Five to watch

The majority of the College Football season begins this week, and as always there’s are some unreal talents in and around the country. Just for the heck of it, I wanted to give you five guys that are must watch to start the first few weeks of the College Football season.

Disclaimer: There are way more than five guys that are uber talented. So just because my list doesn’t roll with your list, doesn’t mean that other players aren’t worthy (glad to get that out of the way).

 

Five To Watch (No certain order):

 

 

Deshaun Watson (Clemson QB)

(Source:Youtube/JustBombsProductions)

I’m not going to pretend that I can give you every nuance about prospect evaluation, etc, but outside of Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, he’s one of the best college/NFL QB prospect I’ve been able to watch live and/or on TV.

First QB to throw for 4,000, and run for another 1,000. 478 total yards in a losing effort in the National Championship game. If he were eligible for the draft this past cycle, he would have went first overall.

 

Lamar Jackson (Louisville)

(Source:Youtube/JustBombsProductions)

No disrespect to Stefan Lefors, Brian Brohm, Hunter Cantwell from Louisville, or Ryan Mallett, but this is the best QB Bobby Petrino has had as a a Head Coach. Jackson is pure electric, and as he finally held on to the starting job last year, he flourished in the read option game. Darkhorse Heisman winner. Wouldn’t be shocked. Leading Louisville to the College Football Playoff? Wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit.

 

Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

(Source: Youtube/JustBombsProductions)

A complete and utter savage. 2,019 rushing yards. 3,864 all-purpose yards last season. If I had a Heisman vote last season, he would have been my winner. How in the heck he improves on those gaudy numbers this season, I have zero clue. But I’m excited to watch and find out.

 

Josh Rosen (UCLA)

(Source: Youtube/JustBombsProductions)

In this day and age of College Football, it’s hard as heck to be the starter at a Power five program as a TRUE freshman. Josh Rosen got the nod from Jim Mora, and Rosen showed why he was so coveted out of High School. His personality may rub some the wrong way, but throwing for over 3,000 yards and 20 plus touchdowns will  make any NFL franchise forget about that if he keeps up his progression. He’s really, really good.

Leonard Fournette (LSU)

(Source: Youtube/YoungMayo)

If anyone wants to say “Well he didn’t do anything when he played Alabama”, fine. Just don’t be the crazy person to say he isn’t great in the college game. 4 games of over 200 yards rushing. 3 games of at least 3 touchdowns. Only two games (Alabama, Arkansas) that he didn’t have at least 100 yards on the ground.

 

 

Next Ten:

Dalvin Cook (FSU)

Jonathan Allen (Alabama)

Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)

Adoree’ Jackson (USC)

Calvin Ridley (Alabama)

Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)

Jarrad Davis (Florida)

Malik Jefferson (Texas)

Derwin James (FSU)

Greg Ward Jr. (Houston)

 

 

Saban best ever… with another coaching great

NATTY.JPG

We are all prisoners of the moment. Knee jerk reactions aren’t silly, It’s just human nature. A player, or team has an accomplishment, it’s easy to throw out the best ever comparisons.

Monday night after Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson, I walked out to the field inside University of Phoenix Stadium (partly to stay awake) to think if Nick Saban is the greatest coach in College Football history. I think he’s the best coach in the college game right now (Urban Meyer, David Shaw the other two) and I think it goes without saying that Alabama is the best program in the game (Ohio St is number two).

But, is Nick Saban, THE greatest coach in the college game. He joins one coach atop the mountain (more on the other coach later). Here’s what’s made Saban’s accomplishments at Alabama all-time impressive:

 

1.Being able to adapt his game plan, and program

Alabama isn’t anywhere near the program they were when Saban came to Tuscaloosa. The game plan was even more of a run heavy, conservative, sound defense that wouldn’t make many mistakes. It worked the first few years in a big way (2009 National Title).

What’s made Saban great is being able to meticulously find every little detail before kickoff, and allowing his assistants to do the same. Case in point, the game changing onside kick Monday night.

You can go all the way back to Saban’s first National Title run  in 2009 and their win over Florida in the SEC Championship.

