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Three takeaways from Alabama’s victory over Ohio State in College Football Playoff championship

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Three takeaways from Alabama's victory over Ohio State in College Football Playoff championship

No. 1 Alabama beat No. 3 Ohio State 52-24 in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday.

The Crimson Tide blew the game open with a 28-point second quarter and a record-setting performance from DeVonta Smith, who finished with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns — in the first half. An injury caused him to miss the third and fourth quarters, but the Tide didn’t need him to finish the game.

First-team All-Americans Mac Jones and Najee Harris also contributed to the blowout. Jones finished with a CFP championship-record 464 passing yards and five touchdowns. Harris added 158 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns. Alabama totaled a record 621 yards.

Tide coach Nick Saban won his sixth national championship with Alabama and seventh overall, which breaks the record of six set by legendary coach Bear Bryant.

MORE: Crimson Tide dominant in win over Ohio State

Here are three takeaways from Alabama’s victory in the College Football Playoff national championship game:

Smith proved he’s college football’s best player

Ohio State had no answer in the back seven for the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, and it showed. He played pitch-and-catch with Jones in helping Alabama score touchdowns on five of its seven first-half possessions.

Smith had those 12 first-half catches on 14 targets, with four catches going for 20 yards or more. Smith scored on touchdowns of 5, 5 and 43 yards in the second quarter. The third score gave Alabama a 35-17 halftime lead. Smith, however, left in the third quarter after taking a shot to the hand from Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner.

The performance was helped by brilliant play-calling by offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who is leaving Alabama to become the head coach at Texas.

Smith closed out his Heisman campaign with a remarkable three-game run in the SEC championship game, College Football Playoff semifinal and CFP championship, with 34 catches for 529 yards and eight touchdowns.

Injuries hurt the Buckeyes

Ohio State was down 14 players, including two starters along the defensive line, due to COVID-19. Running back Trey Sermon left with an arm injury after his first carry, and All-American guard Wyatt Davis left the game in the second quarter.

Ohio State still managed to run the ball effectively with Master Teague, but Justin Fields was limited to 6-of-15 passing for 90 yards in the first half. Fields played through an injury in the semifinal victory against Clemson, but the Buckeyes fell too far behind in the first half because of Alabama’s offense. Fields finished 17 of 33 passing for 194 yards and a score, adding 65 rushing yards as well.

Buckeyes coach Ryan Day has done a fantastic job in two seasons since taking over for Urban Meyer. Ohio State is 20-2 with back-to-back Big Ten championships in that stretch. But on Monday, he was playing short-handed, and his defense couldn’t stop Alabama’s high-powered attack.

Greatest Bama team ever?

The 2020 squad can make that case after delivering a sixth national championship to Tuscaloosa under Saban.

Jones, Smith and Najee Harris — who plowed through a line led by Alex Leatherwood — produced on the biggest stage. Jaylen Waddle, who missed most of the regular season with a leg injury, made a contribution of three catches and 34 yards. Rimington Trophy winner Landon Dickerson — who suffered a torn ACL in the SEC championship game — even won the coin toss and snapped the ball in victory formation.

This might be the most-decorated Crimson Tide team from an awards perspective, and the team averaged 48.5 points per game in a season impacted by COVID-19. Saban, who missed the Iron Bowl after testing positive for the disease, managed to produce yet another national championship machine that set a new standard in the offensive-minded College Football Playoff era.

Offense wins championships now. The Crimson Tide proved it in emphatic fashion.

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Coach K belittles Duke student reporter instead of examining own flailing team

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Coach K belittles Duke student reporter instead of examining own flailing team

Maybe what Mike Krzyzewski didn’t like was the challenge to his authority by a journalist.

Because he shouldn’t have been upset about the question, which was absolutely fair under the circumstances. And he shouldn’t have cared about the age of Duke Chronicle reporter Jake Piazza, who as an independent scribe had every right to be there. So perhaps when he unleashed his snark-filled response to the student reporter Saturday night after Duke lost 70-65 to Louisville and fell to 5-5 this season, he was just upset someone would confront his failure so directly.

It’s a mindset found consistently in the college ranks, where the heads of basketball and football programs double as university deities in many parts of the country.

“I’m just curious as to what the next step forward is for the team as you guys move into another week of basketball,” the reporter asked Coach K on a virtual news conference not long after Duke had turned the ball over 15 times while dishing just seven assists.

Not the most incisive query, to be sure, but one worth putting forward as Duke continues its worst start to a season in decades.

It was enough for Krzyzewski to dig in.

“Why don’t we just evaluate this game?” Krzyzewski said. “I’m not into what our next step forward is right now. We just finished a hard-fought game. What’s your major? What’s your major at Duke? What’s your hardest class?”

