12/29: Quick Reaction: Clemson Clobbers ND in Cotton Bowl 30-3

Dallas, TX – The phrase “a game of two halves” is commonly said, but the Cotton Bowl was a game of two quarters. 

The first quarter was a defensive slugfest – neither team could take control despite the numerous opportunities. Clelin Ferrell’s early tackle, forced fumble, and fumble recovery of Ian Book near midfield was the first big play of the game. 

Clemson scored three points off the turnover (40-yd Huegel field goal), and Notre Dame responded by marching to the nine-yard line before settling for a 28-yard Justin Yoon field goal. 

Derion Kendrick returned Yoon’s subsequent kickoff to the fifteen-yard line, where he fumbled the ball. The original ruling was that Notre Dame recovered the ball, but the booth and the big screen in “Jerry’s World” overturned the call and stated that the fumble was out of bounds before Notre Dame recovered the football. 

The call was made by the thinnest of margins – no one knows if it was indisputably out of bounds or not. It was the first in a series of lucky events for the Tigers. Notre Dame suffered various injuries on defense, 

With star cornerback Julian Love absent, Lawrence threw a 52-yard sideline touchdown to fellow freshman Justyn Ross early in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked, and the score was an easily surmountable 9-3 lead for Clemson. When the Tigers next drive ended in a missed 49-yard field goal by Greg Huegel, questions still lingered. 

Clemson’s defense held on long enough to let the offense gain momentum, or Notre Dame buckled under the weight of injuries. Either way you spin it, Trevor Lawrence took control of the game, erased the questions, and never looked back. 

Notre Dame was exposed in the middle of the field by Lawrence’s second touchdown throw to Ross – a 42-yard throw to put Clemson up 16-3 with less than two minutes in the half.

Despite the star power of Lawrence and the passing attack, the ferocious Tiger defense kept Notre Dame in check throughout the first half. For one last time, they stymied the Irish’s scoring hopes and gave Clemson 48 seconds to score. 

When Renfrow’s 32-yard catch had a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty attached to it, the Tigers took their final time-out. They had nineteen yards and nine seconds to work with. 

Tee Higgins dropped a wide open touchdown pass earlier in the game, but he redeemed himself with an incredible catch of a spinning tipped ball in the back of the end zone. 

What was a 9-3 lead with 4:56 left in the first half was now a 23-3 lead entering halftime. Originally a slugfest, the Cotton Bowl was close to becoming a blowout. 

The third quarter was similar to the first – the main difference was the scoreboard. 

The first four drives of the half were fruitless, as Clemson couldn’t extend their lead and Ian Book couldn’t put the offense on his shoulders and come back from the deficit. 

As Notre Dame neared the red zone, Ian Book’s third-and-22 pass was snatched by Nolan Turner, with the sideline erupting for the lightly recruited safety. Three plays later, Etienne broke Wayne Gallman’s Clemson single-season rushing record with a 62-yard rushing touchdown to give Clemson a 30-3 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.

In an odd and controversial occurance on the last play of the third quarter, Isaiah Simmons’ strip and scoop for a touchdown was ruled ineligible for review because it was labeled forward progress. While the outcome of the game was virtually decided, it was an interesting sequence of events that elicited cheers and boos throughout the stadium.

The fourth quarter was mostly uneventful as the Tigers finished the last fifteen minutes of football to ensure that they would play in the national championship for the third time in four years. 

12/29: Cotton Bowl Halftime Report

Score: Clemson 23 Notre Dame 3

Key Events:

Derion Kendrick’s kickoff return was initially ruled a fumble inside the ten, but it was overturned by a sliver (out of bounds) and thus Notre Dame lost a chance to make a 3-3 tie a 10-3 lead.

The game was a defensive slugfest until Julian Love left the game with an injury – Trevor Lawrence took advantage of his absence and threw a 52-yard touchdown to Justyn Ross, the first of three first-half touchdown throws. Clemson’s last touchdown with two seconds remaining may have been the dagger for the Irish.

Positives:

Trevor Lawrence has moved within the pocket well, evading defenders multiple times to fire off a pass. Justyn Ross has played exceptionally well as his current favorite target, with five catches, 137 yards, and two scores at the half.

Clemson’s defense held on while Clemson’s offense established a rhythm and built a lead – now the Tigers can play with their ears pinned back and even more aggressively.

Areas for Improvement:

Clemson’s pass protection is not doing Trevor Lawrence any favors. Despite his two scoring touchdowns, he has taken major hits that could impact his play in the second half.

The Tigers have made several poor plays on special teams: a barely overturned fumble on a kickoff return, a missed 49-yard field goal, a blocked extra point, and a punting average of 38 yards per punt make for a discouraging special teams performance.

What to Watch:

Clemson’s last touchdown with two seconds left in the half gave the Tigers a major boost into halftime. If Notre Dame wants to close the 20-point lead, they will need to have Julian Love and others healthy, and gain offensive momentum fast.