He can make adjustments, but he can also change as the college game changes. Would Saban have the success that he’s enjoying if he were staying true to his philosophy in 2008-09? Doubt it. He won games the last two season’s with Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, running a more up tempo attack.

 

2. Recruiting philosophy has changed

It’s one thing to stock pile elite recruiting  classes year after year in College Football. That means nothing if a coaching staff:

A) Can’t evaluate elite talent at the prep level that fit your needs schematically on offense or defense.

B) Can’t develop the talent you have once it arrives on campus.

How many programs have had top 10 classes, and can’t get 7 wins, much less a chance to win a conference or National title?

Now granted, EVERY college program will “miss” on talent over the years once on campus. That’s just the reality of  the game. Guys don’t pan out for one reason or another.

The biggest accomplishment for Saban is what he’s done to revamp his roster all while dealing with the “spread” or wide open scheme across the country and within the SEC. After the slow progression of a spread type scheme with Tim Tebow and Cam Newton at Florida and Auburn respectively to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, Nick Saban understood that he needed players on defense that were good enough to hold up in the trenches and in run support, all while being able to play in space.

The Dont’a Hightower’s, Rolando McClain’s, Trey Depriest’s of the world are a thing of the past. What Tide fans will see more of are body types like Rashaan Evans, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster, Shon-Dion Hamilton, Da’Shawn Hand, Mekhi Brown, or Adonis Thomas. Guys that can flat out run downhill, and able to make plays in open areas of the field when playing against spread attacks. Big fellas will always be needed (when dealing with more run heavy schemes),  along with rangy Safety’s in the secondary (one of, if not the most most important position on defense), it’s just that Saban understands he needs players for EVERY scheme he can or will face.

Like the other dual threat quarterbacks that Alabama has faced,  Deshaun Watson was magnificent Monday (478 yds, 4 passing TD’s). But even in the shootout, Some of those young Alabama defenders (Evans, Hand, Hamilton, Williams, Fitzpatrick) were called upon to help the veteran guys that needed a break going against such a tempo heavy scheme.

 

3. Being in the hunt every season an accomplishment in itself

Outside of Saban’s first season at Alabama (2007, a 6-6 record) he’s had the following records:

2008- 12-2

2009- 14-0*

2010- 10-3

2011-  12-1*

2012- 13-1*

2013- 11-2

2014- 12-2

2015- 14-1*

* National Championship season

 

Nick Saban has been in Tuscaloosa for nine seasons. Eight of those, Alabama has been in the hunt for a National Title, all while playing in the best conference in College Football. And if we all want to play the “if” game, “if” a handful of plays went Alabama’s way during these eight seasons, Saban  could have 5-7 National Titles total in nine seasons.

To be able to adapt his coaching philosophy, adjust his personnel, and have personnel on the field  to execute his coaching philosophy over the years, is what makes this run for Saban all time great.

Coaching record at Alabama:

100-18 overall

50-12 in SEC Play

4 National Championships

 

It makes him at this moment ONE of the two greatest coaches in College Football history. The other:

 

 

(Source: cnn.com, Getty images)

Florida State had zero. ZERO history. In comes Bobby Bowden in 1976. He had a losing season in his first season. He never had another in 34 years in Tallahassee.

From 1987 to 2000, Florida State won at least 10 games, and loss a combined 19  (along with one tie).

FSU finished in the top 5 from 1992-2000 (14 straight seasons).

Bowden “only” has two National Titles, but the reason I put him alongside Saban, is because he created a program that had no history, into one of the best programs in America, and a brand in College Football. Saban. Bowden. The very best in my opinion. There’s a coach in Columbus, Ohio that could make me revisit this a few years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four for Thursday

After a two week break, The Clipboard is back with four thoughts heading into this week:

1. Jeremy Johnson or Sean White?

The preseason hype surrounding Auburn was as hot as this song still is right now. Fast forward to five games into the season, and the Tigers are hoping for a decent bowl game that’s warm, and a starting quarterback that can jolt the offense and gain momentum toward a potential bounce back year in ’16. Jeremy Johnson got benched, Sean White came in, and now what? It appears that Gus Malzahn’s making everyone wait till tonight to see who will start.

