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We Have Our Final Four...and Sooner Nation Is Psyched
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Crazy Sunday for personal reasons...and pressed for time...so....a quickie quiz.
Heisman Trophy Quiz: You might know the winner of the very first one in 1935, but what school did he go to? Answer below.
College Football Review
[Comments written prior to release of the final CFP Rankings...and AP Poll]
I have lots of commentary below from around the country, so I’ll run through briefly what was an absolutely outstanding Saturday in college football.
But first, Friday night, Washington qualified for its first Rose Bowl in 18 seasons after defeating Utah, 10-3, in the Pac-12 title game. Yes, Washington had CFP hopes when the season began, but they got their act together late and the Rose Bowl isn’t all bad. The Huskies held the Utes to just 188 yards of offense.
Then in the Big 12 title game, 5 Oklahoma defeated 14 Texas 39-27, the score 27-27 after three before the Sooners took charge, putting the game away with 2:00 to play on a terrific Kyler Murray to Grant Calcaterra touchdown pass; Murray with 379 yards passing and three touchdowns (CeeDee Lamb with six receptions for 167 yards and a score).
1 Alabama then defeated 4 Georgia 35-28 in a dramatic SEC title tilt, after trailing 28-14 early in the third quarter, Jalen Hurts leading a dramatic comeback, Georgia coach Kirby Smart with a critical error in judgment, discussed below.
6 Ohio State beat 21 Northwestern in the Big Ten championship, 45-24; Dwayne Haskins with 499 yards passing, five touchdowns.
2 Clemson whipped Pitt (7-6) 42-10 in the ACC title game.
Additionally, 8 UCF won its 25th consecutive game, defeating Memphis (8-5) in the AAC championship, 56-41, as backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for four scores...a rather able performance in place of the injured McKenzie Milton, I think you’d agree.
Memphis running back Darrell Henderson had 207 yards on just 10 carries in the first half, as the Tigers built up a 38-21 lead, but in true UCF fashion, for the third time this year, they shut down a team that had blitzed their defense in the first half; Henderson with just three more yards on six carries the rest of the way.
Earlier this season, in a matchup with Memphis, UCF was down 30-17 at the half and won 31-30. The Knights trailed Temple in another game, 34-28 at the intermission, and won 52-40.
But they aren’t final four worthy. That said, they’ll be playing on New Year’s Day, and they’re returning a ton of offensive talent next year.
One more...I caught the second half of 25 Fresno State at 22 Boise State for the Mountain West title, and this was another thoroughly enjoyable contest, the Bulldogs defeating the Broncos 19-16. Fresno State was 1-11 two years ago before Jeff Tedford took over as head coach, a helluva story.
David Wharton / Los Angeles Times
“It took a few minutes for the din – a visceral roar – to settle down inside AT&T Stadium.
“Oklahoma fans had their moment of pure joy, celebrating a victory over rival Texas for the Big 12 Conference championship Saturday afternoon. Then they shifted to a bigger prize – an invitation to the College Football Playoff.
“ ‘We want ‘Bama,’ they began chanting.
“But 800 miles to the east, top-ranked Alabama trailed No. 4 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game, temporarily jeopardizing Oklahoma’s chances and threatening to flip the postseason on its head.
“ ‘We didn’t obviously play our best game,’ Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.
“Saturday might have been the kind of day college football leaders envisioned when they created the current system, a three-month race to qualify for four playoff spots. Not everyone likes it, but the scheme added even more drama to a day of nail-biter finishes in conference championships across the nation. Now, with the CFP selection committee issuing its final rankings Sunday and three teams seemingly assured of a place in the bracket, all eyes shift to three more contenders vying for the remaining slot.
“Georgia, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State each made convincing arguments....
“The Crimson Tide, who have otherwise dominated opponents this season, faced a stern test against Georgia and needed some grit when starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left the game hobbled by a sprained ankle and sore foot.
“Jalen Hurts, who stuck around after losing his starting job this summer, stepped in to engineer a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
“ ‘I’ve probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen,’ Saban said. ‘And I think this is a great example of why guys don’t need to run off and just transfer every chance they get or every time something doesn’t work out.’
“If Alabama had fallen short, Georgia would have been assured a spot and voters would have faced a tricky decision: Keep the Crimson Tide as the best one-loss team or send them packing. Hurts’ clutch performance negated that headache....
“Three undefeated candidates atop the rankings allowed the playoff conversation to focus on who gets to join them.
