Alabama’s keys to national championship game include trying to solve Deshaun Watson (good luck!)

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The rematch is on in the College Football Playoff national championship game with Alabama and Clemson set to battle for the national championship for a second straight season. Both teams will have the benefit of having gone through this experience against each other last year, so there is a certain familiarity with what the other team is capable of doing. For Alabama, knowing just how dangerous Deshaun Watson can be leading the Tigers offense going in will lead Alabama to look for new ways to scheme against him.

In last year’s championship game, Watson put on a performance that drew comparisons to Vince Young in the Rose Bowl against USC, although Watson came up on the short end of the winning tally. In the epic 45-40 loss to the Tide, Watson scorched Alabama for 405 passing yards and four touchdowns and added 73 rushing yards. It was Watson’s best performance of the year, and it came against the best defense in the country. Guess what. Alabama once again has the best defense in the country, and Watson is fully capable of going off for a big game once again. You can make him make a mistake, as evidenced at times this season. Watson has been picked off 17 times this year, including twice last week by Ohio State. The key for Alabama will be converting points off turnovers. Ohio State, obviously, was unable to do that, but the only team to beat them this year managed to do that. Watson was intercepted three times against Pittsburgh in Clemson’s only loss of the season. The Panthers took advantage of two of those picks by scoring touchdowns on the ensuing possession (Pitt was forced to punt on the first, scored two touchdowns on the next two).

Disrupting Clemson’s momentum on offense will not be easy, even for a talented and stacked defense like Alabama’s, because Clemson does like to move the ball quickly. It’s not just the no-huddle style either. It is also how quickly Clemson releases the ball and gets it in movement. Take a look at how quickly Watson gets the play rolling after taking the snap. Unless he is looking to go downfield and has to wait for a man to get open, he is pulling a quick trigger on a screen pass or tossing to the running back and then Clemson is on the go. That caught up to Ohio State and wore down the defense. Wearing down Alabama’s defense should not be as easy, and if the Tide can get in the backfield on the snap to cause chaos before Clemson can get things rolling consistently, then it will apply pressure on Watson and Clemson to do something else.

When Watson does get rid of the ball, Alabama will have to find ways to cover wide receiver Mike Williams (1,297 receiving yards, 10 TDs) and tight end Jordan Leggett, who could be a wild card factor in this matchup. But Alabama’s biggest concern in this game (other than Watson) will be Clemson’s defensive line. The Tigers just pitched a shutout against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, allowing just 215 yards of offense to the Buckeyes and forcing three turnovers (including two interceptions of J.T. Barrett). Clemson’s defensive effort put everybody on notice that they are on a mission and primed to give Alabama all they can handle. The good news for Alabama is their offensive line is much better than Ohio State’s, so fending off the pressure should be more successful to the point where Jalen Hurts will get some time to think more often than not.

The biggest mystery for Alabama is what happens on offense. Giving the bizarre circumstances this week of showing Lane Kiffin on the door on his way to FAU and promoting Steve Sarkisian to offensive coordinator, where he will call plays for the first time in years, there is a bit of a question as to how much of Alabama’s offense may look different compared to under Kiffin. Will Sarkisian stick to what has been working or will he throw in some new wrinkles? That could be good or bad for Alabama, could catch Clemson off guard or completely blow up in Alabama’s face. Sarkisian is taking on a huge role in this championship game, and it will responsibility to find whatever cracks he can in Clemson’s defense and open them up.

Ex-Duke WR Aaron Young lands at Florida Atlantic

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When Duke wide receiver Aaron Young first entered the transfer portal, nearly a year ago to the day, he wanted to head back west.“I’m looking for a graduate program that I can get into since I can’t get into one here, and also a chance to play closer to home,” the California native told 247Sports at the time.

Young later pulled his name from the portal and played the 2019 season for the Blue Devils. His 29 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns ranked him second among all Duke wide receivers.

Still unable to get into graduate school at Duke, Young re-entered the portal two days after Christmas, and now he’s found his next destination — which is very much not closer to his Murrieta, Calif., home.

Young later replied to the tweet, comically correcting FAU Owl’s Nest to let them know he’s actually 6’4″ and 210 pounds.

Immediately eligible to play his sixth season, Young will join a defending Conference USA champion team that nonetheless loses four of its top five pass catchers. In 37 career games, Young owns 63 grabs for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.

LSU now losing multiple support staffers to bigger jobs

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To the victor comes the spoils, they say. And the spoils are all leaving town.

