From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while bemoaning how quickly fall weather arrived and disappeared, especially in the Midwest:

Heisman dreams

By the time the college football season had reached November, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the clear front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy.

It was his to lose after the Sooners racked up road wins over  No. 2-ranked Ohio State on Sept. 9 and No. 11 Oklahoma State on Nov. 4 while proving a high-scoring loss against Iowa State on Oct. 7 wouldn’t be enough to derail them from their championship goals.

The final voting tally underscored just how dominant Mayfield was this season in becoming the Sooners’ sixth Heisman winner. He finished with 2,398 points, easily outdistancing Stanford running back Bryce Love (1,300) and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (793), the 2016 winner.

Mayfield received 732 first-place votes, while Love had 75 first-place votes and Jackson only 47.

Each first-place vote is worth three points, with two points for second and one for third. Mayfield finished with 86 percent of all possible points, which is the third highest percentage since 1950 – topped only by Troy Smith’s 91.6 percent of the votes in 2006 and Marcus Mariotta’s 90.9 percent in 2014.

Not bad for a guy from Austin, Texas who twice had to go from walk-on to starter, first at Texas Tech and then at Oklahoma. Although he grew up an Oklahoma fan, he wasn’t recruited by the Sooners or his hometown University of Texas.

He walked on at Texas Tech and won the starting job as a freshman. But despite passing for more than 2,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, the Red Raiders coaching staff failed to save a scholarship for his sophomore season. So he followed his heart to Norman, Oklahoma.

Now he has the Sooners back in contention for a national championship with a Rose Bowl semifinal date on Jan. 1 against Georgia.

Mayfield referenced his extraordinary path to winning the Heisman by thanking former head coach Bob Stoops and current coach Lincoln Riley, who was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach this season when Stoops retired.

“Coach Stoops you welcomed a chubby, unathletic kid into the program with open arms. I wouldn’t say that many would do that,” said Mayfield. “(But) the thing I’m most thankful for is the hiring of Coach Riley. The day you did that changed my life. I appreciate that.

“Coach Riley you’ve been a great mentor to me. We’ve been through a lot together, so I appreciate you.”

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting two years ago and third last year.

He enters the College Football Playoffs with 12,910 career passing yards and 114 touchdown passes with just 29 interceptions in four seasons. He could leave college with the two best single-season passer ratings.

He rattled off the names of his offensive lineman during his acceptance speech, saying this “wouldn’t have happened without you. Keep up the physicality. We’ve got two more (games).”

That’s as good as guaranteeing a win over Georgia, isn’t it?

But then, Mayfield leaves with a bit of a reputation as a player who’s not afraid to stir up controversy, including planting an OU flag at Ohio State after the Sooners upset the Buckeyes or getting into verbal exchanges with Texas Tech and Kansas fans.

My ballot: I’ve been a Heisman voter for 29 years and I’ve picked the winner all but six or seven of those years. This year I correctly picked Mayfield, but had Jackson at No. 2 and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny as No. 3. The official tally had Penny as the fifth choice behind Penn State’s  Saquon Barkley.

Other honors

The other top award in which I’m still an active voter is the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver, which is given by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. I was the sports editor in Tallahassee for eight years and always enjoyed attending the banquet and writing a column on the winner.

This year’s winner was James Washington of Oklahoma State, who led the nation with 1,423 yards on 69 catches with 12 touchdowns.

Finishing second was Colorado State’s Michael Gallop and third was West Virginia’s Donald Sills. Gallop was fifth in receiving yards with 1,345 but third best with 94 catches. Sills was 28th in yards (980) but led country with 18 touchdown receptions.

My ballot had Washington first with Sills second and Gallop third.

More awards::

Maxwell Award (player of year): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. Bryce Love, Stanford; 3. Saquon Barkley, Penn State.

Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 3. Roquan Smith, Georgia.

Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player): Winner – Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 2. Minkah Fitzgerald, Alabama; 3. Josey Jewell, Iowa.

Butkus Award (linebacker): Winner – Roquon Smith, Georgia; 2. Devin Bush, Michigan; 3. Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech.

Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State; 3. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State.

Doak Walker Award (running back): Winner – Bryce Love, Stanford; 2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin.

Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Deshaun Elliott, Texas; 2. Josh Jackson, Iowa.

Lou Groza Award (kicker): Winner – Matt Gay, Utah; 2. Dominik Eberle, Utah State; 3. Daniel Carlson, Auburn.

Ray Guy Award (punter): Winner – Michael Dickson, Texas; 2. JK Scott, Alabama; 3. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah.

Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Winner – Ed Oliver, Houston; 2. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. 3. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma.

Rimington Trophy (center): Winner – Billy Price, Ohio State; 2. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia; 3. Ethan Pocic, LSU.

Saving grace

S.C. State point guard Ty Solomon didn’t score, didn’t have an assist and only played four minutes in what may be the last basketball game he’ll ever play.

But at least he’s alive.

Solomon collapsed seven minutes into last Saturday’s game in Raleigh, N.C. at PNC Arena against N.C. State. His heart had stopped but he was brought back to life because S.C. State trainer Tyler Long quickly administered CPR and N.C. State trainer Austin Frank came to the rescue with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

As the crowd of 13,000 prayed for his recovery, N.C. State team physician Dr. William Jacobs took over until the EMTs arrived on the scene to transport him to the N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital.

Solomon, a redshirt senior, was hospitalized for five days before returning home to Johns Island, S.C.

Solomon’s family released a statement earlier this week that praised the medical care he received and asking for continued prayers.

“Ty recognizes that he was in the right place at the right time to have a serious medical emergency that could have had a tragic outcome. Instead, he’s looking forward to resuming a normal life, eventually returning to school and making every second count.”

They said it

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times:  “Football coach Jimbo Fisher reportedly tossed his Christmas tree to the curb after news got out he was bolting Florida State for Texas A&M. Hey, it was either that or have Chief Osceola light it on fire and stick it in the ground at the 50-yard line.”

RJ Currie of  “Oddsmakers put Tiger Woods’ chances at 20-1 of winning one of the next four majors. Elvis is at 19-1.”

Brockton (Mont.) High School girls basketball coach Terrence Johnson to the Great Falls Tribune on his players’ reaction after losing 102-0: “They did nothing wrong. At the end of the day, they all went home and asked, ‘What’s for dinner, mom?’ ”

Janice Hough of “LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA means the kid will miss out on potentially a great three months of college.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “After going 2-10 this season, the Gaints have fired coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. Well, if you are wondering what happened to Ben and Jerry they are probably sitting on the couch eating some Ben & Jerry’s.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “It’s a shitty day and I’m in a lot of pain. But the Giants just fired Ben McAdoo, so it’s not all bad.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on rumblings that QB Sam Darnold might stay at USC to avoid being drafted by Cleveland: “The Browns are now bragging about ‘doing our part to keep young people in school.’”

Cashing in

Roger Goodell should take two knees and bow down to the owners, coaches and players of the National Football League.

Being the commissioner of the NFL has made Goodell a very rich man who just got richer by agreeing to a new 5-year contract extension that will pay him $40 million per year.

Most of the money will come from bonuses, which are subject to approval by vote of the 32 team owners. His previous deal, which expires in 2019, will pay him a total of $31.7 million before the contact extension kicks in through 2024.

The new Republican tax plan should stretch his dollars even further.

Going bowling

Yes, there are too many bowl games, beginning with a full slate of five matchups kicking things off next Saturday.

But seriously, if you’re like me, you’ll still be looking for stocking stuffers next weekend so you can wait a little longer before you tune into college football’s postseason since none of the early games really matter.

At least to most of us.

