On the day of the biggest game of the postseason, here is the inaugural Five for Friday of 2014:
1. The Cotton Bowl is becoming the mirror image of the guy who built its stadium. Jerry Jones used to be an architect. He oversaw the building of a Dallas Cowboys dynasty in the 1990s and made the franchise the perpetual center of attention in the football universe.
Now, Jones is cantankerous, stubborn, and so power-hungry that he has tarnished his own legacy by attempting to become something he’s not—a general manager. In my opinion, the Cotton Bowl is doing the same thing.
The Cotton Bowl is a prestigious bowl game with a proud tradition. It used to kick off New Year’s Day at 11 a.m. in a bygone era when that day was hallowed ground in college football’s postseason.
But that wasn’t enough for the Cotton Bowl. Dissatisfied with its status as an elite non-BCS game, the game has bounced around in primetime as a wannabe. This year, it is paired with a much better matchup (Clemson-Ohio State in the Orange Bowl) than it offers (Oklahoma State-Missouri).
In its quest to join an elite tier of bowl games, the Cotton Bowl has sold its soul. Now nobody will watch, and the folks in Dallas need only take a look in the mirror to find the culprit.
2. Georgia Tech has some MAJOR problems. Yesterday, we saw the news that Vad Lee was transferring out of the program after taking the vast majority of snaps at quarterback last season. In fact, he told Joe Schad of ESPN, “The triple option was never really my thing.”
Now we have reports from Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports that Paul Johnson is unhappy and wants Tech to buy out his contract. Since that would cost the cash-strapped athletic department $7.5 million, status quo remains the most likely solution. Johnson has been on borrowed time for a while now as his on-field product has become less desirable. Something tells me this story isn’t going away any time soon.
3. Cliché time: Turnovers are the key. It’s no secret that arriving on the positive side of the turnover margin directly correlates with success. There are 60 teams in the country with positive turnover margins this season, and 56 of them finished 6-6 or better.
This stat matters to Clemson much more than Ohio State. The Tigers are -9 in turnover margin in their two losses this season. In ten team wins, the Tigers are +13. That is a staggering difference.
On the flip side, Ohio State has lost the turnover margin on four occasions. The Buckeyes won all four games and lost to Michigan State after posting a +1. Clemson can’t win without winning the turnover margin, but Ohio State can work with it either way.
4. It’s interesting how these running games are opposites. Think about the dynamics at play in both rushing attacks, and Clemson and Ohio State approach things from opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Tigers use tailbacks like Rod McDowell to patrol the edges of the defense, while Tajh Boyd is the power option in the running game. For the Buckeyes, 260-pound back Carlos Hyde does the dirty work, while Braxton Miller is the shifty speed player.
Both teams have the spectrum covered, just in different ways. It’s an interesting dynamic at play tonight.
5. Speaking of contrasts, how about the matchup for Clemson basketball tomorrow? We all know how good the Tigers are on defense this season, arguably the best the Atlantic Coast Conference has to offer. But the opposite is true about Boston College.
The Eagles are the worst team in the ACC on defense, allowing an average of 77.3 points per game. That’s 24.6 points more than the Tigers allow on a per-game basis. Boston College ranks dead last in the ACC in each of the following defensive categories: efficiency, floor percentage, rebounding percentage, and just about every shooting metric that exists.
To be fair, BC has played the nation’s ninth-toughest schedule so far. It’s feasible to expect a correction to these extremes, but not enough to make the Eagles a quality team on defense. This is an opportunity for Clemson to win a road game early in the conference slate, and Brad Brownell’s team needs to pounce on it if there are any aspirations whatsoever in that locker room.