Ray-Ray McCloud

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No. 1 Clemson cruises to halftime lead over No. 7 Miami in ACC title game

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If there are any doubts about who the No. 1 team in the country is, Dabo Swinney and company may have used the first half of the ACC Championship Game to erase them. No. 1 Clemson cruised to a fairly effortless 21-0 lead at halftime over No. 7 Miami and do not appear to be done tuning up for the College Football Playoff either.

The Tigers marched right down on the opening drive of the game in what was quite the tone-setter, scoring off of a Travis Etienne four yard touchdown run to immediately put points on the board. Quarterback Kelly Bryant was really sharp through the first two quarters — 15 completions in a row to open the game — and threw for 164 yards, with another 15 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Tailback Adam Choice also added 21 yards and a rushing touchdown as well.

It didn’t take long for Miami’s vaunted turnover chain to make an appearance though, in what was Clemson’s lone mistake in the half after they went 7-of-10 on third down and scored on three of their five drives. Ray-Ray McCloud ended up muffing the first punt of the game and allowed Trent Harris to emerge from a scrum with the ball. That setup a long field goal attempt that missed to the left and otherwise spoiled the momentum from the big play, made even worse as the Tigers went right back down and scored another touchdown.

To add injury to the insult for the Hurricanes, wideout Darrell Langham — a hero in earlier wins and starting in place of the injured Ahmmon Richards — suffered a minor foot injury, defensive back Trajan Bandy was hurt and star defensive end Chad Thomas also had to be helped off.

Those injuries were compounded by the fact that the UM offense couldn’t do much at all against that feisty front seven from Clemson. Malik Rosier had just 27 yards passing and tailback Travis Homer was limited to only 28 yards on the ground.

There’s still plenty of time for a second half rally for Mark Richt’s team in the Hurricanes’ first trip to Charlotte for the ACC title game but it might take a miracle at this point given how banged up the team is and how well the Tigers are looking as they appear well on their way to locking up another playoff bid.

NC State looking for statement vs. Clemson, clinging to 21-17 lead at halftime

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With first place in the ACC Atlantic Divison on the line, NC State is leading the defending national champions by four points at halftime. Up 21-17 at halftime in Raleigh, the Wolfpack will have to be ready to find a way to finish this game on a strong note against Clemson.

NC State got the party started early with Tim Kidd-Glass coming up with an interception of Kelly Bryant on the third play of the game. Setting up the Wolfpack offense at the Clemson 40-yard line, NC State wasted no time taking advantage of the early turnover. Ryan Finley completed a 40-yard pass for a touchdown to Kelvin Harmon for the early 7-0 lead. Clemson’s offense could not get much going on their next possession and ended a five-play drive with a punt, but the Tigers defense came through with a quick three-and-out. It was at this point Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud ripped off an impressive 77-yard punt return for a touchdown to even things at 7-7.

NC State and Clemson then exchanged 12-play touchdown drives to keep things even at 14-14. NC State responded once more with another strong touchdown drive with Finley finding plenty of success through the air. The drive ended with a touchdown pass to Jaylen Samuels to go up 21-14. Clemson cut into the lead with a field goal. The Tigers added another field goal in the final seconds as the teams went to the locker room at halftime to create the one-point game. NC State had missed a field goal on their final possession of the half.

The winner of this game will take first place in the ACC Atlantic Division, which likely means the winner of this game will end up playing for the ACC championship. For Clemson, the fourth team in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the stakes are a bit higher at the moment as well. There has never been a two-loss conference champion in the four-team playoff. Of course, NC State is hoping to become the first as well.

CFT Previews & Predictions: Alabama-Clemson Tale of the Tape

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WHO
No. 1 Alabama (14-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-1)

WHAT
The College Football Playoff championship game, presented by AT&T

WHEN
8:00 p.m. ET

WHERE
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

HEAD COACHES
Alabama’s Nick Saban (114-18 in 10 seasons with the Crimson Tide, 205-60-1 overall; five national championships)
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (88-28 in nine seasons with the Tigers)

STATISTICAL LEADERS
Alabama
Passing: Jalen Hurts, 227-351 (64.7%), 2,249 yards, 22 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Rushing: Damien Harris, 1,013 yards; Hurts, 12 touchdowns
Receiving: Calvin Ridley, 67 receptions; ArDarius Stewart, 852 yards, eight touchdowns
Punt returns: Trevon Diggs, 10 yards per on 13 returns; Eddie Jackson (injured, won’t play), 23 yards per on 11 returns, two touchdowns
Kick returns: Diggs. 23.7 yards per on seven returns
Punting: J.K. Scott, 47.4 yards per, 20 of 54 inside 20
Kicking: Adam Griffith, 20-27 field goals, long of 48; 62-63 extra points
Tackles: Reuben Foster, 103
Tackles for loss: Ryan Anderson, 17
Sacks: Jonathan Allen, 9.5
QB Hits: Allen, 15
Interceptions: Minkah Fitzpatrick, six
Passes breakups: Anthony Averett, 14