My two cents: I have no earthly idea who will be the starter, and I have no earthly idea what Auburn will do from here till season’s end. Fair or not, one thing’s for certain. If they look awful tonight on the road against Kentucky, Tigers fans may want something more than just a new quarterback.

2. Another shootout in College Station?

I picked Georgia to beat Alabama on October 3rd. Didn’t turn out so well. Any Alabama fan worth their hounds tooth had reservations about that game for one reason. Jake Coker. Nothing more, nothing less. Turns out Grayson Lambert was the weak link for the Bulldogs in the 38-10 drubbing.

Now it’s another game I’m picking against the Tide, and it’s at Texas A&M. The Tide defense has been outstanding, with some players even saying they have the best unit in the country. Doesn’t hurt that a Huntsville native is playing the best within the unit. I picked the other QB (Lambert) against Coker earlier this season, I’m picking the other QB (Kyle Allen) Saturday along with the 12th man to knock off the Tide. Feel free to vent your frustrations at me Saturday night if the Tide (for the 1 trillionth time) prove me wrong and win similar to last season’s victory.

3. Khaki’s. Ann Arbor’s new fashion trend.

I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan. I love Jim Harbaugh.  Much like many college football fans, it wasn’t “if” but “when” Michigan would return to relevancy. Guess we have our answer after 6 games:

5-1 (only loss to the 4th ranked team in the country).

Since that loss, the Wolverines have surrendered a grand total of 14 points.

The last three games. 31-0. 28-0. 38-0.

The biggest test is Saturday when Michigan State comes to Ann Arbor. The Spartans already short handed with a handful of key players MIA due to the injury bug.

If the Wolverines find a way to win Saturday, that hype train will keep pushing to that game on November 28th.

4. The HBC

As a tyke growing up in Kentucky, with a rooting interest  in a football team from South Bend, all while watching every Jefferson Pilot SEC televised game, I had ZERO clue who Steve Spurrier was coming to Florida from Duke of all places. Once he made his presence felt in Gainesville as a head coach (visor and all), It was a rude awakening for the rest of the league. I even remember watching college football as a teenager, and seeing a score pop up that I couldn’t ever believe I would ever see again.

Jack Jackson, Danny Wuerffel, Javon Kearse, Errict Rhett, Reidel Anthony, Jabar Gaffney, Jacquez Green, Ike Hillard, Kevin Carter, Ellis Johnson, Alex Taylor, Fred Taylor, Lito Sheppard, were some of my favorite Gators ever.

The South Carolina run was fun to watch as well (let’s forget the Redskins happened), and getting to see the HBC in person at a handful of SEC Media Days was fun also in my professional career.

Here’s to you Stephen Orr Spurrier. You’ve made this great game of college football better. I hope to see you on a sideline just one more time before you turn in your visor.

Enjoy the games this weekend everyone.

Four for Friday

Four things as we head into the weekend:

1.Auburn Panic Meter at 1,000

Look, I thought Jeremy Johnson would flourish in Auburn’s offense. Fell in love with a first half performance against Arkansas last year and, well you know the rest (at least til this point):

5 TD’s, 6 INT’s. Demoted to backup this week in place of Sean White, who like Johnson, had a number of accolades coming out of high school, including high praise from Trent Dilfer.

He has yet to take a snap in a college game, so to assume we know what the heck the young man will do, is crazy. For Auburn’s sake, here’s hoping it’s a positive performance against a Mississippi State team who’s quarterback is confident of generating offense Saturday.

2. Alabama Panic Meter at 1,000

Or so it seems. It’s safe to say the following will lead to a loss 99.9 percent of the time:

  1. Playing a quality opponent (Ole Miss)
  2.  Turning the football over 5 times.
  3. Shaky quarterback play till late in the game.

Alabama didn’t quit, rallying late in the 4th, with a chance to win the game in Tuscaloosa. Jake Coker will get the start Saturday against the Warhawks of UL-Monroe, with a trip to Athens looming. If you’re a Crimson Tide fan, there’s many questions left to be answered. Those questions will have to wait till October 3rd.

