From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that one of the biggest disappointments about being retired is not having a working gig during today’s Kentucky Derby:

Stirring it up

Sometimes Charles Barkley is the biggest knucklehead in the TNT studio. He just can’t help himself.

Such was the case after Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Rajon Rondo of the New Orleans Pelicans went nose-to-nose while engaged in “some unfriendly chatter” Tuesday night.

During TNT’s halftime show, Barkley suggested Green deserved to pay a price for trying to intimidate and provoke Rondo into fighting.

When Ernie Johnson asked the panel for their thoughts, Barkley said, “I just want someone to punch him in the face. I really do. I just want someone to punch him in the face.”

After the game when Green was asked to respond to Barkley’s comments, the war of words was on.

“He’s seen me a million times,” said Green.” If he feels that strongly about something, then punch me in my face when you see me. If he’s not going to punch me in my face when he sees me, then shut up. It’s no different than someone sitting behind a computer screen and tweeting, “I’ll knock you out, and you never see them in your life.”

Green continued his rant by suggesting Barkley should have the guts to follow through on his threat.

“Punch me in my face when you see me. If not, no one cares what you would have done. You’re old and it is what it is,” said Green. “If you aren’t going to punch me when you see me, then stop talking about it. Period.”

When he initially had trouble putting the microphone back on its base, he looked at the reporters in the room and said, “Drop the mike.” Then he got up and left the interview session.

Meanwhile, Rondo laughed off the incident and said it was essentially gamesmanship between the two. He said he wasn’t trying to “bait” Green, but he wasn’t going to back down, either.

For the record, the Warriors lead the West semifinal series, 2-1, after the Pelicans bounced back for a 119-100 win Friday night. Neither Green or Rondo was much of a factor scoringwise in that game, combining for 15 points. But Green did have 12 rebounds and nine assists and Rondo had 21 assists and 10 rebounds.

So, no title?

For the record, Scott Frost, now the head football coach at Nebraska, doesn’t claim he won a national championship at UCF last season after completing a 13-0 season by leading the Knights past Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

Sure, he understands why UCF athletic director Danny White scheduled a title parade, hung banners around campus and purchased championship rings for the team. Heck, Frost and his coaching staff even accepted the championship bonus checks – and then all bolted for jobs with the Cornhuskers.

Not a bad way of double-dipping on your football salary, if you can manage it.

“All I’ll say is if I had stayed there, I would have had a hard time getting behind it,” said Frost. “I think it was smart by them because it has kept UCF in the media and in the conversation. But you know, like our rings, I kind of wish my ring just said ‘Undefeated Season’ and ‘Peach Bowl Champion.’”

All the media fuss the championship claim has created is reportedly been worth $200 million in publicity for UCF. And it hasn’t cost UCF anything but the expense of the parade, banners, rings and coaching bonuses.

“I do think it was almost criminal how low (the CFB Committee) kept UCF in the rankings, and I think it was intentional,” Frost told USA Today. “But at the end of the day, the playoff system  is that the national champion is the team that wins the playoff.”

So while White sticks to his assertion that UCF has a championship claim because it beat both Alabama and Georgia – the two teams that played for the title in the same stadium in Atlanta – Frost recognizes the Crimson Tide as the true champions.

’Skins game

The New York Times reported this week that several Washington Redskins cheerleaders were forced to go topless or wear only body paint during a 2013 calendar shoot in Costa Rica. Since there was no nudity in the calendar, the real problem is that the women allege corporate sponsors and other men were on the trip and were invited to watch the photo shoots. The story also alleges that the cheerleaders were then required to escort those men to a nightclub.

It took a few days, but the team is now finally, and predictably, pushing back on those charges. Two former squad captains who were on the Costa Rica trip dispute that the team was “pimping us out.”

“Those terms — ‘pimped out,’ ‘escort’ — they just need to stop, because it’s absolutely not what happened,” Rachel Gill said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show alongside fellow ex-team member Charo Bishop.

The Times, which interviewed five former cheerleaders, stands by its reporting. The women remain anonymous because they were required to sign confidentiality agreements to go on the trip.

While none of the cheerleaders have alleged they were required to have sex, they do claim that the squad’s director, Stephanie Jojokian, used them “as sex symbols to please male sponsors.”

Bishop, however, said she didn’t see anything wrong with the cheerleaders’ roles at the team’s corportate events. She also told NBC that going topless at the photo shoots was, “All optional, voluntary. Some girls were excited to do those things.”

The Times report also alleges that during a 2012 private boat party the men were allowed to shoot liquor into the mouths of cheerleaders with turkey basters” and “handed out cash prizes in twerking contests.”

Team president Bruce Allen said in a statement Thursday that the team is investigating the allegations.

“I can promise that once we have completed looking into this matter, if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions,” Allen said.

Of course, what’s really needed is for the NFL to get serious about its diminished image and realize that a growing percentage of its fans are female. So where is the side of beefcake?

Right step

Meanwhile, over in the NBA, another step in the right direction toward women’s rights comes the news that the Milwaukee Bucks plan on interviewing Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

Hammon already has been a trailblazer in the league, serving as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. In 2015, she coached the Spurs’ Las Vegas Summer League team and won the championship.

Despite being undrafted in 1999, the former standout at Colorado State played 16 seasons in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars and was named as one of the league’s top 15 players all-time in 2011.

The Bucks interviewed Hammon for their general manager job in 2017 but she wasn’t a finalist

For the coaching vacancy, Milwaukee is expected to interview several other candidates, including former Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, former New Orleans coach Monty Williams and former Cleveland coach David Blatt.

They said it

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel on the report that some Washington Redskins cheerleaders were forced to pose topless during a 2013 calendar shoot in Costa Rica:  “New team motto: “We’re a sexist organization with a racist nickname!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “You can slip us this Mickey anytime: A 1952 Mantle baseball card has sold for $2.88 million — or 384 times the $7,500 he was paid to play that season.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “FIFA called out Trump on ethics after he tweeted about not supporting countries who don’t support North American World Cup 2026 bid. Give Donald Trump credit – who else could give FIFA the moral high road?”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “A study reveals that the best way to add years to your life is to exercise, lose weight, and not drink too much. To which all of America replied, “What else you got?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Two ex-cheerleaders who filed NFL discrimination suits said if Commissioner Roger Goodell met with them, they’d settle for $1 each. Or twice their old salaries.”

Dwight Perry, again: “Scientists in Singapore created a robot that can put together an Ikea chair in roughly 20 minute. So now it’s on to even tougher challenges, like assembling a roster for the Cincinnati Reds.”

Age-old problem

Jerry Richardson is clearly not smarter than a fifth-grader.

