Locker Room: What do you remember the most?

    LSU was a deserving winner of the national championship. What were be biggest factors in the game, at least in this opinion. A targeting call on Clemson’s best defensive player, likely costing them a touchdown. A bad offensive pass interference penalty against Clemson, a gross miss, that indeed cost Clemson a touchdown. The other biggest factor, Joe Burrow was better than Trevor Lawrence, at least on this night. Burrow seemed like his usual self, Lawrence was off target way too many times.
     Sidebar, maybe you credit LSU’s d-backs for this, but for all the speed and talent that was supposed to be in the Clemson receiving corps, they appeared to have trouble getting open, getting separation from defenders. They didn’t look physical. LSU’s skill players were physical.
     Insurance Center of Dublin 10 4 copyThat certainly made Lawrence’s job harder, but this was also a very evident problem for Clemson in its fortunate win over Ohio State. I’m certainly not kicking Clemson around. But  I said after the opening round that I thought a Ohio State-LSU matchup would have been better. What I saw Monday evening made me believe that even more.
     But that’s over, and what’s done is done. And what does that mean for football in this region? The same. Clemson will be back. The Tigers lost a lot, but will welcome back a lot. Clemson will remain a premier program in the country. Ohio State is pretty much the same, plus Clemson and the Buckeyes have the quarterback in place.
    Who will be the others in 2020? A bunch of programs you are very familiar with. Alabama will be there, and their quarterback situation is pretty solid. But there are some uncertainties. The transfer situation and players leaving early for the NFL Draft makes things far more uncertain than in the past for college football. Roster management is difficult, especially at quarterback.
     Georgia has good stuff, but can the Wake Forest transfer get it done? Auburn has good offensive personnel returning, but the defense will almost certainly fall off a notch. Spencer Rattler is supposed to be the next great Oklahoma quarterback, and he might be, but it’s getting close to the time the Sooners need to prove themselves on the big stage. Oregon is supposed to contend, but I never take anything seriously from the left coast until it’s proven. LSU is going to be good, but how good will the quarterback be? Those wideouts are bailing too. Penn State will be very strong out of the Big 10. There’s going to be a few good teams out of the conference, but good enough?
    I’ll predict three of the four playoff teams for next year and feel very confident in doing so. First must be Clemson. The Tigers are good. The program is hot. It’s been in the playoff five times. It’s won the trophy twice. That speaks for itself. Plus, Clemson plays in the ACC and that’s the easiest road to the playoffs. There is a game with Notre Dame next season, but Clemson will again be heavily favored in every other matchup. I expect Alabama to be there because it’s a great program that has talent, and after the past couple years of disappointment, the drive to return will be even greater. Three I’ll take Ohio State for the same reasons.  I’ll let you pick the fourth team. Maybe there can really be a surprise for once.
      Clemson won 29 games in a row, 732 days without a loss. North Dakota State is about as impressive at the FCS level. They’ve had three coaches, and four quarterbacks in nine years, but won eight national titles, and the last three straight. How about 37 straight W’s. But hats off to James Madison who easily gave the Bison their toughest game of the year, and finished with just two losses on the season. Things aren’t likely to change much at this level either and don’t be surprised if JMU isn’t in the big game next season with NDSU again.
I Remember Them All:
     I either saw them or read about them. I have long been intrigued by the history of football. I guess it also means I’m old. A lot of people like to debate such things, but ESPN took a poll utilizing the best people involved and historians of the game to come up with a top 150 players ever in the 150th year of college football. The best 11 was announced during the national championship game.
     Everybody would like for their all time favorite player from their favorite team to be honored, and the present generation complains, but while there are others who I think were simply terrific and did great things for college football, I cannot lodge a complaint with the final 11. I cannot find a way to disagree. It is also a reminder that the game didn’t begin 50 years ago.
    1- Jim Brown-Syracuse. Maybe the best player ever and still the best running back ever to play the game. 2- Hershel Walker- Georgia. You could say some of the same things about him. 3- Bo Jackson-Auburn. Think he was super, but this might be a tad high. 4- Archie Griffith- Ohio State. Woody Hayes’ finest, and only two-time Heisman winner. 5- Jim Thorpe- Carlisle (07-12). Yep, Carlisle. Never heard of it. Back in the day big games were the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Army, Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, Minnesota, and Fordham and the “7 Blocks of Granite.” 6- Earl “Red” Grange- Illinois. “The Galloping Ghost” of Illinois. “The Iceman.” He got in shape by carrying huge blocks of ice at the plant during the off season. Maybe saved college football, and is one of the key reasons there is an NFL. 7- Earl Campbell- Texas. “The Tyler Rose.” A wrecking ball. When he broke clean at the line of scrimmage the last place you wanted to be was in the secondary. You didn’t have to chase him. Campbell came to you. He was not a finesse player.
     8- Dick Butkus- Illinois. The last two-way All-American football player, center and middle linebacker. With the new rules and regulations today designed the put finesse in and take physicality out, Butkus would never last the first quarter. He was mean, and rough. He laughed when people started dancing after making tackles. He said he didn’t have to do that. When he tackled somebody, they knew who it was. It was true. 9- Barry Sanders- Oklahoma State. Two short, not that big, but he was quick, had great eyes. It seemed like when he ran the football he knew what you were going to try to do before you did. A great running back. 10- Gayle Sayers- Kansas. “The Kansas Comet.” The greatest player easily in the history of Kansas. Smooth, quick, graceful. Sayers was the tailback, the kickoff returner, the punt returned, and the leading receiver. Simply one of the greatest. He and Butkus both played for the Bears in the early days of artificial turf. It was like playing on concrete and George Halas refused to spend a buck, and the the careers of Butkus and Sayers ended far too soon. 11- Roger Stauback- Navy. The greatest quarterback in Navy football history, won the Heisman, could beat you with his arm, his feet, and with his brain. As good a representative of college football as there ever will be. Cowboy fans liked him too.
What I Remember the Most:
     I’m talking about the just completed college football season. What do I remember most? “This Play is Under Further Review.” That’s sad and what I consider a negative memory. It’s just like when congress doesn’t pass any new laws or regulations, it’s a good thing. We already have way too much of that stuff already. Sometimes elected officials could do a better job by shutting up and doing nothing.
    Same in football. Fans complain the game lasts too long. The truth. The game doesn’t last any longer than it did 50 years ago. It’s the administration of the game that takes too long. There are too many replays, too many halts to the action, over-officiating and yes, over-coaching at times. But it’s just like it almost always is. After you put the new rules in, about five years later you wonder how much have we hurt the game?
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot