Is there anyone who doesn’t think Alabama is going to eat Ohio State for lunch on Monday night?
Alabama comes in 12-0 and has played Texas A&M, Georgia, Auburn, Florida (pre-Whiny Lame Period), and Notre Dame (OK, so Meh, but let’s play along) to get to that point.
Ohio State is 7-0, having defeated Indiana, Northwestern, and Clemson. Let’s be fair and acknowledge that the Buckeyes kicked Clemson’s tuchus.
Has Ohio State played enough to have a reliable rhythm going?
What about that really long list of questionables on the Buckeye roster, potentially including QB Justin Fields after that little clock-cleaning in the semifinal? Is COVID willing? Is the flesh too weak? RB Master Teague is on that list. So is Mookie Cooper, for that matter. Trey Sermon’s a warhorse, as every Sooner schoolkid knows, but it’s hard to face Alabama with basically one magic-piston-legged RB.
We’ll find out.
Meanwhile, the important question: will Nick Saban ever lighten up in those dopey Aflac commercials?
It is to be noted that Saban is obviously doing something right, but he sure does annoy the pooh out of other SEC fans (i.e., of the non-Alabama persuasion). Ohio State’s Ryan Day hasn’t been around long enough to annoy anyone, because he’s, like, twelve. (OK, I looked it up and he’s 41). What I like about Day is that, as a player for New Hampshire (FCS, Colonial) back in the day, he was a quarterback and linebacker. Sort of a Field of Dreams moment there.
Someday he’ll no doubt be doing Liberty Mutual commercials. (Nobody is going to take State Farm away from Aaron Rodgers and posse.)
Random note: Steve Sarkisian, as our alert readers are no doubt aware, has been hired as head coach at Texas. But he’ll be racking up OC duty one more time for the Tide on Monday night. Beyond that, no one who’s watched the parade of HCs at USC since Pete Carroll headed off to Seattle with his coiffure and Troofer theories has, well, much to say. Best of luck to Sarkisian in Austin.
It’s the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T. It’s in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami starting at 8 PM EST. The Tide is giving 8.5.
Keeping our priorities in order, we note that Hard Rock is a COVID-19 Vaccination Site, blessed and sanctified last week by Governor Ron DeSantis. We are pleased to see that it’s being kept airtight by uniformed military who stand right in front of your bumper for no apparent reason, backed up by a serious-looking array of orange cones.
UPDATE: #COVID19 vaccinations begin Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Seniors 65 and older + frontline healthcare workers are eligible. Appointments can be made by phone beginning at 8 a.m. Here’s what to expect via @miamiherald https://t.co/QY6ilKxzqv
— Michelle Marchante (@TweetMichelleM) January 8, 2021
More wit and wisdom Monday morning, and a brief retrospective on the bowl season action for our Inner Circle, which was pretty dandy over all.
Just one note to, er, tide us over: it’s basically “Week 20” for NCAA FBS ball, the end of the line, and in the ranking as it stands now – which will probably change only at the very top – Oklahoma is still the only state with three teams in the Top 25. #6 OU, #21 OK-State, and #24 Tulsa are all still there. (Tulsa, BTW, beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010.)
Told you we’d keep pointing that out till it weren’t true no more.
Ohio State's Trey Sermon leaves CFP National Championship game with injury https://t.co/Uq3FHR4jsg
— The Palm Beach Post (@pbpost) January 12, 2021
…annndd, that’s not good (for Ohio State).
Inner Circle, Redux
And now, just a final sweep of our Inner Circle’s derring-do in 2020.
The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, started the season with few believers (and probably fewer healthy players, if we factor in COVID test-pops). But they finished strong with a 6-3 record, at #24 in the CFP ranking, with near-misses in the American Conference title game versus #8 Cincinnati, and the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl versus Mississippi State. Both games were played through four straight hours of pounding rain. Roar, Hurricane, roar!
The #6 University of Oklahoma did its usual swan dive from a ridiculously high early-season ranking, but came back strong to (rather painfully) adapt its style of play, improve its D, and win the Big 12 title over #10 Iowa State and the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic over #7 Florida. Boomer!