The 81-year-old owner of the Carolina Panthers is being forced to sell his NFL team because of numerous harassment complaints, including sexually suggestive comments he made to female employees.

One such incident even borders on middle-school hijinks since Richardson allegedly passed a note to at least one woman that sought to determine if she had any interest in having a relationship with him.

“Do you think of me as: 1. Your grandfather; 2. Your second father; 3. Your second husband; 4. Your friend; 5. Your boyfriend; 6. Something else.

 Gridiron grandstanding

When NewArena.com compiled its listing of the top college football coaches, the Big Ten surprisingly came out on top with  nine of the 33 ranked coaches. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer led the way for the league at No. 2, while Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh was No. 5.

Meanwhile, the ACC had the second most coaches on the list with seven, giving the league two more than the SEC. But despite those overall numbers, it’s interesting to note that Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was the only ACC coach ranked among the Top 10.

Alabama’s Nick Saban was No. 1 overall to lead the SEC’s three coaches in the Top 10, including Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M at No. 7 and Gus Malzahn of Auburn at 10.

But based on numbers, the Pac-12 could claim dominance with UCLA’s Chip Kelley ranked No. 4, Washington’s Chris Petersen at No. 6 and Stanford’s David Shaw at No. 8.

We should also note that Fisher bolted from Florida State of the AC at the end of the season to take the Aggies’ job. If that hadn’t happened, the Pac-12 would have been the only league with three coaches ranked in the top 10.

The list: 1. Nick Saban, Alabama; 2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State; 3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson; 4. Chip Kelley, UCLA; 5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan; 6. Chris Petersen, Washington; 7. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; 8. David Shaw, Stanford; 9. Gary Patterson, TCU; 10. Gus Malzahn, Auburn; 11. Bobby Petrino, Louisville; 12. Mark Richt, Miami; 13. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; 14. James Franklin, Penn State; 15. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; 16. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; 17. Kyle Whittingham, Utah; 18. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin; 19. Mike Leach, Washington State; 20. Bill Snyder, Kansas State; 21. Dan Mullen, Florida; 22. David Cutcliffe, Duke; 23. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; 24. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech; 25. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; 26. Tom Herman, Texas; 27. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern; 28. Clay Helton, Southern Cal; 29. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; 30. Scott Frost, Nebraska; 31. Mike Norvell, Memphis 32. Matt Campbell, Iowa State; 33. Jeff Brohm, Purdue.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Don Mattingly yelling at Marlins for leaving dome open with AC on.”

Fark.com: “Boston Marathon gets to keep some of the prize money because three of the top 15 runners lack Y chromosones.”

Onion.com: “LeBron James credits teammates with providing 4 bodies necessary to avoid forfeiture against Pacers.”

TheOnion.com: “Joe Maddon saves up all his mound visits for one long trip in 8th inning.”

Fark.com: “There are dumb people in the world but until today I didn’t know there were people dumb enough to say, ‘let’s put a Super Bowl in London.”

TheOnion.com: “White Sox promotion puts first 9 fans at ballpark in starting lineup.”

Fark.com: “High school baseball player sues third base coach for telling him to slide.”

Fark.com: “Stay classy, Redskins management.”

TheOnion.com: “No (expletive) chance kid who bought mitt to 400 level getting near foul ball.”

TheOnion.com: “Gym patron just resting for a second until will to live returns.”

Higher expectations

Josh Rosen wasn’t pleased that he fell to the 10th pick of the first round of the recent NFL Draft.

“I thought I should’ve been picked at 1, 2 or 3,” said Rosen, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. “I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn’t really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed.”

So much for projections that Rosen was the top quarterback in the draft. Perhaps the problem with that evaluation is that it caused ‘Chosen Rosen’s” head to further swell, and then burst when he was drafted 10th.

One team GM said Rosen was psychologically a combination of Jeff George and Jay Cutler, two polarizing quarterbacks who can divide teams. It was a way to suggest that Rosen doesn’t have the leadership skills to last in the NFL

But what he did demonstrate in college was that he can make the quick, short-yardage throws that keep the chains moving in a West Coast offense.

Rosen responded to the criticism he’s heard by saying that he would make it a goal to be a leader. “I’m not going to come in and be an a–hole and think that my s— don’t stink,” he said.

Replacement player?

Ben Roethlisberger may have been merely voicing his desire for more help in getting the Steelers to another Super Bowl when he criticized Pittsburgh for taking Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Randolph in the third round. But by bringing it up during a KDKA radio interview on the Cook and Poni Show, he sounded territorial.

Roethlisberger is entering his 15th season in the NFL and he wouldn’t mind sticking around for another few years. Since Big Ben has had a knack for playing through injuries, starting an average of 14 games a season, he thought the Steelers could have used a lower draft pick on a quarterback and gotten help for another position of need.

“I thought that maybe in the third round, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” he said.

Personal note

I haven’t fully decided, but this blog may go into hibernation for a few weeks because my wife and I are in the process of relocating from Indiana to South Carolina.

If I can still manage the time to write, I will. You’ll just have to tune in during this transition, but I shall return at some point.

Personally, it’s a good time to take a break since I was kicked to the curb by Gannett one year ago during one of the company’s many downsizing moves. It came less than two weeks after I was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists with two 2016 writing awards, including second best columnist in Indiana.

As always, you can always reach me by email at randy.beard@yahoo.com

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while trying to get excited for a men’s basketball championship game between Villanova and Michigan:

Not a fan

Ken Burger wrote with passion and purpose during his career at the Courier and Post in Charleston, S.C. and whenever colleagues remember the late sports columnist someone invariably recalls this memorable zinger of his.

 “I love women. I love basketball. I hate women’s basketball.”

Forgive him. Ken died in October 2015 and didn’t live to witness the A’ja Wilson era at South Carolina under Dawn Staley, including a national championship last season and the numerous national player of the year honors collected by Wilson this year.

When Burger strung those words together, women’s college hoops was guilty as charged. It may have been a blunt assessment, but it was an honest one. And frankly, all these years later, there’s still a lack of competitive depth. Just last weekend the defending champion Gamecocks lost to UConn by 29 points and Louisville routed Oregon State by 33 – in Elite Eight games.

After what we saw Friday in this year’s national semifinals, though, there’s reason to believe better days are ahead for the sport. Both of Friday’s games went to overtime.

It also helps that for the second straight season Geno Auriemma’s UConn dynasty was a semi loser. That means there will be a different women’s champ for the third straight season. UConn had won four titles in a row and 10 of 17.

Since 2000 only six other schools have worn the crown. If you are wondering, the men really haven’t fared that much better with just 11 champions during that span. But at least the men have  had 16 schools reach the final game.