“An argument could be made that Georgia earned the right to stay at No. 4 by pushing Alabama to the brink. Quarterback Jake Fromm looked impressive passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns against one of the toughest defenses in the nation.
“ ‘Based on the teams that we’ve played this year, I think this team deserves to be in the playoff as well,’ Saban said. ‘I sure as hell don’t want to play them again.’
“But the committee might not be able to look past two losses on Georgia’s record. The next candidate in line, Oklahoma, has only one.
“The Sooners needed a comeback of their own, racing back in the fourth quarter to win 39-27.
“Their offense leads the nation in scoring with Heisman Trophy candidate Kyler Murray at quarterback. They also avenged the only loss on their record – to Texas in October – and showed signs of improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
“Will that be enough to convince voters?
“ ‘We’ve got a great resume,’ coach Lincoln Riley said. ‘I get that there are other teams out there, but I feel very confident that this team can go forward and continue to win and I think our best football is ahead of us.’
“No. 8 Central Florida probably won’t make a big enough jump in the rankings, even though the Knights rebounded from 17 points down to defeat Memphis for the American Athletic Conference title and stretched their national-best winning streak to 25 games.
“The problem is, they don’t have the strength of schedule and they don’t have starting quarterback McKenzie Milton, lost to a severe leg injury in their previous game.
“Which leave Ohio State as the final piece of the puzzle. The Buckeyes have quality wins on their resume, including last weekend’s 62-39 dismantling of Michigan. It helped that they played late Saturday and, thus, knew exactly what they needed to do.
“In other words, given Oklahoma’s win, they needed another impressive performance.
“Their matchup against Northwestern for the Big Ten Conference title started well enough as they raced to a 24-7 lead at halftime. Then the Wildcats fought back to make things close for a while.
“So it remains unclear if Ohio State’s 45-24 win will suffice. The Buckeyes will have to wait and see, just like the other hopefuls.
“Even as he made a case for Oklahoma, Riley acknowledged that it was probably a waste of breath.
“ ‘My opinion doesn’t matter,’ he said. ‘I’m not on the committee.’”
Zach Braziller / New York Post
“Forget the metrics and ignore the numbers, even if they are mostly tilted in Georgia’s favor.
“Trust your eyes.
“If you watched Georgia and Oklahoma play Saturday, if you followed both schools this season, the College Football Playoff committee’s choice is simple.
“The Bulldogs, after nearly upsetting Nick Saban and supposedly unbeatable Alabama, are not only one of the four best teams in the sport, the argument can be made they are No. 2. One-loss Oklahoma can’t reasonably make that statement. Neither can Jekyll and Hyde Ohio State, which needed to prove last week’s rout of Michigan wasn’t a fluke and instead struggled to put away four-loss Northwestern in the Big Ten title game until midway through the fourth quarter.
“The point of the playoff is to take the four best teams. Not the team with fewer losses because it plays in a weaker conference. The committee can’t be held prisoner by league champions or number of losses. Saban gave them the answer to what shouldn’t be a difficult question by saying he didn’t want to see Georgia again.
“Georgia entered Saturday ranked fourth by the committee. How does losing by a touchdown scored in the final minute merit moving down? If anything, the Bulldogs should move up and switch places with No. 3 Notre Dame despite having two losses.
“They gave mighty Alabama all it could handle, outplaying the Crimson Tide for most of the SEC Championship, holding a two-touchdown lead for large stretches of this classic showdown, before dropping a 35-28 heartbreaker. It was better in the trenches, and it had the playmakers to match Alabama, the team most experts have virtually handed the national championship for weeks, the powerhouse that entered beating the opposition by an average of 35.2 points per game.
“If not for some questionable decisions from coach Kirby Smart – forget the ill-advised fake punt on 4th-and-11 from midfield with 3:04 remaining and the game tied, Saban’s longtime assistant pulled a Todd Bowles, going conservative far too often when aggression was needed to put the hammer down – Georgia may have topped Alabama and wound up the top seed in the playoff.
“Yes, the Bulldogs have two losses, including an ugly 36-16 loss at 10th-ranked LSU on Oct. 13. A two-loss team has never reached the playoff. But those two top-10 games are two more than Oklahoma played this year....
“Georgia didn’t finish off Alabama on Saturday afternoon. It blew a 14-point lead. This isn’t about rewarding that. But that performance – at least – proved the Bulldogs are among the four best teams in the country.
“Leaving them out would be a disservice to the playoff.”