But since I really can’t get away with making that big of a beach blanket statement, I promise I’ll make my full slate of bowl predictions by midweek. Until then, here are the 20 games that will involve teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC.

Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26, 3:15 p.m. CT: Duke vs. Northern Illinois.

Independence Bowl, Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m. CT: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State.

Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27,  3:15 p.m. CT: Iowa vs. Boston College.

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m.: Arizona vs. Purdue.

Texas Bowl, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. CT: Texas vs. Missouri.

Military Bowl, Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m. CT: Virginia vs. Navy.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 3:15 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, 7 p.m. CT: Washington State vs. Michigan State.

Belk Bowl, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M.

Sun Bowl, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.: N.C. State vs. Arizona State.

Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Northwestern.

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 6:30 p.m.: Southern California vs. Ohio State.

Taxslayer Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. CT: Louisville vs. Mississippi State.

Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 30, 2 p.m. CT: Washington vs. Penn State.

Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, 6 p.m. CT: Wisconsin vs. Miami.

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. CT: Michigan vs. South Carolina.

Peach Bowl, Jan. 1, 10:30 a.m. CT: Central Florida vs. Auburn.

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT: Notre Dame vs. LSU.

College Football Playoff Semifinals

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 3 p.m. CT: Georgia vs. Oklahoma.

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 6:45 p.m. CT: Alabama vs. Clemson

Note: CFP Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m. CT, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta. It will be televised by ESPN.

Headlines “Lakers add Buffalo Chicken Wing stains to Shaquille O’Neal’s retired jersey.”  “LiAngelo scores 47 in his first game at LaVar Ball University.: “Lavar takes his Ball and goes home.” “Browns confirm they will skip NFL Draft to avoid drafting any future Browns.” “New NFL safety rule requires players to be careful.” “Unlike the Lions, Pontiac Silverdome fails to implode.” “Roy Moore reminds voters that many of Alabama’s top recruits have also tried to have sex with teenage girls.” “New ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial features Otto the Syracuse Orange laying off staffers.” “Nike fires 7-year-old foreman of its NBA jersey factory.”

 Winning Tweet

Twitter really can be useful. Just ask John Goehrke, who turned the social media site into a dating app during the Super Bowl.

With the Atlanta Falcons up 25 points over the New England Patriots, Canadian tennis player Genie Bouchard made the mistake of proclaiming in a tweet that the Super Bowl was over.

We know what happened from there, and no one was more thankful about that than Goehrke, a Missouri college student. That’s because he had answered Bouchard’s tweet by asking if she’d go out with him if Tom Brady rallied New England to victory.

She agreed to his bet, and now it appears they have become friends who have hung out more than once, including going to a Brooklyn Nets game.

Team Tweeting

The best and worst of college Twitter accounts, according to Athlon’s Sports:

Ten Best College Twitter Accounts: 1. South Carolina; 2. Clemson; 3. Miami; 4. Oregon; 5. Georgia; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Ohio State; 8. Auburn; 9. Virginia Tech; 10. Utah.

Five Worst College Twitter Accounts: 1. Michigan; 2. Oregon State; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Alabama; 5. Penn State.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

At least Jozy Altidore can say he scored one meaningful goal in 2017 with game-winner for Toronto in MLS Cup.

Where’s the Air Force when you need the aerial support? Army beats Navy 14-13 in the snow, but the big story is the two teams combined for 22 yards passing.

@IUMenssocer will play for its 9th NCAA men’s soccer title Sunday. Hoosiers beat North Carolina 1-0 and 2-time defending champion Stanford beat Akron 2-0. It was Hoosiers 18th shutout of season.

@_king_lil (Lilly King) deserves credit for getting this started with her antidoping stance in Rio in 2016

Sorry Urban, but two losses matter, but Buckeyes were No. 5 and Wisconsin No. 6.

Two teams from SEC make playoff, which underscores the need to expand the playoff beyond four teams.

On the move

Since we’re catching up with the usual postseason business, let’s acknowledge the coaching moves that have already taken place in my three favorite conferences.


Florida State: Willie Taggart (from Oregon)

Big Ten

Nebraska: Scott Frost (from UCF)


Arkansas: Chad Morris (from SMU)

Florida: Dan Mullen (from Mississippi State)

Mississippi: Matt Luke (promoted from interim coach)

Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt (from Alabama, defensive coordinator)

Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher (from Florida State)

CFP committee snubs Ohio State for Alabama

The College Football Playoff rankings mirrored the Associated Press Top 25 poll, setting up a third straight showdown between defending national champion Clemson and Alabama.

Alabama won the 2015 championship by beating Clemson.

This time Nick Saban’s Crimson TIde will face Dabo Swinney’s Tigers in a national semifinal  in the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 1.

The other semifinal will match SEC Champion Georgia against Big 12 Champion Oklahoma at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

A former player and coach at Alabama, Swinney said in an ESPN interview that  his Clemson team would welcome the challenge of playing the Crimson Tide a third-straight year in the postseason.

“Obviously the committee had a lot of things to consider but they put the four best teams in there,” said Swinney. “Alabama has been the standard for a long time. We’ve had, obviously, a couple of huge battles with them, but (we’re) excited about it.

“It’s been 25 years since I’ve been to the Sugar Bowl and it was with Alabama at that time. It’s only fitting to have a chance to advance to Atlanta, you’ve got a heavyweight matchup here with Clemson and Alabama. We’ll be excited about it. … It’s going to be a heckuva game; I don’t have any doubt.”

The selection process means that the champions of the  Big Ten and Pac 12 won’t be part of the CFP playoffs.  Using the final CFP rankings, it would have required an eight-team playoff to include the champions of all Power 5 conferences since Ohio State finished at No. 5 and Southern Cal was No. 8

It would have taken a 16-team playoff to include American Athletic Conference champion UCF and independent Notre Dame.

The CFP top 16

  1. Clemson (12-1), ACC Champion.
  2. Oklahoma (12-1), Big 12 Champion
  3. Georgia (12-1), SEC Champion
  4. Alabama (11-1), SEC at-large
  5. Ohio State (11-2), Big Ten Champion
  6. Wisconsin (12-1), Big Ten at-large
  7. Auburn (10-3), SEC at-large
  8. Southern California (11-2), Pac-12 Champion
  9. Penn State (10-2), Big Ten at-large
  10. Miami (10-2), ACC at-large
  11. Washington (11-2), Pac-12 at-large
  12. UCF (12-0), AAC Champion
  13. Stanford (9-4), Pac-12 at-large
  14. Notre Dame (9-3), Independent
  15. TCU (10-3), Big 12 at-large
  16. Michigan State (9-3), Big Ten at-large

Beard’s Perfect World Playoffs

Using the final CFP rankings, a 16-team playoff would have provided these first round matchups.  The only change would be made to prevent Big 12 teams Oklahoma and TCU from squaring off in the first round, so the first-round opponents for Oklahoma and Georgia were swapped in this imagined 16-team playoff

First round 

Clemson vs. Michigan State

Southern Cal vs. Penn State

Ohio State vs. UCF

Alabama vs. Stanford

Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame

Auburn vs. Miami

Wisconsin vs. Washington

Georgia vs. TCU

Second round:

Clemson-Michigan State winner vs. Southern Cal-Penn State winner

Alabama-Stanford winner vs. Ohio State-UCF winner

Georgia-TCU winners vs. Wisconsin-Washington winner

Oklahoma-Notre Dame winner vs. Auburn–Miami winner



From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while shamefully admitting I was 0-for-3 in my predictions for the ACC, SEC and Big Ten championship games:

Emerging dynasty

Clemson left no doubt which team deserves to be No. 1 when the College Football Playoff committee announces its Jan. 1 semifinal matchups Sunday afternoon.

