It’s not a surprise that Alabama is the 2015 national champion, but how the Crimson Tide won its fourth national championship in the last seven years is somewhat of a shock. Did any of you envision a 45-40 shootout in which the two teams combined for 1,022 yards? After what the Alabama defense did to Michigan State, could anyone have foreseen Deshaun Watson throwing for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns as part of a 550-yard offensive onslaught by Clemson?
Yet, that’s what we got and it made for incredibly entertaining football while perhaps cementing Nick Saban’s place on the short list of greatest college football coaches of all time. Who’s to say if Saban is actually better than Bear Bryant or Knute Rockne or Bob Leahy or General Bob Neyland, but when you’ve won five national championships at two schools (1 at LSU and 4 at Alabama) in the span of 13 years and you’ve gone 97-12 in the last nine years, you deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys.
If you weren’t already convinced that Saban is one of the greatest then all you had to do is watch the win over Clemson. The mark of a great coach is to have a Plan B, Plan C and Plan Whatever when what you do best isn’t working. Clearly, the vaunted Bama defense left its game back in Tuscaloosa which required Saban and his coordinators to go to alternative plans and dig deep for the plays that won the game. Lane Kiffin earned his stripes as the offensive coordinator, chewing up an outstanding Clemson defense for 472 yards and five offensive touchdowns. Special teams coordinator Bobby Williams probably earned a nice raise as his units blocked a Clemson field goal, pulled off a perfectly executed onside kick that changed the game completely, and then sprung Kenyan Drake for a 95-yard kickoff return for a dagger of a touchdown.
It took all the tricks because the Alabama defense got chewed up and spit out by Clemson. Alabama QB Jacob Coker (335 yards, 2 touchdowns) was the player of the game for coming through against a ferocious pass rush that got to him for 6 sacks, but the best player on the football field was Watson, who also ran for 73 yards.
Alabama will lose plenty of players to graduation and the NFL, but Saban has this program on perpetual reload so you know the Tide will be within sniffing distance of another national title, if not next year, then the year after. As for Clemson, this is one of the youngest teams in the nation and Watson is only a sophomore. Clemson will be heard from again and soon. Count on that.
But for now, it’s Alabama and Nick Saban who deserve the accolades.
GATORS CAN MAKE A ROAD STATEMENT AT TEXAS A&M
South Carolina might be one of the few unbeaten teams remaining in the country, but the hottest team in the SEC is actually Texas A&M, who the Gators (10-5, 2-1 SEC) face in College Station tonight. The Aggies (13-2, 3-0 SEC) are absolute beasts at home, where they are 11-1 so far with the only loss at the hands of Syracuse. Ten of those 11 wins are by 10 or more points. The Aggies score 82.2 points per game at home and just 69 on the road.
The Gators can’t afford to get into a running game with the Aggies and they can’t afford John Egbunu to get in foul trouble guarding freshman phenom Tyler Davis (11.1 points/6.0 rebounds) and his backup Tonny Trocha-Morelos (8.0/4.8). The Aggies have a pair of athletic scorers on the wing in Jalen Jones (16.8/6.6) and Danuel House (15.7/5.1) and they run two point guards in the starting lineup in Alex Caruso (5.1 assists per game) and Anthony Collins (4.9 assists).
For the Gators to win this game, it’s imperative to hold the Aggies at or below 40% from the field (Aggies shoot 47.3%) overall and to less than 33% (Aggies shoot 38.3%) from the 3-point line.
And there is that small matter of UF shooting. The Gators have to hit something close to 30% from the 3-point line and at least 66.7% from the foul line but if they can do that, then there is every good chance they can spring the upset and make a statement.
GATOR WOMEN CHECK IN AT #20
Amanda Butler’s Florida women’s basketball team made its debut in the Associated Press Top 25 Monday. The Gators (14-2, 2-1 SEC) should have been ranked a couple of weeks ago, but at least they are finally being recognized as one of the better teams in the country. Why both Tennessee (#13) and Florida State (#16) – the Gators have beaten both of them and have a better record – are ranked higher is mystifying.
This is a team that’s a reflection of the kind of player Amanda Butler was when she was Florida’s point guard back in the 1990s. They never give up on any play, dive for every loose ball and play a scrambling, smothering defense that forces both mistakes and tempo. The Gators are at home Thursday against Georgia. If you haven’t seen them play, you’re missing a fun team to watch.
THE MOST VALUABLE PROGRAMS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
The Wall Street Journal has just released its list of college football’s most valuable programs based on what the program would be worth if sold on the open market like a professional franchise. That Florida is in the top ten should be no surprise to anyone. That the UF football program is valued at more than Florida State, Miami, UCF and South Florida COMBINED is indeed surprising.