12/27: Cotton Bowl Preview

Unless Oklahoma wins the national championship, an undefeated team will win the national championship for the first time in the CFP’s five-year history. Furthermore, if Clemson or Alabama wins the champion will be the first 15-0 FBS National Champion. Two of the three undefeated teams will face off in the infamous stadium known as “Jerry’s World” as the Cotton Bowl hosts Clemson and Notre Dame. 

Each team has faced adversity throughout the year, but this will be each team’s toughest test. Notre Dame has the signature win against a highly ranked opponent that Clemson does not have – a 24-17 win against Michigan in the season opener. On the other hand, Clemson played an extra game when they defeated Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship game.

To get the elephant out of the way – it is unlikely that Dexter Lawrence, Braden Galloway, or Zach Giella will play in the Cotton Bowl. Coach Swinney expressed his support for the trio as they tested positive for trace amounts of a banned substance likely found in dietary supplements (unmarked). Losing junior draft prospect Dexter Lawrence will hurt Clemson significantly in the Cotton Bowl, while losing current role players Giella and Galloway will hurt in 2019 as they will likely face a one-year suspension. While the suspensions are unfortunate, Clemson has depth at the defensive tackle position to handle the loss of Lawrence.

Both teams changed quarterbacks midstream from more run-centric players to more pass-centric players and subsequently transformed their offenses into complete threats. Both of senior quarterbacks lead their teams to signature wins (Notre Dame vs Michigan, Clemson at Texas A&M). Notre Dame’s junior Ian Book replaced Brandon Wimbush while Clemson’s true freshman Trevor Lawrence replaced Kelly Bryant. 

Notre Dame runs the ball slightly more than Clemson, and they tend to rely on one running back. Dexter Williams is Notre Dame’s starting running back, and he has averaged almost eighteen attempts per game in his eight games. Clemson utilizes more running backs than Notre Dame, as Etienne only carries the ball 13.5 times per game. 

 In the passing game, both teams are formidable but the storyline is flipped. Clemson passes more than Notre Dame and uses more receivers (eight WRs with ten or more catches), whereas Notre Dame relies on their three main wide receivers more often. What Notre Dame has that Clemson lacks is a true threat from the tight end in the passing game – Alize Mack has 34 catches on the year, which is almost double the seventeen catches Clemson’s tight ends have combined in 2018.

While both defensive and offensive lines for both teams are quality, Clemson holds the advantage in the trenches. Clemson’s incredibly deep defensive line will cause problems for any offensive line, especially one that is good but not elite like Notre Dame’s. 

The Irish have an excellent passing defense, but in order to take advantage of it they will have to make Trevor Lawrence uncomfortable in the pocket (see the first half of the Boston College game). While the Irish have two excellent defensive ends in Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, it takes more than two linemen to generate a pass rush for sixty minutes. 

Notre Dame’s back seven is among the best in the nation, with Julian Love as an elite corner and Jerry Tillery as an elite linebacker. Their linebackers are capable of containing Clemson’s run game, and their secondary is a big reason why they boast an elite passing defense. This will be the Tigers’ toughest test on defense, as there is no weak link to exploit.

The pundits and bookies think that Clemson should win this game easily, and on paper it looks as if they should. Championship football is usually close though, and in that case special teams plays a vital role. The Tigers have been up and down on special teams this year, and they need an elite performance on special teams to win if the game is close.  

Oddshark’s projected score is Clemson 45.8 – Notre Dame 31, and Clemson is favored by 12.5 points. The over/under is 56.5, and sixty percent of the bets have been placed on the over. 

Prediction: Clemson 31 Notre Dame 17

Clemson and Georgia Tech to Play 2022ACC Opener in Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game

Tigers-Yellow Jackets rivalry to be showcased in prime time ESPN Monday night matchup.

 

ATLANTA (Feb. 26, 2019) – A rare prime time Monday night game of regional rivals will cap off the opening weekend of the 2022 college football season when Clemson faces Georgia Tech to open ACC play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

 

This will mark the first time two teams from the same conference have met in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the event’s history.

 

The game will be played, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game weekend. An exact kick time will be finalized at a later date.

 

“Teams from the ACC have been a big part of our game’s success over the years, and hosting one of the conference’s most exciting rivalries will make it that much sweeter,” said Bob Somers, Peach Bowl, Inc. chairman.

 

The 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will mark the 87th time Clemson and Georgia Tech have faced off on the gridiron. Georgia Tech currently holds a 50-31-2 advantage over Clemson all-time, but the Tigers have won the last four meetings between the two programs.

 

“Capping off opening weekend and opening conference play with a rivalry like this will put an exclamation point on the start of the season,” Peach Bowl, Inc. CEO and President Gary Stokan said. “We certainly want to express our appreciation to Todd Stansbury and Geoff Collins for their commitment to our game. Big matchups like this are what make Atlanta the capital of college football.”

 

Clemson will be making its third appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against the Yellow Jackets. The Tigers fell 34-10 to Alabama in the inaugural Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in 2008, but later defeated Auburn 26-19 in the 2012 game. Clemson is also scheduled to open the season in Atlanta against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2024 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

 

“We look forward to the opportunity to play against Georgia Tech in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2022,” Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich said. “We are excited for one of our conference road games to be featured as a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in such a first-class venue.”

