Four Downs – January 8th: National Championship Game Pick, UofA’s coaching search, & NFL Playoff Thoughts

FIRST DOWN – The winner of College Football’s National Championship Game will be…

ALABAMA. Let’s say 31-21 over Georgia.

Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistant coaches in his illustrious career…I believe he’s 11-0. Well make it 12-0 as Alabama’s offense cranks it up in the 2nd half against a Georgia team that will have to abandon the run after falling behind early.

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While most of the college football world will be rooting for the fresh blood, Georgia, Saban’s 6th National Championship will cement him as the greatest college football coach of all-time. And don’t counter by saying Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne, and Bud Wilkinson among others were better…it’s much harder to win consistently now than in the early-to-mid 1900s.

From a betting perspective, there’s only one way to recommend going about this one. If the Tide wins, they’ll cover the spread…therefore if Georgia covers that means they’ll win outright. Considering I’m one game above .500 on my CFB Best Bets this season, I’m going all-in with the Crimson Tide for a winning record! I would avoid the over/under of 44.5 unless you’re desperate to have both angles of the game covered.

College Football Regular Season: 39-35-1
CFB Last Week: 1-4
Bowl Season: 6-9
Combined Record: 45-44-1
National Championship Game Pick: Alabama -3.5

SECOND DOWN – Quick thoughts on Arizona’s football coaching search

Based on what I can decipher, the Wildcats are down to three top candidates to replace Rich Rodriguez. There’s a good bet we’ll have a hire sooner than later and if so, look for a special Cohen’s Corner breaking down the hire at that time.

For now here are some quick thoughts on what I presume to be the top-3:

1. Kevin Sumlin (former Texas A&M coach):
This would ‘win the press conference’ and most definitely put more butts in seats at Arizona Stadium. Sumlin is among the second-tier of higher-profile coaching names in the sport and would likely do wonders with QB Khalil Tate in his version of the spread offense. Another bonus is current UA defensive coordinator Marcel Yates is a former pupil of Sumlin’s. Wildcats players have strongly endorsed Yates and keeping him in charge of the defense would be a good move as I see it. I recommended that ASU hire the former A&M head man and I’m thrilled they didn’t. This would be a home run for UA AD Dave Heeke.

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2. Les Miles (former LSU coach):
He’s 64 and has been out of the coaching profession for a year-and-a-half. But Miles’ name is well-known among CFB fans, he’s a national championship-winning coach, and he’d bring a much-needed defensive philosophy to Tucson. The problem is – his offenses at LSU were so underachieving and his pro-style approach doesn’t mesh with Tate’s strengths. But think of it this way: Miles with a spread offense-minded OC would also be a home run hire that would entice more folks to buy season tickets. I wouldn’t be disappointed to see this experiment in progress.

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3. Beau Baldwin (former Eastern Washington coach and current California OC):
He’s not going to win the press conference nor encourage generic fans to buy new season tickets. But he’s a 1-AA National Championship winning coach who’s hungry for a shot at the big time…and had solid success with inexperienced Cal offensive personnel in 2017. While I wouldn’t run down the road celebrating this hire as I might the other two, this could be the type of hire Arizona needs most. I could see Baldwin staying at UA for a decade at least and bring an offense even more dynamic than RichRod’s. If Yates stayed on staff, I’d like this option even more.

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Assuming I’m correct that it’s down to one of these three candidates, Arizona’s AD Dave Heeke has done his homework and is conducting this search properly.

THIRD DOWN: Should Andy Reid keep his job in Kansas City? And does Jacksonville stand a prayer against Pittsburgh?

The answer to both questions is yes…but I’m a lot less confident in my answer compared to last week. Reid’s Chiefs choked once again, in disastrous fashion to an inferior Titans team on Saturday. A 21-3 halftime lead disintegrated into a 22-21 KC loss which raises plenty of questions including those regarding Reid’s job security. While he’s proven to be a successful regular season coach, Reid’s playoff failures dating back to his coaching days in Philadelphia are well-documented. Current Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is being interviewed for head coaching jobs as teams are looking for the second coming of Sean McVay (Rams) and Kyle Shanahan (49ers). Might the Chiefs just give the job to Nagy to keep him from being pried away? While I don’t think this will happen, don’t be surprised if Andy Reid has one of the hottest coaching seats in the league come September 2018.

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As for Jacksonville, their offense looked downright pitiful on Sunday at home against the heavy underdog Bills. QB Blake Bortles had more yards rushing than passing which says something…I’m just not sure what, good or bad. But remember Week 5 in Pittsburgh? Jaguars 30, Steelers 9…and Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards. Defense wins championships and the Jags’ unit is arguably the best in the NFL. When they played in October, the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger threw a career high five interceptions. Though I’m one who usually favors the revenge angle from a bad regular season loss, one way or the other I expect the result to be close on Sunday.

FOURTH DOWN: Should we really be surprised that the Falcons beat the Rams? Plus – pick against the Saints going forward at your own risk?

Experienced team who had a 28-3 lead over Tom Brady’s Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl vs. upstart squad with a virtually no playoff experience – who would you pick on paper? Unfortunately for Rams fans, logic won out on Saturday night in LA. The Falcons dink-and-dunk ball-control philosophy combined with an inaccurate (Rams QB) Jared Goff led to a 26-13 Atlanta win. Don’t be surprised if Atlanta sticks with a similar gameplan to what took down the Rams and uses it to beat the Carson Wentz-less Eagles on Saturday afternoon.

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Speaking of teams with playoff experience, by far the best game of the weekend was the Saints-Panthers matchup on Sunday afternoon. Drew Brees was laser sharp and considering star Saints RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara did not live up to their lofty statistical expectations, a close win (31-26) was rather fortunate. Originally I pegged the Saints and Vikings to meet in the NFC Championship Game but by virtue of Atlanta’s upset, the two best teams in the conference right now (in my opinion) will meet next Sunday in Minneapolis. Despite their offensive firepower, if the Saints don’t defend the pass more successfully, my prediction of a trip to the Super Bowl won’t come true. Minnesota won 29-19 in Week 1 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that score reversed in Week 2 of the NFL Playoffs.

Divisional Playoff picks to come later this week!

To read previous entries of my blog, click here. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @eacohen83.

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