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Winding Down with the CFP
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
College Football Quiz: Name the prime quarterbacks for the last six Alabama national championship teams (2017, 2015, 2012, 2011, 2009, 1992). Answer below.
College Football Playoff Rankings
We are dwindling down to a precious few opportunities for a team to make its mark, and Tuesday’s rankings revealed no changes in the top eight. The only change of potential consequence was UCF moving ahead of Ohio State.
3. Notre Dame
8. Washington State
10. Ohio State
12. Penn State
13. West Virginia
I note the last four because they will all have a say, perhaps, in the final four.
But among the games this weekend, UCF, if it is to maintain its remote playoff hopes, must destroy South Florida (7-4, 3-4 in AAC) by like 62-7.
Oklahoma’s game at West Virginia on Friday is obviously big.
Washington State needs to beat a good Washington squad convincingly to stay in contact in the CFP.
The above three contests are all on Friday, when I’m working on that other column I do, which for selfish reasons ticks me off.
Then Saturday, there really is only one game that matters, Michigan at Ohio State.
Georgia Tech, albeit improved, is not beating Georgia, and South Carolina, not improved, has zero shot at upsetting Clemson.
And Auburn is a paper tiger, so look for Alabama to roll 31-3, without breaking a sweat and resting key people for the following week against Georgia in the SEC title game.
Notre Dame at 5-6 USC? We have nothing else to view then so I would normally tune in for the cheerleaders, but I may re-watch “Frontline’s” Facebook expose instead...or clean the oven. ND will roll.
--I kind of surprised myself in staying up for the entire Rams-Chiefs game. But while this was highly entertaining, was it a great game? Yeah, 54-51 Rams sounds like an epic affair, the two teams potentially bound for a rematch in the Super Bowl, but to me it got kind of ridiculous in the fourth quarter.
But first the stats and the smashing of the MNF / NFL record book.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff finished 31/49, 413, 4-0, 117.1, while Chiefs phenom, Patrick Mahomes, was 33/46, 478, 6-3, 117.6, but on top of the three INTs (two in the final two minutes), he lost two fumbles on strip sacks. Five turnovers isn’t ‘great.’
But Mahomes did have two pretty good targets. Tight end Travis Kelce was awesome, 10 receptions for 127 yards and a score, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill surpassed that with his own 10-215-2 night.
What did make the game unique was in some of the superb individual efforts on defense, such as the Rams’ Aaron Donald and his two strip sacks of Mahomes, and Samson Ebukam’s two outstanding plays, including the terrific interception that he pulled off, taking it 25 yards for the score; this after he had rumbled 11 yards on a fumble recovery for another TD.
So some of the records set were:
--The 105 combined points were the third-highest total ever for an NFL game*, and the first time both teams had scored 50; plus it was the highest scoring game in MNF history.
*Washington beat the Giants in 1966, 72-41, and the Bengals defeated Cleveland 58-48 in 2004.
--It was the fourth time this season a team lost when scoring 40 or more points, the most such instances in a season in the Super Bowl era.
--Mahomes became the first to throw six TD passes in a Monday night game. It was his second with six TD passes this season, joining Ben Roethlisberger (2014) and Y.A. Tittle (1962) as the only players since 1950 with multiple games with six or more the same year.
--Mahomes is also the first player with five passing touchdowns and five turnovers in a game since Gus Frerotte in 2000.
--Rams LB Ebukam is the first player since sacks became official in 1982 to record a sack, interception and multiple touchdowns in a single game.
--There were four fourth-quarter lead changes.
--Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Rams-Chiefs was just the fifth time that opposing teams each had one or fewer losses in Week 11 or later; the most recent being Chiefs (9-0) vs. Broncos (8-1) in 2013.
In the end, yes, as every participant in it said after, it was a “crazy game.”
But great? You wouldn’t want to see this kind of contest every week...that’s my guess. Granted, I don’t think any of us would complain if these two put on a similar show in the Super Bowl (or substitute New Orleans for L.A.).
And it does need to be noted that the city of Los Angeles did an outstanding job putting this game together at the last minute after the shift in venues from Mexico City because of the awful field conditions at Azteca Stadium. The theme, after the shooting at Thousand Oaks and the tragic wildfires was “LA Together,” and the city did itself proud.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“As Chiefs lineman Mitchell Schwartz said in the losing locker room: ‘this is going to be an all-timer.’
“Here’s the thing, though:
“If this was really an outlier, if this was really a once-every-decade-or-two showcase, then our initial feelings about Rams 54, Chiefs 51 might stand up over time. Schwartz added: ‘I’m sure we’ll look back on it in a few years with some perspective and feel lucky to be part of that. Man. Crazy.’
“I want to believe he’s right. I want to believe this is the kind of thing we won’t see again until...well, until these two teams meet in the Super Bowl in February, or in another four years (the next time we’ll get Patrick Mahomes versus Jared Goff in the regular season, assuming they stay on the same teams and the NFL doesn’t alter its scheduling patterns).
“Or, better still: never again.
