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THE POTATO: Game Day, Made for TV College Football Playoffs, LSU vs. Oklahoma at 4 p.m.; Ohio State vs. Clemson at 8 p.m.

It just feels weird.

It’s Saturday morning, New Year’s Day is still four days away, and the two college football games that render all other bowl games irrelevant are sucking all the air out of every stadium in the country except the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, where the playoffs take place.

It’s a great life lesson for the the players forced to settle for the upcoming Rose, Cotton, Orange, Citrus, Fiesta, Camping World, Gator, Red Box, Sun, Citrus, Sugar and Birmingham bowls – and my favorite, the First Responder Bowl, which should be the best place to be if you get hurt.

The also rans can take comfort in the fact that they they just weren’t quite good enough. Now’s a good time to get used to it.

The boys on the teams that threw two interceptions that were run back for touchdowns, committed an unforced fumble at the 10, had a star quarterback come back from a high-ankle sprain only to break his hip on a meaningless play in a meaningless game, and those that played on a defense that didn’t tackle anybody are all assigned to bowl season purgatory.

Hanging out in hotel lobbies and game rooms, eating egg white omelets for breakfast, checking out the well-preserved, middle-aged women at the pool and hotel spa, eating lunch at the giant buffet featuring local cuisine prepared by chefs-in-training and trying to show up on time for the bus that’ll carry you to some to some strange high school field on the other side of some strange city so you can practice in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads in front of dad mom and dad, who are looking at the guy taking video with an iPad and wondering if he’s a scout for the Cincinnati Bengals desperate trying to find a guy to draft first instead of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. (Sadly, he’s not a scout. He’s an aging reporter for a newspaper trying to collect some some digital shit to put on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snapcat and all that bullshit in the desperate hope of providing relevant content for the youth of today, who are busy looking at parties at porn stars’ houses and gunfights at shopping malls, not football practices.)

Oklahoma plays No. 1 LSU this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.Imagine a NASCAR race car smoking, shooting sparks, running with one tire off the rim and on fire caroming off the last few cars in the desperate race for the fourth and final slot in the College Football Playoff parking lot … nudging Baylor out of the way, flipping their Green Chevy Impala into an end over end crash ending when it hits the wall and stops dead. From corner of his eye, Sooner driver Jalen Hurts sees Auburn’s blue-and-orange Ford F350 lock its front right wheel with Alabama’s back right wheel causing the crimson Ferrari to explode into a roaring ball of flame while Nick Saban and staff ran for the exits to start recruiting. Then With the engine burning oil and water in the fuel, on intertia alone, Jalen Hurts gets out of the Sooner Red Dodge Challenger, pick it up and carry it to the final slot in the playoff field, where he flips it in the air and it lands standing on its nose.

Meanwhile, LSU, Ohio State and Clemson were already there, waiting, having driven their purple, red, and Dial-soap orange SUVs to the CFP lot, parallel parked perfectly, set up tailgate tables, and played cornhole while they waited for the No. 4 team to arrive.

OKLAHOMA vs. LSU

LSU keeps saying their defense is born again hard. I’ll believe it when I see it. I will say this, it’s been a month since they played so everybody should be healthier than they have been in a while.

Except old Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who’s my favorite player on this team of overachievers. Clyde’s got a tender hamstring, which is a funny injury. It comes and goes. Chances are he’ll play, but don’t know how effective he’ll be. He’s a hard guy not to like. He’s short, muscular, built like a bowling ball, runs low to the ground and when he’s coming at you, all you see is the top of his head and shoulder pads.

He’ll probably play a little, and they’ll use him as a decoy and stuff. They have three really good freshmen who all have different styles and could give Oklahoma’s defense some trouble.

Practically anything could give Oklahoma’s defense trouble. They aren’t real good. And before the game, coach Lincoln Riley kicked two of the best guys off the team. They must have been raising hell to get kicked slam damn off the team the week they play LSU.

It’s all gong to come down to QB play, and I’ll tell you what I think. Joe Burrow is a little bit better than Jalen Hurts, but mostly because he’s got a little bit more around him than Jalen does. Maybe a lot more. The lion has no weapon but himself, said Romantic Poet John Keats, and Jalen’s a lot like that. He is stronger than anybody on the field, he can fly, he throws a good ball when he he’s on. However, he does have a bad habit of throwing it to people in the wrong colored jerseies, and he”ll bolt and run a little before he should sometimes, but that’s not all bad, because his best play is when he goes back to pass and nobody is open.

