Nobody would blame a Clemson football fan if they believed in voodoo.
New Orleans has been a hellhole for Tiger football, especially over the last four seasons.
Clemson’s dreams of its third national championship in five seasons was squashed last night when Ohio State rolled to a stunningly easy 49-28 victory in the Sugar Bowl, the second College Football Playoff semifinal.
The Buckeyes, who played only five regular season games, then defeated Northwestern in the Big Ten Conference championship game, faces Alabama in Miami Gardens for the championship a week from Monday. The Crimson Tide had no trouble in rolling over Notre Dame 31-14 in the Rose Bowl, relocated from Pasadena to Arlington due to California’s ban on spectators at sporting events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are 6-5 in CFP games. They have been in college football’s version of the Final Four every year since 2015, the second year of the playoff.
Tonight’s loss dropped Clemson to 0-3 in CFP games in the Superdome. The Tigers lost 24-6 to Alabama in the 2017 semifinals and 42-25 to LSU in last year’s championship.
Clemson’s cursed history in the Big Easy goes back to the Tigers’ longest-tenured coach, the man who is honored prior to every Clemson home game.
Frank Howard was already a near-deity in South Carolina, and a living legend in the college football coaching ranks, in 1958. He was in his 19th season at Clemson, and by then, he established the Tigers as a southern stalwart, highlighted by an 11-0 campaign in 1948 which saw the Carolina Tigers defeat Don Faurot’s Missouri Tigers in the Gator Bowl.
What did an 11-0 record get Clemson in 1948? The No. 11 spot in the final Associated Press poll, which was taken prior to bowl games. The AP’s first post-bowl poll was in 1965, and it did not become permanent until 1968..
The Tigers were ranked eight spots behind North Carolina, which went 9-0-1 in the regular season before losing to Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl.
In 1948, North Carolina and Clemson were toiling in the Southern Conference, which was nothing more than a loose confederation of teams most in the Carolinas and Virginia, with Maryland the northern edge of the conference. There were big names like UNC, Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina State and Maryland in the SoCon, but lesser lights like Washington and Lee, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and Furman.
UNC and Clemson didn’t play in 1948. However, the Tigers defeated SEC members Mississippi State and Auburn away from Memorial Stadium, Boston College in Massachusetts and South Carolina in Columbia.
The Tar Heels rocketed to No. 2 after wins over Texas and Georgia, the latter in Athens. UNC hit the top spot after defeating Wake Forest, but somehow dropped two spots after a win over NC State. Then UNC beat LSU and Tennessee, the latter in Knoxville, but was tied 7-7 by William & Mary, which had a fine team and finished No. 20 in the final AP poll of 1948.
Should Clemson have been higher than No. 11? Absolutely. Not ahead of the top three (Michigan, Notre Dame, North Carolina), but no lower than No. 7, where 7-2 Northwestern resided.
Two years later, Clemson went 8-0-1 in the regular season and finished 10th in the final AP poll. The Tigers won their ninth game by defeating Miami on its own field in the Orange Bowl.
In 1953, the large schools from the SoCon formed the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson won its first ACC title in 1956 and a trip to the Orange Bowl, where it lost 27-21 to Colorado, which was not yet in the Big Eight. The Tigers went 7-3 in 1957, but only 4-3 in the ACC, and thus did not get invited to a bowl.
Howard’s 1958 squad started 4-0 and rose to No. 10 in the AP poll, but a 26-6 loss in Columbia to the Gamecocks dropped the Tigers nine spots. Clemson lost two weeks later to then-SEC member Georgia Tech in Atlanta before winning its last three regular season games vs. NC State, Boston College and Furman.
South Carolina, which lost to North Carolina two weeks before defeating Clemson, had the inside track to a bowl bid, but blew it by losing 10-6 to Maryland in College Park.
The Terrapins did the Tigers a huge favor. Clemson was then home free after winning in Raleigh. North Carolina took itself out of the running with losses to NC State and the Tigers in the first two weeks, and Duke lost its first two conference games to South Carolina and Virginia, the Cavaliers’ lone win of 1958.
