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Clemson 44...Alabama 16
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
PGA Tour Quiz: Golf Digest, in noting Tiger Woods’ recent birthday, Dec. 30, when he turned 43, had some stats on golfers in their 40s. 1) Who is the oldest to win a major? 2) Who are the top two for wins in their 40s? 3) Who are the last three to win a Tour event while in their 50s? [2000 and beyond.] Answers below.
Congratulations to highly-likable Clemson and its head coach, Dabo Swinney, for winning its second national championship in three years. And Go ACC!
Final AP Poll
1. Clemson (61) 15-0
2. Alabama 14-1
3. Ohio State 13-1
4. Oklahoma 12-2
5. Notre Dame 12-1
6. LSU 10-3
T-7. Florida 10-3
T-7. Georgia 11-3
9. Texas 10-4 ...highest since 2009
10. Washington State 11-2 ...highest since 2003
11. UCF 12-1
12. Kentucky 10-3 ...best since a No. 6 in 1977!
13. Washington 10-4
14. Michigan 10-3*
15. Syracuse 10-3 ...highest since 2001
16. Texas A&M 9-4
17. Penn State 9-4 ...eh
18. Fresno State 12-2 ...best ever
19. Army 11-2 ...first top 25 since 1996...highest ranking since 1958!
[Not interested in the rest of the top 25]
*Jim Harbaugh’s four Michigan teams have gone: 14-NR-10-12...far from good enough.
--The last four years...final AP rankings:
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“This was the bully finally getting his hide whupped, his nose bloodied and his jaw broken, his lunch money stolen. This was Sonny Liston lying on his back on the canvas of the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine, Muhammad Ali looking over him and shouting, ‘Get up and fight, sucker! Nobody will believe this!’
“This was the Alabama Crimson Tide rendered helpless.
“This was Nick Saban as Roberto Duran in the closing seconds of the eighth round, staring at Sugar Ray Leonard on the floor of the New Orleans Superdome, meekly raising his gloved right hand and offering, ‘No mas, no mas.’
“Thirty-eight years later, that was Saban’s Crimson Tide.
“ ‘No more!’ they pleaded. ‘No more!’
“The outcome wasn’t surprising, of course. Clemson had gone toe-to-toe with Alabama two years ago in Tampa, the Tigers had stalked the Tide all over Raymond James Stadium and finally passed them with one second left in the game, winning the national championship 35-31. Clemson is Alabama’s equal in every way: talent, coaching, performance. They are a two-team weight class all their own at the top of the sport.
“But this was something else. This was something different, so much different than Alabama has experienced in the Nick Saban Era. ....
“ ‘We’re not playing well on defense, and we can’t get off the field on third down, and we have too many penalties,’ was the way Nick Saban described it, and that certainly seemed to sum it all up perfectly...and that was at halftime.
“That was also a few moments after he sent the world a hint that maybe he was as reluctant to scare up a fight Monday night as his players were, deciding to run out the final 41 seconds of the first-half clock without running a play despite three timeouts, despite being down 15 points at the time, despite owning a pinball-machine offense that against almost every other team in the country, can score at will from anywhere on the field....
“Later, Saban looked as shell-shocked as Liston and Duran, shaking his head, muttering about how what should have happened didn’t and what should have gone well wouldn’t.
“ ‘We had some issues,’ he said.
“ ‘We got out-performed,’ he sighed.
“ ‘They’re pretty good,’ he conceded.
“ ‘We didn’t play well enough to win,’ he admitted....
“Entering the game, since 2011, Alabama’s record was – not a typo – 103-9.
“In those nine losses, they had lost by two scores exactly twice – 26-14 to Auburn last year and 45-31 to Oklahoma in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. And both of those were one-score games in the fourth quarter. Alabama gets beat only once in a blue moon.
“It gets blown out about once a decade.