“Because games like this, when you start thinking about them too much, can be more worrisome than wonderful. Sports is a copycat business, and pro football is the copycattiest of all of them. And look: It’s one thing to want to be able to plaster points on the scoreboards as rapidly as the Chiefs and the Rams did Monday night; it’s another to look at your roster – for kicks, let’s say the Jets’ roster – and wonder how you can score that much in a month.
“Still: We already knew that the days of teams who embrace defense first were gone. The ’85 Bears are dead and buried. So is the Steel Curtian, and Doomsday, and the Purple People Eaters, and the Sack Exchange, and the Fearsome Foursome. You win games 10-7 anymore and it almost feels like the win counts only for half.
“It is an offense game. It belongs to the quarterbacks with the fastest guns....
“But is it good? Is it too good? Because honestly, it feels like the ice-cream quandary. A little ice cream is a fantastic treat. A lot of ice cream...is an outstanding indulgence. Plowing through 10 gallons at a sitting is gluttonous and gross.
“And after further review Rams 54, Chiefs 51 seemed...well, a little gluttonous and a little gross.....
“Is this all a silly overreaction? I hope so. But I know this: I used to cover the Big 12 years ago, and 54-51 games seemed to happen in that league four times a week. At first they were fun. Now, I haven’t seen a Big 12 game in 15 years. It’s unwatchable. It’s too much ice cream. Maybe we aren’t ever going back to 10-7 rock fights.
“But is 24-21 really all that bad?”
--One more, Monday night’s game garnered an 11.3 market rating, per Nielsen, up 53% from last week’s Giants-49ers game and the best MNF rating since 2014 (Dallas-Washington, Oct. 27).
But it’s actually a little disappointing it wasn’t better, as most expected.
--Redskins coach Jay Gruden said the recovery time for quarterback Alex Smith would be between six and eight months after he underwent successful surgery on the two broken bones in his lower right leg, suffered in Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Houston Texans, the exact same day, 33 years earlier, when Joe Theismann suffered a similar gruesome injury on Monday Night Football, which ended his career.
Colt McCoy is taking over for Smith, Washington also signing veteran Mark Sanchez for insurance.
--The Vikings gave quarterback Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract in the offseason and the team is 5-4-1. There are a lot of quarterbacks who could probably go .500, given the Vikings’ roster, for a lot less money.
Cousins was signed to such a deal to lead Minnesota deep into the postseason, and eventually the Super Bowl. But with New Orleans and Los Angeles in the NFC, ain’t gonna happen this year, let alone Chicago is 7-3 in the NFC North.
Sunday night, after I posted, Chicago beat Minnesota 25-20, Cousins just 30/46, 262, 2-2, 76.5.
--New Orleans’ Drew Brees was 22/30, 363, 4-0, 153.2, in the Saints’ 48-7 win over the Eagles the other day, and when you look at the stats around the league, it is truly amazing that Brees, who turns 40 on Jan. 15, is having his best season...25 TD passes, just one INT, 126.9 passer rating, far better than anyone else in the league (Mahomes 37-10, 117.9 is next).
--The Yankees made a big trade, acquiring Seattle ace left-hander James Paxton, 30, for top Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield, a lefty thrower who made his debut in The Bronx last season, and two other minor leaguers.
Paxton joins a rotation that currently has Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, plus CC Sabathia, and no doubt the Yanks will be acquiring at least one more starter, with free-agent Patrick Corbin, another lefty, a leading target, or perhaps re-signing J.A. Happ.
I like this move, the kind ‘winners’ make. Paxton was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA last season, pitching a career-high 160 1/3 innings, while fanning 208.
But there’s the rub, the innings, and Paxton has been on the DL every year since 2014. This is about the playoffs, however, and Paxton has the stuff to be an ace come October.
--For parochial reasons I found it interesting that three hitters led the Arizona Fall League in home runs with six, one of whom was Braxton Davidson, who I know nothing about.
But the other two were Mets prospect Peter Alonso (yippee) and Will Craig, the 2016 first-round pick of the Pirates out of Wake Forest. Go Deacs!
It’s kind of interesting as well that Alonso led the minor leagues in home runs (36) and RBIs (116), as he split his time between AA and AAA, while Craig was the only other player with over 100 RBIs (if I remember correctly), going 20-102 for the Pirates’ AA affiliate in Altoona.
--I was a little surprised at the announcement Adrian Beltre was retiring, even though he’ll be 40 in April, because he was still effective. But he’s also done more than enough to secure his plaque in Cooperstown.
Jared Diamond / Wall Street Journal
“When Adrian Beltre turned 30, the age at which most baseball players see their skills start to decline, the idea of him one day making the Hall of Fame sounded laughable. If anything, he seemed like something of a bust at that point, failing to even make an All-Star team after more than a decade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners.
“But now, as Beltre arrives at the end of his career, he not only looks like a lock for Cooperstown – but he quietly ranks as one of the best third basemen of all-time.
“Beltre leaves the game with 3,166 hits, more than anybody who played at least half his games at the hot corner. That includes George Brett (3,154) and Wade Boggs (3,010), and in June, he passed Ichiro Suzuki for the most hits of any foreign-born player in history. Meanwhile, Beltre finished with 477 home runs, trailing only Hall-of-Famers Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews among third basemen. His 1,707 RBIs lead the pack, ahead of recent inductee Chipper Jones (1,623). Beltre also won five Gold Glove awards.
