The Effect of No Wimbledon in 2020 on Tennis

By Saransh Sharma

Today, The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced that The Championships, Wimbledon, has been cancelled in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. While it was most definitely the right thing to do given the circumstances in our world today, the fans and players are still in utter shock over the announcement. The oldest and greatest tournament in the history of the game has now been cancelled for the first time since World War II. This is the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2020 year to be cancelled, and after Roland Garros announced its postponement, many people believed maybe Wimbledon would too, but there just simply is not enough time in one year to do it all. The decision will have a huge effect on the world of tennis as we see it, and may even affect players going into the 2021 tennis season:

With the Olympics now in 2021, Players Have Less Time to Train

The hardest part for tennis players and all athletes in general is definitely the fact that you cannot train. While you can always workout and stay fit, not being able to have a racquet, get coaching, and just hit tennis balls is something that hurts a player long-term. After such a huge layoff from the game, players will have to spend time getting back into a flow and rhythm of how their daily routines with training and practice goes, and then they have to prepare for tournaments, Grand Slams, and the Olympics. Many players will also be skipping more tournaments than usual in order to represent their country in the Olympics in July of 2021, and with the tennis calendar a month ahead after Australian Open (Roland Garros and Wimbledon are played a month earlier than usual in order to fit the Olympics into the schedule), expect players to be a bit more cautious with their body, while also still trying to get a lot of matches in. 2021 will prove to be the toughest year of many tennis players’ careers.

Rankings Will Change Tremendously Over Wins and Losses

The players will also have to be mindful of how winning and losing can drastically affect the rankings, with those currently being frozen right now due to the Coronavirus indefinitely suspending play for this year. While points won and lost for each win and loss will not change, what will change is how the players play after such a long layoff. Lots of younger and lower-ranked players will have their chances to shine and beat the top players in the world, so keep an eye out for major changes in rankings come 2021. We could see guys like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal lose their top-2 ranking spots due to the competition in the mens side and how the layoff could affect them, and on the women’s side, where the rankings have not been safe for anyone for years with a lack of repeat women winners in many tournaments, those rankings could be a whole lot different than a year ago.

 

sportsthrills: The New Team and Our Mission

By Saransh Sharma

Almost 8 years ago, my mom told me to do something with my ‘ESPN-like’ sports knowledge and showcase this talent to the world. That morning, sportsthrills was born. Throughout the years, I have been writing, researching, posting, and promoting this blog to my family, friends, and the world of sports fans all across the world. In those 8 years, and at the time I am writing this post, my blog generated 6,643 views from 3,662 visitors. In my middle school years, the blog was booming, with the majority of my views coming from that time, and me having generated so many blog posts that year, but high school and the beginning of college, it fell off a bit. Now, I am at a point where I am building this back up and see an opportunity of growth and expansion for sportsthrills to not just be a blog, but eventually a brand.

While I still keep ownership and editorial leadership over what I have created, I now have a team of friends who are just as crazy, passionate, and knowledgeable about sports as I am, and bring tons of different viewpoints and expertise to the table to make this into something bigger.

Our mission is to empower people of all ages to showcase what they believe in and what they are capable of, as I did as a 6th grader, and show our viewpoints across to the people within the sports world, from the perspective of people in our generation, but not just on games, or players, but on the culture of sports, the issues that show up amongst these athletes, and how we as fans feel. Now, here is the team I assembled:

Saransh Sharma, Founder, Editor-in-Chief:

Hello everyone, I’m Saransh Sharma, I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, and I am currently a Business Major at Virginia Tech. I have been writing this blog for almost 8 years now and am excited for this next chapter and in bringing on a new team and outlook to sportsthrills. I am a huge fan of the Washington Redskins and Miami Heat, as well as Manchester United for soccer. I will be writing posts along with my teammates and also editing and posting all blog posts, and I will also be working on promotions through social media. I hope everyone enjoys the content and the new opportunities that await, and I cannot wait to work with this amazing team!