Making strides

With what Dawn Staley has accomplished since taking over at South Carolina, I’ve become a much bigger fan of the women’s game over the past several years. As a graduate of the school, I’m still riding the wave of momentum she’s created with four consecutive SEC Tournament Championships, a national player of the year in Wilson and being named the coach of Team USA.

But currently living in Indiana has also opened my eyes to how entertaining the women’s game can be when played at the highest levels.

As the former sports editor in Evansville, my staff had the honor of covering two of the nation’s best female high school basketball players in Jackie Young, now a sophomore at Notre Dame, and Tyra Buss, who was a senior at Indiana University this season.

Both chose to go to college in this state and within driving distance of their hometowns, and they have developed into two of the nation’s best college players.

They also grew up just 14 miles apart in different states, separated by the Wabash River, but competed against each other in the same high school conference in Indiana. While Mount Carmel High was a member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Big Eight Conference, it was classified as an independent in Illinois when it came to the postseason.

Buss, who became the all-time leading girls’ scorer in Illinois high school history with 4,897 points, is now the Hoosiers’ all-time leading scorer. She led IU to the Women’s NIT title Saturday with a 65-57 victory over Virginia Tech in front of 13,007 fans at Assembly Hall.

Buss finished her college career by setting school records for points (2,364), free throws (633), assists (574) and steals ( 293). She also teamed with Amanda Cahill to claim a record 82 wins by a senior class in Bloomington.

Meanwhile, sophomore Young and her Irish teammates will play for a NCAA championship Sunday against Mississippi State. Young couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy a career night, scoring 32 points and adding 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double in a 91-89 overtime win over UConn on Friday.

The Princeton, Ind. native finished her high school career as the state’s all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, with 3,302 points.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Not only did I have Loyola-Chicago in my Final Four but at the top of the page I wrote. ‘A nun named Sister Jean steals the show.'”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Something about baseball feeds my spirit. Stadiums are my cathedrals, programs are my prayer book, and my sermon is 162 games long. Now, the service begins. Happy opening day.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A sure sign your NBA team might be trying to get a top draft pick? They come onto the court wearing tank tops.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Astros signed Jose Altuve to 5-year, $151 million extension. So Jose will be able to take his family to Disneyland. Even if he still isn’t tall enough to ride all the rides.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “YouTube is planning a “Karate Kid” series that follows the characters 34 years later. The show is entitled “Ralph Macchio’s Mortgage Is Due.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Bills receiver Zay Jones over an incident involving shattered glass doors and windows at a Los Angeles apartment building. Apparently there wasn’t conclusive video evidence that he’d broken the pane.”

Comedy writer Jerry Perishow after Donald Trump and Joe Biden tweeted about how they’d like a chance to settle their differences, political and otherwise, the old-fashion way: “The big question: Will Betty White be the ring girl?”

Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, now 84, on a bite from a brown recluse spider that required eight weeks of intense treatment: “The spider didn’t ‘recluse’ himself from biting me.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaselberg after a 102-year-old woman, Julia Hawkins, broke a world age-group record in the 60 meters: “The bad news is, afterward, she tested positive for Geritol.”

Lefty’s turn

Lefty Driesell, who is the only coach to win at least 100 games at four different colleges, is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame with a group of players he would have enjoyed coaching.

The 13-member class was announced Saturday before the start of the NCAA men’s semifinals. It includes Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Maurice Cheek, Charlie Scott and Croatian star Dino Radja. Also earning admission into the hall are women’s players Tina Thompson, Katie Smith and Ora Mae Washington and professional basketball executives Rod Thorn and Rick Welts.

Hill and Driesell were former players at Duke – 40 years apart —  with Hill playing for two NCAA champions with the Blue Devils in 1991 and 1992.

Washington’s name may be less familiar. Born in 1898, Washington played on 11 consecutive Women’s Colored Basketball World’s Championship teams. She was also an outstanding tennis player.

Salary cap

If Major League baseball owners have their way, they’ll get Congressional help to avoid paying minor-league players bigger paychecks.

Depending how far they’ve climbed the ladder, most minor leaguers earn between $1,100 and $2,150 per month. But when you consider the long work weeks they can put in, it’s not much compensation.

Several lawsuits have been filed in recent years trying to force clubs to meet federal minimum wage laws.

“If Walmart or McDonald’s can find a way to comply with those laws, then Major League Baseball can find a way to comply with them, too,” said attorney Garrett R. Brosuis.

 Headlines

SportsPickle.com: Kirk Cousins, “I just feel blessed to have received a long-term deal before everyone figured out I’m not that good.”

Fark.com: “After never playing for UCLA and playing a grueling nine games in a Lithuanian rec league, LiAngelo Ball declares for NBA draft.”

TheKicker.com: “NASCAAR driver who kneels for anthem gets torn to pieces by crowd.”

SportsPickle.com: “All college football coaches happy with their jobs now.”

TheOnion.com: “MLB season ends over 200 days early after new rules speed up games way too much.”

TheKicker.com: “Kentucky players excelling in ‘Declaring-for-the-NBA-draft drills.”

Fark.com: “White Sox rehired groundskeeper after he clears the dirt from his name.”

TheKicker.com: “Gelo 3s are just some Sketchers LiAngelo lifted from a Payless.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Sister Jean, Sister Jean, get out your Rosary and start saying your Hail Marys … No, she’s leaving the building!
  • The BUSS pulls away late with the WNIT championship as Indiana beats Virginia Tech 65-57. Mount Carmel, Illinois legend Tyra Buss leads way with 16 points in front of 13,007 at Assembly Hall. Named MVP. Congrats @tbuss3@TyraBussNews@IUHoosiers
  • Connecticut women have lost 7 straight overtime games — 4 to Notre Dame.
  • Teaira McCowan had 21 points, record 25 rebounds to lead Mississippi State back to the NCAA women’s championship game w/ 73-63 OT win over Louisville. If UConn knocks off Notre Dame, I’ll pull for Bulldogs Monday. But that’s as much a stretch as 6-7 McCowan.
  • May be my favorite 60 Minutes episode of all time. Great story and interviews tonight about …. The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Thank you Grayson Allen for not making a 3-pointer in overtime until it didn’t matter. Kansas beats Duke 85-81 in OT.
  • No. 3 Indiana’s men’s swimming finished NCAA Championships third with 422 points, most since 427 in 1969. Texas won a fourth-straight title with 449 points and California was second with 437.5 points. The team finish was IU’s best in 43 years. Indiana won four event titles.

Title tradition

University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament when it beat Virginia, has competed at a high level for years.

