2016-2017 Conference Championship Picks

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In the final football game at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a date with destiny.

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The Best Circus In Town

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After 146 years of entertainment the Ringling Brothers Circus is shutting down. The circus provided laughter and excitement for all ages as it has always been pure entertainment. For many years one the of the best venues for the Ringling Brothers show was New York City’s Madison Square Garden as it in the heart the Big Apple. And even though that we won’t see the Ringling Brothers make their way to the Garden anytime soon, there is another circus that has taken its spot.

It’s hard to describe the New York Knicks as a basketball franchise. The Knicks last NBA Championship came in 1973 and although that they’ve come close hoisting the title a few times since then, they have specialized in the art of frustration.

Phil Jackson

In 2014, Phil Jackson was named as the Knicks team president. Jackson won 11 NBA Titles as a head coach, and two more as a player with the Knickerbockers. But Jackson never ran an NBA front office before coming to the Knicks and he was going to have to learn on the fly under the microscope of the biggest media market in the world. However since joining the Knicks, all that Jackson done is to tarnish his legacy.

Jackson is adamant about the Knicks operating under the umbrella of his triangle offense which led to all of his titles as a head coach. Jackson’s first order of business was to hire a head coach in Derek Fisher who played for him with the Los Angeles Lakers. With Fisher not having any prior coaching experience in the NBA, Jackson expected his transition to be a work in progress which it was as New York would go 17-65 in his first season. 64 games into Fisher’s second season he was fired after reports of him missing practices due to fact that he could not get back from Los Angeles in time where his girlfriend was surfaced. There were also reports of Fisher being linked to women who were involved with some players on the Knicks roster which would lead to him possibly losing the locker room.

Jeff Hornacek

Last summer Jackson was looking for another head coach to run the triangle, but Knicks owner James Dolan chimed in on the next hire which led to former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek taking over the team. Hornacek runs more of an uptempo style of offense, while Jackson still wants the Knicks to operate the triangle which has been a recipe for disaster.

Through 44 games the Knicks are 19-25 which includes going 3-12 over their last 15 games. And just like the Knicks were before Jackson arrived in New York, they are a team that is going in circles.

Carmelo Anthony

The Knicks have a star player in small forward Carmelo Anthony who is not going to lead New York to the NBA Title that people were hoping for when he was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in 2011. Anthony is an isolation ball player that needs 20-25 shots per game in order to effective. Jackson’s triangle offense relies on ball movement which is not the case when Anthony is on the court. Jackson had a chance to get from under Anthony in 2014 when he became an unrestricted free agent. But since the Knicks could offer Anthony more money than any other team, he was convinced to stay in New York by the likes of his wife La La Anthony and Jackson.

Jackson sold Anthony on the dream of teaming him with other star players which would lead to championships. But this season what the Knicks have is a roster that lacks star power, while it is comprised mainly of players that were good five years ago.

Derrick Rose

Last summer the Knicks acquired point guard Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls. Rose was the NBA’s MVP in 2011, but he has never been the same player since he suffered a torn ACL during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Rose is averaging 17.5 points and 4.5 assists for the Knicks this season, but the explosiveness that he had with the Bulls is gone. The Knicks also signed Rose’s former Bulls teammate in center Joakim Noah to a four-year deal for $72 million. Noah was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 as he was a catalyst in regards to the Bulls success as far as being a consistent postseason team. But with back and feet injuries, Noah isn’t the same player that he was in Chicago as he has still managed to average 5.6 points and 9 rebounds in New York City. The Knicks do have their building block of the future in power forward Kristaps Porzingis who was Jackson’s first draft choice with the team. Porzingis is the Knicks second leading scorer at 19.4 points per contest, however an Achilles injury currently has limited his effectiveness.

But the Knicks biggest issues this season have come on the defensive end of the court. New York is 25th in points allowed as they are surrendering 108.3 points per game. In watching the Knicks play defense, there isn’t any communication or intensity which is hard to fathom with Noah on the team. However aside from Noah, the Knicks roster isn’t littered with players that dig in on the defensive end which means that their chances of winning will be hindered. And all of this falls under the category of a lack of leadership for this franchise.

