Steveo’s Salvos – January 10, 2016, FBS Championship insight

Clemson vs. Alabama: This will be a battle up front between big, gifted, experienced lines. We saw Clemson defeat Oklahoma, 37-17, in the CapitalOne Orange Bowl. QB DeShaun Watson and RB Wayne Gallman took care of the ground game against the Sooners, and the defense kept OU’s high-scoring, balanced offense away from the end zone and allowed only 121 yards in the second half. Good play calling got receivers open in critical situations, and Watson got the ball to his targets who got loose one on one. Afterwards on TV, we saw Alabama ‘s defense manhandle Michigan State in the second half, but we were suspect of a Spartan team we saw get by 4-8 Rutgers with a decimated secondary earlier in the season, 31-24. We still question the validity of their record with a huge break against Michigan in their last minute win, and their win over Ohio State came into question based on the suspect Buckeye game plan. Right places at the right times.  Alabama shut down Sparty no doubt, but like previous high draft picks selected by Mel Kiper, Jr., we question Conner Cook’s premium draft value as well. He’s good amongst a lacking senior class of QBs at the FBS level. Bama is big up front defensively. So is Clemson, and when Shaque Lawson left with a leg injury, the front four for the Tigers were just as strong. Lawson will play, but if he’s limited, there shouldn’t be a significant drop-off as witnessed at the Orange Bowl last week. They can give Derrick Henry some fits running into the line, and if they can shut down that running game, which I think that they can neutralize the game in the trenches, it will put the pressure on Bama QB Jake Coker to pass against a gifted secondary led by Mackensie Alexander. This game will feature a slugfest in the trenches, but we’ll look for Watson’s capability to get free for some big plays once in a while to get Clemson some key gains.   This will give the Tigers an edge over the more one-dimensional Coker as the Tiger D will not get pushed around by Bama’s O-line. We look for this game to be close going into the final period with a couple of big plays by Clemson in the fourth to finally pull away and give the Tigers their first championship since 1981. No doubt, this should be a great game between two teams pretty evenly matched…

The Tigers walked the walk before defeating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Will they be able to do the same against Alabama?

The Tigers walked the walk before defeating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Will they be able to do the same against Alabama on Monday?

Finally, a message came from someone this past week about the values of football beyond the focus of everyone affiliated with the sport on the almighty dollar. And it came from someone whose career has been entrenched in the NFL for many years, though we saw Syracuse play when he was an assistant their early in his coaching career. His message about football is as profound today as when it was when we grew up loving this sport for the great game that it is. “In professional football, the goal is to win. We all know that. My contention is there’s a higher ground. There’s a greater purpose. That purpose is team. It is the team concept. Winning, losing, playing hard, playing well, doing it for each other, winning the right way is a very important thing to me and all our coaches…We try to develop the character of each man who walked through these doors. Character is what endures.” These are the words of former NY Giant Head Coach Tom Coughlin as he stepped down last Monday. Aside from the recent actions of his wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr (must’ve been a brain fart on Coughlin’s part at the age of 69), we believe he meant what he said. It’s a shame though that the main message we hear about today is about the money from the owners of NFL teams like Jerry Jones, about individual stats now touted in fantasy football leagues, to the excessive asset building of colleges to attract the top recruits (read about Clemson’s new facilities and even Rutgers’ plans), to the “elite” high school players propped up on pedestals to be catapulted into the world of big bucks and the promise of future financial rewards. It’s even starting to happen at the grade school level! The game goes beyond that for the vast majority of young , male athletes who join football teams and step on to a gridiron to primarily beat the other guys across the field. Well said Coach Coughlin. We’d like to see more of the focus on the sport turn that way, but it’s a lesson that falls on many deaf ears when side-swiped by the materialistic rewards that offer false promise and reward to a very small percentage of those who make it to the top of the football world for personal gains. The game of football always meant more than that to most that play…On our way back home after a pretty good bowl tour in 2015 (three out of four good games isn’t bad at all), we listened to the radio to hear Georgia beat Penn State in the Taxslayer Bowl, 24-17. What does it say when a team with a Head Coach with five years’ experience hired for his supposed superior head coaching capabilities gets beaten by a team being run by some remaining lame duck coordinators because the former HC was terminated and moved on?  James Franklin at Penn State espouses a great reputation for recruiting supposedly, but more Penn State fans are starting to question how well he can take that talent and form it into a team that can perform as one on the field. It didn’t sound like Franklin had a good game plan going into this game with four weeks to prep. And even when QB Christian Hackenberg left the game with a shoulder injury, we had always heard it would be different story when he got his wish to use his recruit Trace McSorley. They fashioned a comeback late thanks to a very good defense, but fell short. Their slow start was indicative that not a lot was done on offense to improve upon going into the TaxSlayer.  You can talk about recruiting capabilities all you want, but if you can’t come up with an effective game plan around the guys you have once you’ve got them, what difference does it make to recruit the best players? The games aren’t won because you won somebody’s poll saying you recruited a better class of players than the other guys did. That doesn’t mean you can rest on your perceived recruiting laurels. You’re supposed to build that talent into a team, train it, inspire it, and put it on the field with a better game plan than the other team. Recruiting is about one-third of what college coaching is about no matter how much time is dedicated to that aspect. With a full complement of scholarships available to him next year, the expectations for the Nittany Lions’ success are going to be much higher for Coach Franklin. And does he have to make it so evident that he doesn’t want to bolster the school’s non-conference schedule? Georgia happened to be a possibility and the agreement fell through. Let’s hope James Franklin will live up to his goal to get his players and to challenge for the Big Ten and beyond. With the recent loss of Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop to Tennessee, the anticipated goals could be even tougher. We hope the future game plans will align with the talent they’ll be recruiting so the program will move back into contention for Big Ten titles, but with what we’ve seen on the field of play thus far, we’re not impressed. That doesn’t rest totally on the players…