Yes, the school was six-time National College Team Chess champion from 2003 to 2010.

Super sub

Scott Foster lived his sports fantasy Thursday night when the rec league goalkeeper was pressed into action with the Chicago Blackhawks against the Winnipeg Jets because of injuries.

Foster, 36, is a former college goaltender at  Western Michigan, but these days he plays in two adult amateur leagues. Because he does have some experience turning back  flying pucks, Foster is one of several wannabe backups who show up at Chicago’s games to serve stints as an emergency keeper. It usually means he’s treated to a meal and a night in the press box watching an NHL game.

But he was needed to skate on the ice when Chicago’s Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia suffered injuries. Foster came in to help the Blackhawks protect a 6-2 lead over the final 14 minutes.

Forsberg got hurt during pregame drills, which forced Foster to put on his gear and watch the game from the bench. That by itself was a thrill he never expected to experience. Then Delia was injured, so he had to play and ended up making seven saves.

When it was over, the Blackhawks rushed the net to celebrate as if he’d stopped a penalty.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

The NHL mandated last year that teams have an emergency goalie present for all home games ready to fill in for either team — setting the stage for Foster’s most competitive action since he played 20 minutes of a college game 12 years ago.

Sharpshooting ‘Cats

Villanova’s postseason run has allowed Jay Wright’s Wildcats to set NCAA records for 3-pointers in the regular season and the NCAA tournament.

Villanova had 18 treys against Kansas on Saturday to set the tourney record of 66 (and counting). VCU had established previous mark of 61 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats currently have the single-season record for 3-pointers with 454 — surpassing 442 — and their 18 threes against Kansas were most ever in a Final Four game.

It’s already been a fun season for the Wildcats and now only Michigan stands in their way of a truly special finish.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pleased to see former Purdue standout Robbie Hummel, whose injury problems continued as a professional, is getting a shot as a college basketball analyst for ESPN:

Going Hollywood

Kobe Bryant not only has an Oscar, but his golden statuette now has two miniature Lakers jerseys.

While appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC Thursday, the former Lakers’ guard was presented with two slip-on jerseys with the numbers 24 and 8 that were his while playing in Los Angeles. Kimmel placed the 24 jersey over the Oscar that Bryant won for Best Animated Short (Dear, Basketball) and suggested he could alternate them. Or, maybe even save the other jersey for his next Oscar.

Yeah, it’s that easy.

Bryant does, however, plan to use his considerable resources to assist minority film makers who want to become involved in the animation side of Hollywood.

“When I won the award the other night I was the first African-American to ever win that award in that category,” said Bryant. “So there is a lot of work that needs to be done … How do I provide more opportunities for even more diverse and new voices to be heard in this industry?”

Now that his playing career is over, Kimmel asked Bryant if he also was  going to try to win a Grammy. Considering the number of hoopsters churning out rap or blues albums, it was a fairly legit question.

Bryant quickly shook his head no.

“Know your limitations,” said Bryant. “I don’t even sound good in the shower. I’ll let that be.”

Crean time

Could former Indiana coach Tom Crean end up in the SEC?

Crean, 51, is reportedly a favorite to fill the vacancy created when the University of Georgia dismissed Mark Fox on Saturday.

Crean, who has a 356-231 record in 18 seasons as a college coach at Marquette and Indiana, has taken 13 of his teams to the postseason, including nine NCAA appearances.  He’s only had three losing seasons, all coming while he was rebuilding IU. He led three Hoosiers squads to the Sweet 16 and took his 2002-03 Marquette team to the Final Four. He’s also had eight teams win 20 or more games and claimed American Conference and Big Ten championships.

He’s spent this season as a ESPN studio analyst.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, there are six other candidates on UGA’s wish list: College of Charleston coach Earl Grant, 41; former Ohio State coach Thad Matta, 50; UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller, 35; Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams, 45; Stanford coach Jerod Haase, 43, and Texas coach Shaka Smart, 40.

Williams, by the way, is a former Crean assistant at Marquette.

They said it

Former Indiana basketall coach Bobby Knight to The Indianapolis Star: “Coaches aren’t dealing with the NBA, they’re dealing with the FBI. Which is a little big different than the NBA. I’m all for the FBI.”

Charles Barkley on value of athletes speaking out: “I’ve been saying whatever the hell I want for 30 years and I’m doing great. I’m hosting SNL for the fourth time for no reason.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Pizza Hut introduced a pair of athletic shoes that have a button that orders pizza. When they heard about it, fans of Pizza Hut said, “What are athletic shoes?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Nationals manager Dave Martinez brought camels to Washington’s training camp. That’s one way to respond to a championship drought.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “According to the North Korean medal tracker, Kim Jong Un won every single Winter Olympics medal.”

 Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Reports are that Peyton Manning could make $10 Million a year as an analyst for Fox Sports or ESPN. And that’s before he mentions Budweiser or Papa John’s every 15 minutes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Soccer parent’s lament: Our kid patterns his game after Ronaldo, but his bedroom is totally Messi.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “How could Disney World call itself the happiest place on earth when there are so many baseball stadiums in Florida?”

Michael Rosenberg of SI.com on the U.S. sitting sixth in the medal count halfway through the Winter Olympics — behind Russia: ”Which isn’t even officially here. I was pretty fired up about that. That’s like losing a bar bet to an empty stool.”

Shaking the rust

Projected as a megastar, Michael Porter Jr., put his Missouri team on his shoulders Thursday in the SEC Basketball Tournament in St. Louis. Which is to say he blamed himself for Mizzou’s quick exit.

While he scored 12 points and had eight rebounds, it wasn’t enough to prevent Georgia from pulling off a 62-60 upset of the fifth-seeded Tigers.

“We beat Georgia when I didn’t play,” he said. “We lost to them when I did. That doesn’t feel good.”

Never mind the buzz generated by Porter’s first game back since he played only two minutes against Iowa State in November. After that torturous debut to college basketball, he shut himself down and had back surgery.

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was forced to  accept he might have to go through the entire season with a first-round NBA draft pick never leaving his bench again. As much as it would have made for another captivating “SEC Storied,” Porter couldn’t write a fairytale script on Thursday. But the loss wasn’t his fault either.

Upsets happen and Mizzou’s starters set the stage by going a combined 11 of 36 (2 for 11 on treys) with just 17 rebounds. Porter and his younger brother Jontay knocked in 10 of 25 shots (6 of 12 3-pointers) and nabbed 16 rebounds.

So shake off the rust and rest up for the NCAA tournament, young man. Now that it’s March, all you need to focus on is playing your best, helping out your team and enjoying every minute you have left playing alongside Jontay.