James Dolan

The Knicks find themselves led by a meddling owner in Dolan, a team president in Jackson who is trying to do the old “bait and switch” by discussing his issues with Anthony publicly to the media as opposed to the player so that he’ll request a trade, and a head coach in Hornacek whose style of play doesn’t fit with how Jackson wants the team run. Anthony is an aging star with a bad knee who most people are finally realizing won’t lead the Knicks to an NBA Title, while Rose couldn’t pick up a phone to notify the team about his going back to Chicago to deal with a family issue as he went AWOL for New York’s 110-96 home loss on January 9 to the New Orleans Pelicans. And just as the Knicks have been a mess since 2001, they aren’t getting any better under Jackson’s watch.

There should be a sign in front of Madison Square Garden which reads “doomed to fail” as some of the best basketball minds in NBA history such as Larry Brown, Donnie Walsh, and now Jackson have all failed to clean up the mess that is the Knicks. Attempting to turn the Knicks into a winner is the equivalent of reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic as either the front office tries to build a winner overnight through various trades, or they don’t properly evaluate young talent. Jackson is too set in his ways which were successful for him before, but it is not going to happen in New York. Anthony is another in a long line of All-Star caliber players who upon arriving to 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue were unable to live up the unrealistic expectations that were put upon them. And at the end of the day all that the Knicks have to give to their fans are higher ticket prices to go along with a mediocre product on the court.

But all isn’t lost for the Knicks as they currently find themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the final playoff spot. However even if the Knicks are able to turn things around and make the playoffs, what good would it do them just to extend their season for four more games in order to be swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers? Success continues to be hard to achieve for the Knicks as long as the owner, team president, head coach, star player, and the majority of the roster aren’t on the same page. The only winners in this ongoing Knicks saga are the members of the media as they’ll have plenty to write about while they will continue to poke fun at and criticize this team. However watching the Knicks is worth the price of admission and then some as it is indeed the best circus in town.

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Respect The Greatness

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The Green Bay Packers organization has been around for nearly 100 years and they’ve had some good quarterbacks play for them. This list includes Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Lynn Dickey. But here in the early stages of 2017, Aaron Rodgers is emerging as the best to have ever done if for the green and gold.

This isn’t Rodgers’ first time around the block as the Packers starting quarterback as he has led Green Bay to the postseason in each year since 2009. Rodgers’ record as the Packers starting quarterback is 90-45 with him being a two-time National Football League MVP and the MVP of Super Bowl 45. This season saw Rodgers throw 40 touchdown passes in the regular season to just 7 interceptions, while passing for 4,428 yards. Rodgers also completed 65.7 percent of his passes and the Packers needed every bit of it.

After 10 games the Packers had a record of 4-6 and it appeared that they would miss the postseason, however neither the Minnesota Vikings or Detroit Lions could put them away in the NFC North. The Packers would reel off six consecutive wins to end the regular season which included victories over the Vikings and Lions. And when it was all said and done, Green Bay had once again won the NFC North. Over the Packers final six regular season games Rodgers threw 15 touchdown passes while not throwing a single interception. But even with that Rodgers has somehow found a way to take his game to new heights this month.

In two playoff games the Packers offense has clicked on all cylinders as they’ve scored 72 points. After the Packers offense was shutout in the first quarter of the NFC Wild Card Game by the New York Giants, Rodgers got it going just before the first half ended with a pair of touchdown throws. Rodgers would finish the game 25-of-40 passing for 362 yards and 4 touchdown throws as the Packers would defeat the Giants 38-13.

This past Sunday at the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, Rodgers didn’t have the services of his top wide receiver in Jordy Nelson who is recovering from a rib injury that he suffered against the Giants. But that didn’t stop Rodgers from leading the Packers on a trio of touchdown drives in the first half as Green Bay took a 21-13 lead to the dressing room at the half. The Packers would extend their lead to 28-13 after Rodgers connected with tight end Jared Cook on a six-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half before the Cowboys would rally to knot the score at 28-28 late in the fourth quarter. But as usual Rodgers was totally undaunted as he put the Packers in field goal range which paved the way for kicker Mason Crosby to connect on a 56-yard field goal with 93 seconds left in regulation to give Green Bay the 31-28 advantage. The Cowboys would rally to tie the score at 31-31; however they made a huge mistake in the process.

