Season ends with a bang, or did it?
Recruiting, signing day, spring camps extend the fun
To those lamenting the end of college football season until early September, their orange coolers are half empty. To those knowing it’s now recruiting season, with spring drills around the bend and training camps capping the end of vacation season, their coolers are half full.
College football truly is a year-round sport with the right approach, and there’s no reason to be sad following Clemson’s white-knuckle 35-31 comeback victory over Alabama on Monday night in a title game for the ages.
Unless you’re an Alabama fan, and then you are welcome to sob until September.
Meanwhile, here are a dozen questions to help pass the time until Sept. 2 … errr … national signing day Feb. 1:
What are the five best title games in history?
Let’s call Texas toppling Southern California in the Rose Bowl following the 2005 season the West
Coast Game of the Century, and Monday’s thriller in Tampa, Fla., the East Coast Game of the Century. Everybody wins, right? Keeping in mind all politics, news and sports are local, Vince Young leading a comeback over the Trojans edges Deshaun Watson doing likewise against the Crimson Tide. By the skin of a fourth-down touchdown run.
Ohio State edging Miami in double overtime following the 2002 season (No. 3), Miami clipping Nebraska following the 1983 season (No. 4) and Penn State knocking off Miami following the 1986 season (No. 5) all likely receive plenty of top votes in their respective regions. But this is our list.
How did high-stakes thriller fare via Hi-Def ?
Television ratings were up from last year’s first title game between Alabama and Clemson but down from the first College Football Playoff title game two years ago (Ohio State over Oregon). Monday’s game had a 15.3 rating, 4 percent higher than last season’s but still not on pace with the Buckeyes’ title (18.2), according to USA Today. In all, more than 26 million viewers tuned in via the many ways to view it these days, according to ESPN, making the game the most watched event on a cable network since last year’s game. In Houston, the game drew a 17.1, 21st in the nation.
How did Clemson win?
ESPN broadcasters were on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson for not smiling enough early. It was all part of the plan, as Watson left the smiling to his receivers, with four of them collecting 90-plus yards of receiving each. Watson wasn’t afraid of Alabama, despite an early beating, and continually completed passes in his many small pockets of opportunity.
What went wrong for Alabama?
When Crimson Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson caused and recovered a fumble by Wayne Gallman early in the second half, Anderson appeared primed to pile on to the defense’s total of 11 turnovers returned for touchdowns. But heads-up Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow chased down and tackled Anderson at the Tigers’ 16, and three plays later a stuffed drive resulted in a field goal.
Renfrow saved four points; Clemson won by four. Alabama had plenty go wrong in other areas, but that one stuck out in a sea of pivotal plays.
What tops the list when second-guessing Alabama?
The dismissal of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin the week before the game, that’s what. Kiffin had called plays for this offense the last three seasons, but Nick Saban cut him loose so Kiffin could focus on his new gig as Florida Atlantic’s coach. The curious move resulting from a battle of egos was a swerve the Crimson Tide couldn’t overcome.
Sure, Alabama scored 31 points with Steve Sarkisian directing traffic, but the Crimson Tide were 2-of-15 on third-down conversions and occasionally were bailed out by scrambling freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts of Channelview. Just not enough, in the end.
What tops the list when second-guessing Clemson?
The Tigers overcame poor clock management on their final drive to toss a 2-yard touchdown pass with a second remaining. Clemson looked genius in the end, but it had used a full two minutes to get to that point — when a lone misstep might have meant the clock ran out on the Tigers’ chances.
Will the dethroned king find its crown next season?
Alabama is mad and likely will be the favorite to reclaim the title in a year. In fact, before the title game was even played, a Las Vegas oddsmaker established the Crimson Tide as a 3-to1 favorite to win it all in January 2018. The Crimson Tide lose a bevy of talented seniors on defense such as end Jonathan Allen and linebackers Tim Williams, Anderson and Reuben Foster, but Alabama has recruited so well under Saban that plenty more fivestar prospects are ready to take their place.
Will Clemson keep on rolling without Deshaun Watson?
Probably. Maybe. Junior Kelly Bryant will earn first shot at replacing a legend, but don’t count out hyped incoming freshman Hunter Johnson to earn a long look. Redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and sophomore Israel Tucker also will likely be in the mix, so coach Dabo Swinney possesses a load of options at the position.
Who will make next season’s final four?
Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Penn State will meet in the Rose and Sugar bowls. You read it here first.
Who will win next year’s title?
Remember that part about Alabama being mad? The Tide will still be mad in 360 days in Atlanta, concerning what happened on Monday in Tampa. (Answer: Alabama.)
What’s next on the college football docket?
The recruiting dead period ends Wednesday, meaning an awfully live period starts Thursday as programs try to solidify or ramp up their classes, and perhaps become the next Clemson or Alabama. National signing day is Feb. 1, a date the hardest of the game’s core fans consider a national holiday.
Who’s leading the way in recruiting?
No surprises here. Ohio State, Alabama (the top two are nearly even), Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, Oklahoma, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and Notre Dame round out 247Sports.com’s top 10 with about three weeks of recruiting remaining. The site’s top-ranked recruit, running back Najee Harris, has pledged to play for Alabama. What a shocker, right?
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, left, and coach Dabo Swinney bask after one of the best title games.
Alabama’s bid to return to the top of the college football heap will depend in part on the maturation of quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Channelview product who fared well as a freshman but has considerable room to improve as a passer.