Bucket list

Sindarious Thornwell, now a NBA rookie with the Los Angeles Clippers, got another chance to guard LeBron James Friday night and came away with another career highlight.

The Clippers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-102 and Thornwell earned considerable respect from James in the process.

Sure, James still scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds, but Thornwell offset some of the damage with 14 points and four rebounds while staying stride for stride with James most of the night.  In the first meeting between the two back in November, James had 39 points and 14 rebounds in a Cavs’ 118-113 win.

Last year Thornwell was the SEC player of the year while leading South Carolina in a surprising run to the Final Four. But playing against someone he idolizes was still a thrill for him since a few months ago Thornwell was pretending to be James in video games.

“You’re not going to block his shot. You’re not going to stop him. You just stay in front of him and make it tough for him, make it difficult for him, and that’s what I did,” said Thornwell. “It was a team effort. It always takes a team to slow him down. It wasn’t just me.”

 Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Kobe Bryant shoots 95 times to get one scene right in new movie.”

TheOnion.com: “Greg Popovich berates Spurs for missing nation’s descent into oligarchy.”

Fark.com: “Memphis coach Tubby Smith, who quit four schools for different jobs, thinks allowing players to more easily transfer is teaching them to quit.”

SportsPickle.com: “NFL scouts hold emergency meeting to decide if prospect who ran 4.38 40 with missing hand is athletic or scrappy.”

TheKicker.com: “U.S. tanks Winter Olympics to get better draft pick in the next Winter Olympics.”

TheOnion.com: “James Harden credits his NBA success to sage advice from fiddler crab living deep inside beard.”

Fark.com: “343 college basketball teams that will NOT win the national championship this year.”

A different OT

You often hear college football coaches talk about the long hours they put in during the season and the sacrifices they make in their personal lives.

But you rarely hear them gripe about not being paid fairly – even when the hours they work often makes it seem like they are barely earning minimum wage. As unpaid graduate assistants, they also understand there are dues to be paid with sweat equity before they’ll make the big bucks.

Mike Warren, however, hasn’t been so fortunate. Although he was promoted to an assistant coach (running backs/special teams) position by interim Seminoles coach Odell Haggins during the lead up to the Independence Bowl, he wasn’t retained by Willie Taggert.

So Warren is now testing the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Florida Minimum Wage Act. He was a quality control coach for most of his tenure at Florida State, which means he was part of the football program’s support staff.

Now he’s suing FSU for unpaid hours he says he worked in prepping for the bowl game as an assistant and also seeking what he views as unpaid overtime during the last three seasons. He alleges in his federal lawsuit he filed Friday that he frequently worked 80 to  100 hours a week but was never paid for more than 40. He also said he was never allowed to fill out a time card while on Jimbo Fisher’s staff.

Fisher left FSU to take the job at Texas A&M in December.

Imagine that – not being paid for all the hours you work during football season. As a sports writer for 41 years, I can relate.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Former Indiana coach Tom Crean could be at top of list for Georgia’s coaching vacancy. Since I plan to move back to Upstate SC, that’d be cool.
  • Grayson Allen does it again, throwing a hip check into UNC’s Garrison Brooks. Flagrant 1. But former Duke player and now television analyst Jay Bilas said Grayson definitely stuck his hip out but it wouldn’t have been called if Brooks hadn’t “gone down.”
  • Dan Dakich says UNC’s Luke May is “most improved” player in country. Sure, his scoring is up 5.5 to 17.7, rebounding 3.9 to 10.1, assists 1.2 to 2.4, but he’s started 31 games vs. 1, and averaged 32.6 minutes vs. 14.1. Lot more at-bats.
  • Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson can’t match Kobe Bryant as an Oscar winner, so there’s that.
  • College football more popular than Hollywood (after the Academy Awards drew 26.5 million viewers compared to 28.4 million viewers of CFB Championship game between Alabama and Georgia.
  • A’ja Wilson and Gamecocks do it again, winning an unprecedented fourth straight SEC Tournament title by beating previously unbeaten Mississippi State, 62-51. Give Dawn Staley a big, fat raise.

Culture shock

Jurgen Klinsmann’s son Jonathan is an up and coming American goalkeeper who already has made 21 appearances with the United States’ Under-21 team. But he has a long way to go before he’ll come close to making the sort of impact his dad did in Germany.

Now playing for Hertha Berlin after a stint in college at UC Berkeley, he has been mostly sitting on the bench. His goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry said the younger Klinsmann is struggling to prove he can play professionally and has called him “too American” in his approach and attitude.

“When it comes to the basics, he’s definitely got it and athletically he has developed well, too,” Petry said. “The reliable, serious and focused German way of working has not completely reached him. He still is way too American. The development of his personality has stopped.”

Interestingly, that’s similar to the criticism his father often had about the players he coached on Team USA.

The elder Klinsmann, who was fired as the U.S. National Team coach last year, led  Germany to a 1990 World Cup title as a forward and coached the 2006 German team to a third-place finish in the Cup.

This was No. 43 of my “From Sidelines to punchlines” columns. I can be reached at randy.beard@yahoo.com

From Sidelines to punchlines

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.

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 SportsDeke.com:  “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 LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “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 Giants 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

TheOnion.com: “Lakers add Buffalo Chicken Wing stains to Shaquille O’Neal’s retired jersey.”

TheKicker.com:  “LiAngelo scores 47 in his first game at LaVar Ball University.:

Fark.com: “Lavar takes his Ball and goes home.”

SportsPickle.com: “Browns confirm they will skip NFL Draft to avoid drafting any future Browns.”

TheOnion.com: “New NFL safety rule requires players to be careful.”

Fark.com: “Unlike the Lions, Pontiac Silverdome fails to implode.”

SportsPickle.com: “Roy Moore reminds voters that many of Alabama’s top recruits have also tried to have sex with teenage girls.”

TheOnion.com: “New ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial features Otto the Syracuse Orange laying off staffers.”

Fark.com: “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.

ACC

Florida State: Willie Taggart (from Oregon)

Big Ten

Nebraska: Scott Frost (from UCF)

SEC

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)

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

Fark.com: “The 2018 World Cup draw is set. The U.S. is in Group 1 with Holland, Italy and Chile.”

SportsPickle.com: “Archie Manning puts Eli up for adoption.”

TheKicker.com:  “LeBron lobbies NBA  for ability to eject refs that eject him.”

SportsPickle.com: “Greg Schiano drops interest in Tennessee job after discovering program’s ties to awful football.”

TheOnion.com: “New report finds Giants just 5 years away from acquiring offensive weapons.”

Fark.com: “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 SportsDeke.com:  “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 LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “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.