Clemson
Passing: Deshaun Watson, 352-523 (67.3%), 4,173 yards, 38 touchdowns, 17 interceptions
Rushing: Wayne Gallman, 1,087 yards, 16 touchdowns
Receiving: Mike Williams, 90 receptions, 1,267 yards, 10 touchdowns
Punt returns: Ray-Ray McCloud, 8.4 per on 21 returns
Kick returns: Artavis Scott, 22.9 per on 20 returns
Punting: Andy Teasdall, 38 yards per, 21 of 53 inside 20
Kicking: Greg Huegel, 14-19 field goals, long of 48; 66-68 extra points
Tackles: Ben Boulware, 121
Tackles for loss: Carlos Watkins, 12.5
Sacks: Watkins, 10.5
Interceptions: Jadar Johnson, five
Passes breakups: Cordrea Tankersley, 10

STATISTICAL MATCHUPS
Alabama’s 11th-ranked rush offense (246.7 ypg) vs. Clemson’s 19th-ranked run defense (123.1 ypg)
CU’s 62nd-ranked rush offense (175.4 ypg) vs. UA’s top-ranked run defense (62 ypg)
UA’s 81st-ranked pass offense (214.2 yp) vs. CU’s 17th-ranked pass defense (183.8 ypg)
CU’s 7th-ranked pass offense (327.8 ypg) vs. UA’s 14th-ranked pass defense (182 ypg)
UA’s 15th-ranked scoring offense (39.4 ppg) vs. CU’s 7th-ranked scoring defense (17.1 ppg)
CU’s 13th-ranked scoring offense (39.5 ppg) vs. UA’s top-ranked scoring defense (11.4 ppg)

COMMON OPPONENTS
Auburn
Clemson won 19-13 in Auburn Sept. 3, Alabama won 30-12 in Tuscaloosa Nov. 26.

LOSSES
Alabama: N/A
Clemson: 43-42 to No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-5) in Clemson Nov. 12

PORTFOLIO
Wins vs. bowl teams: Alabama 12, Clemson 10
Wins vs. current CFP Top 25 teams: UA 6, CU 5
Wins in true road games: UA 4, CU 5
Wins by 10-plus points: UA 13, CU 7

THE BOVADA.LV LINE
Clemson, +6 (opened +6½)
Over/under, 51

THE PREDICTIONS
Zach Barnett
Here’s one thing I know: Tide-Tigers II won’t be as high scoring as the last time around. Alabama — both offense and defense — won’t allow it. And here’s what I think: I think Alabama is just too far ahead of the rest of the country that even a marked deficit at quarterback can’t overcome the Tide’s advantages elsewhere. The defense is too good, the rest of the offense is too good, and Bo Scarborough is too, well, Bo Scarborough.
Alabama 21, Clemson 17

Bryan Fisher
I think this year’s rematch should be just as close of a game as last season’s version, with Alabama squeaking out another close victory over Clemson in slightly lower scoring fashion. Turnovers will play a huge role in this one and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Crimson Tide’s defense finds the end zone at least once to make up for what should be a grind-it-out type of night for their offense. The Tigers defense plays heroically throughout, but ultimately it’s Nick Saban holding up the trophy in the end.
Alabama 31, Clemson 27

Kevin McGuire
The biggest question mark for this game is just what to expect from Alabama’s offense given the bizarre staff shakeup that forced Lane Kiffin on his way to his new job and inserted Steve Sarkisian to call plays, which has never particularly been his strong suit. But who am I to question Nick Saban? It all comes back to winning the rematch though, where Clemson is coming off an impressive shelling of Ohio State and looks like a true threat to Alabama, especially if the Tide is a mixed bag of ineptitude on offense with a freshman quarterback. But Deshaun Watson will have to play the same kind of game he did a year ago, and I’m not so sure that will be possible. Fool Alabama once, it happens. Do it twice in a row? I’m not as confident that is possible.
Alabama 26, Clemson 24

John Taylor
I’m truly torn on this one.  On the one hand you have a Brent Venables-coached Clemson defense that shut out Ohio State and its veteran quarterback, J.T. Barrett, going up against a true freshman quarterback in Alabama’s Jalen Hurts — and with a new playcaller no less. On the other, you have an Alabama defense that, in addition to being ranked No. 1 in myriad statistical categories, is in the Top 15 nationally in interceptions with 16 — six of which were returned for touchdowns — matched up with a quarterback in Deshaun Watson whose 17 picks this season are tied for second at the FBS level.  In the end I’m going to go against the grain and with Venables and Watson denying Nick Saban his Bear Bryant-tying title.  Hell, The Nicktator says (winkwink nudgenudgeClemson’s the best team; who am I to argue with the greatest college coach of this generation?
Clemson 27, Alabama 23

Strong defense and Deshuan Watson power Clemson to halftime lead over Georgia Tech

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For nearly a month, the college football world has been wondering when Clemson was going to look like, well… Clemson. You know, the Tigers that made it to the national championship game last year and ran the table during the regular season in 2015.