Once Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey matched Crosby’s 56-yard field goal with a 52-yarder of his own, Dallas kicked the ball back to the Packers with 35 seconds left which was more than enough time for Rodgers to add to his growing legend.

After Rodgers got the Packers a first down when he connected wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery on a 17-yard pass which put the football on the Green Bay 42, the Dallas defense stiffened. The Packers then found themselves in a third-and-20 situation which would have been too much for some quarterbacks to deal with. But Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had complete faith in Rodgers and his offense as the two-time MVP who led Green Bay to a Super Bowl Title on the same field six years ago scrambled out of the pocket to find Cook on the sidelines for a 36-yard connection. And after a brief debate between the officials, they deemed that Cook was able to get both feet down in bounds while maintaining possession of the football for a catch.

Mason Crosby

Rodgers improvisation would give Crosby another chance to put the Packers ahead. And after Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett attempted to ice Crosby by calling a timeout, he calmly stepped up and made a 51-yard field goal to send Green Bay to the NFC Championship Game for the second time in the last three years.

But the flair for the dramatic is nothing new for Rodgers as in recent years he has made the “Hail Mary” and other unbelievable throws seem like a routine pass as the Lions, Giants, and Arizona Cardinals can all attest to. No lead is safe for a Packers opponent as long as Rodgers in under center as he has done the impossible which is to make the folks in Green Bay forget about the legends of Starr and Favre.

Rodgers once again has the Packers on the threshold of the Super Bowl as all that stands in his way of getting back to the big game is a victory over the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday in the final football game at the Georgia Dome. There isn’t anything flashy about the receiving core that is on the receiving end of Rodgers’ brilliant passes as they are simply along for the ride. But like other great quarterbacks before him such as Joe Montana and John Elway, along with current stars such as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Rodgers has that innate ability to make those around him step their game up as he always seems to rise to the occasion.

This was a Packers team that after losing to the Washington Redskins 42-24 in Week 11 had surrendered at least 31 points in four consecutive games as they appeared to be a beaten team. But Rodgers is the same guy that told us all to “R-E-L-A-X” a few years ago, and in the Packers last six games they have scored at least 30 points in each contest.

Rodgers is only 33-years of age and even though it appears that he still has plenty of football in the tank, he is well on the fast track to joining Starr and Favre in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as performances like the one we say this past Sunday against the Cowboys are what make legends.

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There’s No “D” In Big D

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The 2016 National Football League season saw the Dallas Cowboys re-emerge as a power. The Cowboys went 13-3 which tied their franchise best mark which was set in 1993 and 2007. And just like 2007 when the Cowboys had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they were one and done in the postseason. But even in defeat the Cowboys can hold their heads high as they were put in this position by a pair of promising rookies.

Ezekiel Elliot, Dak Prescott

Running back Ezekiel Elliot was the fourth overall pick of the 2016 National Football League Draft and he delivered in a big way this season for the Cowboys as he had 1,631 rushing yards which led the league while also having 15 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t come to the NFL with lofty expectations as he was a fourth round pick out of Mississippi State University. But when starting quarterback Tony Romo suffered an injury in the preseason, it opened the door for Prescott to become the Cowboys starting signal caller. Prescott was merely expected to keep the seat warm until Romo got healthy, however the wins kept piling up for the Cowboys with him under center and thus head coach Jason Garrett decided to stick with him.

And when the Cowboys faced the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, before you blinked they were down 21-3 at home. However it was the combination of Prescott and Elliot who got the Cowboys back into the contest. With just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys managed to tie the score at 28. Even when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to put Green Bay in position to kick to go-ahead field goal to make it 31-28 with 93 seconds remaining, Prescott drove the Cowboys down the field to give kicker Dan Bailey the opportunity to once again tie the contest. But with just 35 seconds left, Rodgers found a way to get his team into field goal position which was highlighted by finding tight end Jared Cook and a 36-yard completion on third-and-20 which set up kicker Mason Crosby to make a 51-yard field goal as time expired to win the game for the Packers, and dash the Super Bowl dreams of the Cowboys.

