Michigan State and Rodney Dangerfield are a perfect match!

rodney

One of these guys can’t get no respect.

We begin this New Year’s Eve playoff with the misidentification of one of the country’s best college football coaches, an iconic sports magazine, and an apology.

Last week in its “special” newsstand only College Football Playoff preview, Sports Illustrated mistakenly identified Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio as Mike.

Once the error, which drew the ire of the Spartan faithful was brought to the magazine’s attention, it made the embarrassing correction and apologized immediately.

But the faux-pas plays perfectly into the Spartans “Little Engine That Could” mentality.  It fuels the Michigan State program which relishes in proving to its legion of dismissive pundits that they were wrong once again.

On the eve of the New Year, let’s see which teams, with apologies to “Prince,” send its alums partying like it’s 2016, by ringing its coach’s name throughout the land, and which slowly trudge away, dragging from the weight of their fully corked celebratory magnums of champagne.

No.3 Michigan State vs No.2 Alabama – Cotton Bowl (ESPN, 8 p.m.) Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio would never admit it, but he loves his role as the Rodney Dangerfield of the college football world.

Despite the fact that the Spartans have won at least eleven games in five of its last six seasons, 38 of its last 42, tied the Big Ten record with four consecutive bowl victories, and captured seven of its last eight against Top-10 teams, the “Green and White” remain an afterthought in the hierarchy of college football royalty.

But weep not for coach, because his Sons of Duffy Daugherty, who attack with so many chips on its shoulder, that they could be a spokesman for; “Keebler” thrive on that perception.

The descendants of Earl Morrall are directed by its cocky senior QB Connor Cook (24 TDs-5 INTs-56%) who, in addition to being the winningest gunslinger (34-4) in MSU history, also possesses better leadership qualities than the entire field of presidential candidates.

The tested and wizened field general is assisted by a trio of solid tailbacks, L.J. Scott (11 TDs), Gerald Holmes, and Madre London, who have combined for 1714 yards and 22 TDs, while wideouts Aaron Burbridge, and Macgarrett Kings are comforting chain stretchers.

But unlike its offensive counterparts, who generate the excitement level of Keith Lockhart; Sparty’s D crescendos with the verve and passion of Leonard Bernstein.  {Bernstein’s classic “On the Town” opened on Broadway 71-years ago almost to the day.}

These Sons of Bubba Smith led by starry All-America end Shilique Calhoun (14.5 TFLs-10.5 sacks), and backers Riley Bullough (95 tackles -42 solo), and Darien Harris, stone runners with the ferocity of a Smithy’s hammer, but have shown some worrisome Iraqi Army like susceptibility defending against the pass.

[Note; if not for that miraculous “Punt 6” time expiring 38-yard touchdown run victory over Michigan, the Spartans are on the outside looking in!!  Amazing!].

In Tuscaloosa, the Sons of Joe Namath, a.k.a. Groucho’s favorite team, are like the Swallows returning to Capistrano, back again enjoying the view from its penthouse perch.

And St. Nick (104-8 in his tenure at Alabama) is on the cusp of national championship number five which would place him one behind the Tide’s other exalted icon; Bear Bryant.  [Note: Bear got all of his at Alabama, Saban owns one from his time at LSU.]

The “Title Town” offense is fueled by its newly minted Heisman locomotive, tailback Derrick Henry, (the nation’s rushing leader: 1986 -23 TDs), who plows through a defense with the same propulsion as a runaway Red Line train, or Putin’s troops rolling through Ukraine.

The conductor of the descendants of Bart Starr is the unassuming QB Jake Coker (17 TDs-8 INTs-65%) with assists from a breakout freshman wideout Calvin Ridley, and his partners Ardarius Stewart, and Richard Mullaney.

But the tensile strength of the Tide’s Tiffany encrusted run is a second ranked diamond hard D, which is harder to penetrate than the inner security circle of; Donald J. Trump.

This group, which is scarier than the Olympic event waters of Rio’s Guanabara Bay, rotates eleven different players in its front seven, and is anchored by its All-World backer Reggie Ragland, his partner Reuben Foster, and corner Geno Matias-Smith.