Well, the college football world can stop wondering after Thursday night.

Facing a pesky Georgia Tech team in their ACC opener, Clemson’s defense looked like one of the best in the country through the first half and quarterback Deshaun Watson finally showcased the skills that had many people labeling the Heisman Trophy favorite in 2016. The Tigers jumped out to a 23-0 lead going into the locker room at halftime but the score line didn’t quite indicate just how lopsided the game was up to that point.

After just two quarters, Watson and the Clemson offense had 347 yards. Georgia Tech? A whopping 22. The Tigers had more first downs than the Yellow Jackets had plays run and yards.

It was just that kind of half in Atlanta.

Freshman defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was particularly impressive for Brent Venables’ defense, blowing up a play in the backfield on the very first snap of the game and generally disrupting the Yellow Jackets’ triple option each drive.

Watson also finally returned to the form he displayed last year, throwing for 262 yards and two scores while adding 27 yards on the ground. Perhaps most encouraging for the Clemson offense was the big plays they got from Ray-Ray McCloud (seven catches, 90 yards) while the defense focused on Mike Williams.

Things were not completely perfect in the half for Watson even if he was bailed out by a bone-headed mistake. After a miscommunication with a receiver in the red zone, the signal-caller lofted a ball directly into the hands of defensive back Lance Austin.

Austin stepped out of the end zone however and then back in, before fumbling and then recovering the ball for what was a safety.  Clemson promptly marched down for a touchdown on the ensuing drive.

Going to be a long halftime speech filled with adjustments for Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson as a result.

College football players continue to drop footballs voluntarily before crossing the goal line

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There are some things in this world I have grown to accept I may never fully understand. While I may slowly be getting the hang of Snapchat, one thing I feel confident in saying I will never understand is the allure of dropping a football as close to the goal line as one possibly can, which has happened far too often in the world of football, especially college football. It happened twice last night. Fortunately for the guilty parties involved.

Last night, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon returned a kickoff against Ohio State 97 yards for a touchdown. Of course, the return should have only counted for 96 yards at the most, because video replays showed Mixon dropped the football just before crossing the goal line.

I am a strong advocate for goal-line cameras in every college football game, but you do not even need that to tell Mixon let go of the football before scoring a touchdown. Maybe the refs on the field missed it because they were too slow to keep up with the pace of the kickoff return. Maybe there should always be some sort of official on the goal line to spot these incidents as they occur on long plays. Or maybe the instant replay booth should be taking a look at this. The Big 12 admitted to messing up in the replay booth last week at Oklahoma State. The replay booth at Oklahoma messed this one up too.

But wait! There’s more. If you stayed up for the west coast action last night, you may have seen Cal running back Vic Enwere ran his way for a 54-yard touchdown right up the middle of the Texas defense, seemingly putting the nail in the coffin for the Longhorns in a wildly entertaining offensive shootout in Berkley.  Enwere also dropped the football right before crossing the goal line. This time, however, Texas was aware of the situation and Dylan Haines picked up the loose ball in the end zone, which should have resulted in a touchback for the Longhorns, thus giving Texas an opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. However, the officials determined there was no immediate recovery and the play had been ruled dead at the one-yard line. Cal was given the football at the one-yard line and the Bears took a knee to run out the clock rather than punch it in for one more score.

Just last week we had another one of these plays happen. Clemson wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud drop the football right before crossing the goal line against Troy

Somebody please explain to me why football players continue to do this. What is the reason behind it? Has anyone ever given a reason why a player wants to drop the football as soon as they can? I think these players that continue to do this should have a football duct taped to their hands for a week the next time they do it, regardless of whether it hurts their team’s chances at winning or not. Maybe then it will begin to sink in that this just isn’t cool. It could be argued the team should be penalized for a premature celebration by the officials, but no official has gone that far. Maybe they should.

Here is a brief memo to all football players. Scoring touchdowns is cool. Dropping the football before scoring a touchdown is not cool. Stop that. Now.

That said, I look forward to ripping the next college football player who chooses to drop the football before he scores a touchdown in the next week or so.