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4th And Long

Fourth & Long: New Alternative Playoff

Well, the second round of my original alternative playoff did not get posted, so let’s just go ahead and start a new one using the final College Football Playoff Rankings, and instead of a 16-team field, we’ll trim it to eight, because in all reality, the playoff expanding to six or 8, is very likely in the future, but it will never get to 16. So here are our first round match-ups, with the higher seed being the home team. The two semi-finals will be played at Jerry’s World in Arlington, and the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The National Championship will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Just as a head’s up, family and press will be allowed at the game, and only a 10,000 tickets will be sold, and only 5,000 for the semi-finals. However, just to make things a bit different, the home team in the first round has a full stadium. Let’s take a dive right in!

(1) Alabama vs (8) Cincinnati at Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, AL: Well Cincinnati wanted to be in the playoff right? This is a horrible match-up for the Bearcats and head coach, soon to be coach of the year, Luke Fickell. To be fair, Alabama is a tough match-up for just about anybody in college football. Nick Saban’s three headed monster on offense, may be the best we’ve ever seen. Mac Jones, the quarterback, will most likely win the Heisman Award. Najee Harris, the running back, will be in contention for the Heisman and will most likely win the Doak Walker Award for best running back in college football. Finally Devonta Smith, is probably flat-out the best football player in America. He will win the Billetnikoff Award easily. Smith has accounted for more than half of Mac Jones’ touchdowns, and more than half of his yards through the air. In a just world, Smith would take the Heisman back to Tuscaloosa, not Jones. One question mark for Alabama is center Landon Dickerson suffered a pretty serious knee injury in the final minutes of the SEC Championship Game vs Florida. He has started every game for the Tide in the last two years. He is supposed to be out for the entirety of the CFP, and because of that their passing attack might suffer just a little bit, but probably not. Cincinnati is 9-0, and won the regular season AAC Title and beat Tulsa in the AAC Championship Game. Desmond Ridder is a very good dual-threat passer and runner, but can he do enough to keep the Tide’s offense off the field for long periods of time? I doubt it. On top of that Cincinnati’s defense has been pretty damn good this year, but they have no shot to stop Harris, Jones, and Smith. My Prediction: (1) Alabama 54 (8) Cincinnati 21

(2) Clemson vs (7) Florida at Death Valley II Clemson, South Carolina: Ah, Death Valley II, the second Death Valley in the south. The distant second Death Valley. However, I may not like it, but Clemson’s home-field advantage will be huge in this game, as Florida is one of the only teams in the country that can score with anybody. Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts, with the play-calling of Dan Mullen, is a real triple threat. Pitts is a mismatch for corners because he’s much bigger than them, and he has an advantage over linebackers and safeties because he is faster than them. This could be a real test of who can get that one stop when needed to win the game. My money is on Clemson, and future number one draft pick Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence was sensational in the ACC Championship. He threw for 322 yards on 25-36 passing for two touchdowns but an early interception. However, “Sunshine” also ran for 90 yards on the ground and another score. Kyle Trask on the Florida sideline probably wishes he had about a minute longer in the SEC Championship vs Alabama, because with another minute added on the clock, things could have gotten very serious at the end in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night. This will be a high scoring game, and the winner will be the one team that can get one or two stops to get their offense on the field. I’ll stick with my initial pick and ride with the Tigers. My Prediction: (2) Clemson 61 (7) Florida 50

(3) Ohio State vs (6) Oklahoma at The Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio: This is the best match-up by far of the opening round. Both teams come into this game, previously headed in different directions. Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma team led by quarterback Spencer Rattler, has been on a tear recently and beat Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship for their sixth straight title. Now I know Oklahoma has not fared well in the college football playoffs, but this isn’t an Alabama, Clemson or Georgia they’re playing. They are playing the 2020 Buckeyes who really haven’t played a complete game all year, and the only time they came close was against Nebraska in week one. Injuries and illness has crushed Ohio State in the later weeks of the season. In the B1G Championship vs Northwestern, the Buckeyes were without punter Drue Chrisman, leading tackler Baron Browning, and leading receiver Chris Olave due to illness. Overall this should be quite the shootout , with the Buckeyes squeaking out a tough win in the end. My Prediction: (3) Ohio State 48 (6) Oklahoma 38

