CFT Previews: Allstate Sugar Bowl

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WHO: No. 1 Alabama (12-1) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (12-1)
WHAT: The 80th Allstate Sugar Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET Jan. 1 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: There is more on the line for the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Big Ten Conference during the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide than simply an appearance in the first national championship game decided by a playoff system.

A win provides validity to the both the Buckeyes and the Big Ten. A loss only adds to the narrative that the Big Ten Conference and its teams are nothing more than second-class citizens in the hierarchy of college football.

“Everyone’s gonna try to make it something bigger,” Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett told USA TODAY‘s Michael Schroeder. “Everyone is gonna try to lump everybody into the Big Ten and the SEC.”

What generally separates the SEC from the other leagues around the country is the quality depth of talent each of its teams claim, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines. The Buckeyes haven’t faced anything quite like Alabama’s defensive line this season.

Alabama’s starting nose tackle, A’Shawn Robinson, is listed at 320 pounds. Jarran Reed, who is one of the nation’s top run defenderd, plays defensive end and nose tackle at 315 pounds. Plus, backup nose tackle Brandon Ivory, a senior, also weighs 310 pounds.

Among Ohio State’s five toughest opponents this season — the Virginia Tech Hokies, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Minnesota Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers — only one starting defensive lineman weighed over 300 pounds.

Alabama’s overall size and athleticism along its defensive front seven will be difficult for the Buckeyes to handle.

If Ohio State’s offensive line can hold up against that defensive front and get Alabama’s linemen running laterally,  it will open up Urban Meyer‘s entire offense.

First, the Buckeyes’ running game is built around its zone blocking. Running back Ezekiel Elliott emerged as a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. The speedster amassed 220 rushing yards against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game. Penetration is the key to stopping the Buckeyes’ blocking scheme, though. If Elliott runs free like he’s did during the previous three contest then it will make it easier on quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones will be making his second career start in one of the biggest games in college football history.

The redshirt sophomore was nearly perfect during his starting debut in the Big Ten Championship Game. He completed 64.7 percent of his passes and threw three touchdown tosses.

Ohio State’s ability to keep Jones clean in the pocket will be vital as the Buckeyes’ wide receivers, particularly senior Devin Smith, attempt to exploit an uncharacteristically porous Alabama secondary. The Crimson Tide is currently ranked 57th overall in pass defense.

But it all starts up front. If Ohio State can slow Alabama’s defensive front and vice versa, the ripple effects will be felt throughout the entirety of the contest.

THE PREDICTION: Alabama 35, Ohio State 28

 

Hawaii removes WR Melquise Stovall from program

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Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich has announced the removal of wide receiver Melquise Stovall from the program, effective immediately. While no details about the removal from the program were given, Rolovich noted all players are held to certain standards that, apparently, Stovall was unable to meet.

“There are certain expectations required of a football student-athlete here at the University of Hawai’i,” Rolovich said in a released statement. “We hold all of our student-athletes to these standards and expect them to represent our football program to the highest degree. We wish Melquise the best as he moves forward.”

Stovall appeared in five games for Hawaii this season. In those five games, Stovall caught 18 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns. During his freshman year at Cal, Stovall caught 42 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns in 2016.

Miami’s N’Kosi Perry suffers shoulder injury after returning to starting lineup to replace injured Williams

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Well, this has to sting for the Miami Hurricanes. N’Kosi Perry, who recently was temporarily named the starting quarterback, suffered a shoulder injury in Miami’s loss over the weekend to Georgia Tech. The injury to Perry, a separated shoulder, was revealed to the media Monday by Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos during a press conference according to The Miami Herald.

The shoulder injured is Perry’s left shoulder, his non-throwing shoulder. It is currently unknown how this injury may impact Perry’s availability for Miami’s road game this weekend at Pittsburgh.

“That’s up to our doctors and medical team to establish that,” Enos said.

Perry has started the last two games for Miami while starter Jarren Williams works his way back from his own shoulder injury. Williams did enter last weekend’s game in place of the injured Perry, but it is still unknown just when Williams will be ready to return to the starting role. With Perry’s status also now floating up in the air a bit, Miami could have a tough quarterback situation coming up this weekend against the Panthers. Third-string quarterback Tate Martell, who transferred from Ohio State after Justin Fields joined the Buckeyes from Georgia, would be the next in line for the Hurricanes if needed. But head coach Manny Diaz doesn’t seem to be thinking that will be necessary.

“We still have a package for Tate,” Diaz said. “But when I look at what we’re doing offensively now, and I look at our numbers … when Jarren has played and what N’Kosi has done over the last couple weeks have absolutely given us a chance to win all those games. And that’s nothing against Tate, but those guys are playing well.”

Whoever plays quarterback for Miami against the Panthers this week, it looks as though it will be either Perry or Williams.

Michigan safety J’Marick Woods enters transfer portal, looking to grad transfer

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While the Michigan Wolverines try to regroup and find a way to topple Notre Dame this week after a tough loss at Penn State, safety J’Marick Woods is the early stages of weighing his potential transfer options. Woods has reportedly entered the transfer portal.

As noted by Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic, Woods will be a graduate transfer, which will allow him to be eligible to play for any other FBS program next season. He has one final year of eligibility to use, so wherever he ends up will be for a one-year term.

Woods, a junior, has appeared in four games this season, in which he has recorded four tackles. Woods played in 11 games for Michigan last season and 12 games in 2017. The Alabama native may be better suited to finding a new opportunity as the Wolverines are in solid shape with depth in the secondary, and he was already playing a minimal role in the defense.

By entering the transfer portal, Woods is free to have contact with any other college football program interested in recruiting him to their program. Woods also has the option of pulling his name from the portal to remain at Michigan if he decides to stay put.

Injured Minnesota linebacker a game-time decision vs. Maryland

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers are looking to improve to 8-0 for the first time since winning the national championship in 1941 with an 8-0 record. When Minnesota returns home to face Maryland, a decision on whether or not linebacker Kamal Martin will be made.

Martin injured his right knee in last weekend’s road game at Rutgers, but head coach P.J. Fleck told reporters on Monday there is a chance the injury was not too serious. Fleck said Martin will be a game-time decision after monitoring his progress throughout the week and checking with trainers and medical staff to evaluate his availability.

“I don’t have a specific answer yet,” Fleck said on Monday, according to The Star Tribune. “He’s still got a few more tests. But we got some really good news, and that’s where we’re at.”

It’s possible Minnesota may not need their leading tackler to take care of Maryland at home this week, but having Martin healthy and ready to go for their following game may be essential. Minnesota hosts No. 6 Penn State on Nov. 9. The Gophers will have a bye week after playing Maryland to provide more possible rest for Martin if needed. even if Martin is ruled out for Maryland, it sounds as though Fleck is optimistic Martin will get to play against the Nittany Lions. If things work out, it could be a clash of undefeated Big Ten teams few expected could happen before the start of the season.