Getty Images

No. 3 Clemson storms back to beat No. 2 Ohio State and setup Tigers vs. Tigers in the national title game


This year’s edition of the College Football Playoff was widely viewed as a four team tournament consisting of just three teams capable of hoisting the golden cylinder representing the national championship.

That was confirmed just minutes into the first of the two semifinals on Saturday night as No. 1 LSU blasted No. 4 Oklahoma in a lopsided Peach Bowl. In the second though, No. 2 Ohio State’s meeting with No. 3 Clemson was more or less seen as a clash between two equally elite and evenly matched teams — one a reigning champion who lived up to their billing by turning into a buzzsaw down the stretch and the other labeled several times by the CFP Selection Committee as the most complete team in the country.

Thankfully for those watching on, the two heavyweights squared off in a Fiesta Bowl that more than lived up the hype as one of the most anticipated semifinals of the playoff era. And just like those nostalgia-inducing prize fights from decades ago, the end result of a bloody epic that featured devastating jabs, incredible counterpunches and enough momentum swings to result in a Disney movie. Only one could emerge victorious however and to the delight of thousands of orange-clad fans in attendance at State Farm Stadium late in the desert night, it was the Tigers who were eventually able to hold their hands high in the air to celebrate a 29-23 result that sets up another epic showdown next month.

Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence was phenomenal once again on the biggest stage the sport has to offer. While he was last seen in the Playoff slicing and dicing Alabama’s secondary with his arm, this time around he used his legs to even better acclaim. The sophomore threw for 259 yards and a pair of scores (plus a final two-point conversion into the back of the end zone) but moonlighted as a silky smooth dual-threat with few peers in running for a team-high 107 yards. His best run came in the closing minutes of the first half as he dropped a few Allen Iverson-esque crossovers and zagged 67 yards past the OSU defense.

Tailback Travis Etienne may have taken a back seat on offense to the youngster he normally lines up behind but still was a threat to house it on every touch he had, running for 36 and a score while also finding paydirt twice as a receiver (three catches, 98 yards). The pair were the focal point offensively as they had been all year but had to carry a bit more of the load given that the team’s normally prolific receiving corps was either hurt or limited.

The biggest turning point of the game for Clemson came late in the second quarter. After appearing to stop Lawrence on a third down blitz, Buckeyes corner Shawn Wade was flagged for a controversial targeting penalty after review and ejected. The Tigers immediately picked on his backup, who drew a pass interference flag to further extend a drive that was capped off by the ACC champs’ first points of the game on a short Etienne run. That led to an eventual 21-point outburst to take the lead and jump start the eventual victory celebrations.

Ohio State still had their chances to take this one home however and fought tooth and nail to pull it out. Running back J.K. Dobbins set a new single-season school rushing record in the first half (passing Eddie George) on his way to a 174 yard, one TD night despite picking up an ankle injury down the stretch. He combined with Blake Haubeil’s opening drive 21 yard field goal to end the Big Ten’s 1,811 day stretch without scoring a point in the College Football Playoff as the conference champions announced this would be no repeat of the 2016 version of the game by jumping out to a 16-0 lead.

Mistakes, however, prevented the Buckeyes from taking full advantage of the early margin. In addition to the key penalties, the failure to capitalize on drives in the red zone will certainly haunt Ryan Day (who lost his first game as head coach). QB Justin Fields threw for a normally impressive 320 yards and a touchdown but the highly touted transfer will likely only remember two critical mistakes as he doubled his interception total coming in (one) with two picks — the last of which was right to Nolan Turner in the end zone to seal the result and end what had been a dream season in Columbus.

While those pieces will have to be picked up as the team returns home proud of this run but disappointed in the final result, Dabo Swinney’s crew can briefly celebrate their 29th consecutive win and turn their attention to fully defending their crown against another set of Tigers. Top seed LSU will have the advantage of both playing what amounts to a bye game on Saturday against the Sooners as well as enjoy the short trip down the highway to New Orleans for the final game of the season. While last year’s title tilt between a pair of 15-0 programs was expected to be a rare occurrence, it will happen again as the calendar turns to 2020 and the battle of teams based in Death Valley will kick off.

Such a championship game will have a high bar to clear given what transpired in the College Football Playoff game immediately proceeding it but it certainly will try as the most impressive team the sport has seen this season faces off against a potential dynastic standard barer.

Iowa State QB Re-al Mitchell latest to enter name into transfer portal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The portal has claimed another name and Iowa State’s quarterback depth will suffer as a result.

Cyclones signal-caller Re-al Mitchell became the latest enter the NCAA Transfer Database this week and confirmed on social media that he was leaving Ames for another opportunity elsewhere.

The move is fairly unsurprising given that Mitchell arrived on campus in the same recruiting class as current starter Brock Purdy. With a pathway to significant playing time blocked by one of the best young QB’s in the sport, a ticket out of town seemed like it was coming sooner or later for the team’s No. 2 on the depth chart.

