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

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

WHAT
The College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Presented by AT&T

WHEN
8:00 p.m. ET (8:17 p.m. ET kickoff)

WHERE
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

HEAD COACHES
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (115-30 in 11 seasons with the Tigers; one national championship)
Alabama’s Nick Saban (142-20 in 12 seasons with the Crimson Tide, 233-62-1 overall; six national championships)

STATISTICAL LEADERS
Clemson
Passing: Trevor Lawrence, 239-365 (65.5%), 2,933 yards, 27 touchdowns, four interceptions
Rushing: Travis Etienne, 1,583 yards, 22 touchdowns
Receiving: Tee Higgins, 56 receptions, 855 yards, 11 touchdowns
Punt returns: Amari Rodgers, 7.7 yards per on 39 returns, one touchdown
Kick returns: Derion Kendrick, 23 yards per on 13 returns
Punting: Will Spiers, 39.5 yards per, 19 of 61 inside the 20
Kicking: Greg Huegel, 10-15 field goals, long of 49; 71-72 extra points
Tackles: Isaiah Simmons, 88
Tackles for loss: Clelin Ferrell, 18
Sacks: Ferrell, 11½
QB Hits: Dexter Lawrence, 15
Interceptions: Tanner Muse, A.J. Terrell, two
Passes breakups: Simmons, Terrell, K’Von Wallace, seven

Alabama
Passing: Tua Tagovailoa, 223-321 (69.5%), 3,671 yards, 41 touchdowns, four interceptions
Rushing: Damien Harris, 819 yards; Josh Jacobs, 11 touchdowns
Receiving: Jerry Jeudy, 63 receptions, 1,176 yards, 13 touchdowns
Punt returns: Jaylen Waddle, 15.1 per on 15 returns, one touchdown
Kick returns: Jacobs, 30.6 per on 13 returns, one touchdown
Punting: Mike Bernier, 37 yards per, four of 23 inside the 20
Kicking: Joseph Bulovas, 13-17 field goals, long of 49; 74-79 extra points
Tackles: Dylan Moses, 82
Tackles for loss: Quinnen Williams, 18
Sacks: Isaiah Buggs, 9½
QB Hits: Williams, Christian Miller, 12
Interceptions: Saivion Smith, three
Passes breakups: Anfernee Jennings, Shyheim Carter, 10

STATISTICAL MATCHUPS
Alabama’s 34th-ranked rush offense (202 ypg) vs. Clemson’s 2nd-ranked run defense (92.6 ypg)
Clemson’s 10th-ranked rush offense (256.3 ypg) vs. Alabama’s 19th-ranked run defense (120.3 ypg)
Alabama’s 6th-ranked pass offense (325.6 ypg) vs. Clemson’s 16th-ranked pass defense (182.1 ypg)
Clemson’s 24th-ranked pass offense (274.1 ypg) vs. Alabama’s 22nd-ranked pass defense (187.6 ypg)
Alabama’s 2nd-ranked scoring offense (47.7 ppg) vs. Clemson’s top-ranked scoring defense (12.9 ppg)
Clemson’s 4th-ranked scoring offense (44.3 ppg) vs. Alabama’s 5th-ranked scoring defense (16.1 ppg)

COMMON OPPONENTS
Texas A&M
Clemson won 28-26 Sept. 8 in College Station, Alabama won 45-23 Sept. 22 in Tuscaloosa.

Louisville
Clemson won 77-16 Nov. 3 in Clemson, Alabama won 51-14 Sept. 1 on a neutral field.

LOSSES
None for either team as this will mark the first time in the five-year history of the College Football Playoff that two undefeated teams will be playing in the national championship game.

