Tee Higgins

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Tee Higgins leaving Clemson early for 2020 NFL Draft

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As expected, the Clemson football program is losing a key offensive piece to the next level.

On Twitter Wednesday, Tee Higgins wrote that “it is with a grateful heart that I announce today my intention to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.” It had long been projected that the wide receiver would forgo his remaining season of eligibility.

“The last three years at Clemson have been unbelievable,” Higgins wrote. “1 national championship and 3 College Football Playoff appearances are accomplishments and experiences that can never be taken away.

“But Clemson is so much more than than.  Clemson is different.  It’s hard to explain… there really is something in these hills.  If I had to boil it down to one word I guess it would have to be ‘FAMILY.’

“Clemson is family.”

In three years as part of the Clemson football team, Higgins totaled 2,448 yards and 27 touchdowns on 135 receptions.  The touchdowns are a school record.

This season, he tied a career-high with 59 receptions and set career-highs with 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns.  On his only career carry, he ran for a 36-yard touchdown in the title-game loss to LSU this past Monday night.  That second-quarter score gave the ACC Tigers a temporary 17-7 lead before the SEC Tigers came roaring back to secure a 42-25 win.

It’s expected that Higgins will be the latest in a growing line of Clemson receivers drafted in the first round. Mike Williams (2017), Sammy Watkins (2014) and DeAndre Hopkins (2013) are all former Tigers who became first-round selections.

College football national championship 2020: LSU dethrones Clemson, Joe Burrow caps historic season

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LSU has become the first No. 1 seed to win the College Football Playoff, and Joe Burrow is the first Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to win a national title in the playoff era. LSU pulled away from Clemson, 42-25, to snap Clemson’s 29-game winning streak and dethrone the defending national champions.

But how did it all happen?  Scroll through the story below for our tick-tock the 2020 College Football National title game.


8:19 PM ET: The game has finally started (promptly at 8:19 p.m. ET) with Clemson getting the ball first. On the first play from scrimmage, Clemson tried rolling out a bit of a trick play to catch LSU off guard, but there was no fooling LSU. Trevor Lawrence responded to the busted first play by connecting with Justyn Ross for a 35-yard gain on the next play. But Clemson’s first drive stalled thanks in part to LSU’s Grant Delpit blowing up the middle for a sack of Lawrence on third down, forcing a Clemson punt. A fun pace to the start of this one, with the Heisman Trophy winner and the explosive LSU offense heading to the field.

Home-field advantage for LSU in New Orleans? Naturally.

As expected, President Donald Trump is attending tonight’s game, and he received a healthy ovation from the fans in New Orleans.

8:41 PM ET: For a couple of offenses have been lighting thing sup this season, this game has been all about the defense so far, especially Clemson’s. LSU has been pinned back against their end zone on each of their first two possessions and have had no room to work with a pair of three-and-outs to get started. Isaiah Simmons has ben a handle for the LSU offensive line early on.

8:48 PM ET: We have a touchdown! The third drive was the charm for the Clemson Tigers as Trevor Lawrence finished off the best possession of the game with a short touchdown run. Lawrence took off to the right side of the line as the LSU defense focused on Travis Etienne, who nearly scored on the previous play, and Lawrence was untouched into the end zone for the first score of the game.

9:01 PM ET: We have ourselves a tied ballgame! Joe Burrow finally got some room to breathe and it paid off in a big way. Burrow completed a 52-yard touchdown to Ja'Marr Chase to draw the game even at 7-7 late in the first quarter.

9:06 PM ET: We have reached the end of the first quarter, with LSU and Clemson tied 7-7. It took LSU a while to get its offense some room to work, while Clemson has had to punt a couple of times in LSU territory. Will that come back to haunt Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers? We’ll see later on. But for now, we have a pretty good pace going with some good defense on display on both sides.

9:11 PM ET: Oh, you thought college kickers couldn’t kick? Well guess again. Clemson’s B.T. Potter, who converted on just 12 of 20 field goal attempts coming into the night, just booted a 52-yard field goal early in the second quarter to regain the lead for Clemson. Clemson is up 10-7.

