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Thursday Morning Brews: Playoff Predictions

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Enemy You Know

Confession time. So, it’s January 1st, 2015, and the Alabama defense is staring down the Ohio State Buckeyes in their own red zone. The Tide are clinging to a 21-13 lead, until scrappy, forgettable nobody Evan Spencer throws a gorgeous touchdown pass to Michael Thomas to pull the Buckeyes to within a point. I cheered. Then, when Zeke ran away with that 85-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, I cheered again.

Now, I’m not normally into cheering for the Buckeyes. But something was different about that day. The SEC needed to lose, and the Big Ten needed to win. It was as simple as that. Not every game carries the weight of the conferences and their reputations attached to it, and thank goodness for that. But this one did, and we won.

I was thinking about that game when figuring out my thoughts for this year’s matchups. Ohio State and Alabama are in it again, after all. So is Clemson, and ultimately, I think this will end up being a rematch of last year’s showdown in the title game.

My first thought, though, was, “I am definitely not rooting for the Buckeyes again this time.”

Sometimes you have to take your enemies one at a time, I guess.

Playoff Predictions

Clemson vs. Ohio State: 34-20, Tigers

What’s impressed me the most about Urban Meyer over the years is he knows how to keep his opponents from exploiting his team’s weaknesses, whatever they may be. He’s fielded defensive lines that are susceptible to the run (anyone remember Adolphus Washington?) and somehow gotten away with it. He runs his quarterbacks more than most, and manages to avoid quarterback injuries - except for that one year, of course. In 2013, I think he won with swiss cheese starting at outside linebacker. (I mean, I’ll have to go back and check. But there were certainly holes in the defense!! Ah, man, I’m hilarious.)

And now this year, Urban Meyer’s taken a team that was too young for the playoff and gotten them in the playoff. Beating this Buckeyes team is like catching a fish with your bare hands.

Clemson, meanwhile, has stayed pretty consistent even though there’s been something slightly missing. (Auto-pilot effect, like Michigan had?) Offensively, they’re very solid, with a do-it-all quarterback and big, fast athletes all over the place. I’m jealous of their interior offensive line, by the way, those guys are gold.

Defensively, the Tigers have speed on the perimeter (they can get a little grabby, though) and a front four that might start for Alabama. At least a couple of them would.

I think the big mismatch is Ohio State’s receivers against Clemson’s secondary. And winning that decisively would enable Clemson’s defense to focus on stopping the run game, and maybe delivering some painful hits to J.T. Barrett. I don’t think Ohio State comes out of this in good shape.

Alabama vs. Washington: 42-14, Crimson Tide

You’ve heard a lot of people talk fearfully about the Alabama Crimson Tide, so I have nothing new to share. Defensively, they’re fast and simply too big to be allowed. Offensively, they’re fast and too big to be allowed - unless they’re Calvin Ridley or ArDarius Stewart, in which case they’re just fast.

I’ll be curious to see how Jalen Hurts passes the ball. But don’t fool yourself - this team can win the championship with a 100-yard mobile passer at quarterback.

If there is one hope for the Washington Huskies, it’s the eerie NFL-like ability of sophomore Jake Browning. He’s got the size, the technique, the accuracy, and the coolness under pressure to be effective against the Tide. How effective, and how well his offensive line protects him, we’ll see.

On the perimeter on both sides of the ball, there’s good, solid speed. I’ll be curious to see how starting running back Myles Gaskin handles the hits and the grind, though. He has a great combination of just enough size (5’10”, 195, but plays a little bit bigger) and athleticism to spare. I’ll be rooting for him to show the country what he can do.

National Championship: Alabama Beats Clemson, 21-14

Predicting a game after a game is pure folly, but I do think Alabama beats Clemson in the championship, and I hope that it will be close. I could really do with a great, classic slugfest, and anything else that is gravy. We’ll see what happens.

Hitting the Links Is A Quiet Bloke, Mate

No Fanfare For Najee, But Maybe A Commitment

We’ll put all the parade gear aside for you, Najee. Whenever you feel like it.

Don Brown: ‘No Fear’ About A Brand-New Defense

It wasn’t that long ago Mike McCray was a huge question mark, and maybe the biggest on the entire defense - from his injury history, which could have been a Drake Johnson-like fluke, to his comfort in space out on the perimeter.

He’s been playing better, and he’s stayed healthy when we needed him most. So there’s that.

Josh Metellus, Jordan Glasgow Could Replace Jabrill At SAM

Alright, let me try to say told-ya-so in as mature a way as humanly possible. It’ll probably fail.

Jordan, a 6'0", 205-pound running back/safety, will follow in his brothers' footsteps. From the film, I like this kid a lot. He's high-effort, and honestly has some Tyrann Mathieu play-making ability in him. If the Mathieu comparison is too rich, then Jordan Kovacs is a more realistic ceiling - someone who walked on and grabbed a starting leadership role on defense. With the effort and relentlessness Jordan plays with, he's not one to bet against.

That was me saying that about Jordan Glasgow back in March of 2015. Now, Don Brown is singing his praises as a play-making safety who can work from the box. Fingers crossed.

Kareem Walker Finished 2016 Strong, Looking Ahead To 2017

A very exciting prospect, to say the least. A little less than breakaway speed, but very smooth and quick around the line of scrimmage and hard to get down.

Ian Boyd Previews The Orange Bowl

While I respect what Boyd is saying about Auden Tate’s size being a tough mismatch on third downs, Tate (like much of the rest of the team, other than Dalvin Cook and Nyqwan Murray) has struggled catching the ball on third downs. In fact, he has the worst catch rate on third downs (38.5%) of anybody on the team with 20 or more catches.

He is athletic, though. And they have a couple tight ends - Ryan Izzo, Mavin Saunders - who are athletic as well. Izzo is the starter there, and, fun fact, he’s even worse on third downs than Tate is. Saunders isn’t too much better. So, good athleticism, but we’ll see on the actual play-making.

Harbaugh Talks Negative Recruiters, The Medicine of Football

If podcasts are your thing, I recommend checking out this one. But the article/transcript in the Detroit News was good too.

Marquez White Talks Harbaugh, Jordan, College Football

It doesn’t surprise me that White, who’s a starting cornerback for Florida State, is the one to give a headline quote and some brash talk about the Wolverines. He plays that way, too, with his heart on his sleeve.

That wasn’t why I included it here, though; he also talked about Michigan’s Jordan gear, the Call (against Ohio State), and being friends with Channing Stribling.

Northwestern Wins The Pinstripe Bowl

Between this and losing their offensive coordinator to LSU, it’s been a rough few weeks for Pitt. Hats off to Justin Jackson, too - 224 yards and 3 touchdowns on 32 carries to cap off a 1,500-yard season.

Indiana Loses The Foster Farms Bowl

Richard Lagow is tremendously frustrating to watch. The 14/39, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 188-yard stat line somehow doesn’t describe how much he was flailing out there.

My hope is that Indiana can find another option in 2017 (unlikely, since Zander Diamont is retiring), or more realistically that Tom Allen can force Lagow to check down and learn how to move the chains. Lagow ‘looks’ like an NFL talent coming off the bus, but he’s really a small forward with a good arm out there. He hasn’t learned how to be a quarterback yet, and the accuracy isn’t much to write home about, either.

Minnesota Wins The Holiday Bowl

You know, the less said about this one, the better. Good job on a 9-win season, though, for the Gophers.

And, for those of you keeping score, the Big Ten is now 2-2 in bowl season. Nebraska-Tennessee and Michigan-Florida State will take place tomorrow on ESPN - 3:30 and 8 PM.