Why Alabama will win the #CFBChampionship

The 2015 off-season seemed a lot longer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama than off-seasons of the past. For the first time since 2009, Alabama ended the season without a national championship for the second consecutive year.

The players, whether they admitted it or not, heard the talk in the offseason. They heard the chatter of Alabama’s waning influence, its lack of a star quarterback and its vulnerability to mobile quarterbacks and spread offenses.

After blowout victories in recent BCS Championship games against Notre Dame and LSU, it seemed like coach Nick Saban was unbeatable with weeks to prepare when it mattered most. Under Saban, Alabama is currently a combined 10–1 in neutral site openers against Power 5 competition, BCS national championships and College Football Playoff semifinal games.

The one loss was against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal last season. That loss not only prevented Alabama from claiming another national championship, it also tarnished Saban’s image of invincibility.

The price was high, but that loss to the Buckeyes, and all the talk and humbling that came with it, is exactly why the Crimson Tide will defeat Clemson on Monday to claim the school’s 16th national championship.

Back in August, Saban talked about Alabama’s need to rediscover its identity.

“The dynamics of Alabama football has changed a little bit over the last couple of years,” Saban said. “I have been anxious to get back to what we used to do.”

Later that afternoon Dillon Lee, who intercepted Michigan State’s Conner Cook late in the fourth quarter to preserve Alabama’s 38–0 shutout victory over the Spartans, elaborated a little bit on what kind of identity this team wanted to have.

“We just want to be a team that nobody wants to play,” Lee said. “We just want people to hate playing us and really just be a nightmare for our opponents.”

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Earlier this season, Alabama beat then-No. 8 Georgia and Nick Chubb by 28 points in Athens. Later in the season Alabama beat then No. 2 LSU by 14 points, and became the only school this season to hold Leonard Fournette from recording over 100 all-purpose yards.

Who exactly wants to play Alabama right now?

In the offseason several members of Alabama’s talented and deep front seven lost weight to better prepare themselves for faster offenses and mobile quarterbacks. The hard work seems to have paid off. No offense outside of Texas A&M, excluding the turnover-riddled Ole Miss game, has managed to score more than 17 points on the Crimson Tide.

Jonathan Allen and situational pass-rusher Tim Williams both recorded double digit sacks this season. The Crimson Tide sacked Cook four times on New Year’s Eve and the defense is averaging over one interception per game. On the offensive side of the ball, Heisman-winning running back Derrick Henry is currently averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has found the end zone 25 times this season.

Even if Clemson’s defense can do what no one else has been able to do and stops Henry, Alabama is likely feeling confident after quarterback Jake Coker’s exceptional performance against the Spartans. Coker went 25-for-30 for a career-high 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Gone are the days where students panic when Coker throws instead of handing it off or when an opposing quarterback takes off for a run. Even kicker Adam Griffith, whose appearance used to be met with nothing short of sheer panic in the Alabama student section, has made 16 of his last 18 kicks.

In Saban’s five combined BCS title and semifinal games at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has outscored the opponent by an average of 19.2 points, even with the loss to Ohio State.

Saban wanted Alabama to get back to its old ways, and this team seems to have figured it out. After all, what’s more Alabama than dominating an opponent with a suffocating defense and a methodical offense on a national stage?

It’s hard to like Clemson’s chances

Source: Why Alabama will win the College Football Playoff

United Stats Of America – #CFBChampionship Edition

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When the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T kicks off (8:30 ET on ESPN), all eyes will be on the coaches and star players. At ESPN Stats and Information, we have already broken down Derrick Henry’s power, Deshaun Watson’s versatility and Calvin Ridley’s emergence as keys to the game.

Nearly every possible factor (including Dabo Swinney’s dancing) has been analyzed, but chances are this matchup will be decided in the same manner as nearly every other game this season – the team that wins the battle in the trenches, avoids turnovers and makes plays on third down will ultimately come out victorious.

For the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers, these factors have been particularly important to their success this season. Below is one fundamental key to the game for each unit that could have a drastic impact on the national championship.