SEC Landscape: Week Fourteen

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW CAPSULE

TV: Saturday 3 p.m. CT, CBS

AUBURN

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.”

GEORGIA

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?

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

(All times Central)

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

FAB FIVE

  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.

 THE PACK

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.

THE UNPROVEN

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%)

ACC Landscape: Week Thirteen

Wrapping up his second season as South Carolina’s head football coach, Will Muschamp’s quest to rebuild the Gamecocks into an SEC  contender is ahead of schedule.

Picked to finish only fourth in the SEC East, his players exceeded expectations with five conference wins. USC (8-3, 5-3 SEC) was even in contention for the division title until a 24-10 loss to Georgia three weeks ago.

Now, with Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC) visiting Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, the Gamecocks have another chance at earning a signature win.

“You don’t need a lot of extra motivation at the end of the day,” said Muschamp. “If you don’t get excited about playing your archrival, then something is wrong with you. That’s the way I look at it.”

The fact Clemson is looking to extend its winning streak in the series to four in a row, including a 56-7 rout last year, should light an extra fire under his players, Muschamp said. So should the fact that the game has been picked for a national primetime telecast on ESPN.

That may even explain why so many national college football writers have picked South Carolina to win, choosing to make the game their upset special of the week. I’m not that reckless with my picks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the game qualifies as an instant classic.

Of course, Rivalry Weekend’s biggest upset occurred Friday when Pittsburgh stunned No. 2 Miami, 24-14.

That’s the loss Swinney will talk to his players about since the Tigers will face Miami in the ACC Championship Game next Saturday in Charlotte. He’ll remind his players that the Hurricanes were undefeated until they dropped their guard and were sucker punched by the Panthers. He may even remind his players that Pitt did the same thing to them last November.

“It’s about winning the game and this team having an opportunity to continue on because its playoff football for us every week,” said Swinney, who knows a second loss now could deny Clemson one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. “We’ve got a challenge on our hands with South Carolina. They’ve gotten better as the year has gone.”

Swinney, who played and coached at Alabama, said he believes the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry is as intense as the Iron Bowl clash between Auburn and Alabama.

 “Zero difference in this state. Zero. Year-round, that’s all people talk about. It’s just different logos. It’s the same type of intensity, emotion,” Swinney said.

The strength of both teams is their defenses, but Clemson has a decided edge on the defensive front. Not only are they difficult to run on, but the Tigers have one of the nation’s fiercest pass rushes.

If the Gamecocks are going to keep the game close into the fourth quarter, quarterback Jake Bentley will have to be effective keeping plays alive with his legs. He’s passed for nearly 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns and run for another six touchdowns. But he’s also tossed nine interceptions, and if he’s turnover prone against the Tigers, South Carolina could be staring at another huge lategame deficit.

Meanwhile, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has been efficient, and occasionally explosive, for the Tigers. He’s passed for 2,200 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions.

The Tigers are scoring an average of 10 points more per game than the Gamecocks – 35.3 to 25.4. Meanwhile, both teams rank among the top 20 teams in the nation in scoring defense with the Tigers at No. 3 while allowing 13.9 points per game and the Gamecocks ranking No. 20 at 19.6.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

(All times Central)

Friday’s games

Pittsburgh 24, Miami 14

(Pittsburgh improves to 5-7, 3-5 ACC; Miami 10-1, 7-1 ACC)

Virginia Tech 10, at Virginia 0

(Virginia Tech improves to 9-3, 5-3 ACC; Virginia 6-6, 3-5)

Saturday’s games

Florida State (4-6) at Florida (4-6), Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ESPN

Georgia (10-1) at Georgia Tech (5-5), Saturday 11 a.m. CT, ABC

Louisville (7-4) at Kentucky (7-4), Saturday 11 a.m. CT, SEC Network

Boston College (6-5) at Syracuse (4-7), Saturday 11:20 a.m., ACC Network

Duke (5-6) at Wake Forest (7-4), Saturday 11:30 CT, ACC Network

North Carolina (3-8) at N.C. State (7-4), Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU

Clemson (10-1) at South Carolina (8-3), Saturday 6:30 p.m., ESPN

FAB FIVE

1 Miami (10-0, 7-0): Last Week – W, Virginia, 44-28. The Impact – Hurricanes twice rallied from 14-point deficits, scoring pair of touchdowns in seven seconds for first comeback and then finishing game with 30 unanswered points. Malik Rosier passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as UM extended nation’s longest win streak to 15 games. Mark Richt now needs to make sure his players don’t overlook Pitt since ’Canes are already set to face Clemson for ACC title on Dec. 2.

  1. Clemson (10-1, 7-1): Last Week – W, The Citadel, 61-3. The Impact – Tigers scored on 10 of 13 possessions as Dabo Swinney emptied his bench early and often against an outmatched FCS opponent in The Citadel. Fifteen players caught passes and nine carried the football, but the rout wasn’t enough to prevent Miami from taking the No. 2 spot in the CFP rankings. That’s a battle that will be settled next week, though. This weekend the Tigers are looking to win their fourth straight over rival South Carolina after losing five in a row.
  1. Wake Forest (7-4, 4-3): Last Week – W, N.C. State, 30-24. The Impact – Demetrius Kemp’s forced fumble and end zone recovery allowed the Demon Deacons to win their fourth conference game and continue N.C. State’s late-season slump. It was also the Deacons’ first win over a Top 25 opponent since 2011. John Wolford and Tabari Hines connected on three touchdown passes of 21, 7 and 18 yards and Wolford finished with 247 yards passing.

 

  1. N. C. State (7-4, 5-2): Last Week – L, at Wake Forest, 30-24. The Impact –  Since Dave Doeren announced his goal was still to win 10 games after losing at Notre Dame, N.C. State has lost two more. Three of the Wolfpack’s four losses have been by seven or fewer points. But the loss to Wake Forest was particularly painful since the Wolfpack held a 22-minute edge in time of possession and ran 94 plays in compiling more than 500 yards.
  1. Louisville (7-4, 4-4): Last Week – W, Syracuse, 56-10. The Impact – Lamar Jackson continued his assault on the school record book, compiling 381 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Jackson racked up his 11th consecutive 300-yard game to become the Cardinals’ career yardage leader with 12,474, which is third best in the ACC. Tailback Malik Williams had a career-high 180 rushing yards on only nine carries, including TD runs of 46 and 56 yards.

 

THE PACK

  1. Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3): Last Week – W, Pittsburgh, 20-14. The Impact – Hokies’ defense kept Panthers out of end zone on final drive despite Pitt having a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Cam Phillips had 117 yards on eight catches to increase his school record to 2,981 receiving yards. The win allowed Justin Fuente’s team to end two-game skid.

