WHO: No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 3 Georgia (12-1)
WHAT: The College Football Playoff at the 104th Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
THE SKINNY: The Granddaddy of Them All will live up to that billing on New Year’s Day as the College Football Playoff once again returns to the most prestigious bowl of them all. This year’s matchup of two teams who do not regularly make their way out West promises to be extra special as it pits the best offense in the sport against one of FBS’ top defenses.
The Sooners are of course led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, the maestro of the team’s Air Raid attack that has been responsible for putting up more yards per play and per game than anybody. Adding to the intrigue of seeing the colorful signal-caller is the fact that he has been dealing with an illness in the week leading up to the game (but has been practicing). There are no doubts that Mayfield will play in the game but the best player in the country not being at 100 percent could be an issue against a defense that is second nationally against the pass.
Oklahoma is not all about their QB though as they have a host of All-Americans that have helped them reach this point as well. You can start with the guy protecting Mayfield’s blindside in left tackle Orlando Brown or his favorite target in tight end Mark Andrews but don’t discount the impact that end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will have in this matchup either as he’s capable of shutting down opposing offenses as one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12.
Waiting for them will be the SEC champs, who used a familiar formula of excellent defense and a top-notch ground game to power their way into a semifinal. Led by All-American linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bulldogs allow just over 13 points per game and are as stingy as they come with the best front seven in the country. Fast and physical is a common refrain you hear when describing the unit and that should come as no surprise with a defensive-minded head coach in Kirby Smart and veteran defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Offensively, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is the rare true freshman to guide his team to such a successful season but has been just what the team needed since taking over for the injured Jacob Eason in the season opener. While he lacks the gaudy passing stats of his opposite number, that’s not that big of a deal considering he has no qualms turning around and handing it off to the stable of tailbacks the Bulldogs have. That includes the prolific tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who may be the best tailback duo in college football history given their production the past four years.
It should all make for one of the most enticing matchups of the entire bowl season and that’s before you dig into the bigger aspirations both Georgia and Oklahoma have of capturing another national title next week in Atlanta. There’s a little bit of a history element involved as well as this will be the first meeting all-time between the two powerhouses and just the second trip to Pasadena for either side.
The Rose Bowl could play out a number of different ways but chances are high that it’s a close, hard-fought affair that sees the Sooners squeak out a close one in the fourth quarter thanks to their outstanding quarterback.
THE PICK: Oklahoma 33, Georgia 30
To say that Tyree Owens has had an up-and-down — mostly down — collegiate career would be a significant understatement.
Originally a West Virginia signee, Owens was one of three Mountaineer football players stabbed in an off-field accident in September of 2015… only to be one of three WVU football players dismissed from the program very shortly thereafter for violating unspecified team rules.
After one season at a junior college, the defensive lineman transferred to East Carolina. After one season at ECU, Owens is out again as the American Athletic Conference school announced that the redshirt junior “has also been removed from the roster as a result of an indefinite suspension related to the team’s academic policy.”
Last season, Owens started three of the 10 games in which he played, with all of those starts coming at defensive tackle. His 3.5 tackles for loss were fourth on the team, while his three quarterback hits were second on the Pirates. Two of those tackles for loss came against… WVU, of course.
A three-star member of WVU’s 2014 recruiting class, Owens was rated as the No. 49 strongside defensive end in the country. He took a redshirt as a true freshman for the Mountaineers.
Owens, now at a Mississippi junior college, originally committed to Texas A&M in October of 2016 before decommitting nearly three months later and ultimately signing with ECU in mid-December of that same year.
Those of a certain age may look back on going to grade school and think fondly on those rare days where the regular teacher was out and a substitute filled in. For many around the country, that often meant watching a movie or two for class instead of doing, well… actual work.
If you happen to be a kindergarten student at James M. Brown Elementary School in Walhalla, South Carolina though, having a substitute teacher for class has been taking on a whole different meaning the past few weeks. That’s because 300-pound Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been moonlighting as a sub and trying to corral little kids on a much gentler scale than he corrals quarterbacks on Saturdays in the fall.
“It was fun, but took a lot out of me,” Wilkins told ESPN earlier this week. “I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’ with all those little kids. Talk about energy, but it was a real cool experience.”
Perhaps the most accurate line from Chris Low’s excellent story on Wilkins’ substitute duties came by one young pupil who muttered, ‘That’s one big mister.’ The senior All-American is only getting $80 for a day’s worth of work with the kids but seeing the massive defensive tackle walk into a room is probably as priceless for Wilkins as it is for those at the school.
How much is an undefeated season worth for a program? If you ask the most recent team to accomplish the feat, the answer is a lot of dough. Like nine figures worth.
According to a release by UCF, the school commissioned a report compiled by Joyce Julius & Associates on just how much value they got from their football team’s perfect season that was capped off with an AAC conference title and a Peach Bowl victory over Auburn:
When combining national television game broadcasts, television news coverage, print media, Internet news and social media, the value of the exposure for UCF Football from Nov. 17, 2017-Jan. 31, 2018 was $171,079,417.47. Combined, the entirety of the 2017 UCF Football season’s exposure was valued at well over $200 million.
Further more, the study found roughly 160,000 total social media posts “generated nearly 655 million impressions with an estimated exposure value of $17,696,403.81. Of the 160,792 posts the study found, over 138,000 of them were on Twitter.” No word how many of those tweets were fans ridiculing the school for claiming a national title or just angry Alabama supporters yelling back about the sport’s true champion last season.
There’s no doubt that the Knights’ story and resulting publicity from claiming to be “national champions” was worth plenty to the school, but it seems like a bit of fuzzy math to claim all of $200 million worth of exposure even with new state license plates and trips to Disney World. One wonders if UCF can claim low nine figures from a “championship” run you’ve got to think Nick Saban’s actual title-winning Alabama team might be able lay claim to more than double that amount for winning the College Football Playoff after all.
It’s never good for a head coach to get a call that one of his players was arrested and equally bad when the player in question hasn’t even arrived on campus. Such is the case for Louisville coach Bobby Petrino as one of his recent signees was arrested by police on Wednesday.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that four-star cornerback Jairus Brents was cited for speeding by local police and then was arrested due to an outstanding warrant that was the result of a shoplifting citation from shortly before National Signing Day. He was reportedly going 86 mph in a 55 mph zone and was also cited by police for reckless driving and driving without a license.
While that’s not great to say the least, here’s what the Courier-Journal says about the reason for Brents’ actual arrest:
He was arrested because of a warrant stemming from an alleged incident on Jan. 26. According to police, Brents and an “unknown (co-defendant)” took five tank-top shirts and four boxer briefs from the JCPenney store at St. Matthews Mall. Brents’ court date was set for March 5, but court records show that he was not present.
Louisville has not released a statement about the matter yet but Brents is still expected to remain a member of the Cardinals’ recruiting class. In addition to being rated as a four-star defensive back by 247Sports, the local star was also listed as the state’s No. 2 prospect in the class of 2018.
Either way, not the way one wants to begin a career in college football… before it really even begins.