And now as the Cowboys are left to lick their wounds after their heartbreaking loss, it is up to team owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones to address his defense.

The Cowboys were 14th in the National Football League in total defense this season and plus-five in the turnover category which was tied for ninth in the league. Dallas also managed to tally 36 sacks which were 13th in the NFL, but as they had game changers on offense, they were missing that element on defense.

The Cowboys lacked an edge rusher that could consistently put stress on an opposing offensive line, a menacing linebacker, or a game changer in their secondary. And even though that the Cowboys entered the playoffs with the best record in the NFC, it wasn’t a slam dunk that they were going to make the Super Bowl due to their inefficiencies on the defensive side of the football. The Cowboys were able to score points to keep up with the Packers as their rally was sparked by an interception by safety Jeff Heath in the second half. But when Dallas needed their defense late in the fourth quarter to prevent the Packers to get into scoring range, they were missing in action.

As good as Rodgers is, under no circumstances should he be allowed to make a 36-yard completion on a third-and-20 situation as he had enough in the pocket time to make dinner reservations if he needed to. And this is something that the Cowboys must address in the off-season if they want to become a realistic Super Bowl contender.

Randy Gregory

Jones attempted to remedy this by using a second round pick on defensive end Randy Gregory in 2015, but he has more suspensions (three) by the National Football League for failed drug test than he does sacks (1) as he cannot help the team win games while he is rehab. Last spring the Cowboys selected linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft, but a knee injury that he suffered in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl while playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish forced him to miss this NFL season. The Cowboys also attempted to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from the New York Jets this season. But the two sides could not agree on the compensation as the Jets wanted a first-round selection for Richardson, while the Cowboys were only willing to part with a third.

Improving the defense must be the Cowboys top priority in the off-season as it isn’t a guarantee that Elliot and Prescott can have these kind of seasons in 2017 due to the fact that teams in the National Football League will now have a year’s worth of game film on them. You can’t also overlook that all three of the Cowboys losses came within the NFC East this season as this division is on the verge of once again being one of the best in the league. The microscope will be concentrated on Prescott as I don’t see any scenario in which the Cowboys will keep Romo next season as they’ll definitely look for a trade partner being that so many teams around the league are desperate to have a quality starting quarterback which means that it is Dak’s time.

Jerry Jones

Jones has once again created a buzz around his franchise as he has constructed the Cowboys in the same fashion which led to three Super Bowl Championships over a four-year span in the 1990s. But Jones doesn’t have those impact players on defense in the mode of Charles Haley, Deion Sanders, and Darren Woodson that could take over a game. And until Jones addresses this issue, his beloved Cowboys won’t get any closer to winning the Super Bowl than they did this season.

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The Owners Will Always Win

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No matter what the sport, fans will always be attracted to the spectacle as they’ll be willing to fork over their hard earned money to purchase merchandise and tickets in order to support their favorite team. But just because a fan is loyal to a certain team doesn’t mean that the organization will necessarily return the favor. We’ve seen sports franchises raise ticket prices, while also dishing out personal seat licensing fees to season ticket holders which has been known to alienate a fan base. But the biggest damage is done when a sports franchise decides to relocate to another city.

The City of San Diego is in the process of experiencing this as after 56 years, their beloved Chargers are leaving in favor of Los Angeles which they called home in 1960. The Chargers saga with San Diego has been a sad one as team owner Dean Spanos has tried to work with the city for nearly 15 years in order to procure a new stadium for his franchise, but he and city officials have never been able to get on the same page. The final straw was broken this past November on Election Day when voters in San Diego only gave 42% of the 66 needed in order to pass a law that would increase hotel tax in order to pay for a new stadium for the Chargers along with a convention center in the downtown area. And as the Rams were looking for a co-tenant in Los Angeles after they bolted St. Louis, Missouri last January, Spanos jumped at the opportunity.

It’s going to take some getting used to for all of us to call them the Los Angeles Chargers, but that’s the way that the cookie always crumbles. Regardless of the sport, team owners are always seeking new stadiums/arenas with new state-of-the-art features that will attract fans. The owners are always seeking a good portion of taxpayer money to supplement these projects, and if one city isn’t willing to play ball, they will always find another city that is willing to talk turkey.

