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LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire breaks away from Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

LSU rolls

Brent Venables was good, especially early.

Joe Burrow was better, especially when it mattered.

The LSU Tigers finished one of the most dominant college football seasons ever with an emphatic 42-25 win over previously unbeaten Clemson.

There were several key moments and boxes checked.

> LSU surviving the early body blows Clemson landed.

> LSU scoring right before the half to stretch the lead to 28-17.

> LSU answering Clemson's third-quarter touchdown.

> LSU defensively limiting Travis Etienne's touches.

Here are some quick takeaways:

Clemson's 29-game winning streak ends. Considering Clemson has a trip to Notre Dame and an 11-game cakewalk, Dabo's team will be back in contention again next year. (And we're sure Dabo will find something to complain about along the way.)

Joe Burrow will be forever beloved by LSU folks everywhere, not unlike how Cam is among Auburn folks. This will be a special connection.

Simply put, this LSU offense is one of the best ever, if not the best ever. It scored the most points, and Burrow set a record with 60 TD passes. SIXTY.

The rules should be changed because the athletes are better than ever and the players are more mature than ever. Because if you do not believe Trevor Lawrence and Derek Stingley Jr. are ready for Sundays and would be picks in the top half of the first round next spring, well, I've got nothing for you but the game film.

 

All-too-early Top 25

We've done this since 2010. We have picked the eventual national champion five times since then.

So with that, and the knowledge that the champion Tigers have lost their quarterback and the runner-up Tigers have their QB back, let's roll with this supremely early top 25, with brief explanations.

(Granted there are still a few days before underclassmen have to officially declare for the draft, so there's that.)

1. Clemson. Yeah, I'll take Trevor Lawrence at QB against the field. The No. 1 recruiting class with a slew of 5-star defensive line recruits is just a bonus.

2. Alabama. Sound familiar over the years? Yeah, likely. Well, the questions at QB should be made much easier with the return of potential first-round picks DeVonta Smith, Alex Leatherwood and Dylan Moses.

3. THE Ohio State. Layers of talent, and oh yeah, that Justin Fields kid can play.

4. Georgia. The nation's best defense and a real chance at the best transfer portal arrival. That works.

5. Florida. Got your "Kyle Trask for Heisman" bumper sticker, Gatorman? If the Gators can find some replacements at wide receiver, well, a return to Atlanta could be a real possibility.

6. LSU. Man, it's like the SEC cares about football. This may be high without knowing what replacement QB Myles Brennan can do, but while one Joe (Burrow) is gone, a very important Joe (Brady, the LSU offensive passing game wizard) appears to be staying.

7. Oklahoma. Spencer Rattler will take over for Jalen Hurts. And while he may not have the wheels or the experience of Hurts, his name is Spencer Rattler, friends. That is awesome.

8. Oregon. The Ducks will have arguably the best offensive line in the country.

9. Notre Dame. Sneaky big news with Ian Book returning for his senior season. Book is 20-3 as the starting QB in South Bend, and other than a November date with Clemson, the schedule is very doable.

10. Penn State. Depth at running back and Sean Clifford returning at quarterback means James Franklin's bunch is ready to reload.

11. Wisconsin. Nine defensive starters returning and Jack Coan coming back behind center should smooth the transition after record-setting running back Jonathan Taylor, who is headed to the league after running for more than 6,000 yards in three seasons.

12. Texas A&M. Are we to a place that Kellen Mond or Kyle Trask is the standardbearer at QB in the nation's best conference? Yes, yes we are.

13. Iowa State. Want a sneaky sharp Heisman prop? How about Cyclone QB Brock Purdy, who averaged more than 300 passing yards per game in 2019? That's right, Brock Purdy. (Yeah, like you knew Joe Burrow was going to do this.)

14. USC. This could be a real sleeper bunch. Depending on NFL defections, the Trojans could return as many as 19 starters, and knowing that Clay Helton needs a big year to keep his job, well, motivation is everywhere.

15. Texas. The offseason buzz will not be as loud this year for the Longhorns and that may not be such a bad thing. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger returning to school also helps.

16. Michigan. Shae Patterson leaving may not be the worst thing in the world depending on how Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton respond to the role. Still, can this be the year that Coach Khaki wins a big game?

17. North Carolina. After an impressive finish to Mack Brown's first season in his return to Chapel Hill, everything will be built around Sam Howell, who set an NCAA record for TD passes by a true freshman last year with 38. This may be a touch low for Brown's Boys.