3. Must win for the Vols?

Tennessee had a big game two weeks ago against Oklahoma, and couldn’t find a way to put away a Sooner team that showed some mettle in rallying from a 17-3 deficit to win on the road. Last season against Florida, the Vols led 9-0 heading into the 4th. Treon Harris is inserted, and the Gators find a way in Knoxville.

The Vols need this win, the Bleacher Report thinks so as well.  Florida will rely on Will Grier who gets the nod, by default with the suspensions handed down by Jim McElwain earlier this week..

4. Empire

I watch a lot of awful, putrid TV. I LOVE reality everything on the tube. Every Real Housewives show, basically every reality show on E! You name the show, I’ve probably watched it. I also watch Empire. Yep, if you want to hate on the over the top, hip-hop soap opera, go ahead, not mad at ya. I still watch. Every episode. My better half doesn’t miss it live for anything. She has a running text commentary with a handful of her closet friends on Wednesday nights. I have a feeling Cookie Lyon and company aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And yes. I’m OK with that.

Enjoy the weekend.

FINALLY

It’s here. Well, almost. The college football season . Game week. The kickoff for the 2015-16 (FBS) season begins Thursday. If you love the college game, a must have during the summer:

Phil Steele’s College Football Preview magazine.

It’s become the go to for all your college football info prior to the season.

I reached out to Phil earlier this month to talk. We chatted via phone, and as you would imagine working in Huntsville, a lot of the questions were SEC-centric. But we also dove into Ohio State, “surprise” teams in the SEC and a “sleeper” that could crash the four team playoff and become a National Champion.

It’s Monday. Work is overrated. Wet your football appetite just a little more.

Take a listen:

Odds and Ends:

—The College football season actually got underway between two powerhouses in FCS. Kinda like that Bob Stitt guy.

—Just seeing Jim Harbaugh, khaki’s and all, on a college sideline again, is good for the game. Should be a rocking atmosphere at Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday.

— TCF Bank Stadium will be a great atmosphere, at least early. TCU, with their #2 ranking facing a Gopher team that has took on Jerry Kill’s hard work, grind em out type personality. Media experts think this is his best team… we’ll see.

—My alma mater, Western Kentucky University, has one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and will try to knock of Vanderbilt, who needs, REALLY NEEDS to win this game. SB Nation does the best it can to try and talk Vandy fans off the ledge heading into the season.

—TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma St are getting the headlines in the Big 12 this off season, but, I personally like Oklahoma. Glad that that Bob Stoops is getting back to the air raid, that got the Sooners on the map early in his tenure. Some new offensive lineman will need to get adjusted, but Baker Mayfield threw it around the yard at Texas Tech as a Freshman, and should (I know, he hasn’t played in a year) thrive in the offense under new Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley. And if for nothing else, he can move a little bit, well, a lot.

—Excited to see UCLA’s first year starter.

Picks and more picks:

Alabama over Wisconsin:

Defense rules the day for the Tide. Badgers will have less the 200 yards of offense. It only gets interesting if Alabama’s (insert here) QB struggles.

Auburn over Louisville:

The Cards shouldn’t be measured on this game. Louisville will have a good year. No clue who gets the start for Bobby Petrino, but it won’t matter. Auburn comes out smoking, with the the way-to-early-send-him-to-New-York-now Heisman hype in mid season form for Jeremy Johnson by the half.

Notre Dame over Texas:

Under the lights in South Bend, this is Brian Kelly’s best team with the Irish. Malik Zaire will have his growing pains throughout the season, will it be enough to derail some playoff aspirations? No clue there, but he should play well enough Saturday, along with a elite offense, and a defense that will hound Longhorn quarterbacks Tyrone Swoops/Jerrod Herd all night. BUT… if Swoops/Herd come out hot, The Irish haters may have some added ammunition by midnight Saturday.

Ohio St over Virginia Tech:

Urban Meyer could suspend whomever. They win the game. The Hokies will make it entertaining in spots, but it reminds me of the last time a #1 ranked talented team came to Blacksburg.

Texas A&M over Arizona St:

A sleeper in the SEC, Stewart Mandel picked the Aggies to win the league. The game Saturday in the desert won’t have anything to do with that, but could show that the Aggies have the right guy at Quarterback (Kyle Allen) and an improved defense and/or scheme (John Chavis). The Sun Devils will bring pressure from everywhere… If Allen gets it out of his hands, he may have 450 plus through the air. If he doesn’t Kevin Sumlin’s prized recruit of 2015 may be the answer sooner rather than later.

