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Clemson dismantling Alabama with star freshmen passing duo was most impressive title game performance of playoff era

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No matter what happened Monday night in Santa Clara, we knew the Clemson Tigers were going to be a top national title contender in 2019. But after the Tigers dismantled Alabama in the most impressive championship game performance of the short lifespan of the College Football Playoff with true freshmen leading the charge at quarterback and wide receiver, we may have just had a glimpse of just how strong the Tigers are going to be again next fall.

We have not been strangers to seeing young players step into the championship spotlight during the College Football Playoff, of course. It was just last year when Tua Tagovailoa stepped onto the scene to save Alabama’s national title hopes against Georgia as a freshman, with the Bulldogs also being led by a young quarterback in Jake Fromm. But the display of aerial brilliance exhibited by Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Justyn Ross was something for the ages.

Lawrence showed he was not afraid of the big moment against the best team he has faced all season by throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the biggest game of his life. Ross was undeterred too with six receptions for 153 yards with a handful of plays that will be added to his preseason Biletnikoff Award campaign for the 2019 season. And these were just freshmen who a year ago were in high school. On Monday night, they were responsible for shredding apart an Alabama defense that had been cracking in their pass defense in the postseason. Lawrence and Ross were just there to break things wide open against the Tide.

Sophomore slumps? Don’t count on it from these two players. Clemson has this dynamic duo for at least two more seasons, barring any unforeseen changes to the eligibility rules and possible changes on the landscape with the NFL or other outside influencers. For now, Dabo Swinney has a quarterback and a wide receiver and you know the rest of the roster is going to be loaded as well. Winning his first national championship two years ago was the crowning achievement of Swinney’s career, but winning his second puts Swinney in even more elite company as a two-time championship-winning head coach. To be able to win both of his national championships against the undisputed king of college football in the BCS and playoff era, Alabama’s Nick Saban, makes Swinney’s case as one of the best today even stronger.

Ohio State’s victory over Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game was impressive. The previous two battles between Alabama and Clemson were instant classics, as was last year’s Alabama victory over Georgia. But what Clemson did to the team that had been No. 1 all season long on a stage Alabama usually delivers was single-handedly the most impressive championship game performance in the playoff era. It should not be a suggestion that Alabama is on the decline, because that is simply not true. It is, however, another example to suggest just how strong a program Swinney has molded.

Not too many coaches get the best of Saban in the postseason, especially when a championship is on the line. With Lawrence and Ross, it may not be a surprise to see Swinney get another chance to take down the Tide.

Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Oklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra lead off 2019 watch list for the Mackey Award

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Being a tight end in today’s version of college football means you’re a player wearing many hats.

While blocking is emphasized less than ever before, players at the position still need to do it in addition to splitting out wide, running reverses and lining up all over the field in a variety of offensive sets. This year’s annual watch list for the 2019 Mackey Award includes a host of players who can do it all and leave an impact between the lines that can make them a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.

While the entire list includes just about every starter at the position in the country, some of the headliners for the upcoming season include Washington’s Hunter BryantOklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra, Alabama’s Miller Forristall, Memphis’ Joey Magnifico, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and Vandy’s Jared Pinkney.

The full list of players on the Mackey Award watch list can be found here.

Last year’s winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, who later became a top 10 draft pick for the Detroit Lions the following spring.

Jim Harbaugh says Michigan is close to scheduling a football game overseas

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Jim Harbaugh hasn’t yet conquered the Big Ten but he sure is trying his best to plant the Michigan flag all around the globe.

Speaking to reporters at the conference’s media days on Friday, the Wolverines head coach was asked about his program playing an actual football game abroad and he indicated that plans are in the works for just that.

“Yeah, you know, we like travel. Mexico City would be great,” Harbaugh remarked. “I know you can talk about this, we’re scheduling — I think we’re really close to announcing, actually, playing another team on foreign soil. I won’t say what it is because — have you heard anything about this? Then I’d better not say it because we’re probably not ready to release that yet. But I think there’s something really imminent. There will be an announcement soon on that.”

Michigan AD Warde Manuel played coy in a subsequent message to the Detroit News and said nothing was finalized but the school may do just that at some point.

Harbaugh has already taken his team to Italy, France and South Africa for visits during the spring but this would be the first time he’s indicated something for the fall. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany indicated he would be in favor of playing a game somewhere like Mexico City on Thursday but did not seem to suggest that anything was in the works for a game to be played south of the border in the near term.

It’s not known if the Wolverines are thinking about taking a conference or non-conference game abroad but something says they can find a willing partner from the Pac-12 if so.

Famed NCAA waiver attorney is changing sides and reportedly joining NCAA enforcement

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If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em?

Seems like that is the case this week as Yahoo! Sports says that famed attorney Thomas Mars is switching sides from battling the NCAA for player eligibility waivers and will instead join the NCAA’s new “Complex Case Unit.”

