Carl Nassib

CFT Previews: TaxSlayer Bowl

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WHO: Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5)
WHAT: The 71st TaxSlayer Bowl
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
WHEN: 12:00 pm ET, January 2 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Georgia and Penn State may not bring the best offenses to Jacksonville, but they sure do have some solid defenses. That should make for a scrappy game on both sides of the field, and it might be a bit of a sloppy one too.

Georgia made it to Jacksonville undergoing a coaching transition. With Mark Richt let go (and since being hired by Miami; Georgia has since hired Alabama defensive cooridnator Kirby Smart, who is sticking with the Crimson Tide through the national championship game), the Georgia preparations have had to be done under interim head coach Bryan McClendon as the entire staff undergoes some changes. What that means for the execution and preparedness of the Bulldogs remains to be seen. Also, what will the morale of the team be like? One thing viewers should count on is seeing Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus lead the defense. The former UAB linebacker landed at Georgia after the UAB program temporarily shut down at the end of last season, and he quickly made an impact in Athens and earned the respect of his teammates. Ganus was voted a team MVP this season and a chance to play in a bowl game after UAB was left without an invitation last season will not be taken lightly. Ganus will be extra important because Georgia will be without Davin Bellamy due to a leg practice suffered in practice this week.

When it comes to defense, this is where Penn State typically shines as well, although there have been some games where the defense has been gassed. The extra time off to regropup and recuperate from a brutal end to the season could come in handy for Penn State. Award-winning pass rusher Carl Nassib will lead the defensive front for Penn State against a shaky at best Georgia offense. Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson will first try to shut down any running lanes Georgia will try to expose. If Penn State can take away the running game, that puts the pressure on Georgia’s unreliable passing game. Of course, Penn State has their own concerns with passing stability with hot and cold Christian Hackenberg playing behind a shaky offensive line.

Both teams bring talented young 1,000-yard running backs to the game as well. Georgia sophomroe Sony Michel (1,076 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has become Georgia’s go-to back while Penn State freshman Saquon Barkley (1,007 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has turned in quite an impressive debut season.

THE PREDICTION: Georgia 23, Penn State 20

Sporting News All-American Team headlined by Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey

AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and runner-up Christan McCaffrey were named First Team All-Americans by Sporting News on Tuesday. The Crimson Tide and Cardinal running backs nudged out Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and LSU’s Leonard Fournette for the first-team honors, while both Cook and Fournette filled the running back slots on the second team. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, landed on the second team from Sporting News, with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield winning first team honors.

The full Sporting News All-American teams are listed below. The Sporting News All-American team is the fourth All-American team to be revealed that is used to make up the NCAA’s consensus All-American team. The previous three are the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Associated Press and the Football Writers Association of America. Tomorrow, the American Football Coaches Association will release the fifth and final All-American list recognized by the NCAA for its consensus list.

FIRST TEAM

Offense

QB – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
RB – Derrick Henry, Alabama; Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
WR – Corey Coleman, Baylor; Josh Doctson, TCU
TE – Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL – Joshua Garnett, Stanford; Spencer Drango Baylor; Ryan Kelly, Alabama; Jack Conklin, Michigan State; Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
K – Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
KR – Evan Berry, Tennessee

Defense

DE – Carl Nassib, Penn State; Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DT – A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama; Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
LB – Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame; Reggie Ragland, Alabama; Eric Striker, Oklahoma
CB – Desmond King, Iowa; Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
S – Jeremy Cash, Duke; Vonn Bell, Ohio State
P – Tom Hackett, Utah
PR – Cam Sutton, Tennessee

SECOND TEAM

Offense

QB – Deshaun Watson, Clemson
RB – Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Leonard Fournette, LSU
WR – Will Fuller, Notre Dame; JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
TE – Jake Butt, Michigan
OL – Vadal Alexander, LSU; Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas; Taylor Decker, Ohio State; Jason Spriggs, Indiana; Roderick Johnson, Florida State
K – Ka’lmi Fairbairn, UCLA
KR – Morgan Burns, Kansas State

Defense

DE – Joey Bosa, Ohio State; Shaq Lawson, Clemson
DT- Jonathan Bullard, Florida; Andrew Billings, Baylor
LB – Kentrell Brothers, Missouri;Tyler Matakevich, Temple; Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
CB – Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma; Jalen Tabor, Florida
S – Jabrill Peppers, Michigan; Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
P – Drew Kasar, Texas A&M
PR – Dante Pettis, Washington

Heisman winner Derrick Henry, finalists and more fill Football Writers All-American team

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson,file
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The bulk of the college football award season may be behind us, but the key All-American teams continue to be released in the coming days before the NCAA assembles this year’s list of consensus All-Americans. The Associated Press released its All-American list on Sunday. On Monday it was time for the Football Writers Association of American to release its annual list of All-Americans. Heisman Trophy winning running back from Alabama Derrick Henry was an easy pick for first team honors, as were fellow finalists Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford. McCaffrey did not make the cut at running back, but was given first team honors as a kick returner.