Howard’s club climbed back into the rankings at No. 16 after the NC State game. His coaching cachet and Clemson’s rabid fan base was mighty appealing to the New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Carnival, which was under pressure from Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison, the City Council and the Louisiana Legislature to invite only all-white teams to Tulane Stadium.
The Sugar Bowl had to look only 80 miles west to find Clemson’s opponent.
One week after inviting LSU, the Bayou Bengals wrapped up the 1958 national championship by stomping Tulane 62-0 in New Orleans. Paul Dietzel’s White Team, Go Team and Chinese Bandits pillaged the Green Wave for 56 second half points, one record which survived Joe Burrow’s passing frenzy of 2019.
This was not Howard’s first rodeo in New Orleans. He took Clemson to Tulane Stadium to play the Green Wave four times between 1940 and 1946, coming away a loser three times. The lone Tiger win was 47-20 in 1945. Tulane was also 2-1 vs. Clemson prior to Howard’s arrival, leaving the Tigers 2-5 in the Crescent City prior to playing the Bayou Bengals.
Clemson was a decided underdog, facing the national champions in what amounted to a road game. Yet Howard, much like Swinney, had the Carolina Tigers loose and ready to roar. What did they have to lose?
It took a trick play, a halfback option pass from Billy Cannon to Mickey Mangham, for LSU to overcome its stubborn foe 7-0. The Bayou Bengals cemented their national championship without much complaint from the peanut gallery, even though Iowa was voted No. 1 in the Football Writers Association of America poll after the Hawkeyes crushed California 38-12 in the Rose Bowl. The Golden Bears haven’t returned to the Granddaddy of Them All, much as Chuck Munice and Aaron Rodgers tried.
Two years after the loss to LSU, a rock found in the real Death Valley was given to Howard by Clemson booster Samuel Jones. Howard used the rock as a door stop until 1966, when another booster, Gene Willimon, told the coach to do something with the rock or get rid of it. Howard took Willimon’s advice and placed it on the pedestal in the east end of Memorial Stadium.
Clemson did not rub the rock during the 1966 season, although in its first home game of that season, it rallied from an 18 point deficit vs. Virginia with 17 minutes left to win 40-35.
The next season, the tradition of rubbing the rock began. It actually ended in 1970 when Hootie Ingram succeeded Howard and continued through most of 1972. Ingram chose to have Clemson enter the stadium from the west end instead of the east.
Bad idea, Hootie.
Prior to the 1972 season finale vs. South Carolina, Ingram realized the Tigers were a putrid 6-9 at home under his leadership. He decided to have the team enter from the east end before facing Paul Dietzel’s Gamecocks.
Clemson won 7-6. The tradition carries on.
Back to Clemson and New Orleans.
After losing the Sugar Bowl to LSU, Clemson did not return to the Big Easy until 1981 to play Tulane in the Superdome. The Tigers won 13-5 (not a typo) en route to their first national championship, claimed with a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson left the Superdome last night with a humbling 3-8 lifetime mark in the Big Easy.
Two silver linings:
–The Superdome will have a new sponsor when Clemson returns. Mercedes-Benz’ naming rights deal expires later this year, and the German automaker will not renew the contract, due to its sponsorship of Atlanta’s stadium. Clemson’s three CFP losses came during this naming rights deal.
–Trevor Lawrence will only have to play in New Orleans once every eight years, since the Jaguars and Saints are in opposite conferences. If you think the Jaguars have a chance of playing in Super Bowl LIX following the 2024 season, I’ve got a beachfront condo in Russell to sell.
A rambling post about Clemson football. Foots Prints at its finest. Goodbye for now.
Urban Meyer should not coach the Ohio State Buckeyes football team again, if there is any justice and morality in this world. He knew one of his golden boys, Zach Smith, was a woman abuser and covered it up. Meyer must not be allowed to roam the sidelines at Ohio Stadium, or any other college football field, again. He’s certainly not going to go poor in retirement.