 

The 2022 Clemson-Georgia Tech matchup will mark the Yellow Jackets’ second appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Georgia Tech previously fell 42-41 in two overtimes to Tennessee in the 2017 game.

 

“We’re honored and excited to return to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in 2022,” said Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech director of athletics. “The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game has become one of college football’s biggest and most anticipated events, and it has even more meaning for us to be a part of it right here in our hometown of Atlanta. It will be special for our student-athletes and fans to open the 2022 season in the national spotlight and one of sports’ most-recognizable stages, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”

 

The teams will battle for The Old Leather Helmet Trophy, one of college football’s newest rivalry-style icons. Traditionally, winners of The Old Leather Helmet don the helmet on the field after the game, starting with the head coach and then rotating from player to player as the team celebrates its victory.

 

Each team will receive its own ticket allotment to the game and additional tickets will be sold through the Bowl ticket office. Tickets will be available for public sale early in 2022.

 

The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game averages more than 68,973 fans for each game – higher than 36 bowl games from last year – and an additional 73.1 million television viewers since 2008. Total team payouts average $5.4 million – higher than 26 bowl games last season – with more than $75.8 million in payouts over its history.

 

Past and Future Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game match-ups include:

 

Year:     Match-Up:                                                                          Winner:              

2008       (9) Clemson vs. (24) Alabama                                     Alabama 34-10

2009       (5) Alabama vs. (7) Virginia Tech                                Alabama 34-24

2010       (16) LSU vs. (18) North Carolina                                 LSU 30-24

2011       (5) Boise State vs. (19) Georgia                                  Boise State 35-21

2012       (25) N.C. State vs. Tennessee                                     Tennessee 35-21

2012       (14) Clemson vs. (24) Auburn                                     Clemson 26-19

2013       (1) Alabama vs. Virginia Tech                                      Alabama 35-10

2014       (18) Ole Miss vs. Boise State                                       Ole Miss 35-13

2014       (2) Alabama vs. West Virginia                                     Alabama 33-23

2015       (25) Louisville vs. (6) Auburn                                       Auburn 31-24

2016       (18) Georgia vs. (22) North Carolina                         Georgia 33-24

2017       (3) Florida State vs. (1) Alabama                                Alabama 24-7

2017       (25) Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech                              Tennessee 42-41 (2 OT)

2018       (6) Washington vs. (9) Auburn                                   Auburn 21-16

2019       Alabama vs. Duke

2020       West Virginia vs. Florida State

2020       Georgia vs. Virginia

2020       Auburn vs. North Carolina

2021       Alabama vs. Miami

2021       Louisville vs. Ole Miss

2022       Oregon vs. Georgia

2022       Clemson vs. Georgia Tech

2024       Georgia vs. Clemson

 

For more information, visit Chick-fil-AKickoffGame.com.

 

#CFAKickoff

 

ABOUT THE CHICK-FIL-A KICKOFF GAME
Created in 2008 by Peach Bowl, Inc., the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is the preeminent bowl-style, neutral-site game featuring two elite football programs and has been nationally televised on the first Saturday of the college football season since its inception. The game has hosted teams with national rankings of No. 1 (twice), 2, 3, 5 (twice), 6 (twice), 7, 9 (twice), 14, 16, 18 (twice), 19, 22, 24 (twice) and 25 (three times). The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game boasts an average attendance of 68,973, has been watched on television by more than 73.1 million viewers, and has distributed $75.8 million in total team payouts. Since its inception in 2008, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game has featured nine national coaches of the year, 26 players who were recipients of national awards during their collegiate careers, a total of 58 first-round NFL Draft picks and two teams that have used the game as a springboard to a National Championship that same season. For more information, visit WWW.CHICK-FIL-AKICKOFFGAME.COM.

 

CONTACT:
Matt Garvey                                                      Dillon Faulkner
Vice President, Communications              Communications Manager
Peach Bowl, Inc.                                               Peach Bowl, Inc.
404-586-8496                                                     404-586-8453
mgarvey@cfabowl.com                                dfaulkner@cfabowl.com

 

Clemson Announces 2019 Gameday Designations

The Clemson Athletic Department, in conjunction with the alumni association, student affairs, IPTAY and other campus groups, today announced special gameday designations for the 2019 football season. The 2019 season will mark Clemson’s 14th consecutive year hosting seven home games at Memorial Stadium.

 

Clemson will open its season at home on Thursday, Aug. 29, hosting Georgia Tech for the first game ever broadcast on the soon-to-launch ACC Network. The evening has been designated as a National Championship Celebration, honoring Clemson for its perfect 15-0 season in 2018 before kicking off the 2019 campaign.

 

The following week, Clemson will celebrate the nation’s oldest and most successful fundraising organization when it holds IPTAY Day during a marquee non-conference matchup against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 7.

 

Clemson will celebrate Family Weekend during the team’s game against Charlotte on Saturday, Sept. 21. On Saturday, Oct. 12, the team will hold Solid Orange Day for its ACC contest against Florida State.

