Kentucky Wildcats

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 29:  Jeff Badet  #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats picks up a first down as he catches a pass against Aarion Penton #11 of the Missouri Tigers in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Top deep-ball threat will take grad transfer route out of Kentucky

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When Kentucky looked for a home-run ball or chunk yardage in the passing game in 2016, quite often they’d turn to Jeff Badet.  This coming season, they’ll be forced to look in another direction.

In a somewhat surprising development, UK announced Friday that Badet has decided out of Mark Stoops‘ football program.  No specific reason was given for the unexpected departure.

The wide receiver is expected to graduate in May, which would make him eligible to play at another FBS program this upcoming season.

“I want to thank all the coaches, especially Coach Stoops, for everything they’ve done for me over the past four years,” Badet said in a statement. “I also want to thank my brothers on the team and the Big Blue Nation for their support. I just feel like it’s the best decision for me to finish my career as a graduate transfer. I’ll always be proud of receiving my degree from UK and I’ll bleed blue forever.”

A three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2013 recruiting class, Badet was third on the team in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman.  A leg injury in spring practice the following year — a tennis ball to the eye didn’t help either — led Badet to miss the 2014 season.  Returning in 2015, he was third in receiving (29-430); in 2016, he led the team in receiving yards (670) and yards per catch (21.6).

That latter number was tops in the SEC and sixth nationally.

“I appreciate Jeff and the contributions he made to the program during his time here,” Stoops said in his statement. “We wish him the best of luck in the future.”

Alabama opens as Bovada’s early 2017 title favorite

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after throwing a 68-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Alabama may have seen their dynasty temporarily derailed Monday night in Florida, but at least one wagering establishment expects Nick Saban to get it back on track post-haste.

Bovada.lv released its opening set of 2017 national championship odds very early Tuesday afternoon, with the bookmaker installing Bama as a 4/1 favorite coming off the loss to Clemson.  Last year at this time, coming off their fourth title in seven years, the same book had the Crimson Tide as a 7/1 favorite.

The team ‘Bama beat, Clemson, is at 16/1, tied with ACC Atlantic rival Louisville and behind six other teams besides the one they beat on the field last night — Florida State (7/1), Ohio State (15/2), Michigan (9/1), Oklahoma (9/1), USC (9/1) and LSU (12/1).  The other 2016 playoff team, Washington, is at 40/1, the same as 4-8 Notre Dame and behind the likes of Texas (28/1) and Miami (33/1).

Boise State, at 75/1, was the highest favorite amongst Group of Five programs.

Below are the complete list of 2018 title odds for the championship following the 2017 season, again courtesy on Bovada.lv:

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Georgia Tech fends off Kentucky for TaxSlayer Bowl victory

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Paul Johnson of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets smiles during the first half of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at EverBank Field on December 31, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Georgia Tech (9-4) held off a late rally attempt by Kentucky (7-6) and pulled out a well-timed pass play to lead to a cushion-padding touchdown to win the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, 33-18. Dedrick Mills rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown for Georgia Tech and Justin Thomas passed for 105 yards and ran for 42 more yards and a touchdown in the win over the Wildcats.

Georgia Tech got things started early with the defense putting the first points on the scoreboard. P.J. Davis picked up a loose ball fumbled away by Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson on a third down play on the game’s third play of the game. Davis returned the recovered fumble for a touchdown, which was later followed by a Georgia Tech field goal on the first offensive series for the Yellow Jackets in the first quarter. After Kentucky put a dent on the scoreboard with a field goal early in the second quarter, Georgia Tech padded its lead with 10 more points before halftime. Quarterback Justin Thomas took off running for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Georgia Tech continued to pad its decisive lead with a pair of second-half field goals, while Kentucky finally got a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Johnson completed a pass to Dorian Baker from 20 yards out, which needed a video review to confirm. The Wildcats needed 12 plays to cover 75 yards for the score, but Georgia Tech responded by putting together a time-consuming drive over 12 plays resulting in a field goal to create a 16-point advantage with 6:16 left to play.

The win by Georgia Tech helps improve the ACC 7-3 in the bowl season (Louisville lost in the Citrus Bowl at the time this game was played). The ACC will end the bowl season with a winning record against the SEC, even if Clemson should happen to lose to Alabama in the national championship game. Georgia Tech now has three bowl victories under head coach Paul Johnson and ends the season with its second-highest win total under Johnson (Johnson won 11 games twice at Georgia Tech).

Georgia Tech’s 2017 season will begin with another game against an SEC East opponent. The Yellow Jackets are scheduled to face Tennessee on Monday, September 4, 2017 in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as one half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, with Alabama and Florida State playing in the spotlight game of the opening weekend two days prior. For Georgia Tech, this will mark three straight games against SEC East opponents with a regular season finale against rival Georgia, this bowl game against Kentucky and the 2017 opener against Tennessee.

Kentucky will start the 2017 season on the road against Southern Miss on Saturday, September 2, 2017. Kentucky avoids the toughest of crossover opponents from the SEC West next season by getting Ole Miss at home and Mississippi State on the road. Kentucky will not face Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas or Texas A&M. Kentucky will also host rival Louisville in Lexington at the end of the 2017 season. The Wildcats will hope to back a second-straight postseason bowl trip for the first time since going to five straight bowl games from 2006 through 2010.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 31 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

Urban Meyer,Nick Saban
Associated Press
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 31 bowl menu, which today features two ACC vs. SEC matchups as well as a pair of games that may garner a little bit of attention beginning mid-afternoon and onto the night.