Obviously, if the Ohio State job comes open, there will be a free-for-all as to who will be Meyer’s replacement. If I am OSU president Michael Drake, there is one name I put at the top of my list.
His name is Nicholas Lou Saban.
Yes, I did not stutter.
THAT Nick Saban, the one who has built Alabama so grandiose it has eclipsed that of Bear Bryant in the minds of many Crimson Tide fans and college football experts. That’s another debate for another post.
If Saban’s Crimson Tide wins the national championship this season, it will be six in 10 seasons, matching the total Bryant won in 19 seasons (1961-79), although two of Bryant’s (’73 and ’78) were split, and the ’73 title, along with ’64, saw Alabama lose its bowl game after being crowned national champion when a selector (or selectors) did not take another poll following the bowl games. Saban’s five so far are undisputed, including two in the College Football Playoff era.
Saban is the highest paid coach in college football, making at least $11 million per season, but he isn’t lacking for money. His kids are grown, and he and Terry now have grandchildren they can spoil. Saban, who turns 67 this Halloween, has surprised many by staying so long in Tuscaloosa after being so nomadic during the first 34 years of his coaching career, never staying more than five seasons in any place.
This will be Saban’s 12th season in Tuscaloosa. Why would he want to leave now?
In my opinion, the Ohio State position is the only one Saban should ever consider leaving Alabama for. Some thought he was considering Texas when it forced Mack Brown into retirement a few years ago, but it turns out those were only pipe dreams by the Longhorn faithful, many of whom have deeper pockets than anyone could dream of having.
As much of a monolith Alabama has become under Saban, and was under Bryant, Ohio State matches the Crimson Tide in many areas, and in some, the Buckeyes are superior.
First, there are many more people in Ohio than Alabama. The population of the Buckeye state according to a 2016 estimate was 11.67 million, compared to 4.88 million for Alabama.
Ohio is a gold mine for high school football players. The vast majority of the greatest Buckeyes prepped in their home state before making their way to Columbus to play for Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, Meyer and some of the less successful coaches (Earle Bruce, John Cooper). The dream of most Ohio boys who play football is to don the scarlet and gray and come out of the tunnel at “The Horseshoe”. There may be pockets of Michigan fans near Toledo, and some who are loyal to the smaller schools in the state (Cincinnati, Toledo, Miami, et al), but Ohio State is THE school in the Buckeye State.
Alabama doesn’t have that luxury. It has to contend with another SEC power, Auburn, on the other side of the state. And Mobile is so close to Florida State, Florida and LSU that it routinely gets picked clean and the Crimson Tide can’t get all of the top talent there.
The Big Ten is considered the far superior conference academically among the Power Five. Northwestern is one of the most prestigious private schools in the United States. Michigan is considered a “Public Ivy”. Wisconsin has a strong academic reputation. So do Ohio State, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State, although there’s still damage control going on in State College in the wake of Jerry Sandusky.
The SEC’s strongest academic schools are Vanderbilt and Florida. Alabama has seen an explosion in enrollment in recent years and is now the second most selective school of the 14 members of the conference, only behind Vandy, but the Mississippi schools really can’t raise their academic profiles as much as they’d like, given how poor the state is and how bad the education system is there.
Money is not an issue. Ohio State’s football budget is on par, if not more, than Alabama’s. The revenues produced by the Big Ten’s TV rights deals are equal, if not more than those in the SEC. The Big Ten Network is in more homes than the SEC Network, where many cable operators outside the SEC geographical footprint have refused to carry another ESPN owned network due to the high fees ESPN charges cable companies to carry it.
Actually, I think Saban has it easier in the SEC West than he would in the Big Ten East. I just don’t see Gus Malzahn sustaining the level of success at Auburn he enjoyed last year and in 2013, when it almost won the national championship. LSU has struggled badly against Alabama, and unfortunately for me, that doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. Arkansas and Mississippi State don’t have the resources to consistently win big. Ole Miss is going to have to rebuild after probation, and
The only potential challenger to Alabama’s iron grip on the SEC West (where the Tide and Auburn should not be, but that’s another blog post) is Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher. However, Fisher has to deal with Texas in his own backyard, and TCU isn’t going anywhere as long as Gary Patterson is in charge. And what if Houston were to go to a Power Five conference?
