The Tigers are going to win the college football national championship, and they will take the trophy back to Death Valley.

Will it be the Death Valley in Clemson, South Carolina or the Death Valley in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?

LSU, my preseason pick to win it all by the way, didn’t break a sweat in destroying Oklahoma.

For the record, Oklahoma deserved the fourth seed. I’ve said all year that there were three great teams and everyone else. Oklahoma had the best resume of “everyone else.”

I also don’t understand all the talking heads suggesting this blowout demonstrates why the playoff shouldn’t expand to eight teams. The idea of eight teams is to allow all conference champs to gain a bid. Maybe a fifth seed beats Oklahoma and provides LSU with a better game. Plus every year is different. We’ve had heated debates most years as to who should be in the top four. Should it matter whether one team is a heavy favorite, like LSU would be this year? It’s a tournament. Each game is supposed to be exponentially harder. In any event, every conference champ should qualify.

Anyway, I digress.

Oklahoma has no idea how to play defense. Lincoln Riley might be an offensive whiz, but he certainly has not mastered defense. His Sooner team drew a bad opponent to roll out their Charmin soft defense against. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow torched them. He threw for 493 yards and 7 touchdowns, oh, and he ran one in.

The game was over by the end of the first quarter.

No quarterback has gone from average to number one pick in the NFL draft as fast as Joe Burrow. It really is amazing.

LSU is a beast and goes to the championship game as the favorite.

The other semifinal game was a classic.

The best team on the field was Ohio State. The best team on the field lost the game.

The best player on the field was Trevor Lawrence. The best player on the field won the game.

Ohio State’s defensive line caused destruction all night long. Trevor Lawrence will have bruises that don’t go away until March from all the hits he took. He never blinked. He ran quarterback draws, one for a 67 yard touchdown where he outran the Buckeyes entire defense. He hung in the pocket and made clutch throws. At the end of the day, though, Clemson couldn’t sustain much. They capitalized on some crucial Ohio State mistakes. They made big plays, either by Lawrence or stud running back Travis Etienne. It was enough.

Ohio State dominated the game for the first quarter and a half. Quarterback Justin Fields was clutch, but the real star was dynamo running back J.K. Dobbins. He gashed the Clemson defense for 174 yards, and added 6 catches. He played the second half on one good leg, after spraining his ankle bad enough to send him to the locker room.

Ohio State will blame the officials for a couple of close calls that went Clemson’s way. A targeting call in the second quarter, one which almost knocked Trevor Lawrence out of the game, cost key Buckeye defender Shaun Wade an ejection. It was the correct call. The rule needs changed, as I stated in last week’s column. Certainly it should not carry an ejection unless the hit is egregious. This hit was in the act of making a football play. The rule stinks, but the call was correct. Then a catch, fumble, and Buckeye scoop and score was overturned by replay to an incomplete pass. I thought this call was correct also, but this one was definitely 50/50. There is no denying that both calls were game changers.

A second half roughing the punter penalty really hurt the Buckeyes, extending what would become a scoring drive. Ultimately, however, what killed the Buckeyes most was three trips into the red zone in the first half that resulted in field goals. Score touchdowns there and the Clemson Tigers would have been chasing their tail the rest of the night.

As it is, you have Tigers all around. Trevor Lawrence, who hasn’t lost a college game will battle the Heisman winner, and red hot, Joe Burrow. Dabo Swinney, who reminds me of a southern version of Pete Carroll versus Ed Orgeron, who learned from Pete Carroll at USC, is a great coaching matchup.

I love what Orgeron has done at LSU, and I’m not about to back off of my preseason pick. The trophy will make the short trip from New Orleans, where the championship game is played, to Death Valley in Baton Rouge.

Geaux Tigers.

Two Cent Takes

College Football

~Urban Meyer intensity or…

Urban Meyer about to have another medical incident.

~So, after the Clemson/Ohio State game I’m supposed to be interested in these other bowl games the next few days? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ll have them on my TV, but you can’t make me care.