 

On Saturday, Oct. 26 against Boston College, Clemson will renew a tradition that dates to 1922 when it hosts homecoming. The day will also serve as Football Reunion Day, as the program will welcome back and honor members of its anniversary teams.

 

Clemson will conduct its annual Military Appreciation Day and Purple Out on Saturday, Nov. 2, against Wofford. The Tigers will conclude their home slate on Saturday, Nov. 16 against Wake Forest, honoring the team’s seniors on Senior Day and school legends with induction on Hall of Fame Day.

 

Fans can get their first look at the 2019 Tigers on Saturday, April 6, when the team will hold its Spring Game at Memorial Stadium. The team will also host its annual Fan Day on Sunday, Aug. 11.

 

2019 Football Gameday Designations

April 6: Clemson Spring Game

Aug. 11: Fan Appreciation Day

Aug. 29: Georgia Tech — National Championship Celebration

Sept. 7: Texas A&M — IPTAY Day

Sept. 21: Charlotte — Family Weekend

Oct. 12: Florida State — Solid Orange Day

Oct. 26: Boston College — Homecoming/Football Reunion Day

Nov. 2: Wofford — Military Appreciation Day/Purple Out

Nov. 16: Wake Forest — Senior Day/Hall of Fame Day

Lawrence Collects 2018 Archie Griffin Award

CLEMSON, S.C. — The Touchdown Club of Columbus announced this week that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has earned the Archie Griffin Award, presented annually to college football’s most valuable player following the conclusion of bowl season.

The honor is the third bestowed upon Clemson by the Touchdown Club of Columbus this year. On Dec. 18, Lawrence was announced as the organization’s Freshman of the Year. Earlier in December, Head Coach Dabo Swinney had been announced as the group’s Woody Hayes Award winner as coach of the year.

Lawrence becomes the second Clemson player to earn the honor since the award‘s inception in 1999. Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, whose school freshman records Lawrence broke throughout the 2018 campaign, earned the award in 2015.

This season, Lawrence completed 259-of-397 passes for 3,280 yards with 30 passing touchdowns and only four interceptions. He became the second true freshman and the first since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway to guide his team to a national championship as the starting quarterback. He shined brightest on the game’s biggest stages, collecting Offensive Outstanding Player of the Game honors at the Cotton Bowl and Offensive MVP honors in the National Championship, averaging 337 yards in those contests while throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions.

The 2018 Archie Griffin Award will be presented during the 64th Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards on Saturday, Feb. 9 in Columbus, Ohio. A full list of all-time winners of the Archie Griffin Award is included below:

  • 2018: TREVOR LAWRENCE, Clemson
  • 2017: MCKENZIE MILTON, UCF
  • 2016: SAM DARNOLD, USC
  • 2015: DESHAUN WATSON, Clemson
  • 2014: EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, Ohio State
  • 2013: JAMEIS WINSTON, Florida State
  • 2012: JOHNNY MANZIEL, Texas A&M
  • 2011: MONTEE BALL, Wisconsin
  • 2010: ANDREW LUCK, Stanford
  • 2009: TOBY GERHART, Stanford
  • 2008: COLT McCOY, Texas
  • 2007: PAT WHITE, West Virginia
  • 2006: TROY SMITH, Ohio State
  • 2005: VINCE YOUNG, Texas
  • 2004: MATT LEINART, USC
  • 2003: MATT LEINART, USC
  • 2002: KEN DORSEY, Miami
  • 2001: KEN DORSEY, Miami
  • 2000: JOSH HEUPEL, Oklahoma
  • 1999: MICHAEL VICK, Virginia Tech

 

 

Clelin Ferrell announces his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft

Last evening, Clemson student-athlete Clelin Ferrell announced his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. Comments from Ferrell are included below.

 

Dear Clemson Family,

 

For those who know me, understand how hard it is for me to write a letter like this because it means the coming to an end of a truly life-changing experience to be at my second home the last 3-and-a-half years. My love for this team, program and school is everlasting and the memories it has given me will forever hold a special place in my heart.

 

It all started with Coach Venables and my former coach, Marion Hobby. They’re the reason I came to Clemson, and every day I stepped on the field I wanted to prove myself to them because I know they expected great things from me. Coach Swinney, he is the reason I say Clemson is where I “needed” to be and not where I “wanted” to be. The love he has for his players is unmatched and he taught me about having a vision for my life and where to build my foundation, which is in Christ, and that’s why he is so important to my success. Also Coach Bates and Coach Ski, y’all gave me some of my best memories at Clemson, I’ve told you both the love I’ve got for y’all and I know y’all have got my back through anything.

 

To my mother and family, you have been my backbone throughout my life and I’ve only wanted to make you proud. You have given me everything I needed to be successful even when you couldn’t get it for yourself and I will continue to be my best for you.

 

And to the Clemson Family, you all are the best fans in the world and you are the reason why this decision is so hard, because the people here are what make it so special. I am blessed to have been a part of this family. Lastly, to my teammates —to my brothers — I can honestly say my love for y’all is deeper than football and I will always cherish the time we have and will continue to spend together, as my kids will call y’all “Uncle” one day.