PORTFOLIO
Wins vs. bowl teams: Clemson 11, Alabama 9
Wins vs. current CFP Top 25 teams: Clemson 3, Alabama 5
Wins in true road games: Clemson 5, Alabama 4
Wins by 10-plus points: Clemson 12, UA 13

THE BOVADA.LV LINE
Clemson, +5 (opened +6)
Over/under, 61

THE PREDICTIONS
Zach Barnett
Here’s a stat for you: in his two title bouts with Clemson, Deshaun Watson was a combined 66-of-103 for 825 yards with seven touchdowns against one interception, leading his Tigers to 40 and 35 points. In eight quarters against the most fearsome defense this side of the ’85 Bears, Watson and company averaged around 100 yards, a touchdown and field goal. If Clemson is to do the unthinkable for the second time in three years, true freshman Trevor Lawrence will have to put up similar numbers and a similar volume, keeping Alabama’s ultra-efficient offense off the field. I think they will.
Clemson 38, Alabama 34

Bryan Fisher
I’ve seen both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide win national titles before and the fourth edition of their heavyweight fight might just be the best yet. It’s got great quarterbacks, some terrific receivers and running backs, plus a host of defenders that will be playing on Sundays. Alabama will get pushed plenty by Dabo Swinney‘s side but the SEC champs have played at another gear, for the most part, this season and will wind up with Nick Saban lifting yet another trophy in a thriller out West.
Alabama 31, Clemson 27

Kevin McGuire
A season that was billed as a season-long exhibition before Alabama and Clemson square off in the national championship has delivered once again. Seeing Tua Tagovailoa appear to be just fine last week against Oklahoma was an encouraging sign for the Tide as they prepare to face the stiffest defensive challenge they have seen this season in the Tigers. The last two championship bouts between these two were instant classics, and we could very well have a third on our hands. This game has the look of a defensive battle, but the quarterback play is just too good to be stopped. In the end, Tagovailoa leads Alabama to one more critical touchdown drive than Trevor Lawrence and Alabama wins yet another championship.
Alabama 36, Clemson 31

John Taylor
I’ve picked against Alabama each of the past two title games — Georgia following the 2017 regular season, Clemson the year before — and the Crimson Tide split those meetings.  This year, Nick Saban has arguably his best squad overall during his dozen seasons in Tuscaloosa, with an offense that’s head and shoulders in the passing game above anything the future College Football Hall of Famer has ever fielded.  All of the ingredients are there for back-to-back national titles for Saban… for Saban to pass the legendary Bear Bryant for most career championships… for Saban to cement his legacy as the GOAT at this level… and yet I’m going with Dabo Swinney — with a heaping helping of Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback the likes of which ‘Bama hasn’t faced this season — to spoil yet another Tide coronation and pick up his second national championship at the expense of his nemesis the past four years.
Clemson 34, Alabama 31

Buffalo again extends Lance Leipold’s contract

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For the Buffalo Bulls football program, it’s lather, rinse, repeat on the contractual front.

In February of 2019, Buffalo announced a new five-year contract for Lance Leipold.  A year and a couple of weeks later, the Bulls have announced that Leipold has agreed to a new five-year contract.

Leipold is now signed through the 2024 season.

“I’d like to first thank President Satish Tripathi and Mark Alnutt for this extension for our staff,” the Buffalo Bulls football head coach said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the continued support of our administration in our pursuit of MAC championships and bowl appearances.”

Leipold just completed his fifth season with the Bulls.

In 2019, Buffalo claimed the program’s first-ever bowl win.  The Bulls also set a program record with 10 wins the year before, breaking the old mark of eight set twice (2008, 2013).  Some of the luster was taken off that historic campaign, though, as Buffalo suffered a come-from-ahead loss to Northern Illinois in the conference championship game and then coughed up four fumbles in a Dollar General Bowl loss to Troy.

Buffalo has won 24 games over the last three seasons, the second-most of any school in the Mid-American Conference over the same time and the most wins over a three-year span in school history.

“I’m very appreciative of Lance Leipold’s unwavering commitment and dedication to building a championship-caliber football program here at UB,” Alnutt said. “This program has seen outstanding growth and success both on and off the field during his tenure. I’m excited to work with Lance and his staff as we continue this positive trajectory for many years to come.”

Contractual details of the extension have not yet been revealed.  In 2019, Leipold’s $615,000 in guaranteed compensation was fifth among the 12 MAC coaches listed in the USA Today coaches salary database.

The announcement of the contract extension comes two days before the Buffalo Bulls football team kicks off its sixth spring practice under Leipold.

Ex-Rice football player pleads guilty in death of former teammate Blain Padgett

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A former Rice football player has acknowledged his role in the death of an ex-teammate.

