Tide’s defensive game plan a reality check for offensive-minded bowl season

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How ironic that a bowl season noted for some record-breaking offensive performances ends with perhaps one of the best defensive efforts in recent memory.

The Alamo Bowl, a 67-56  defense-non-existent race between Baylor and Washington, was more theatre — a comedy at that — than a football game. Color analyst and tackling aficionado Chris Spielman is still purging, I’m sure.

If Russell Wilson hadn’t been so captivated by Oregon’s shiny helmets made from 100 percent stainless steel, perhaps he would have been able to spike the ball in time to give Wisconsin a shot to tie the Rose Bowl at 45 points in regulation. Instead, time expired and a measly 83 points had to suffice.

The Orange Bowl jokes are still going strong. It’s been five days since West Virginia hung up 70 on Clemson, and the Mountaineers just scored another touchdown.

It’s cool, man, we get it. Offense equals eyeballs. People need to be entertained.

It’s just that Nick Saban is the one holding up the crystal ball from the Coaches’ Trophy after beating top-ranked LSU 21-0 to win his second BCS championship with Alabama in three seasons — his third BCS championship overall. He’s holding it up because No. 2 Alabama’s top-ranked defense held LSU to 92 total yards, forced two turnovers and didn’t allow the Tigers past midfield until 7:29 left in the fourth quarter.

But before people start harping on LSU’s lifeless offense as the primary reason Bama’s defense looked so dominant — although it was lifeless, let’s not kid ourselves — let’s remember that this was the same LSU offense that scored 34 points against Rose Bowl champs Oregon, 40 against Orange Bowl champs WVU, 34 against Cotton Bowl champs Arkansas and 41 against Gator Bowl champs Florida, which despite its struggles, played relatively well defensively this year.

LSU’s 2011 identity revolved around big plays on defense and special teams; get a spark there and the Tigers could get on a roll before the opposing teams knew what hit them. Even LSU’s 9-6 win over Alabama on Nov. 5 featured momentum swings from the other two-thirds of the football game not involving offense.

Alabama took away that identity tonight and LSU never got the spark they needed during a game when they needed it most.   Coincidentally, the Tide did it by refusing to waiver on their game plan.

We didn’t do a lot different [from the last game],” Saban said. “We did some things on offense formationally. Our offensive team did a great job. Defensively, we just played well, played the box.”

It showed. LSU had no running game, no vertical passing game, no clue. Jordan Jefferson looked lost and Jarrett Lee was lost, as in he was no where to be found other than on the sidelines.

It was one of the more questionable decisions of the night.

But there’s no questioning this Alabama defense’s place as one of the best in recent history.

“We wanted to come out and show the world we beat ourselves the first game,” said linebacker Courtney Upshaw. “We wanted to come out and dominate from start to finish, and that’s what we did.”

Indeed. There’s no way you can blame Saban for relying on kicker Jeremy Shelley to win the game with five field goals. Even before Trent Richardson sealed the victory with a 34-yard touchdown run, 15-0 seemed insurmountable with the way the Tide’s D was flying to the ball.

Kick the field goals. Build the lead. Nick Saban don’t care. Right, Honey Badger?

After all, Saban’s the one holding up the crystal ball. And I can guarantee you he doesn’t give a damn if you were entertained.

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Clemson kicker Greg Huegel injured during practice, out for the season after ACL tear

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If Clemson is to defend their national title this season, they will do so without the services of their reliable kicker.

The school confirmed various reports on Thursday evening that redshirt junior Greg Huegel was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday night — on the final kick, no less — and tore his ACL. He will have surgery and will not play again in 2017.

While he didn’t get the press of Deshuan Watson or others, Huegel was a key part of the Clemson run the past few seasons after taking over as the starter in 2015. The former walk-on was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year and had hit two of his four field goals to start off this season, one of which was a career-long 49 yard kick just last week.

Backup kicker Alex Spence is likely to take over for the Tigers in Huegel’s absence. The redshirt junior has never attempted a field goal in a game but has kicked off and made an extra point for Clemson this season.

Reserve tight end Cole Renfrow, the younger brother of title game star Hunter Renfrow, also tore his ACL in practice and is out the rest of the season as well.