It is this song and dance that saw the Dodgers leave Brooklyn, New York in favor of Los Angeles in 1957, the Colts leave Baltimore, Maryland in favor of Indianapolis, Indiana in March 1984, and the Browns to leave Cleveland, Ohio for Baltimore where they became the Ravens in 1996. These are not the only sports franchises to move from one city to another, but they just happen to be some of the most iconic organizations, and if they can do it, anyone will.

The Chargers called Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium their home in San Diego for the majority of their time there, and by all definitions it is indeed a dinosaur when it comes to facilities by National Football League standards. Since 2000, 13 teams have gotten new stadiums with the Rams, Chargers, and Atlanta Falcons all waiting in the wings to get new facilities. Stadiums are not always out of date, but the race is always on to get luxury boxes, PSLs, and to stay in the good graces of the National Football League when it comes to potentially hosting a Super Bowl. Qualcomm last hosted the Super Bowl in 2003 and the NFL was far from being pleased with the facilities then which was the beginning of Spanos’ battle with the City of San Diego as getting a new stadium.

Dean Spanos

But whereas Spanos didn’t get what he wanted from San Diego, Los Angeles was willing to play ball as after not having a National Football League franchise for 21 years, the City of Angels now has two. And as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will get a ton of credit for brokering the deal to have the NFL return to L.A., it is coincidental that all of this went down after the passing of former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis who after failing to procure a new stadium in Hollywood Park, decided to return his franchise to Oakland in 1995.

So now the Chargers are set to join the Rams in Los Angeles where the excitement cannot be that high as the Rams return to Southern California saw them go 4-12 this past season while also giving the San Francisco 49ers their only two victories of the campaign. The Chargers just went 5-11 as they went out of their way to lose games this past season which won’t bring excitement to L.A.

The Chargers will now have to build a fan base in Los Angeles and leave behind the legacies of Lance Alworth, John Hadl, Fred Dean, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, Sid Gilman, Don Coryell, Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison and LaDanian Tomlinson as they will always be embedded in the fabric of San Diego. Quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates who are lifers with the Chargers are now set to make the trek up Interstate-5 to Los Angeles and in the process they’ll leave behind a somber fan base.

Attendance for Chargers home games declined in recent years in part to their poor record and the rumors about a potential move to Los Angeles. And just like St. Louis last year, I don’t see San Diego getting another National Football League franchise anytime soon as there is disdain on both sides of the ledger.

But the decisions of a few men have once again hurt so many as the Chargers iconic “powder blue” uniforms won’t be the same in Los Angeles as they truly represented San Diego, and I doubt that many people will be willing to make the three-hour trip north each Sunday to see them play. The Chargers were as iconic in San Diego as the Zoo and Sea World, but all good things come to an end.

It never helped the situation when Major League Baseball’s Padres got a new stadium in The Gaslamp District in 2004 as Spanos had to sit by and watch that go down. Now Spanos was simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. But in this case there won’t be any winners in spite of the fact that Spanos will be getting the new stadium that he coveted. It was easy for the Chargers to get lost in the shuffle of the small-market San Diego, but their ineptitude on the gridiron will now be under the microscope in Los Angeles. The Chargers will also have to share Los Angeles with the Rams as it will take each franchise close to two decades to properly build a rapport with the folks in Los Angeles at the rate that each of them wins football games. But that is the world in which we live in where’s the only loyalty that we as people display is to the almighty dollar, which has been known to sometimes sour personal relationships in the process. Spanos might be loved in Los Angeles, but once he leaves San Diego, he’ll be at the point of no return.

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The Outcome That College Football Needed

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Since 2008, the Alabama Crimson Tide have been the premier team in college football as they’ve claimed four national championships while steamrolling over the competition in the process. After the Tide went 6-6 in their first year under head football coach Nick Saban in 2007, they’ve managed to go 112-13 since then while only producing one three-loss campaign. Saban has built a dynasty at Alabama which is not easy to do in this day with parity, but they are the team that college football fans love to hate.

And what has set Alabama apart from the other football programs is that they shine the best in the big games which included going 4-0 in national championship games heading into the 2016 college football season. The Tide won the national championship last year and after entering this past season ranked as the top team in the land, they were looking to become the first squad since the USC Trojans to go wire-to-wire in order to repeat as national champions.