Penn State will be looking to improve next season despite the departure of QB Christian Hackenberg (14) who will be leaving after having started for the Lions the past three seasons.

Penn State will be looking to improve on their 7-6 record next season despite the departure of QB Christian Hackenberg (14) who will be leaving after having started for the Lions the past three seasons.

This is a CFF.com record for sure. After our bowl trip to attend the Military, Russell Athletic, Orange, and Outback Bowls where we saw games played among seven Top 25 teams, we’ve seen 14 Top 25 schools this year according to pre-bowl rankings including No. 1 Clemson heading into Monday night’s championship. As of today, along with the Tigers, we saw 3 Michigan State, 4 Oklahoma, 7 Ohio State, 8 Notre Dame, 9 Florida State, 10 North Carolina, 13 Northwestern, 14 Michigan, 17 Baylor, 21 Navy, 23 Tennessee, 24 Temple, and 25 USC. We expect to see a lot of these schools drop down a notch or more as only Ohio State, Michigan, Baylor, Navy, and Tennessee among the winners. Of course, Clemson will be No. 2 at worst after Monday night. USC and Temple will be gone. Toledo who defeated Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl will step up to take their spot in the Top 25. We’re interested to see if Navy will move up more than two spots with their 44-28 win over Pitt and Houston’s win over Florida State. The rest of the American Athletic, however, lost all six of their bowl games. Will 17 Baylor who beat 10 UNC, 49-38, at the RAB move past the Heels from that far down? They should. Tennessee will move up a few notches and Northwestern will probably show at No. 25 if they’re lucky, but maybe they will be out altogether after getting smoked by Tennessee, 45-6 at the Outback. With Iowa’s far fall from grace after being decimated by Stanford, 45-16, in their Rose Bowl loss, and seven other SEC schools who won bowls primed to step in, the Wildcats do not look as good as their 10-3 record now looks. Of course, they did beat Stanford in their season opener.   Over all, bowl teams that we saw play during the regular season went 6-9 during bowl season…Other bowl notes: We see that WR Seth Ryan of Summit (NJ) HS is on the Clemson roster. He’s Buffalo Bill HC Rex Ryan’s son. Must have been the player to be named later in the Sammy Watkins deal…Oklahoma had one Garden Stater on the roster as well, Soph DE Isaac Ijalana of Mt. Holly, NJ. We saw his brother Ben play OT for Villanova a few years ago before being drafted by the Baltimore Colts. He’s now with the New York Jets. Have a relative in the NFL? Ask Seth and Isaac, “You can go anywhere”…

For the second year in a row our season ended with Tennessee dominating a Big Ten team in a one-sided bowl game.

For the second year in a row our season ended with Tennessee dominating a Big Ten team in a one-sided bowl game. Iowa last season and Northwestern this season.