LSU was already set to lose a lot on the field, with eight early entrants plus seniors like Joe BurrowKristian Fulton and both guards on their Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line. And though losing passing game coordinator Joe Brady to the Panthers and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to Baylor — damn you, Matt Rhule — wasn’t unexpected, it was still a blow.

But LSU is now losing third-level assistants, the type of guys only the most purple and gold of LSU fans knew but the guys who made the machine hum the way it did.

Jorge Munoz, an analyst and former Louisiana-Lafayette offensive coordinator widely speculated to slide into Brady’s role, left to join Aranda at Baylor. Offensive graduate assistant John Decoster took a job as the tight ends coach at Old Dominion. Defensive analyst Dennis Johnson, who would’ve coached LSU’s defensive line had he not injured both knees playing basketball in the offseason, also followed Aranda to Baylor.

And now longtime defensive analyst Ronnie Wheat is leaving to become the safeties coach at Nevada, according to multiple reports Tuesday.

Wheat had more than earned his promotion, spending the past seven seasons on LSU’s support staff while working under coordinators John ChavisKevin Steele and Aranda. According to Geaux247, who broke the story, Wheat was instrumental in developing linebackers such as Devin White and Kendell Beckwith, and helped reel in a pair of 4-star linebackers in LSU’s 2020 recruiting class.

To be clear, change is the nature of college football. The roster turns over completely every five years, and losing assistants to bigger and better jobs is the price of victory. On a personal level, you want to lose your guys to bigger jobs, because it makes the jobs you have all the more attractive. Alabama’s staff has almost completely turned over from its 2017 national championship, to say nothing of the now-ancient 2009 title, and yet Nick Saban keeps the Crimson Tide humming.

Now it’s Ed Orgeron‘s turn.

Stanford transfer QB KJ Costello to visit Washington

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KJ Costello may have left the Stanford football program, but he could still end up playing in the Pac-12.  Maybe.

In mid-December, it was confirmed that Costello had entered his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a potential move from the Stanford football team.  Tuesday, Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times has reported that the quarterback will visit Washington today.

This would be the first known visit made by Costello.

Regardless of where he ultimately lands, Costello would be leaving Stanford football as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play immediately at another FBS school in 2020.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

The 6-5, 222-pound Costello started all 13 games for the Cardinal in 2018 after starting seven the year before. As a redshirt sophomore during that 2018 season, Costello was named second-team All-Pac-12.

This past season was an entirely different story. In very large part because of multiple injuries (thumb, head), Costello played in just five games in 2019.  He last made an appearance Nov. 9, which turned out to likely be his last in a Stanford football uniform.

For his career thus far, Costello has completed 494 of his 790 passes (62.5 completion percentage) for 6,141 yards, 49 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.  He’s added another three touchdowns on the ground, although all of those came as a redshirt freshman in 2017.

This season, Costello threw for 1,028 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions as he completed just under 61 percent of his 166 pass attempts.

A four-star member of Stanford’s 2016 recruiting class, Costello was rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 7 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 47 recruit overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Only one signee in the Cardinal’s class that year, tight end Kaden Smith, was rated higher than Costello.

For those wondering: Yes, Stanford plays Washington in 2020, with the Huskies hosting the Cardinal Nov. 7.

RB Jaylin Bradley set to leave Nebraska via transfer portal

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For the fourth time in roughly a week, a Nebraska football player has left Scott Frost‘s program.

Multiple media outlets reported Tuesday morning Jaylin Bradley is set to leave the Cornhuskers.  A short time ago, a Nebraska football official confirmed that the redshirt sophomore running back is listed in the NCAA transfer database.

At this point, it’s unclear if Bradley will be leaving as a graduate transfer.  If Bradley has to sit out the 2020 season, he would then have one season of eligibility to use in 2021.

A three-star member of Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting class, Bradley was rated as the No. 3 player in the state of Nebraska regardless of position.  Showing promise as a true freshman, Bradley ran for 93 yards on 24 carries as well as catching four passes for another 38 yards in seven appearances.  He also returned six kicks for 124 yards.

The next two seasons, however, Bradley played in just one game.  He carried the ball twice for eight yards in his lone 2019 appearance.

In addition to Bradley, cornerback Tony Butler announced on Twitter late last week that he has entered the transfer database.  On top of that, linebacker Pernell Jefferson, a three-star 2016 signee, entered the portal last Wednesday.  Days before that, offensive lineman John Raridon decided to retire from football to pursue a career in architecture.

According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, all of the departures leave Nebraska football with 84 players on scholarship.  That’s one under the NCAA-mandated limit of 85 scholarship players.