 

With that being said, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the NFL Draft this year and will continue to chase my dream of being the best me I can be. #DreamWithMeBaby #MissileOut

 

 

Swinney Earns Paul “Bear” Bryant Award

HOUSTON — The American Heart Association announced tonight that Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney has been named the recipient of the 2018 Paul “Bear” Bryant Award. Now in its 33rd year, the award recognizes the country’s top college football coach for his contributions both on and off the field. The award is selected after all bowl games have concluded and is voted on by the National Sports Media Association.

”You know it’s been a great year when you get invited to this event,” Swinney said prior to accepting the award at a ceremony in Houston on Wednesday evening.

Swinney becomes the first three-time winner in the history of the Bear Bryant Award, having collected the honor following the 2015, 2016 and 2018 seasons. This season, he was one of seven finalists for the award, a group that included UAB’s Bill Clark, UCF’s Josh Heupel, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Army’s Jeff Monken, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford.

This season, Swinney guided Clemson to its third national championship in school history, the second in his tenure. He pushed his career record to 116-30 by leading the Tigers to the first 15-0 season in major college football in the modern era. In the process, Swinney defeated two fellow Bryant finalists – Kelly and Saban – by a combined score of 74-19 in the College Football Playoff in wins against No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 1 Alabama.

Swinney concluded his acceptance speech by calling Woody McCorvey, Clemson’s Associate Athletic Director of Football Administration and Swinney’s former position coach at Alabama, to the stage to share in the honor.

The award marks Swinney’s third Coach of the Year honor this season and his second such national award. He earned the 2018 Woody Hayes Award from the Touchdown Club of Columbus and Coach of the Year from the ACC. He was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award and the Dodd Trophy in addition to being a semifinalist for the George Munger Coach of the Year Award.

1/8: Five Reflections on Clemson’s 2018 Season

Clemson, SC – Clemson won their second national title in three years in such a manner that the Tigers are now the premier program in college football – dethroning the reigning dynasty in a historic 44-16 blowout. Taking in the magnitude of any major sports moment takes time to soak in and reflect, especially a definitive changing of the guard that we witnessed last night. Here are some assorted reflections that may not flow ‘neatly’ in a game article.

 

  1. Clemson can’t pull the underdog card (ROY bus) anymore.

When Coach Swinney explained the ROY bus in an analogy from his time at Alabama, it made sense. While he probably knew and most people knew that Clemson was not in the ROY bus, it’s a true reflection on how far the program has come, as well as a tool to keep his players from losing sight of the goal. Historically, Clemson is on the ROY bus – a smaller public school nestled in the woods of upcountry South Carolina. In football, in the 21stcentury? The Tigers are “the bus”, and everybody else is on the ROY bus. It will be interesting to see if Swinney can use an underdog card at some point in the future, and if so how he uses it. Just chalk it up to a motivational tactic, because for the foreseeable future Clemson is on top.

 

  1. Don’t take this for granted.

Clemson is the elite program of college football, the program is built for sustained success, and most importantly a culture of stability and family envelopes the program – so what’s to say this doesn’t happen again? Make no mistake – Clemson probably has multiple championships in its future, and future generations will look back at this team (as well as 2010s Alabama) as a great dynasty in the vein of 1990s Nebraska and other examples. But seemingly powerhouse dynasties can end abruptly. 2005 USC and Texas were similarly positioned as the two contenders in college football – and they played in possibly the best football game of all time (2006 Rose Bowl). The two programs never reached that level again, and history is replete with such examples. Scout the team and players, not the logo or program. People assumed that Alabama would win because of their past success, but nothing is earned.

 

  1. Three quarterbacks were the reason Clemson won a game this year.

Trevor Lawrence is the quarterback of the Tigers for good reason – more on that later. However, Clemson wouldn’t have won a championship with Trevor Lawrence alone. Kelly Bryant ignited the offense to a victory in hostile conditions at Texas A&M before being replaced as the starter and transferring. While some of his comments upon leaving were misguided, his performance in the Texas A&M game was instrumental in the 2018 season – and he is still a good quarterback (not NFL caliber though). When Kelly Bryant transferred, the football team experienced its first instance of turmoil in the season. Trevor Lawrence was injured and knocked out of the game against Syracuse, and Chase Brice led the Tigers to victory. The Tigers relied on the defense and running game, but he made a crucial fourth down throw that saved the Tigers season under pressure and was prepared to win the game. A side note: balance isn’t about a run to pass ratio or anything like that – its about being able to win with what the defense gives you and how you need to win at the moment. The Tigers won with the run in the Syracuse game and the pass in the national championship.  Coach Swinney kept saying “Don’t forget about Chase Brice” – and it wasn’t just coach speak. The four-star recruit won the Georgia 7A state championship at Grayson HS while drawing comparisons to Brett Favre as an excellent quarterback in his own right.