Keys for Clemson

Offense = Establish a run game: Clemson has rushed for 200 yards in 11 games this season, tied for second most in the FBS. Alabama has not allowed a team to rush for 200 yards in a game this season. However, the last three times the Crimson Tide did allow 200 rushing yards to an FBS team, they lost (Ohio State last season, Auburn in 2013 and LSU in 2010).

Establishing the run will help Clemson’s offensive game plan, but it can also help mitigate Alabama’s ferocious pass rush that leads the FBS with 50 sacks. This will not be an easy task against the FBS leader in rushing yards allowed per game (71) and yards per rush allowed (2.3).

Defense = Win first and second down: When Alabama has fewer than five yards to go on third down, it converts a first down on 60 percent of its attempts, which ranks 45th in the FBS. When the Tide have five or more yards to go, they convert on 25 percent of their attempts. Their national ranking falls to 103rd in that situation.

Special Teams = Contain Jones: Cyrus Jones leads the FBS with four touchdowns and 518 yards on punt returns. He has brought a punt back for a touchdown in three of Alabama’s last five games, including a 57-yard punt return touchdown against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. Clemson cannot match Jones on their own punt returns (second worst punt return average in the FBS) and the Tigers have been only slightly above average at covering punts this season.

Keys for Alabama

Offense = Protect the football: Alabama has a plus-nine turnover margin, which is tied for 15th in the FBS this season. Removing the Ole Miss loss in which the Crimson Tide were minus-5, they would be tied with Michigan State at plus-14 for the best margin of any Power 5 team and fourth best overall.

Like any team, Alabama’s record is impacted by its ability to protect the football; teams to beat Alabama since 2008 were a combined plus-19 in turnover margin in their 12 wins, and only one had a negative differential (2013 Auburn in the “kick six” game). Tide opponents are a combined minus-87 in turnover margin in 97 losses to Alabama over that span.

Defense = Contain Watson: Since the start of November, Watson has rushed for 646 yards, most of any FBS quarterback, and surpassed the 100-yard mark five times. Clemson is simply more efficient when Watson and Wayne Gallman are making plays with their legs.

In past seasons, Alabama has struggled to contain running quarterbacks. This year the Tide appear to have solved that problem; they have not allowed a quarterback to run for more than 29 yards in a game and have shut down efficient runners such as Dak Prescott and Joshua Dobbs. They will need to continue that success against arguably the best running quarterback over the second half of the season.

Special Teams = Make field goals: A recurring theme in Alabama’s recent losses has been an inability to make field goals. In the last five seasons, Alabama has made 6-of-17 field goals in losses (35 percent) and 81-of-112 field goals in wins (72 percent). Kicker Adam Griffith may have turned a corner this year; he has made his last six field goals from 40 yards or longer after starting his career 5-of-13 on such field goals.

Source: Alabama and Clemson stat storylines heading into the championship game – Stats & Info- ESPN

Monday #CFBPlayoff – Nat’l Championship Edition

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All season, conventional wisdom in college football has told us that there were no truly dominant teams this year, and there wasn’t one team that neutral fans would remember as one of the best of its era in 5-10 years.

After Clemson and Alabama dispatched of Oklahoma and Michigan State, respectively, in Thursday’s College Football Playoff with blowout wins, it might be fair to question those previous assumptions a little bit.

I still think we won’t put either this year’s Tigers or Crimson Tide in a class with title-winning teams from Miami, USC, Texas, Florida or Alabama earlier this century or even Florida State two years ago. Yet, we can’t at all doubt that these two teams are far and away the class of the college football season……

Continue Reading: Sports Central / How Alabama Can Be Beaten


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10 Reasons To Watch:

The national championship game is set, and No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabamaleft no doubt that they belong. The Tigers steamrolled No. 4 Oklahoma for a 37–17 win in the Orange Bowl hours before the Crimson Tide shut out No. 3Michigan State in a 38–0 rout in the Cotton Bowl.

Now Clemson and Alabama will meet in the second College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 11. The battle for a national title provides enough intrigue, but in case you need more, here are 10 reasons to be excited for this year’s championship game……

Continue Reading: National title game: 10 reasons to be excited for Alabama-Clemson – SI.com


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Where Did The $$$ Go?

College administrators don’t seem to know exactly where their athletes’ cost of attendance stipend money is going.