For his part, the former Bama walk-on, Dabo Swinney, said: “I know 10 years ago, not many people probably saw this coming, but we’re here, and we did it. It’s amazing. We’re just little ol’ Clemson. We’re not supposed to be here. We’re not supposed to be the first 15-0 team in history. We’re not supposed to be here, but we are....
“There was a lot of talk about ‘best ever’ all year long. We were never in that conversation,” Swinney said. “But tonight, there’s no doubt. First 15-0 team.”
Clemson’s senior class won 55 games; the most in the sport’s history.
After holding a brief 16-14 lead, Alabama’s 48-points-per game offense was held without a point for the final 44 minutes.
And then there was Clemson’s quarterback, who if he hadn’t before, opened up the eyes of every NFL scout and GM and left them salivating.
David Wharton / Los Angeles Times
“The big quarterback with the long, blond hair and the languid smile – this was the kid who was supposed to get nervous? The one who was supposed to crack under pressure?
“It was only a few days ago that Trevor Lawrence insisted ‘no moment is too big. ...I feel like I was made for moments like this.’
“The 19-year-old freshman proved it Monday night...
“ ‘Yeah, I mean, the games like this,’ he said, ‘you’ve got to make the big plays.’ His 347 yards and three touchdowns through the air were only part of the story. The Tigers also needed a defense that left one of the nation’s most potent offenses searching for answers....
“But it was Lawrence who made the largest difference in this matchup between two programs that have risen to a level above everyone else, meeting in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
“The Tigers winning their second national title over that stretch, came into Levi’s Stadium as the underdog, in large part because no one knew how Lawrence might respond in the spotlight.
“Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was supposed to have the edge in experience and composure, given his gutsy, off-the-bench performance in the second half of last season’s national championship.
“Yet, it was Tagovailoa, a sophomore, who blinked first.
“Early in the first quarter, facing a blitz, he threw toward receiver Jerry Jeudy near the sideline. Cornerback A.J. Terrell jumped the route, making the interception and sprinting 44 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
“The advantage didn’t last long.
“On the Crimson Tide’s next possession, Jeudy tricked a safety into biting on a short move, then streaked by for a 62-yard touchdown reception [Ed. a gorgeous throw by Tua.]”
But Tua would throw a second awful interception in the second quarter at a critical moment, Clemson having taken a 21-16 lead, Clemson converted to make it 28-16. Saban would pull Tua in the second half, but the game was already over.
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports
“The moment you knew that Nick Saban knew what was happening to his team arrived with the subtlety of a crystal football being smashed by a sledgehammer. It stunned with the force of an electrical storm, and it shook a sport he has owned for a decade to its core.
“The greatest college football coach of all time, the man whose program has never given up on a big game, the tactician whose genius has rescued so many moments that once seemed to be slipping away. He ran out of answers. He admitted that Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers were not only going to beat Alabama for the national championship Monday night, but that they had essentially hacked the machine.
“Alabama’s hopeless fake field goal to end its opening drive of the third quarter wasn’t the biggest play in Clemson’s surgical 44-16 victory at Levi’s Stadium, but it was the most telling. For once, Saban knew he didn’t have the better football team. He certainly didn’t have the better coaching staff. And unlike any game he had ever coached since bringing Alabama back to superpower status, he didn’t have a prayer without turning a few tricks.
“But Clemson wasn’t fooled. And now college football officially has a double dynasty.
“The College Football Playoff turned five years old Monday. The national championship count in this new era is now Alabama 2, Clemson 2. It doesn’t erase what Saban did before the playoff and the five overall titles he has won with the Crimson Tide. But it does illustrate that the torch, if not passed, is now shared....
“Clemson’s underdog swagger is officially dead. It has been replaced by a new mystique as the program that didn’t just erase the Alabama gap, but instead vaporized it. And as the first modern college team to ever go 15-0, Clemson’s locker room was buzzing with talk that they could go down as the best college football team of all time....