Mars recently announced that he was getting out of the business of representing players in their battles with Indianapolis to become immediately eligible. While he cited overwhelming demand as one reason for getting out of that line of work, it seems wanting to pursue other opportunities was the more notable aspect of him leaving — in this case going to work for the very people he once sat across from (albeit in a different department now).

In addition to handling high-profile cases like Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Mars also popped onto the college football radar for his work handling Houston Nutt’s lawsuit against Ole Miss.

The Complex Case Unit, which is not an upcoming version of Law & Order: NCAA, is something born out of the commission looking into the federal college basketball scandal. Per Yahoo!, it “is expected to be comprised of a combination of external investigators and members of the NCAA enforcement staff that is tasked to handle the more complicated and large-scale investigations of potential NCAA rules violations.”

It seems Mars is one of those external investigators who will be part of the group in an interesting move from the NCAA.

Tua Tagovailoa, nine other Tide players headline preseason All-SEC first-team

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Alabama and Georgia are the overwhelming favorites in the SEC this year and it’s pretty clear why when looking through the media selections on the preseason All-SEC teams in 2019.

The Tide placed 10 (yes 10 of their 11 starters) players across the three All-SEC offense teams — including six on the first-team — and nine more players on the defensive side. To put that in perspective, the Bulldogs, the massive favorite to emerge out of the East — had 10 players total (not counting specialists) on the six ‘teams’ spread across both sides of the ball.

LSU had eight players make the cut and Auburn placed six plus both of their specialists. Maybe the most interesting selection was that of Joe Burrow as third-team quarterback over somebody like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.

First-Team Offense

QB       Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama          

RB        D’Andre Swift, Georgia            

RB        Najee Harris, Alabama

WR       Jerry Jeudy, Alabama   

WR       Henry Ruggs III, Alabama 

TE         Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri  

OL        Andrew Thomas, Georgia     

OL        Alex Leatherwood, Alabama     

OL        Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn                             

OL        Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama               

C          Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU

Second-Team Offense

QB        Jake Fromm, Georgia  

RB        Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt      

RB        Lamical Perine, Florida           

WR       Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt                         

WR       Jaylen Waddle, Alabama              

TE         Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt    

OL        Solomon Kindley, Georgia        

OL        Damien Lewis, LSU                           

OL        Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Missouri                          

OL         Isaiah Wilson, Georgia

C           Darryl Williams, Mississippi State

Third-Team Offense

QB        Joe Burrow, LSU 

RB        Larry Rountree, Missouri     

RB        JaTarvious Whitlow, Auburn     

WR       Justin Jefferson, LSU

WR       Bryan Edwards, South Carolina              

TE         Miller Forristall, Alabama

TE        Charlie Woerner, Georgia                              

OL        Deonte Brown, Alabama               

OL        Ben Cleveland, Georgia  

OL        Logan Stenberg, Kentucky      

OL        Matt Womack, Alabama             

C          Drake Jackson, Kentucky

First-Team Defense

DL        Raekwon Davis, Alabama      

DL        Derrick Brown, Auburn                            

DL        Rashard Lawrence, LSU                          

DL        Jabari Zuniga, Florida                             

LB         Dylan Moses, Alabama                       

LB        Anfernee Jennings, Alabama       

LB        Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State                             

DB       Grant Delpit, LSU                              

DB        J.R. Reed, Georgia                    

DB        Trevon Diggs, Alabama                    

DB        C.J. Henderson, Florida

Second-Team Defense

DL        Nick Coe, Auburn                                                  

DL        Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M                   

DL        Marlon Davidson, Auburn               

DL        Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina           

LB        Cale Garrett, Missouri              

LB         De’Jon Harris, Arkansas           

LB        David Reese II, Florida                   

DB        Patrick Surtain II, Alabama      

DB        Xavier McKinney, Alabama                             

DB        Kristian Fulton, LSU                               

DB        Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

Third-Team Defense

DL         LaBryan Ray, Alabama  

DL        McTelvin Agim, Arkansas                

DL        Chauncey Rivers, Mississippi State                              

DL        Tyler Clark, Georgia   

LB        Terrell Lewis, Alabama                               

LB         Jacob Phillips, LSU        

LB         Kash Daniel, Kentucky                              

DB       DeMarkus Acy, Missouri             

DB        Shyheim Carter, Alabama                      

DB        Richard LeCounte, Georgia                        

DB       Daniel Thomas, Auburn                            

First-Team Specialists

P           Braden Mann, Texas A&M  

PK        Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia                                             

RS        Jaylen Waddle, Alabama                                              

AP        Jaylen Waddle, Alabama     

Second-Team Specialists

P           Tommy Townsend, Florida                                        

PK        Anders Carlson, Auburn                                                 

RS        Marquez Callaway, Tennessee                        

AP        Kadarius Toney, Florida                      

Third-Team Specialists

P           Arryn Siposs, Auburn        

PK        Evan McPherson, Florida      

RS        Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M       

AP        Lynn Bowden, Kentucky