Cee Dee Lamb is Oklahoma’s best receiver and he’s a beast. Big, tall, jumps, flies, goes up and gets it, breaks tackles, blocks for the other guys. He’s just something. Oh, and he comes from Opelousis, Louisiana, and he always wanted to play for LSU but they didn’t recruit him. Big damn mistake, which Ed Orgeron himself has admitted at every public opportunity.

But LSU has about four Cee Dees. They have a flock of big old fast guys with hands like dinner plates who can go up and get it, which they don’t need to do much, because Joe Burrow can say, “Which one is your favorite finger” and he’ll hit it with the ball from 40 yards away.

LSU ought to win. They have more weapons. But If Jalen goes absolutely wild and Cee Dee gets open a bunch and those fat guys with high numbers can help him just a little bit, he’s a bad enough man to win the son of a bitch by himself.

I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s sure worth watching to see if he does.

Ohio State vs. Clemson

Clemson coach Dabo Swinner reminds me a of a lot of people running for president these days. He just keeps giving the same speech over and over. Poor old Clemson can’t get any respect, we just stay down in our little town and all the boys work so hard and we go play everybody and beat the living daylights out of them and they won’t rans us No. 1 all year and then just give us the championship trophy and make the other three teams play for second.

I’m a little tired of it, but it seems to be working, so what are you going to do?

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has been talking a lot about his poor, old knee which just will NOT get well, and here he is all in the playoffs and playing those Clemsons, who are the best team he ever saw and Lord have mercy, what’s a boy to do?

He’s wearing a brace on the aggravated knee, which is sprained, which could mean a lot of things, but here’s the main thing: He has not missed a rep in practice because of it.

Yesterday he showed up with TWO braces, one a little bigger than the other, and refused comment on his knee but nodded when somebody hollered “you moving around all right?”

If he can’t run, Ohio State will have to find another way to beat them. If he is OK, he’ll be able to run and Ohio State will just beat them the regular way.

I have a feeling he’s OK.

And Dabo and Clemson are, too. Look, here’s the news. The ACC is awful. And while most college football teams schedule way too many cupcakes during the season so that they can work on their system against token resistance, Clemson gets to work on their system 13 times a year, including the championship game. So if they aren’t polished like a perfect, pink pearl by this time of the year, they have nobody to blame but themselves – and maybe Mack Brown, the old coach at North Carolina, who almost beat them.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has the prettiest hair of any football player in America, stands about 6-foot-6 and throws it very far and straight, usually to his intended receiver. What we don’t know is if he’s able to move around in the pocket, because he hasn’t really had to, Like, in his life.

Alabama couldn’t get through his offensive line last year in the title game and he stood back there and sliced up the Tide secondary like a sous-chef in the gumbo line at Commander’s Palace. Here’s a guess that Chase Young might bust through there a couple of times and allow Trevor to demonstrate his scampering skills.

Sports, Uncategorized

THE POTATO: Football season is over.

That’s the first sentence of Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide note. The man could really write a lede.

The rest of the note was uncharacteristically not very good, which goes to show what happens when writers hit the wall. It reminds me of what Jack Nicklaus said in his late 70s about his golf game. He said he could turn in a great round anytime, but he couldn’t do four in a row anymore.

You can’t get by writing one good sentence followed by a few shitty ones and then another good one. They’ve all got to work together, like a good offensive line. Write like a nickel, not five pennies. Three metaphors already. Close to my quota.

This is Army Navy weekend. The only college game on the air. It’s very patriotic. Every player on the field and all the kids in both student sections are willing to die to defend us – and foreign oil fields in a country that sent a guy over here to train at the Navy base in Pensacola. He got a hunting license, which enabled him, as a foreign visitor, to buy a 17 shot, 9 mm Glock 45. The news is, he got mad because one of his instructors nicknamed him “porn stash” because he had a mustache that resembled one that might be worn by a pornographic actor. He also resembled Pablo Schreiber, who played a prison guard with the same nickname in the Netflix comedy-drama about a women’s prison called “Orange is the new Black.”