In the Big Ten East, Michigan has been nothing but a big winner for the most part since Bo Schembechler’s day. Michigan State has been mostly good to very good under Mark Dantonio. Penn State appears to be on the straight and narrow again under James Franklin. Then again, the bottom of the Big Ten East–Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers–is pretty bad. Most of the West, Wisconsin excepted, can’t get its act together.
Again, I don’t think Saban is leaving Tuscaloosa.
The reason: the lady Nick Saban has been married to for almost 47 years.
Terry Saban is one of the most beloved women in the state’s history, right up there with Bryant’s wife, Mary Harmon; Lurleen Wallace, George’s wife who served briefly as governor when her husband could not run in the mid 1960s; Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course, Helen Keller.
It is well known Terry Saban loves Tuscaloosa. She loves being the city’s queen bee. She loves living in close-knit college towns, and even though Tuscaloosa isn’t exactly Manhattan (the one in Kansas), Starkville or Stillwater, it still is a far cry from Columbus, which is now Ohio’s largest city and also has the state government. In that regard, Columbus is Baton Rouge (or Lincoln) on steroids. I don’t think Terry would enjoy Columbus as much, and that’s the biggest reason why Nick wouldn’t go to Ohio State.
On the other hand, Nick and Terry still have plenty of family in their native West Virginia, and Columbus is a lot closer to them than Tuscaloosa.
That said, Michael Drake should do all he can to try and lure Saban to Columbus. Drake should force Nick Saban to look him in the eye and say thanks but no thanks. It can’t hurt and would show Ohio State is committed to doing whatever it takes to keep Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State at bay.
First, Dr. Drake had better get it right and send Urban Meyer packing. That”s the biggest hurdle. If Meyer is allowed to return, then it shows Drake and Ohio State are in the football business for two reasons, money and titles, and not for truly educating young men, which would be a damn shame.
Of course, if Saban wants a REAL challenge, he could go to Ohio…back to his alma mater, Kent State.
Urban Meyer, a lying piece of fecal matter, is on “administrative leave” from The Ohio State University. In other words, he’s being paid to lay low at home until the folks in Columbus can clear his name enough so he can return to the sidelines in time for the Buckeyes’ opener Sept. 1 at home vs. Oregon State.
I have plenty of strong opinions about Urban. I’ll save those for later.
Ohio State is ranked third in the worthless preseason coaches poll behind Alabama and Clemson. Might as well cement the Crimson Tide and Tigers from South Carolina in those spots. I don’t see either losing this year. Alabama gets Auburn in Tuscaloosa and there’s no way it is losing to LSU.
Speaking of LSU, the Bayou Bengals are too high at #24. Should not be in the poll. Not until Ed Orgeron settles on a quarterback, and that quarterback proves himself. If LSU defeats Miami in Arlington a month from today, then fine, the Bayou Bengals should be ranked. But not until then.
An online sports book has placed odds on the possibility of several big name coaches leading Ohio State into its opener.
Greg Schiano, the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator, is +400, meaning if you bet $1 and Schiano is named as Meyer’s permanent successor, you win $400.
Meyer is overwhelmingly favored to have his job back before Sept. 1. He is -300 on the book, meaning you’d have to bet $300 to win $1 plus the original $300 wagered.
There are three coaches on the list who are +20,000: Nick Saban, James Franklin and Jim Harbaugh. I think Saban coaching in Columbus is not far-fetched, just not in 2018. I’ll tell you why in a post I will be composing very soon.
I had a great night of sleep. I went to bed at 2230 (10:30 pm) and only got up once, at 2:45. When I fell back asleep, I didn’t wake up again until 0808. The new mask for my CPAP must really work.
I spent most of the day in Kansas, since I had a 1500 appointment with Andrea for my second back wax treatment. I did not eat at Joe’s Kansas City this time. In fact, I didn’t eat anything after I had a leftover Chick-Fil-A sandwich for breakfast until I got back to the hotel after 1600.