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Pranav Thiriveedhi, NFL Co-Analyst:

Hey guys, I’m Pranav Thiriveedhi. I was born in Toronto but lived a majority of my life in New Jersey, right out of Philly. Right now, I’m a CMDA Major studying at Virginia Tech, along with the others. I’m a huge sports fan in general, but I mostly follow football, basketball and hockey. I’m a die-hard Eagles fan and I also praise Tom Brady. So, in advance I would like to apologize for roasting the Cowboys every chance I get. I am a big Philadelphia and Toronto fan; in case any bias gets in the way. I’ll be writing posts mostly surrounding the NFL, so hope you guys enjoy the content, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this team!

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Nikhil Pradeep, NBA Co-Analyst, Twitter Manager:

What’s up everybody, I’m Nikhil Pradeep. I was born in Detroit, MI but I’ve spent the majority of my life in Northern Virginia. I’m an Engineering student studying at Virginia Tech along with the others. I mainly follow the NBA but also keep in touch with the NFL and the top soccer leagues around the world. Thus, I’m a big fan of the Redskins and Wizards, and an avid supporter of Borussia Dortmund in Germany. I’ll mainly be working on NBA related content for the blog, and I’m excited to be part of the team!

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Rohan Krishnan, NBA/NFL Co-Analyst, Graphics Designer:

Hey everyone, I’m Rohan Krishnan and I have spent most of my life in Northern Virginia. Currently, I am a Virginia Tech student studying Business. I am a huge DC sports fan and run fanpages for the Redskins and Wizards on Instagram. I also love working with Photoshop, so I will be providing graphics for sportsthrills. I am looking forward to working with this team!

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Anish Dhondi, NBA Co-Analyst, Graphics Designer, Instagram Manager:

Hey guys, my name is Anish Dhondi and I was born and brought up in Northern Virginia. I’m currently an Engineering student at Virginia Tech. I’m a huge basketball fan (favorite team is the Trail Blazers) and I also run my own NBA page on Instagram (@splashcenter). I’ll mainly be working on NBA related content for the blog and some photoshop graphics. I’m excited to be a part of the sportsthrills team and am looking forward to the future!

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TB12 to TB: How Brady’s Move Down South Affects His Legacy

Tom Brady might not have shocked the world by saying he was leaving the New England Patriots just two days back, but if you said that to me after he signed a 2-year, $41 million extension in 2016 after a season where Brady was one drive away from yet another Super Bowl appearance, I would have said you were crazy. If you said that his destination would be Tampa Bay, I would think you were even crazier. Either way, Brady in 2020, did just that, but he earned that right. Since that extension, Brady went to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, and won 2 of them. Though he just left New England, here’s when the dominos started to fall, which led to the door opening for Brady to leave:

The First Fallen Domino: Jimmy G

Through all that, he endured the Deflategate suspension, nagging injuries to guys like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, a new face in town in Jimmy Garoppolo, whom coach Bill Belichick loved, and much more. Keep that name in mind, however. A guy who was drafted in the second round in 2014 by New England after having won another Super Bowl, their first in 10 years. When Brady accepted his 4-game suspension in 2016, however, Belichick put in Jimmy G, who won his first 2 games, and then led the Pats to a third straight win before getting hurt and handing the ball over to rookie QB in Jacoby Brissett. But Belichick seemed to have fallen in love with Jimmy G and found his successor to Brady. Brady felt disrespected, and it fueled him to win another Super Bowl, in the infamous 28-3 blown lead by the Atlanta Falcons.

The Second Fallen Domino: The Unsung Hero, Danny Amendola

I wrote back after Super Bowl LII that New England’s demise had begun, as Brady had lost to backup QB Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles in what is, in my opinion, the best Super Bowl I have ever seen. That offseason, he ended up losing receivers Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks in free agency. The big name here is Amendola. Amendola for years had been the ‘third guy’ behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but he may have been the unsung hero for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Through the Super Bowl runs where New England beat Seattle and Atlanta, and lost to Philadelphia in an epic, Amendola was the one whom Brady used to always find in the clutch, his ‘Ol’ Reliable’, per se.

