Nebraska, USC and Alabama have all successfully defended a national championship in the past 25 years and after Saturday night it appears Clemson will at least have a shot at adding their name to the list. The Tigers looked every bit the part of the No. 1 team in the country as they cruised to an easy 38-3 victory in the ACC Championship Game to spoil No. 7 Miami’s first trip to Charlotte in every way imaginable.
As you might expect in a game involving the Hurricanes’ famous ‘Turnover Chain,’ giveaways played a huge role in the outcome of this one — just not how Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wanted. While Miami did recover a muffed punt on the second series of the game, the team wound up turning it over three times on offense and giving away 14 points off them. Two in the third quarter loomed particularly large as a fumble at midfield and an interception off a tipped pass wound up slamming the door on any potential comeback and turned a three-score lead into a full on rout.
Of course, it helps to have a team that looks to be peaking at the right time to take advantage of another monster performance from the Clemson defense. Quarterback Kelly Bryant started the game off with 15 straight completions in another masterful outing behind center, finishing the game with 252 yards and a touchdown pass through the air while adding another score on the ground. He was so good that backups Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper played most of the fourth quarter in his place and made the somewhat lackluster ground game not matter as tailbacks Tavien Feaster, Travis Etienne and Adam Choice all were held under 25 yards rushing — but did manage to score a touchdown a piece.
The stellar effort by the defending ACC champs was not matched by Miami in their initial trip to the conference title game since joining the league. Quarterback Malik Rosier had another sub-par night throwing the ball and managed only 110 yards and tossed two interceptions. While the passing game was hampered by numerous injuries to the team’s best receivers, the defense on the other side also had a lot to do with things and kept the run game in check too (104 yards total).
The victory marked the third straight ACC title for Dabo Swinney and all but assuredly gave his team the No. 1 seed when the College Football Playoff rankings are announced on Sunday — which would result in a trip to the Sugar Bowl for just the second time in school history. Given that Saturday night’s game in Charlotte was a blowout almost from the opening kickoff, the debate has already begun in earnest to figure out who the Selection Committee will pick to face the Tigers.
Whether it’s a rematch with either Ohio State or Alabama (or a chance against undefeated Wisconsin) is a question for another day however, as Clemson won’t really care who lines up against them in a few weeks. The Tigers remain in the hunt to capture back-to-back national titles after another romp in Charlotte and look primed to do continue this remarkable run they’re on when they spend New Years in New Orleans next month.
This is not exactly the most optimal way to open the spring for Nick Saban and Alabama.
Shortly before seven p.m. ET this evening, grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, who originally committed to play his last season of college football at Alabama, announced on Twitter that he will instead move on to Washington State. Not long after that, after the Crimson Tide had completed their first practice of the spring, Saban confirmed that Tua Tagovailoa sustained an injury to the thumb on his right (throwing) hand. Specifically how he sustained the injury wasn’t clear.
The rising sophomore will be taken to Birmingham for further evaluation; just how long he’ll be sidelined remains to be seen.
Jalen Hurts started every game but one at quarterback the past two seasons, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record in that span. He was under center for the national championship game loss to Clemson, and was in the same spot for this year’s title game against Georgia until a 13-0 halftime deficit compelled Saban to pull the trigger on a change.
And the rest, as they say, is history, as Tagovailoa played a significant role in a second-half comeback that was capped by the true freshman’s game-winning touchdown pass in the first overtime. Even as it seems obvious to those on the outside that this is Tagovailoa’s team moving forward, given how much more advanced the backup is in the passing game than the erstwhile starter, Saban is not quite ready to pull the trigger on a full-time change at the position. In fact, the head coach even stated that he’s open to playing both quarterbacks.
Minshew, who started five games at East Carolina last season, was viewed as experienced insurance in case Hurts decided to transfer. Or, if Tagovailoa suffered an injury.
So much for the implementation of the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™.
In late February, Gardner Minshew, a graduate transfer quarterback from East Carolina, confirmed that he had committed to play for Alabama and would enroll at the university in May. Nearly three weeks later, Minshew shifted his course significantly, announcing on Twitter that he is “[p]roud to say that I’ll be playing my last year of college ball at Washington State.”
At least when it comes to the opportunity for playing time, the Cougars, looking to replace Luke Falk, make much more sense than the Crimson Tide, who has, in addition to a two-year starter in Hurts, national championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa.
As a graduate transfer, Minshew will be eligible to play immediately for Wazzu in 2018 and could be in line to win a starting job at the Power Five school.
Minshew started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.
The news of Minshew’s initial commitment to UA came a little over a week after Minshew visited the Tuscaloosa campus. Earlier in February, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.
“All or Nothing” has been Amazon’s answer to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with one clear distinction — “All or Nothing” actually follows its subject throughout the season. The first two seasons followed the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams, and has now expanded into the college game. Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the trailer for its upcoming season with Michigan, in which its cameras followed Jim Harbaugh‘s Wolverines through an 8-5 campaign where the maize and blue won no games of consequence.
This is not the first such documentary series to follow a college team. Showtime’s “A Season With” has chronicled seasons of Florida State, Notre Dame and Navy.
The upcoming season will hit all Amazon Prime streaming devices on April 6.
A significant development has gone under the radar at Auburn, until now. Junior wide receiver Eli Stove tore his ACL during Auburn’s first spring practice and underwent surgery last Tuesday, according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover.
As a sophomore in 2017, Stove caught 29 passes for 265 yards and rushed 30 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns, which made him the Tigers’ third-leading rusher.
Stove was expected to increase his portfolio heading into 2018, but now he’ll spend the foreseeable future working simply to get back on the field. No timetable has been set for Stove’s return.
Though Stove is one of Auburn’s most talented pass-catchers, the Tigers aren’t hurting for depth even in his absence. Nine wideouts caught a pass for Auburn last season, and not one of them was a senior.