Sam Burnham, Curator
The season is approaching rapidly. The teams are back in pads and on the practice field. In Athens, the Dawgs are coming off another successful season under Coach Kirby Smart.
Georgia sits at #3 in the preseason Coaches Poll. A preseason poll is worthless but this does indicate the amount of faith the coaches have in the program.
On the other hand, there are several stories appearing online as well as in print publications pointing out that Georgia’s elephant in the room, nemesis, bugaboo, thorn in the side, whatever they want to call Alabama. The theme at the center of it all is that Georgia has to beat Alabama if they plan to win a National Championship.
Call it speculation. Because that’s all it is at this point.
Georgia and Alabama would meet in the SEC Championship Game at the earliest. Bama still has to survive a grueling schedule in the West - A&M, Auburn, LSU, even Mississippi State are all looking to upset the Tide. Honestly, I expect Alabama to survive the challenge and make it to Atlanta, but they still have to do it.
So going on the plausible assumption that Georgia and Alabama meet in Atlanta or even in the playoff, there’s one major thing that Georgia has to do to beat Alabama. That thing has nothing to do with Xs or Os. It has nothing to do with talent, nothing to do with play calling. Georgia is Bama’s equal in all those categories. The thing Georgia has to do to beat Alabama is forget.
Georgia has to put the past in the past. They have to forget the series history. They have to play Alabama as if there is no history. For one game they have to forget that Alabama is Alabama. Football is far more psychological than many fans realize. Games are most often won in the minds of players long before they are played on the field. Georgia has to beat Alabama in their own minds.
Even more importantly for now, they need to be Georgia. They can’t get so focused on a theoretical match up with Alabama that they neglect Florida, South Carolina, Auburn or Tennessee. They have to win the one game that lies before them. For them the task at hand is simple. “Just win, baby.”
Sportswriters, prognosticators, and fans have the luxury of worrying about how Georgia and Alabama will handle their expected match up. But neither the Dawgs nor the Tide have that luxury. They still have to get to that point. For them, the focus must remain closer to their nose.
Sam Burnham, Curator
During the off-season we’re gonna talk about issues surrounding the game. We may discuss some historical stories as well.
I want to focus this article on the issues of TBI, CTE, and other injuries that are related to football. Concussions are typical as are tears in the tissues of knees. We’ve seen great strides made over the years in the treatment of knee injuries, including surgeries, rehabilitation, and physical therapy.
With colleges and universities raking in millions on the sport, they have a lot on the line for the sport’s survival. I’d hope this article wouldn’t be necessary. I would hope they would be stumbling over themselves to address the issue. It works for all injuries but it is coming to a head over CTE.
ESPN’s coverage of the somber anniversary of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski is probably the most recent on the issue. The 21 year old’s suicide has been connected to CTE. This follows a pattern of former players who had similar deaths, including NFL star Junior Seau.
Schools are fielding teams and are employing trained and certified athletic trainers to provide critical medical care to student athletes. This trade is passed down through a training staff that includes students who work along professional trainers to gain practical experience to accompany their work in the classroom. This is imperative to the survival of the sport.
Schools also have staffs of equipment managers managers who bear the responsibility of issuing the needed equipment thereby each player has all the correct protective equipment and that it is fitted properly.
These two staffs need the right knowledge, tools, and equipment if football has a future.
Here’s where colleges need to step up more.
Where do doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacists, therapists, engineers, practically everyone who can have an impact on injury prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery get their education and training? That’s right, at our colleges and universities. They are sitting on all the resources they need. Schools of medicine, science, and engineering located at our major research institutions have the patients on campus, they have the knowledge to begin to study this problem, not with lip service but with actual work. They have the researchers, the professionals who can deliver treatment. Every piece of the puzzle is on campus.
Schools could partner together to work on the issue. Smaller schools may not have all the components, even a larger school might be better equipped to address medical or engineering, but not both. But collaborating with a school that can offer the missing pieces could advance the cause. Perhaps if the ACC, SEC, Big 10, PAC 12, or Big 12 worked on this with their member institutions the pieces could be assembled.