The defending national champion Tigers (12-1) crushed Miami in the ACC title game Saturday night in Charlotte, claiming a 38-3 win to secure the top seed.

Oklahoma (12-1) should move up to No. 2 after Baker Mayfield’s Heisman-clinching effort in leading the Sooners past TCU, 41-17, in the Big 12 Championship Game.

The third slot should go to SEC champion Georgia (12-1), which beefed up its playoff resume by avenging an ugly loss to Auburn just three weeks ago.  Beaten 40-17 at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium,  the Bulldogs rolled to a 28-7 victory in Atlanta.

That leaves the fourth spot for Big Ten champion Ohio State (11-2), which beat previously unbeaten Wisconsin, 27-21.

If every game counts in college football, as coaches like to say, it should matter that Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide wasn’t playing for the SEC title on Saturday.

Celebrating 50

Clemson has only six scholarship seniors – cornerback Ryan Carter, linebacker Dorian O’Daniel,  guard Tyrone Crowder, lineman Maverick Morris, tight end D.J. Greenlee and cornerback Marcus Edmond — but they will be remembered as the winningest class in ACC history.

That streak of success includes a national championship, three ACC titles and a 4-0 record against rival South Carolina. And they aren’t ready to stop at 50 wins, either.

Headlines “The 2018 World Cup draw is set. The U.S. is in Group 1 with Holland, Italy and Chile.” “Archie Manning puts Eli up for adoption.”  “LeBron lobbies NBA  for ability to eject refs that eject him.” “Greg Schiano drops interest in Tennessee job after discovering program’s ties to awful football.” “New report finds Giants just 5 years away from acquiring offensive weapons.” “Cleveland Browns are now officially eliminated from the playoffs.”

Volunteer movement

Most athletic directors keep handy a list of potential head coaches for football and basketball for when they have an opening. On Friday new Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer didn’t exactly rule himself out, saying only that he wouldn’t “serve as interim coach of the Vols.” That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t consider a long-term contract to return to a job he held for 17 seasons until 2008, right?

With that in mind, we at sportseditorperspective were able to sneak a peek at Fulmer’s football coaching wish list:

  • Phillip “Legendary Vol” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Vol for Life” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Better than Johnny Majors” Fulmer
  • Phillip “No. 2 on UT wins list” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Need 22 wins to be No. 1” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Don’t hate like 2008” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Still should be coach” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Anybody can be AD” Fulmer
  • Phillip “Kick Kiffen’s Twitter butt” Fulmer
  • Plan B: Tee Martin.*

Tee time

Once the season started unraveling for Tennessee, Peyton Manning’s ears must have been burning.

He was being mentioned as a replacement for Butch Jones. And if not head coach, then offensive coordinator. And if not coordinator, then quarterback coach.

But let’s be serious. The next head coach at Tennessee should be  Tee Martin, who replaced Manning as quarterback and led the Vols to a national championship in 1998.

Martin, who is Southern California’s offensive coordinator, is one of the country’s top young coaches. Under Martin, the Trojans averaged 34.5 points and 489.5 yards per game, which ranked among the top 30 in the nation.

Fulmer should already have made Martin an offer he can’t refuse. Unfortunately, reports suggest that Fulmer has contacted Martin about returning to Knoxville only as offensive coordinator on a staff led by former LSU head coach Les Miles.

With Fulmer sitting in the AD office,  Martin would have all the head coaching advice he’d ever need.

Coaching carousel

With college football’s regular season over, it’s time to launch new coaching eras.  Of the five vacancies created (so far) in the Southeastern Conference, three of the schools  have found their man.

Dan Mullen filled one opening while creating another when he jumped from Mississippi State to Florida.

Such conference thievery could happen again if Arkansas can give native son Gus Malzahn enough reasons to leave Auburn. That courtship can become serious now that Auburn won’t be playing for the national championship.

Here’s an updated list of the SEC coach openings/closures:

  • Arkansas: Mike Norvell????
  • Auburn: Gus Malzahn says he’s staying
  • Florida: Dan Mullen
  • Mississippi State: Joe Moorhead
  • Tennessee: Les Miles orTee Martin?
  • Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher

Jimbo jumps

Texas A&M just hired a coach who had a losing record this season. That’s right. Since Jimbo Fisher wasn’t stalking the sidelines during Florida State’s 42-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe, he finished 5-6 this season.

Meanwhile, the coach he replaces, Kevin Sumlin, was 7-5 this season.

No doubt Fisher got a better deal contracturally from the Aggies, but we’ll have to wait and see if the fans  agree that Texas A&M came out ahead in the switch.

They said it

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “A man proposed to his girlfriend at ‘Monday Night Raw.’ That’s what she gets for saying she expected a humongous ring.”

RJ Currie of  “Danica Patrick told USA Today when it comes to a Thanksgiving drink, she’s a ‘red wine kind of person.’ Hey; at least wine has a ‘win’ in it.”

Janice Hough of “Congratulations to the Toronto Argonauts, winners of the Grey Cup. Few sports fans think the Argos could actually compete with NFL teams, though they might be two touchdown favorites against the Cleveland Browns.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The New York Giants announced that they are benching Eli Manning this weekend. Eli’s not sure what’s worse – not getting to play for the Giants, or having to WATCH the Giants.”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle on the 49ers’ futile attempts to sack Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: “Trying to capture a butterfly with a soup spoon.”

Super K

Kayla Montgomery, a runner from Winston-Salem, N.C. who won three state high school championships in the 2013-14 school year for Mount Tabor High School despite having Multiple Sclerosis, will forever be an inspiration to all who hear her story.

I caught her ESPN E:60 documentary, “Catching Kayla,” the other day and found myself fighting back tears as I learned about all the hurdles she had to overcome every time she  stepped up to the starting line for a distance race. Because she loses feeling in her legs as her body begins to overheat while she is running, Montgomery needs to have someone waiting at the finish line to prevent her from falling once she stops. She also needs help to cool down as quickly as possible to avoid other health concerns that arise with MS.

She’s now a senior at Lipscomb College in Nashville, although it doesn’t appear she is still competing. Her last finish in a race, according to her athletic department bio, came in 2015.

But that doesn’t make her any less of  an inspiration.

Sweet Tweets

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

So, if you combined the scores of the two games between the two SEC Championship Game participants, Auburn would beat Georgia 47-45, right?

Jimbo Fisher resigns at FSU to take Texas A&M job, proving some coaches leave even when grass isn’t greener on other side of fence. Concussions have horrible consequences.

Today I’m announcing that I will not be the next person to turn down the head football coaching position at the University of Tennessee. Alas, there are way too many folks who are more qualified to turn down the job ahead of me. But, if UT officials get desperate, I am available.

Laura Okmin just asked Titans’ Marcus Mariota how “it feels to get all these monkeys” off your back. So now there’s more than one monkey?

Titans’ Delanie Walker catches TD pass and does end zone celebration as salute to CPR, laying football on field and doing “chest compressions.” Announcer Chris Myers describes the celebration as “burping the baby.”

 Stat of week

Bavarian Bierhaus in Glendale, Wis., thought it had the perfect in-game promotion when the Green Bay Packers hosted the Baltimore Ravens.

The deal was to hand out free beer until the Packers scored. But wouldn’t you know it, Green Bay was shutout at home for the first time in 11 seasons, losing to the Ravens 23-0.

The brewery estimates it gave away as many as 300 beers as the suds flowed freely from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.