Heather Dinich / ESPN
“ ‘When you look at the protocol, it’s very clear that when teams are comparable at the margins, there are four things to look at: obviously, head-to-head; comparable opponents; strength of schedule; then the one you mentioned, conference championship,’ selection committee chair Rob Mullens said during the week. ‘It is the one data point that becomes available at the end of the season that’s not available during.’
“That’s not good news for Georgia, whose schedule strength will certainly be scrutinized by the committee. The Bulldogs’ nonconference schedule includes Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and UMass, and it doesn’t have the conference championship to fall back on.”
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports
“Moments after a second gutting defeat to Alabama in 11 months in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Georgia coach Kirby Smart offered an impassioned case for his team to make the College Football Playoff.
“ ‘It boils down to one thing,’ Smart said. ‘Do you want the best four teams or not?’
“Sorry, Kirby, but prepare to be disappointed when the selection committee reveals the playoff field on Sunday because two-loss Georgia almost certainly won’t be there – and it shouldn’t be.
“The Bulldogs came up short Saturday, 35-28, in an effort that should be considered highly commendable until after their offense got stuck in neutral in the fourth quarter and Smart’s ill-advised fake punt on fourth-and-11 with 3:04 remaining went sideways.
“But ultimately, that’s the point. For the playoff system to work for the benefit of college football; for it to be viable and legitimate, it can’t just be a beauty contest. The losses need to matter, and regardless of everything else that happened Saturday, Georgia lost the game it needed to win while others – notably Big 12 champion Oklahoma – won.
“Too bad, Georgia....
“With Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame all unbeaten, there’s only room for one more team. And with Oklahoma taking care of business against Texas earlier Saturday, 39-27, and avenging its only prior defeat, this should be a no-brainer for the committee.
“Is Georgia a better football team than Oklahoma? My sense is that the Bulldogs probably are. Ever since their 20-point loss to LSU on Oct. 13, they’ve blown out ranked teams in Florida and Kentucky, had a laughably easy time with Auburn and forced Alabama to play its eyeballs out to beat them. No doubt about it, they’re an impressive group.
“Oklahoma, meanwhile, is undeniably an incomplete football team with a historically elite offense but a defense that can give up 40 points to literally anybody. If we were putting them on a neutral field, I’d probably pick Georgia. But how much of that is reality versus an institutional bias toward the SEC, which sometimes gets proven to be a house of cards during bowl season?
“For the playoff to work, you can’t rely on feeling or intuition. You have to go with the data, which says that Oklahoma went 12-1 against a good enough schedule while Georgia missed out on the opportunities it needed to cash in – including Saturday when it coughed up a two-touchdown lead. In the end, Georgia lost – yes, lost – to the two best teams on its schedule in Alabama and LSU. Its signature wins are against Florida and Kentucky. That’s not good enough.
“ ‘Give that coach across the sideline a vote who he doesn’t want to play,’ Smart said. ‘He’ll start with us. I promise you, you don’t want to play us. It’s not our decision. It’s their decision. But put the four best football teams in.’
“Smart isn’t wrong. Alabama probably would prefer to play someone other than Georgia again. But why should they have to?
“Georgia had its chance to make that statement and blew it. Otherwise, what was the point of playing Saturday’s game in the first place?”
Patrick Stevens / Washington Post
“Ohio State? Or Oklahoma?
“As college football’s playoff committee concludes its deliberations Sunday, there’s basically one overarching question to answer.
“Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame all made it through the season unscathed....
“That leaves Oklahoma and Ohio State, the only other Power Five programs with fewer than two losses. Both happen to be conference champions.
“If the committee sticks to its midweek evaluation, the choice seems clear. Oklahoma, which beat Texas in the Big 12 title game, entered the weekend ahead of Ohio State in the playoff rankings. The Buckeyes dismissed Northwestern, 45-24, in the Big Ten championship, but to make the playoff it would have to hopscotch a Big 12 champion that did little to deserve such a fate.
“Not that it hasn’t happened before.
“Here’s guessing Oklahoma gets the nod. All of the Sooners’ pluses – the dominant offense, the quality victories – remain. They even avenged their lone loss, which came by a field goal against Texas (9-4) back in October, to close out the season.
“Likewise, Ohio State didn’t so greatly overwhelm Northwestern as to wipe its shortcomings away. Namely, the Buckeyes still got drilled in October by a Purdue team that finished 6-6. They also needed overtime to finish off a Maryland team en route to a 5-7 record.
“Oklahoma didn’t do much to suggest it shouldn’t be a playoff team, and Ohio State didn’t put together so thorough a performance it would be impossible to ignore. In an autumn in which the status quo largely defined things, the sport got an appropriate conference championship weekend to cap the regular season.”
