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Tigers, Tide and oh my: Clemson routs Alabama to secure 2019 National Championship

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Clemson players said all week in the lead up to the 2019 National Championship Game that in order for the them to be the best, they would have to beat the best.

Top ranked and undefeated Alabama, as the defending champion, certainly qualified as that.

The Tigers not only beat the Tide, they beat them down and then some on Monday night, dominating from the opening snap of a 44-16 rout at Levi’s Stadium to secure the program’s third national title and second in three seasons.

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence started off a little anxious but eventually looked right at home as the game wore on — and very much like somebody who will be playing in more NFL stadiums in just a few years. He tossed a 62-yard bomb to Tee Higgins to get the team in the red zone in the first quarter and wound up with an impressive 347 yards and a trio of touchdown passes.

While Lawrence looked nothing like a true freshman under center, tailback Travis Etienne also proved to be a great compliment in the backfield. The sophomore had a touchdown reception off a shuffle pass and scored twice on the ground with some terrific bursts of speed while recording 86 yards rushing.

Oh, and wide receiver Justyn Ross was basically a man among boys as a pass catcher with a handful of one-handers on his way to 153 yards and a touchdown. Just down the road from where Jerry Rice made his name, the young wideout (he’s a freshman too…) from Alabama certainly haunted the home state team he nearly signed with coming out of high school.

It was safe to say that last year’s title game hero was nowhere near the same kind of quarterback on the same stage in 2019. Tua Tagovailoa was actually one of the early front-runners for MVP in the contest… for both sides.

After his defense forced a three-and-out to open the game, Clemson corner A.J. Terrell jumped a short pass in the flat and had nobody anywhere close to him as he ran it back 44 yards to delight the orange and purple fans for a pick-six on the seventh play of the game.

The Hawaiian signal-caller bounced back on the next series to toss a beautiful 62-yard bomb right into the waiting hands of Jerry Jeudy but never could get the offense into the end zone enough to make things interesting as things wore on. Tagovailoa finished the up-and-down outing with a respectable 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns (to the Tide) but did throw another interception and was eventually replaced in the fourth quarter by SEC Championship Game star Jalen Hurts.

It’s been rare to see the Crimson Tide get run off the field by anybody since Nick Saban took over and it’s downright galling to see it be done on this stage. It’s not just the worst loss — by several multiples — in the Saban era but also the first time since he arrived in Tuscaloosa that the team has been beaten by more than three scores.

While one can sometimes say it’s just not your night in big games like this, that would be doing a big disservice to the dominance that Clemson displayed form their early pick-six all the way through to the final minutes. Dabo Swinney has not only built an equal to one of college football’s great dynasties but he’s proven that he’s got one too.

The Tigers became the first modern college football team at the FBS level to go 15-0 in the process to cap off the 2018 season. They not only won the national title, they left no doubt about who is atop the mountain now too.

Report: Vanderbilt lands Florida transfer in Malik Langham

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Former Florida defensive end Malik Langham has found his new college football home, and it resides in the SEC. Langham is heading to Vanderbilt, according to a report from 247 Sports earlier today.

Vanderbilt has not officially announced the addition of Langham at this time, and there is no direct confirmation offered by Langham on his social media profiles. However, Vanderbilt was one of the school s Langham originally evaluated during his recruiting process out of high school and the Commodores remained a potential landing spot for his latest transfer recruitment as well.

Langham was a four-star member of Florida’s Class of 2018, which was the first recruiting class signed by current Gators head coach Dan Mullen. The Huntsville, Alabama native committed to Florida just days after taking an official visit Auburn as his recruiting process came down the final stretch in the Class of 2018. Alabama had previously been considered a favorite to land his recruitment in the weeks leading up to signing day in 2018.  With plenty of offers to consider, Langham also made an official visit to Notre Dame in addition to unofficial visits to Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Louisville, Ole Miss and more.

Langham appeared in two games for Florida in 2018, in which he recorded one assist on a tackle as a backup option for the Gators. Under the NCAA’s revised redshirt rules implemented last fall, Langham is able to preserve a year of eligibility because he did not appear in more than four games last season. That will give Langham four years to still play, although he will have to sacrifice one year of eligibility for the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Peyton Manning and David Cutcliffe inducted to Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame

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Former Tennessee quarterback, NFL Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning was formally inducted to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Perhaps it was fitting that he was inducted alongside his position coach and offensive coordinator, and current Duke head coach, David Cutcliffe. The two were added to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend.

“Coach Cutcliffe –  he’s such a mentor for me,” Manning said of his former quarterback coach in Knoxville. “He’s my coach; he’s my friend. He kind of remained my coach when I was in the NFL. To be in with Coach Cutcliffe, it’s very special and I’m very proud.”

Manning and Cutcliffe have remained close years after Manning left Tennessee for the NFL. Manning has relied on Cutcliffe in offseasons to prepare and rehab when needed with Cutcliffe nearby to offer his insight and expertise in helping Manning remain one of the top passers in the NFL. Manning has spent a few seasons in retirement form the NFL now and is heading to the ultimate hall of fame soon enough in Canton, Ohio. Manning has already been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame, fittingly enough along with former antagonist, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier.

Joining Manning and Cutcliffe were former Tennessee student-athletes Charles Davis (currently a broadcaster for FOX’s NFL coverage) and Kara Lawson. Davis is a former defensive back for the Vols program and was a part of Tennessee’s 1985 SEC championship team. He spent years broadcasting college football games before being given a job covering the NFL instead. Lawson is a former women’s basketball player for the storied Tennessee basketball program. Like Davis, Lawson has been in the broadcasting game covering basketball.

Dad of former Northwestern QB donated a real, stuffed wildcat to ‘Cats new facility

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Northwestern’s state-of-the-art football facility, literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, is now fully operational, at a low, low cost of $260 million.

The facility has everything — including an actual wild cat.

 

According to a story by Yahoo‘s Eric Edholm, a stuffed cat was donated to the program by Walter Siemian, the father of former Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian. The plan was to originally sell it and use the proceeds to benefit the program, but apparently Pat Fitzgerald saw the cat and fell in love.

Walter Siemian took down the predator — legally, of course — last November, sent the cat of prey in question to a taxidermist and then donated it to the program.

The initial understanding was that it would be sold, with the proceeds benefitting the program. After all, these things draw some serious coin. (One current listing here for a mountain lion, which this mammal appears to be, is going for more than $12,000.) But once Fitzgerald saw it, the story goes, there was no way he was letting it leave.

The cat was staying put. That’s also easy to see why. And it’s now the first thing you see when you enter the coaches’ meeting rooms.

The hope with facilities like these is that the enhanced investment into football will lead to the Northwestern coaching staff singing a different class of recruit, which will in turn allow the program to pair their stuffed mascot with some Big Ten championship trophies.

That’s the hope, at least.

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.