LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney. Trevor Lawrence or Tua Tagovailoa. SEC or ACC. Orange or Red.
Time is running out for you to make your pick for the college football national title game Monday night, although it appears there is plenty of time for you to grab a good seat if you can get to Santa Clara, Calif., by kickoff.
I’ll make my pick and discuss the Same ‘Ol, Same ‘Ol in college football in the Monday Muse.
1. Alabama and Clemson and Alabama and Clemson and …
College football is women’s college basketball.
It is also the NBA.
It is not men’s college basketball. Never has been. Never will be. Loyola of Chicago, Villanova, Duke and Syracuse aren’t walking through that blocking sled.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s your call. If dynasties and Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em teams are what you like, odds are that you are triple expresso excited about Alabama-Clemson Part IV.
All I know is that people have blasted Geno Auriemma and UConn for tilting the playing field in their game.
Bad for the sport and all that stuff.
For years women’s college basketball has been the Go To media punching bag for a sport that has all the complexity of vanilla yogurt. I’ll start every season by taking UConn and Notre Dame and giving you the field.
What’s the difference with college football. You start the season by taking Alabama and Clemson and give me the field.
I ran the numbers for college football, men’s and women’s college basketball, the NFL, MLB and NBA to chart which sport has celebrated the most turnover at the top over the last five seasons.
Is the Alabama/Clemson domination of the college football playoffs good for the sport?
The winner is college basketball — by a mile and a quarter.
In the last five seasons, 16 different programs have been represented in the Final Four. No school has made the final quartet more than twice during that period.
In football, the number is 10 programs— with Alabama (5), Clemson (4), Oklahoma (3) and Ohio State (2) grabbing 70 percent of the 20 college football playoff spot.
No, thanks. Not for me.
For women’s hoops and the NBA, the number is also 10 different Final Four teams, primarily because of the dominance of UConn (5) and Notre Dame (3) among the women and Golden State (4) and Cleveland (4) in the NBA.
No matter what ESPN programming shows, baseball is no longer a Red Sox-Yankees tug-of-war. The final four has been represented by 14 teams and only the Cubs and Dodgers have been to the league championship series three times.
For the NFL, the number is 13 different final four teams, even with New England making it every season. Those days are about to end.
And the good news for college football is that speculation has already started for the top two teams for next season.
Guess who they’re picking?
If you hate Clemson-Bama IV, prepare yourselves for Clemson-Bama V next year. But here are eight teams with a chance (however slim) to break these two teams' choke hold on the sport: https://t.co/GktlJPB4Di— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) January 7, 2019
2. Alabama. Again.
There are reasons to pick against Alabama Monday night.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was impressive throwing the ball against the Notre Dame defense. The Tigers have limited seven of their last nine opponents to 10 points or less (and Louisville was one of the exceptions). Bama’s defense looked vulnerable against Georgia and Oklahoma.
Alabama 31, Clemson 28.
Consider this a vote for a healthy Tagovailoa. A vote for a determined Saban, And a nod to the Sagarin ratings, which have Alabama winning by 2 but Clemson covering the 5 1/2 point spread.
3. Will ESPN show the empty seats Monday night?
There has been a flurry of stories about the lack of buzz in Santa Clara about the national championship game.
It’s an expensive and inconvenient trip from Alabama and South Carolina. The Bay Area is has never been compared to Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, South Bend, Norman and other college football hot spots.
This is like playing the championship game in Rhode Island or Wyoming. It’s a nice venue but college football does not live there.
And perhaps a person or two other than me has Alabama-Clemson fatigue.
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic did a nice job of outlining the perfect storm that let to ticket prices that are running at about 10 percent of the number for last season’s game in Atlanta.
4. Choose your terms wisely
As you’re discussing the football playoffs — college and pro — for the rest of the month, choose your words with care.
The NCAA runs the college basketball tournament. It does not run the college football party. Consider this your primer. Final Four and Elite Eight are terms the NCAA has on lockdown — and they’re paying attention to what you are saying.
Last week's Clemson-Notre Dame/Alabama-Oklahoma games were the CFP semifinals, not the Final Four. The Eagles just advanced to the NFC divisional round, not the Elite Eight. Carry on.— David Worlock (@DavidWorlock) January 7, 2019
5. Bear Down
Jay Cutler drove me away from worrying about the Chicago Bears, probably forever. He’s my least favorite Chicago athlete of all time, outdistancing Mark Prior, Shawon Dunston, Jimmy Butler and Curtis Enis. One day I’ll share the entire list, but nobody could mope (or throw killer interceptions) like Cutler.
But just when I returned to watch five good minutes of Bears’ playoff football, the ending to their game against Philadelphia happened.
.@eagles #TreyvonHester is the newest star in the history of #Eagles . This left fingertips effect this Cody Parkey trajectory to create this double doing. It’s the ultimate “agony & ecstasy” of sports. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/9NfLMqUN1v— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) January 7, 2019
At least the Bears’ mascot got it right.
6. What’s next for Lamar Jackson?
Sunday was not the game that Lamar Jackson wanted to play for the Baltimore Ravens but after the playoff defeat to the Chargers (I almost typed San Diego), Jackson did what he always did at the University of Louisville — took responsibility for his mistakes, pledged to return to work and turned the discussion to next season.
Like any young quarterback, Jackson has adjustments to make. Passing accuracy tops the list. So does ball security. He’ll have to determine how many hits his body can absorb while running the football.
But first Jackson needs to learn the identity of his 2019 coach. John Harbaugh was the guy who moved boldly by benching Joe Flacco and making Jackson the Ravens quarterback. There is no guarantee Harbaugh will direct Baltimore next season. If he departs, Jackson will need a coach who will shape his offense to his quarterback, not shape his quarterback to his offense.
7. Who ya got — Steph Curry or James Harden?
Some people with the Houston Rockets argue that James Harden is the best offensive player in the NBA. They’ve never heard of Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Michael Jordan.
Some people not with the Houston Rockets will argue that Harden travels nearly 78 percent of the time he has the ball, especially on his step-back jump shot.
He moves both feet after planting on his final dribble. Yes, he does.
I think the critics have a point. So does Steph Curry.
Curry hits the Harden double stepback, called for a travel.Educated guess: looks like Steph uses his hands to tell the ref if he had 13 on his chest he wouldn’t have called it. pic.twitter.com/pTzWaNgrfK— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 6, 2019
8. Welcome to the NBA, Shai
You think the NBA is all chartered flights, 5-star hotels and glorious dining?
Well, it is.
But it is also game after game after game. And if you're a rookie, you also have the added joy of taking care of the veterans on your team.
Former Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is delivering a solid rookie season for the Los Angeles Clippers, but his play has started to sag of late. So has his equipment bag.
The sagging play might be the result of the schedule. The Clippers have already played 39 games, two more than Kentucky played all of last season. The sagging equipment bag is the result of Gilgeous-Alexander taking responsibility that all the veterans on the club always have Gatorade available.
According to this story at the Los Angeles Times, he fills his bag with Gatorade bottles before every trip.
I’ll take lemon lime, Shai.
9. Growing Pains for Kevin Knox
Gilgeous-Alexander is not the only UK rookie in the news. Kevin Knox is delivering a solid first season for the Knicks, but he is also having issues with his body.
It’s still growing.
Knox has that look of a player the Knicks can finally start to build a winning team around, especially if he’s a 6-foot-9 or 6-10 perimeter player who will be a matchup nightmare in the backcourt.
10. Rick Pitino tweet of the week.
Great night with my American Greek friends pic.twitter.com/98gytMyFp0— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) January 5, 2019
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