February Sports Update
When the last Woodward post was published back in early December, we were looking at a rematch between number 2. Auburn and number 6. Georgia in SEC Championship game, Ohio State was about to face off against an undefeated Wisconsin team for the Big 10, and UCF was still undefeated. Now, about a month and a half later, Alabama has beaten Georgia for their fifth championship in nine years, which is the shortest span for a team to win five championships in college football history. So, how did we get here? Let’s look back at what has been one of the wildest playoff seasons in history.
FINAL: 28-7, Georgia
The Bulldogs were not going to be embarrassed again. Jake Fromm went 16-22 for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Dawgs rushed for 238 yards on 41 carries, while limiting SEC offensive player of the year Kerryon Johnson (who was injured because of a Ronnie Harrison hit the week before) to 44 yards on 13 carries. This win secured Georgia a spot in the College Football Playoff and their first SEC title since 2005.
Big 12 Championship
FINAL: 41-17 Oklahoma
There isn’t much to say here other than the fact that Baker Mayfield’s performance secured him the Heisman trophy. He is the first walk on to win the trophy in college football history.
Big 10 Championship
FINAL: 27-21 Ohio State
Ohio State jumped out to a 21-10 lead but the Badgers weren’t going to go down easy. They had the ball last only down by 6 but they just couldn’t put it into the end zone. Ohio State’s victory left the fourth playoff spot open for either them or Alabama.
FINAL: 62-55 UCF
This is the highest scoring game in conference championship history and it was a very entertaining game. UCF was up 17-3 at the end of the first quarter but the Tigers came roaring back and Memphis went into the locker room at half up 31-24. Both teams had chances to win the game in regulation, with Memphis missing a 51 yard field goal and UCF throwing an interception, but the game went to double overtime and UCF came out on top following an interception in the endzone. UCF was heading to the Peach Bowl to face off against Auburn.
The bowl season this year was fairly uneventful, except for a UCF upset of Auburn in the Peach Bowl and a South Carolina comeback of 19 against Michigan, but the playoff games did not disappoint.
#2 Oklahoma vs #3 Georgia
The first ever Rose Bowl and playoff game to go to overtime was a thriller. At times it seemed like Oklahoma would run away with the game, but they could never put Georgia away. The Bulldogs rushing attack of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb proved to be too much for the lackluster Oklahoma defense to handle and Georgia ran its way to Atlanta to face the winner of Alabama-Clemson
#1 Clemson - #4 Alabama
There were many storylines going into this game. Will Alabama be able to avenge their championship loss to Clemson? Should Alabama even be in this game? Will they be healthy? Will the fact that a 1 seed has never won the championship play into effect? Or will the fact that Nick Saban has never won a Sugar Bowl at Alabama prove too much? In the end, it was clear that Alabama’s dominant defense was back and angry too, keeping Clemson out of the endzone for just the second time in ten seasons. Defensive tackle Da’ron Payne found his way into the end zone as a receiver on a play that some are calling “The Thicc Six” and the following Clemson possession was just one play as linebacker Mack Wilson intercepted Kelly Bryant and returned it for a touchdown. The Tide may have missed out on the SEC championship, but they still found a way to make it to Atlanta this season.
#3 Georgia vs #4 Alabama
Things were looking dire for Alabama at half and it seemed as though Kirby Smart had gotten the better of his former mentor, but Nick Saban showed that he didn’t teach Kirby everything he knew. 19 year old true freshman Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback and made magic happen. He connected with fellow true freshman receiver Henry Ruggs to get Alabama on the board. The following Georgia possession, another true freshman, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80 yard touchdown, but that was the final sign of life for Georgia’s offense. The only chance Georgia had to score more points was when Tua threw the ball on a designed run play and it was intercepted, but Jake Fromm immediately threw a pass that was intercepted by Raekwon Davis. The game became tied late in the fourth quarter when Tua threw a pass to Najee Harris, but senior and probable first round pick Calvin Ridley stepped in front of the ball for the touchdown. Alabama had a chance to win the game in regulation, but they don’t have a kicker who can kick a 31 yard field goal so the game went to overtime. Georgia was held to a field goal and the first play of Alabama’s possession was a 16 yard sack. On 2nd and 26 though, Tua looked off the safety and threw a perfect pass to yet another true freshman Devonta Smith for a 41 yard touchdown and the Crimson Tide’s 5th national championship in 9 years.
The Titans, Bills, Chiefs, Jaguars, Steelers and Patriots all represented the AFC in the playoffs this year and the Panthers, Falcons, Saints, Rams, Vikings and Eagles were in it for the NFC.
