Associated Press

No. 11 Florida on brink of SEC East title after chomping Georgia

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It wasn’t supposed to happen this year, what with Jim McElwain still picking up the pieces left by the Will Muschamp regime and quarterback Will Grier suspended for the rest of the year and then some. It wasn’t supposed to happen this year, but it is. After a 27-3 thrashing of Georgia Saturday in Jacksonville, No. 11 Florida all but clinched a spot in its 11th SEC championship game and first since 2009.

All that’s required from here is a win over Vanderbilt next week. If that doesn’t happen, all the Gators would need is a win over South Carolina the following week (both games are in The Swamp) or a ‘Dores loss to Texas A&M or Tennessee in the weeks to follow. Point is, Florida is winning the SEC East, Georgia is not, and it could not be more obvious why.

On a day when neither team found consistent play from its quarterback, Florida did everything Georgia did not, staking itself to a 20-0 halftime lead through the trusted bit of well-timed opportunism the Gators have used throughout McElwain’s first season. The downpour started when Georgia’s Reggie Davis muffed a punt at his own five-yard line, and Florida’s Nick Washington recovered in the end zone to give the Gators a 6-0 lead (the ensuing PAT was blocked). The score remained that way until Florida quarterback Treon Harris, who’d missed nine straight passes to that point, hit Antonio Calloway for a 66-yard catch-and-run score with 5:06 to play in the second quarter.

As if that didn’t end the game right there, Florida’s defense made sure of it two plays later when Vernon Hargreaves III snagged a tipped interception at the Georgia 20 and returned it to the five-yard line. Kelvin Taylor punched in a three-yard score two snaps later.

Georgia had a chance to pull within two scores early in the third quarter when Davin Bellamy sacked and stripped Harris at the Florida 26, but the Bulldogs settled for a 27-yard Marshall Morgan field goal. The Dogs had one more chance midway through the fourth quarter when, facing a 2nd-and-goal at the Florida 3, Bauta tossed a pressured throw into the end zone, which deflected off Jalen Tabor‘s right hand and into the waiting arms of Florida’s Keeanu Neal.

The Gators hammered the final nail in the coffin with a six-play, 80-yard drive, punctuated by a 16-yard Taylor touchdown run.

Making his first career start, Bauta confirmed Georgia’s offense is comprised of one injured running back and zero capable quarterbacks. The junior completed 15-of-33 passes for 154 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. With no passing game to help him and no Nick Chubb to spell him, Sony Michel struggled to find room with just 11 carries for 45 yards.

Florida ran roughshod over Georgia for the second year in a row, as Taylor led the charge with 23 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns, Jordan Scarlett added nine carries for 96 yards. Harris rushed 10 times for 39 yards while connecting on 8-of-19 throws for 155 yards and a touchdown.

In all, the score can be accurately and acutely summarized in two statistics: Florida out-rushed Georgia 258-69 and enjoyed a whopping 5-1 turnover margin.

The loss drops Georgia to 5-3 (3-3 SEC) on the year, and clinches a 10th straight season without an SEC championship and a third straight year without an SEC East crown in a span when the division hasn’t produced a national championship contender.

That is, outside of this Florida team that just implanted its cleat in Georgia’s chest.

Lack of class credits behind eligibility issue as Quintez Cephus returns to football practice at Wisconsin

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Now we officially know the rest of the story. How it will ultimately all play out, though, is decidedly uncertain.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Monday that Quintez Cephus had been reinstated and is again a student in good standing at the school, two weeks after being found not guilty on a pair of sexual assault charges and almost immediately seeking reinstatement.  Initially, there was some uncertainty when it came to the wide receiver’s status with the football team; in a statement released a few hours after the reinstatement affirmation, UW confirmed that Cephus had indeed rejoined the Badgers team.

The school did note in that release, though, that they “are working through eligibility issues before he can participate in a game.” Wednesday, the same day Cephus returned to practice with the rest of his Badger teammates, Paul Chryst expounded on the eligibility issue, telling reporters that it revolves around the lack of class credits, which stemmed from his expulsion from the school before the spring semester this year ended.

At this point, whether the credit issue can be successfully navigated before the Badgers’ open the 2019 season the weekend after next remains to be seen.

Two days after very loudly proclaiming his innocence and announcing he was taking a leave of absence from the Wisconsin football team, Cephus was charged in late August of last year with felony sexual assault of an intoxicated victim and felony sexual assault.  The criminal complaint filed against him stated that he allegedly “sexually assaulted two drunken women at once in the bedroom of his apartment in April” of 2018.