~I assume now that the Cotton Bowl is over this Penn State Blue Band staffer can stop groovin’.

~Memphis showed spunk. They could have showed spunk in, let’s say, the Gator Bowl. Unless a non power five team is undefeated let’s stop granting them a major bowl bid. We already have to suffer through all the ACC and Pac 12 teams.

~Penn State will have a lot of questions leading in to next year. Is KJ Hamler leaving? Is Sean Clifford a championship quarterback? Will the secondary improve? One question that doesn’t need answered is Micah Parson. He has taken his game to a new level. Enjoy one more year of him Nittany Lion fans.

~Speaking of the ACC, Pitt sure looked great whipping Eastern Michigan and getting out of Detroit alive. Eastern Michigan finished last in the MAC West Division(can you say too many bowl games), so squeaking out a last minute win wasn’t a great accomplishment.

Memo to Pitt: Pat Narduzzi is not the answer. He never was; he never will be. Look no further than his quote at halftime of the bowl game: “Some how they’re blocking us. I can’t tell you why.” Yikes.

~College football has become an offensive game. However, I’ve never seen worse defensive back play. Does anyone teach cornerbacks proper technique? Mel Blount must want to vomit watching these guys play defense.

~Miami(Fla) and USC are proud programs with decorated histories. Both programs are dumpster fires.

At Miami, where booster number one is 2 Live Crew founder Luther Campbell, they still have a thug mentality without the ability to back it up. They still dance on the sideline, only it’s when they are losing. During their recent bowl game, one player received a personal foul penalty for a late hit. He never noticed because he was busy waving “bye bye” to the Louisiana Tech bench. Problem is Miami got shut out. On the field they have three quarterbacks, none of whom can throw a forward pass. Manny Diaz is the first year coach, and clearly has helped create the thug culture. The thought is they were soft under Al Golden and Mark Richt. Recruiting isn’t in the tank, but they continue to lose key guys to other southern schools. Things are far from sunny on South Beach.

At USC they have an administration problem. They have yet to find a competent AD who can manage programs. Clay Helton is incompetent as a head football coach at a program like USC. Yet, one AD chose him over Ed Orgeron, who will coach in the national championship game. The next AD, after a disastrous 5-7 season where Helton showed he was in way over his head, retained him. This despite sagging recruiting. Then the newest AD kept Helton again despite another ho hum season that ended with a humiliating loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl. It was the worst bowl loss for USC since 1948. Additionally, recruiting hit rock bottom. It certainly would appear the university presidents during this span don’t care about football. They are excited that USC is now ranked in the top 20 universities. They should be. However, try funding your fabulous liberal arts programs with a half full Coliseum every Saturday for home football games. A great football program funds all those other great things you’re proud of. Anyone who watched that display last Friday night knows Clay Helton is not capable of leading a great football program. The same culture exists at USC that exists at Miami. Down 42-14, a USC sack brought a pose and a flex from the player too foolish to realize he was part of one of the worst embarrassments in school history. Heck, Helton couldn’t even get his kids to the correct end zone for warm ups Friday night.

The tone deaf administrators continue to back Helton, and in the meantime bash frustrated fans for their negativity. Fight on. Whatever.

Two programs mired in embarrassment.

College Basketball

~Louisville vs Kentucky is a great rivalry. Kentucky is dominating the rivalry. Louisville had their best chance to win at Rupp Arena in a long time. This is not a vintage Kentucky team. As they always seem to do, they turned vintage against Louisville. Having said that, Louisville was able to endure a horrible game from their best player Jordan Nwora and should have won the game. Lesson to kids…make your free throws. Louisville did not make their free throws(9-20) and ultimately lost in overtime.

~Penn State is quietly inching up the rankings. With a lot of parity, everywhere, but especially in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lion hoopsters could be in line for an historic season.

~North Carolina is not ranked for the first time since February 2014. This year the polls will be in flux every week.