ACC Landscape: Week Fourteen


TV: Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC


Record: 11-1

CFP rank: No. 1

Best win: vs. Auburn, 14-6

Worst loss: at Syracuse, 27-24

Offensive stars: Leading passer — Kelly Bryant (2,426 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INT); Leading rushers — Kelly Bryant (164-804, 10 TD), Travis Etienne (97-735, 12 TD); Leading receivers Hunter Renfrow (50-526. 3 TD), Deon Cain (49-620. 5TD).

Defensive stars: Dorian O’Daniel (95 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss); Kendall Joseph (73 tackles, 4 tackles for loss).

Key team statistics: Total offense — 24 (457.9); Scoring offense — 25 (35.2 ppg); Total defense — 6 (283.3 ypg); Scoring defense 4 (13.6 ppg).

Dabo Swinney on Miami: “They’re running the football. They’re playing fast and physical on defense. They’ve made plays on special teams. They’re playing complementary ball as a team. They’re well-coached and they look like they’re having fun doing it, too. They’ve had a great year.”


Record: 10-1

CFP Rank: No. 7

Best win: vs. Notre Dame, 41-8

Worst loss: at Pittsburgh, 24-14

Offensive stars: Leading passer — Malik Rosier (2,798 yards, 25 TDs, 9 INTs); Leading rushers — Travis Homer (137-866, 7 TDs), Malik Rosier (112-408, 5 TDs); Leading receivers –  Braxton Berrios (44-574, 9 TDs), Travis Homer (18-229, 1 TD).

Defensive stars: Jaquon Johnson (81 tackles, 4 interceptions); Michael Pinkney (55 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception).

Key team statistics: Total offense 44 (422.9); Scoring offense  –– 40 (31.9 ppg); Total defense — 41 (362.4 ypg); Scoring defense — 15 (18.3 ppg).

Mark Richt on any advantage Clemson might have as defending champion:  “Yeah, well, first of all, being used to winning at a high level, being used to being a champion, not only an ACC champion but a national champion, playing in two national championship games in a row, it doesn’t get any bigger than that … Experience is a great teacher. We all know that. We’re just experiencing some things for the first time as a group of coaches and players. It should be an advantage to have lived through those types of moments.”




(All times Central)

ACC Championship Game: Miami (10-1) vs. Clemson (11-1), Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC

Louisiana-Monroe (4-7) at Florida State (5-6), Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ACC Network


  1. Clemson (11-1, 7-1): Last Week – W, South Carolina, 34-10. The Impact – If Tigers beat Miami Saturday, Dabo Swinney’s program will be in position to defend its national title and at least make a third straight appearance in CFP semifinals. Clemson, which beat state rival USC for the fourth consecutive year, is favored to beat Hurricanes by 9.5 points in latest Vegas odds.


2. Miami (10-1, 7-1): Last Week – L, Pittsburgh, 24-14. The Impact – Mark Richt’s Hurricanes may have squandered chance of a lifetime after losing on the road to unheralded Pittsburgh. The loss knocked them from the second spot in the College Football Playoff poll to No. 7, so unless UM defeats Clemson Saturday it will have to settle for a regular bowl bid. If they had remained No. 2 and kept the nation’s longest win streak alive entering the ACC title game, the ’Canes y might have been safe even with close loss to Tigers. That setback also was Malik Rosier’s first in college. He completed just 15 of 34 passes for 187 yards, which led him to be pulled for a series.

3. Virginia Tech (9-3, 5-3): Last Week – W, Virginia, 10-0. The Impact – Hokies struggled on offense but excelled on defense, holding rival Virginia to 5 yards rushing. It was third shutout of season for Bud Foster’s unit but first over Power-5 opponent. It was Va. Tech’s 14th consecutive win in series, which covers their ACC era.

4. N. C. State (8-4, 6-2): Last Week – W, North Carolina, 33-21. The Impact – Nyheim Hines rushed for a career-best 196 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 48 yards, to give him more than 1,000 yards on the season. The win over UNC was only second in last five games but it was eighth overall, elevating Wolfpack’s status in bowl pecking order. It also may have made it easier for Dave Doeren to turn down a chance to interview for the Tennessee coaching job.


5. Louisville (8-4, 4-4): Last Week – W, at Kentucky, 44-17. The Impact – Lamar Jackson and his teammates avenged a stunning loss at home to rival Kentucky last season by taking care of business in dominating fashion on the Wildcats’ home field. The 2016 Heisman winner even provided an emotional lift when he and UK linebacker Jordan Jones got into a scuffle that nearly ignited a brawl. Jackson had 216 yards passing and 156 rushing to likely assure another trip to New York as a Heisman candidate.




6. Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4): Last Week – L, Duke, 31-23. The Impact – Quarterback John Wolford finished regular season with school record 3,417 yards of total offense and will have a bowl game to add to that total. After 4-0 start to season, Demon Deacons have struggled to maintain any consistency, winning only three of last eight games. They did excel at ball protection, finishing with plus-7 turnover ratio for season.


7. Boston College (7-5, 4-4): Last Week – W, Syracuse, 42-14. The Impact – Freshman running back A.J. Dillon assured that B.C.’s turnaround would continue, scoring three touchdowns and finishing with 193 yards rushing. Steve Addazio’s team has won five of its last six games and will have a chance at winning eight games in a bowl.

8. Florida State (5-6, 3-5): Last Week – W, at Florida, 38-22. The Impact – Jimbo Fisher finally took the hint and accepted the job at Texas A&M on Friday. FSU fans had grown tired of his refusal to say he was even considering Aggies’ job when all reports out of College Station indicated he was ready to sign on the dotted line. It means Fisher won’t be on the sidelines Saturday for Seminoles’ monumental clash with Louisiana-Monroe, a game that was postponed because of Hurricane Irma and only rescheduled after FSU realized it might need a guaranteed sixth win to preserve its bowl eligibility streak of 36 consecutive years. The win over Florida extended FSU best-ever streak to four years.

9. Virginia (6-6, 3-5): Last Week – L, Virginia Tech, 10-0.44-28. The Impact – Despite being blanked by Hokies, quarterback Kurt Benkert set school’s single-season passing record with 3,026 yards to move past Matt Schaub (2002). Benkert is also first UVA QB to surpass 3,000 yards in a season. Despite losing last three games, Cavs are headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2011.

10. Duke (6-6, 3-5): Last Week – W, at Wake Forest, 31-23. The Impact – Blue Devils won consecutive games for first time since opening season 4-0 to secure bowl eligibility. Before beating Georgia Tech and Wake Forest back-to-back, David Cutcliffe’s team had lost six straight. It should earn Duke a bowl berth for just 13th time. The good news is that Blue Devils’ defense is steadily improving. Despite the losses, Duke has held opponents to fewer than 25 points in six straight games and 10 of 12 games this season.

11. Georgia Tech (5-6, 4-4): Last Week – L, Georgia, 38-7. The Impact – Five weeks ago the Yellow Jackets were in decent shape in terms of earning a bowl berth with four wins, but lost four of five games to close the season, including a home loss to rival Georgia. Since winning 11 games in 2014, Paul Johnson’s Techsters are just 17-19 in the past three seasons. Expect staff changes, particularly on defense, after Georgia Tech allowed three of its last four opponents to score at least 38 points.




12. Pittsburgh (5-7, 3-5): Last Week – W, Miami, 24-14. The Impact – There will be no bowl game for the Panthers, but they did win three of their final five games, including a stunning upset of second-ranked Miami that shook up the College Football Playoff scenario by ending the nation’s longest win streak of 13 games. Freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, getting his first start, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another.

