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Sunday, January 19, 2020

College Football

Travis Etienne will return to Clemson for senior season

Most potential NFL draftees have spent the last few days announcing their decision to go pro, but one of college football’s brightest stars has shockingly decided not to do so.

Clemson running back Travis Etienne announced Friday that he will return for his senior season, passing up the chance to go in the 2020 draft.

This is a stunner. Etienne probably profiled as a late day 1 or day 2 draft pick, but he certainly would have been selected, possibly in the first three rounds. Instead, he’s returning for one last go at Clemson.

Etienne has rushed for over 1,600 yards in back-to-back seasons. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence also returning, this might solidify the Tigers as favorites to reclaim the national title next season.

Video: Donald Trump gives awkward speech during LSU’s White House visit

The LSU football team continued its victory tour on Friday with a visit to the nation’s capital, and the speech president Donald Trump gave while welcoming the Tigers to the White House was equal parts awkward and predictable.

With LSU coach Ed Orgeron, quarterback Joe Burrow and other members of the team standing behind him, Trump found a way to brag about his presidency during a time that should have been reserved for honoring the national champions. Trump first mentioned how the desk he occupies at the White House has belonged to “some good, some not so good” past presidents before making an impeachment joke. He even spoke directly to Burrow at one point about the economy and then said the LSU football team could have taken out terrorists the way the US military has under Trump’s leadership. Check it out:

“We’ve got the greatest economy we’ve ever had, Joe,” Trump said. “We’ve got the greatest military. We rebuilt it. We took out those terrorists like your football team would have taken out those terrorists, right?”

Trump and Burrow also had a funny exchange when the quarterback was presenting Trump with his custom LSU jersey.

Many players and some teams have turned down the White House invitation because they do not support Trump, and they will likely point to the jokes he cracked on Friday as examples of why they feel that way. However, Trump attended two LSU games this season, and there was never really a doubt that the school would accept his invitation.

We thought nothing could be more unusual than the food the White House served to Clemson players last year, but Trump may have outdone himself once again.

Kirk Herbstreit critical of way Joe Burrow, LSU handled themselves after win

Kirk Herbstreit

LSU seemed destined to wind up at the top of the college football world early on in the 2019 season, so the Tigers should have had plenty of time to prepare for how they might carry themselves if they captured a national title. As far as Kirk Herbstreit is concerned, they did not handle it well.

Herbstreit was critical of LSU during his podcast this week, saying he could not help but feel like many Tigers players acted like 2019 was the “finish line” and they are not concerned about the future of the program.

“I will say this: as much as we’re celebrating this team, I wasn’t a real fan of the postgame stuff, the OBJ stuff with the money,” Herbstreit said, as transcribed by Clint Buckley of 247Sports.com. “The way they handled themselves at times. If it’s just about 2019, great. But this is about staying power, right? This isn’t the finish line of their program. Don’t they wanna win in 2020, don’t they wanna win in 2021? I almost feel like it’s all the chips in, we made it, that’s it and forget everything else.”

Herbstreit said he believes that attitude is what separates LSU’s 2019 team from programs like Clemson and Alabama, who are at or near the top of the college football ranks every year. The ESPN analyst and former Ohio State quarterback also took issue with Joe Burrow confirming that Odell Beckham Jr. was handing out real money. Burrow’s message was essentially that he is heading to the NFL and no longer needs NCAA eligibility, so he is not concerned about potential infractions.

“Burrow’s comment about, ‘I’m not a student-athlete anymore, yeah it was real money.’ If you care about the program, do you really say that?” Herbstreit asked.

Personally, I didn’t feel that there were a lot of differences between the way LSU celebrated and the way past champions have celebrated. The majority of the negative attention was brought on by Beckham handing out money and getting in trouble with police for his locker room antics, so that shouldn’t be pinned on LSU players. The 2019 season will make LSU more appealing to top recruits, and we highly doubt those recruits will focus on the way Tigers players handled themselves after dominating Clemson.

Report: Joe Barry turns down USC defensive coordinator job to remain with Rams

USC Trojans

USC’s search for a new defensive coordinator reportedly will continue.

Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry turned down USC’s offer to become their defensive coordinator, both the Los Angeles Times Gary Klein and ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry reported on Thursday.

Barry, 46, coached linebackers at USC in 2010. He has had a pair of two-year stints as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, first with the Detroit Lions and later with the Washington Redskins.

Barry has been with the Rams since Sean McVay took over prior to the 2017 season. Barry will remain with the Rams despite the team hiring a new defensive coordinator from Denver last week.