9:26 PM ET: Tee Higgins just provided our early leader for play of the night. Higgins took off on a misdirection play for a 36-yard touchdown that saw him bump off a defender, keep his toes in bounds, and diving into the end zone for a big touchdown.

Clemson took a 17-7 lead with the Higgins score, but LSU quickly responded. A 56-yard pass from Burrow to Chase quickly put the LSU Tigers near the end zone, eventually leading to a third and goal. LSU just called timeout to think things over a bit. That gives us all a chance to catch our breath.

9:33 PM ET: After the timeout, Joe Burrow decided to keep it himself and plunge forward for a short touchdown run. LSU really needed that answer after Clemson took a 10-point lead. And just like that, we have a 17-14 game in favor of Clemson before hitting the midway point of the second quarter. The offenses have taken over folks, so get ready for a track meet now.

9:50 PM ET: LSU has taken its first lead of the night, and who else but Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase doing the honors. The two connected on a 14-yard pas sin the red zone to give LSU a 21-17 lead, officially pulling out of a 17-7 hole earlier in the quarter.

Chase has caught five passes for 147 yards and two scores and we still have a full half and more to play tonight. Burrow is now up over 240 yards with the two touchdowns after getting through a rough start to the game.

10:12 PM ET: Wow. OK then. Already leading 21-17, Joe Burrow and LSU picked up one last huge touchdown just before halftime, and a gutsy decision to run by Burrow gave the Tigers a chance for a significant touchdown.

A quick and easy pass to a standing Thaddeus Moss put LSU up 28-17 at the half. Check out Bryan Fischer’s halftime post for his thoughts from the first half in New Orleans.

10:38 PM ET: And we’re back! LSU has the football to start the second half.

10:46 PM ET: Clemson really could not have had much of a better start to the second half. After forcing the LSU off the field quickly to start the half, and with LSU getting called for interfering with the fielding of the punt return, Clemson start their first possession of the half at midfield. A few plays, and a 15-yard face mask penalty on LSU, Clemson was in the end zone with Travis Etienne just crossing the goal line on a short run. A two-point conversion and we have ourselves a three-point game. LSU is leading, 28-25, less than five minutes into the first half.

The game is also approaching the over, for those who are paying close enough attention.

11:05 pm ET: Clemson wide receiver just jogged his way back to the locker room area midway through the third quarter. Earlier in the quarter, Higgins took a good shot on a pass play to his thigh area. For now, there is no update on his status for the rest of this game, but that would be a tough loss for Clemson if Higgins is unavailable for any extended period of time.

11:16 PM ET: Clemson’s defense just lost a player too. James Skalski was ejected from the game for targeting on a pass to LSU’s Justin Jefferson inside the Clemson 10-yard line. He was forced to leave and watch the rest of the game from the locker room. One play later, LSU extended its lead with Joe Burrow coming to a touchdown pass to Thaddeus Moss for a 35-25 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has already set a new College Football Playoff National Championship Game record with 218 receiving yards, eclipsing Alabama tight end O.J. Mayo‘s 208 yards from 2016. He has plenty of time to add to that record.

And speaking of records, Joe Burrow now owns a new single-season touchdown record all by himself.

11:32 PM ET: The third quarter has come to a close, with LSU leading Clemson 35-25. If you are on the east coast, we will get through this together.

11:40 PM ET: Never count out a champion, but LSU may have just put Clemson to bed. Joe Burrow’s 60th (60th!!!) touchdown pass of the season went to Terrace Marshall Jr. early in the fourth quarter to extend the LSU lead to 42-25. With 12:08 left to play, Clemson has a lot of work to do.

Burrow is now up to 442 passing yards with five touchdowns, plus 60 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. He is easily on his way to MVP honors in this game.

Oh, we also have now hit the over in this game. That was an easy pick to make.

12:12 AM ET: LSU pretty much had this game locked up, but a fumble by Trevor Lawrence late in the fourth quarter has allowed LSU to start milking the clock. With 90 seconds to play, LSU is about to win its first national championship of the playoff era.