While such an an effort could rescue football, it also would advance treatment and even prevention of TBI in the general population. This has ramifications for industry, transportation, and other categories. And any progress would be thanks to our favorite sport and the efforts to make sure it will be around for generations to come.
Rank Team Points
1. Clemson 50 (5)
2. Alabama 43
3. Notre Dame 39
4. Ohio State 31
5. Texas 26
6. Oklahoma 23
7. LSU 17
8. Georgia 16
9. Kentucky 8
10. Florida 7
Also receiving votes: UCF 5, Washington State 3, Army 2, Northwestern 2, Oklahoma State 2
Every once in a while you get to see a team that puts everything together in one game. Monday was one of those nights.
While Curator & Coach both picked Clemson, neither could have predicted what happened.
True freshman Trevor Lawrence found receivers who made some of the most amazing catches of the season. Sophomore running back Travis Etienne carried the ball flawlessly. Clemson’s defense stopped Bama at every turn, despite the absence of star junior DT Dexter Lawrence. The Tigers stopped the Tide twice in the red zone, including a goal line stand to start the 4th quarter.
Bama made uncharacteristically foolish errors in an attempt to make something, anything, happen. Most notably, a fake field goal attempt failed and Lawrence turned that opportunity into a 74 yard TD pass.
Dabo Swinney’s staff executed a game plan that handed Nick Saban the worst loss in his head coaching career. Most shocking of all was seeing Bama quit. In the second half, the Tide just didn’t respond. Expecting to see halftime adjustments and a rejuvenated Tide come out of the tunnel, viewers instead saw Bama’s body language slowly morph into malaise and, eventually, surrender.
Clemson beat them until they quit. And that is the concise commentary on this game.
And so it's time to say congratulations to the new national champions, the Clemson Tigers.
When we were kids we loved pro wrestling. We knew it was scripted and choreographed and the the outcome was predetermined but we still loved it. We had a theory that if it were “real” and there was no plan that Andre the Giant would have beaten everyone every time...except for one. When we saw Big John Studd come out, straddle-step over the top rope, and look Andre in the face, we knew this would be the match up Andre could lose.
That's the match up we have in the CFB Playoff finals. Bama is the juggernaut, the unbeatable giant that can crush any opponent. But then Clemson comes out, maybe not quite as big, not quite as strong, but big enough to look the giant in the face and say, “you’re gonna have to throw your best out there tonight. Your average ain’t gonna cut it tonight.”
The Tide comes into Levi’s Stadium led by Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovaiola. The Tigers are led by freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence. The match ups across the line mirror that of the field generals. Clemson might be a little less noted, a little less famous, but they get the job done. Their performance against Notre Dame demonstrates that they belong in the title game.
Bama is gonna be the favorite but don’t count Clemson out. Even with suspended players, they’re going to be prepared. Clemson's defensive front will put pressure on Tegovaiola, something only Georgia has done so far. Clemson will have the discipline and the determination to stay in the game. They won't make foolish mistakes for Alabama to capitalize on. Alabama is going to have to complete a three day run against Georgia, Oklahoma, and Clemson. Even with the breaks, that;s not an easy task. Dabo Swinney has been on this stage before. He’s stared across at Alabama before. And if anyone is gonna beat Alabama, Clemson is a team that can do it.
We're both looking for an upset.
There’s no need to second guess the committee or talk about what might have been. There’s no need to question whether or not Notre Dame or Oklahoma are good football teams. It is clear they are. But this year we have a tier of good football teams and a tier of championship caliber teams. And the latter is small. What is important at this point is that the two teams who earned the right to play in the finals are there.
For all the talk of playoff expansion, it’s worth mentioning that this year it could have contracted. Once Bama beat Georgia, it was an event for the Tigers and the Tide. The BCS would have worked this year.