To me, I thought New England made the mistake of letting Amendola go instead of Julian Edelman or Chris Hogan because Amendola was a guy Brady counted on and was close with on and off the field. Amendola seemed to be the guy that would make the big catches and touchdowns in 4thquarters of close ballgames, most notably his game-winning touchdown catch against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game in 2017 to save Brady from being beaten by… Blake Bortles. Funny, right? Amendola wound up going to Miami, then Detroit with former Pats Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia, and he’s still there now. Looking back on the past two years, however, and seeing how the offense played, Brady could have used Amendola in many clutch moments.

The Third Fallen Domino: Antonio Brown

I understand what Bill Belichick was thinking back in October 2018 when Antonio Brown got released. Great player, but we need to know if this guy is well-minded. The last thing Belichick wanted was to get a guy on his team that would be a distraction to the team, like Aaron Hernandez. At the time, AB had been lashing out many times on social media, such as with his former teammates in Pittsburgh, and at that time, when he hired marketing agents to get himself off the Oakland Raiders. Safe to say that Belichick doesn’t normally think players like AB would fit in ‘The Patriot Way’, but somehow, he signed him. AB lasted 11 days on the team before getting released again after sexual assault allegations (which had been going on when Belichick signed him).

But Brady grew a chemistry with AB in the short time. While the stats did not show it, their love on Twitter certainly has, when Brady showed respect for AB even after his departure from New England, and even now, with Brady now in Tampa, Antonio Brown still shows up on Brady’s radar. But this was where it all fell down for Brady in New England. Brady was not happy that a guy with the talent of AB was released, but by ‘The Patriot Way’, he was not the right guy. But with Gronkowski retired and AB gone (along with Chris Hogan gone in free agency and Demariyus Thomas traded midseason), Brady just had Edelman and James White to rely on. Those guys did not stay relatively healthy, the offensive line Brady relied on got hurt as well, and Brady wilted under the pressure a bit after the 8-0 start. He had a great last season in New England, but the team had no pieces around him to keep him from leaving.

So, Tampa is Home. Now What?

Well the legacy of Brady does not require him to win a Super Bowl necessarily. Like LeBron James when he went to the LA Lakers, Brady is putting himself in the toughest position possible, going into an NFC South division with Super Bowl contenders like the New Orleans Saints, who by the way, are led by Drew Brees, a top 5 QB of all-time, an Atlanta Falcons team that just signed Todd Gurley, and a young Carolina Panthers team. Brady easily just put himself in the most stacked division in the NFL, and with the new 14-team playoff (so 7 per conference), all 4 of these teams can be playoff and Super Bowl contenders in Brady’s way. Not to mention that the NFC also has Aaron Rodgers, another top 5 QB of all-time, a near-MVP in Carson Wentz, and the defending NFC Champs in San Francisco. (Side Note: My top 5 All-Time QBs are: Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Drew Brees). Brady is definitely not expected to win a Super Bowl, but as a 43-year old who has shown he can still win 10+ games every year and win Super Bowls, the expectations are high. Brady will probably have to at least get Tampa Bay to the playoffs, something they haven’t done since ’07, and then a playoff win (or more). This is a team that before Brady never had hope, but he brings it. Fans are already flocking to get season tickets, players want to play for Tampa, life is good in Tampa right now. I mean, warm weather, a stadium with a pirate ship, and Tom Brady, what more do you need?

To me, Tampa can contend for a Super Bowl with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as Brady’s weapons, his best since he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but the task is rather daunting. It’s hard to keep expectations low with Tom Brady, so I believe that he probably will take Tampa to at least one NFC Championship Game throughout his current contract (he signed a 2-year deal for $50M, fully guaranteed, with $9M available in incentives) to keep his legacy cemented as it is right now, which is as the Greatest of All-Time.

How Will Coronavirus Affect the Sporting World and its Fans?