As for Kirby Smart’s decision on the fake punt late, as Patrick Stevens put it, “There’s playing to win – such as going for two rather than a PAT and a tie in the final seconds of regulation or in overtime. Then there’s unnecessary aggression.
“Smart stumbled into the latter situation, calling a fake punt on fourth and 11 from midfield in a tie game with a little more than three minutes to play. It didn’t work, and Alabama marched 52 yards in exactly two minutes for the game-winning score.
“The great what-if of the season – not just Georgia’s, but the sport – might just be wondering what would’ve happened if Alabama had to go an extra 30 or 40 yards to win.”
--As for the Heisman Trophy, the deadline for submitting ballots is Monday. I had Tua Tagovailoa as a lock virtually the entire season, but he threw some interceptions yesterday and finished with 37 touchdown passes, four INTs...still awesome.
But Dwayne Haskins ended up with 47 TD passes, including 11 the last two critical games for the Buckeyes, with eight INTs.
And then there’s the best pure athlete, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, who ends the regular season with 40 touchdown passes, seven interceptions, but also 11 touchdowns rushing.
If I had a vote, I still give it to Tua, but I will offer no argument if Murray or Haskins receive it. These were three superb, season-long performers.
--And back to Jalen Hurts, it is amazing to think the guy started all of last season, only to be benched at halftime of Alabama’s national-title game defeat of Georgia in favor of Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa was then anointed the starter for 2018, and Hurts could have taken the year of eligibility he had elsewhere. Probably about 95% of the programs in America would have loved that.
But Hurts stayed...and rode the bench all year as Tua put on his probable Heisman campaign.
But as Patrick Stevens of the Washington Post wrote:
“Saturday gave us an example of the aphorism attributed to Mark Twain: ‘History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.’ Hurts came in after Tagovailoa went down in the fourth quarter. He was in for two full drives, throwing a game-tying touchdown pass on the first and rushing for the game-winning score in the second with 1:04 to go. Hurts, a reserve all season, was ready and able to step in for Tagovailoa, and his play helped preserve Alabama’s perfect season.”
As the commentators said after the game last night, no one had ever seen coach Nick Saban so emotional over a player’s performance as he was over Hurts’.
--Patrick Stevens said of Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield that he was a major winner on the weekend, as he led the Apps to victory in the Sun Belt Conference Championship against Louisiana-Lafayette, 30-19. The Mountaineers (10-2) will head to the New Orleans Bowl.
“Will Satterfield be with them? Good question. He’s 51-24 in six seasons in Boone, N.C., including a gaudy 29-9 mark over the last three years. That’s the sort of record certain to draw attention from some more high-profile programs.”
--In another game on the weekend, Virginia Tech kept its bowl streak alive (at least postseason eligibility) for the 26th year in a row with a hastily arranged game against Marshall, the contest an earlier victim of Hurricane Florence in September. So the Hokies finish 6-6.
--And I have to note Northern Illinois (8-5) won the MAC Championship in a thriller, 30-29, taking down Buffalo (10-3).
--Finally, in second round play of the FCS (Div. I-AA) Championship, Colgate stormed back from a 13-3 deficit against James Madison to prevail 23-20, Raiders alum Pete M. saying the result made the 4+ hour drive to Hamilton, New York worthwhile.
But next up is No. 1, and 12-0, North Dakota State, 52-10 winners over Montana State.
--And now...your AP Poll...prelude to the Big One....
1. Alabama 13-0 (61)
2. Clemson 13-0
3. Notre Dame 12-0
4. Oklahoma 12-1
5. Ohio State 12-1
6. Georgia 11-2
7. UCF 12-0
8. Michigan 10-2
9. Washington 10-3
10. Florida 9-3
19. Fresno State 11-2
22. Army 9-2
3. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
21. Fresno State
*No Army in CFP Top 25. A travesty.
So it’s Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson vs. Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. [Congrats N.D. alum, Mark R.!]
Oklahoma, and Kyler Murray, can certainly make a game of it.
Notre Dame will give Clemson a battle.
These matchups are as they should be. No bitching allowed from the Georgia and Ohio State fan bases.
The other bowls have been announced but I’ll get into the only ones I care about next time.
That said I love Wake Forest being matched up against Memphis...a great opportunity for the Deacs, albeit Darrel Henderson may rush for 345 yards. [It’s the Jared Birmingham Bowl...I hope that’s not Jared of Subway fame............I was just informed it’s Jared Jewelers....phew....]