Last month, North Carolina State athletics director Debbie Yow faced a backlash during the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York when she said schools have “failed athletes” in teaching them fiscal responsibility considering she sees athletes riding around on hoverboards, which cost $300 or more. Alabama athletic director Bill Battlethen added, “tattoos and rims” to the discussion, a comment he explained later was supposed to be cute and just emphasize the frivolity of college students’ spending habits.

Beginning this academic year, NCAA Division I member schools were allowed to give their athletes a stipend to cover their full cost of attendance at their respective schools. USA TODAY Sports asked some of of the players competing in the College Football Playoff what they’ve spent their cost-of-attendance stipend money on thus far……

Continue Reading: What College Football Playoff entrants did with their NCAA stipends


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It’s College Football Trading Season:

Image result for 2016 college football trading seasonFormer Texas A&M quarterback Kyler Murray transferred to Oklahoma, and former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight announced he’d become an Aggie.

So Oklahoma and Texas A&M essentially traded quarterbacks via transfers. We could wring our hands over this, or we could celebrate college players seeking their manifest destinies as all Americans should.

Or — OR! — we could throw out four other college football trades that will never, ever happen. They could be an assortment with varying degrees of irrelevance and irreverence, which you could chew up, spit out, or fume over our implications……

Continue Reading: College football trade possibilities for Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Alabama Crimson Tide, Baylor Bears and others


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5 Bold Predictions:

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So it’s come down to this. The second College Football Playoff has a very attractive national title game: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson.

This game features no shortage of storylines, from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney taking on his alma mater to Alabama head coach Nick Saban trying to win his fifth national championship to a battle of Heisman Trophy supremacy between winner Derrick Henry and third-place finisher Deshaun Watson.

This duel in the desert features a high-powered Clemson offense that averages 38.4 points per game, No. 16 nationally, against a tough, talented Alabama defense that yields just 13.4 points per game, No. 1 nationally. With a win, Clemson can become the first FBS team to ever finish a season 15-0, but it won’t be easy against the Crimson Tide.

How will the national championship game unfold? Who’ll be left standing at night’s end? Here are five bold predictions about what will happen.

Continue Reading: 5 Bold Predictions for 2016 National Championship Game

Sunday Update – #NFL #NFCWildCard

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Sometimes playoff football shows you something you’ve never seen before — and that you won’t soon forget. That was certainly the case in Minnesota on Sunday, as the Seahawks beat the Vikings, 10-9, after kicker Blair Walsh missed a go-ahead 27-yard field goal in sub-zero temperatures.

That’s what you call “icing the kicker.”

It was -6 at kickoff, the third-coldest game in NFL playoff history, and the weather certainly played it’s part throughout the contest as the Seahawks were down 9-0 going into the fourth quarter and Russell Wilson unable to continue his hot streak in the frigid temps. Things finally didn’t get going until it seemed they were falling apart: Wilson was trying to check to a new play in the fourth and center Patrick Lewis snapped it too early, sending the ball flying 20 yards past his quarterback. Wilson did the only thing he could do, which was try to make the best out of a bad situation, and managed to pick up the ball and scramble before finding Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard gain setting up first-and-goal.

Doug Baldwin scored two plays later on a throw from Wilson, Baldwin’s 12th touchdown in the last seven games. Wilson’s 13 career playoff passing touchdowns ties Dan Marino for the second-best mark through four seasons……

Continue Reading: MIN K Blair Walsh misses would-be GW chip shot.

