CFT Previews: TaxSlayer Bowl

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WHO: Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5)
WHAT: The 71st TaxSlayer Bowl
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
WHEN: 12:00 pm ET, January 2 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Georgia and Penn State may not bring the best offenses to Jacksonville, but they sure do have some solid defenses. That should make for a scrappy game on both sides of the field, and it might be a bit of a sloppy one too.

Georgia made it to Jacksonville undergoing a coaching transition. With Mark Richt let go (and since being hired by Miami; Georgia has since hired Alabama defensive cooridnator Kirby Smart, who is sticking with the Crimson Tide through the national championship game), the Georgia preparations have had to be done under interim head coach Bryan McClendon as the entire staff undergoes some changes. What that means for the execution and preparedness of the Bulldogs remains to be seen. Also, what will the morale of the team be like? One thing viewers should count on is seeing Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus lead the defense. The former UAB linebacker landed at Georgia after the UAB program temporarily shut down at the end of last season, and he quickly made an impact in Athens and earned the respect of his teammates. Ganus was voted a team MVP this season and a chance to play in a bowl game after UAB was left without an invitation last season will not be taken lightly. Ganus will be extra important because Georgia will be without Davin Bellamy due to a leg practice suffered in practice this week.

When it comes to defense, this is where Penn State typically shines as well, although there have been some games where the defense has been gassed. The extra time off to regropup and recuperate from a brutal end to the season could come in handy for Penn State. Award-winning pass rusher Carl Nassib will lead the defensive front for Penn State against a shaky at best Georgia offense. Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson will first try to shut down any running lanes Georgia will try to expose. If Penn State can take away the running game, that puts the pressure on Georgia’s unreliable passing game. Of course, Penn State has their own concerns with passing stability with hot and cold Christian Hackenberg playing behind a shaky offensive line.

Both teams bring talented young 1,000-yard running backs to the game as well. Georgia sophomroe Sony Michel (1,076 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has become Georgia’s go-to back while Penn State freshman Saquon Barkley (1,007 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has turned in quite an impressive debut season.

THE PREDICTION: Georgia 23, Penn State 20

Penn State DE Torrence Brown the latest Nittany Lion to retire

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The hits just keep on coming for Penn State. Just days after a pair of Penn State players announced their retirement from football, defensive end Torrence Brown has announced his retirement from the game just before the start of the college football season.

“Due to multiple injuries and surgeries, my career at Penn State has come to an end,” Brown said in a statement shared on his Twitter account recently. “It has been tough coming to terms with this news but I know that everything happens for a reason and God will continue to guide me.”

Brown missed the majority of the 2017 season due to a knee injury suffered early in the year. He had hoped to return to the field this fall, but that clearly did not come to be for Brown as he battled back from injury.

Last week, Ryan Buchholz and Jordan Miner announced their retirements from the game. Prior to that, 2018 signee Nana Asiedu announced his retirement due to a heart condition. Quarterback Jake Zembiec also has retired due to a shoulder injury.

“We’re kind of having a strange year, to be honest with you,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said recently in response to some of the previously announced retirements, according to PennLive. “It’s challenging for them, it’s challenging for their parents, it’s challenging for us as a staff, in terms of managing a roster and depth, and those types of things. Most importantly, it’s difficult (because) this is their dream. This is their ultimate dream.”

Brown said he intends to follow through with the winter semester to earn his degree.

UCLA loses LB Josh Woods to season-ending knee injury

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UCLA’s defense was dealt a bad card just before the start of the 2018 college football season. Bruins head coach Chip Kelly announced to reporters that linebacker Josh Woods will miss the entire season due to a knee injury from Thursday’s practice.

“It’s a big blow,” Kelly said, according to a Los Angeles Daily News report. “Just a great young man, everything you want in a football player. So it’s hard for us to try to replace because we don’t have that much depth at that position. But right now our thoughts are with Josh.”

Woods was expected to be a starter for the UCLA defense this season. Last season, he appeared in seven games and recorded 30 tackles, including 23 solo tackles. His 2017 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury.

It remains to be determined if Woods will get the chance to play for UCLA again. The senior has already earned his degree but does have the option of using a redshirt for the 2018 season and continuing to play again in 2019.

Jeremy Pruitt still expects Vols’ highest-rated 2018 signee to enroll

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Tennessee has spent the whole of summer camp without its most highly-touted true freshman, but that could change in the not-too-distant future.

While JJ Peterson signed with the Vols this recruiting cycle, he has yet to enroll in classes at UT as he still has some academic requirements to clear. After Saturday’s scrimmage, Jeremy Pruitt seemed confident that the linebacker will join the team on the field sooner rather than later.

“He’s finishing up a class, and when he gets the class finished up, he’ll be here,” the head coach said by the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Would we have liked it… been last week? Absolutely. But that’s part of it. You’ve got to do it, and he’s working hard to do that.”

According to the News Sentinel, UT starts its fall semester this coming Wednesday.

A four-star member of the Volunteers’ 2018 recruiting class, Peterson was rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the country; the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 48 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  The 6-3, 231-pound signee was the highest-rated prospect in Pruitt’s first class with the Vols, one that was 22nd nationally and eighth in the SEC.

Tennessee kicks off the 2018 season Sept. 1 against West Virginia in Charlotte.

Washington transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels earns starting QB job at Colorado State

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Nearly five months after landing in Fort Collins, K.J. Carta-Samuels has, as expected, been handed the keys to Colorado State’s offense.

On the depth chart released ahead of CSU’s opener against Hawaii Aug. 25, Carta-Samuels was listed as the Rams’ starting quarterback. Carta-Samuels’ backups are listed as Justice McCoy OR Collin Hill.

Hill suffered a torn ACL in mid-March playing a game of pickup basketball, but has been ahead of schedule in his rehab.

In early December of last year, Carta-Samuels announced that he would be leaving Chris Petersen‘s Washington football program. In January, it was reported that Carta-Samuels would transfer to UCLA, although he ended up at Colorado State two months later as a graduate transfer.

A four-star member of UW’s 2014 recruiting class, Carta-Samuels was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of California. Budda Baker, a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was the only signee in the Huskies’ class that year rated higher than Carta-Samuels.

Carta-Samuels played in 25 games over the past three seasons. He ended the Huskies portion of his collegiate playing career with 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in completing 27-of-47 passes.