--What an entertaining game at the Meadowlands, as the Giants (4-8) beat the Bears (8-4) in overtime, 30-27. Chicago was down 27-17 with just 1:49 left, kicked a field goal, recovered an onside kick (that Odell Beckham Jr. made a pathetic attempt to recover), Bears running back Tarik Cohen then throwing a one-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller for the tying score, but the Giants prevailing on an Aldrick Rosas 44-yard field goal, the Bears initially recovering three fumbles of their own in their OT drive.
The 5’6” Cohen, by the way, had 12 receptions for 156 yards out of the backfield.
--My Jets blew a 22-13 lead after three quarters to lose at Tennessee, 26-22, as the Titans stay relevant at 6-6. Marcus Mariota’s 11-yard TD pass with 0:36 left in the game was the decider.
The Jets are 3-9, six straight losses.
--New England improved to 9-3, 24-10 winners over Minnesota (6-5-1), Tom Brady with a solid 24/32, 311, 1-1, 102.5.
--Green Bay is finished, now 4-7-1, after a pathetic 20-17 loss to Arizona (3-9). Aaron Rodgers had to throw it 50 times for just 233 yards.
Hours later, head coach Mike McCarthy was fired after 13 seasons. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is the interim head coach.
--The Rams are 11-1 after a 30-16 win at Detroit (4-8).
--The amazing Houston Texans, who started out 0-3, are now 9-3 after a 29-13 win over the Browns (4-7-1), Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield getting picked off three times, despite throwing for 397 yards.
--Indianapolis started the season 1-5, but had won five in a row to get to 6-5, only to lose a disappointing one today to Jacksonville (4-8), 6-0! Scintillating stuff. Like Aaron Rodgers’ performance, Andrew Luck had to throw it 52 times for a whopping 248.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ Cody Kessler picked up his first win as a starter at QB, now 1-8. We offer our congratulations to the entire Kessler family.
--Baltimore is now 7-5 after rookie Lamar Jackson did enough to win in guiding the Ravens to a 26-16 win over the hugely disappointing Falcons (4-8), the Baltimore defense holding Atlanta to 131 yards of offense!
--Thursday, Dallas shocked New Orleans 13-10, the Saints dropping to 10-2, the Cowboys now 7-5.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees was a victim of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, throwing for just 127 yards and getting picked off once, SI with a glowing cover story this week.
For Dallas, Dak Presoctt had 248 passing and a touchdown.
--The NFL finds itself in hot water again for a serious off-field issue. And the Kansas City Chiefs have some explaining to do of their own.
The Chiefs sent Kareem Hunt packing, the team announcing Friday it had released their star running back hours after a video showing Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel was published by TMZ.com.
Hunt was also placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by the NFL, meaning he cannot practice, play or attend games while the league continues to investigate.
The league said in a statement: “The NFL’s investigation, which began immediately following the incident in February, will include a review of the new information that was made public today.”
The Chiefs, in a statement, acknowledged they were made aware of an incident involving Hunt, but he lied to them during their talks with him.
“At that time (February), the National Football League and law enforcement initiated investigations into the issue,” the statement read. “As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him. Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”
So the Chiefs, a Super Bowl favorite, have to get there without Hunt’s terrific production. 824 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns, plus another seven TDs receiving, after leading the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie.
The footage is eerily reminiscent of the shocking Ray Rice video from 2014, Rice not playing in the NFL since.
Hunt is just 23, and no doubt will do all required of him from the NFL to get back, perhaps next season, though it’s far too early to gauge who will take a chance on him.
And now we have the questions.
Mike Jones / USA TODAY Sports
“Why does it always take a video?
“That’s the question that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, his closest associates and the highest-ranking Kansas City Chiefs officials must answer in the wake of Friday’s surfacing of a video that revealed running back Kareem Hunt brutally attacking a woman in February.
“Sure, the Chiefs did the right thing Friday night when they announced the immediate release of the second-year star. And the NFL announced slightly earlier Friday that Hunt had been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, which would have prevented him from playing or practicing until the completion of the league’s investigation into the case.
“But save your applause for the Chiefs and the NFL. Their indignation comes about nine months too late....
“A league spokesman said until Friday afternoon, neither the NFL nor the Chiefs had seen the video that TMZ obtained and released.
“But it’s curious that the NFL, with all of its resources, had no luck securing footage while the media outlet did. According to a person with knowledge of the efforts, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, league investigators tried to obtain security camera footage from the complex where Hunt’s altercation took place. But they were told that corporate policy prevented the management company from turning over video to anyone but law enforcement....