Alabama was able to accept the challenge as they mowed down the competition in the Southeastern Conference and when the regular season was over, they were the only undefeated team in the nation. The Tide would easily defeat the Florida Gators 54-16 in the SEC Championship Game which sent them to the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive year. And after the Crimson Tide made short work of the Washington Huskies in the Peach Bowl, it was back to the title game for them.

The team that had the indubious pleasure of watching Alabama claim the championship trophy last January were the Clemson Tigers. In nine years under head football coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson has become a national power which has seen them win three Atlantic Coast Conference Championships and defeat national recognized teams such as the Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners and LSU Tigers. During the 2015 college football season Clemson was the feel good story as they were the underdog for the majority of their games. And even in defeat to Alabama, they held their own as they lost 45-40.

But whereas the close loss to Alabama might have broken the spirits of some teams, Clemson used it as fuel to their fire as led by junior quarterback Deshaun Watson and senior linebacker Ben Boulware, they took all of the body blows that they could absorb during the regular season which included getting by the Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference 19-13 on the road to start the campaign. And when Atlantic Coast Conference play began, Clemson was pushed to the limit by teams such as the Louisville Cardinals, North Carolina State Wolfpack, and Florida State Seminoles. Clemson did slip up once during the season as they lost at home to the Pittsburgh Panthers 43-42 on November 12. But after the loss to Pittsburgh, Clemson would rebound to win their remaining games which included defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies in the ACC Championship Game which sent them back to the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive year.

And just like the previous season, the Tigers would head to the College Football Playoff as heavy underdogs. Clemson would meet the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl who were looking to win their second national title in the last three years. But for the second time in the last four seasons, Clemson got the best of Ohio State in a bowl game. However this time was in dominating fashion as the Buckeyes were taken behind the woodshed 31-0 which paved the way for Clemson to have a rematch with the Tide after they easily dispatched of the Washington Huskies in the Peach Bowl 24-7.

The scene was changing from last year’s battle between these two teams which took place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. And having the game in Tampa provided more of a buzz for both of these schools which are located in the Southeast; especially for Clemson who had more fans in attendance for Monday night’s championship tilt.

As always there was plenty of anticipation and excitement leading up to the kickoff as one thing was for sure was that the Tigers would not be afraid of intimidated of Alabama when they met them. But when Alabama took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter after a pair of pulverizing touchdown runs from sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough, it appeared to be a familiar tune as the Crimson Tide were ready beat the brakes off of another opponent.

But we forgot to measure the heart of Clemson as they clawed back into the game. And even after the Tigers were trailing 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter, they had Alabama right where they wanted them.

Swinney never wavered from his offensive game plan which called for the Tigers to go uptempo. Clemson wasn’t making substitutions which meant that neither could Alabama as the top-ranked defense in the land was beginning to run out of gas.

Clemson ran 99 plays on offense as they possessed the football for nearly 35 minutes of game time. And when the fourth quarter rolled around, Watson channeled his inner Vince Young as he baffled the Alabama defense, while seeing his stock rise for the 2017 National Football League Draft in the process.

The Tide didn’t have an answer for Watson who led Clemson on three, fourth quarter touchdown drives, and when Scarbrough suffered a broken leg in the second half, he took the Alabama offense to the sideline with him as well.

With just six seconds left in regulation and Clemson traling 31-28 with the football at the Alabama two-yard line, Swinney had a choice as he could get conservative by going for the game-tying field goal, or throwing caution to the wind and becoming a legend in the Palmetto State. Swinney opted to win the game as a field goal would have killed all of Clemson’s momentum heading into overtime. And with just one second left, Watson found sophomore wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in the end zone to give the Tigers their first national championship since 1981. But as much as Clemson’s victory over Alabama will be celebrated throughout the State of South Carolina from now until the cows come home, their victory was huge for the overall landscape of college football.

