Half of our football enjoyment is now over after last night’s College Football Playoff National Championship, Water Cooler Talk has the reaction and will discuss who to watch out for at the start of the 2016 season. With Wild Card Playoff weekend behind us, we’ll look ahead to this weekends games and gives you the predictions you need to put some extra cheddar in your pockets. Sit back, relax, don’t think about all the snow you’ll have to shovel when you get home, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are your 2015 National Champions, and what a championship it was as they fought and scrapped for 60 minutes with a very talented Clemson Tigers squad. With their 45-40 victory, the Crimson Tide have earned their 16th championship over their well documented and proud history. Head coach Nick Saban earned his fifth title (4 with Bama, 1 with LSU) to put him in a category with Bear Bryant as the only two coaches with 5 or more titles (Bryant won 6 with Bama).
The game took a dramatic turn in the 4th quarter with the scored knotted up at 24 when Nick Saban rolled the dice to keep his struggling defense off the field. Keeping DeShaun Watson and the Tigers offense off the field with this call may have been the clincher for Alabama as Clemson was able to score at will against the Alabama defense.
Senior QB Jake Coker didn’t have to impress much over the regular season, but he stepped up in a big way on the big stage. Against Michigan State two weeks ago, Coker had a career-high 286 yards passing while completing 83.3% of his passes. Last night, Coker again set a career-high with 335 yards on just 16/25 passing with 2 TDs. The young man who hails from the state of Alabama finishes off a career that was more tumultuous than glorious, but he made his dream come true by bringing his home state another national title.
Junior RB Derrick Henry most likely played his last collegiate game last night, and if that’s the case, what a way to bow out. 3 TDs on the ground along with 158 yards. On the season, Henry finishes with 2,219 rushing yards and 28 TDs and of course, a Heisman Trophy.
Clemson made a valiant effort this season to be the first team to finish 15-0. Had it not been for one DeShaun Watson INT and a gutsy onside kick call from Saban, we most likely would be talking about a historic season. I’ll assume now that DE Shaq Lawson will not be returning for his senior season as he’s projected to be a 1st-round talent, but that doesn’t mean Clemson won’t compete for another title next season or over the next few seasons to come. Clemson came into this season with a plethora of sophomores and freshman, so skies the limit for this team in 2016.
Let’s take a look at the crystal ball and predict who will be the top five teams to start the 2016 season:
- Ohio State
And then there were eight. Regardless of how you feel about the Seahawks and Steelers advancing to this weekend, both squads will have to earn hard-fought victories if they hope to advance to the conference championship. Kansas City and Green Bay made their wins over the weekend look easy, but they each have tough tests this weekend with trips to Foxborough and Glendale respectively. Let’s take a look at the four matchups that await this weekend, shall we?
Kansas City at New England – The Chiefs defense has to be licking their chops while they await the New England offensive line. Kansas City is no stranger when it comes to sacking the QB, and Tom Brady has found himself on his backside more often than not over the last several weeks due to constant line changes due to injuries. The Patriots however will be healthy on offense for the first time in two months with the return of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. The Pats still have a defense that can get to the QB as well, which may spell trouble for Alex Smith and the running game if Jeremy Maclin can’t suit up. Bill Belichick just flat out doesn’t lose these games, and with two weeks of preparation, I think he’ll lead his squad to a pretty easy win. Patriots win this game to move on to the AFC Championship, 27-14.
Green Bay at Arizona – Do you remember what happened between these two squads Week 16? While I don’t think this game will be exactly like this one, I do think Arizona puts another whooping on the Packers. Green Bay’s offensive line is in turmoil right now, which gives the Cardinals hope in recording what could be another 9-sack night versus Green Bay. Arizona gets an easy win thanks to their stout defense, 30-13.
Seattle at Carolina – The Seahawks may very well be the luckiest team in the league, but they’ll need more than luck this week if they hope to advance. Carolina is riding a 15-win season and will look to get some offensive playmakers back for what should be a slugfest. After missing the regular season finale, Ted Ginn Jr. will help Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart in the running game, by threatening over-the-top routes throughout the contest. The Panthers defense will look to regain their form after struggling in 3 of the final 5 games when they allowed 30+ points to the Saints and Giants, and couldn’t stop Atlanta on third down in their only loss of the season. Carolina takes advantage of their home-field advantage and stifles Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense with a 24-14 win.
Pittsburgh at Denver – Who will start for the Broncos? Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning? I still think Osweiler gives the Broncos a better chance to win, but it’ll be the defense that’ll win this game for the Broncos. Denver is too solid for Pittsburgh who may be without Antonio Brown and are already out with DeAngelo Williams. Big Ben has a sprained AC Joint, which will likely effect his passes downfield. If he’s unable to go, it’s all over for the Steelers before the game even starts. While I do think the Steelers won’t go down without a fight, I think Denver crushes their spirits early in this contest. The Broncos will move on to next week with a convincing 34-18 victory.
That’s all for this week’s edition. If you like what you see, be sure to follow me on Twitter. Have a great week everyone and enjoy the football action this weekend.