“The same person also said the woman and other witnesses did not respond to the NFL’s attempt to gather more information about the incident.
“The investigation did include the review of the recording of the 9-1-1 conversation between Hunt’s victim and the dispatcher. But beyond that, the investigation turned up few details and remained at a standstill since the summer.
“But you can’t help but wonder about the level of urgency that the NFL and Chiefs shared as the initial details of the altercation became known.
“The league and team both knew the circumstances. Hunt violated the league’s personal conduct policy in February, so he should have received swift punishment. Instead, he was allowed to play in every game this season.
“Certainly, the team investigated the matter, to some degree. So it’s troubling that in July, Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt simply brushed off the running back’s actions like a teaching moment. During training camp, he told reporters, ‘Kareem is a young man, second year in the league, obviously had a very big year on the field last year. I’m sure he learned some lessons this offseason and hopefully won’t be in those kind of situations in the future.’
“Learned some lessons? C’mon man.
“Taking their initial handling of Hunt’s situation into account, the NFL and its teams don’t seem to take domestic violence as seriously as they would like you to believe they do. Sure, league officials hold all kinds of women’s leadership summits, and the teams’ charitable foundations sponsor all the women’s initiatives they want.
“But their track record indicates a very calloused view of domestic violence. Maintaining a positive image and conducting booming business are the forces that drive the NFL and its owners.
“That’s why history has repeated itself. That’s why four years after it took a video for Goodell to give Ray Rice a harsh punishment, the league has found itself in a similar situation. That’s why the Chiefs have previously classified their star running back’s transgressions as a youthful mistake, only to release him after gross embarrassment. That’s why the Washington Redskins earlier this week pounced on Reuben Foster just 72 hours after he was arrested on domestic violence charges....
“It’s unclear when Hunt’s punishment will come down from the league. But Goodell has to send a clear message with a ban.”
For his part, Hunt released a statement that read: “I want to apologize for my actions. I deeply regret what I did. I hope to move on from this.”
Hunt was not arrested or charged with a crime as a result of the February incident. But under the personal conduct policy, a player can be disciplined even if he is not convicted of a crime. The baseline suspension for a player involved in an incident of domestic violence is six games, under the terms of the policy. That can be shortened or lengthened depending on the circumstances of the case. Such a suspension is without pay.
As for the aforementioned Reuben Foster, he was put on paid leave. Players on that list are paid their weekly salaries but are prohibited from participating in practices or attending games. He had been released by the 49ers following a weekend arrest on a domestic violence charge.
Foster is a talented linebacker who has been arrested three times this year and was suspended for the first two games of the season under the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies. Foster isn’t eligible to play until the league makes a final disciplinary decision in his case. The Redskins were the only team to put in a claim on Foster.
The NFL hasn’t given Washington any indication when its investigation will be completed, but needless to say, fans in Washington are in an uproar that he was picked up, given his extensive history.
--Lastly, the Chiefs shook off the loss of Kareem Hunt to move to 10-2, 40-33 winners over Oakland, 2-10, behind Patrick Mahomes’ 4 touchdown passes.
--It’s been an interesting offseason thus far, as the Hot Stove League heats up, the Mets and Mariners concluding a blockbuster that has been rumored for days (pending physicals by all the participants).
The Mets acquire Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn and reliever Gerson Bautista, with the Mariners sending $20 million to the Mets to help defray some of Cano’s remaining five years on his deal that will pay him $120 million. Cano agreed to waive his no-trade clause as he desired a return to New York, where he starred for the Yankees for many seasons.
Cano was handed an 80-game PED suspension this year, but the 36-year-old still hit 10 home runs and drove in 50, while batting .303, in the 80 games he did play in. The Mets are obviously convinced he has some solid seasons left in him.
But the key is really Diaz, a 24-year-old reliever who posted a 1.96 ERA and 57 saves in 2018 for Seattle (124 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings). Importantly, he’s under club control the next four years.
As for what Seattle is receiving, as they blow the team up, in full rebuild mode, Kelenic and Dunn are former first-round picks and they do have potential, no doubt, while the Mets were all too happy to rid themselves of the combined $36 million remaining on the contracts of Bruce and Swarzak, to help soften the blow on Cano’s deal.
Mets fans were concerned promising second baseman Jeff McNeil was going to be part of the trade, but management insisted he not be included, so I think things will work themselves out and McNeil will eventually inherit the third base job, sooner than later, especially if Todd Frazier gets off to a poor start.