(4) Notre Dame vs (5) Texas A&M at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Illinois: This is the match-up that everyone really wants to see. From the people I’ve talked to about half of them said they would have put the Aggies into the final four instead of the Fighting Irish. Jimbo Fisher and signal caller Kellen Mond are on a real roll right now, having won the past seven games. Texas A&M should come into this game motivated, and ready to take it the their ACC foes. Isiah Spiller, tailback for the Aggies, has given Texas A&M it’s best running attack in years. As long as Mond can stay accurate and not get out of control, the Aggies should be in good shape. Many people don’t really know what to make of this year’s Notre Dame team. They have one of the top defenses in the country, as well as one of the best players in all of college football Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. On offense, Ian Book has shown flashes this year. However, to many people he is still a glorified game managers. He will need to be much more than that if the Irish want to advance to the semi-finals in this mock playoff. My Prediction: (5) Texas A&M 35 (4) Notre Dame 27

The 2020 Heisman Finalists: I held back from posting this article until the final Heisman Finalists were announced. On Christmas Eve, the four finalists were announced and their were really no surprised. Alabama is taking over where Ohio State left off last year and sending two to the virtual ceremony: QB Mac Jones, and WR Devonta Smith. The other two finalists are Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, and Florida QB Kyle Trask. This should be one of the closest Heisman votes since Kyler Murray won the award over Tua Tagovaiola in 2018. My Predicted Finish: 1. Mac Jones 2. Trevor Lawrence 3. Devonta Smith 4. Kyle Trask. Trask may have been the best quarterback of the three finalists, but his team lost three games this season, and the Heisman Committee has never been very kind to teams with more than two losses lately. When Johnny Manziel won the award, not only was he the clear choice for the award, but his Aggies that year only lost two games, and demolished Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl 41-13. If I had a vote for the Heisman, no question it would go to Devonta Smith, the Wide Receiver out of Alabama. His stats this year are incredible. He caught 98 passes for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns! If Mac Jones is the winner of the Heisman, the first person he should thank is Smith. His receiving yards account for 40% of Jones’ total on the year of 3,739 yards. Smith’s 17 touchdowns make up an astonishing 53% of Jones’ touchdowns on the year of 32. We haven’t seen a skill player dominate as much as Smith since Manziel himself in 2012 or Christian McCaffery in 2015. In 2015, McCaffery’s sophomore year, he had 2,019 rushing with eight touchdowns, and caught 45 passes for 645 yards and 5 touchdowns. If you add in McCaffery’s return yardage, in 2015 he broke Barry Sanders’ 26 year record of all-purpose yards in a season with 3,864 all-purpose yards when the season ended. Sanders finished his 1988 season with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, with 3,250 all-purpose yards, and McCaffery easily surpassed him. Derrick Henry, tractorcito now a days, won the Heisman that year with 395 rushing attempts for 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. A great season, no doubt, but the award should have gone to the running back out of Stanford. Henry ended up edging out McCaffery by just under 300 votes. I could see a similar result when the winner is announced on Tuesday January 5, 2021. Right now the odds for the Heisman are as follows: Devonta Smith (-180) as the favorite, Mac Jones (+155), Trevor Lawrence (+1600) and, Kyle Trask (+2700). It is very likely the Heisman is headed back to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday January 6, 2021, but Trevor Lawrence at (+1600) is a good value play, considering there is no real odds-on favorite, the committee might feel that Lawrence deserves it as a sort-of career award. It would be pretty ironic if the two best college quarterbacks of the last 4-6 years did not win the Heisman (Tua Tagovaiola).

The closest Heisman vote in history was in 2009, involving another Alabama player. That year Mark Ingram, tailback from Alabama, edged out Toby Gerhard, running back from Stanford, by only 28 votes. Surprisingly the award in 2015 between Henry and McCaffery was not that close. There have only been two receivers to win the Heisman, Tim Brown from Notre Dame in 1987, and Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. Since then the highest a receiver has finished is second, which Larry Fitzgerald accomplished at Pitt in 2003. That year the award went to quarterback Jason White out of Oklahoma who squeaked past Fitzgerald by only 128 votes. I still think Mac Jones will win the award, even though the favorite right now is his teammate Smith. The Heisman Committee usually views the receiver as the benefactor of a great quarterback. However, I disagree. Devonta Smith is the best player in college football this year. Offense or defense and special teams. The rest of college football’s coveted awards will be handed out January 7, 2021 at the Home Depot College Football Award Ceremony, that will be held virtually. It should be an interesting couple of weeks. We have the Heisman, other awards, and of course the two semi-finals on New Year’s Day next Friday the 1st.

Make sure you vote in the alternative playoff. Also follow me or Jake on Twitter to find out when we will be recording the Fourth & Long Podcast next week. It will most likely be Tuesday, and we will cover the semi-final match-ups, get into some segments, and of course finish the whole show with trivia! I hope everyone had a happy holidays, but now we turn our focus to New Year’s Day and the semi-final match-ups.

Follow the Fourth & Long Crew on Twitter:

Justin – @BrownlojCle

Jake – @PiccuitoJacob

The Show – @4thandlongpod

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