“Clemson, as of today, is the more complete program. And that isn’t just about players like Lawrence, who made elite third-down throws while avoiding the mistakes that Tagovailoa made. It was a maligned Clemson offensive line that simply manhandled the vaunted Alabama defensive front. It was Clemson’s receivers leaving Alabama defenders in the dust. And it was about an Alabama coaching staff that simply got dominated at every turn.
“ ‘I just have a feeling that I didn’t do a very good job for our team, with our team, giving them the best opportunity to be successful,’ Saban said.
“Alabama can still win championships as long as Saban coaches, but the earth moved underneath his feet Monday night. Swinney is the new king of college football.”
Just a few random thoughts.
Trevor Lawrence started out 2 of 7 passing, and ended up 20/32, 347, 3-0...including a staggering 8-for-10 for 240 yards on third down!
Freshman Tiger receiver Justyn Ross sure had his coming out party...6-153-1...some of the receptions beyond ridiculous.
But it was Chris Fowler who made the best point of the evening...the fact that in the last four years, Nick Saban has lost 20 assistants, and Dabo Swinney just three. All you need to do is look at Brent Venables, the defensive coordinator who could have virtually any college head coaching job he wanted, yet he stays.
Of course one of the big reasons why is he is paid rather well...$2 million. So as I noted the other day, why would he leave? He loves it in Greenville.
Most importantly, Swinney and the school administration / athletic department, have figured out how to take care of their key people, whereas Saban’s folks, while no doubt paid very well, seem to always be looking for greener pastures.
Lastly, every preseason poll for 2019, and every ‘early look’ you are seeing now, obviously has/will have Bama and Clemson, 1-2; probably 50% having Bama, 50% Clemson by next August. And this is one fan who would have zero problem with seeing the same two teams in the national title game again. But this time it would be more Tua vs. Trevor, Vol. II, rather than Saban-Swinney V.
--In other college football news...as expected, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins announced he is entering the draft and he will now be a top ten, probably top seven, pick for sure. There isn’t any reason he wouldn’t do well at “pro day” or the Combine, and he is clearly the top QB on the board.
So will the Giants, with the sixth pick, maneuver to make sure they can grab him? That’s the big question now in these parts.
Anyway, for the Buckeyes, Haskins’ move, as noted last chat, clears the field for Georgia transfer Justin Fields, assuming his eligibility for next fall is cleared by the NCAA.
Bring on the action.
Colts at Chiefs...snow showers now in the forecast!
Cowboys at Rams...no rain
Chargers at Patriots...30 degrees, but no snow...yet
Eagles at Saints
--The pressure has to be piling up on L.A. Chargers kicker Michael Badgley, after his super 5 for 6 performance on field goals last Sunday. I say pressure only because as a fan, I feel it watching the kid.
This whole story just seems too good to be true, but his Chargers’ teammates love him. Defensive lineman Isaac Rochell said after the win over the Ravens, “He is the ultimate ice man. This dude has a unique mentality that a lot of kickers don’t have. ...I have the utmost respect for him, and I’m excited to see what he does in these playoffs.”
“The 53-yarder was awesome,” center Mike Pouncey said. “That set the tone for our whole team. He’s the main reason we won today.”
Running back Melvin Gordon said, “I got a lot of trust in ‘Money Bags.’ He’s money, know what I mean?”
And this was his postseason debut. As the Los Angeles Times put it, “(Badgley’s) previous playoff appearance was as a lacrosse player in high school.” Well, he was in the state football playoffs a few years as well.
Including the regular season, Badgley is 20 for 22 on field goals, 27 for 28 on extra points. Kicking in Foxboro on Sunday, though, is the next challenge.
--Meanwhile, the first three of the eight head coach vacancies was filled Monday and Tuesday. Arizona named former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury to be their next leader. Kingsbury, 39, replaces Steve Wilks, who was fired Dec. 31 after one season (3-13).
Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech on Nov. 25 after seven seasons, including six as head coach, and was hired by USC to be its offensive coordinator. Kingsbury also interviewed with the Jets for their head-coaching vacancy.