18. Auburn. Yada-yada-yada. Bo Nix. Yada-yada-yada. (They'll figure out a way to make me believe and then rip my guts out. Because it's Auburn. Hi, Gus.)

19. Kentucky. Lynn Bowden is gone, but Mark Stoops is building a foundation on toughness, and friends, that never graduates.

20. Virginia Tech. A ton of players — including the entire offensive line — return for Justin Fuente, who will coach the first Hokies team since 1995 without Bud Foster on the sideline.

21. Tennessee. If Cade Mays is granted immediate eligibility, OC Jim Chaney could easily have a starting group that features seven four-stars and four five-star recruits. That's a true upgrade in talent in Knoxville.

22. Oklahoma State. This ranking could be higher if Chubba Hubbard returns to Stillwater.

23. UCF. That a 10-3 mark is considered a down season for the Knights is a testament to their standards. Those three losses were by a total of seven points, so there's that.

24. Utah. The Utes are losing a lot of talent, but Kyle Whittingham flat-out coaches his whistle off.

25. Washington. New coach, new quarterback. Still a talented defense, however.    

 

Astros hit hard but not hard enough

OK, the punishment was dropped, and then ownership decided it was not enough.

Manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a season for their roles in the Houston Astros stealing signs in the postseason the last couple of seasons.

Houston's owner Jim Crane then fired both of the men, who built a crew that won the 2017 World Series and returned to the Series in 2019 before losing to the Nationals.

In truth, I'm not sure that's enough — in terms of severity and reach.

I know the game is collectively bargained, so rules will have to be changed to discipline players, but let's look at the history of the game and its cheaters.

We know the perpetual punishment that lingers on Bonds and Clemens, two certified, sure-fire Hall of Famers who have been forced to wait because of allegations of cheating.

What about Altuve and Springer and some of these bonafide Astros All-Stars? Will they be held to the same scorn and viewed through the same cheating prism?

Heck, there's more evidence against the Astros than there was against A-Rod until he admitted to using PEDs, and Rodriguez got more than a year suspension.

And never mind what Pete Rose was handed, and yes, it's a little bit of apples to oranges in terms of gambling versus sign stealing, but think of the folks left in the wake.

Pitchers who got cut because hitters knew what was coming. (Ask Yu Darvish about those lasting scars.)

Teams like the Yankees, who lost in the '17 ALCS, or the Dodgers, who lost in the '17 Series to the Astros and the 2018 Series to the Red Sox, who are next up on the sign-stealing chopping block.

Two dudes losing their jobs is not enough.  

 

This and that

— Holy buckets, we have lost our minds. Seriously. Vince Vaughn was trending on Twitter this morning and he's getting a ton of grief. His crime? He shook the president's hand, and had a 30-second conversation.

— Speaking of the national championship, congrats to Hudson C., who finished with 95 points and won the tie-breaker with GoodLunch for the title of the Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Game Success (Bowler Optional). Hudson had 60 points; GoodLunch had 72. Hudson and GoodLunch, check your emails today for details on how to collect your goodies.

— Former Hamilton Heights and Kentucky star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went straight salty last night to deliver on one of our two NBA picks. Shai went 20-20-10 for a monster triple double.

— Speaking of picks, our NBA picks are now 8-2. That is good. Our college hoops picks are 15-11. Entertaining, but less entertaining than 80 percent. Our college football picks — we split last night, losing on Clemson, hitting on under 69 — went 22-13 in the bowls and finished the season 85-64-4 against the number. Our NFL picks on the season are 60-40-4 after a rough start to the playoffs. By percentages that's 80 percent on NBA, 57.7 on college hoops, 57.1 on college football and 60 percent on NFL. Total so far since August, we're 168-117-8 on picks against the number. That's 58.9 percent. Cue Maximus. "Are you not entertained?"

— Speaking of the YouTube, here's what we have in the background during this morning's exercises. Here's Willie covering, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain."    

 

Today's question

True or false, Tuesday. True.

True or false, Astros players should be disciplined for sign stealing.

True or false, this LSU team is the best offense in the history of college football.

True or false, elite freshmen and sophomores should be eligible for the NFL draft.

As for today, Jan. 14, let's explore.

Happy birthday Dave Grohl and LL Cool J (52). Also, Jason Bateman is 51 today, and he's wickedly underrated and has been since his NBC sitcom days in the 1980s.

Happy birthday Gabby Gilbert, who is 79 today.

Benedict Arnold would have been 279 today.

The "The Today Show" debuted on this day in 1952.

Four years ago today, Alan Rickman died.

Wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan is 66 today.

Best tool nicknames in sports? Go.

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