My Final Four Picks:

(1) Ohio St     Vs (4) Notre Dame

(2) TCU          Vs (3) Auburn

National Championship:

(1) Ohio St Vs (2) TCU

Winner: Ohio St

Enjoy the games this week. Football is back. Football. Is. Back.

4 is the Loneliest Number

Source:usatoday.com

 

 

Dear College Football Fan,

I’m writing to tell you that you can’t have it all. You can’t have your giant football cake and eat it too. Back in the early 90’s YOU wanted a playoff. Football higher ups gave you the BCS. That was a bunch of crap to you, yet outside of possibly two years in the 15 year period of that format did we have any remote controversy. 2 OUT OF 15. The system got it right 13 other times.

That wasn’t good enough. You wanted a playoff system. We have it now. And guess what? THIS system will get it right more times than not, and fans (which is short for fanatic by the way, meaning some fans have no objectivity) will want.. you guessed it.. an 8 team playoff… then a 16 team playoff… Hell might as well do a field of 64, er, 68 then.

I do not want mediocre teams playing for a National Title. The College Football season should mean something. Elite teams should play elite OUT OF CONFERENCE teams (which will happen more frequently with the new playoff format making it a priority). You should be rewarded for winning, and beating good teams, not playing the University of cupcake state and asking why you’re left out as a 1 loss team when another program has the same record. STOP it college football fan, normal football fans are on to you.

This is the first week of the polls. Everyone will play each other and sort this deal out in a matter of weeks. But, you, college football fan, will find a way to find a fault in a legitimate top four teams that will be well deserving of playing in the FBS’s first Final Four.

REMEMBER. You hated the computers, and wanted a human element in the process. You have it now. Shut up, and don’t complain, and let this play out.

 

Sincerely,

Carl Prather

 

 

The Top Four (Week 1)

 

1. Mississippi State- No brainer. They are undefated and have beaten the number three team in the CFB playoff poll, and have some good wins over LSU, and a former AP top ten Texas A&M. Yes they have some lower level FBS teams that they have played, but at least they are at the FBS level. The Bulldogs should take a bit of a hit by playing UT Martin in a couple of weeks, though.  Did they look specatucalr against Kentucky? No, but Kentucky had a ton to do with that, they are a young and really good program in progress. A interesting Arkansas team  awaits, followed by meetings with Alabama and Ole Miss.

Saturday:  Vs Arkansas

Next three games: UT Martin, AT (6) Alabama, Vanderbilt.

 

 

2. Florida St- They are the champs and as long as they keep winning, they will be in the Final Four at season’s end. Have they been as imporessive as last season. We all know the answer. But there’s something to be said to take every teams best shot because you’re atop the mountain and finding ways to win. And of course the off field distractions don’t help, and for the coaching staff and players involved to continue to show up and produce on the field is impressive to me, for better or worse, whether you agree or disagree  with the off field actions. Interesting to see of they will be able to handle a intriguing game tonight against Louisville. The last time the Noles came to the Derby City, it was a rain fest that yours truly was able to witness at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

 

Many want the Noles to finally lose. Unfortunately, those watching at home cant help these opposing teams. Said team will have to go in and take a much deserved win against FSU, because it doesn’t appear they are willing to give it up without a fight through the final whistle

Thursday: At (25) Louisville

Next three games: Virginia, At Miami, Boston College

 

 

3. Auburn- The right choice  here. They have a quality road win over Kansas State that checks in at 9 in the first playoff poll. It arguably is the best non conference road win of any team this season. The only loss? To the number one team in the poll. The Tigers basically control their own destiny starting Saturday with a trip to Oxford to face 4th ranked Ole Miss. If the Tigers run the table, they deserve to be in the final four and if they win it all, they can truly say they earned every piece of it.