--Meanwhile, the Indians traded catcher Yan Gomes to Washington, the All-Star with a decidedly up-and-down career. Washington sent right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, a minor leaguer, and a player to be named. The Nationals also recently signed free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year deal.
--The season is starting to take shape and one thing we know, No. 7 Michigan could be headed to another Final Four, the Wolverines no doubt moving up further in the next AP poll, following a resounding 84-67 win over No. 11 North Carolina (6-2) on Wednesday night. [And a 76-57 win over 19 Purdue yesterday.] Michigan is getting big contributions from freshman Iggy Brazdeikis, who looks like a special player.
The Michigan victory against UNC enabled the Big Ten to salvage a 7-7 split in this season’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
--St. John’s is 7-0 for the first time in ages, 1994-95 specifically, a 76-73 come-from-behind winner over Georgia Tech (4-3), as the Johnnies’ Shamorie Ponds, who averaged 21.6 ppg last season, went off for 37. It’s always good for the local sports scene when St. John’s is competitive, even more so than Seton Hall.
--Sports Illustrated had a good piece on the impact of the graduate transfer rule, for good and bad. Kentucky, for all the talk year in and year out about its young players, that then go straight to the NBA, is taking advantage of the rule allowing players with a year of eligibility who have graduated to transfer to another school without sitting out a year. It’s often devastating for mid-majors, who build a program around some of the players, only to see them head to a bigger program as a transfer for their fourth year.
Thus is the case this season for Kentucky, who have grad transfer Reid Travis on the team.
But Travis is no ordinary transfer. He played last year for Stanford, averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Saturday, in a 78-61 win over UNCG, Travis had 22 points, 12 rebounds. A nice veteran piece to go along with all the youth. But is it fair?
I love the rule, which Wake Forest had taken advantage of over the years, and is attempting to this season with a couple of these players, but Wake lost Keyshawn Woods, who took his fourth year to Ohio State, where he is now a key contributor to what is a solid Big Ten contender.
--Speaking of Wake, please, please...fire coach Danny Manning! The Demon Deacons play Richmond annually in what is normally a tough game, Richmond a perennially solid program.
But this is a lousy Richmond squad this year, yet Wake lost Saturday, 84-74, after losing to Houston Baptist and barely beating Western Carolina in the past week.
Richmond had just three turnovers and nine steals; Wake had 15 turnovers and one steal. That’s all you need to know. Johnny Mac, please send my sword, parcel post (no signature required).
--Yale (2-2) upset Miami (5-2) in Miami, 77-73, yesterday.
--Duke beat Stetson 113-49. It was tight until the opening tipoff. I mean Stetson, they say, looked OK in the layup line.
--Games of note this weekend....
Man City 3-1 over Bournemouth; Man U with an embarrassing 2-2 draw with lowly Southampton; Chelsea 2-0 over cellar-dweller Fulham; Liverpool 1-0 over Everton; and in the biggie today, Arsenal defeated Tottenham 4-2, in a terrific contest, the Spurs blowing a 2-1 lead at the half, the Gunners blazing in the second.
I saw a stat that if Arsenal only played the first half, it would be 19th in the standings out of 20 clubs.
And yet here they are...now fourth.
Standings after 14 of 38 matches....
1. Man City 38 points
2. Liverpool 36
3. Chelsea 31
4. Arsenal 30
5. Tottenham 30...behind on goal differential
6. Everton 22
7. Man U 22
--I didn’t catch the heavyweight fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles Saturday night, but some have said it was one of the most thrilling heavyweight contests in years, as Britain’s Fury was floored in the ninth round by WBC heavyweight champion Wilder, and then brutally dropped again in the 12th, but somehow regaining his feet to survive for two minutes.
The bout ended in a controversial draw, but it sets up a delicious rematch.
Fury had been away from the fight game for 30 months for a variety of reasons, including depression and a UK anti-doping ban, but this fight will long be remembered for the last round when Fury lay motionless after a savage combination, but literally rose from the dead to barely make the couont and then stayed on his feet until the end, Wilder, after decking him, believing he had won the fight.
The three judges had it 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113.
But those at ringside – who included boxing greats Floy Mayweather, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and James ‘Buster’ Douglas – were left asking the same question after the fight: how did Tyson Fury get up? Wilder’s right hand, left hook combination was crushing.
“I saw his eyes roll into the back of his head. I was like it’s over,” Wilder said afterwards.
--Lindsey Vonn didn’t race at Lake Louise this weekend due to a knee injury, and then announced she would not retire until racing there next season, this being her favorite venue.