WHO: No. 20 LSU (7-4) vs. No. 13 Louisville (9-3)
WHAT: The 70th Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
THE SKINNY
: Of all the non-playoff games, and aside from the Orange Bowl, this might be the most anticipated bowl game of the 2016-17 postseason cycle, at least from my perch on this part of the world.  The most obvious — and deliciously delectable — storyline for the first-ever meeting between the two football programs is Louisville’s high-powered offense, triggered by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, that’s second nationally in points per game (45.3) squaring off with an LSU defense that’s sixth in the country in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard (16.4 ppg).  The Tigers allowed more than 21 points in a game just once this season, a 54-39 win over Texas A&M in the regular-season finale; the Cardinals scored 24 or more points in every game but one in 2016, a 36-10 loss to Houston in their penultimate regular-season game.  One of the more underrated, under-the-radar matchups in this game?   A U of L run defense that’s a very stingy ninth (110 ypg) versus an LSU rushing attack that, despite Leonard Fournette sitting this one out, is 19th at 238.1 yards per game.  That said, this game is all about how a pair of defensive masterminds, Ed Orgeron, the permanent replacement for Les Miles as head coach, and coordinator Dave Aranda, plan to handle the dynamic, all-purpose talent that is Jackson.  Houston provided LSU a road map of sorts, limiting Jackson to 211 yards through the air (on 20-of-43 passing) and a season-low 33 yards rushing in a Nov. 17 win that officially eliminated the U of L from playoff contention.  Orgeron and Aranda have had nearly four weeks to devise a game plan to mirror and match the Cougars’ success, albeit with athletes vastly superior overall to what UH has at its disposal.  Watching the chess match between the Jackson-led Bobby Petrino offense and the Tigers defense will be absolutely fascinating to see unfold.  One potential X factor: Danny Etling.  Since taking over as the starting quarterback the first month of the season, Etling has steadily righted a listing passing ship, culminating a mini resurgence in that phase of the offense with a 324-yard performance in the last game of the regular season.   Given how prolific Louisville’s offense has been, and the stoutness of their run defense, Etling may be forced to match or exceed that statistical breakout just to keep pace.  Fun fact: the last six Citrus Bowls were all decided by at least 10 points, with five of those decided by 14 or more and two by 34 or more.  The last single-digit game?  The one following the 2009 season, which saw Penn State come away with a 19-17 win over… LSU, of course.
THE LINE: Louisville, +3
THE PREDICTION: LSU 31, Louisville 30

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WHO: Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT: The 71st TaxSlayer Bowl
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
THE SKINNY
: A 2-3 start to the season that included a nine-point loss to Southern Miss had the pitchfork, torch-carrying Lexington mob howling at Mark Stoops‘ door, with the Kentucky head coach’s seat that was already warm entering 2016 heating up significantly.  A 5-2 close to the year, including a win over in-state rival Louisville, however, completely changed the tenor of the conversation, with the Wildcats qualifying for a bowl for the first time in the four-year Stoops era and first time for the football program overall since 2010.  A win in this game would give UK eight this season, the most since hitting the same mark in 2007.  Kentucky’s opponent comes into this game on an uptick as well, with Georgia Tech winning five of their last six games, a stretch that included road wins over then-No. 14 Virginia Tech and in-state rival Georgia.  If you’re a fan of rushing offense, this game is for you as Tech is 10th nationally at 257.4 ypg while UK is not far behind at 16th at 241.3.  The Wildcats, though, are tied for 107th in stopping the run at 225 per game (the Yellow Jackets are a middling 65th, more than 50 yards fewer than their SEC opponent).  Speaking of the SEC, that conference has claimed the last two TaxSlayer Bowls and four of the last six.  The ACC hasn’t won one since after the 2009 season, a Florida State triumph in what was Bobby Bowden‘s final game of a Hall of Fame career.
THE LINE: Kentucky, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 24, Kentucky 20

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WHO: No. 4 Washington (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (13-0)
WHAT: The College Football Playoff at the 49th Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
THE LINE: Washington, +14½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 3 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 2 Clemson (12-1)
WHAT
: The College Football Playoff at the 46th PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
WHEN
: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
THE LINE
: Clemson, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Georgia Tech lineman skipping final season to join NASCAR pit crew

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Defensive players of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets  line up against  offensive players of the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 3, 2012 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
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There’s been plenty of talk this month about the decisions of Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Forunette to skip their bowl game and turn pro but they’re not the only ones thinking about their future this month.

Georgia Tech offensive tackle Eason Fromayan told ESPN that the upcoming TaxSlayer Bowl will be his final game for the Yellow Jackets because he’s going to start training for the next level.

Well, not for the NFL… but to earn a spot on a NASCAR pit crew.

“I guess it’s unusual to cut a career early like that, but I’m graduated and everything,” Fromayan said. “We can end it on a high note. You never know what can happen coming up, so if there’s an opportunity to better my situation, it seems right to take it.”

The 6-foot-4, 285 pounder is hoping to become a gas man or jack man on a pit crew and has been a NASCAR fan since he was little so the move isn’t completely out of the blue. Several ex-football players have taken the same path although this might be the first time one is giving up a full year of eligibility to pursue the sport.

While it’s not uncommon to hear about players going pro early, it’s not everyday that one announces a career change to auto racing at the same time.