  • Overrated: Louisville- The Cards are offensively challenged. Chris Mack recruited some top freshmen talent, but he seems reluctant to play them.
  • Underrated: I’m moving West Virginia from sleeper to here. A nice win over a good Ohio State team puts them at 11-1. Kansas up next.
  • Sleeper: Northern Iowa- With wins over South Carolina and Colorado, and a close loss at West Virginia, the Panthers have proven they can play with power conference teams.

Golf

~I think Phil Mickelson has a future when he is done hitting bombs on the course. Really funny stuff here.

NFL

~Kudos to the Philadelphia Eagles, and more so Carson Wentz. Playing with their practice squad and other teams’ practice squads, Wentz led them to the NFC East title. This is the guy his teammates won’t play for? Maybe that’s a narrative that can finally be put to bed.

~More kudos to Brian Flores, coach of the one time tanking Miami Dolphins. He took them from tanking to competitive. They won their fifth game Sunday by beating the once untouchable New England Patriots. Flores seems to be building a positive culture in Miami, and has a ton of draft picks to start the rebuilding.

~Next kudos to Sam Darnold. After being mic’d up on a Monday night early in the year and being heard say he was seeing ghosts, he won seven games for a team with an incompetent head coach. Good for him.

~Kudos to Baker Mayfield for making this so simple.

Oh, and see you at the buffet line, Freddie Kitchens. These one and dones are getting ridiculous.

~Finally, kudos to Mike Tomlin. I thought a change should have been made after last year. It wasn’t. He gets a pass this year because of all the injuries. Finishing 8-8 was miraculous with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges at quarterback, a revolving door at running back, and more practice squad players than I can count. Those two quarterbacks were terrible, and you can’t win with terrible under center. I’ll give my two cents on what needs to happen for next year to be different in next week’s column.

~Kansas City vs New Orleans seems like it would be a good Super Bowl.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

As the resident head fanatic around here, I like to take stock of how my year in sports fanaticism went.

2019 was a tough one for this fanatic, with the only glimmer of light coming from the start to the current Pittsburgh Penguins season. The Pens flamed out last year. The Pittsburgh Pirates changed everyone but the penny pinching owner. USC went 5-7 in football. Louisville went out with a whimper in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Last but not least, the Steelers missed the playoffs again.

My year as a fanatic can best be described with this past weekend’s events.

On Friday night, my beloved USC Trojans football team suffered their worst bowl defeat since 1948. An embarrassment described in my takes above. Clay Helton will change more coaches, but until the head of this poisonous snake is cut off and replaced nothing will change. These are some of the darkest days in USC football history, and that’s not hyperbole. I know hope springs eternal, but Alabama is first on the schedule next year.

Moving ahead to Saturday afternoon, i had the Louisville Cardinals/Kentucky Wildcats basketball rivalry to look forward to. Louisville, once number one in the nation gives me hope for a winner to be fanatical about. Unfortunately the Cardinals have looked extremely beatable. Saturday, Louisville muddled through the game with the offensive efficiency of a leaky faucet. Kentucky played better than they have all year. Still, Louisville rallied and would’ve, could’ve, should’ve won the game. They choked. You. Cant. Miss. Foul. Shots. Louisville did, and I was 0-2 on the weekend.

My last hope resided with the Black and Gold, who needed a miracle of sorts to make the playoffs. First, the Steelers would need to beat the Ravens and then have the Tennessee Titans lose to the Houston Texans. Neither happened. Not only did the Steelers not beat the Ravens, but they were embarrassed by Baltimore’s back ups. It really came as no surprise considering the names on the back of the Steelers’ uniforms, mainly at quarterback. The defense finally caved, and the offense continued to look like a local pee wee team. Alas, I finished the weekend 0-3.

Being a fanatic is tough. Hanging on the outcome of games you don’t have any control of can be nerve wracking. This weekend gave me no joy. 2019, in general, didn’t have a lot of highlights.

20 has always been my favorite number. Next year is 2020. Maybe that plus using all my powers as a fanatic will change my teams’ luck.

I’m at least going to rearrange my sports ornaments on the Christmas tree next year.

Just my two cents…