 

  1. Trevor Lawrence is that incredible.

Football is a team game, but winning without a good quarterback is near impossible. Having a generational quarterback is a true privilege that takes football teams to new heights. The following statement should not be translated as a ‘shot’ at Deshaun Watson. He is an incredible quarterback (one of the world’s best at the moment), but his skill set is more replicable than Trevor Lawrence’s. People said that there would never be another player like Deshaun Watson, but the truth is there is likely another player for a long time like Trevor Lawrence. On one hand, examples of freshman stars whom fall back to earth run replete such as Christian Hackenberg. There are no guarantees, but Trevor doesn’t give off the vibe of a freshman who doesn’t continue to progress. He would be the number one overall pick this year if he was allowed to come out, and even if he didn’t progress. The list of players that come to mind when comparing Trevor Lawrence either in terms of skillset or overall greatness are slim – and they are All Pro type of players. It’s no wonder that four quarterbacks transferred out – and no knock on them. Zerrick Cooper is playing great at Jacksonville State, Hunter Johnson will play well at Northwestern, and Kelly Bryant will play well at Missouri. The job of media is to normally pump the brakes on the hype train, but there is no honest and rational way to do so.

 

  1. Continuity and Depth Matter

This is obvious on its face – but let’s use the 2018 Tigers as an example. Clemson has lost a handful of coaches throughout the past few years – Chad Morris for a college HC job, Dan Brooks to retirement, and Marion Hobby for an NFL position coaching job. Alabama has lost around twenty. While Alabama is a great program and has success with numerous coaches, continuity is valuable for building a program year after year, and players appreciate it as well. When Clemson develops depth early in the season and isn’t blowing teams away, championship season is when the benefits are reaped. Clemson was in the unique situation of having the best team in the ACC, and their backups probably being the second best team in the ACC (say, the fourth at worst). That is rare and will probably never happen again, but the lesson is the same. Playing numerous players keeps the team healthy and develops talent for future years. Speaking of depth, that is made possible in large part by players wanting to stay. Wilkins, Ferrell, and Bryant would not have been first round picks last year – but many players with second round grades or lower leave and its usually a mistake. They wanted to stay because they had unfinished business – and Ferrell might stay another year, who knows? Two lesser known examples are Trevion Thompson and Adam Choice. Both were on the bench behind younger players, but they chose to stay and played well when called upon. Trevion Thompson had several impressive catches this year (including last night), and Choice was an excellent closer-power back. Albert Huggins stayed, and he earned himself major cash with his two game run filling in for Dexter Lawrence. The list runs on, but the lesson is the same.

1/7: Clemson Dethrones Bama as Premier Dynasty in 44-16 Win

Reporting from Clemson, SC –

 

For so long, Alabama was regarded as a machine. Drawing comparisons to and beyond Belichick, Saban’s Process dominated college football. Every machine dies and every dynasty is dethroned – tonight Clemson dethroned Alabama as the current premier program of college football with their 44-16 win.

 

Heisman finalist Tua Tagavolia didn’t see it coming – he thought he saw man coverage. AJ Terrell was playing trap coverage and intercepted Tua’s pass for a 44-yard pick six to go up 7-0.

 

Just like one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, he put the play behind him and pulled a brilliant maneuver of his own in the form of a 61-yard bomb to a single-covered Jerry Jeudy to tie up the game just over a minute later.

 

Not to be outdone, Trevor Lawrence made a 62-yard throw to Tee Higgins down the seam when Alabama deviated from their normal coverage scheme. As if it were a scripted routine, Travis Etienne ran the final 17 yards to score and put the Tigers up 14-7.

 

Alabama’s ten play drive was a balanced mix of Tua’s quick-intermediate passes and Najee Harris rushes. Harris was ruled down at the half yard line on an impressive second effort run, so Saban played his next card. The Tide ran a play-action rollout to the left that had the entire defense fooled – Tua flipped the one yard pass to backup tight end Hale Hentges for their responding touchdown.

 

Joseph Bulovas missed his ninth extra point of the year, a trademark of inconsistent kicking that previous Alabama teams could get away with – but not this time.

 

 

After quickly dispatching of Clemson’s offense, Alabama slogged out a 45-yard, eleven play drive to end the first quarter.

 

Just six yards from taking a seven-point lead, Alabama’s offensive lineman Willis was flagged for a false start penalty that cost the Tide four points.

 

Bulovas’ 25-yard field goal barely stayed in the uprights, giving the Tide a two point 16-14 lead early in the second quarter.

 

Outgained 224 to 86 and holding onto a 14-13 lead, Clemson survived the notorious first quarter onslaught that buried previous opponents.

 

Now it was their turn dominate in their notoriously deadly second quarters – Clemson gained 138 yards and scored 17 points in the second quarter while holding the Tide to three points and 42 yards.

 

A pass interference penalty on Savion Smith and a 26-yard Tavien Feaster reception set up Etienne’s one-yard touchdown run that was the go-ahead score for the Tigers.

 

Clemson’s second touchdown drive of the quarter was jumpstarted by Trayvon Mullens’ 47-yard interception return on a Tua overthrow; then Amari Rodgers’ 26-yard catch set up Etienne’s five-yard shovel reception touchdown to go up 28-16 late in the second quarter.

 

Clemson scored another field goal to end the half up 31-16 – and the seemingly invulnerable Tide resembled A Dying Machine. One Imagine Dragons halftime show later, the mood remained the same.

