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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.

Miami’s Evidence Njoku tweets decision to enter transfer portal

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Following a standout career at Miami, David Njoku was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Njoku’s younger brother had hoped to follow in his footsteps at The U, but, as it turns out, that won’t be the case.

On his personal Twitter account Monday afternoon, Evidence Njoku announced that, “after Deep Thought And Discussion I Have Decided To Enter The Transfer Portal To Furthermore Continue My Athletic And Academic Career.” The tight end gave no specific reason for his decision.

“He’s a good young man,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. “We wish him well wherever he ends up.”

Njoku was a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2017 recruiting class who came to The U as a wide receiver before converting to tight end.  After playing in eight games as a redshirt freshman last season, he had played in just one game thus far in 2019.

The 6-6, 226-pound New Jersey native finishes the Hurricanes portion of his collegiate p[laying career with just one catch for 11 yards, with that coming in the last year’s regular-season finale against Pitt.

Florida announces future home-and-home with Arizona State

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With the 2019 regular season rapidly drawing to a close, Florida has dropped some future scheduling news on the masses.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Florida confirmed that it has agreed to a future home-and-home series with Arizona State.  The Gators will travel to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe in 2028, with the Sun Devils making the trek to The Swamp in Gainesville in 2031.

The 2028 game will be played on Sept. 16, while the backend of the series will be played either Sept. 6 or 13 of 2031.

That first matchup in 2028 will mark the first-ever meeting between the football programs.

Arizona State last played at the home of an SEC school in 2009, a 20-17 loss to Georgia in Athens.  Florida’s last trip to a Pac-12 school was a 1983 tie with USC.  The Gators last played host to a school from that conference the year before, with the Trojans serving as the opponent once again.

Wake Forest loses ACC’s leader in receiving yards, touchdowns to season-ending injury

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Wake Forest lost much more than a football game this past Saturday.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 11 loss to Virginia Tech that, along with Clemson’s win later that night, cost Wake any shot at the ACC Atlantic championship, Sage Surratt went down with some type of upper-body injury and didn’t return.  Tuesday, during his weekly press conference, head coach Dave Clawson confirmed that the redshirt sophomore wide receiver will miss the remainder of the 2019 season because of the injury, which he again declined to specify.

Clawson added that Surratt will undergo surgery to repair the unspecified damage.

Surratt’s 1,001 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns are the most of any player in the ACC, and are good for fifth and tied for fifth, respectively, at the FBS level.  His 66 receptions are second only to Pitt’s Maurice Ffrench‘s 75 in the conference.

In addition to this Saturday’s game against No. 5 Clemson, Surratt will miss regular-season games against Duke and Syracuse as well as whichever bowl at which Wake lands.

Chase Young to continue practicing with team as Ohio State awaits resolution on NCAA issue

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When it comes to the Chase Young situation at Ohio State, the football program is still in wait-and-see mode.

Top-ranked Ohio State confirmed last Friday morning that star defensive end Chase Young would not be playing in this Saturday’s game against Maryland.  Per the school, Young will be sidelined for the foreseeable future “due to a possible NCAA issue from 2018 that the Department of Athletics is looking into.”  On his personal Twitter account, Young acknowledged he had “made a mistake last year by accepting a loan from a family friend” that he “repaid… in full last summer.” It was subsequently reported that the loan was used to pay for airfare for Young’s family — or, more specifically, his girlfriend — so they could see him play in January’s Rose Bowl against Washington.

On ESPN‘s College GameDay a day later, Kirk Herbstreit, a former Buckeyes quarterback, stated that, because of the amount of money involved, Young will be slotted for a four-game suspension.  The university will appeal that initial number and it’s expected that the suspension will be knocked down to “two games, maybe three games,” Herbstreit stated, adding, “it won’t stay at four.”

In the three days since, there’s been no update on Young’s status as OSU prepares for this weekend’s in-season conference scrimmage against Rutgers.  During his press conference Tuesday, Ryan Day indicated that there is no new information on Young’s availability moving forward.  Per the head coach, the lineman will continue to practice with his Buckeyes teammates as if he will play against the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway Saturday, even as there is no guarantee he will.

Aside from individual statistics, Young’s availability for Rutgers is inconsequential.  With back-to-back games against No. 4 (for now) Penn State and No. 14 Michigan after RU, though, Young being on the field will be of the utmost importance for playing-minded Ohio State.

As part of Herbstreit’s Saturday report, the college football analyst stated that “OSU expects to hear an answer from the NCAA on the appeal next week.” It should be noted that OSU has pushed back against the accuracy of Herbstreit’s report, specifically that the four-game suspension angle.

Despite missing this past weekend’s game, a blowout win over the Terps, Young still leads the nation in sacks (13½) and sacks per game (1.69).  The junior, widely expected be one of the first players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft if he does the expected and foregoes his remaining eligibility, is also third nationally in tackles per loss per game (1.9).