The current pandemic of coronavirus that has occurred has truly changed the future of sports as we see it for 2020 and beyond. The NBA decided to have a hiatus after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, which then led to many NCAA Conference tournaments being cancelled, which led to March Madness being cancelled. Then, the MLB had their season start postponed for at least 2 weeks, and the MLS has been shut down for at least 30 days. Around the world, the Premier League has been shut down until April after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus. The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Champions League, Europa League, and all country-run tournaments have been shut down until April. Not only has the sports world been affected, but the real world as well. Currently, many of the States in the US have gone into States of Emergencies, colleges are online for the rest of the semester, and in places like Italy, you cannot leave your house unless for an emergency. Here is what the effects of what has transpired will be, and what more we can expect to happen, not just in our country, but throughout the world:

Did NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Save Sports As We Currently See It?

I do not believe many people would have thought that sports being shut down in the United States was even imaginable if it were not for Adam Silver having suspended the NBA. The important thing to realize is that Adam Silver did the best thing possible by suspending the NBA season. The importance of keeping the players, coaches, front office, team staff, media, and fans safe is far more important than the remaining 20+ regular season games plus playoffs. Not only did Silver suspend the season, but he already came up with a plan for how players and teams must react over the ‘minimum of 30 days’ hiatus.

The reason why it is important to note how important this gesture was by Adam Silver is the fact that every major league in our country followed suit. The NCAA Conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments and all other sporting tournaments, as did the NCAA with March Madness and their championships, the MLB postponed their start by at least 2 weeks, the MLS and NHL shut down for a month, and the NFL, while their season is over, is discussing ways to change the NFL Draft. Also, multiple tennis tournaments supposed to happen in the US have been cancelled, and now even the French Open, and The Masters’ have been postponed.

Did Rudy Gobert Also Contribute to Saving Sports Now?

I know a lot of people have been giving Gobert a lot of hate for how he handled the situation and for originally taking the whole notion of Coronavirus and social distancing as a joke, but he has since owned up to it, made public statements, and donated money in order to let people know that this is very serious indeed. But if GObert did not get Coronavirus, Silver wouldn’t have suspended the NBA season and no leagues would have followed (at least in the United States). So, indirectly, Rudy Gobert did help out with that. But this should be a lesson to everyone to practice social distancing, keep your hands to your own belongings, and if you do touch someone else’s belongings, to wash your hands and clean the things that you use frequently.

Will and When Will the 2020 Olympics Happen?

Honestly, while I do think the Olympics will happen, the question is of when. There is currently talk of many Olympic qualifiers being cancelled (not even postponed), such as the 2020 Euros and Copa America for soccer now happening in 2021. As of this past week, the Olympics are scheduled to go on as scheduled, but the talk of postponing them is very serious. Honestly, I think the best option is to hold the Olympics in 2021 after all the qualifiers which are now getting postponed to 2021 are happening.

How Would the NFL Draft Take Place?

So, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the NFL Draft was set to take place in Las Vegas at the Fountains of Bellagio, but now no one seems to know what is going to be the alternative option. Players and families will definitely be asked to stay home, and the NFL has already said there will be no fans present. I am not really sure what the NFL is going to do about it, but I have seen that they are discussing what to do, as they have already indefinitely cancelled OTAs and free agency visits.

How Do College Athletes Get Affected?

The NCAA had announced a few days back that all spring sports players are getting what is called a ‘Redshirt Corona Year’ (not the official name, but it is the name that spring sports athletes used in order to plead for this to be taken into effect), meaning that now all spring sports athletes will have an additional year of eligibility, and that this lost year will not affect them. So, while academically they can move on, athletically their eligibility will not be affected.

When Will the NBA Come Back, and Will the NFL Be Affected?

The current talks are that the NBA could come back around July and end in August, but whether this means that the regular season will continue or not remains to be seen. NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie suggested that we have a 28-team tournament in replacement of the NBA Playoffs, almost as if we are making the NBA Playoffs like March Madness, and the NBA is taking that into consideration. On a more serious note, the NBA is discussing permanently starting the season on Christmas Day, as they did during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. That season ended like regular in June and the regular season was cut down to 66 games. Whether or not that is the new format of the regular season remains to be seen, but how this season plays out is so vital to the future of the NBA.