The gunman, Mohammed Alshamrani, lacked the necessary acculturation to understand American humor and was clearly an easily threatened paranoid narcissist who had no business being in or around the military, ours or that of his own country, which floats on a sea of oil. I guess we should be thankful that he at least tipped his hand as a murdering psycho before learning how to operate an F/A 18F Super Hornet. Saudi Arabian lunatics flying airplanes really make me uneasy.

Among the slain was Joshua Kaleb Watson, a recent graduate of the Naval Academy and a native of Enterprise, Alabama, which is right down the road from where I live. He was standing guard duty when he was shot, but before he died, he told security where the shooter was.

Cameron Waters, from Effingham, Georgia, was a cheerful, positive guy who always hyped up the people around him to do the best they could, a former commander said. A leader from within.

The third victim was named Mohammad Sameh Haithem, the son of 20-year Navy veteran Evelyn Brady. He probably could have helped Alshamrani with his self-esteem problems if he’d come to talk instead of shoot. Haithem was a track star at his high school in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he stuck up for a freshman classmate who was being bullied by his teammates. Haithem talked to the bullies, and that was that.

He died shielding others from the gunfire.

Go Navy. Go Army. Everybody play your best.

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THE POTATO: Yeah, yeah, it is championship weekend, do your Christmas shopping instead

Oklahoma vs. Baylor, noon, ABC

Since Utah puked on its shoes and got stomped by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, it looks like this one could be for the fourth spot in the playoffs. LSU needs to beat Georgia pretty good, and it’ll open up for the winner of this game.

The last time these two teams played, Oklahoma helped Baylor to a 25-point, second-half lead by committing two turnovers that led to two touchdowns, a scenario that will give broken-hearted Alabama fans a frisson of foul memory after last week’s Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide’s former quarterback, Jalen Hurts, led a furious second-half comeback, and the Sooners had a field-goal kicker who could make a field goal, so they won a thriller 34-31 to hand the Bears their only loss. The Sooners had dropsy again and lost three turnovers the next week and squeaked out a 28-24 win over TCU. Then the next week, their rival Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had a press conference, and with his mullet and spit flying, declared the Oklahoma offense a glorified wishbone – as if that was an insult, because the wishbone will kick your ass if you aren’t careful. So Hurts went out and ran for 160 and threw for 160 hitting 13-0f-16 to eight different receivers that included himself against token resistance and beat Gundy like he stole something, 34-16.

Unlike everybody else in the league, Baylor does have a defense, but Oklahoma has Jalen Hurts. I like Jalen. Again.

Georgia vs. LSU, 4 p.m., CBS

Not many people are giving Georgia a chance. But I still believe that anybody with a good defense has a chance. Georgia’s offense is sketchy at best, but LSU’s defense is a cruel joke.

LSU is probably in the playoffs unless they lose really bad. I don’t think Georgia can beat them really bad – if they do it’ll be because somebody missed an extra point or fell down covering a punt or something. Georgia’s got a bunch of injuries, but the one that matters is receiver Lawrence Cager, who is the big dog. The Dawgs are a different team with him in the game, which means they’re a hell of a different team when he’s not, and not in a good way. Devonte Wyatt is nicked up – he’s the other slightly smaller big dog. Without them, Jake Fromm is a really ordinary quarterback. Running back D’Andre Swift is also dinged up, and if he’s not able to do much, then Georgia effectively has no offense, a thing ordinarily required to win a football game.

If LSU wins, it’ll probably win big enough to get Oklahoma in the top four and play them in the first round, which may be a big mistake.

Clemson vs. Virginia, 7:30, ABC

Oh, Dabo. Please stop whining. This week he said we’d all missed out on a “beautiful football team” because nobody gave them any respect and blah, blah, blah.

Look, basically, Clemson has 12 light scrimmages from August to December and is far enough ahead by the third quarter of every game to work on all the things they need to work on to get better. With this schedule, Clemson should be Playstation 5 set to “juggernaut” by now.

Virginia is an exciting little team, and I like their quarterback. I hope they enjoy their trip to the Orange Bowl after Clemson cleans their clock.

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, 8 p.m., FOX

This is the best chance for a competitive game, and it’s not real good. Wisconsin has a plain, old team that plays big boy football. They block, run unspectacularly but efficiently; if the quarterback throws it, and it’s close enough to the receiver, he’ll probably catch it. The defense is solid, everybody looks like they know what they’re doing and they all face the same way when they line up.

Ohio State will probably murder them.