We’ve got an an interesting match up ahead. Keep an eye on ABG CFB for a special title game Curator & Coach.
curator & Coach returns for one more skate of games. Here’s our thoughts on the CFB Playoff and New Year’s Day (oh...and Florida-Michigan)
Sam Burnham, Curator
When I started covering college football on this site I immediately decided to not cover the hype of the race for the Heisman Trophy. I’ve grown to hate the entire fiasco. I don’t remember the last time I saw the award ceremony and I couldn’t tell you who won previous to last year.
But there’s a lot of uproar this year. Alabama fans are livid the award did not go to Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa. We can look at the stats and opponents and argue between Tagovailoa and winner Kyler Murray. But the spotlight on these two takes me back 31 years to another presentation of a trophy that allegedly goes to the most outstanding overall player in college football.
In 1987, Notre Dame wide receiver Tim Brown won the award based on an impressive season - catching 39 passes for 846 yards, 34 rushes for 144 yards,
23 kick returns for 456 yards, 34 punt returns for 401 yds and 7 total TDs. He played on a talented team that finished the regular season 8-3 and played in the Cotton Bowl.
But that year there was another player who deserved the Heisman Trophy more than Brown. At the much smaller Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts you would have found the rightful winner. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Gordie Lockbaum’s stats: 77 receptions for 1152 yds, 85 rushes for 403 yds, 2041 all purpose yds, 22 total TDs. AND he was a 1st Team All-American defensive back. That’s right, he played on offense, defense, and returned kicks. But he didn’t go to a high profile school or play on a Top 25 team. So he finished 3rd in the Heisman voting.
Thats the problem with the Heisman. It’s not about finding the most outstanding overall player, as it is intended to. It simply goes to the flashiest player on a major program. Yes, there was that one year that Houston’s Andre Ware won. But that was an anomaly and isn’t likely to ever happen again. A player on a non-contender doesn’t stand a chance.
Dont believe me?
Lets look at something.
Kyler Murray - QB Oklahoma
241/340 4053 yards 40 TD
123 rushes 892 yards 11 TD
Tua Tagovailoa - QB Alabama
199/294 3353 yards 37 TD
48 rushes 190 yds 5 TD
David Blough - QB Purdue
283/425 3521 yards 25 TD
Rondale Moore - WR Purdue
103 catches 1164 yards 12 TD
18 rushes 203 yards 1 TD
I’ve tossed Purdue’s David Blough and Rondale Moore into this conversation, not to say that either was robbed of The Heisman, as Lockbaum was, but to prove the point of fairness and feasibility. Blough and Moore put up numbers that would have them in the conversation...if they were at Michigan or Ohio State. Blough outpassed Tagovailoa and put up comparable total yards. Moore’s yardage dwarfs the numbers that won Tim Brown the trophy (admittedly in a different time.) Their names never even entered the conversation. They got their numbers on an average Big Ten team. Murray’s stats were gotten on the best offense in the worst defensive conference in the country. Tagovailoa’s stats were gotten on the best team in the country, period. Murray and Tagovailoa played equal or lesser teams every week. Blough and Moore were punching up almost every week.
All that being said, if the award is about the player and not the team, you cannot have a legitimate conversation about that trophy that doesn’t even mention Blough or Moore. Again, not saying either should have won, but for them to not get a passing glance proves the trophy is illegitimate for its stated purpose. Either redefine the thing or get back to the roots.
And until one of those happens, we return to not covering the Heisman Trophy.
At the end of Championship week we find this Top 10, the final one until Bowl Season is complete. The combined ballots chose the same four teams as the committee, with the next three teams each just one vote from the other.
And now for Bowl Season.
Rank Team Points Last Week
1. Alabama 50 (5) 1
2. Clemson 45 2
3. Notre Dame 39 3
4. Oklahoma 33 5
5. Georgia 26 4
6. Ohio State 25 7
7. UCF 24 6
8. Washington 14 10
9. LSU 9 NR
10. Michigan 7 8
Also receiving votes: Kentucky 2, Washington State 1
The Curator and other knowledgeable voices...mostly Southerners... on the subject