A dual-threat known for his speed, Mitchell was originally ranked as a three-star prospect coming out of high school who picked ISU over Arizona, Illinois, Kansas State, South Carolina and others. He wound up playing in six games under Matt Campbell over two seasons and threw for an even 100 yards and one touchdown.

A Southern California native, it’s possible a move back West could be in the cards for Mitchell. He appears to be insistent on playing under center but did see spot duty as a wide receiver during his stint in Ames.

Following the departure of Mitchell, Campbell will quite a bit of youth behind Purdy on the team’s depth chart. Freshman Aidan Bouman enrolled early for spring practice while fellow Class of 2020 QB and four-star recruit Hunter Dekkers will arrive later as they battle it out for backup reps. Iowa State opens the season at home against FCS South Dakota before heading to Kinnick Stadium to take on rival Iowa in Week 2.

Texas LB Ayodele Adeoye to miss spring practice with foot injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

New Texas coordinator Chris Ash’s task at turning around the team’s defense got a tad bit harder on Saturday.

According to a release from the school, linebacker Ayodele Adeoye suffered a foot injury and will undergo surgery to correct it. While he is expected to be back in time for summer workouts, the upcoming trip under the knife will knock him out for all of spring practice in Austin.

Adeoye was a top recruit out of high school in 2018 but played in just four games and redshirted his first year on the Forty Acres. He turned into a regular starter (nine games) last season however and was fifth on the team in tackles (45) while recording an interception and 2.5 sacks.

With the redshirt sophomore out, the Longhorns depth this spring as they re-tool under Ash will certainly be tested. Fellow rising sophomore David Gbenda likely will take on an increased role based on the depth chart — though he might have to earn his way back after being sent home from UT’s Alamo Bowl win over Utah due to a violation of team rules.

Texas opens the 2020 season at home against USF and new head coach Jeff Scott before heading to Baton Rouge for a must-see game against reigning national champion LSU in Week 2.

Miami DL Scott Patchan enters transfer portal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The transfer portal has giveth for Miami football and it’s taken away.

Less than a week after Hurricanes got a big pickup in the form of Temple grad transfer DL Quincy Roche, the program learned that veteran defensive end Scott Patchan had entered his name into the transfer portal via an announcement on social media:

Patchan started six games last season and played in all 13 for Miami in 2019. He recorded 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks while in the lineup but ultimately took a back seat to star pass rusher Greg Rousseau and a host of others.

The loss of Patchan certainly hurts the depth head coach Manny Diaz has to play with but is by no means a killer given what will return in 2020 along the line. In addition to Rousseau (coming off a 15.5 sack campaign) and former AAC Defensive Player of the Year Roche, rising sophomore Jahfari Harvey saw action and former five-star Jaelan Phillips will be eligible after transferring from UCLA.

Patchan, who received a waiver from the NCAA for a sixth-year after injuries hampered his career, will be immediately eligible for his new school.

Miami opens the 2020 season with a game against Temple as part of a three-game homestand against Group of Five opponents before traveling to Michigan State for a big non-conference test.

Buyouts and Chip Kelly’s grocery bill lands UCLA with $18.9 million deficit in 2019

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A difficult year for UCLA on the football field was just as difficult on the balance sheet.

According to details obtained by the San Jose Mercury News, the Bruins reported a shocking $18.9 million deficit for the recent 2018-19 fiscal year. This was the result of $108.4 million in revenue and $127.3 million in outgoing expenses.

“A confluence of events over the past two years led us to this point,” AD Dan Guerrero said in a statement to the paper, “and while it is unusual for us, we expect this shortfall can be mitigated.

“The investments made into our football and men’s basketball programs will pay off, ticket sales will normalize and one-time expenses will be paid.”

Those investments included a nearly 30 percent increase in the football program’s funding since the hire of Chip Kelly in late 2017. While former head coach Jim Mora’s buyout (nearly $12.5 million) was recorded in the previous year’s budget, the effects of it naturally carried over and created an even tricker situation when basketball coach Steve Alford’s buyout was thrown in for 2019.

In addition to buyouts, the grocery bill seemed to play a pretty big factor in the deficit as well. While this doesn’t appear to just be the case of switching from Albertsons to Whole Foods, under Kelly the program’s budget for nutrition ballooned from just a shade under $1 million to nearly $5.4 million last year. Add in decreased ticket sales in football (down $3.5 million from projections) after a disappointing year and increased costs from other places in the department and you can see how UCLA quickly went from being in the black into the red.

Needless to say, that puts even more pressure on Kelly and company to help turn things around in 2020. Things in Westwood haven’t been rosy in some time in the major revenue-producing sports and it seems it’s finally caught up to the folks in powder blue.