Rematch revenge! Clemson knocks off Alabama to win the 2017 National Championship Game

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In order to be the champions, you had to beat the champions. Mission accomplished for Clemson.

A historic rematch for the ages lived up to the hype thanks to a wild and career-defining fourth quarter that saw the Tigers win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in dramatic fashion 35-31 over Alabama.

The two defenses dominated the game early and often as many predicted given the number of stars on that side of the ball. Neither team found much success on third down (just nine combined conversions) and the passing game was inconsistent for both teams outside of a few big plays.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead behind the strong running of tailback Bo Scarbrough, who continued to abuse opponents with his punishing running style. He found the end zone early in the first quarter by scampering off to the left side of his big offensive line and finding pay dirt after 25 yards for the game’s first points. His second touchdown was even better than the first, using a few key blocks from his tight end and left tackle to hit the edge and scamper 37 yards for the score, running over a few defenders and carrying a few more on his back into the end zone.

Unfortunately the sophomore was injured in the third quarter with a leg injury, putting all the pressure on young quarterback Jalen Hurts. While he never looked too much like a true freshman, passing the ball was a struggle most of the night until he found a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68-yard touchdown that had plenty thinking back to last year’s title game where he had a career outing.

That wasn’t enough to contain a determined Deshaun Watson in the final quarter however, as the signal-caller marched his team 88 yards in just six plays before leaping into the end zone for the first Clemson lead of the ball game with just under five minutes left. It was a vintage performance from the college superstar (who finished 36-of-56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns), which included several key hookups with receiver Mike Williams and a few key runs that moved the chains.

The Tide didn’t seem phased however, answering right back in a wild sequence of events. They broke out of their offensive malaise with a surprising trick play that found Howard for a big gain once again to enter Clemson territory. That’s when Hurts finally used his legs to find the end zone, scampering 30 yards to the goal line as he weaved and ducked out of numerous tackles.

Watson wasn’t done yet though, and saved his best for last with the game and his legacy on the line.

Facing a defense that was operating at a historic level coming into the game, Watson sliced and diced the Tide for a nine play, 68 yard march toward the end zone. With a make or break play coming up, the game’s offensive MVP dropped back and smoothly found ever reliable target Hunter Renfrow wide open in the end zone with just one second left.

That set off a wild celebration among the Clemson faithful as the school celebrated its second national title — and first since 1981 — in the sweetest of fashions. It was a game for the ages given the ending and tense final moments but will no doubt be remembered for an incredible drive that culminated in a championship for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.

Miami WR Brian Hightower tweets move to the portal

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All of a sudden, there’s a bit of upheaval in Miami’s receiving corps.

Earlier today, we noted the long-running, ongoing drama that is the Jeff Thomas Experience at The U. Monday evening, Brian Hightower added to the collective positional brouhaha by announcing on Twitter that, “[a]fter careful consideration and discussion with my family, and THE University of Miami coaching staff, I am entering my name into the transfer portal to openly explore the best opportunities to utilize my remaining eligibility and pursue my education.”

A four-star member of Miami’s 2018 recruiting class, Hightower was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country.  Mark Pope was the only receiver in The U’s class that year rated higher than Hightower.

Hightower played in 17 games during his time with the Hurricanes — 10 as a true freshman, all seven this season.  He totaled 148 yards and one touchdown on 12 receptions, with eight of those catches and 88 of the yards coming in 2019.

Iowa could be without leading receiver, top tackler for Northwestern

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When Iowa kicks off its Week 9 matchup with Northwestern, the Hawkeyes could very well be at less than full strength on both sides of the football.

The Hawkeyes released its depth chart Monday for this Saturday’s game against the Wildcats, and neither wide receiver Brandon Smith nor middle linebacker Kristian Welch weren’t listed.  Smith suffered an injury to his lower right leg in the win over Purdue this past Saturday, while Welch suffered an undisclosed injury during the loss the week before to Penn State and didn’t see the field against Purdue.

Official word on the pair’s status for Week 9 probably won’t come until later on in the week.

Smith currently leads the Hawkeyes with 33 receptions and four receiving touchdowns.  His 407 yards receiving are good for second on the team.

