All About Football: Week 19
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Boy, oh boy, here we go. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the single most important All About Football of the 2015-2016 year. This is Week 19 of All About Football, I am your tired host, Blaine Train. We have gone through 18 weeks of college football and we have finally got it down to just one game. Four quarters (maybe more) to decide who goes home from Arizona as national champions and who just goes home.
We will preview Clemson vs. Alabama for the National Title. Plus, the NFL playoffs begin this week with the AFC and NFC Wildcards. Some teams are looking good going into these games. Some teams are looking like they can’t wait for it to be over. We will dive into that as well.
About Last Week
Week 18 Record: 2-2
Overall Blaine Train Record: 158-73
The best bowl game that wasn’t associated with the Big Six bowls took place last Saturday at the Alamo Bowl, between Oregon and TCU. At halftime of the game, Oregon had a 31-0 lead on TCU. All looked lost for the Horned Frogs, right? Wrong, as TCU quarterback Bram Kohlhausen led the charge for TCU to score 31 of their own points to force the bowl game to go into OT. There, Kohlhausen ran for a 8-yd touchdown and the defense continue to own the Ducks from the second half on to allow TCU to win in overtime. Amazing finish.
NATIONAL TITLE GAME (Jan. 11 )
Monday, January 11
Clemson (14-0) vs. Alabama (13-1) ….. 7:30 PM, ESPN
Played in Phoenix, Arizona
Clemson: The Tigers head into this game as the only undefeated team in the country. Head coach Dabo Swinney has done a great job turning around the feeling of underachievement from this program that has haunted them for the last few seasons. The road to the title was a little rough early on. After two easy wins, Clemson struggled in the ACC opener against Louisville before beating them, 20-17. The next week, on prime time network television, Clemson defeated then-#6 Notre Dame 24-22. That would be the last game Clemson would win by less than ten points until the rivalry game against South Carolina, where the Gamecocks was looking for the MAJOR upset. The Tigers pulled through for the 37-32 win. The week after that, they would claim their 15th ACC Title with a 45-37 win over North Carolina. Clemson headed to the Orange Bowl, where they just walked all over Oklahoma early and often, with the 37-17 win that would send them to Arizona.
Most important player on the roster is quarterback Deshaun Watson. The sophomore had a 68% completion rate for 3699 yards and 31 touchdowns, along with 12 interceptions. Watson also ran with the ball at times, rushing 187 times for 1032 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is second on the rushing list to running back Wayne Gallman, who also carried the ball 269 times for 1482 yards and 12 touchdowns. When Watson threw the ball, his favorite target was wide receiver Artavis Scott, who has 89 catches for 868 yards and five touchdowns. On defense, the star of the show is defensive end Shaq Lawson. Despite getting knocked out of the game last week against Oklahoma, Lawson is expected to play on Monday. Lawson leads the team with 10 ½ sacks and leads the nation with 23 ½ tackles for loss. This tough Tigers defense held Oklahoma to one of their lowest point total of the season, sacking Baker Mayfield 5 times and causing two interceptions.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide come into this game with a 13-1 record. After starting the season off right with a big win over Wisconsin, Alabama suffered the only loss of the regular season at the hands of Ole Miss, 43-37. After that, they ran through the competition. Closest win of the season was against Tennessee, 19-14. But, they dominated the rest of the SEC, including big wins over LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and an Iron Bowl win over Auburn. Alabama capped off the regular season with a 29-15 win over Florida for the SEC Title. In the Cotton Bowl, the Crimson Tide dominated Michigan State 38-0.
In that game, the Alabama defense dominated the Spartans. They held Michigan State to just 239 yards and forced two turnovers. Alabama D only allowed 29 rushing yards total. Alabama is ranked second nationally in allowing just 258 yards/game. They are number one in the nation with allowing just 74 yards rushing total. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is tied sixth in the nation with 12 sacks to go along with his 36 tackles this season. Defensive back Eddie Jackson anchors a tough secondary with 5 interceptions on the season, alongside Cyrus Jones, who not only had an interception against Michigan State, but also returned a punt for a 57 yard touchdown. The defense is led by linebacker Reggie Ragland, who will be a first round draft pick this year at inside linebacker. Ragland has 97 tackles on the season.
And, then there is the Heisman winner. Running back Derrick Henry has 359 carries for 2061 yards for 25 touchdowns. This includes 20 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns against the Spartans in the Cotton Bowl. What has helped make Henry more effective has been the improved play of quarterback Jake Coker. After a slow start in the season, Coker stepped it up to throw for 2775 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season. In the last two games, Coker has thrown for over 200 yards and two touchdowns in each game, giving Alabama a much more balanced attack on offense.