 

  1. Boston College (6-5, 3-4): Last Week – W, Connecticut 39-16. The Impact – Playing at Fenway, BC became bowl eligible after winning for fourth time in five weeks. A win over Syracuse would allow Eagles to break even in ACC after an 0-3 start in conference. A.J. Dillon rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns covering 48 and 53 yards.
  2. Florida State (4-6, 3-5): Last Week – W, Delaware State, 77-6. The Impact – FSU played MEAC school and it wasn’t nearby Florida A&M. Seminoles nearly tied school record for largest margin of victory. If FSU beats Florida Saturday, earning a bowl bid will become mere formality since Louisiana-Monroe comes to Tallahassee for a rescheduled game on Dec. 2. Receiver Justin Motlow became the first Seminole Tribe of Florida product to score a touchdown for FSU.
  3. Virginia (6-5, 3-4): Last Week – L, at Miami, 44-28. The Impact – After 5-1 start to season, the Cavaliers have lost four of five. Still, Bronco Mendenhall’s squad should be able to relax heading into Saturday’s home game against rival Va Tech since a bowl berth is already in the bag. Against UM, Cavs couldn’t run the football, finishing with 55 yards on 28 carries, including 23-yarder by Jordan Ellis on final play. They’ll need to be more productive that against Hokies.
  1. Syracuse (4-7, 2-5): Last Week – L, at Louisville, 56-10. The Impact – The schedule has taken its toll on Dino Babers’ Orange. Since upsetting Clemson Oct 13, the Orange has played road games at Miami, Florida State and Louisville and had a home date against Wake Forest. Syracuse lost all four contests with Louisville shredding the Orange defense for 727 yards.
  2. Duke (5-6, 2-5): Last Week – W, Georgia Tech, 43-20. The Impact – David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils, who had been held to combined 46 points in previous four games, racked up 43 while shutting out Georgia Tech in the second half. The win ended a six-game skid by Duke and revives the Blue Devils’ hopes of earning a bowl berth by beating Wake Forest. For that to happen, Blue Devils will have to be exceptional on defense.

 

THE UNPROVEN

  1. Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-4): Last Week – L, at Duke, 43-20. The Impact – Yellow Jackets have lost three of their last four games and likely would have to upset Georgia Saturday to become bowl eligible. There’s a slight chance they could get an invitation with five wins since they only played 11 games this season. But that’s a gamble Paul Johnson would rather not take. After trip to Athens on Saturday, Johnson may regret schools’ decision not to reschedule or replace game against UCF that was postponed by Hurricane Irma.
  2. Pittsburgh (4-7, 2-5): Last Week – L, at Virginia Tech, 20-14. The Impact – Panthers’ chances of staying in contention for bowl bid ended when Virginia Tech made a late goal-line stand. Pat Narduzzi’s team had a first down at the 1-yard line after Kenny Pickett connected with Jester Weah on 74-yard pass with less than 30 seconds remaining. But the threat ended with a pass breakup in the end zone with three seconds left and tailback Darrin Hall being dropped for a 3-yard loss on the final play. Hall finished with four yards on 15 carries and Pitt gained just 55 yards on 30 carries.
  1. North Carolina (3-8, 1-6): Last Week – W, Western Carolina, 65-10. The Impact – It took all season but Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels finally won back-to-back games. After falling behind 7-0, UNC responded with six consecutive touchdown drives, including three scores in less than three minutes. Sophomore quarterback Nathan Elliott tossed four touchdown passes in the first half. Tar Heels had a 231-32 edge in yardage in second quarter while scoring 35 of their points.

BEARD’S PICKS

(Predicted winners in bold caps)

Friday’s games

Pittsburgh 24, MIAMI 14 — STUNNING UPSET

Virginia Tech 10, at VIRGINIA 0

Saturday’s games

Florida State at FLORIDA

GEORGIA at Georgia Tech

LOUISVILLE at Kentucky

BOSTON COLLEGE at Syracuse

Duke at WAKE FOREST

North Carolina at N.C. STATE

CLEMSON at South Carolina

Last Week: 7-2

Overall: 69-21 (76.6%)

ACC Landscape: Week Eleven

When Miami and Notre Dame met last season in South Bend, it turned out to be a game worthy of the intense rivalry between the two programs with the Fighting Irish winning 30-27 on a last-minute field goal.

But that was then and this is now, and that 2016 contest didn’t have the national implications that are rolled into this Saturday’s meeting. Miami (8-0, 6-0) needs to win to continue its climb from No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings, while a loss by the Fighting Irish (8-1) would knock them from the top four because it would be a second loss.

The fact this is Notre Dame’s first trip to Miami since 1989 only ramps up the excitement around UM coach Mark Richt’s program.

“It takes a lot of work to get here this late in the season and we are excited about that and we are proud of our guys, but we know we have a monster challenge here this weekend,” said Richt.

Notre Dame’s only loss came against Georgia, which has topped the CFP rankings the past two weeks.

“This is why we came here. This is why I came back to my alma mater, these types of moments,” said Richt, who coached at Irish-slayer Georgia prior to coming to UM two years ago.

Meanwhile, Brian Kelly likes the direction his Notre Dame team is headed after rattling off seven consecutive wins.

“I know our guys are excited about this championship drive that they’re on now,” said Kelly.

Kelly said there wasn’t much value in looking at the film from last season’s game.

“It’s really about both these teams this year,” Kelly said. “(They have) a new quarterback. (Malik) Rosier is a really gritty kid. As a first-year starter, he finds ways to make plays.

“He’s a lot like Brandon (Wimbush) … He just finds ways to win football games.”

The difference between the two quarterbacks is that Rosier is more prone to throw the deep ball. The Miami freshman has passed for 2,773 yards and 19 touchdowns –  nearly a thousand more yards and eight more scores than Wimbush.

But Wimbush also has only thrown two interceptions, while Rosier has been picked off seven times, including three errant throws last week against Virginia Tech.

Richt knows Rosier will have to do a better job taking care of the football against the Irish, who expect to have tailback Josh Adams back in action. He missed the second half against Wake Forest last week and finished with just 22 yards because of what Notre Dame’s sports information office first labeled as “fatigue” but later changed to a “headache.”

Adams ranks ninth nationally with 132.2 rushing yards per game.

With Adams in the same backfield with Wimbush, the Irish have a one-two punch that will test UM’s run defense.

In the latest NCAA rankings, the teams are fairly evenly matched.

Notre Dame is No. 7 in scoring offense (41.3), 13th in total offense (495.1), 17th in scoring defense (18.4) and 50th in total defense (375.6).

