Predictions 101 — Sugar Bowl

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No. 4 Florida vs. No. 22 Louisville
Wed., Jan. 2 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
New Orleans – Louisiana Superdome

It’s hard to consider a team that lost to Syracuse and Connecticut a threat to Florida, but we aren’t going to rule out any squad coached by Charlie Strong.

We also won’t make a fuss about Strong going against his old team. Yes, he was the defensive coordinator for a pair of Florida national championships before taking over the top spot at Louisville, but he won’t be suiting up.

What he will do, however, is have the Cardinals well prepared to take advantage of this massive opportunity.

Florida (11-1), which has allowed only five touchdown passes this season, has one of the best defenses in the country.

That theory will be put to the test by Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore from Miami (one of 17 Floridians on the Cardinals’ roster) has completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns, against seven interceptions.

Bridgewater finished out the regular season playing with a broken wrist and sprained ankle. It’ll be fascinating to see how he does against the Gator defense, which ranks first in the country in pass efficiency defense.

Florida has a far less dynamic triggerman in Jeff Driskel. His mission is more about not losing the game than winning it, leaving the heavy lifting to Mike Gillislee, who is the Gators’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004.

The senior running back was at his best in the big games, rushing for 146 yards and two scores in a 14-6 win over LSU, and 140 yards and a pair of TDs in Florida’s most recent outing, the 37-26 victory at Florida State.

Louisville (10-2), which has the seventh best rushing defense in the Big East, doesn’t figure to hold up well against the Gator ground game and some are expecting this to be similar to the 2010 Sugar Bowl in which Florida dismantled Cincinnati, 51-24.

The game might degenerate if the Cardinals fail to stay within striking distance and place Bridgewater in harms way too often, but we believe this will be a four-quarter contest.

Opening point spread: Florida by 15

The pick: Florida 34-26

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Illini lose DB Tony Adams to season-ending shoulder surgery

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Earlier this year, Tony Adams became the first true freshman to start at cornerback for Illinois since Vontae Davis in 2006.  A few weeks later, his season has ended on a much lower note.

Lovie Smith has confirmed that Adams will miss the remainder of 2017 after undergoing surgery on his shoulder.  The defensive back originally suffered the injury in an Oct. 7 loss to Iowa and didn’t play in last weekend’s loss to Rutgers because of it.

This marks the second straight year Adams’ season has ended prematurely as he suffered a torn ACL as a senior in high school.

“Unfortunately, you know he was doing some good things for us,” Smith said according to the Associated Press. “But, you know Tony had a serious knee injury in high school and came back from it so he’ll come back from this.”

Adams was a three-star 2017 signee who was rated as the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Illinois.  In the Sept. 15 loss to South Florida, he recorded his first career interception.

Judge denies Jerry Sandusky’s request for new trial

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Not surprisingly, a sexual predator who preyed on young boys is staying where he belongs.

Wednesday morning, a judge in Pennsylvania denied Jerry Sandusky’s request for a new trial.  As part of his request, the convicted felon and former Penn State assistant coach had argued that grand jury leaks negatively affected his defense as well as claiming he had incompetent counsel in his first trial.

Sandusky’s new attorneys now have 30 days to file an appeal of Jefferson County President Judge John Foradora’s decision.

Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex-abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.  Given the fact that he was 66-years-old at the time of his sentencing, it’s effectively a life sentence.

Some of the crimes for which Sandusky was convicted occurred in a Penn State football building and led to what most considered a cover-up of the predator’s actions by myriad university officials.  Sandusky’s arrest resulted in the dismissals of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier.  Both Curley and Spanier served jail time in connection to the scandal, the former for child endangerment and the latter endangering the welfare of children.

The scandal also led to historic sanctions levied on the Nittany Lions football program by the NCAA, the bulk of which were ultimately rolled back.

In June of 2015, it was reported that Penn State had paid a total of $93.3 million to 32 victims of the Paterno right-hand man.  Additionally, financial statements from the university showed an additional $33.2 million in payments related to claims connected to Sandusky’s crimes.

Pitt kicker explains decision to kneel during National Anthem

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Outside of a handful of upsets that muddled the chase for the four playoff spots, one of the larger storylines coming out of Week 7 was one player’s decision prior to his team’s game Saturday.

Ian Troost, a white walk-on kicker at Pitt, decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of the North Carolina State game.  Following the loss, head coach Pat Narduzzi and (most) of his teammates expressed their support of the junior’s decision to kneel.

The kicker wasn’t made available to the media afterward to explain his reasoning behind the decision, but, in a phone conversation with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, Troost shed light on why he’s following the same path first plowed by Colin Kaepernick last year.  From the Post-Gazette:

It’s not just like ‘Oh, all of a sudden this is happening’ or all of a sudden this is a result of one recent thing; it’s a result of the culmination of things over the past hundreds of years and legislation that has been passed. My original reasons were Colin’s original reasons – to raise awareness of systematic oppression and racial injustice in the United States that we often see through police brutality or the excessive use of force.

Over the past four years of my college career, I have constantly been having these conversations and learning,” he said. “I’ve never been in that situation. I’ve never been stereotyped for the color of my skin. I’ve never been oppressed. I’ve never had to worry about walking down the street at 2 a.m. with a hood on or when I get pulled over by a police officer keeping my hands in sight at all times. I’ve never had to worry about that and I never will have to.

Trost made certain to state that his protest is not meant as a sign of disrespect for the military — a grandfather served in the Air Force while a close friend is at West Point, he noted — and it’s not an indictment of the vast majority of those in law enforcement.

“I do not in any way have anything against law enforcement,” Troost said. “They keep everyone in this country, myself included, safe 99.9 percent of the time. They risk their lives for us and I truly do appreciate that.

“But there are some that need to be brought to justice for ways they’ve acted on the job, while they have the badge on. That’s the main issue.”

Not all of Troost’s teammates were 100-percent behind the kicker, most notablyAvonte Maddox.

“Is really taking that knee going to prove anything?” senior cornerback said last Saturday. “That’s a statement for 30 seconds. You want to take action.

“If you really want to get out and do something, we want to go out in the real world and do things to make actual change, not 30 seconds of fame making a statement out there. Is that really going to help us?”

The newspaper writes that “Troost didn’t see Maddox’s words as a critique, viewing them instead as a teammate holding him accountable.”

Troost says he plans to continue kneeling during games he dresses for this season.  He’s also working with Pitt officials to create what’s described as a diversity inclusion workshop for Pitt athletes

Starting USC DT Josh Fatu in concussion protocol after car wreck

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This is one you don’t see very often.

USC’s Josh Fatu was involved in a multi-car accident and is currently in concussion protocol because of a head injury he received in the incident, head coach Clay Helton confirmed Tuesday.  The coach added that the accident in which Fatu sustained the injury was not the defensive tackle’s fault.

Fatu has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game against USC, and is officially listed as day-to-day for the annual rivalry clash.

Heading into Week 8, Fatu had started every game along the defensive line this season for the Trojans.  His seven tackles for loss are currently second on the Trojans behind Christian Rector‘s eight, while his five sacks are behind just Rector’s 6.5.

If Fatu is unable to go against the Irish, Brandon Pili will likely take over as the starter.