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No. 11 Florida on brink of SEC East title after chomping Georgia

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It wasn’t supposed to happen this year, what with Jim McElwain still picking up the pieces left by the Will Muschamp regime and quarterback Will Grier suspended for the rest of the year and then some. It wasn’t supposed to happen this year, but it is. After a 27-3 thrashing of Georgia Saturday in Jacksonville, No. 11 Florida all but clinched a spot in its 11th SEC championship game and first since 2009.

All that’s required from here is a win over Vanderbilt next week. If that doesn’t happen, all the Gators would need is a win over South Carolina the following week (both games are in The Swamp) or a ‘Dores loss to Texas A&M or Tennessee in the weeks to follow. Point is, Florida is winning the SEC East, Georgia is not, and it could not be more obvious why.

On a day when neither team found consistent play from its quarterback, Florida did everything Georgia did not, staking itself to a 20-0 halftime lead through the trusted bit of well-timed opportunism the Gators have used throughout McElwain’s first season. The downpour started when Georgia’s Reggie Davis muffed a punt at his own five-yard line, and Florida’s Nick Washington recovered in the end zone to give the Gators a 6-0 lead (the ensuing PAT was blocked). The score remained that way until Florida quarterback Treon Harris, who’d missed nine straight passes to that point, hit Antonio Calloway for a 66-yard catch-and-run score with 5:06 to play in the second quarter.

As if that didn’t end the game right there, Florida’s defense made sure of it two plays later when Vernon Hargreaves III snagged a tipped interception at the Georgia 20 and returned it to the five-yard line. Kelvin Taylor punched in a three-yard score two snaps later.

Georgia had a chance to pull within two scores early in the third quarter when Davin Bellamy sacked and stripped Harris at the Florida 26, but the Bulldogs settled for a 27-yard Marshall Morgan field goal. The Dogs had one more chance midway through the fourth quarter when, facing a 2nd-and-goal at the Florida 3, Bauta tossed a pressured throw into the end zone, which deflected off Jalen Tabor‘s right hand and into the waiting arms of Florida’s Keeanu Neal.

The Gators hammered the final nail in the coffin with a six-play, 80-yard drive, punctuated by a 16-yard Taylor touchdown run.

Making his first career start, Bauta confirmed Georgia’s offense is comprised of one injured running back and zero capable quarterbacks. The junior completed 15-of-33 passes for 154 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. With no passing game to help him and no Nick Chubb to spell him, Sony Michel struggled to find room with just 11 carries for 45 yards.

Florida ran roughshod over Georgia for the second year in a row, as Taylor led the charge with 23 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns, Jordan Scarlett added nine carries for 96 yards. Harris rushed 10 times for 39 yards while connecting on 8-of-19 throws for 155 yards and a touchdown.

In all, the score can be accurately and acutely summarized in two statistics: Florida out-rushed Georgia 258-69 and enjoyed a whopping 5-1 turnover margin.

The loss drops Georgia to 5-3 (3-3 SEC) on the year, and clinches a 10th straight season without an SEC championship and a third straight year without an SEC East crown in a span when the division hasn’t produced a national championship contender.

That is, outside of this Florida team that just implanted its cleat in Georgia’s chest.

Suspended Michigan State staffer receives another contract extension

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Michigan State has added another one-month extension to the contract of suspended football staffer Curtis Blackwell as the school continues to investigate several sexual assaults involving the Spartans.

A schools spokesman confirmed the extension to the Detroit Free Press on Friday.

The move comes on the heels of a previous one-month contract extension for Blackwell that came at the end of March. His official title is that of the team’s director of college advancement and performance and he was hired by head coach Mark Dantonio back in 2013 after running a number of major recruiting camps in the region.

Blackwell was originally suspended back in February as the school and police began multiple investigations related to sexual assaults. According to reports, one Michigan State staff member had an arrest warrant issued for obstructing an investigation but he was never publicly identified by the school.

Probes into the matter, including a Title IX investigation, remain ongoing in East Lansing. The football team recently wrapped up practice missing over a dozen players in the spring game so it appears this wide-ranging scandal that has embroiled the Spartans is not going to be over anytime soon.

Ex-USC coach finally lands court date with NCAA over Reggie Bush case

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After years and years of meandering through the court system, former USC running backs coach Todd McNair finally has his day in court with the NCAA.

ESPN is reporting that the two parties will meet in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 18, 2018. The trial will finally get underway next year after nearly a decade of appeals on both sides.

McNair was the Trojans’ running backs coach during the glory days under Pete Carroll and responsible for coaching or recruiting many of the team’s top players. He was one of the few links to the program that the NCAA cited when determining that former star Reggie Bush received extra benefits, later leading to brutal sanctions back in 2010. McNair was given a one-year show-cause as a result of the Committee on Infractions findings and never coached again after the school let his contract expire shortly thereafter.

That wasn’t the end of the story however, as McNair later filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA in which he accused the association of violating protocol and showing bias against himself and the program in order to level unprecedented sanctions. Documents in the case have continued to seep out that have given credence to McNair’s case and the NCAA’s lawyers have fought bitterly at every turn in order to prevent the trial from actually getting underway.

Those efforts were unsuccessful however and it appears an already nasty legal battle is still not over. It remains to be seen if the trial will even happen, as a settlement could eventually take place between now and next April. If it does indeed go in front of a jury though, it just might be one of the most fascinating insights into one of the biggest NCAA scandals of the past few decades.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Jonathan Giles announces transfer from Texas Tech

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Thursday may have been a high point for the Texas Tech football program upon learning that former quarterback Patrick Mahomes was taken in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

On Friday afternoon though, the Red Raiders dipped right back down as star wide receiver Jonathan Giles took to Twitter to announce that he was leaving the program and transferring out of Lubbock.

Giles was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist a season ago after catching 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers led the team in each category despite trailing off a bit down the stretch as Tech missed out on a bowl game.

Playing time could have been a big factor in the decision to leave the program as both Cameron Batson and Keke Coutee emerged as the top receiving targets and Giles was relegated to second-team status coming out of spring practice.

Tech’s Air Raid system and NFL quarterbacks had a lot to do with Giles’ big numbers but it’s fairly rare to see such highly touted and productive wideouts hit the transfer markets. While the decision probably isn’t what some Red Raiders fans wanted to hear on Friday, the receiver probably won’t be lacking for options when it comes to his next stop.

Pitt dismisses senior defensive tackle for disciplinary reasons

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Bad news in college football is typically reserved for Friday and it appears the Pitt Panthers just got a taste of some.

Per Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Jerry DiPaola, head coach Pat Narduzzi has dismissed starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni for disciplinary reasons.

Taleni emerged as a starter down the stretch for the Panthers and will be a big loss up front for the team as they already have to replace the stellar production from the soon-to-be-drafted Ejuan Price.

No further comments were given when the school confirmed the news so it might be a while before we find out what led to Taleni’s dismissal and whether he plays college football at all next season.