As for the NFL, with OTAs now cancelled, the talk of training camp being cancelled as well and going straight into preseason is a very real possibility. Assuming that the statement made from the White House that the Coronavirus lasts until July or August, training camp would be cancelled, and the NFL would have either have the choice of going straight to preseason or skip preseason and go into training camp in order to avoid player injury. With the new 14-team playoff being put into effect this upcoming season, avoiding player injury is more vital than ever, and with a 17-game regular season starting as soon as 2021, this coming season could be a way to see how shortened or no preseason would work out.

A General PSA

As I am writing this, I am currently at home with my family doing my best to practice social distancing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus. This virus is very scary, so I highly encourage everyone to please stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. With many grade school and college students now finishing the rest of their semesters at home, and with many people working their jobs from home, it is imperative that we realize the seriousness of this. Sure, there are times when we will need to go out places and see people and go study or work, but health always comes first. So please, I encourage everyone reading this to please wash your hands constantly, practice best health and hygiene, practice social distancing, try to avoid big gatherings and going traveling or eating out, and most importantly, realize that this isn’t a joke and that we can go on with life, even though these tough times are upon us.

Super Bowl LIV: Does Speed Kill, or Defense Win Championships?

I know that it is very late to be writing this, with the Super Bowl less than 24 hours away, but I’ll blame it on the flu. Anyways, better late than never, I guess. Let’s get into the game and my prediction:

Super Bowl LIV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers, 6:30PM EST, FOX

The talk of the week has bene about the difference in styles of these teams. Kansas City, whom I predicted to be in the Super Bowl since the preseason, is a very fast-paced, Olympic track-star studded-type of team with the guy who may become the Greatest Player of All-Time one day in Patrick Mahomes. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a team that uses the clock, but slow and steady is what wins them the race. The most run-heavy team in the NFL ran so much that in the NFC Championship Game, QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball just 8 times (out of which he only completed 4), but lucky for them, Raheem Mostert had 220 yards on 29 carries and FOUR touchdowns. The defense of San Francisco is the best in the NFL no doubt, with the most ferocious pass-rush of them all, led by Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, DE Nick Bosa, and former Chiefs LB Dee Ford. Their defense is led by a Super Bowl champion in Richard Sherman, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks and their vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ defense. Sherman hopes to get his team to that level this year and win this game. But his matchup, Tyreek Hill, might present him with some serious challenges.

To beat the Chiefs is doable, but to truly slow down Patrick Mahomes has only effectively been done once this season. In Week 9, the Chiefs hosted the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football, and Mahomes was held to under 200 yards passing in the game and had multiple turnovers and his only touchdown was on the ground in a 19-13 loss. The Colts won that game through playing lots of zone, but mixing it up a ton, whether the type of coverages, or the personnel packages. The 49ers can do that very well, especially under their current Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, but going back to Tyreek Hill, he is the one whom I think will break the game open. In the NFC Championship Game, despite the emphatic win, Packers WR Davante Adams had 9 catches for 165 yards receiving, and Sherman really struggled guarding him, mainly on the 69-yard catch-and-run that started the comeback for Green Bay. As great as Adams is, he’s no Tyreek Hill in terms of speed, and Sherman, who has been criticized all season for his lack of speed despite his great talent, he might have trouble with Hill. I mean, Hill said he will try out for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics for the US Track Team, so you know this guy is a problem for him. I think that alone is going to be how the 49ers defense is beaten. Of course, TE Travis Kelce is there and no one can cover him, but Hill will be the difference. Also look out for WR Mecole Hardman, another track star-type of talent. Kansas City will score a lot of points.

All that being said, can such a run-heavy offense actually slow down Kansas City’s rapid-fire scoring. Well, no, to beat Kansas City, Jimmy G will need to throw more than 8 passes, but San Francisco can definitely slow momentum from Kansas City down with long, time-consuming drives. Jimmy G will be using guys like TE George Kittle and WRs Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders a lot in the passing game, but they need to make big plays downfield to keep San Francisco in it. The run game led by Mostert could be a little slower than expected, as Titans RB Derrick Henry was held to just 69 yards rushing on 19 carries, so the 49ers will desperately need their receivers to step up. The good thing to note is that the 49ers came on top of another high-scoring team earlier in the season in New Orleans, when they won 48-46 in the Bayou, where Sanders had 157 and a touchdown on 7 carries, and Jimmy G threw 35 passes and had 349 passing yards.