When the reporter answered that he was an economics major, Krzyzewski continued, “OK, say you just had the toughest econ test in the world, and when you walked out, somebody asked you, ‘What’s your next step?’ You see what I mean? Do you have some empathy? Just give us time to evaluate this game and we’ll figure it out, just like we always try to do.”

MORE: Auburn’s Sharife Cooper on an outrageous five-game streak

Coaches say far worse things to young interviewers — hazing rituals often target the most anxious and inexperienced questioners. It doubles as a sort of “test” from coach to reporter.

But what’s the point of the intimidation tactic? Why do the very people tasked with guiding the lives of teenage athletes — and who work those players as if they were paid pros — think it’s reasonable to belittle journalists of any stripe?

In the end, the exchange between Coach K and the Duke Chronicle reporter probably served as a different type of learning experience than intended. Rather than discourage tough questions, Krzyzewski shattered the illusion of his own infallibility. Now the writer knows the people he covers are not worth the pedestal many place them on, and that when he touches a nerve with a probe, it’s a sign he might be on the right track.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know how Duke plans to avoid its first NCAA Tournament miss since 1995.

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Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2 live fight updates, results, highlights from UFC 257

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Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2 live fight updates, results, highlights from UFC 257

The highly anticipated return of Conor McGregor is set to take place Saturday night (Sunday morning local time) when the former two-division champion meets old rival Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

A lot has changed since McGregor stopped Poirier in the first round more than six years ago at UFC 178. McGregor became the biggest star in the UFC while also becoming the first fighter to hold world titles in two divisions simultaneously. Poirier, meanwhile, built himself back up with marquee wins over Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, Dan Hooker and Justin Gaethje while also claiming the interim UFC lightweight title.

MORE: McGregor poised to become the best version of himself after finding calm amid chaos

Aside from their accomplishments, both McGregor and Poirier have seen their lives change outside the Octagon. Both have become fathers and are now fighting for more than just themselves. 

Unlike their first meeting, there has been no bad blood; McGregor appears to have put his controversial past behind him and will enter the Octagon as a competitor who has seemingly found a new reason for fighting. Poirier made the mistake of allowing McGregor to get into his head before their first fight; this time, a seasoned and mature fighter will stand across the cage from the sport’s biggest star as he attempts to stake his claim as the best lightweight in the world 

There is a lot at stake in this fight as Khabib Nurmagomedov remains retired. The winner will certainly be near the front of the line for a title opportunity while the loser will fall to the back of the pack.

The co-main event features another pair of lightweights who are jockeying for position in the title picture. Michael Chandler will make his UFC debut against the battle-tested Dan Hooker. Chandler arrives after a stint in Bellator, where he is widely recognized as one of the greatest fighters ever in that organization. Can he prove that he’s worthy of having his name among the best in the UFC, too, or will Hooker turn back the challenge?  

Sporting News is tracking live fight updates and highlights from Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2. Follow below for complete results from UFC 257’s main event and undercard.

MORE: Save over 30% when you buy UFC 257 and an ESPN+ Annual Plan for only $89.98

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier live updates, highlights from UFC 257

9:41 p.m.: The final fight on the televised prelims is up next and takes place under curious circumstances. Matt Frevola takes on Arman Tsarukyan in a catchweight bout. Frevola was originally set to take on Ottman Azaitar until Azaitar was removed from the card, and the UFC, for violating COVID-19 safety protocols after attempting to sneak a teammate into his hotel room in Abu Dhabi. It was absurd and cost Azaitar his UFC career. Fortunately for Frevola, Tsarukyan needed an opponent after Nasrat Haqparast was removed due to illness. And here we are. 

9:37 p.m.: Brad Tavares earned a decision over Antonio Carlos Junior in middleweight action. The takedown defense from Tavares was impressive as he prevented “Shoeface” from bringing the fight to the canvas. He also showcased some solid counterstriking. That performance is a start for Tavares as he attempts to work his way up the middleweight ladder.  

9:01 p.m.: Just when you thought we were heading to another decision, Pena managed to get McMann’s back in the final round and cinch in a rear-naked choke to earn the submission victory. It’s a win that Pena needed to end a skid as she tries to work her way back into title contention. The best part was that Pena called out Amanda Nunes and accused the champion of “ducking” her. Interesting. 

 

 

8:45 p.m.: Welcome to Sporting News’ coverage of UFC 257: McGregor vs. Poirier 2. As we continue through the prelims, we have had a stretch of three consecutive decisions. Sara McMann and Julianna Pena are up now. Will this fight also be decided by the judges or will Pena or McMann take it out of their hands. 

McGregor vs. Poirier 2 start time

  • Early prelims: 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Prelims: 8 p.m. ET
  • Main card: 10 p.m. ET
  • Live stream: ESPN+

The main card of UFC 257 is scheduled to start at 10 p.m. ET, following the early prelims (6:30 p.m. ET) and preliminaries (8 p.m. ET).