13. Syracuse (4-8, 2-6): Last Week – L, Boston College, 42-14. The Impact – The highpoint of the season for Dino Babers’ team was its Oct. 13 upset of defending national champion Clemson. But instead of feeding off that feel-good moment, Orange lost its last five games, including the last two by a combined score of 98-24 to Louisville and Boston College. Receivers Steve Ishmael and Erv Phillips combined to set ACC record with 194 receptions between them. Phillips and Amba Etta-Tawo set old mark for receptions by two teammates (184).

14. North Carolina (3-9, 1-7): Last Week – L, at N.C. State, 35-21. The Impact – Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels were showing signs of life after winning previous two games, including winning at Pittsburgh two weeks before Panthers upset Miami. But all that was forgotten with road loss to Wolfpack. It ended a streak of four years in which the road team had won in the series.


(Predicted winners in bold caps)

Saturday’s games

MIAMI 23, Clemson 21

FLORIDA STATE 38, Louisiana-Monroe 23

 Last Week: 5-4

Overall: 79-27 (74.5%)

SEC Landscape: Week Fourteen


TV: Saturday 3 p.m. CT, CBS


Record: 10-2

CFP rank: No. 2

Best win: vs. Alabama, 26-14

Worst loss: at LSU, 27-23

Offensive stars: Leading passer – Jarrett Stidham (2,682 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs). Leading rushers – Kerryon Johnson (250-1,276, 17 TDs), Kam Martin (64-409, 2 TDs). Leading receivers – Ryan Davis (69-703, 5 TDs), Kerryon Johnson (27-187, 2 TDs).

Defensive stars: Deshaun Davis (65 tackles, 4 sacks), Derrick Brown (46 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss).

Key team statistical rankings: Total offense –  18 (470.3); Scoring offense – 19 (36.7 ppg); Total defense – 11 (303.3 ypg); Scoring defense – 9 (16.4 ppg).

Gus Malzahn on rematch with Georgia: “I think the unique thing about playing a team again is it was just a couple weeks ago. As far as the revenge, and I’m sure they’re going to have some of it, but this is a championship game. This game is as big as it gets for our conference, and the winner wins the conference championship. So I know both teams are going to be motivated.”


Record: 11-1

CFP Rank: No. 6

Best win: at Notre Dame, 20-19

Worst loss: at Auburn, 40-17

Offensive stars: Leading passer – Jake Fromm (1,990 yards, 19 TDs, 5 INTs).Leading rushers – Nick Chubb (178-1.098, 13 TDs), Sony Michel (124-903, 13 TDs). Leading receivers – Javon Wims (38-631. 6 TDs). Terry Godwin (24-402. 5 TDs).

Defensive stars: Roquan Smith (100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks), J.R. Reed (65 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss).

Key team statistical rankings: Total offense – 36 (434.7); Scoring offense – 23 (35.5 ppg); Total defense – 4 (271.9 ypg); Scoring defense – 5 (13.8 ppg).

Kirby Smart on being more physical in rematch with Auburn:  “I think that our job is to improve physicality. I don’t think that you just snap your fingers and have that happen overnight. I think some people have said, oh, you played Kentucky. You were more physical. You played Georgia Tech. You were more physical. Well, they weren’t Auburn, you know what I mean?


(All times Central)

 SEC Championship Game: Auburn vs. Georgia, Atlanta, Saturday 3 p.m. CT, CBS


  1. Auburn (10-2, 7-1): Last Week – W, Alabama, 26-14. The Impact – Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who I got to know when he was at Florida State, had a plan that limited Alabama to a pair of big plays. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers started strong and finished stronger. Sidenote: To quote from my Week 1 SEC Landscape, referencing that I had turned down a chance to continue my professional career as a sports editor while covering Auburn: “This will probably be the Year of the War Eagle, and I could have been there to see it all. Enough said.”
  1. Alabama (11-1, 7-1): Last Week – L, at Auburn, 26-14. The Impact – Nick Saban didn’t need long after loss to Auburn in Iron Bowl to start his campaign for one of the four College Football Playoff spots and the CFP committee did Crimson Tide a solid with No. 5 ranking this week. A loss by just one of the top four teams this weekend in the conference championship games would put Tide back in hunt. What’s unknown is whether Clemson could still get a shot if either Oklahoma or Wisconsin lose their games and Tigers are also upset by Miami in ACC title game. Surely, we couldn’t have a third-straight national championship game between Tide and Tigers could we?
  1. Georgia (11-1, 7-1): Last Week – W, Georgia Tech, 38-7. The Impact – Quarterback Jake Fromm had another strong outing, completing 12 of 16 passes for 224 yards and pair of touchdowns with no interceptions in romp against rival Georgia Tech. That should give him a boost in confidence going into rematch with Auburn in SEC Championship game. The last time the teams met, three weeks ago at Auburn, Fromm completed less than half his passes and was sacked four times. Bulldogs will need to find balance with Fromm’s passing and the running of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel if they are going to have different outcome against Auburn.
  1. LSU (9-3, 6-2): Last Week – W, Texas A&M, 45-21. The Impact – Ed Orgeron’s work isn’t finished, but he’s built up a good head of steam with the Tigers winning six of last seven games, including handing Auburn its only loss in mid-October. Tigers are likely headed to Citrus or Outback bowls against Big Ten opponent.
  1. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4): Last Week – L, Mississippi, 31-28. The Impact – Losing two of their last three games wasn’t nearly as damaging to the Bulldogs as losing quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to a broken ankle in the first quarter of the Egg Bowl and then learning head coach Dan Mullen was leaving to take the Florida job. The Bulldogs have quickly moved on with Fitzgerald having successful surgery and Mullen being replaced by Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. Despite the setbacks, the Bulldogs won eight games and will go bowling with freshman QB Keytaon Thompson getting the start.


6. South Carolina (8-4, 5-3): Last Week – L, Clemson, 34-10. The Impact – With eight wins and a Florida bowl invite in the works, Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks have a lot to celebrate despite disappointment of fourth straight loss to rival Clemson. But Tigers exposed fact that Muschamp’s Achilles’ heel remains offense – Gamecocks were No. 27 in scoring defense (20.8) but only No. 98 in scoring offense (24.1)

7. Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4): Last Week – L, at LSU, 45-21. The Impact – After loss to LSU, Kevin Sumlin was fired with Aggies turning their attention to courting Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, who is keeping everyone on hold since Seminoles still having a game to play. Texas A&M will go bowling, but winning fewer than nine games – or losing as many as five games – isn’t acceptable with the unreasonable fans in College Station. Sumlin also was just 16-20 against SEC West teams and didn’t win a division game at home the past three seasons.

8. Missouri (7-5, 4-4):  Last Week – W,  at Arkansas, 48-45.  The Impact – Drew Lock passed for 448 yards and five touchdowns in wild road win against Razorbacks. The victory allowed Barry Odom’s squad to finish .500 in SEC and improve its positioning for one of the SEC’s bowl bids. Lock finished season with at least three touchdown passes in eight straight games and set SEC record with 43 touchdown passes, surpassing the 40 by Kentucky’s Andre Woodson in 2007. Mizzou won six in row after starting season 1-5.

9. Kentucky (7-5, 4-4): Last Week – L, Louisville, 44-17. The Impact – Wildcats entered November entertaining thoughts of at least a nine-win season but lost three of final four games. Being dominated at home by rival Louisville certainly wasn’t the way Mark Stoops’ squad wanted to end regular season, either. The UK defense again took a beating, surrendering more than 500 yards and 40 points for second straight week. Fortunately, the Wildcats clinched a bowl bid in just eight games.

10. Mississippi (6-6, 3-5): Last Week – W, at Mississippi State, 31-28.  The Impact – Winning the Egg Bowl will have to be reward enough for the Rebels since the school played season under a self-imposed bowl ban. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu threw for 247 yards and touchdowns passes of 77 and 63 yards against Bulldogs.