But Mikaela Shiffrin won her first super-G, career win No. 46!
--Jon Rahm won the unofficial Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, an event hosted by Tiger Woods; Tiger finishing 17 out of 18.
Tiger announced he has been suffering from ankle issues for some time...worrisome, if you’re a golf fan.
--A mother and her 10-month-old daughter were mauled to death by a grizzly bear at a remote cabin in Canada while the 37-year-old woman was on her maternity leave, officials said.
The bodies of Valerie T. and her daughter, Adele, were discovered around 3 p.m. Monday after the child’s father, Gjermund, returned to the Yukon cabin in northwest Canada to have a grizzly bear charge at him, CBC news reported.
(The father...no need to list last names here) shot and killed the animal before discovering (the mother) and her daughter dead outside.
“It appears the victims had been out for a walk when the incident occurred,” the Yukon coroner’s office said in a news release.
The family had been spending the last three months at the cabin trapping animals prior to the deadly attack. The mother was a school teacher.
Trapping animals wouldn’t be my idea of a good way to spend an extensive maternity leave, but then I’m not a resident of the Yukon, where I admittedly would not do well if it came to survival mode. [“Can someone help me with my artificial tree?” My current issue, having bought a new one that I can’t figure out in terms of the instruction to “take off the protective cap.”]
--Magnus Carlsen of Norway finally retained the world chess championship in London the other day, after three weeks, 12 straight draws and a day of tiebreakers, defeating his American challenger, Fabiano Caruana.
Carlsen’s victory came in what amounted to sudden-death chess: a scheduled series of four so-called rapid games in which the players started with 25 minutes to make their moves. The speedier pace of the games meant the players were more likely to make blunders and Carlsen won the first two, closing out Caruana in the third.
--I like those College Football halftime Dr. Pepper Challenges and I got a kick out of one of the $100,000 scholarship winners this weekend, Alina, who said after, “I’ll never drink another soda in my life!” You’re going far, kid....very far...great answer.
--We note the passing of President George H.W. Bush, 94. I will have an extensive look at him next time in that other column I do, but we remember what a terrific sports fan he was, particularly his love of golf, and the example he set for a lot of us...play fast!
Bush once said: “Golf has meant a lot to me. It means friendship, integrity and character.”
Some of us remember a great moment in the sport, 1995, at La Quinta, Calif., during the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Bush joined then-President Bill Clinton and former president Gerald Ford, plus Hope, for an 18-hole exhibition at Indian Wells Country Club, with the tournament’s defending champion, Scott Hoch, providing the steadying influence.
But Clinton played way too deliberately for Bush, Ford was wildly inaccurate, and Hope was chatty.
“Finally, on the par-5 14th hole, Bush could no longer take it. Like an unharnessed racehorse, he leaped out of his golf cart and began to rapidly whack his golf ball in the direction of the green. He quickly arrived at the putting surface, holed out and stared back at his playing partners with a bemused look.
“The other four were still 200 yards from the green, Clinton looking for his ball as Hoch assisted, Ford fighting a slice that he continually referred to as a ‘banana ball’ and Hope telling stories.
“Bush sat on the turf behind the green and began chatting with a Golfweek reporter, who had a credential that allowed him to walk with the players.
“ ‘The guys I like to play golf with would finish 18 holes before he could finish nine,’ Bush said, nodding towards Clinton... ‘It makes you wonder how a man can be so decisive in politics and so indecisive in golf.’” [Golfweek]
Bush’s father and grandfather were former presidents of the U.S. Golf Association. George Herbert Walker, Bush’s maternal grandfather, created the Walker Cup. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, headed the USGA before being elected to the U.S. Senate and was a frequent golf companion of former President Dwight E. Eisenhower’s.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/6/75: #1 “Fly, Robin, Fly” (Silver Convention) #2 “That’s The Way (I Like It)” (KC & The Sunshine Band) #3 “Sky High” (Jigsaw)...and...#4 “Let’s Do It Again” (The Staple Singers) #5 “The Way I Want To Touch You” (Captain & Tennille) #6 “Island Girl” (Elton John) #7 “Low Rider” (War) #8 “Nights On Broadway” (Bee Gees) #9 “Saturday Night” (Bay City Rollers) #10 “My Little Town” (Simon & Garfunkel...the music scene is starting its long descent into crapdom...except for #s 5 and 7...)
Heisman Trophy Quiz Answer: Halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago won the first Heisman Trophy, 1935.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.