It was supposed to be an offensive shootout. It was supposed to go down to the wire. No. 1 Clemson (14-0) did not care for any of that. After going into halftime trailing by one point after having a pass intercepted in the end zone, the Tigers roared in the second half and buried No. 4 Oklahoma (11-2) with a 21-0 second half en route to a convincing 37-17 victory in the Orange Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff. Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman each rushed for over 140 yards and combined for three rushing touchdowns as Clemson punched its ticket to Glendale, Arizona to play in the second College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday, January 11, 2016.
The first half of the game saw Clemson missing opportunities to tack on points at times, but they made sure that did not come back to haunt them in the second half. It did not help Oklahoma’s cause that running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon each went down with injuries in the game. Perine was injured twice in the game, the second injury bringing an end to his evening in Miami. Oklahoma managed just 70 rushing yards, which never allowed for much chance to keep pace with Clemson. Clemson rushed for over 300 yards thanks in large part to the combination of Gallman and Watson. It was a rough evening for Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield too, who was under pressure essentially all game long and picked off twice despite 311 passing yards. Clemson’s quarterback also passed for 187 yards and a touchdown to keep the undefeated season continuing into the final game of the year. This was the second time Oklahoma has been outrushed by at least 250 yards by the opponent under Bob Stoops, who coached the Sooners to a second straight blowout loss at the hands of Dabo Swinney and Clemson.
Clemson’s defense got off to a sluggish start and ended the first half on a down note, but the second half the Tigers were on fire, even without Shaq Lawson (Lawson left the game in the first half with a leg injury and was ruled out for the second half; Lawson said he hopes to be able to play in the championship game). Clemson forced Oklahoma to punt, a turnover on downs, punt, an interception and a punt in the second half. It was quite the effort for Clemson, and it was a truly impressive bounce back after a sluggish first half at times.
Clemson will now await the winner of the Cotton Bowl semifinal game between SEC champion Alabama and Big Ten champion Michigan State. Alabama owns a 12-2 head-to-head record against Clemson, with the most recent meeting between the two programs coming in 2008 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. Clemson’s last win against Alabama came in 1905, which followed a victory in 1904. Alabama has won 12 straight meetings since. Clemson has never faced Michigan State.
For Oklahoma, it will be back to the drawing board. The Sooners still rebounded from a relatively down season in 2014 by striking back and taking advantage of a couple of Big 12 contenders playing without their top quarterbacks (TCU, Baylor). The offense opened up under a new offensive coordinator and the Sooners should still be expected to be one of the top contenders in the Big 12 next season. The perception of the Big 12 will also continue to be a talking point. Two years into the College Football Playoff and the Big 12 has yet to win a game (we’ll see if the SEC can get on the board in a few hours). After being left out of the playoff last season, Oklahoma was a 20-point loser this season. Does that affect the image of the Big 12? One team’s performance should not be the only measuring stick for the strength of an entire conference, but that will what is magnified in Big 12 circles in the coming months and heading into the 2016 season.
Conference media days popping up around the country is typically a reminder that the football season is just about upon us and fall camp will be here before you know it. Despite where we are on the calendar though, it seems like a few players still want to dabble with transferring out of town.
As first reported by 247Sports, Texas A&M defensive tackle Mohamed Diallo has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal and is exploring an exit from College Station prior to what should be his junior season.
Diallo appeared in just one game for the Aggies in 2018, preserving his redshirt season. Originally from Canada, he got his first taste of college football at the Juco level by spending two seasons at Arizona Western and emerged as a three-star prospect.
“The transfer portal, I think the biggest thing we are getting to whether you transfer, whether you’re in a portal, or transfer, however it goes, the thing about it is I think you have to get consistency on how you rule things and when guys are eligible or not eligible and all that,” head coach Jimbo Fisher remarked on Tuesday at SEC Media Days when asked about transfers, not specifically referring to his defensive tackle. “Guys transfer all of the time. There’s no disrespect or anything in transfers because guys’ situations change and all of that happens, but you have to have a set of rules for this, and I think that’s what we’re getting to, and it will enhance it that much more.”