Prediction Time: This is going to be the toughest defense that Clemson has faced this season. Alabama has only allowed 14.4 points per game. Watson will have to be quick with his throws to avoid the pressure of Allen and the defensive line. Doubt Clemson will run too much in this game, so they will have to depend on the pass. Meanwhile, don’t underestimate Clemson defense. They held Oklahoma passing attack down last week. But, they didn’t have to worry about stopping a running back like Derrick Henry. If Henry gets the ball and is able to grind out the yards, Clemson will not have a chance in this game. That’s why I am going with the better defense.
My Pick for National Champion: ALABAMA
NFL WILDCARD TIME
Last Week: 10-6
Blaine Train Season Record: 159-98
Hard to predict the last week of the regular season, as there are usually more games that don’t matter then ones that do. I mean the Dolphins beat the Patriots, come on. Colts had no chance in making it to the playoffs, as the Texans won and clinched the AFC South against the Jaguars. The game of the week was the Jets and the Bills. Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan had the opportunity to keep his former team out of the playoffs, and that was what he did. Bills beat the Jets 22-17, add to it a Pittsburgh win, and the Steelers moved onto this weekend. The last game of the regular season was for the NFC North title. On a cold night in Wisconsin, Minnesota won the NFC North title, their 19th division crown, by beating Green Bay 20-13. Packers start their playoffs at Washington, Minnesota host what could be the COLDEST playoff game ever against Seattle.
Saturday, Jan. 9
Chiefs @ Texans ….. 3 PM, ABC
My Pick: Chiefs
This game will be about defense, so get ready for a boring one. Houston’s JJ Watt leads the league with 17.5 sacks this season. On the other side of the field, Kansas City’s Justin Houston (ha, shares his last name) was last season’s NFL leader in sacks. Kansas City have won ten straight games to make it to this point. While Houston should be happy to have the AFC South crown under their belt, they are in for a tough challenge from the Chiefs this afternoon. Going with Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come.
Steelers @ Bengals ….. 7 PM, CBS
My Pick: Steelers
Well, this would have been a better game if Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton was going to play in this game. But, the season-ending injury a few weeks back took care of that. So, it is apparent that A. J. McCarron will have to be careful with the ball around the Steelers defense. You know what Pittsburgh will do, especially since there will be no Deangelo Williams, Big Ben will throw, throw, throw. Cincinnati will have to keep tabs on Antonio Brown the entire game. Cincinnati is so snake-bitten when it comes to playoff football and I feel the tradition will continue, Pittsburgh will be moving on.
Sunday, Jan. 10
Seahawks @ Vikings ….. Noon, NBC
My Pick: Vikings
May not have been the solid year for Seattle but, they still managed to get to a 10-6 record, mostly without Beast Mode, who will not play again this Sunday. Quarterback Russell Wilson continues to shine for Seattle, throwing for 4024 yards and 34 touchdowns this season. Plus, Seattle did just hand Minnesota their worst loss of the season five weeks ago. With this game in the negative temps around kickoff, expect Minnesota to turn to the workhorse known as running back Adrian Peterson. He has rushed for 1485 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. It is no secret that there have been cracks in the Seattle defense this season, and it will be interesting to see if Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater takes advantage of them. It should be a really close one, have to go with Minnesota getting revenge in this one.
Packers @ Washington ….. 3:30 PM, FOX
My Pick: Washington
One of the worst divisions in the NFL this season was the NFC East. When they weren’t beating each other up, they were all getting destroyed by the rest of the league. Two of the division coaches already are gone. And, who knows what will happen next in Dallas. But, out of all that came Washington, behind the arm of Kirk Cousins. The quarterback threw for 4166 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. He had BETTER stats than his counterpart in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers. Washington is riding a four-game winning streak into Sunday, with Cousins getting better and better. Normally, when it comes to playoff time and the Packers, you don’t pick against Green Bay. But, with the up-and-down play the entire season, I think it will come back and bite Green Bay in this one. Going with Washington to improve to 7-2 at home this season.
There it is. I have Alabama winning the National Title. Shouldn’t be too much of a shock and I would love to see Clemson finish off the undefeated season. But, that Bama defense is the best in the nation and most of those guys should go on to great careers in the NFL in the future. I also have two road AFC teams winning in the wildcard, while the two NFC home teams prevailing.
Next week, a wrap up on the 2015 College Football Season and the next round of the NFL Playoffs. Maybe there will be a little bit of snow on the ground. Until next time, I am the Blaine Train. Have a good one.