CFT Previews: Three X-factors for the National Championship

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You know about Marcus Mariota and Cardale Jones. You know about Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner and Ezekiel Elliott. You know about Urban Meyer and Mark Helfrich. You even know about Brutus and Puddles.

But here are three things you may not have considered that could paint the national championship trophy in scarlet and gray or apple green and electric yellow. We in the business like to call them X-factors.

1: Arik Armstead and Joey Bosa (and their friends). In a game that boils down to quarterback vs. quarterback, the team that makes the other guy’s signal caller most uncomfortable will likely win. Oregon pass rusher Armstead will look to get to Jones before he can get ahead of steam in the run game (or fire a 60-yard bomb to his plethora of speedsters on the outside). On the other side, constant pressure is the only proven antidote to beating Mariota in his three years as a starter.

2: Tyler JohnstoneIfo Ekpre-OlomuBralon AddisonDarren CarringtonDevon Allen and Pharoah Brown. Oregon obviously has fantastic depth to make it this far without the four listed above, but could there be a moment late in the game, with Ohio State fans joyous, Meyer cracking a smile and Puddles showing a longer face than normal, that you start to think, “Man, it’d be nice the Ducks had their top left tackle, top cornerback, top three wide receivers and/or top tight end, wouldn’t it?”

Chris Seisay did a fine job filling in for Ekpre-Olomu, and the Ducks limited Florida State’s Rashad Greene to six grabs for just 59 yards, but Ohio State’s receiving corps is better than the ‘Noles. The Oregon offensive line has charged along well without Johnstone this season, but they haven’t faced a defensive front as multi-faceted as Ohio State’s. Evan Baylis set career highs in the Rose Bowl with six receptions for 73 yards in the Rose Bowl, proving a capable replacement to Brown. But without Carrington, Allen and Addison (who hasn’t played at all this season), Oregon’s top remaining receiver is Dwayne Stanford, a sophomore who averaged 4.5 receptions for 44 yards in 13 games this season.

3: Sean Nuemberger and Aidan Schneider or Matt Wogan. These three anonymous gentlemen are your title game kickers. Ohio State has ridden with Nuemberger all year, to mixed results. The freshman has knocked in 13-of-20 field goals this year; he hit both of his tries in the Sugar Bowl but is just 5-of-10 from beyond 40 yards this season. Oregon has alternated between Schneider and Wogan this season, leaning on the former in the Rose Bowl. Schneider is 9-of-10 on the year, while Wogan is 7-of-9. Neither has been used a lot this season, and each squad’s dominance throughout the season means none of the three has been asked to make a game-on-the-line kick. Now there’s a greater than zero chance one of them will face that situation for the first time with a national championship on the line.

Auburn WR Jashawn Sheffield arrested twice in one-week span last month in Georgia

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Thanks to an Auburn football player, it’s a two-for-Tuesday on the arrest front.  And, to clarify, that’s player in the singular.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Jashawn Sheffield was arrested May 9 in Georgia on one count of disorderly conduct.  But wait, there’s more.  Exactly one week later, the Tigers wide receiver was arrested in the Peach State yet again, this time “DUI Less Safe.”

Both of those charges, incidentally, are misdemeanors.

No details of what led to either arrest have been released.  As for the DUI charge?  The Advertiser writes that “[i]n the state of Georgia, a ‘DUI Less Safe’ can be charged if a law enforcement officer believes a driver is less safe behind the wheel because of alcohol consumption, even if that person is under a specific blood-alcohol content.”

As a result of the two off-field incidents, though, Sheffield has been indefinitely suspended by the Auburn football program.  AU football players are set to return to campus next week to commence voluntary workouts.  Because of the suspension, the receiver won’t be one of the ones returning.

Sheffield was a four-star member of the Auburn football Class of 2019.  The Georgia native was the No. 28 player in his home state regardless of position.  The 6-1, 183-pound receiver also played in the Under Armour All-America game.

As a true freshman, Sheffield appeared in one game.  He didn’t catch any passes in that lone appearance.  He did, though, rush for 30 yards on a pair of carries.

Because he played in four or fewer games, however, Sheffield was able to take a redshirt for the 2019 campaign.

(Tip O’ the Cap: The Fulmer Cup)

LSU adds first-ever games vs. Grambling, Southern to future schedules

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Amidst these trying times across the country, LSU has made a couple of historic additions to its future football schedules.