Diallo held offers from Oregon, Arizona, Ole Miss and a host of others as recruit. It’s possible he could be looking to go North and head a bit closer to home but he might also stay put and try to duke it out at A&M as part of a fairly deep rotation at defensive tackle in College Station.
It’s not uncommon for a coach to go from one side of a fierce rivalry to another and the latest example of that comes from the Sunshine State this week.
According to 247Sports’ Josh Newberg, ex-Florida State offensive line coach Greg Frey has decided to head up the road to Gainesville and join Dan Mullen’s staff in what is likely an off-the-field role:
Frey was part of Willie Taggart’s initial staff in Tallahassee, a hire widely lauded after his work in the trenches during previous stops at Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and USF. Things didn’t click with the Seminoles however, as he was unable to work any magic with the team’s woeful line and was released in February.
FSU since moved on to OC Kendal Briles’ pal Randy Clements as Frey’s replacement.
The Gators do have a bit of a rebuilding situation going on up front with just one offensive line starter returning but between Frey and on-field coach John Hevesy, they should at least have the coaching in place to overcome things. It will also make for a very interesting visit from the Seminoles in the Swamp with a former assistant on hand in rival colors this November.
Alabama-Clemson IV was historic in many ways back in January. Not only did the sport’s ruling elite meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season (and for a third time in the title game), it was also the first time two 14-0 teams had ever met in the modern era of the sport.
We all know what happened at Levi’s Stadium too, a 44-16 shellacking by Dabo Swinney’s group that was the worst loss Nick Saban had suffered with the Crimson Tide and extra painful given the big stage. Predictably, that outcome was a big topic at both SEC and ACC media days on Wednesday as both programs took to the podium in Hoover and Charlotte respectively.
The day got off to a very eyebrow-raising start when Alabama blamed the lopsided loss on lack of preparation and focus (for a title game, it should be pointed out). Most folks probably just shook their head at such excuses out of Tuscaloosa but it was what it was.
Now enter Clemson for the follow up a little later on in the day. Offensive lineman John Simpson was asked about the above comments and, well, he seemed to go a different direction than most expected in his retort:
The Tigers topped the Irish 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl-hosted semifinal in what was a meeting of two teams who went undefeated in the regular season. While just about everybody considered Alabama on a different level from Notre Dame start-to-finish in 2018, obviously one offensive lineman at Clemson (and Irish AD Jack Swarbrick) did not.
No matter where your opinion might lie on this subject, you at least have to respect Simpson for giving Paul Finebaum‘s SEC-centric radio/TV show a month’s worth of talking points and angry phone calls from just one quote. And here we were lamenting that the senior guard was being brought to the ACC’s annual kickoff event instead of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence when nothing could have been further from the truth after a comment like that.
Something says that if Alabama-Clemson V winds up being a thing in this year’s edition of the Playoff, that line will be brought up a time or two by Saban as his team enters 2019 looking for a bit of revenge.
The Birmingham, Alabama area may be more well known for hosting SEC Media Days this week but the city was also the epicenter of another kickoff event in the SWAC’s annual media day on Tuesday.
And in contrast to their FBS friends down the road in Hoover, the SWAC actually had a bit of pertinent news to discuss in announcing that the league’s annual conference title game in football is moving away from a neutral site going forward.
“The permanent home of the SWAC championship will be on the campus of the higher seed,” commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
McClelland reportedly said several cities bid on hosting the game in the future but the lessons of 2018 had to be a big factor in the league sticking with the home-hosted model adopted by just about everybody outside of the FBS Power Five conferences. Last year the SWAC was forced to move their game on-campus from Legion Field after UAB won their CUSA division and had a chance to host their respective league title game.
Legion Field and the Blazers didn’t wind up actually hosting the CUSA title game but the simple threat of it happening pushed the SWAC out after the league had made a big deal about returning to Birmingham for the game after five years away.
The SWAC and its member schools will still have to worry about last minute location changes for their Dec. 7 title tilt but at least now it will be of their own making and not somebody else’s.