Meanwhile, Miami is 44th in scoring offense (31.5), 25th in total offense (461.0), 12th in scoring defense (17.6) and 43rd in total defense (367.6).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

(All times Central)

North Carolina 34, at PITTSBURGH 31, Thursday

Duke at Army, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, CBS Sports Channel

N.C. State at Boston College, Saturday 11 a.m., ABC, ESPN2

Virginia  Tech at Georgia Tech, Saturday 11:20 a.m. CT, ACC Network

Wake Forest at Syracuse, Saturday 2 p.m. CT, ACC Network

Florida State at Clemson, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ESPN

Virginia at Louisville, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU

Notre Dame at Miami, Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC

FAB FIVE

  1. Miami (8-0, 6-0): Last Week – W, Virginia Tech, 28-10. The Impact – With A-Rod and J-Lo jumping on the bandwagon, Hurricanes extended nation’s longest win streak to 13 games as Malik Rosier passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another. But UM has even bigger test Saturday with Notre Dame, the last team to beat UM, visiting.
  1. Clemson (8-1, 6-1): Last Week – W, at N.C. State, 38-31. The Impact – After flirting with being upset last week, Tigers need to shift into beast mode to strengthen standing in CFP poll. K’Von Wallace picked off Wolfpack’s Ryan Finley on final play to preserve last week’s comeback win.
  1. Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2): Last Week – L, at Miami, 28-10. The Impact – Hokies had three interceptions against Miami, but it wasn’t enough to fuel an upset, mainly because Justin Fuente’s team turned it over four times to lose for just second time this season.
  1. N.C. State (6-3, 4-1): Last Week – L, Clemson, 38-31. The Impact – Dave Doeren was mad enough to accuse defending national champs of cheating after Wolfpack lost for second straight week following six-game win streak. With next two games on road, Doeren needs to be more concerned about a defense that has given up 73 points in last two weeks.
  1. Wake Forest (5-4, 2-3): Last Week – L, at Notre Dame, 48-37. The Impact – Demon Deacons surrendered 24 points in second quarter to dig early hole against Irish. But despite losing four of last five games, Deacs still just need one win to become bowl eligible.

 

THE PACK

 6. Boston College (5-4, 3-3): Last Week –The Impact – Eagles have nation’s No. 2 overall pass defense and rank seventh in interceptions with 13, so facing pass-happy Wolfpack should be a huge issue. While BC has won three in a row, Steve Addazio’s team still needs one more to become bowl eligibile.

 7. Louisville (5-4, 2-4): Last Week –The Impact –Cardinals are fifth in nation in big plays with 62 of 20 or more yards. Lamar Jackson is now third player in NCAA history to surpass 8,000 yards passing and 3,500 yards rushing. Bobby Petrino’s squad needs to get back on track after losing three of four games.

8. Florida State (3-5, 3-4): Last Week – Syracuse, 27-24. The Impact – If Jimbo Fisher wants his players to regain respect, there’s no better time to defy all odds than this weekend in Clemson. Hey, it’s just a thought. And if nothing else, FSU finally won a home game last week as Cam Akers rushed for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns.

9. Virginia (6-3, 3-2): Last Week – W, Georgia Tech, 40-36. The Impact – Blown out in previous two games, Cavs rallied from double-digit deficit to pull out bowl-clinching win over Yellow Jackets in final 82 seconds. Kurt Benkert tossed three TD passes covering at least 27 yards, including two to Andre Levrone.

10. Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3): Last Week – L, at Virginia, 40-36. The Impact – Despite knack for making big plays, Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets have lost three of four games to put bowl hopes in jeopardy. QB TaQuon Marshall rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns, including 78 yarder, and passed for 179 yards and another score. But he also left plenty more yards on the field, completing just 6 of 22 passes.

11. Syracuse (4-5, 2-3): Last Week – L, at Florida State, 27-24. The Impact – Orange have split four straight games in which winning team scored 27 points, including three games with final score of 27-24. If it doesn’t want to squander upset of Clemson three weeks ago, Dino Babers’ team needs two more wins to become bowl eligible for first time since 2013.

 

THE UNPROVEN

12. Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-3): Last Week – Idle. This Week – L, North Carolina, 34-31. The Impact – In battle of teams coming off open dates, Panthers squandered chance to reach .500 in ACC action despite four second-half touchdowns by tailback Darrin Hall, who finished with 121 yards.

13. Duke (4-5, 1-5): Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Blue Devils have lost five in row and now face Army team that has won its last five and hasn’t lost at home. Black Knights also lead nation with 365 rushing yards per game. David Cutcliffe’s team has set school record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns, including two by corner back Byron Fields Jr.

14. North Carolina (2-8, 1-6): Last Week – Idle. This Week – W, Pittsburgh, 34-31. The Impact – Anthony Ratliff-Williams accounted for three touchdowns, including returning opening kickoff 98 yards and then catching game-winning 3-yard pass from Nathan Elliott. Ratliff-Williams also threw 35-yard TD pass to Josh Cabrera as Tar Heels won first ACC game of season.

BEARD’S PICKS

North Carolina 34, at PITTSBURGH 31

Duke at ARMY

N.C. State at BOSTON COLLEGE

VIRGINIA TECH at Georgia Tech

Wake Forest at SYRACUSE

Florida State at CLEMSON

Virginia at LOUISVILLE

Notre Dame at MIAMI

Last Week: 4-1

Overall: 58-15 (79.4%)

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.  

 

Revisiting my Week 10 college football picks in ACC, Big Ten and SEC

BEARD’S PICKS

Check my individual blogs for team records, game times and television information.

ACC

Syracuse at FLORIDA STATE

GEORGIA TECH at Virginia

Wake Forest at NOTRE DAME

CLEMSON at N.C. State

Virginia Tech at MIAMI

Last Week: 5-2

Overall: 54-14 (79.4%)

BIG TEN

WISCONSIN at Indiana

PENN STATE at Michigan State

Illinois at PURDUE

Maryland at RUTGERS

OHIO STATE at Iowa

NORTHWESTERN at Nebraska

Minnesota at MICHIGAN

Last Week: 5-2

Overall:  55-16 (77.4)

SEC

LSU at ALABAMA

AUBURN at Texas A&M, Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN

Massachusetts at MISSISSIPPI STATE

Florida at MISSOURI

Western Kentucky at VANDERBILT

South Carolina at GEORGIA

Mississippi at KENTUCKY

Coastal Carolina at ARKANSAS

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI at Tennessee

LAST WEEK: 4-2

OVERALL: 54-14 (77.1)

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.