College Football Preview: Clemson-LSU Tale of the Tape

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Another college football preview? Yes, another college football preview, although this comes ahead of a title game that some think has the potential to be the greatest since the Texas-USC classic that determined the 2005 champion.

If this one comes even remotely close to that Vince Young-fueled thriller? Sign me up.

WHO
No. 3 Clemson (14-0) vs. No. 1 LSU (14-0)

WHAT
The College Football Playoff National Championship Game

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

WHERE
Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana

WHY
Clemson: Beat Ohio State 29-23 in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl
LSU: Beat Oklahoma 63-28 in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl

HEAD COACHES
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (130-30 in 12 seasons with the Tigers; two national championships)
LSU’s Ed Orgeron (39-9 in four seasons with the Tigers, 55-36 overall)

STATISTICAL LEADERS
Clemson
Passing: Trevor Lawrence, 250-370 (67.6%), 3,431 yards, 36 touchdowns, eight interceptions, sacked 15 times
Rushing: Travis Etienne, 1,536 yards, 18 touchdowns
Receiving: Justyn Ross, 61 receptions; Tee Higgins, 1,115 yards, 13 touchdowns
Punt returns: Amari Rodgers, 9.4 yards per on 16 returns
Kick returns: Joseph Ngata, 23.2 yards per on 14 returns
Punting: Will Spiers, 42.8 yards per, 15 of 44 punts inside the 20
Kicking: B.T. Potter, 12-20 field goals, long of 51; 77-77 extra points
Tackles: James Skalski, 99
Tackles for loss: Isaiah Simmons, 14
Sacks: Simmons, seven
QB Hits: Simmons, 14
Interceptions: Tanner Muse, four
Passes breakups: K’Von Wallace, 10

LSU
Passing: Joe Burrow, 371-478 (77.6%), 5,208 yards, 55 touchdowns, six interceptions, sacked 29 times
Rushing: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 1,304 yards, 16 touchdowns
Receiving: Justin Jefferson, 102 receptions; Ja'Marr Chase, 1,559 yards; Chase and Jefferson, 18 touchdowns
Punt returns: Derek Stingley Jr., 9.73 per on 15 returns; Trey Palmer, Micah Baskerville, one touchdown each
Kick returns: Edwards-Helaire, 21.4 per on 10 returns
Punting: Zach Von Rosenberg, 42.5 yards per, 18 of 40 inside the 20
Kicking: Cade York, 21-26 field goals, long of 52; 83-87 extra points
Tackles: Jacob Phillips, 105
Tackles for loss: K’Lavon Chaisson, 13½
Sacks: Chaisson, 6½
QB Hits: Chaisson, six
Interceptions: Stingley Jr., six
Passes breakups: Stingly Jr., 15

STATISTICAL MATCHUPS

  • LSU’s 60th-ranked rush offense (167 ypg) vs. Clemson’s 15th-ranked run defense (112.6 ypg)
  • Clemson’s 11th-ranked rush offense (246.1 ypg) vs. Alabama’s 20th-ranked run defense (118 ypg)
  • LSU’s 2nd-ranked pass offense (397.2 ypg) vs. Clemson’s top-ranked pass defense (151.5 ypg)
  • Clemson’s 19th-ranked pass offense (292.2 ypg) vs. LSU’s 56th-ranked pass defense (221.9 ypg)
  • LSU’s top-ranked scoring offense (48.9 ppg) vs. Clemson’s top-ranked scoring defense (11.5 ppg)
  • Clemson’s 4th-ranked scoring offense (45.3 ppg) vs. LSU’s 29th-ranked scoring defense (21.6 ppg)

COMMON OPPONENTS
Texas A&M
Clemson won 24-10 Sept. 7 in Clemson, LSU won 50-7 Nov. 30 in Baton Rouge.

LOSSES
None for either team as this will mark the second time in the six-year history of the College Football Playoff that two undefeated teams will be playing in the national championship game. This will, though, mark back-to-back years both teams have been undefeated.