The Tide have been the team over the last decade and although that they have suffered losses against other marquee programs such as Oklahoma and Ohio State, they’ve never lost in the national championship game; especially when they were presented with a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Along with Saban’s time as the head football coach at LSU, he was 5-0 in title games before Monday night as he always knew how to push the right buttons. But Saban was done in by a head coach in Swinney that not only had seen his act, but also had the personnel in which he could slay the dragon.

College football may be seeking parity for its game, but in the three years of the College Football Playoff, Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State have all made multiple trips to the field of four with each program claiming the trophy once, while the top seed entering the tournament has never claimed the title which is good for the game.

But as Alabama left Raymond James Stadium on Monday night watching purple and orange confetti rain down, they’ll once again be set for another title push as Saban continues to recruit and develop talent that will be playing in the National Football League in the very near future. However on Monday when Clemson won the title, they won it not only for themselves, but for all of those people who were told they weren’t good enough to accomplish a goal.

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Making The Most Of His Opportunity

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It’s safe to say that this current NBA season has been a struggle for the Dallas Mavericks as they are on pace for their first losing season since the 1999-2000 campaign. The Mavericks are currently 12-27 and they are in last place in the Southwest Division. But as bad as things have been for the Mavs who began this NBA season 0-5, while also having to endure an eight-game losing streak, they may have found a future building block for their organization in small forward Harrison Barnes.

The Mavericks landed Barnes in free agency last summer as both sides agreed on a four-year deal that is worth $94 million. Barnes joined the Mavs after he spent the first four years of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. Barnes was a first-round pick by the Warriors in 2012, but he found himself taking a backseat to point guard Steph Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson who were the focal points of Golden State offense. And there was absolutely nothing wrong with that as Curry along with Thompson are two of the games better perimeter shooters which led to an NBA Championship for the Warriors in 2015.

Barnes was still a valuable role player for the Warriors, however during his time with Golden State he appeared to be disrespected by some fans who thought that he was hindering instead of helping Golden State’s cause. And when small forward Kevin Durant became an unrestricted free agent last summer, that made Barnes very expendable in Oakland.

But whereas the Warriors showed Barnes the door, the Mavs have welcomed him with open arms as this is an organization that is desperate for an infusion of youth.

The Mavericks won their first and only NBA Championship in 2011, but they would ultimately be done in by a new collective bargaining agreement for the following season which limited their financial ability to re-sign players and hindered the chance for them to get back to basketball glory. The Mavericks have made the playoffs four times since 2011, however they have been unable to make it past the first round. Dallas has attempted to keep it together with spit and glue around power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is still the face of the franchise, but at the age of 38, he cannot be counted on in the same fashion to produce like he did in the prime of his career.

Barnes has begun to fill that void as his 20.8 points per game currently lead the Mavericks, while it is also a career-high for him. Barnes has scored at least 10 points in each contest this season which was highlighted by going for a season-high 34 points in an 86-75 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on November 6. But anyone who has followed Barnes’ basketball career should not be surprised.

Barnes grew up in Ames, Iowa and was one of the top high school players in the country. Barnes could have gone to any college that he chose too, but he settled on playing basketball for the North Carolina Tar Heels. In two years at North Carolina, Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game as he was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2011, while also helping the Tar Heels make consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Barnes has always had to share the spotlight as in high school, he was teammates with Chicago Bulls small forward Doug McDermott, while at North Carolina played alongside Boston Celtics center Tyler Zeller who was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year in 2012, along with Milwaukee Bucks center John Henson. And of course with the Warriors, Barnes took a back seat to Curry and Thompson.

But now Barnes has the green light to show his scoring ability from the wing as his combination to get to the basket along with a solid mid-range jump shot make him one of the NBA’s rising stars. And although that all roads point to the Mavericks heading to the NBA’s Draft Lottery this spring, Barnes is giving them a star for the future, while also being a transition for the organization from an aging Nowitzki. I’m not saying that Barnes will have to ability to put the Mavs on his back in the fashion that Nowitzki did, but he is a start.

This is an organization that was hurt by the NBA Lockout in 2011, while also being spurned in free agency by the likes of Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan who was all set to come to Dallas in 2015 until he had a change of heart. But going forward for the Mavericks, drafting will be the key and if they can show quality free agents that they are putting a team together that includes Barnes, a quick turnaround in the Lone Star State is not out of the realm of possibilities.

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