 

Alabama’s thirteen play, 51-yard drive appeared to be the catharsis the doctor ordered – a slow and consistent march up the field to restart the process. Then a glitch occurred, a moment of desperation – Alabama ran a fake field goal just outside the red zone that failed.

 

In the manner that Alabama had capitalized off of the fear-filled mistakes of their opponents so many times, Clemson capitalized off of the call – quickly.

 

Trevor Lawrence threw a 74-yard touchdown to fellow freshman Justyn Ross to go up 37-16 in the middle of the third quarter. Huegel missed the extra point, but the consequence was less drastic.

 

The lore was that a true freshman quarterback could not beat Nick Saban. Jake Fromm almost did last year, and Trevor Lawrence did it this year. Freshman Justyn Ross was from Alabama – he spurned both major in state programs to go to Clemson.

 

Alabama’s next drive was more of the same. The 59-yard drive ended inside the red zone – the Tide gained three yards when they needed four on fourth down.

 

Clemson marched again towards a seemingly inevitable touchdown looming. Twelve plays and eighty-nine yards later, Trevor Lawrence threw his third touchdown pass of the night to Tee Higgins on a slant route near the end of the third quarter.

 

The last team to beat Alabama by more than 16 points? LSU – with Nick Saban at the helm. The last time Nick Saban lost a game by more than 14 points was when he was an NFL Head Coach – the Bills defeated his Dolphins in December of 2006. He left the Dolphins just weeks later to become the Head Coach at Alabama and build the dynasty. Saban’s Tide were now staring at a 28-point deficit at the end of three quarters.

 

In a repeat of Groundhog Day, Alabama’s next drive consisted of marching down the field (including an impressive 48-yard pass to Jeudy), struggling in the red zone (this time, stuffed twice at the one), and capped off by a failed fourth down conversion.

 

It is rare in sports that two dynasties continually meet for year on end in interesting and heated battles. Rarer still, is watching one dynasty make the other look like a dying machine as it slowly replaces the other.

 

Players that would historically have played for Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama were donning the Tiger paw and leading the Tigers to their next national championship.

 

The senior class ends their career at 55-4 with two national championships and four conference championships. What makes this a dethroning of the dynasty is not just this team – but what is in store for the years to come. Lawrence and Ross are freshmen, Etienne and Higgins are sophomores – the list goes on and on.

 

The 2018 Tigers will be regarded among the best college football teams in history, and the Tigers have dethroned Alabama. After enjoying the win, the next task is to remain as the premier dynasty in college football. Enjoy the feeling.

1/7: National Championship Halftime Analysis

Score: Clemson 31 Alabama 16

Key Moments: 

Tua Tagavolia has been intercepted twice – once for a pick six to start the game and the second was an overthrow (returned by Mullen 46 yards) that set up Clemson’s go-ahead touchdown drive.

Alabama missed their ninth extra point of the year after their second touchdown that could haunt them in a late game scenario.

Positives: 

Clemson has won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the football so far – the offensive line has held Quinnen Williams, and company in check while the defensive line has prevented Tua from executing at his usual level. Travis Etienne has scored three touchdowns.

Clemson’s secondary has only had one major mistake while posting two interceptions – they have fed off the front seven and contained the Tide’s impressive receiving corps.

Areas for Improvement: 

Clemson has a significant lead over the Tide, but Saban and Swinney are excellent coaches that will make halftime adjustments. If the Tigers can respond to the adjustments while maintaining their lead and momentum, this game is Clemson’s to lose.

What to Watch: 

Will Mike Locksley and Tua Tagavolia figure out a way to get back on track offensively and make Clemson’s defense pay for their aggressiveness – and how will Venables respond? Can Clemson’s offensive line continue to win at the line of scrimmage and expose Alabama’s defense?

Clemson took advantages of their chances in the first half, and Alabama missed their chances in the first half – will the same hold for the second half?

1/6: National Championship Preview

Clemson players and head coach Dabo Swinney take part in a press conference at AT&T Stadium on December 24, 2018, one of the events leading up to the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. The Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face off on December 29, 2018. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA

Coach Swinney classified college football teams into two categories earlier in the year: the “Bama Bus” and the “Rest of Yall Bus”.

Ten years ago, it would have made sense. 3783 days ago, Alabama upset Clemson 34-10 in the inaugural Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

By the end of that season, Coach Bowden was fired and Coach Swinney was named the permanent head coach. Alabama went 12-0 (losing the SEC Championship) that year, and then they won their first title under Coach Saban the next year.

Back to Swinney’s quote: although he didn’t say it (probably for motivational purposes), almost everyone else realized that the actual situation consisted of “Bama Bus”, “Clemson Bus”, and then the “ROY Bus”.

Clemson and Alabama play each other in the college football playoff for the fourth year in a row, and for the national championship for the third time in the last four years. The Tide and the Tigers are the two most successful programs of the decade without question, and this matchup seemed inevitable to most for months now.

Both teams are extremely familiar with each other, so how are the teams different and similar compared to previous years? Furthermore, what are the matchups that each team can exploit in order to win the game?