“He accomplished all of this thanks to a brilliant second act that began in his lone season with the Boston Red Sox in 2010 and continued through his eight-year tenure in Texas. Beltre blossomed into a star with the Rangers, compiling a .304 batting average and a .865 OPS in 1,098 games, to go along with 199 homers. He put up those numbers without much fanfare or attention, methodically building up his Hall credentials.
“In the end, he left no doubt that he belongs.”
Beltre released a letter, through the Rangers, that concluded:
“I have thought about it a lot and although I appreciate all the opportunities and everything that baseball has given me, it’s time to call it a career.”
Understated...and in keeping with his status of being one of more underrated players of all time.
AP Top Ten (Nov. 19)
Listing records is stupid until after Christmas...but first-place votes are significant in gleaning sentiment.
1. Duke (53)
2. Kansas (7)
4. Virginia (2)
5. Tennessee (1)
7. North Carolina
13. Virginia Tech
14. Florida State
22. Buffalo...huh...hope they’re in this spot come mid-February
--So Monday, I did catch the second half of Auburn-Xavier at the Maui Jim Classic in, guess where, Maui, and I was disappointed Bill Walton wasn’t doing it; Jay Bilas and Dan Shulman instead.
Anyway, Auburn, No. 8 as you see above, beat Xavier in OT, 88-79.
In the next game Duke waxed San Diego State 90-64, Zion Williamson only playing 18 minutes but with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. Fellow freshmen R.J. Barrett had 20, Cam Reddish 16, and Trey Jones 14. Knicks fans continue to lick their chops on these certain one-and-doners.
Tuesday, Duke was tested, prevailing in the end against Auburn, 78-72. Barrett and Reddish led the way with 18 each. Auburn has a junior guard, Jared Harper, who is exciting and he had 22. A kid worth watching. [I didn’t watch this game...my comments are off Harper’s performance against Xavier...as your editor eases into the season.]
Duke is now going up against No. 3 Gonzaga tonight in the finals...a pretty fair early-season contest, I think you’d agree.
--Rutgers has received its share of grief this fall, so I have to note the effort of the hoops team, which on Monday night held visiting Eastern Michigan to four first-half points, an NCAA-record low for points in a half, the Scarlet Knights up 31-4 at the intermission. Only two other schools have accomplished this. Ironically, Eastern Michigan held Northern Illinois to four points in the first half on Jan. 16, 2013, and Kansas State outscored Savannah State 48-4 in the second half on Jan. 27, 2008, a game I distinctly remember commenting on .
Eastern Michigan was 2-for-25 from the field in the first half, and 0-for-7 from the free-throw line. Yikes. From the charity stripe for the game, they were 3-for-17!
Final score...Rutgers 63, EMU 36.
--After I posted last time, LeBron James had 51 points in the Lakers’ 113-97 win over Miami, his 12th career 50-point game; eleven of the twelve on the road.
LeBron joined Jamal Crawford, Bernard King, Moses Malone, and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score 50 or more for three teams.
--Philadelphia 76ers fan Mark R. has told me how immature guard Markelle Fultz is, and now the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, is scheduled to see a shoulder specialist, at the direction of his agent, but this announcement came Tuesday and the appointment isn’t until Monday. General manager Elton Brand and coach Brett Brown said they weren’t aware of any issues with the 20-year-old.
With the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, Fultz had been relegated to the bench.
Last season, Fultz was out all but 14 regular-season games because of shoulder, and shooting, issues. This season he is averaging 8.2 points, 3.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game, shooting 42 percent from the field.
Philly management is saying all the right things thus far, but no doubt they will be trying to shop him.
--Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, 55, retired due to a spinal injury, Stevens’ doctor not mincing any words, Stevens told the Daily Racing Form, the doc saying, “You’re done.”
Winner of 5,187 races, Stevens won 11 Breeders’ Cup races, and three Kentucky Derbys...1988 aboard Winning Colors, 1995 (Thunder Gulch) and 1997 (Silver Charm).
Top 3 songs for the week 11/18/72: #1 “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash) #2 “I’d Love You To Want Me” (Lobo) #3 “I’ll Be Around” (The Spinners)...and...#4 “I Am Woman” (Helen Reddy) #5 “Nights In White Satin” (The Moody Blues) #6 “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” (The Temptations) #7 “Freddie’s Dead (Theme From ‘Superfly’)” (Curtis Mayfield) #8 “Convention ‘72” (The Delegates) #9 “Witchy Woman” (Eagles) #10 “Summer Breeze” (Seals & Crofts)
College Football Quiz Answer: Alabama QBs for their last six national championship teams....
2017 Jalen Hurts / yes, Tua Tagovailoa saved the day in the title game
2015 Jake Coker
2012 AJ McCarron
2011 AJ McCarron
2009 Greg McElroy
1992 Jay Barker
Next Bar Chat, Monday.
Happy Thanksgiving! Travel safe.