Given the thin margins that College Football Playoff teams have nowadays, the loss of Huegel figures to be a big one for Dabo Swinney and company going forward. Clemson hosts Boston College this week but will face a stiff test on the road at Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch to end the month.

Notre Dame, Western Michigan agree to 2020 game in South Bend

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More #MACtion is heading to South Bend.

Western Michigan and Notre Dame announced on Thursday that the two schools have agreed to a single game series that will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. It will mark the fourth time the two teams have met in their long histories, but a decade since they last faced off in a 44-20 Irish win back in 2010.

The Broncos will receive a $1.175 million payout from Notre Dame for the game according to a release.

While playing a MAC team is a bit of a regular occurrence for Notre Dame now, their meeting with WMU back in 2010 was actually the first time they ever played a team from the conference. The Irish play at least one opponent from the MAC from now until at least 2021 with Western Michigan added to their slate of future games.

The Irish have been busy filling out the 2020 schedule and have just one opening remaining with this contract being signed. The Broncos join home games against Arkansas and Stanford, a trip to Charlotte to play Wake Forest, Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, the annual USC game in Los Angeles and the opener at MetLife Stadium outside New York City against Navy. Additional games against Clemson, Duke, Louisville (at home) and a road trip to Pittsburgh are also on tap as part of the ACC scheduling agreement.

 

Billion dollar club: Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma named most valuable CFB programs

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Alabama is No. 1 in just about every college football poll… except one.

That would be the Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking of college football programs. While you might think that the paper gives Clemson the edge instead, you have to know that they are not examining teams’ performance on the field in 2017, but rather their overall evaluation. Much like Forbes does in ranking NFL franchise values, WSJ attempted to find out how much college football programs were worth and came to the conclusion that Ohio State reigns supreme in the sport with a nearly $1.5 billion sticker price.

The Buckeyes’ value shot up nearly 60% in just a year so you can thank a College Football Playoff appearance and that huge new Big Ten television package for boosting their bottom line. The WSJ came to the conclusion by citing a study performed by Ryan Brewer, an associate professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus.

Not far behind Ohio State and still in the billion dollar club were Big 12 rivals Texas and Oklahoma. The Longhorns were an annual mainstay atop estimates like this for years but the team’s recent malaise on the field seems to have held them back lately. While the SEC did not have a team crack the 10 figure mark (shockingly), the league did make up half of the top 10. All said, the most valuable conference in college football averaged nearly $523 million per team overall.

Here’s the overall top 10 teams and how much they’re worth per the report:

  1. Ohio State – $1,510,482,000
  2. Texas – $1,243,124,000
  3. Oklahoma – $1,001,967,00
  4. Alabama $930,001,000
  5. Louisiana State – $910,927,000
  6. Michigan – $892,951,000
  7. Notre Dame – $856,938,000
  8. Georgia – $822,310,000
  9. Tennessee – $745,640,00
  10. Auburn – $724,191,000

Boise State QB Brett Rypien cleared to play vs. Virginia, unclear if he’ll start

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Boise State got their starting quarterback back.  Whether he’ll be back to starting remains to be seen.

Bryan Harsin confirmed Wednesday that Brett Rypien has been cleared to play in Friday’s game against Virginia.  Rypien sustained a head injury in the first quarter of the Washington State loss in Week 2 and didn’t return, then was sidelined for the Week 3 win over New Mexico as well.

While there has been no confirmation from the school, it has been reported that Rypien sustained a concussion.

“Brett has been practicing, he’s been cleared,” the Broncos head coach said according to the Idaho Press Tribune. “He’s good. He’s been back in the mix and there’s no issue there.”

Left unsaid is whether he or Kansas transfer Montell Cozart will get the start against the Cavaliers.  In his first start for the Broncos, Cozart directed an offense that finished with its lowest yardage output (264) in five years.  Individually, Cozart produced solid stats in the win as he completed 15 of his 19 passes for 137 yards while adding 71 on the ground.  He also accounted for three touchdowns — two passing, one rushing.

Regardless of who starts, Harsin acknowledged that both Cozart and Rypien will play in the non-conference game.