In early March of 2018, Rice football player Blain Padgett was found dead in his apartment after he failed to show for a football workout and a wellness check was performed. In late June, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the 21-year-old defensive end’s death was caused by the toxic effects of carfentanil, which was described as being designed originally as an elephant tranquilizer.

Seven months later, former Owls defensive lineman Stuart Mouchantaf was charged with manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance in connection to Padgett’s death.  Authorities allege that it was Mouchantaf who sold Padgett the pills that directly led to his death.  That charge was a second-degree felony that carries a penalty ranging from five years to 99 years or life in prison.

Thursday, however, Mouchantaf pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute causing death and possession with the intent to distribute causing death.  Mouchantaf will be sentenced May 14.  He is facing 20 years-to-life and a fine of up to $1 million.

The 27-year-old Mouchantaf was a defensive tackle at Rice from 2012-15 after beginning his collegiate career at Blinn College.

In 2016, the 6-5, 250-pound Padgett was second on the team in tackles for loss with 5½ and led all Owls defensive linemen with 41 tackles.  He played in just three games in 2017 before going down with a shoulder injury. He also played in eight games as a true freshman in 2015, Mouchantaf’s last season with the Owls.

“You’ve got to remember he played football with Blain for one year, so we saw him on the football field,” Wyndi Marsh-Padgett, Blain’s mother, told the Houston Chronicle. “It’d be different if we didn’t know him at all. It’s hard to see him and think about. He has family. …

“We just miss [Blain] terribly. Miss him every day.”

Four-star 2020 recruit and Florida commit Marc Britt flips to Ole Miss

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Just a couple of months into his tenure as the Ole Miss football head coach, Lane Kiffin is already leaving his recruiting mark.

In November of last year, Marc Britt committed to play his college football at Florida.  The Early Signing Period came and went without the four-star 2020 prospect signing with the Gators.  On National Signing Day earlier this month, Britt didn’t put his Herbie Hancock on a National Letter of Intent with UF either.

A little over two weeks later, at a signing ceremony at his Miami high school, though, Britt confirmed that he had flipped his commitment to Ole Miss football.

Ole Miss football has not yet confirmed Britt’s signing.  Kiffin, though, has been retweeting reports of Britt’s flip on his personal Twitter account as well as the recruit’s own tweets.

Britt is a four-star 2020 recruit.  Coming out of high school in Miami, he’s rated as the No. 44 player regardless of position in the state of Florida.  247Sports.com’s composite has him listed as the No. 9 athlete in the country. Only two signees in the Rebels’ class this year are rated higher than Britt.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Britt will start his collegiate career as a wide receiver or a defensive back.

Ole Miss football currently has the No. 34 recruiting class in the country.  That would also be 12th in the 14-team SEC.

Re-Buff’d? Eric Bieniemy reportedly pulls name from Colorado search

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We don’t know yet who will be the next Colorado football head coach.  We do know (again), though, who it won’t be.

When Mel Tucker left for the Michigan State head job earlier this month, it triggered an unexpected coaching search at Colorado.  Current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and former Colorado football Eric Bieniemy was immediately considered the front-runner, although speculation of late had him staying in the NFL.

Overnight, Mike Klis of the NBC affiliate in Denver reported that Bieniemy “notified his alma mater Wednesday night he would no longer seek the job.” ESPN‘s Adam Schefter subsequently confirmed that Bieniemy has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Klis wrote that, “[a]lthough Bieniemy never formally interviewed for the CU head job, he and school officials stayed in contact either personally or through his agent, even while he and his family kept a long-scheduled, 5-day vacation.”

The 50-year-old Bieniemy was a running back with the Buffaloes in the late eighties, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior season.  He began his coaching career at his alma mater as running backs coach in 2001-02.  He returned to Colorado football in 2011-12 as offensive coordinator.

Since 2013, Bieniemy has been a member of the Chiefs coaching staff.

So, to where does Colorado football now turn?  Air Force’s Troy Calhoun has seemingly taken the front-runner mantle in some corners — he interviewed for the CU job this week — while former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in the mix as well.  Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian also interviewed for the job this week.  Like Bieniemy, the former USC and Washington head coach has opted to remain in his current job.

Since being rebuffed by both Sarkisian and Bieniemy, it’s believed that Colorado has decided to expand its search for the next head football coach.  That, of course, would mean the search could drag on into next week.