#21 Oklahoma State made a number of sacrifices for RB Chuba Hubbard, and we’ll just leave that right there, but managed to mostly stay ranked and not totally lose it all on a wet-noodle D every week. Yeah, they’re #21 in the whole FBS and I’m complaining? What can I say; the Oklahoma football posture. People in the South yell “SEC!” People from Oklahoma just yell, “Oklahoma!” OK-State racked up a respectable 8-3 and a 37-34 cliffhanger win over #18 Miami (Da U) in the Cheez-It Bowl, to round off the Cowboy version of a rebuilding season.
Navy had more of an actual rebuilding year, having suffered a serious loss of key seniors to the ravening fleet. Their defense showed marked improvement between September and December, but still has a ways to go. The offense will probably just have to wait for the roulette wheel to spin Navy a couple of stand-out skill players again. (It’s a military academy, so you can’t tell the O-line to put on weight.) The Mids had the setback of Solemn Postponements interrupting their schedule as well. They finished 3-7 against adversity, and will be back to fight again next year.
We’re awfully proud of Army for playing a full 9-3 season, winning the Commander’s Trophy, and losing only narrowly 24-21 to West Virginia, pride of the Big 12, in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. USMA carried the service academy banner with distinction in 2020, kicking mule parts and taking names along the way. Hooah!
Air Force had a darn good team this year, in spite of COVID opt-outs, and we only wish they could have played a longer season. The Mountain West started late. The Falcons had to miss out on bowl play and their rivalry games, but kept their spirits up and played some very fine football to finish 3-3. They aimed high in a tough year and didn’t miss.
Virginia Tech had a rebuilding year of its own, with flashes of brilliance and seemingly rock-solid competence followed by things that made you go, “Hmmm.” Editing note: lose the penalties, already. We did see improvement over the season (and we pause to reflect on the point that a lot of the normal pre-season practice and conditioning were disrupted, for every team in the country, due to COVID Rules). We expect big things of VT in the coming years; they’ve got a lot of talent, and they finished 2020 by downing the Yahoos, which you can’t beat with a stick. Gobble gobble.
Nevada did a lot with a short Mountain West season, improving on 2019, quality-wise, with many of the same players, finishing 7-2 and third in the MWC, and capping it off with a fun and fierce win over Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The most important task was accomplished relatively early, when the Wolf Pack regained rightful custody of the Fremont Cannon – the real cannon among cannon trophies – from Mutant-COVID-suffused UNLV, the real leper among disease-infested football rivals. Happy wintering, Pack, and good hunting next year.
LSU had what we might call an “off” kind of a year, but out pride in their grit never wavered. The Tigers’ rebuilding path, after their national championship for the 2019 season, took them to a 5-5 record in 2020, with scorching wins over teams that don’t bring a lot of offense. The coup in the feather was knocking off Florida there toward the end. Now that Dave Aranda has gone off to set Baylor to rights, it’ll be coming home by a different path to build an LSU D of iron again, but we know the Zouave has got it in them.
TCU may have started a bit slowly, but came on strong to beat a ranked Texas and OK-State, finish 6-4, and score the Mercari Texas Bowl against Arkansas. Unfortunately, the bowl was then subject to a Melancholy Cancellation, which bummed us out partly because we’re all over Japanese e-commerce companies, and partly just because it promised to be some pretty good football. The Horned Frogs will be losing some key players next year, and we do hope that won’t have to slow them down too much. They did a great job with what 2020 served up.
Toledo saved our lives by clocking in with MAC play in November, just when we really needed an alternative to wall-to-wall politics on weeknights. The Rockets went 4-2 on an abbreviated MAC season, beating rival Bowling Green, handing an excellent thumping to NIU, and working out some kinks for next year. The countdown has begun.
Never, ever least, but always guarding our rear in the best cow-punching tradition, Wyoming finished a short, re-jiggering season 2-4, but in every game they played to the 4Q, neither sleeping nor slumbering. They got to play two key rivalry games, beating Hawaii in Hono for the Paniolo Trophy and giving it their all in a tough loss to Colorado State for the Bronze Boot. The final loss to Boise State was actually a pretty narrow one, and we’re proud of the Pokes for crossing that finish line standing.
COVID, of course, loomed over all, and made or is making this the weirdest season since World War II for every NCAA sport. Of each and every member of our Inner Circle, we say the following: You returned from the field of fight with your shield, not on it – and with honor.