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.

Tua Tagovailoa’s injury means little brother won’t be able to redshirt at Alabama this season

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Tua Tagovailoa‘s Injury Heard ‘Round the College Football World last Saturday, as it turns out, won’t just impact Alabama’s push for a sixth consecutive playoff berth.

Prior to Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury, Alabama had planned on redshirting Tagovailoa’s younger brother, Taulia Tagovailoa, who had been serving as the Crimson Tide’s No. 3 quarterback as a true freshman this season.  As the third-string quarterback, the younger Tagovailoa had played in four games in 2019, the threshold of appearances for a player to still maintain the ability to redshirt.

Because of the injury to his brother, however, Nick Saban confirmed Thursday that Tagovailoa will play Saturday against FCS Western Carolina, meaning a redshirt will officially be off the table.

We’re gonna play him this week in this game some kind of way regardless of how the game goes to try to get him some experience, some playing time and hopefully some confidence,” the head coach said on his weekly radio show. “When we had the unfortunate injury last week to Tua, that kind of negated the opportunity to be able to redshirt to Taulia. …

“With him being now the backup quarterback, we thought we needed to play him, because if something happens to this quarterback, Mac Jones, he’s going to be the guy that’s got to go in the game and try to win the game for us.”

A four-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2019 recruiting class, Tagovailoa was rated as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Alabama (he and his family moved to Tuscaloosa when his brother joined the Tide in 2017).  In limited action this season, Tagovailoa has completed seven-of-nine passes for 72 yards.

Tagovailoa will now serve as the redshirt sophomore Jones’ primary backup moving forward, and those two will compete for the starting job next year if the older Tagovailoa brother does the expected and enters the 2020 NFL Draft.

DB Deon White leaving Cal as a grad transfer

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After a stellar spring game, the stage seemed to be set for Deon White to shine in what would’ve been his last season at Cal.  Instead, the defensive back will finish his collegiate career at an undetermined elsewhere.

Via Twitter earlier this week, White announced that he has decided to leave the Golden Bears and transfer to another school.  As White would be departing with a bachelor’s degree in hand, he would be eligible to play at another FBS school in 2020.

Next season would serve as White’s final year of eligibility as he will take a redshirt for the 2019 campaign.

After beginning his career at a California junior college, White played in a dozen games during his first season with the Bears in 2018.  During this year’s spring game, he totaled a team-high seven tackles and two tackles for loss.

Despite all of that, White had played in just one game this season prior to his decision to enter the portal.

Broken jaw leaves Pitt’s top WR a game-time decision

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If Pitt is to keep its ACC Coastal hopes alive this weekend, they may have to do so (again) without a very productive piece of its offensive puzzle.

Maurice Ffrench suffered a broken jaw in Pitt’s Nov. 2 win over Georgia Tech, then was sidelined for this past week’s win over North Carolina.  With a trip to Blacksburg on tap for this Saturday, Ffrench is official a game-time decision for the matchup with Virginia Tech.

“He’s practiced this week,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said, noting that the senior was in non-contact mode. “His jaw is better than it was before.”

Ffrench had a steel plate inserted into his broken jaw, which will give him a better chance of seeing the field this weekend.

Ffrench currently leads all ACC players in receptions (75) and receptions per game (8.3).  The receptions per game are also third nationally.

Pitt is 4-2 in ACC play entering Week 13, tied with Virginia Tech for second place in the Coastal and a half-game behind first-place Virginia (5-2).  The Panthers have already lost the Cavaliers this year, meaning they would need UVa to lose its last conference game of the regular season (Nov. 29 against rival Tech) in addition to winning each of their last two games (at Tech, home vs. Boston College) in order to earn a spot opposite Clemson in the ACC championship game.

Dismissed by South Carolina, ex-USC DB Jamel Cook enters the portal

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Jamel Cook‘s roller coaster ride of a collegiate career officially includes a stop at the portal; whether it’ll include a third stop at an FBS school remains to be seen.

Late last month, following an arrest on one count of second-degree domestic violence, Cook was dismissed from the South Carolina football program.  Following up on speculation from earlier in the week, an East Coast USC official has confirmed that the defensive back’s name is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.

Cook was originally a four-star member of the Left Coast USC’s 2016 signing class, rated as the No. 17 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He played in three games in two years for the Trojans before transferring to the Gamecocks following the 2017 season.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the defensive back was forced to sit out the 2018 season.

This year, Cook had appeared in one game prior to his off-field issue.