Dave Aranda leaving LSU to become Baylor head coach

Dave Aranda

LSU just won the national championship on Monday night, and their coaching staff is already crumbling.

First, passing game coordinator Joe Brady left to take the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator job. Now defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is leaving for Baylor. The Bears lost Matt Rhule to the Panthers and are hiring Aranda to fill the vacancy, according to multiple reports.

Aranda, 43, was Tom Herman’s college roommate at Cal Lutheran. He has been at LSU since 2016 and makes $2.5 million per season. He received a major pay bump two years ago after LSU stepped up to prevent him from leaving for Texas A&M.

Aranda has helped coordinate a top defense every season at LSU. They were fifth in the nation in points allowed in 2016, his first season on the job. They have steadily allowed more points, but that’s come as the offense has scored more points, resulting in more possessions for the opposing team.

This would be Aranda’s first head coaching job.

5 biggest favorites to win the 2020 college football championship

Dabo Swinney

What’s the logical thing to do right after a new college football champion is crowned? Look ahead to next year, of course. The cycle never stops, and even Ed Orgeron is straight back out on the road recruiting to keep LSU’s momentum going into next season. If Coach O is still grinding and looking ahead to the 2020 season, there’s no reason we can’t, either.

Who stands out as a possible title contender in 2020? Here are the five early favorites ranked.

5. Georgia

As has typically been the case under Kirby Smart, Georgia will be in the mix. Most of the defense returns, though they will have to adequately replace NFL-bound quarterback Jake Fromm, and may have a favorite in transfer Jamie Newman. They have a trip to Alabama to contend with in September, and in the SEC, they can only afford one loss. The good news is Georgia is expected to turn in another elite recruiting class, keeping a steady stream of talented players coming in and ensuring title contention for at least a few more years.

4. LSU

It would be a major mistake to count out the newly-crowned champions, though Ed Orgeron has some serious challenges awaiting him this offseason. The biggest one is replacing Heisman winner Joe Burrow at quarterback, a role that will likely go to Myles Brennan. LSU’s schedule is tough with road games against Florida and Auburn, but they’re bringing in a top-five recruiting class. The other issue is their offensive scheme may need some tweaks with Joe Brady leaving for the NFL.

3. Ohio State

Still peerless in the Big Ten, Ohio State brings in another solid recruiting class. Plus, crucially, they are one of only two teams on this list who can say they will be bringing back their quarterback. Justin Fields will be back, and that alone makes the Buckeyes contenders. If they can replace the numerous losses their defense will suffer, they’ll be tough to beat. Expect them to do just that — Ohio State always manages to do so.

2. Alabama

Every time Alabama’s dynasty looks to be on the verge of crumbling, Nick Saban finds a way to resuscitate it. We’re betting he’ll do so again in 2020, and we already saw a hint of it in the team’s bowl game. Still, there are questions here. Mac Jones, Taulia Tagovailoa, and Bryce Young will battle for the right to succeed Tua Tagovailoa as Alabama’s starting quarterback. But key defenders, chiefly Dylan Moses, are set to return. Alabama always has NFL talent and recruits at a very high level. Those two factors have not changed, ensuring that, like it or not, the Tide will be back in the title picture next year.

1. Clemson

Dabo Swinney’s program is built to last. Trevor Lawrence will be the most accomplished quarterback left in the college ranks next season, and he’ll be joined by the country’s top recruiting class. Clemson has work to do replacing a lot of key players, but Swinney has shown a Saban-like ability to do that in recent seasons. Add in a rather forgiving schedule — their toughest game is likely to be on the road to Notre Dame — and there’s no reason Clemson can’t get back to the top of the pile in 2020. With Lawrence at the helm, they’ll be tough to dislodge.

LSU addresses Odell Beckham Jr. money situation in statement

LSU is stepping up its investigation of what would certainly be a rather bizarre NCAA scandal.

In a new statement, the university has changed its tune and admitted that evidence shows some of the money that former LSU star Odell Beckham Jr. handed out to Tiger players Monday may have been real. The school says it is cooperating with the NCAA and SEC to resolve the situation.

Initially, LSU claimed that Beckham was handing out fake money. This was undermined when quarterback Joe Burrow implied the money he received was real.

It seems unlikely that this will result in any significant consequences for LSU. As the statement notes, the players didn’t seek to be put into an awkward situation, and several of the players seem accepting cash are potentially going pro anyway. Still, it’s the NCAA, so one never can tell. At the very least, it is a significant headache, and the school will really wish Beckham had kept his money to himself.