This game is a role reversal from previous matchups. Clemson usually possesses a slight edge on offense, while Alabama possesses a slight edge on defense. The opposite holds true for this year – Clemson relied on their stingy defense until their offense clicked, while the Tide relied on their explosive offense to conceal a defense that is good, but not up to typical Saban standards.

The major statistical differences between two excellent teams are few and far between, so finding them and concluding what they reveal about the game is an important task.

Clemson has the statistical advantage in the rushing game – they average 6.68 yards per rush while only allowing 2.40 yards per rush on defense. Alabama averages 5.30 yards per rush while conceding 3.47 yards per rush on defense. The Tide have an advantage on third down – they convert 54% of their third down attempts (allow 31.9%) while Clemson converts 44.4% of their third downs (allows 28.3%).

While both teams struggle on special teams, one interesting note is that Alabama has missed eight extra points this year (82/90) while Clemson has only missed one extra point this year. What is usually an afterthought could be a major factor in the game – Alabama could elect to go for two more often (neither Clemson or Alabama has gone for two this year according to cfbstats.com), or the missed extra point could be the difference in the game.

Since both teams used backup quarterbacks more than normal this year, analyzing passing statistics requires looking at Tua and Trevor individually. In contrast to the image of previous Saban teams, this is the most pass-happy and ‘modern offense’ team he has coached (even more so than 2014).

Alabama’s passing attack is more efficient and explosive than Clemson’s passing attack, and Alabama passes more than Clemson does statistically. Tua throws for more yards per attempt (11.4 v. 8.0), touchdowns (41 vs. 27), and yards (3671 vs 2933) on less attempts (321 to 365) than Trevor Lawrence.

Both quarterbacks are among the best in the nation, but Trevor is the better quarterback overall. The statistics are a result of differing offensive schemes and approaches, as well as Alabama’s reliance on the passing game.

Both teams have incredible receiving corps that will stress each other’s capable but (relatively) vulnerable secondaries. Alabama has four excellent underclassmen receivers – Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs, and DeVonta Smith. Clemson has a corp of nine receivers led by the legendary and ageless Hunter Renfrow. Alabama has quality defensive backs in Deionte Thompson, Shyheim Carter, and Saivion Smith that will face one of their toughest tests of the season (along with the Ole Miss game). The passing games will be directed by excellent quarterback-coordinator duos that will seek to out-wit each other in a game of chess.

Clemson’s offensive line is among the best its had this decade, while Alabama’s offensive line is not as good as previous years (albeit still formidable). Clemson’s running game is spearheaded by Etienne and supported by Feaster and Choice. If the Tiger’s offensive line can at least hold the Tide defensive line to a stalemate, the running backs can expose the thinner linebacking corps and establish a ground game to keep Tua and company off the field.

As for Alabama’s running backs, Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs are both quality running backs in a fairly even timeshare – but make no mistake, the passing game drives Alabama’s offense.

Tua Tagavolia was invited to the Heisman ceremony is an excellent quarterback – and he has five main targets to throw the ball to (35 receptions or more). Isaiah Simmons will probably match up against excellent tight end Irv Smith, and then the Tigers will have to cover the

That brings in Clemson’s defensive line. Clemson has the deepest defensive line in the nation, and their ability to rotate defensive linemen at will is a vital advantage. Defeating Ferrell, Wikins, Bryant, and Huggins is a difficult task of its own – but throwing in legions of backups that perform with little drop off makes the task almost impossible. If Clemson can give Alabama’s offensive line trouble, they should be able to compete on defense. In contrast, any mistake in the secondary like the ones found in the South Carolina game will probably result in touchdowns – the room for error is near zero.

One last note – Quinnen Williams is the next in a great line of Bama defensive linemen. He was little known heading into this year, but has exploded onto the draft scene and is widely regarded as a top five pick. He singlehandedly has the capability to disrupt an entire offense (like Oliver or Bosa).

Conclusion

While some suffer from Alabama-Clemson fatigue, this is the best college football game of the year and a series that will be remembered for generations to come. Oddshark’s current spread is that Alabama is favored by 5.5 points, Clemson will cover that spread, the over/under is 58, and that the game will reach the over. The projected score is Alabama 41.6 – Clemson 41.0.

Clemson has the best chance on paper and matchup wise this time compared to any of the other three games. This is the third meeting where both teams are roughly equal, and possibly the most important of the series with a 15-0 record at stake. The combination of Clemson’s running game and Trevor Lawrence’s unique ability will push Clemson over the top.

Prediction

Clemson 51 – Alabama 45

 

 

 

 

Statement from Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich

“Clemson will not have tight end Braden Galloway, offensive lineman Zach Giella and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence available for Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama. However, Clemson has been informed by the NCAA that the three student-athletes will be permitted to travel to Santa Clara, Calif., with the team later this week.

 

“As requested by these student-athletes, Clemson filed notices of appeal with the NCAA. We will continue to work with the three impacted student-athletes and their legal representatives over the coming weeks to prepare the appeals. Neither Clemson, Galloway, Giella nor Lawrence anticipate having further comment on this matter until after the appeals have concluded.”