The Titans had an impressive comeback at Arrowhead, rallying from being down by 18, but they were crushed in Foxborough by the Patriots. The Jaguars won a defensive struggle against the Bills and then won in a shootout against the Steelers the following week, but were the victims of yet another Tom Brady comeback in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers lost a thriller to New Orleans, who beat the Panthers three times this year. The Falcons defense put on a show against the red-hot and young Rams, but the Falcons fell to the Nick Foles led Eagles. The Saints lost a heartbreaker because of the worst tackle attempt in NFL history to the Vikings, who were then crushed by the Eagles. The super bowl this year will be between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots in Minnesota. Tom Brady will be playing for his sixth ring and the Eagles will be playing for their first super bowl win in history.
About Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles is by no means an elite quarterback, but I think that he is deserving of more credit, and his performance in one of the most hostile environments in football is proof of that. Bortles went 23-36 for 293 yards and 1 touchdown for a rating of 98.5, which is better than Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers, and about on par with rookie phenom Deshaun Watson who went 22-33 for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions back in September, but New England is a completely different beast in January than in September. In the AFC championship game in Foxborough, there is only one quarterback who has come close to doing what Blake Bortles did, and that is Joe Flacco in the 2012 championship game where he went 21-36 for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns. Since the start of the Brady-Belichick era in New England, there have been three other AFC Championship to take place at New England, which were during the 2003, 2007, and 2011 seasons against the Colts, Chargers and Ravens respectively. Blake Bortles had better stats than Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and about equal stats with Joe Flacco in each of those games. He was by far better than Manning, as Peyton went 23-47 for 237 yards, 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. Bortles was better than Rivers too, since he went 19-37, 211 yards, no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Flacco went 22-36 for 306 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. This performance alone should bring Bortles out of the joke quarterback category inhabited by Mark Sanchez, NFL Tim Tebow or the walking turnover Nathan Peterman. Bortles is about as good a quarterback as Cam Newton, taking away Newton’s rushing totals. Bortles’ first four years in the league are arguably better than Newton’s first four years in the league. Bortles has thrown for 14,928 yards, 90 touchdowns and 64 interceptions, completing 59.1 percent of his passes for a rating of 80.8. Newton’s first four years, he threw for 14,426 yards, 82 touchdowns and 54 interceptions, completing 59.4 percent of his passes for a rating of 85, but Bortles threw almost 300 more passes than Newton did. Bortles actually outpassed Newton in terms of yardage the year Newton won the MVP by 600 yards, and they both threw 35 touchdowns, but Bortles did throw 8 more interceptions that year. That year, Newton had amazing targets too, players like Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr. and a young Devin Funchess to throw to, while Bortles did have a rising star in Allen Robinson, he did not have much help other than that and he definitely didn’t have as consistent a target as Greg Olsen. There was talk at the beginning of the season that the Jaguars should have gone after Colin Kaepernick to try and replace Bortles, but Bortles outplays Kaepernick in almost every way. In four years, Bortles has more touchdowns and yards than Kaepernick had in 5 years. Again, I am not saying that Blake Bortles is a top tier quarterback, but I am saying that he deserves similar recognition to Cam Newton, so at least top 50%. I really hope that the Jaguars keep Bortles around for a while and get him some better targets to throw to because I think that he will only get better.
The college basketball season still has a bit before things get really interesting, but there have been a few significant things so far.
-Kentucky wasn’t in the top 25 for a little bit so that was kind of weird, but all is right again and they are ranked 21
-Alabama won a huge game against Trae Young and Oklahoma. The win helped to give Alabama a real chance at making the NCAA tournament if they can finish the season hot
- North Carolina lost a rare game to NC State in overtime.
-Purdue is on the nation’s longest win streak now
-Villanova is ranked number 1
-Auburn is good at basketball this year
So, the Cavaliers sucked for a while, the Celtics, Rockets and Warriors are all good still though and the Clippers traded Blake Griffin for a draft pick and a paperclip pretty much.
It’s no secret that the NBA season doesn’t really matter until the playoffs so instead i’m going to talk about the Bulls...the Birmingham Bulls that is.
Birmingham Bulls Hockey
The Bulls have been having a fairly rough season, but that is to be expected of an expansion team. They have had 5 players called up to the league above them though, which is a good thing because those players are closer to having a career in the NHL, but it is also bad because it means the Bulls are losing some of their best players. They can still make the playoffs though, they just need to finish the season hot and win some games outright. You can watch the Bulls try and make a push for the playoffs yourself since they play at the Pelham Civic Center which is less than 10 minutes away from the school. They have games on Friday the 2nd and Saturday the 3rd. The game on Friday is a tribute to Jerry “The King” Lawler and the game on Saturday is to remember the USA vs Russia “Miracle on Ice” so the Bulls will be wearing Team USA jerseys.
Oh, and the XFL is coming back
- Josh Ragsdale '18