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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The national championship game is signaling a significant evolution in coaching styles. Instead of process-oriented, brand-obsessed task masters, Clemson's Dabo Swinney and LSU's Ed Orgeron embrace their role as personable, relationship-based leaders. That's not to say hard-nosed coaches such as Alabama's Nick Saban care less about their players or engender a lower degree of loyalty in those they are leading. And that's certainly not to say that more approachable coaches such as Swinney and Orgeron are slacking on the details and discipline every great program must have. But Swinney and Orgeron have clearly brought a different feel to this game.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Clemson had to knock off a dynasty to win two of the last three national titles. Now coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers are on the cusp of joining exclusive company in college football history. No. 3 Clemson will try to become the fourth team since The Associated Press began crowning college football national champions in 1936 to win three titles in four seasons when it faces No. 1 LSU on Monday night at the Superdome. Clemson is also trying to become just the seventh major college football program since 1950 to win at least 30 straight games.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Clemson linebacker Chad Smith has saved his best college football season for last. The fifth-year senior became a starter this fall and will be one of the Tigers key defenders when they face LSU for the College Football Playoff championship Monday night. Smith had mostly played on special teams since arriving in 2015. Family values — including loyalty and service — helped Smith stick things out when other players might have looked to transfer. But he was enjoying his college experience even with limited playing time. Smith says teammates, coaches, classes and the quality football made him want to stay.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — LSU senior linebacker Michael Divinity says he's blessed to return for the biggest game of his career and in his hometown. Personal problems caused Divinity to miss the majority of one of the most extraordinary football seasons in LSU history. The team's 2018 co-leader in sacks even briefly quit the team. But he decided to come back knowing his remaining punishment would prevent him from playing college football again unless LSU advanced to Monday night’s national championship. Divinity had three sacks in the five games he played. Now he's back for No. 1 LSU's title tilt with No. 3 Clemson.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is hopeful injured starting defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney can play against No. 1 LSU in the College Football Playoff championship game. Pinckney hurt his left ankle in Clemson's 29-23 victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28. Pinckney has started 13 games this season and has 27 tackles and two sacks. Swinney says Pinckney will be limited even if he is healthy enough to play Monday night. Backup tackle Jordan Williams will likely see more action in Pinckney's absence. Clemson is seeking its 30th straight win and second straight national championship.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Jose Borregales beat the Miami Hurricanes and now is about to join them. The former Florida International kicker announced Sunday that he has decided to transfer to Miami. The move comes about two months after he played a big role in FIU's stunning upset of the Hurricanes. Borregales always wanted to play at Miami but couldn't get an offer during his high school recruiting process. But when he announced his plans to transfer, the Hurricanes didn't let him get away a second time.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Kameron McGusty scored 19 points and the Miami Hurricanes shot 53% to withstand a late rally by streaky Pittsburgh and win 66-58. The Panthers had scoring runs of 18-2 in the first half and 17-3 in the second half but never led. After falling behind 46-26 with 14 minutes left they cut the deficit to 51-47 but could get no closer. The Hurricanes beat Pittsburgh for the seventh time in a row. The Panthers failed to build on their victory Wednesday at North Carolina, which ended a 22-game road losing streak in the ACC.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Elissa Cunane recorded her ninth double-double of the season as hot-shooting No. 9 North Carolina State beat beleaguered Notre Dame 90-56. Cunane had 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes for coach Wes Moore’s Wolfpack. Jada Boyd scored 16 points, Kayla Jones added 15 points and Kai Crutchfield scored 13 for N.C. State, which shot 57%. Katlyn Gilbert scored a career-high 25 points for the Fighting Irish, who suffered their fifth straight home loss and seventh of the season. Both of those are low marks for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw in her 33 seasons.
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