A season of surprises has been whittled down to four.
The last men standing: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Michigan State have earned a New Year’s Eve invitation with the added caveat of an opportunity to play for the national championship.
And the Committee has decided that; Alabama will face Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, while Clemson and Oklahoma hook up in the Orange Bowl.
But the path to those venues wasn’t without drama.
For the Spartans it took a game clinching nine-plus minute, 22-play fourth-quarter drive which was capped by a third-and-goal touchdown lunge by L.J. Scott with 27 seconds left on the clock, to dash the Cinderella dreams of perfection for the Iowa Hawkeyes; 16-13.
The Sons of Duff Daugherty earned its invitation by way of its mid-season miraculous “Punt-6” play against Michigan, when all the Wolverines had to do was basically get the kick in the air to win the game, otherwise, Ohio State is filling that slot. Amazing!!
But don’t rest on Sparty’s Coach Mark Dantonio; the unassuming assassin is one of the nation’s best.
Does anyone in college football have more fun than Clemson coach Dabo Swinney?
He decided he would celebrate his special season as the nation’s only undefeated eleven, by throwing a win or lose Sunday morning pizza-party in Death Valley Stadium.
Over 20,000 orange and purple zealots showed up digging into 2500 pizzas, sliced into 8 pieces, all courtesy of Papa Johns.
It took four different towns to deliver the order, and there is no doubt that pizza never tasted better for the Tigers faithful, who are chasing it first national championship since the second year of the Reagan Administration – 1981.
To earn that invite Clemson was given a reprieve when North Carolina, who had closed to within 8-points 45-37, with 1:13 left on the clock, recovered its onside kick, only to be penalized by a “phantom” off side call.
It tried a second time, but it was recovered by the Tigers who ran out the clock. WOW!!
Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said simply, “The play was good.” And it was.
It took a while for the Tide to rise, but ultimately Derrick Henry, Alabama’s Heisman contending tailback took over as Alabama grinded out a punishing 29-15 victory over Florida.
Putting St. Nick and his boys in the playoff for a second consecutive time, as Saban chases after title number five.
But unlike Clemson, there was no celebrating in Grocho’s favorite town, as Saban told his players, “Act like you have been there before.” Which is exactly what Jim Brown said many years ago, when someone scores a touchdown.
Classic, old school. And we need that more than ever.
In Norman, “Big Game” Bob, who Big 12 Conference doesn’t have a championship game, simply relaxed sat back and watched, while waiting to see where the Committee slotted his Sooners, who may well be the most balanced team in America.
That’s it from cyber space. We’ll be up and running with our analysis of the last pure amateur sporting event left in America, the Army/Navy Game – featuring our annual “Army/Navy the old man and me piece.
Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. PK