All that being said, I think that the Chiefs offense simply has too much talent to handle, and Patrick Mahomes is unstoppable right now, and I do not see the 49ers slowing him down anytime soon. Prediction: 41-34, Chiefs.

2020 College Football National Championship: ‘Geaux Tigahs’ or ‘Go Tigers’

Coach O vs. Coach Swinney. Burrow vs. Lawrence. Stingley vs. Higgins. ‘Tigahs’ vs. Tigers. This is LSU vs. Clemson. This is the College Football Playoff National Championship that will kick off the new decade. This game has Instant Classic written all over it. In what could go down as the best College Football Playoff ever, with 3 of the 4 teams having come in undefeated, the top 2 offenses (LSU and Clemson) and defenses (Ohio State and Clemson) in the nation featured, and 3 of the 4 best coaches in the game right now (Coach O, Swinney, and Lincoln Riley). It is only fitting that the way this season ends, is with the best matchup possible at every position, coach, stat, you name it. Here is how this heavyweight matchup will be won:

#1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson: Jan 13th, 8:30PM, ESPN/ABC

To win or not to win is the question with two undefeated teams remaining going into the National Championship, the first time that two 14-0 teams have ever met in the College Football National Championship. Since the inception of the Playoff, the higher-ranked team has never won the championship, and Clemson vs. Alabama has been the most frequent matchup. This year, Clemson goes to play a different top dog in the SEC in LSU, and a transcendent talent like no other.

While many people thought that Trevor Lawrence could be the next transcendent QB talent, it was Joe Burrow who stepped into the spotlight after transferring this year from Ohio State to LSU. Burrow’s pocket presence, throwing on the run, accuracy, poise, and winning attitude caught the eyes of many, as he has beaten at the time top-10 teams in Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. If he were to win this National Championship, he and LSU would have beaten 7 Top-10 teams in the Nation in one season, the most ever in College Football history in one season. All these traits and wins led him to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, and now he is on pace to be the most obvious Number 1 pick in the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 when the Houston Texans drafted him. Burrow in the semifinal against Oklahoma had 403 yards passing and 7 TDs at halftime, 8 in total, 4 of them to Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase added 2 more. Oh, and starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire got shut down after the first half and they still put up 63 points. Don’t be surprised if they put up 50 on Clemson.

Clemson, on the other hand, had a much tougher matchup against the 3rdundefeated team in the playoff in Ohio State. Looking very lost and lifeless while down 16-7, Trevor Lawrence slid awkwardly and had a helmet-to-neck collision with an Ohio State defender which was called targeting. Lawrence looked gimpy but only sat out one play, and that play ended up being a 67-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to bring Clemson right back in it. The rest of the game ended up being a classic, but the determination from Trevor Lawrence, the big plays down the stretch by Travis Etienne, having Tee Higgins healthy for the right moments (him and Justyn Ross’s health will be key to the Championship Game), and the interception to seal it by Nolan Turner were key. At the end of the day, Dabo Swinney did what he does best, outcoach the opposing coach.

So, the big question rising is, can Dabo outcoach Coach O? Well, yeah, he could outcoach him, but the way LSU has played this year, is outcoaching Coach O enough for you to beat LSU? One thing you have to realize is that LSU has only scored under 35 once, and that was against Auburn. In that game, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn outcoached Coach O, but then Coach O got LSU’s offense to turn on the jets in the second half with a heavy dose of read option between Edwards-Helaire and Burrow, and once Auburn got down, they couldn’t come back. If Clemson wants to have a chance against LSU, it has to be the players on the field, not the coaches, who find their way to sustain the lead, if they get one. I think Clemson could get off to a hot start, but LSU won’t be slowed down long enough to not win this game. Coach O will have the whole nation saying ‘Geaux Tigahs’. Prediction: 51-41, LSU.

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State