The wax went very well. Some pain, but I knew it was coming and I did not scream once. I winced a few times, but that was it. I have to go back a couple of weeks before my birthday for the third treatment. I know nobody sees it, but I feel better.
The NFL exhibition season starts tonight. Bears vs. Ravens in the Hall of Fame game. I’m sure the Ravens were selected because of Ray Lewis going into the Hall, and the Bears because of Brian Urlacher.
However, why do Lewis and Urlacher matter more than the others? Why not the Packers because of Jerry Kramer? Or the Vikings because of Randy Moss? Or the Redskins because of Bobby Beathard? Oh well. It’s football so I’m sure it will draw an audience. However, most of the guys you see in the final three quarters will not be playing come Sept. 6 when the Falcons and Eagles kick off the regular season in Philadelphia.
The Red Sox and Yankees begin a four-game series starting tonight in Boston. No other baseball matters. At least according to ESPN and Fox.
2017 is here whether we like it or not.
I went to bed later than I should have last night, but when the clock struck midnight, I was finally asleep. The TV was on, but no way I was tuning it to ABC. I never watched Dick Clark on New Year’s Eve when he hosted, and I will never, ever watch Ryan Seacrest. Lucy Hale is gorgeous, but I’d prefer to watch her act, not host a New Year’s Eve party from New Orleans’ Jackson Square, which she did last night.
The most morose celebrations probably occurred in Columbus.
That’s because Ohio State was crushed 31-0 by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. It marked the first time an Urban Meyer-coached team was shut out. That includes his stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, in addition to his five seasons with the Buckeyes. Ohio State had not been shut out since its 1993 regular season finale at Michigan.
The #3 seeds in the College Football Playoff–Florida State (2014), Michigan State (2015) and Ohio State–have been outscored 128-20. All of the 20 came by the Seminoles in the Rose Bowl vs. Oregon.
The semifinals of the CFP have been tremendously non-competitive. Only one of six has been decided by fewer than 17 points. Three have had margins of 31 points or more. Yikes.
Alabama’s 24-7 victory over Washington in the Peach Bowl was not as close as the final score. The Huskies scored on their first possession, but did absolutely nothing after. I don’t care if Washington could have brought back Warren Moon and Napoleon Kauffman in their primes. The Huskies weren’t scoring more than seven points against the Crimson Tide defense.
In 1961, Alabama’s first national championship season of six under Paul “Bear” Bryant, the Crimson Tide allowed just 25 points in 11 games. Imagine if this year’s Crimson Tide defense played in that era. Alabama may have gone unscored upon. Then again, players had to play both ways n the early 1960s, so you can’t compare peaches to pears.
So it’s Alabama and Clemson for all the marbles. Again. The Tide is a 7-point favorite right now, but that line should change. The Tigers are looking to avenge a 45-40 loss in last year’s championship game. They may have the team to do it, even though Pitt won at Clemson in November, nearly derailing the Tigers’ title hopes.
It would be fascinating to see Nick Saban coaching in the era of limited substitution. How would he handle his best athletes? Would Jonathan Allen be able to survive the strain of playing both ways? Or would others in the past, like Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, and A’Shaun Robinson? Bear Bryant mastered the transition from limited substitution to unlimited subs. Then again, if you had limited substitution and limited scholarships, some of the best players would have to play at Auburn, Ole Miss, LSU or Tennessee instead of Alabama, unless they wanted to walk on and ride the bench for the Tide.
Today is the final day of the NFL regular season. Jeff Fisher was fired in Los Angeles earlier this month. Rex Ryan was fired in Buffalo last Tuesday. Chip Kelly will be canned in San Francisco. Gary Kubiak is resigning in Denver due to health concerns. Who else will lose their job? Will Sean Payton leave New Orleans? Questions will be answered within the next 36 hours.
I spent a very long day at Buffalo Wild Wings to end 2016. Started at 10 a.m. due to the Citrus Bowl. Stayed until 8:30. I’m back at 11 today. No wings. I’ve got to eat healthier.