero stability at the position and they need a franchise quarterback badly.

The Franchise Savior

It is laughable that Deshaun Watson is getting such little respect in the draft. So-called experts say he lacks accuracy and good decision making for a quarterback. What tape or games are they watching of Watson?

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.bleedinggreennation.com)

Watson had a legendary college career. He was the first player in college football history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He went 32-3 as a starter and led Clemson to two straight national championship games. Both were against Alabama and the legendary Nick Saban.

In his entire career at Clemson, Watson threw for 10,168 yards, 90 touchdowns and only 32 interceptions. Where people go wrong in analyzing Watson is saying he runs too much, or that he is a run-first quarterback. That is absolutely false. Yes, he did rush for 1,934 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career, but Watson only runs when he needs to. He keeps his eyes down field while extending plays.

One thing Watson must work on is his down field accuracy. At his young age, he has time to develop that aspect of his game. Where Watson excels most is when the game is on the line. If there are less than four minutes in the game and you need a touchdown, Deshaun Watson delivers.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: https://me.me/t/deshaun-watson)

He is the most clutch quarterback in college football history. He has proven it time and time again and his latest example was against one of the greatest defenses in college football history on the biggest stage. This is one of the greatest traits a quarterback can have, and it can’t be taught.

For so long, the Browns have been stuck at the bottom of the barrel. Their franchise has made so many head-scratching moves. They have overthought decisions and jumped at quarterbacks that had no business leading a franchise. Cleveland has had a lot of bad luck in the process as well. They can end all that by getting a franchise quarterback.

This one is right in front of their face. Do not make the mistake that the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers made. Dabo Sweeny is absolutely correct, any team that passes on Deshaun Watson is passing on Michael Jordan.

 

 

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2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Preview

It all comes down to this game. A rematch of last year’s National Championship. The Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Clemson Tigers in the biggest game of the season in Tampa Bay, Florida.

There are so many talented players making this match-up great. Alabama has a lot of defensive NFL prospects, while Clemson has prospects on both sides of the ball.

This game will be a clash of the titans.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama’s team was more thoroughly reviewed before the Peach Bowl.

Jalen Hurts is going to have to complete passes in this game for Alabama to win. In the win over Washington Hurts threw for just 57 yards. Lane Kiffin didn’t have a great game plan and is now off to Florida Atlantic, but Hurts is also to blame. Having Steve Sarkisian calling plays won’t likely help that much, as he is very similar to Kiffin.

National Championship

Reuben Foster (Photo courtesy: Profootballfocus.com)

Alabama has great play-makers as targets for Hurts in Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and O.J.Howard. That doesn’t matter if he can’t get the ball to them. Hurts is the key to the Alabama offense, because if he can’t complete passes, Clemson’s defense can focus on just stopping the run.

The Crimson Tide rode the hot hand in the Peach Bowl. Damien Harris, along with Hurts, had been the best at running the ball for Alabama. Against the Huskies, big Bo Scarborough rumbled for 180 yards on just 19 carries for two touchdowns. He doesn’t have great vision, but if the holes are there, is tough to bring down at 235 pounds. Between the two of them, either Harris or Scarborough need to produce in this game.

The defense has been dominant for Alabama all season long. They scored ten touchdowns this season and don’t show any signs of stopping. The front seven is great and led by Jonathan Allen. He had a sack, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery against Washington. Reuben Foster is one of the best inside linebacker prospects in a while. With pass rushing help from Tim Williams, the front seven is stacked with great players.

Eddie Jackson, the safety, will be out for this game, but the secondary has done well without him in the past few games. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey will be the ones making plays for Alabama in the secondary. Both have plenty of experience and should feel a sense of pride after allowing Clemson to score 40 points in last years National Championship Game.

Clemson Tigers

Clemson was more thoroughly reviewed before the Fiesta Bowl.

The Tigers have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Deshaun Watson. He is dynamic with his legs and pretty good with his arm. He will have to use both effectively to beat Alabama. Watson only rushed or 57 yards against Ohio State, but had two rushing touchdowns. With Ohio State playing so poorly, he didn’t need to run much more. He did, however, throw two interceptions. This has been a big theme all season long, as his decision making has been questionable at best. With 17 interceptions thrown on the year, his main priority has to be protecting the football against a good Alabama secondary.

National Championship

Mike Williams (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Mike Williams is the good news for Watson. He is the top NFL Draft prospect at the wide receiver position and creates match-up problems for opposing teams. With other productive players like Hunter Renfrow, Jordan Leggett and Artavis Scott on the team, opponents can’t really double team Williams much either. If Watson makes a bad decision, these guys have to turn into defenders and knock the ball down to keep possession of the football.

There are a lot of good running backs in college football, but Wayne Gallman might be the most underrated of all of them. He did decently in the Fiesta Bowl with 85 rushing yards and a touchdown. Going up against that Crimson Tide front seven will be tough, but if Gallman can keep chipping away early with four and five yard runs, he should be able to bust one loose late in the game.

Clemson’s defense haven’t scored as much as Alabama’s, but they are coming off one of the best performances of the season, holding Ohio State to no points.

The Tigers also had a great defensive line this season, which is led by Carlos Watkins. He has 10.5 sacks with two coming against Ohio State. Watkins is one of the best interior pass rushers in college football.

Ben Boulware leads the linebacking core. The senior had 81 total tackles in the 2015 season and has 110 this season. He only had three total tackles in last year’s National Championship, but will have to do more to help stop the Alabama rushing attack in this game.

In the secondary Jadar Johnson is a safety that covers the whole field and has five interceptions on the season. The corners, specifically Cordrea Tankersley, shut down opposing wide receivers.

Prediction

Both teams have distractions going into this game. A new offensive coordinator for Alabama. A mini-scandal for Clemson’s defense after Christian Wilkins violated Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel during the Fiesta Bowl. Keeping that stuff out of their minds and focusing on the game is imperative.

The quarterbacks will be the key in this game. Can Hurts complete passes? Can Watson make good decisions and protect the football? Both have tall orders, as they go up against great defenses.

Alabama’s rush defense is the best in the country and holds opposing teams to just 62 yards per game. That is 61 yards better than what Clemson’s good run defense holds opponents to. The last time a team held a team to below that number of rushing yards was 2008.

All of Nick Saban’s national title teams with the Crimson Tide have been featured the top rush defense, besides the 2009 season, when they placed second to National Runner-up Texas. In the years since 2009 that they didn’t win it all, Alabama didn’t finish as the top rush defense in the country (once finished second in 2014 in that span).

National Championship

Nick Saban (Photo courtesy: sltrib.com)

That classic Alabama rush defense will save the day and be the difference-maker. Gallman will be shut down by Alabama. Watson will probably have a good rushing performance, but it won’t be enough.

When the run game is shut down by Alabama’s run defense, Watson will throw and be intercepted in a key situation. The Crimson Tide will run the clock out and be champions once again in another close game against Clemson.

 

Alabama Crimson Tide 38 Clemson Tigers 33

 

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