Every season, Thanksgiving is about when we start figuring things out, and this year is no exception. Several teams made their playoff case last week, with the Saints, Panthers, Colts, and Eagles all gaining ground in either a division or wild-card race. But it’s also the time of year when teams finally come to the sad realization that it’s time to close up shop. Last week, with losses to a one-win Bucs team and a Matt McGloin–led Raiders team, respectively, those teams were the Falcons and Texans — two teams that came into this season with back-to-back trips to the playoffs.
Including Atlanta and Houston, there are currently eight teams down at least two games in the loss column for a playoff spot, and we know that for those fans, the holidays can be a cold, lonely stretch. So with Black Friday just around the corner, we wanted to give those teams a little something to keep them warm by putting together a holiday wish list for that one gift each needs as it looks forward to next year.
You already know that Week 1 college football games aren't all that useful in the discerning sports fan's quest to consume actual, compelling football. It's helpful, the morning after Jadeveon Clowney's tentative 2013 debut performance in a 27-10 win over North Carolina, to remember that Week 1 is also not all that useful for data extrapolation purposes. But that's fine. It's even natural. It's fun to be able to take one data point and draw a line to anywhere.
So before we get too far ahead of ourselves, on barstools and in broadcast booths, by labeling Clowney's junior season an early Heisman bust on the basis of one three-tackle outing, let's take something away from his head coach's postgame press conference.
A couple questions in, a reporter asked Steve Spurrier to elaborate on his thoughts regarding Clowney's conditioning. The Head Ball Coach had mentioned in his opening remarks that he'd told Clowney, at the end of a lengthy weather delay, "You oughta be well-rested now." Spurrier interrupted the reporter seeking to pin down the exact degree of the Gamecocks' star player's gassedness with this: "Well, did you watch what I was watching? I don't have to say it. You write what you see."
Far be it from us to disregard the will of the HBC.
In case you were busy helping J.J. Abrams run a viral marketing campaign for Star Trek Into Darkness in Central Russia, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Chris Paul and the division-leading Los Angeles Clippers beat the Los Angeles Lakers "on the road" at Staples Center, 125-101. "This year, the crowd dynamic has really changed," Paul said after the game. "Usually when we play the Lakers, they have the most fans, but it's been really different of late. I don't know what could have led to the basketball fans of Los Angeles supporting us when they all seemed to be so passionate about the Lakers in the past. It makes no sense at all. They were Lakers fans, something happened, and now they root for the Clippers. I don't know, I'll take it, but it's totally inexplicable."
1. Jadeveon Clowney
Until the year 2013, if you had asked me to cite off the top of my head the greatest defensive play in college football’s recent annals, I might have noted this, or made a blatantly homerish reference to this. But that era has ended, because I have been told by a seismographer of questionable repute that Jadeveon Clowney’s hit during yesterday’s Outback Bowl actually triggered a minor aftershock at the breakfast buffet of a Shoney’s in St. Petersburg.
When Vincent Smith’s helmet finally stopped rolling, and Mike Tirico had caught his breath, and the discussion for play of 2013 had ended only 15 hours into January, I started looking for where I’d seen Jadeveon Clowney do this before.
The award for college football’s most outstanding player was handed out a few weeks ago, but the most talented player in college football is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound sophomore who currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina. And although some of the hung-over, national TV crowd got their introduction to Clowney about as suddenly as Vincent Smith got his, the truth is that the 19-year-old from Rock Hill has been one of the best players in the country since he got to campus.
It was about midway through the third quarter of South Carolina’s 35-7 romp over Georgia when Brent Musburger delivered that broadcast’s insurance-company-sponsored trivia question. Accompanied by the scurrying Aflac duck was the question “Who are the three oldest coaches in the FBS?” Most of these somehow involve one of the participating schools or coaches, and this one was no different. Coming in third, at a youthful 67, was the Ol’ Ball Coach. Two spots above him was the only guess I would’ve had. The wizard of Manhattan, Kansas, Bill Snyder, is a distinguished 73. The ages of both left me incredulous, but for opposite reasons. Steve Spurrier is 67? Bill Snyder is only 73?
More surprising than either number is that two of the three oldest major-college football coaches in the country are in charge of two programs firmly inside the top 10. (Oh, and the third is Frank Solich, who has the Ohio Bobcats in the top 25. It’s an old man’s game.) Coaching success late in life isn’t new — Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden both coached into their 80s — but Snyder and Spurrier differ from the previous slate of coaching elder statesmen in that neither is at the end of an uninterrupted run at a school he helped elevate to national prominence. The final act for both is also their second. This weekend, both Kansas State and South Carolina will have a chance to play for an inside track to the national championship, and the way each team has done it makes neither coach seem his age.