Nick Saban closes in on the Bear as ‘Bama bests Clemson in title game for the ages

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A week ago was the 10th anniversary of the epic 2006 BCS championship game between Texas and USC.  While the second College Football Playoff title game couldn’t quite match that level of iconic history, it did its damnedest in trying to get there.

In a back-and-forth affair that featured a plethora of long-range scores instead of the expected body shots — and the normally-reserved Nick Saban channeling his heretofore unknown inner riverboat gambler for good measure — No. 2 Alabama used a wild fourth quarter surge fueled in large part by special teams to drop top-ranked and undefeated Clemson 45-40.  With the win, Saban has now won five national championship — four with the Tide — one behind ‘Bama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most in FBS history.

And, in the end, this one was unlike any of the previous four in that it was both literally and figuratively “special.”

The Tide entered the fourth quarter down 24-21; seven and a half minutes later, the Tigers found themselves on the wrong end of 38-27 score.  The keys to the lightning-quick half-quarter turnaround were a pair of special teams plays.  With 10:34 remaining and coming off a field goal that tied the score at 24, Saban called for an onside pooch kick that was recovered by UA; two plays later, Jake Coker hit O.J. Howard on a 51-yard touchdown pass, the tight end’s second busted-coverage score of the game after not catching a touchdown pass of any kind since 2013 (watch that play here).

The ensuing possession for Clemson ended with a field goal that cut the lead to 31-27.  That four-point deficit lasted all of 16 seconds as Kenyan Drake returned the kickoff 95 yards to push the lead back out to 38-27.

A Deshaun Watson touchdown pass, his third of the game, with 4:40 remaining trimmed the deficit to five at 38-33 — the same score, incidentally, by which Texas trailed USC with four minutes remaining in that epic Rose Bowl.  Howard, of all people, helped ensure there would be no Vince Young-like fairytale ending for Watson and the Tigers as the tight end rumbled 63 yards on a second-and-12 screen pass to set the Tide up at the Clemson 14 with just under four minutes left on the clock.

Five plays and and nearly three minutes later, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry put the final nail in Clemson’s comeback coffin, bulling into the end zone from a yard out with just over a minute remaining.  Henry’s third touchdown of the game pushed the lead back out to 45-33 and essentially ended the SEC’s mini title drought at two straight seasons.

Watson did connect on his fourth touchdown pass with :12 left, but Clemson was unable to recover the onside kick to officially end the instant classic.

Howard was the unlikely offensive star of the contest, outshining even the reigning Heisman winner.  Coming into the game with just 394 yards receiving, the immensely-talented junior totaled 208 yards on his five receptions.  Henry, who broke Shaun Alexander‘s school rushing record in the third quarter, would finish with a game-high 158 yards rushing, and became the first Heisman winner to win a national championship in the same season since Florida State’s Jameis Winston pulled off that trick in 2013.

Henry also became just the fifth running back to pull that off, joining Alabama’s Mark Ingram (2009), Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett (1976), Army’s Doc Blanchard (1945) and Minnesota’s Bruce Smith (1941).  Henry’s teammate, quarterback Jake Coker, also made some history as the Florida State transfer become what we believe is just the third player to win two national championships at two different schools — Cam Newton won titles at Florida (2008) and Auburn (2010), while J.T. White won two at Ohio State (1942) and Michigan (1947).

Watson, a Heisman finalist himself, threw for 371 yards and ran for another 73 in a losing effort.  He also became the first quarterback in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Clemson, which was looking for its first national championship since 1981, had entered this title game having won an FBS-best 51 straight games when leading entering the fourth quarter.  The Tigers had also been looking for its first win over the Tide since October of 1905, a stretch of 40,255 days.

Instead, it was Alabama that claimed its fourth national championship in the last seven years, an unprecedented feat in this day and age.  One final note: Saban and Urban Meyer-coached teams now own seven of the last 10 titles.

In any discussion of the best current coaches in the game,it begins and ends with those two titans.  And, based on how both teams are constructed, a head-to-head title matchup at some point down the road is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Former FIU DB Emmanuel Lubin dies in car accident, program confirms

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FIU announced on Sunday that former Panthers defensive back Emmanuel Lubin died in a car accident on Saturday night.

Lubinn (jumping, left) played in 45 games over four seasons for FIU, the most recent coming in 2018. He started all 13 games last season, collecting 31 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack and four pass breakups. For his career, Lubin compiled 86 tackles, 11 pass breakups and one interception.

“Tragically, we lost a great young man in Emmanuel Lubin last night,” FIU head coach Butch Davis said. “He was a hard worker, great teammate and was respected and loved by his teammates, coaches and staff at FIU. His character, work ethic and leadership were instrumental in leading our program to success these past two seasons. Our football program is mourning his loss and we will honor Emmanuel every day moving forward. Our hearts and prayers go out to his friends and family.”

Added former teammate Tyree Johnson: “Anybody who knows you would never say anything bad on your name because you literally lit up any room you were in…I never told you this because I assumed you knew, but you made me the man I am today. If it wasn’t for you, I’ll still be the same Teejayy from four yeas (sic) ago.”

The North Miami Beach native was 22 years old.

Ex-Clemson DB Kyler McMichael headed to North Carolina

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The Portal is as mysterious as it is powerful. Some souls enter never to be heard of again, others are out as quickly as they entered. The Portal blesses whom it decides to bless, and it’s not for us humans to understand. All we know is The Portal must be questioned.

For instance, there’s the case of Kyler McMichael.

On Friday, the former 4-star recruit was a Clemson Tiger. By Saturday, he was a North Carolina Tar Heel.

Roughly 24 hours after announcing his intent to transfer, McMichael had announced his new destination. “Beyond blessed and grateful to be apart (sic) of such an amazing team last year at Clemson, however today I begin my next Chapter in life as I redirect my journey and travel to Chapel Hill, to the University of North Carolina and become a Tar Heel.”

McMichael didn’t make a major impact on Clemson’s national championship team, but that’s largely because he was a true freshman playing for the eventual national champions.

The Atlanta native played in 101 snaps according to his Clemson bio, which was still live as of this writing, spread across 12 games, where he made two tackles.

Barring a waiver, McMichael will sit out the 2019 season and compete for the Tar Heels as a redshirt sophomore in 2020.

Colorado lands Nebraska transfer LB Guy Thomas

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There’s a new Guy on the team at Colorado.

On Saturday, former Nebraska linebacker Guy Thomas announced his commitment to Colorado. “I give thanks to everybody that has been influential, and supportive in my life,” Nyon said in a graphic posted to his Twitter account. “I am taking this time to announce that I will be committing to the University of Colorado.”

Thomas first announced his transfer back in November; he appeared in just four games over two years on the club. He posted four tackles in as many games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, with three coming against FCS Bethune-Cookman.

“It’s not working out,” Thomas told the Omaha World-Herald upon his transfer.

Barring a waiver, Thomas will have to sit out the 2019 season and compete as a redshirt junior in 2020. He figures to contribute as a pass-rushing outside linebacker whenever he is cleared to play.

As of now, Jim Harbaugh plans to play Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game

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Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.

Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.

“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”

Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’KornBrandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.

Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.