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No. 2 Alabama claims SEC title, Playoff spot with blowout of No. 18 Florida

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With Will Grier sidelined, Florida has an elite defense and Antonio Callaway. That combination enough to squeak by Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic, and it was enough for the Gators to hang around with Alabama. But Alabama ripped No. 18 Florida apart in the second half, and the second-ranked Tide cruised to a 29-15 win in the SEC Championship.

The win makes Alabama the first team to claim back-to-back SEC titles since Tennessee did the same in 1997-98, and all but guarantees the Tide will be the first and only team to make repeat appearances in the College Football Playoff.

After taking a 12-7 lead into the locker room, Alabama essentially broke the game open by leaning on the Gators until they cracked. And crack they did. The Tide opened the second half with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes of clock and culminated in a 30-yard Adam Griffith field goal.

After a three-and-out, Alabama then marched 10 plays in 81 yards, this time eating nearly five minutes, finished off by a 32-yard touchdown pass from Jake Coker to ArDarius Stewart, which pushed the lead to 22-7.

After a missed field goal, Coker all but sealed the game when he found Richard Mullaney for a nine-yard touchdown that put the Tide up 29-7 with 8:50 remaining.

The final score, lopsided as it was, masks the effort Geoff Collins‘ defense and Callaway’s legs posted in the first half to keep Florida in the game – and even lead it for a nine-minute spell. The Tide’s first four possessions ended scoreless, and its first five died short of the end zone. Callaway’s 46-yard first quarter reception threatened to give Florida the lead, and his 85-yard second quarter punt return score did just that.

But Kirby Smart‘s defense was just too much — far, far too much — for Treon Harris and the Gators’ offense. Florida did not score until its 12th touch of the game — a 46-yard heave from Harris to C.J. Worton with 5:03 remaining, the Gators’ first offensive points since the overtime touchdown that finally put Florida Atlantic away back on Nov. 21. All but one of those 12 possession, the drive that ended in Austin Hardin‘s blocked 40-yard field goal try, lasted four plays or less and seven of them either failed to gain yardage or moved backwards.

The Gators went deep into the fourth quarter with just three first downs and less than 100 yards of total offense, in fact.

Florida ended the game with 180 yards, on 3.27 yards per snap, seven first downs and zero third-down conversions in 11 tries. Alabama gained 437 yards of total offense and 25 first downs.

Seven days after carrying a career-high 46 times for 271 yards, Derrick Henry continued to be the locomotive that powered Alabama’s football economy. Florida successfully contained the junior Heisman Trophy candidate for much of the day, but still he charged on for 189 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries. Henry’s output was enough to put him at 1,986 yards on the season, surpassing Herschel Walker‘s 1,891 yards in 1981 for the SEC’s single-season rushing record.

Coker completed an efficient 18-of-24 passes for 204 yards and two scores, and Calvin Ridley hauled in eight grabs for 102 yards.

The win sends Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC) to tomorrow’s Selection Sunday announcement awaiting their opponent — likely Oklahoma, Iowa or Michigan State — and their destination — either South Florida or North Texas. Florida (10-3, 7-2 SEC) awaits a Sunday evening announcement of whether they’re driving downstate to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl or Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

TE Jordan Wilson to transfer from UCLA

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UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.

“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.

The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.

Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.