Jadeveon Clowney has already reached a point in his career where his fearsome reputation precedes him — a string of superlatives and highlight-film sacks that extends far beyond South Carolina's campus.
But when the sophomore defensive end met Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the backfield during the Outback Bowl, he delivered his defining moment to date. And, honestly, given the violent nature and ethereal result of the play — a forced fumble that Clowney (of course) recovered with one hand — he might never top it.
Consensus opinion: Clowney's tackle was one of the most brutal, effective hits any sports fan will see on a football field.
There's no mistaking that the once-in-a-generation prospect will eventually be the No. 1 overall pick (barring, mercifully, significant injury), and nobody denies it. His coach, Steve Spurrier, said after the Clemson game that South Carolina gets him for just one more year. Of course, it shouldn't have to be like that. While it's nice to occasionally see the NFL regret its low-risk, free “farm system” — in a weak draft class, the Chiefs would gladly defer the top pick to 2014 for Clowney given the chance — it truly isn't fair to the young man. Exploited doesn't begin to explain it with elite collegiate football players.
Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in college football. Everyone knows it.
Anything he had left to prove in college, he did it when he physically blew up the Michigan offense on Tuesday.
SETTING THE TABLE
Preseason voters succumb to the recency effect moreso than they'd like to admit, so bowl games are, in some ways, a final audition for next season's top 25 for some teams.
Count Georgia and Clemson near the top of those lists after impressive showings to end their respective seasons. Clemson'slast-second win over LSU and Georgia's 45-31 rout of Nebraska should weigh heavily on voters' minds during preseason balloting, as both teams return talent in spades. For the Bulldogs, Aaron Murray (barring NFL defection) and Todd Gurley could compose the nation's top backfield to complement an elite defense, while the Tigers will continue to post points with Chad Morris and quarterback Tajh Boyd calling the shots.
Preseason polls are influential to postseason placement (Notre Dame and USC may beg to differ this season) so these bowl games could count for more than just enacting coaches' bowl bonuses. Expect to see Georgia and Clemson amongst elite company in 2013.
When Northwestern beat Vanderbilt 23-13 on Sept. 8, 2012, few envisioned historic seasons for both programs.
And yet, here we sit in 2013 and 10-win Northwestern has its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl and Vanderbilt finished with nine wins for the first time since World War II. In today's cutthroat college football world, one driven primarily by money and recruiting, winning at a top-tier academic institution is no laughing matter. James Franklin (Vanderbilt) and Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) have pulled off remarkable coaching jobs at their respective institutions, and deserve every accolade headed their way.
Even better, Franklin did it as a minority coach in the nation's preeminent conference, which should only help open up more opportunities for similar storylines in the future. That's called getting it done.