11. Florida (4-7, 3-5): Last Week – L, Florida State, 38-22. The Impact –  Gators lost six of last seven games, including a blown opportunity to end five-game skid to rival Florida State. FSU scored a pair of defensive touchdowns off a fumble and interception from UF quarterback Felipe Franks. It’s just the second losing season since 1979 by Florida and Gators will miss playing in a bowl game for only the second time in 27 seasons. It’s now up to new coach Dan Mullen to get the program back on track.


12. Arkansas  (4-8,  1-7):  Last  Week – L, Missouri, 48-45.  The Impact – Bret Bielema’s time in Arkansas ended with more frustration when Mizzou rallied late and won on field goal with five seconds left. Bielema was fired before he could get to the locker room, finishing his five years with Razorbacks with an overall record of 29-34 and only 11-29 in the SEC.

13. Vanderbilt (5-7, 1-7): Last Week – W, at Tennessee, 42-24. The Impact – Ralph Webb finished college career as SEC’s all-time sixth leading rusher with 4,173 yards after gaining 163 and scoring two touchdowns against Vols. The win over their state rival allowed Commodores to break a two-game skid but it was too little, too late to salvage a bowl berth for Derek Mason and his players. They were done in by a five-game losing skid in the middle of the season. But by beating Tennessee, they did move out of a tie for the SEC cellar by finally winning a conference game.

14. Tennessee (4-8, 0-8): Last Week – L, Vanderbilt, 42-24. The ImpactUPDATED Tennessee AD John Currie’s difficulty hiring a new football coach after firing Butch Jones cost him his job after only 10 months. His latest target was Washington State coach Mike Leach, who may have accepted offer, but that’s when things in Knoxville took nasty turn with alleged interference from former Vols’ coach Phillip Fulmer. Now Fulmer is AD and Currie has been kicked to curb. Reports have had Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, N.C. State’s Dave Doeren, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and Duke’s David Cutcliffe turning down the job but Fulmer May have had something to do with that. Trouble began when Currie initially pursued Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano but school rescinded offer because of fan outrage. If we can believe reports, former NFL coach-turned broadcaster Jon Gruden also may have declined to interview. Meanwhile, in season finale Volunteers couldn’t stop the run or generate a rushing attack, allowing 246 yards to Vandy while gaining just 55 yards. 

Beard’s Pick

(Predicted winner in Bold Caps)

AUBURN 27, Georgia 13

Last Week: 6-3

Overall: 83-20 (80.5%)

Big Ten Landscape: Week Fourteen


TV: Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, Fox


Record: 12-0

CFP rank: No. 4

Best win: vs. Michigan, 24-10

Worst loss: None

Offensive stars: Leading passer – Alex Hornibrook (2,157, 21 TDs, 13 INTs). Leading rushers – Jonathan Taylor (258-1,836, 13 TDs), Bradick Shaw 96-365, 4TDs). Leading receivers – Troy Fumagalli (38-471, 4 TDs), A.J. Taylor (21-354, 4 TDs).

Defensive stars: Ryan Connelly (71 tackles, 10 tackles for loss), T.J. Edwards (67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss).

Key team statistical rankings: Total offense –  42 (426.0; Scoring offense – 26 (34.8 ppg); Total defense – 1 (236.9 ypg); Scoring defense – 2 (12.0 ppg).

Paul Chryst on Ohio State: “We know we’re going to get Ohio State’s best. And certainly J.T. Barrett’s an unbelievable quarterback. And it’s pretty neat what he’s done throughout his whole career and certainly what he’s done this year … But you’re preparing for their whole team. And certainly our defense is preparing for their whole offense.”


Record: 10-2

CFP Rank: No. 8

Best win: vs. Penn State, 39-38

Worst loss: at Iowa, 55-24

Offensive stars: Leading passer – J.T. Barrett (2,728 yards, 33 TDs,7 INTs). Leading rushers – J.K. Dobbins (164-1,190, 7 TDs, J.T. Barrett (130-672, 9 TDs). Leading receivers K.J. Hill (51-519, 3 TDs), Terry McLaurin (26-342, 5 TDs).

Defensive stars: Jordan Fuller (57 tackles, 2 interceptions), Jerome Baker (51 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss).

Key team statistical rankings: Total offense – 4 (529.8); Scoring offense – 5 (43.8 ppg); Total defense – 8 (291.8 ypg); Scoring defense – 20 (19.8 ppg).

Urban Meyer on Wisconsin:  “I know a Paul Chryst team and I know Wisconsin football. And I have a lot of respect for just the way they do their business. I go back to my good friend Barry Alvarez. I think he’s put a template together and has hired remarkable coaches to follow that template and this might be the best of all of them. Coach Chryst does an amazing job. (He and his staff) just keep plugging. They recruit and develop players as good as anybody.”.


Big Ten Championship: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, 6:30 p.m. CT, Fox


  1. Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0): Last Week – W, at Minnesota, 31-0. The Impact – Badgers surrendered only 114 points in nine Big Ten games, an average of only 12.6 per game. But those nine league foes also only had a combined Big Ten record of 29-52. If Paul Chryst can lead his team to the league title on Saturday, the Badgers will be seeded for the national semifinals, but they won’t necessarily deserve it.
  1. Ohio State (10-2, 8-1): Last Week – W. at Michigan, 31-20. The Impact – Despite re-injuring right knee after being bumped by a cameraman before Michigan game, QB J.T. Barrett said he’ll be good to go again against Wisconsin. But the way head coach Urban Meyer is fuming, the unidentified cameraman might want to skip the game in Indianapolis.
  1. Michigan State (9-3, 7-2): Last Week – W, at Rutgers, 40-7. The Impact – Spartans allowed 20.3 points per game, and while that was seventh best in Big Ten it ranks No. 23 nationally despite 48-3 loss to Ohio State. Spartans flipped won-loss record going from 3-9 in 2016.

 4. Penn State (10-2, 7-2): Last Week – W, at Maryland, 66-3. The Impact – Nittany Lions had dreams of a championship season derailed by back-to-back losses by a combined four points. James Franklin’s team will have a shot at winning 11 games in either Cotton or Citrus bowls.

5. Northwestern (9-3, 7-2): Last Week – W, at Illinois, 42-7. The Impact – Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats closed strong, winning their last seven games after back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. Likely going bowling in Florida, either Citrus or Outback.


6. Michigan (8-4, 5-4):Last Week – L, Ohio State, 31-20. The Impact – For Jim Harbaugh, it was another season of disappointment against the Big Ten’s high-profile teams – losing 14-10 to Michigan State, 42-13 at Penn State, 24-10 at Northwestern and 31-20 at Ohio State. Early speculation has a possible Holiday Bowl matchup against Stanford, which he coached from 2007-10.

7. Purdue (6-6, 4-5): Last Week – W, Indiana, 31-24. The Impact – Purdue will have to give Jeff Brohm a hefty raise after Boilermakers won three of four games, including beating Indiana, to become bowl eligible. Purdue is likely headed to the Music City Bowl against an SEC school. 

8. Iowa (7-5, 4-5): Last Week – W, at Nebraska, 56-14. The Impact – Hawkeyes never generated consistency with pair of two-game skids in conference action, but did have stunning 55-24 win at home over Ohio State. Iowa was No. 22 in scoring defense, allowing 19.9 points per game.

 9. Nebraska (4-8, 3-6): Last Week – L, Iowa, 56-14. The Impact – Cornhuskers won just one of final seven games, stealing a 25-24 win at Purdue. As expected Mike Riley was fired after loss to Iowa, one of four games in which Nebraska allowed more than 54 points, including final three.

