A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while losing count of the number of turnovers committed by Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold this season:

Half right

Give me credit. At least I was partially right with my top college football predictions in August.

  •  I was certain Clemson wouldn’t play Alabama for the national championship for a third consecutive year.
  •  I expected Ohio State to beat Southern Cal for the national title.

As New Year’s Day nears, we now know I was at least half right on both counts.

While Clemson and Alabama will meet in the postseason again, the so-called trilogy encounter between the last two national champions won’t carry the same weight for the winner this time around.

Instead, it will be a semifinal meeting in Monday night’s Sugar Bowl. So I was right. They’ll only be playing for the right to compete for the national title.

It still will be the most anticipated matchup of the season.

As for the Buckeyes and the Trojans, I did correctly predict a postseason game between the two legacy programs. Only instead of meeting in the College Football Playoffs, Urban Meyers’ squad will have to be content with beating the Trojans, 24-7, in the Cotton Bowl.

It was a dominating performance by the Big Ten champions, who cost themselves a spot in the final four with an inexplicable 55-24  midseason loss at Iowa.

Bad decisions

Trailing Northwestern 24-23, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops’ decision to go for two in the final seconds of the Music City Bowl was gutsy. And foolish.

He should have opted to kick the extra point and decided Friday night’s game in overtime. Instead, the conversion pass from Stephen Johnson fell incomplete and Pat Fitzgerald’s team won the battle of the Wildcats.

But that’s not what decided the outcome.

The real game-changing play happened early in the second quarter when referee Chris Coyte ejected Kentucky running back Benny Snell. Snell, who led the SEC this season by accounting for 33 percent of Kentucky’s offense, already had scored one touchdown.

But on what proved to be his final carry of the night, Snell was gang-tackled by several Northwestern defenders. As he was getting up, he pushed away the extended arms of Coyte.

Snell later explained that he didn’t need any help getting to his feet. But Coyte claimed that Snell had grabbed his arms and then shoved them away.

That’s not what the video showed, which means Coyte should face some disciplinary action. Can refs receive bowl bans?

“The rule or the ref is ridiculous,” said ESPN analyst Tim Tebow. “Don’t decide the game for the players. Let the players go out there and play. If you are offended he touched you, get over it. It’s college football. These are 18 to 22 year-olds who are emotional. He got hit by 17 players. Let it go.”

If Snell had said anything disrespectful while pushing away Coyte’s hands, the ejection might have been justified. But even Coyte  said that wasn’t the case.

They said it

Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Press: “If you think the replay official cheated the Steelers out of the game-winning touchdown pass against the Patriots, maybe you can appreciate the irony of somebody named Jesse James being robbed.”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle on Lonzo Ball’s unorthodox, inefficient 3-point shot: “He might improve, but he will approach Curryesque efficiency only in his father’s dreams. Sometimes you can skirt the laws of physics, but you can’t openly mock them.”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “British inventor Richard Browning, 38, set a world speed record by going 32 mph in a jet suit. Breaking the longstanding record set by Wile E. Coyote.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Duke vs Northern Illinois (in Quick Lane Bowl). ‘I’ll take teams that should be a March Madness instead of a bowl matchup for $400, Alex.’”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com “Anyone else see Denver defensive lineman Shelby Harris doing a sideline shimmy in the Thursday Night game? Let me tell you, orange isn’t slimming.’’

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald: “In Atlanta for the Peach Bowl, UCF players have been entering a cold tub to recover after practice. Pro tip: once you UCF coaches get to Nebraska, walking outdoors will suffice.”

Jay Cutler to the Miami Herald on living in a hotel room the entire season after signing with the Miami Dolphins: “I did get the points.”

Big & Loud

There was an hilarious screw up during the Sugar Bowl media day when Clemson center Justin Falcinelli was identified as a cornerback on his name card.

He went with it during a tongue-in-cheek interview with “America’s first 305-pound cornerback” conducted by ESPN’s Andy Staples. Staples was a Florida correspondent for me nearly two decades ago when I was sports editor of the Tallahassee Democrat.

When Staples asked Falcinelli if his hips made a noise when he turned to chase a receiver, he said, “Yeah, it’s similar to a sonic boom, only louder.”

Well done, Justin. Well done, Andy.

Deion’s impact

New Florida State coach Willie Taggert may be close to pulling off the recruiting coup of the year. He has Deion Sanders interested in joining his staff.

“You never know,” Sanders told ESPN. “I’ve been known to make big plays with these colors on. That’s all I am going to say.”

Sanders was twice a consensus All-American as a defensive back for the Seminoles and finished eighth in the 1988 Heisman Trophy voting. Sanders was also a college roommate of Odell Haggins, who served as FSU’s interim coach after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.

Sanders would bring marquee value to FSU with recruits, having played in the NFL and major league baseball. His only liability is that he hasn’t coached at the college level.

“Coach Taggart is awesome,” Sanders said. “I’m there, behind him, 100 percent of the way, and I am happy to be back.”

Faithful fan

If the Cleveland Browns finish the season by finally winning a game on Sunday, it should be dedicated to Paul Stark.

The Huron, Ohio native took his dedication to the team to his grave on Wednesday. “Paul passed just before the Browns were prepared to turn the corner but had many well-earned blessings,” stated his obituary in the Mansfield (Ohio) News-Journal.

Although the Browns are 0-15 heading into Sunday’s final regular season game against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers, family members said he remained faithful to his favorite NFL team to his final breath.

But if you believe the obit, the team’s failure may have been a contributing factor in his demise, stating that Stark passed away on Wednesday from complications of a brief illness “exacerbated by the hopeless condition of the Cleveland Browns.”

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Could losing to Clemson hurt Alabama’s chances of making it to the national championship?”

SportsPickle.com: “Bill Belichick bans Rob Gronkowski’s imaginary friend Funny Pete from Patriots locker room.”

Fark.com: “The Cleveland Browns can’t be terrible forever, can they?

TheKicker.com: “Chairs voted into WWE Hall of Fame.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: New XFL to provide EXTREME video replay review after every play.”

Fark.com: “Patriots pick up another scumbag cut by the Steelers.”

Fact of Week

The average salary in Major League Baseball in 2017 was a record $4.47 million.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

Former Tennessee QB Tee Martin, now offensive coordinator at USC, was disappointed he didn’t get an interview for Vols’ heading coaching job. But the louder statement came with Southern Cal’s effort against Ohio State in Cotton Bowl.

Yeah, Sam Darnold looks like No. 1 pick to me. He and Browns deserve each other.

What was Mark Stoops thinking, going for 2 to win? Kick the PAT and go to OT. Kentucky hits sour note in Music City Bowl.

What was Pat Fitzgerald thinking! Turning ball over on downs at 39 with Northwestern leading Kentucky by 7 with less than 3 minutes left?

Got to like what Jeff Brohm has done with first season at Purdue.

Looking back

Top 5 memories of 2017 from Sportscumudgeon.com:

  • Clemson beat Alabama in the College Football Playoff for the 2016 national championship with a great last-minute TD drive.
  • The Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit in the third quarter to beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl.
  • Mississippi State beat the University of Connecticut in the women’s basketball tournament semifinals, snapping UConn’s 111-game winning streak. The Bulldogs, however, lost to South Carolina in the championship game.
  • Serena Williams won the Australian Open while pregnant.
  • The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers the World Series, winning 5-1 in Game 7.

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