Monday, LSU announced that it has added a pair of one-off football games with Grambling and Southern.  LSU will face Southern on Sept. 10, 2022.  Grambling and LSU will then tangle Sept. 9 the following season.  Obviously, both of those will be played at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Both Grambling and Southern are Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state of Louisiana.  It will mark the first time LSU has ever played either in football.

“This is an incredible opportunity to join our fan bases of these historic Louisiana institutions and championship programs,” athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement. “These dates will be days to celebrate not only football, but the state of Louisiana and all of our people. It’s time and we are all proud to be a part of it.”

“We are excited to announce our games against Southern and Grambling in the future,” LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said in his statement. “We have a great relationship with all universities in our state. It is important to LSU to have a great relationship with all of the universities in our state.”

The two games also complete LSU’s nonconference schedules for both seasons.  In addition to Southern, LSU will face Florida State (Sept. 4, New Orleans), New Mexico (Sept. 24) and UAB (Sept. 28) in 2022.  The following year, its Florida State (Sept. 3, Orlando), Army (Oct. 21) and Georgia State (Nov. 18) joining Grambling.

Report: Two Marshall football players test positive for COVID-19, are in isolation

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It appears Marshall will serve as a guinea pig for the rest of the college football world.

Monday, Marshall announced that three individuals — two student-athletes and one university employee — tested positive for coronavirus.  It was subsequently reported that the two student-athletes are Marshall football players.  According to the school, none of the three cases are related.

All three, incidentally, are asymptomatic.  None of the names are being released by the university.

Ahead of the return to campus, the individuals were tested for the virus.  All three are, per university protocol, now in isolation.  Their close contacts are being identified and instructed to follow appropriate protocols, including quarantine or self-isolation, the university stated.

Below are some of the guidelines being followed by the university:

  • All student-athletes arriving on campus are in mandatory self-isolation for one week;
  • Following the completion of the self-isolation period, all student-athletes are tested for COVID-19 and must return a confirmed negative result before being allowed out of self-isolation;
  • All Athletic Department employees who come in close contact with student-athletes are being tested; and
  • Any student-athlete returning a positive test is required to quarantine and follow positive test guidelines. A student-athlete who tests positive will be required to secure a negative test before completing the quarantine period.

“It shows that what you are doing is working,” said Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick. “If a positive comes up, we’ve caught it and we can quarantine them. Everyone else was negative and what we set out to do with our testing is working. I think that’s the positive thing about it. You want to know. That’s why you test.”

Notre Dame-Navy game moving from Dublin to Annapolis

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As expected, the pandemic will impact this year’s matchup between Notre Dame and Navy.

Notre Dame and Navy are scheduled to open the 2020 season Aug. 29 in Dublin, Ireland.  While there were talks about moving the game, Navy’s athletic director was confident the game would still be played as scheduled.  And where scheduled.  In late April, though, it was confirmed that, even if the game could be played in Dublin, it would likely be fan-less.

Tuesday morning, the inevitable occurred as it was announced the matchup between Notre Dame and Navy will not be played in Dublin.  Instead, it will take place in Annapolis at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

This will mark the first-ever time the rivalry game has been played at the home of the Midshipmen.

“We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August,” the Navy AD, Chet Gladchuk, said in a statement. “But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved. I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large. Once we have a definitive plan in place, we will announce the specifics pertaining to the game. I am extremely grateful to all that were involved in the planning of our game in Aviva Stadium, especially John Anthony and Padraic O’Kane who created what would have been another extraordinary event in Dublin. I realize many are disappointed and were looking forward to the spectacle of this event and a visit to the Emerald Isle, but I do know there is a complete understanding of why it’s in our best interests to make every effort to relocate the game.”

“Our student-athletes have had great experiences competing in Ireland and are very disappointed not to be returning to Dublin in 2020,” said Gladchuk’s counterpart with the Fighting Irish, Jack Swarbrick, in his statement. “The change of venue has been a very difficult decision for our colleagues at the Naval Academy, but we are in full support of their choice. We are also grateful for everything our partners in Ireland have done to make this a smooth transition. We look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future.”

In addition to the venue change, the date will be changed as well.  While not yet determined, it will be played Labor Day weekend on either that Saturday (Sept. 5) or Sunday (Sept. 6).

This year’s game will mark the 94th-consecutive meeting between the programs, making it the longest-continuous-intersectional rivalry in the country.