 10. Indiana (5-7, 2-7):Last Week – L, at Purdue, 31-24. The Impact – Hoosiers lost four-year hold on Old Oaken Bucket, but 42-39 setback at Maryland and 27-20 overtime loss to Michigan are the two games that will haunt Tom Allen’s memories from his first season in Bloomington. Hoosiers scored an average of 26.8 points and surrendered 25.4 points per game.

11. Minnesota (5-7, 2-7): Last Week – L, Wisconsin, 31-0. The Impact – P.J. Fleck received a one-year extension to his contract, putting him back on a 5-year plan even though Gophers failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2012. Minnesota lost four of its final five games, including being shutout in back-to-back games to close season.



12. Rutgers (4-8, 3-6): Last Week – L, Michigan State, 40-7. The Impact – Scarlet Knights were held to 14 or fewer points in six of last eight games, including pair of shutout losses. Best stretch of season resulted in three Big Ten wins in four weeks, knocking off Illinois, Purdue and Maryland.

13. Maryland (4-8, 2-7): Last Week – L, Penn State, 66-3. The Impact – A Maryland team that began the season with the fireworks of a 57-41 win at Texas ended in a four-game skid, including a 66-3 implosion at home against Penn State. As head coach D.J. Durkin summed it up, “It feels like two different seasons. That Texas game feels like it was eight years ago right now.

14. Illinois (2-10, 0-9): Last Week – L, Northwestern, 42-7. The Impact – Illini were held to 14 or fewer points in six of nine conference games, including last five. Lovie Smith’s young team lost its last 10 games but he hopes starting more freshman (16) than any other school in the country will pay off in 2018.


(All times Central; projected winner in bold caps)

WISCONSIN 27, Ohio State 23

Last Week: 7-0

Overall:  86-20 (81.1%)

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday. I covered teams in each of the conferences during my 41 years as a sports journalist and I’m not ready to give it up in retirement.

Clemson takes over at No. 1, Auburn No. 2

As expected, defending national champion Clemson benefitted from losses by the top two teams, Alabama and Miami, last weekend to ascend to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings heading into the conference championship games.

Auburn, which upset the Crimson Tide, moved to No. 2. The other spots among the top four teams are Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Clemson (11-1) faces Miami (10-1), which slipped five spots to No. 7, in the ACC Championship game at 7 p.m. CT Saturday in Charlotte.

Auburn (10-2) will face Georgia (11-1), which was ranked No. 1 until the Tigers routed the Bulldogs 40-17 three weeks ago, in the SEC Championship game  at 3 p.m. CT Saturday.

Wisconsin 12-0), moving up to No. 4, will play No. 8 Ohio State (10-2) for the Big Ten Championship Game at 7 p.m. CT Saturday in Indianapolis.

The fact that each of the top four teams will face difficult opposition in conference championship games leaves open the possibility for more movement in the final poll next week. In the past two polls, half the top four teams have lost.

Rank # Logo Team Record
1 Clemson University 11-1
2 Auburn University 10-2
3 University of Oklahoma 11-1
4 University of Wisconsin 12-0
5 University of Alabama 11-1
6 University of Georgia 11-1
7 University of Miami 10-1
8 Ohio State University 10-2
9 Penn State University 10-2
10 University of Southern California 10-2
11 Texas Christian University 10-2
12 Stanford University 9-3
13 University of Washington 10-2
14 University of Central Florida 11-0
15 University of Notre Dame 9-3
16 Michigan State University 9-3
17 Louisiana State University 9-3
18 Washington State University 9-3
19 Oklahoma State University 9-3
20 University of Memphis 10-1
21 Northwestern University 9-3
22 Virginia Tech 9-3
23 Mississippi State University 8-4
24 North Carolina State University 8-4
25 Fresno State 9-3


Looking for feedback going forward

I’ve spent this fall “extending” my journalism career by writing a blog, primarily pursuing a passion of covering college football in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten.

As I’ve frequently explained, those are the conferences I covered in my 41 years when I was earning a paycheck at eight newspapers in three states. While that might seem like a lot of moving around, it really isn’t that unusual when you’ve committed your life to working for newspapers.

Why? Because there is rarely more than one newspaper in every town, especially these days. Thus, the first five newspapers that chose to hire me were mostly stepping stones  when I was focused on moving up the career ladder.

My last three job changes accounted for the final 29 years of my career.

Then before I was ready to retire, the industry’s focus on cutting jobs finally got around to shedding my paycheck.

Truthfully, I’m fine with it now. When a company decides it hates its readers so much that it goes to 7 p.m. (or earlier) deadlines, it doesn’t really need a sports editor.

What I need to know is whether you need my voice as a blogger.

I don’t intend to write separate blogs on each of the conferences again until next fall., although I will offer up final power polls for each conference and previews of the conference championship games.

As for basketball, as much as I am a fan, there are just too many games for me to keep up and still have a life. But I do intend to  amuse myself by continuing to write my weekly “From Sidelines to punchlines” column of notes and blurbs.

When I have time, or when I feel strongly enough to weigh in, I’ll also offer other blog entries. But as I promised my wife, I can’t afford to spend the rest of my life as a deadbeat blogger.

I don’t have any ambition of going to a subscription model for this blog. No. 1, I suspect paying for those subscription bells and whistles would cost me more than any income I’d earn from a blog each month.

But what I do want from you is feedback and support. Do you find the separate conference blogs with my power ratings and comments useful? Would you like to see a different approach?  Would you like “Sidelines to punchlines” to make the transition to being more of a humor column rather than a mix of commentary, notes and humor?

If you care to provide feedback, probably the best way would be to comment on my Facebook page, where every blog is posted, or by sending me an email to:

Thanks for reading.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while convinced more than ever that what major college football really needs is a 16-team playoff rather than this four-team poll nonsense:

Up and downs

With the top two teams from last week’s College Football Playoff poll losing, Clemson is riding the up elevator again.

The defending champion Tigers, who slipped from No. 2 to No. 3 last week should be ranked No. 1 when the next poll is released Tuesday. That’d be the only reasonable result after Alabama lost the Iron Bowl to Auburn, 26-14, and Clemson bullied rival South Carolina, 34-10.

But yeah, the real game-changing result of the weekend was Miami’s 24-14 loss to unranked Pittsburgh. That critical misstep should allow unbeaten Wisconsin to move into the top four this week, giving the Big Ten a seat at the table.

That said, I still believe the Badgers  have to finish the drill and win the Big Ten championship on Saturday in Indianapolis. Otherwise the door will be left  cracked open for either the SEC or ACC to claim a second playoff team.

My top 10 heading into Championship Week:

  1. Clemson (11-1)
  2. Oklahoma (11-1)
  3. Auburn (10-2)
  4. Wisconsin (12-0)
  5. Miami (10-1)
  6. Alabama (11-1)
  7. Georgia (11-1)
  8. Ohio State (10-2)
  9. Central Florida (11-0)
  10. Washington (10-2)

Paying the price

Auburn’s win over rival Alabama was a costly one after fans stormed the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium, resulting in a fine of $250,000.

It was the school’s third violation of the SEC policy intended to keep fans from invading football fields or basketball courts. Auburn fans previously rushed the court after a 2016 basketball game against Kentucky and also came on the field at Jordan-Hare after the 2013 win over Alabama.

Headlines “Nick Saban undergoes cosmetic procedure to unfold arms.” “Should NASCAR ban Uber drivers?” “Kansas apologizes to Baker Mayfield for being so easy to make fun of: We had it coming.’”  “Kevin Durant returns to OKC, visits the birthplaces of six of his Twitter personas.” “Giants players excited about seeing real end zone up close.”