How to watch McGregor vs. Poirier 2 on PPV

  • UFC 257 early prelims TV channel: ESPN+, UFC FIght Pass
  • UFC 257 prelims TV channel: ESPN+, ESPN 2
  • UFC 257 main card channel: ESPN+ (pay-per-view)

The early prelims and preliminaries at UFC 257 are free to watch on ESPN+ for those who are already subscribed to the streaming service. The pay-per-view portion (i.e., the main card) can be purchased for $69.99. New subscribers can pay a bundle price of $89.99, which includes the fight and an annual subscription to ESPN+.

Click here to learn about the different pricing and bundling options with the ESPN+ platform.

UFC 257 fight card

Main card

  • Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier; lightweights
  • Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler; lightweights 
  • Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood; women’s flyweights 
  • Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas; women’s strawweights 
  • Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov; middleweights 

Prelims

  • Matt Frevola vs. Arman Tsarukyan; catchweight (157 pounds)
  • Brad Tavares def. Antonio Carlos Junior via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 & 29-28) 
  • Julianna Pena def. Sara McMann via 3rd round submission (3:39)
  • Marcin Prachnio def. Khalil Rountree Jr. via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28)

Early prelims

  • Movsar Evloev def. Nik Lentz via split decision (29-28, 29-28 & 28-29)
  • Amir Albazi def. Zhalgas Zhumagulov via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28)

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Matthew Stafford trade rumors, possible destinations: Colts, Patriots, Steelers & more

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Matthew Stafford trade rumors, possible destinations: Colts, Patriots, Steelers & more

Another productive NFL quarterback is on the trade market, expanding the deep pool of available passers this offseason.

Matthew Stafford is reportedly done with the Lions and has requested a move elsewhere, according to multiple reports. He has spent his entire 12-year career in Detroit, but wants the opportunity to return to the playoffs before retirement.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft joins Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz and Tua Tagovailoa as passers potentially set to leave their teams via trade — not to mention the likes of Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, who hit the open market in free agency. After a healthy 2020 season produced more than 4,000 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions, Stafford will be one of the most sought-after options of that group, perhaps behind only Watson in stature.

Several AFC teams seem to be good matches for Stafford, including the Colts, Patriots and Steelers. The 32-year-old — he turns 33 in February — is better suited for a roster able to compete immediately than one needing to execute a multi-year rebuilding plan. ESPN reported Saturday that the Lions would likely receive at least a first-round pick for him.

MORE: Deshaun Watson trade tracker

Stafford is owed $43 million through next season — part of a contract amount that was considered onerous when he first signed, but is now viewed as team-friendly, given escalating payments for quarterbacks around the league and his continuously solid performance.

Below is an overview of where Stafford might be headed once the offseason begins:

Possible trade destinations for Matthew Stafford

Colts

With Philip Rivers retiring, Indianapolis has reason to dip into its cap space for Stafford, who would provide the same steady hand Rivers did during an 11-5 season. The Colts boast one of the most well-rounded rosters in the NFL; with the Texans and Jaguars nowhere near contention, they have only the Titans to contend with in the AFC South.

As Stafford ages, having a capable running game to keep defenses from honing in on his arm would be helpful. Rookie sensation Jonathan Taylor, then, would be a crucial ally in his success. Stafford also had to play from behind in Detroit much of the time, an occurrence that would probably be less frequent in Indianapolis.

The Colts aren’t exactly loaded with wide receivers — Michael Pittman Jr. is the only one with obvious upside — but they have enough going on outside for Stafford to feel supported.

Patriots

Just because the Cam Newton era was a dud doesn’t mean New England plans to accept a losing record and high draft pick next year. Eight Patriots players opted out of this past campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but their defense still ranked seventh in points allowed. With the expected returns of Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower to that group, a return to contention isn’t impossible.

Stafford would give the Patriots an exponential offensive lift, though the franchise needs to find more effective receivers than the Jacobi Myers-led corps that floundered in 2020.

Steelers

Stafford would be an exciting replacement for Ben Roethlisberger if the latter retires this offseason. Even if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves Pittsburgh in free agency, the Steelers’ pass catchers should be among the NFL’s best. It has been a long time since Stafford had a duo with the potential of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.

A lack of cap room makes a Stafford trade to Pittsburgh extremely difficult — Roethlisberger alone has a dead cap of $22.25 million and the franchise is projected to be well above its allotted 2021 space — but the potential reward for the franchise, if the money can be worked out, would be immense.

Other landing spots

The 49ers, Dolphins, Panthers, Washington Football Team and Broncos are among the teams that have also been discussed in Stafford trade rumors.

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