These disruptors surrender a jaw-dropping squeegee-like 74-rushing yards per game, while allowing a championship worthy; 14-points per contest.

Dantonio will not be intimidated, but these are the types of games that Saban relishes.

It’s strength versus strength; an “old school” 60-minutes of; line ‘em up and knock ‘em down may the best man win.

All of which means there will be no New Year’s Eve celebration for the Dangerfield’s of East Lansing as St. Nick climbs one rung closer in his “Ahab” obsession to topple the Bear.

No.4 Oklahoma at No.1 Clemson – Orange Bowl (ESPN, 4 p.m.) It’s official, “Big Game” Bob and the “Air-Raid” offense are alive and well in Norman, and with apologies to “Rodgers and Hammerstein,” in Oklahoma the wind continues to; “Come whistling down the plain.”

The Sooner awakening began during the offseason when OU’s head man changed much of his staff, but his best move was the hiring of 32-year old East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who was assigned a mission of singular purpose; revitalize the Sooner-Boomer passing attack.

Fortunately, that mandate coincided with the emergence of a charismatic “Clark Kent-esque” walk-on; QB Baker Mayfield (35 TDs-5 INTs-68%), who not only is the nation’s second most efficient passer, but performed at a Heisman contending level.

The wily dual-threat sharpshooter, who directs the nation’s third highest (45) scoring eleven, has the luxury of lasering onto a trio of glue-fingered receivers, the stellar Sterling Shepard (11 TDs), and his partners Dede Westbrook, and Durron Neal.

But the tone setters for the Sons of Steve Owens, the ones who enable that aerial show to sparkle, are a pair of “John Deere” earth movers: Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.

The tandem diesels, who average more than 6-yards a carry, (combining for 2014-yards and 22 TDs), are the best pair of table setters this side of the White House butlers.

On D, the vastly improved descendants of Bud Wilkerson, anchored by its All-America backer Erik Striker (16 TFLs -7.5 sacks), his partner Dominique Alexander (leads the team (91) in tackles), and end Charles Tapper (10 TFLS-7 sacks) are seventh (37) in sacks, and swarm to the ball as intensely as last summer’s locusts plague in Russia.

In Death Valley, “Clemsoning” (a.k.a. “the Tigers collapsing again”) has been officially expunged from the school’s vocabulary, and “Dabo’s Boys,” who are riding the nation’s longest (16) winning streak, are intent on bringing home Clemson’s second national championship.

Its only previous title came during the first year of the Reagan Administration (1981), when the number one song in America was “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John and the Tigers defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day; 1982.

The maestro guiding these unblemished Sons of Dwight Clark is its Heisman finalist QB, Deshaun Watson (30 TDs-11 INTs-69% – 887 yards rushing – 11 TDs), who performs like Toscanini with a football in his hand.

The impresario, who glides with the grace of Fred Astaire while displaying a Houdini-like sleight of hand, is assisted by a rumbling 18-wheeler tailback Wayne Gallman (1332 yards -10 TDs), and the receiving quartet; Artavis Scott, Charone Peake, Deon Cain, and Jordan Leggett have combined for 22 TD receptions.

And just like Glen Fry and Don Henley of the “Eagles,” the Tigers seventh ranked D, led by the All-America pairing; corner Mackensie Alexander, end Shaq Lawson (22 TFLs-9.5 sacks), along with backer B. J. Goodson (14.5 TFLs-95 tackles -46 solo), is deserving of a marquee of equal billing.

A strong case can be made for either team.  But we think “Big Game” leaves the Clemson faithful with the recurring lyric from the Eagles “Heartache Tonight;” “Somebody’s gonna come undone” as the invaders from Norman snuff the championship dreams of the Sons of  Charlie Waters, and punches its ticket into the title game.

That’s it from cyber-space, we’ll be back with our analysis of the championship game next Wednesday night.  Until then, a safe and healthy New Year to all, watch the Rose Bowl, and as always; Peace, and listen to the music.  PK

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