Kingsbury, a former star quarterback at Texas Tech himself, coached Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes, Denver’s Case Keenum, and others, including Johnny Manziel, but he was only 35-40 with the Red Raiders.
That said, he was hired to ensure Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen becomes a star, Rosen struggling in his rookie season with 11 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
But Kingsbury’s quick departure from USC is another huge embarrassment for the Trojans and athletic director Lynn Swann.
Kingsbury was hired as offensive coordinator four week ago, and two weeks later he said in an interview with ESPN, re: the NFL, “I haven’t even thought about it, honestly.”
As the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke wrote: “That Kingsbury bolted Heritage Hall after one month and accepted the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals makes him look like a con man.
“But, perhaps worse, it makes the USC athletic department look like fools. In their third coaching fumble since the departure of Pete Carroll – they haven’t gotten it right since – the Trojans were swindled like a hayseed sitting at a street corner shell game, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. An experienced athletic director would never have hired someone with Kingsbury’s celebrated cachet without some contractual assurances he would stay.”
--And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians, who had retired after the 2017 season, his fifth at Arizona. He was an analyst with CBS this season.
Because he was technically still under contract with the Cardinals through 2019, Arizona initially demanded compensation, but rather than go through a long dispute, the teams swapped sixth- and seventh-round picks to resolve the matter.
Former Jets coach Todd Bowles will now join Arians as defensive coordinator, Bowles having played for Arians at Temple in the mid-1980s, and the two remaining very close. Bowles was Arians’ defensive coordinator for the Cardinals from 2013 to ’14.
Now it’s up to Arians to get the most out of quarterback Jameis Winston. Arians was 50-32-1 at Arizona from 2013 through 2017. In 2012, he stepped in for Chuck Pagano and guided the Colts to an 11-5 record (Arians going 9-3) and a playoff berth.
--Earlier, Green Bay tabbed Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach; the Packers desperately looking for the next Sean McVay in picking the guy, a 39-year-old with no head-coaching experience and only one year of play-calling experience.
LaFleur does have a solid coaching background with jobs on the staffs of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and the Rams’ McVay. But a lot of folks in Green Bay and around the league are rightly going, “Why him?”
It clearly smacks of a decision made solely to placate quarterback Aaron Rodgers, given LaFleur’s bent toward the McVay offense.
--So with all the above, the pressure is on the Jets, and the others with vacancies, to move quick before all the remaining big candidates, like Mike McCarthy, are snapped up.
AP Poll (Jan. 7)
1. Duke (37) 12-1
2. Michigan (9) 15-0
3. Tennessee (13) 12-1
4. Virginia (5) 13-0
5. Gonzaga 14-2
6. Michigan State 13-2
7. Kansas 12-2
8. Texas Tech 13-1
9. Virginia Tech 13-1
10. Nevada 14-1
12. North Carolina 11-3
13. Florida State 12-2
15. North Carolina State 13-1
17. Houston 17-0 ...only other undefeated team aside from Michigan and UVA
19. Buffalo 13-1
20. Iowa State 12-2
24. St. John’s 14-1
But then on Tuesday, Iowa State lost at Baylor (9-5) 73-70, and St. John’s fell to Villanova (12-4) 76-71.
Duke whipped Wake Forest (7-7) 87-65, the Deacs’ pourous defense allowing Duke to shoot 58.1% from the field, with countless dunks, Zion Williamson leading the way with 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Wake shot a putrid 33.8%. Two down, 16 to go in ACC play.
No. 3 Tennessee continued to impress bigly, winning on the road at Missouri (9-4) 87-63.
And 12 North Carolina defeated 15 N.C. State in Raleigh, 90-82, in a game with a deflating finish for the Wolfpack. I picked up the game in the second half, after watching political coverage surrounding the Trump Oval Office address, and with about 2:40 left, the Wolfpack trailed 71-62, game over.