Here is the Wall Street Journal’s top ten:
1. Ohio State $946.61 million
2. Texas $885.05 million
3. Michigan $811.3 million
4. Notre Dame $723.59 million
5. Alabama $694.87 million
6. Oklahoma $694.34 million
7. FLORIDA $670.86 million
8. Georgia $636.44 million
9. LSU $612.3 million
10. Penn State $481.39 million
Other notable programs:
13. Tennessee $410.98 million
14. South Carolina $398.18 million
16. Texas A&M $359.14 million
19. Auburn $319.32 million
20. Arkansas $311.85 million
21. Florida State $294.41 million
30. Clemson $237.48
32. Ole Miss $216.2 million
39. Miami $188.61 million
51. Missouri $108.88 million
53. Mississippi State $103.03 million
58. UCF $94.65 million
59. South Florida $89.69 million
68. Vanderbilt $55.64 million
91. Florida International $17.06 million
94. Florida Atlantic $15.42 million
DABO SWINNEY SAID THIS
At media day for the national championship game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked what makes Alabama’s Nick Saban so successful. Swinney’s answer:
“He's a lot better coach with Derrick Henry than without him, and it's the same thing for me. I'm a lot better coach with Deshaun Watson than without him. I think you have to have great talent. There's a lot of great coaches out there that are great coaches, but they're at places where maybe they can't acquire the type of talent that you can at a place like Alabama.”
SEC STAFF MOVES
Arkansas: Buffalo Bills OL coach Kurt Anderson has moved to the college ranks to replace Sam Pittman, who left for Georgia.
Auburn: Penn State OL coach Herb Hand became the second coach to bolt from James Franklin’s staff. At Auburn he replaces J.B. Grimes who left for Cincinnati.
Georgia: Alabama secondary coach Mel Tucker is the new defensive coordinator. Former Georgia QB and assistant Mike Cavan has joined Kirby Smart’s staff as a special assistant to the head coach.
Mississippi State: Former Iowa head coach Paul Rhoads, who was Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2008, is the front runner to become defensive coordinator in Starkville. Ed Orgeron of LSU was offered but has elected to remain at LSU.
Missouri: Arkansas State OL coach Glen Elarbee, who doubles as co-offensive coordinator, turned down Maryland but has accepted the OL coaching position at Mizzou.
Tennessee: Bob Shoop left Penn State to become the defensive coordinator at Tennessee, just a couple of days after John Jancek was fired.
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin was contacted by the Philadelphia Eagles but he declined to be interviewed for the head coaching vacancy.
CALIPARI’S ASKING PRICE …
The fans of the Big Blue Nation better get ready to pony up more cash, because John Calipari is at the center of what could be a very serious bidding war to get him back to the NBA. Reports Adam Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, “For Calipari to consider the Nets – and, yes, the Sacramento Kings, too – league sources tell Yahoo Sports that the teams have been informed of his asking price: 10 years, $120 million.”
That sounds outrageous, but his 7-year, $52 million deal at Kentucky has already been amended once to the point that Cal is making close to $9 million right now. So why leave a sure thing in Lexington for a paltry $1 million raise and a 5-year deal? Instead, shoot for the moon and ask for top dollar and a lengthy contract that also ensures complete control of the roster?
Don’t forget that the Los Angeles Lakers, who have a license to print money, will also be looking for a new coach and Calipari’s ego and willingness to stick his face in front of any whirring camera would make him the perfect fit there.
As you might expect, Calipari is denying any interest in a return to the NBA and claiming he’s at Kentucky for the duration. A year ago I might have believed it but from what I’ve seen of Kentucky this year, it might not take long for Cal to become bored with the college game and feel the need for a new challenge.
Prior to Monday night’s national championship game, Alabama allowed the fewest yards of any Division I team – 271.5 per game. Second place is Florida – 304.3 yards per game.
Former UF player/O-line coach Joe Wickline is the new O-line coach/offensive coordinator at West Virginia. Wickline and WVU head ball coach Dana Holgorsen worked together at Oklahoma State a few years back.
UNLV fired basketball coach Dave Rice, a great snake oil salesman but a lousy bench coach. Rice had a 95-54 record at UNLV, which looks good on paper, but when you consider the massive amounts of talent he’s lured to the school, it’s a record that reeks of underachievement.
If you want to watch the best player in all of college basketball, then tune in Wednesday when Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State and Buddy Hield will absolutely blow your mind. He’s scoring at a 26.6 per game rate, grabs 5.6 rebounds per game (he’s 6-4), and handing out 2.4 assists per game while shooting 52% on 3-pointers.
The average price for tickets to the Alabama-Clemson game was $675 on Monday morning. By Monday afternoon, prices had dropped to $185 and there were more than 3,000 seats still available on StubHub. Back in 2006 when the Gators played Ohio State, tickets were selling for $1,800 or more all the way up to 15 minutes prior to kickoff.
Rory McIroy made the statement that Jordan Speith would have a hard time playing at the same level in 2016 as he played in 2015. Maybe that explains Speith’s 30-under performance at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. He wasn’t the same. He was better. Speith just hits fairways and greens and his putter is lethal.
New Miami Dolphins’ coach Adam Gase is another branch on the Nick Saban coaching tree. Gase was a GA for Saban at LSU in 2000 then a recruiting assistant in 2001-02.
Getting to a bowl game will do wonders for you at some schools. At Indiana it was worth a new 6-year contract for Kevin Wilson, whose salary doubles to $2.55 million a year.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which was more surprising for you, that Alabama had to win a shootout or that Clemson gained X yards and scored X points on the Alabama defense?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
During the football game broadcast, every time I heard Myrtle Beach mentioned I thought about how much fun it is to catch one of the great bands that keeps Carolina beach music alive such as the Band of Oz. If you feel like seeing if you remember how to shag, I understand. Today’s music is a live performance by the Band of Oz from 2013.