Welch’s 47 tackles are nine more than the Hawkeyes’ second-leading tackler, Jack Koerner.  With three tackles for loss, he’s second only to Chauncey Golston‘s five.

Updated coaches salaries database released, with Dabo Swinney leading the way

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You might want to sit down for this: college football head coaches continue to make a spitload of money.

As it does around this time every year, USA Today Tuesday released an updated version of its FBS coaches salaries database.  The highest-paid?  Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and his $9.32 million in total pay, overtaking Alabama’s Nick Saban, who was tops at $8.3 million in 2018 and now sits at No. 2 at $8.86 million.

At the opposite end of the financial spectrum is Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell, whose $360,000 in total compensation is the lowest salary of those obtained by USA Today.  Compensation for coaches at eight universities — Air Force, Army, BYU, Liberty, Miami, Rice, SMU, Temple — wasn’t available.

Arguably the most improbable name in the Top 10 in compensation?  Jeff Brohm at $6.6 million, ahead of the likes of Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma ($6.4 million), James Franklin of Penn State ($5.6 million) and David Shaw of Stanford ($4.6 million).  Brohm, whose wooing by Louisville led to a hefty new contract, is 2-5 this season after going 13-13 his first two seasons with the Boilermakers.

Below are the highest-paid Power Five coaches, per conference:

  • ACC — Swinney, $9.32 million
  • Big 12 — Texas’ Tom Herman, $6.75 million
  • Big Ten — Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, $7.5 million
  • Pac-12 — Washington’s Chris Petersen, $4.63 million
  • SEC — Saban, $8.86 million

Conversely, these are the lowest-paid Power Five coaches for each league:

  • ACC — Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, $2.19 million
  • Big 12 — Kansas State’s Chris Klieman, $2.3 million
  • Big Ten — Indiana’s Tom Allen, $1.8 million
  • Pac-12 — Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, $2 million
  • SEC — Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead, $3 million

At $5 million, USF’s Charlie Strong‘s total compensation is far and away the highest for a Group of Five coaches, with Houston’s Dana Holgorsen‘s $3.7 million the next closest.

Of the other four G5 leagues, North Texas’ Seth Littrell of Conference USA ($1.9 million), Toledo’s Jason Candle of the MAC ($1.2 million), Wyoming’s Craig Bohl of the Mountain West ($2.1 million) and Louisiana’s Billy Napier of the Sun Belt ($875,000) are the highest-paid for their respective conferences.

One final tidbit: The combined salaries of the coaches in the Sun Belt Conference ($6.5 million) is less than the compensation of eight individual head coaches — Swinney, Saban, Harbaugh, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher ($7.5 million), Georgia’s Kirby Smart ($6.9 million), Auburn’s Gus Malzahn ($6.8 million), Herman and Brohm.  Swinney and Saban also make more individually than the MAC does combined ($7.8 million).

WR Terrace Marshall ‘should be ready to play’ for LSU vs. Auburn

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It may not be fair, but one of the most explosive offenses in college football is on the verge of getting back one of its most explosive playmakers.

When Terrace Marshall went down with a foot injury in the Week 4 win over Vanderbilt, it was initially reported that the LSU wide receiver was expected to be sidelined for as long as a month. That timeline was subsequently extended out, with Ed Orgeron stating that Marshall could return toward the “latter part” of the regular season.

On his radio show three weeks ago, however, Orgeron indicated that the wide receiver was ahead of schedule; that, though, gave way to Marshall missing each of the past three games.

With No. 9 Auburn on tap this weekend, the head coach is now indicating that Marshall “should be ready to play” for second-ranked LSU.

“We plan on easing him along, see how much he can do,” Orgeron said. “He’s going to want to do everything and be ready to go. We feel that by game time, he should be ready to play.”

Following the Auburn game, and coming off a bye, LSU will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on top-ranked Alabama in arguably the biggest game of the regular season — provided both teams hold serve this coming Saturday, of course.

At the time of his injury, Marshall’s six touchdown receptions this season were tied for second at the FBS level. He was also tied for second on the Tigers with 20 catches while his 304 receiving yards were good for third on the team.