But suddenly it was 72-68, N.C. State with the ball and a chance to cut it to one, 0:50 left, and the Wolfpack player instead launched a brick from downtown, State then failing to get back on defense, the Tar Heels coming up with a dunk on the other end, and what could have been 72-71, was in the blink of an eye 74-68. The rest was academic. A classic case of wudda shudda cudda.
--One NBA note, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau was fired after the T’Wolves beat the Lakers on Sunday afternoon (and after I had posted), Minnesota 19-21 in a tumultuous season, the start of it a mess when All-Star Jimmy Butler demanded a trade (Butler then dealt to Philadelphia). Thibodeau was 97-107 in his two-plus seasons in Minny.
Ryan Saunders (the son of former Minnesota coach Flip Saunders) took over as interim coach and the T’Wolves responded last night with a nice 119-117 road win over Oklahoma City.
--After I posted Sunday, Xander Schauffele, 25, won the PGA Tour’s season-opening Tournament of Champions at Kapalua with a course-record 62, beating Gary Woodland by one stroke, Woodland heading into the final round with a three shot lead.
It was rising star Schauffele’s second victory of the wrap-around season, and fourth in the last 18 months.
The dude is, get this, now No. 6 in the world rankings.
--Men’s Division I College Hockey Rankings (USCHO)
1. St. Cloud State (25)
2. Massachusetts (22)
3. Denver (3)
4. Ohio State
5. Minn.-Duluth (last year’s NCAA champion, over Notre Dame)
8. Minnesota State
9. Notre Dame
10. Bowling Green
--Golf Digest released its list of “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses” 2019/2020:
1. Pine Valley G.C.
2. Augusta National
3. Cypress Point
4. Shinnecock Hills G.C.
5. Oakmont C.C.
6. Merion G.C. (East)
7. Pebble Beach G. Links
8. National G. Links of America (Southampton, N.Y.)
9. Sand Hills G.C. (Mullen, Neb.)
10. Fishers Island Club (Fishers Island, N.Y.)*
*This is the only change in the list from 2017, Fishers Island replacing Winged Foot G.C. (West), which slips to 11.
--Abel Tasman is a champion 3-year-old filly who’s up for another Eclipse Award, to be announced later this month. But the other day at Keeneland, the filly went for $5 million, tying Keeneland’s record high at the January auction for horses of all ages.
So Abel Tasman then went to leading worldwide racing and breeding operation Coolmore, who already has two Triple Crown winners in American Pharoah and Justify.
Abel Tasman won eight of 16 starts for the partnership of China Horse Club, with six of those victories in Grade 1 races, which is why the bidding began at $3 million.
Well, you know where this is going. American Pharoah and Justify, err, are, among those who will be vying to hook up with Abel Tasman on the next season of ABC’s “The Filly.”
Top 3 songs for the week 1/13/68: #1 “Hello Goodbye” (The Beatles) #2 “Judy In Disguise” (John Fred & His Playboy Band) #3 Daydream Believer” (The Monkees)...and...#4 “Woman, Woman” (The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett) #5 “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Gladys Knight & The Pips) #6 “Chain Of Fools” (Aretha Franklin) #7 “Bend Me, Shape Me” (The American Breed) #8 “I Second That Emotion” (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles) #9 “Green Tambourine” (The Lemon Pipers) #10 “Skinny Legs And All” (Joe Tex...just a B+ week, given it was the 60s...OK, next time back to ’66 to fill in the blanks...)
PGA Tour Quiz Answers: 1) Julius Boros was the oldest to win a major at age 48 (1968 PGA). 2) Vijay Singh (22) and Sam Snead (17) are the top Tour winners in their 40s. [Tiger has just last year’s Tour Championship] 3)The last three to win a Tour event at age 50: Davis Love III (51, 2015); Fred Funk (50, 2007); Craig Stadler (50, 2003). [Sam Snead is the oldest winner at age 52, 1965. He was 67 in 1979 when he became the oldest player to make a cut, and 62 when he tied for third in the 1974 PGA, three strokes behind winner Lee Trevino.]
Next Bar Chat, Monday.