The “Loser of Browns vs. Broncos will be relegated to MLS.” “Red hot Vikings now a lock to let their fans down in the playoffs.”

Three on five

Shifting to basketball, No. 25 Alabama finished Saturday’s game with No. 14 Minnesota with just three players but only lost the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic by five points, 89-84.

Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson saw all his reserves ejected  when they came on the court during a confrontation between Dazon Ingram and Minnesota’s Dupree McBrayer early in the second half. Ingram, who received a technical, fouled out. Then John Petty sprained an ankle.

That left freshman guard Collin Sexton, who finished with 40 points, and 6-6 senior Riley Norris and 6-9 freshman Galin Smith. Sexton made 12 of 22 shots, including 4 of 7 treys, in 36 minutes.

If nothing else, it was more entertaining than forcing Alabama to forfeit for not having enough players. And maybe the NCAA should take a hint from hockey and play 3-on3 overtime periods.

Other shoe

Minutes after Missouri kicker Tucker McCann kicked a 19-yard field goal on the final play of the game to beat Arkansas, 48-45, Bret Bielema was booted from his job.

While it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, Bielema said he was told he was fired before he could even leave the field by interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples.

The loss to Mizzou means Bielema finishes his five seasons as Razorbacks’ head coach with 29-34 overall record and only  11-29 against SEC competition.

That can’t be what he imagined life would be like after he bolted from Wisconsin because he was tired of answering to AD Barry Alvarez, the Badgers former coach.

They said it

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife are expecting their first child: “There’s no excuse for not getting Mom to the hospital on time.”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “Would anyone be surprised if Bol Bol — Oregon’s 7-foot-2 basketball recruit — develops into a repeat All-American?”

RJ Currie of “Word out of UCLA is the three Bruins who shoplifted in China will face severe discipline. Case in point: last night they were only allowed to watch two hours of television.”

Janice Hough of “NASCAR ratings on Fox Sports are down 17% this year. I’m sure it’s all those black drivers kneeling for the National Anthem.”

Greg Cote of The Miami Herald on the nasty Jerry Jones-Roger Goodell feud: “On the bright side, it’s a diversion from counting players who took a knee during the anthem.”

CBS comedian Stephen Colbert: “You might remember that while he was in China, Trump asked China’s President Xi Jinping to release three UCLA players who had been arrested for shoplifting from a Chinese mall — easily the most scandalous thing to happen in a mall that didn’t involve Roy Moore

Rewarding rivalry

After losing to Indiana the last four years, Purdue reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket Saturday, defeating the Hoosiers, 31-24.

The win was the sixth  of the season for Purdue, making the Boilermakers bowl eligible and again proving first-year head coach Jeff Brohm knows how to lead a football revival.

Now Purdue needs to keep rewarding Brohm with the support and resources he needs to continue building the program.

Americanizing futbol

If FIFA adopted the College Football Playoff model, at least we’d get right to the World Cup matchups everyone wants to see with semifinals featuring Germany vs. Argentina and Brazil vs. Portugal.

Meanwhile, host Russia, which gets an automatic spot in the field of 32 next summer, is only ranked No. 65. That wouldn’t even make the Russians the Boise State of the sport.

Sweet Tweets

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

Don’t fret South Carolina fans. The women’s soccer team is headed to the College Cup, so at least one Gamecocks football team is in a  final four.

Auburn beats Alabama 26-14, which gives Georgia a rematch with Tigers in SEC Championship game. In the SEC, when it comes to rematches, “It just means more.”

With Pitt about to whip Miami’s butt, it raises the question. Do teams need more than 24 hours to get turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie out of their system? Final: Pitt 24-14. Hurricanes must have been suffering tryptophan lethargy to spoil unbeaten season. #everygamematters

After giving highlights of Jacksonville’s 19-7 win over Cleveland, Terry Bradshaw said “Cleveland remains undefeated.” Uhh, Terry, Browns are 0-10, not 10-0.

Bol I

Manute Bol died in 2010, reportedly at the age of 47, but former Cleveland State basketball coach Kevin Mackey has reason to believe the 7-foot-7 Sudanese player was much older.

Why? Because Bol didn’t know his birthdate when he arrived in the U.S. in 1983, so Mackey made up one for him to complete college applications. Bol was probably already in his 40s by then, “but there’s no way of ever really knowing,” Mackey told ZAGSBLOG, “I gave him his birthday because they didn’t know how old he was.”

That means Bol would have been in his 50s for much of his decade in the NBA, where he played for four teams until 1995.

It also means Mackey was about the same age as Bol when he was attempting to recruit him to Cleveland State. So, where was the FBI’s crackerjack college basketball investigation staff when we really needed them?

Bol II

Manute Bol’s son, Bol Bol, has committed to Oregon over  Kentucky. He’s 7-2,  weighs 220 and has a 7-8 wingspan.

His birthdate? Nov. 16, 1999,  which means he’s a legit 18.

Here’s some nifty bio info about Bol Bol that other college recruits can’t claim. Besides having a father who was 7-foot-7, Bol Bol is the great grandson of a Dinka chief, Bol Chol Bol, who was 7-foot-10.

Also, Bol paid a dowry of 150 cows when he married his third wife, who is Bol Bol’s mother.

Weekend results

I was perfect on my picks in the Big Ten and far from flawless when it came to ACC games this weekend.

A 7-0 effort in the Big Ten improved my season picks success to 86-20, putting me back over 80 percent at 81.1.

I only got six of nine games right in the SEC, but my season total is 83-20, which also is where it needs to be at 80.5 percent.

Alas, in the ACC, Miami, Florida State (actually UF), Wake Forest and Virginia each let me down, resulting in a 5-4 week. I’m 79-27 for 74.5 percent. I consider that unacceptable and will have to make up for it with my bowl picks.

How I fared with Week 13 college football picks in ACC, Big Ten and SEC

How I fared with my predictions for Week 13 of the college football season in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. My selections are listed in bold caps.



Pittsburgh 24, MIAMI 14 — LOSS

Virginia Tech 10, at VIRGINIA 0 – LOSS

Florida State 38, at FLORIDA 22 — LOSS

GEORGIA 38, at Georgia Tech 7 – WON

LOUISVILLE 44, at Kentucky 17 – WON

BOSTON COLLEGE 42, at Syracuse 14 – WON

Duke 31, at WAKE FOREST 23 – LOSS

at N.C. STATE 33, North Carolina 21 – WON

CLEMSON 34, at South Carolina 10 – WON

Last Week: 5-4

Overall: 79-27 (74.5%)


IOWA 56, at Nebraska 14 – WON

OHIO STATE 31, at Michigan 20 – WON

at PURDUE 31, Indiana 24 – WON

PENN STATE 66, at Maryland 3 – WON

WISCONSIN 31, at Minnesota 0 – WON

MICHIGAN STATE 40, at Rutgers 7 – WON

NORTHWESTERN 42, at Illinois 7 – WON

Last Week: 7-0

Overall: 86-20 (81.1%)


Mississippi 31, at MISSISSIPPI STATE 28 — LOSS

MISSOURI 48, at Arkansas 45 – WON

GEORGIA 38, at Georgia Tech 7 – WON

Florida State 38, at FLORIDA 22 – LOSS

LOUISVILLE 44,  at Kentucky 17 – WON

at AUBURN 26, Alabama 13 – WON

Vanderbilt 42, at TENNESSEE 24 – LOSS

CLEMSON 34, at South Carolina 10 – WON

at LSU 45. Texas A&M 21 – WON


OVERALL: 83-20 (80.5%)