STREAKS
Clemson — Won 29 straight (last loss: 24-6 to Alabama in a 2017 College Football Playoff semifinal)
LSU — Won 15 straight (last loss: 74-72 to Texas A&M in seven overtimes in 2018 regular-season finale)

PORTFOLIO
Wins vs. bowl teams: Clemson 9, LSU 10
Wins vs. current CFP Top 25 teams: Clemson 2, LSU 5
Wins in true road games: Clemson 5, LSU 5
Wins by 10-plus points: Clemson 12, LSU 11
Wins by 20-plus points: Clemson 11, LSU 10
Wins by 30-plus points: Clemson 11, LSU 6
Wins by 40-plus points: Clemson 6, LSU 3

THE LINE
Clemson, +6 (opened +5½)
Over/under, 69

Constructing a Title Team: How LSU and Clemson created a pair of juggernauts

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On Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La., the 2019-20 college football season will come to a close with the crowning of a new national champion. However the thrilling conclusion of the College Football Playoff will play out, history will be made with either No. 1 LSU capping off one of the most incredible campaigns in the sport’s history or with No. 3 Clemson cementing their modern dynasty with a second straight title and third in the last four years.

But how did these two sets of purple-shaded Tigers get to this point? How did each program arrive on the precipice of greatness this season? The answer started long before summer camp for the 2019 season got underway as a pair of coaches went from little acclaim to the top of their profession and a host of both high-end and overlooked recruits blossomed into stars.

You can start with the reigning champions, who enter Monday with a 29-game winning streak and the opportunity to reset the current gold standard in the sport. Head coach Dabo Swinney is no stranger to holding up the trophy in the final game of the year but was once an overlooked former Alabama receiver who was surprisingly given the interim job in 2008 when Tommy Bowden resigned midway through the season. After a few up and down first couple of seasons, the program hit a turning point in 2012, hiring Brent Venables as defensive coordinator among other changes. Since then, the results speak for themselves with just 11 losses since and double-digit wins each year.

Of course, the stellar coaching has been one thing and the players on the roster have been another. While Clemson has always recruited well, their rankings have steadily climbed with recent classes and the result is a depth chart stocked with four- and five-stars. The senior class alone has a chance to become the winningest in college football history (current record: 55-3) and are supplemented by an extremely young and talented roster from there.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is undoubtedly the headliner for the team, living up to his billing as the No. 1 prospect at the position out of high school by winning last year’s title as a true freshman and playing a central role in the current winning streak. The likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft was phenomenal in the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State and has a terrific supporting cast around him to make the No. 4 scoring offense in FBS click. That includes Louisiana native and tailback Travis Etienne and wideout Tee Higgins. Former five-star Jackson Carman mans the left tackle spot while veterans like John Simpson solidify things in the middle. The Tigers’ growing national recruiting reach has been impressive to watch unfold and a good reason why the program sits in the top 10 of the 247Sports’ Team Talent Composite Rankings.

Their opponents have a strikingly similar profile entering yet another championship game in their own back yard. Head coach Ed Orgeron made the most of his own interim stint after Les Miles was fired in 2016 and elevated to the full-time role later that year. He’s made it a point to assemble a top-notch staff around him and has done so by fighting off numerous suitors to retain defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, plus bringing back offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. None of those moves produced the spark that was the hire of former New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady, however, with the latter introducing a variety of new concepts to propel the team to the top of nearly every FBS offensive category. Brady was named the winner of the Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant for his efforts.

The man making everything operate at historic levels is somebody who grew up far from the bayous that dot the landscape south of the school in Joe Burrow. The quarterback was originally a four-star recruit out of the Buckeye state, where his dad was defensive coordinator for Frank Solich at Ohio. He was recruited to Ohio State in the wake of that school’s own national title and spent the next couple of seasons backing up J.T. Barrett. Eventually, he lost out on the starting job to Dwayne Haskins and was a celebrated grad transfer who considered Nebraska, North Carolina and others. Eventually, he found a home in Baton Rouge and, after a solid start in 2018, has set a host of LSU, SEC and FBS records this season on his way to a historic Heisman Trophy victory in December.