Joining Henrey as first team All-American running backs are Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU. Fournette and Henry each earned first-team honors from the AP as well, while Cook made the second team cut.

First Team Offense

  • QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  • RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
  • RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
  • RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
  • WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
  • WR Josh Doctson, TCU
  • OL Spencer Drango, Baylor
  • OL Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  • OL Jason Springs, Indiana
  • OL Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
  • C Ryan Kelly, Alabama

First Team Defense

  • DL Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  • DL Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  • DL Carl Nassib, Penn State
  • DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
  • LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
  • LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  • LB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
  • DB Jeremy Cash, Duke
  • DB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  • DB Desmond King, Iowa
  • DB Shawun Lurry, Northern Illinois

First Team Special Teams

  • K Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA
  • P Tom Hackett, Utah
  • KR Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
  • PR William Likely, Maryland

Second Team All-America Team

Offense: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State; RB Royce Freeman, Oregon; WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame; WR Roger Lewis, Bowling Green; WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC; OL Jack Conklin, Michigan State; OL Taylor Decker, Ohio State; OL Tyler Johnstone, Oregon; OL Landon Turner, North Carolina; C Jack Allen, Michigan State. Defense: DL Andrew Billings, Baylor; DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon; DL Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State; DL; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; LB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame; LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma; DB Eddie Jackson, Alabama; DB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State; DB Darian Thompson, Boise State. Specialists: K Jaden Oberkrom, TCU; P Michael Carrizosa, San José State; KR Evan Berry, Tennessee; PR Cameron Sutton, Tennessee.

Ezekiel Elliott wins Silver Football as Big Ten MVP

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
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While Alabama running back Derrick Henry was busy making room on his mantle for a plethora of awards Thursday night, including two player of the year awards (Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year) and the Doak Walker Award (best running back), Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott will be making room for a Big Ten honor. Elliott was named this year’s winner of the Silver Football, presented to the Big Ten’s best player by The Chicago Tribune.

The vote for the award is determined by ballots submitted by each head coach of a Big Ten football program. This year’s vote included 13 ballots, as Kyle Flood did not submit a vote after being fired by Rutgers. Elliott received eight first-place votes from the Big Ten coaches. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook received three first-place votes and four second-place votes to finish in second place. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard received a pair of first-place votes and finished in third.

Other players receiving votes for the Silver Football included Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib, Iowa defensive back Desmond King, Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, Northwestern defensive end Dean Lowry, Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock and Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert.

The Chicago Tribune has handed out a Silver Football every season since 1924. Elliott is the 18th player from Ohio State to win the award, which breaks a tie with Michigan for the most all-time Silver Football winners. Iowa is the only other program to have double-digit winners (10). Elliott is the second Ohio State player to win the award in the last four years, joining two-time Silver Football winner Braxton Miller (2012, 2013).

Blocked Michigan punt leads to PSU TD, but Wolverines take halftime lead

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A blocked punt for Michigan gave Penn State’s lifeless offense a glimmer of hope, but Penn State’s inability to stop the opposition from answering allowed Michigan to take a 14-10 lead into the half in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions cashed in on the special teams gaffe by the Wolverines when Christain Hackenberg lofted a deep pass to Saeed Blacknall for a 25-yard rainbow touchdown and a 10-7 lead. But Michigan got a good kick return from Jourdan Lewis to take over at their 30-yard line with three timeouts left and 2:01 to play. A third-and-10 conversion with a great catch from Amara Darboh moved the football 26 yards into Penn State territory. Missed tackles were key for Penn State as Michigan used smart, short plays to pick up extra yardage as well as De’Veon Smith picked up 11 yards on one play when he could have been stopped for a minimal gain. Jake Rudock connected with Darboh again for an 11-yard go-ahead touchdown.

Penn State’s game-opening drive reached the red zone quickly thanks to a 56-yard run by Saquon Barkley, but Michigan tightened up and held the Nittany Lions to a field goal for the game’s first points.

Michigan answered using some good pass protection for Jake Rudock to move down the field using the middle fo the field to their advantage. Jehu Chesson caught a couple of big gains on third down situations to keep Michigan’s opening drive alive, and Rudock found an open Jake Butt down near the goal line and the tight end took the extra steps needed before falling into the end zone for a 7-3 lead.

After Penn State scuffled on their next drive, it was the defense that made some plays to try and turn the field of possession. A big sack by Torrence Brown (in for Carl Nassib) put the Wolverines in a 3rd and 17, and Blake Bell picked off the next pass from Rudock.