It took a jury of his peers less than 45 minutes to acquit him on both of those counts earlier this month.

Cephus was initially suspended by the Badgers football program before being expelled by the university last semester.  In October of last year, Cephus sued the University of Wisconsin-Madison in U.S. District Court, claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights.  That suit was dropped in March of this year.

In 2017, and despite missing the last five games because of a broken leg, Cephus led the run-centric Badgers in receiving touchdowns with six and yards per catch at 16.7.  His 501 receiving yards were good for second, while his 30 receptions were third on the team.  Because of the off-field situation that led to the suspension, Cephus didn’t play at all in 2018.

Including this season, Cephus has two years of eligibility he can use.

RB who transferred from UTEP to Georgia Southern this offseason reverses course, returns to Miners

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Who says you can’t go home again, even in the same offseason?

Joshua Fields left UTEP earlier this offseason and, in June of this year, enrolled in classes at Georgia Southern as he was set to continue his collegiate playing career with the Eagles. It was also reported that the running back would seek a waiver from the NCAA that would grant him immediate eligibility at the Sun Belt Conference school.

Fast-forward two months, though, and it’s now being reported that Fields has decided to reverse course and return to the Miners. That development came a couple of days after the Eagles confirmed in a statement that Fields was no longer a part of the program.

Joshua left the team early in camp. We wish him the best of luck moving forward.

According to the El Paso Times, Fields initially left the Miners because of a family member’s health issue, “but those circumstances changed and now he is back with his family in El Paso.” The Times also reports that Fields should be eligible to play for UTEP this season, presumably because he never attended classes at GSU despite enrolling at the university.

Clarification on his status could come as early as Thursday.

In 2017, Fields’ 362 yards rushing (on 89 carries) were tops on the Miners. According to the school at the time, Fields was the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2013.

This past season, however, Fields’ production dipped to 57 yards on 31 attempts, which works out to just 1.8 yards per carry. That yards-per-attempt figure was the lowest among all FBS running backs with at least 30 carries last year.

Braden White named prestigious 12th Man at Texas A&M

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The 12th Man is a big, big deal at Texas A&M. In fact, it’s pretty much the brand of not just the football program, but the entire athletics department. Case in point, A&M’s athletics department website is 12thman.com.

For the uninitiated, in 1922 the Aggies found themselves short of players in a football game against Center College, the No. 1 team in the country at the time, after multiple players sustained injuries over the course of the game. Down to just 11 players, A&M student E. King Gill volunteered to suit up and stand on the sidelines in case the team needed him. Gill now has a statue outside of Kyle Field, and A&M’s student section is collectively referred to as the 12th Man.

As such, it’s a tremendous honor for an active Aggie player to be awarded the No. 12 and, after fullback Cullen Gillaspia donned the jersey for a record-tying 39 games, it’s time to hand it off to a new player.

On Tuesday, Jimbo Fisher awarded the No. 12 jersey to Braden White, a walk-on linebacker from Florence, Ala.

“I’m honored just to be able to represent this great university and everything about it,” White said. “It’s a true blessing.”

White is a redshirt junior who has checked all the boxes of a player who checks all the 12th Man boxes. He was named Defensive Scout Team MVP during his redshirt year of 2016 and was honored as the Top Conditioned Athlete at the Aggies’ 2018 team banquet. He has appeared in 18 career games, recording 16 career tackles playing primarily as a special teams contributor.

White will wear No. 12 for the first time next when Texas A&M — ranked, ironically, No. 12 in the preseason AP poll — hosts Texas State next Thursday night (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

UConn begins building out independent schedules with BC home-and-home

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Until they tell us otherwise, Connecticut is going to try to make it as an FBS independent. This upcoming season will be the Huskies’ final one as a member of the American Athletic Conference, as the Huskies’ Olympic sports will return to the Big East and the football team will go it alone.

This will require lots (and lots and lots) of scheduling work, and quickly. As of now, the Huskies have four games on the schedule for a season that begins 12 months from now.

While it does nothing to help the 2020 slate, UConn began chipping away at the mountain in front of it on Wednesday by announcing a home-and-home with Boston College. The first game will be Oct. 29, 2022 in Storrs, with the return game going down Oct. 28, 2023 in Chestnut Hill.

The two programs have met 14 times previously; BC leads the series 12-0-2. The Eagles took the most recent meeting 39-16 in 2017.

Additionally, BC announced a 2023-28 home-and-home with Army and a Sept. 9, 2023 home game with Holy Cross.