Is Appalachian State getting ready for some significant moves in the FBS? They defeated Ohio U. 31-29, in the Raycom Camellia Bowl to finish 11-2. We saw them defeat Georgia State last season for their second straight win among six victories in their final six games. A perennial 1AA title challenger under HC Jerry Moore which included the famous upset over Michigan at Ann Arbor. Under third-year HC Scott Satterfield, they only lost to No. 1 Clemson and Sun Belt Conference champ Arkansas State this season…Akron won their first bowl game in the FBS ever defeating Utah State, 23-21. Their futility in post-season play preceded them. In 1985, we saw them lose in the opening round of the 1AA playoff on a Thanksgiving weekend to Rhode Island, 38-28. It was right before they joined the FBS as a member of the Mid-American conference. They released their HC and replaced him with Jerry Faust, recently released from Notre Dame after an average, to say the least, record. It seemed to be a step down with the beleaguered Faust, and the Zips struggled to start winning games. Thirty years later, they finally won their first bowl game under HC Terry Bowden…Georgia Southern, another former FCS power, also won their first bowl game defeating Bowling Green in the GoDAddy.com Bowl, 58-27, in only their second season of FBS play in the SunBelt. Despite a 9-3 record a year ago, they were not allowed a bowl bid for some reason even though they went 8-0 to win the conference. That made no sense. Congrats to the Eagles…A lot of early bowl games were sparsely attended, but the worst had to be the Hawaii Bowl. Cincinnati went all the way out there to play San Diego State on Christmas Eve in front of a handful of fans and locals. How many are watching on Christmas Eve? They lost to San Diego State, 42-7. How depressing that looked. It must have been a long flight out and an even longer flight back. Merry Christmas! Hawaii must sound great as a bowl venue, but the more you think about it and when it’s played, it’s got to be tough on team coming from so far away. With such sparse interest, it’s a bowl game that can be replaced stateside…Washington State beat Miami, 20-14, in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. Only game we saw played in the snow!…How come SEC teams and PAC 12 teams don’t have any contracts to play one another in a bowl game? I guess they don’t like giving up their venues close to their fan base…Let’s hope the NCAA figures a way to schedule the two CFP games every year on New Year’s Day in the future. We all used to live for the big games to be played that day after a night of partying. They need to bring the excitement back to New Year’s Day instead of playing a bunch of meaningless games like they did this year. It was hard football to watch. The average score for the five games was 44.6 to 15.4. They were easy to turn off. None had any influence on the national championship like they used to. Regretfully, I saw TCU trailing Oregon, 28-0, in the second, and I said I’m not watching another one of “those” games. Darn!…North Dakota State won their fifth consecutive FCS Championship last Saturday over Jacksonville State, 37-10. QB Carson Wentz may be one of the best QBs available in this year’s draft. Wonder if Mel Kiper, Jr. is paying attention?

It was great to attend the Military Bowl wherE we saw Navy QB Keenan Reynolds tie and break several NCAA career scoring and rushing marks in the same game.

It was great to attend the Military Bowl where we saw Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (5) tie and break several NCAA career scoring and rushing marks in the same game.

 

About Steveo

This website is dedicated to my unique and ongoing adventure to continue to see every major Division 1A (I despise the moniker “FBS”) football team play in person at least once. I’ve seen all 124 teams in existence as of 2013 play and plan to attend games with the five newest editions in the next few years. This also records my ongoing adventures attending as many college football games as possible every season. I “officially” started this crazy goal in 1979. The upcoming 2014 season will be the 35th straight year of sharing this fun endeavor with others in person and through weekly reviews about each game I attend. Entering 2014, I have attended 459 NCAA football games at all levels. My book, Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan who’s seen ’em all! published in 2011, tells my story over 30 years of when I attended a game in person played by each D1A team for the first time. Now, I haven’t attended a game at every major stadium on each campus (yet) because I’d probably be unemployed and definitely divorced by now. However, I’m proud to report that I remain gainfully employed and have been married to the same woman (“Saint Laurie”) for almost 25 years. We have two kids that have recently ventured away from our home in Byram Township, NJ over the last few few years. Our daughter Alex is a junior at the University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks!), and our son Eric is now enlisted in the United States Navy (Go Navy!). You will find that my site and my book focus on enjoying a passion for college football and great opportunities to have fun with friends and family around the country.

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