  • Seattle’s victory at Minnesota was the first of its kind
    • From Elias: Seattle rallied for 10 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday for a 10-9 victory at Minnesota. The Seahawks were the first team in NFL history to win a road playoff game in which they failed to score in the first three quarters, following 40 such losses.
  • Carroll is the postseason Comeback Kid
    • From Elias: The Seahawks’ victory was Pete Carroll’s fifth playoff win after his team had trailed by more than eight points. That is now the highest such total for any head coach in NFL history. Prior to Sunday’s game, Carroll shared the mark with Bill Belichick, who tied Carroll’s total of four when the Patriots overcame a 10-point Seattle lead to win the Super Bowl in February.
  • A game decided by the kickers
    • From Elias: For the fourth time in this century, an NFL playoff game pitted the league’s rushing champion against its passing leader (each of them won by the high-rated QB’s team). ButAdrian Peterson and Russell Wilson both struggled in sub-zero temperatures at TCF Bank Stadium, while Seattle’s kicker provided the game-winning points and Minnesota’s went from hero to goat in a matter of minutes.
    • Blair Walsh gave the Vikings a 9-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and in so doing he became the first player in NFL history to kick two field goals of 40 yards or longer in a playoff game played at 20 degrees or below. We’ll have more on that shortly; for now we will note that Walsh’s field goals measured 22, 43, and 47 yards.
    • But it was Walsh’s counterpart, Steven Hauschka, who gave Seattle a 10-9 lead with a 46-yard field goal with 8:04 to play. That became the game-winner when Walsh pulled a 27-yard attempt wide left with 22 seconds to play. Only three other players kicked a game-winning field goal as long as Hauschka’s in the fourth quarter of a playoff game: Adam Vinatieri, who did it twice, (including a 48-yarder as time expired against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI), Matt Bryant, and Gary Anderson.
    • Kicking in the kind of weather that Walsh and Hauschka encountered on Sunday is difficult at best. There have been 39 playoff games for which the temperature at kickoff was 20 degrees or colder. The longest field goal in any of those games was 48 yards, by Vinatieri for the Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.
    • As for Walsh, his 27-yard miss was the shortest on a potential go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter of an NFL playoff game. That distinction previously belonged to Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, who did it in one of the most famous games in NFL history. On Christmas Day 1971, Stenerud missed three field goals in Kansas City’s 27-24 double-overtime loss in a first-round playoff game at Miami. His 31-yard attempt with 35 seconds to play would have given the Chiefs a victory.

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After months of offensive stagnation, the Packers rediscovered their offensive identity Sunday. They lit up Washington for a 35-18 playoff victory, earning the chance to take on the Cardinals in the divisional round.

Though the game ended with a Green Bay blowout, it started far differently. Washington shut out the Packers through the opening 21 minutes while producing 11 points of its own. Despite making his first start in the postseason, Kirk Cousins threw the ball all around the yard, connecting with Jordan Reed for multiple large gains.

Cousins nearly gave Washington a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, but wideout DeSean Jackson foolishly failed to extend the ball over the goal line.

Jackson’s error proved to be the turning point in the game, as the Packers held Cousins and the offense to just a field goal on that drive. When the Packers offense finally caught fire in the second quarter, the lead was easily surmountable.

Unsurprisingly, it was Aaron Rodgers who led the charge for Green Bay. From the start of the second quarter onward, Rodgers completed 20 of his 29 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 111.1 rating. Rodgers’ receivers also stepped up their play, with James Jones hauling in seven passes, most of them contested, for 81 yards. Even the much-maligned Davante Adams made two big plays — an acrobatic sideline reception on third down and a touchdown — before exiting with a knee injury……

Continue Reading: Packers suddenly have a potent offense again.

  • When Green Bay got rolling, Redskins had no answer
    • From Elias: The Packers scored four touchdowns and a field goal on five consecutive drives to turn an 11-0 deficit to a 32-18 lead, then added a late field goal for a 35-18 victory at Washington. The Redskins have played 35 postseason games since 1970; this was the first time during that span that an opponent scored on more than three consecutive drives.
  • The visitors rule Wild Card Weekend
    • Green Bay’s victory completed a sweep by the visiting teams of the weekend’s four first-round games. The home-field advantage in the playoffs simply isn’t what it once was. For the first 12 years of the 12-team format (1990-2001), home teams went 35-13 (.729) in the first round. But over the last 14 seasons (2002-15), since the format change to eight division champs and four wild-card teams, home teams are 30-26 (.536) on “Wild Card Weekend.”
    • By way of explanation, from 1990 to 2001 there wasn’t a single first-round game in which the road team had a better won-lost record than its host. But that was the case for 20 of 56 first-round games since 2002, including two of four games this weekend: Houston (9-7) hosted Kansas City (11-5), and Washington (9-7) hosted Green Bay (10-6).

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