Long considered to have one of the best rosters in college football, that sentiment hasn’t changed under noted high-end recruiter Orgeron. While they do have the most outstanding player in the sport running the show behind center, the talent around Burrow is similarly impressive. That includes five-star cornerback tandem Derek Stingley Jr. and Kristan Fulton, wideouts Terrace Marshall and Biletnikoff Award winner JaMarr Chase and defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence. The staff has also done a good job of developing talent too, turning three-star Baton Rouge native Clyde Edwards-Helaire into a productive threat out of the backfield and seeing lightly recruited Justin Jefferson turn into the star of the Peach Bowl win over No. 4 Oklahoma. That’s not even mentioning Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit, who has turned into the defensive leader the last couple of years after arriving from prep powerhouse IMG Academy and has proven to be key in the team’s second-half surge on that side of the ball after the safety recovered fully from an ankle injury.

All told, the two teams share the same number of 247Sports Composite five-star recruits on their rosters while LSU edges Clemson in four-stars by a 44-33 margin. Despite this, the average rating per player overall on the depth chart is negligible.

Add it all up and it certainly should be a doozy in the Big Easy when kickoff rolls around as two of the most talented teams of the playoff era meet with plenty of history on the line. An LSU win would only add to the incredible amount of hardware the team has brought home this season, while a Clemson victory would be the first back-to-back titles of the Playoff era and put them within striking distance of the modern era win streak.

It’s been an uneven road at times for both programs to reach this point, but now that both are here; just 60 minutes separates a great season with immortality. So let’s go: Tigers vs. Tigers. Death Valley vs. Death Valley. Purple and gold vs. Purple and orange with everything on the line. Even fans of rivals have to sit back and enjoy this matchup because it’s been years in the making and has a chance to go down as one of the best ever.

No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson trading blows as heavyweight fight at Fiesta Bowl hits halftime

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The College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl was billed as a heavyweight fight between two teams perfectly capable of winning it all this season and so far the game has followed just such a script.

The Buckeyes raced out to a lead before being reeled in by the reigning national champs as the two teams traded blows in the desert of the rare competitive outing in the football version of the final four. OSU wound up taking a 16-14 halftime lead over their ACC counterparts to move 30 minutes closer to a date with No. 1 LSU in the national championship game next month but it certainly is anybody’s game for the taking on Saturday night.

Leading the way for the scarlet and gray was none other than their terrific tailback J.K. Dobbins. The Texas native looked eerily similar to Ezekiel Elliott in the same uniform from a few years ago, racking up 142 yards by the midway mark and turning in the early highlight of the game by breaking a tackle and galloping 68 yards to the house for a tone-setting touchdown. In the process of hitting triple digits in the first quarter, he also managed to set the OSU single-season school rushing record, passing some guy named Eddie George.

Quarterback Justin Fields was also on point in his playoff debut on the big stage, posting a solid 12-of-21 line for 126 yards while breaking off a 21 yard run off a scramble to show that his banged up knee was certainly just fine. Fellow Heisman finalist Chase Young wasn’t quite as productive on the other side of the ball but did make his presence felt as Ohio State won the battle in the trenches with some impressive physical play.

As for the Tigers, they certainly aren’t in ACC play anymore and had to overcome a very slow start to things. Though they flashed at times early, consistency moving the chains was an issue and top receiver Tee Higgins was devastatingly knocked out for the rest of the game. To add insult to the injury, the wideout had his helmet knocked off and his head slammed to the turf on a throw along the sidelines that came on a free play due to a false start.

As a result, QB Trevor Lawrence was the sole source of offensive output in throwing for 97 yards and rather surprisingly becoming more of the run threat than Travis Etienne was. The latter did score a short touchdown run but the signal-caller’s wheels were the ones that got everybody on the feet at State Farm Stadium thanks to a crossover-filled 67 yard touchdown run.

If there was one concern for Dabo Swinney thoughhad to be his defensive’s propensity to give up big plays. In addition to whiffing on Dobbins’ big runs, they allowed nearly 300 yards and 7.2 yards per play.

There’s still a half left to play and plenty of time to get things cleaned up on both sides. While it’s refreshing enough to have a close and entertaining semifinal game in what has generally been a College Football Playoff era full of blowouts, it’s pretty clear that the early billing for this semifinal as a clash of elite teams is turning out to be playing out as such.