Saturday: At (4) Ole Miss

Next three games: Texas A&M, At (11) Georgia, Samford

 

 

4. Ole Miss- They arguably have the best home win of the season (Oregon may beg to differ, along with Mississippi State) against Alabama. And the LSU loss doesn’t look as bad as it would have two weeks ago. The Rebels will have issues if they can’t find a way to run the football better. Still much like all 4 teams in the first rankings, Ole Miss controls their destiny.

Saturday: (3) Auburn

Remaining games: Presbyterian,  At Arkansas, At (1) Mississippi State

 

Enjoy the Weekend!

Five Downs

Source:sbnation.com

 

1st Down

Can We Give Auburn Credit?

College Football fans should. Yes I know that we will hear the “Auburn was fortunate, they were lucky to win in Manhattan” moniker for the next two or three days. That may be good fodder to talk about, but it’s not Auburn’s fault that Kansas State was so inept in the kicking game, and couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities in the red zone.

We could also say this game would have been over had Duke Williams caught a for sure TD in the first half. He made it count in the second half with a big score, and a 3rd and 9 conversion to ice the game 20-14. And about Nick Marshall not being able to throw? Big time conversions late in this game including that deciding 3rd down throw to Duke. Auburn  is for real. K State had won 42 of their last 44 at home. Let’s give the Tigers credit for a few days. Then we can look at the gauntlet of SEC games starting October 4th.

 

2nd Down

Does Florida have a Chance?

No clue on that Saturday against 3rd ranked Alabama. The Gators Defense will be as elite as they’ve been under WIll Muschamp. We all know what the elephant in the room is. Jeff Driskel. This offense just seems lost at times, and inconsistent. I thought before the season that if the Gators could just score 21-24 points they win at least 9 games. They needed 36 points to beat a ryoung and talented Kentucky team in 3 OT’s last week.

 

3rd Down

 

As for Alabama….

Can I just say that I just want to see Amari Cooper and Vernon Hargreaves III go at it? Excited to see that. As for the Tide, we will see how much the offense has improved over a quality opponent. Blake Sims is the starter, with Jacob Coker on the sidelines. Florida will try to confuse Sims as we all know, will be interesting to see if Lane Kiffin stays with the bubble screen left, bubble screen right, handoff to running back A philosophy or will the offense continue to grow in game. Alot of question marks still for both teams as we head to kickoff.

 

4th Down

Is Mississippi State ready to make the jump?

Dan Mullen’s bunch head to Death Valley where as my guy Les Miles says dreams come to die. He also does things like this which makes EVERYONE love him even more. It’s the gift that keeps on giving:

 

As for the game Saturday, The LSU offense is still finding it’s way after a few games, while we really don’t know much about the Bulldogs (wins over  So Miss, UAB, South Alabama). Business picks up this week, I just think the Baton Rouge faithful and those 22 guys on the field in Purple and Yellow will be a little too much for State. The best thing for State, is if LSU’s offense starts slow in this one, if that happens, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bayou Bengals find themselves in trouble.

 

 5th Down

Jameis

Yes he’s 20. yes he’s been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Would I scream what he screamed in my college student union… nah, but I’ve done my fair share of REALLY, REALLY, stupid things in college. Do I have any clue on if this is a concern for Winston moving forward. Honestly no. I could be wrong, and wouldn’t have an issue in saying so in the future. Whether it was a quarter or a half, Winston got football taken away from him this week. That’s never happened. I think it would do wonders for him, realizing that he has an opportunity to play a kids game, and enjoy the rewards that surround it.

I literally laughed when I heard some of the national talking heads suggest that Winston’s draft stock would fall. Yeah right. He will be the first or second QB taken and one of the first ten players taken in the draft if he decides to leave. For all those that want to cast stones to any collegiate athletes regardless of sport. Just remember. There are far worse things going on with athletes and college students that we just don’t hear or see about.

 

Quick Hitter

The NFL.

I don’t even know where to start with the league. It would take me hours to go through it all. We all know the environment that the league is in right now. The biggest thing I hope comes from all these issues, is that it brings awareness to domestic violence. So many women are in trouble each and everyday in the world and in this great country. I hope the common sports fan understands that this goes beyond the white lines on Sunday’s. There are people in trouble, and I hope the awareness is raised even more with all the recent issues with the NFL.

 

Enjoy the weekend!