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CFT Previews: Rose Bowl

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WHO: No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 3 Georgia (12-1)
WHAT:  The College Football Playoff at the 104th Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
THE SKINNY: The Granddaddy of Them All will live up to that billing on New Year’s Day as the College Football Playoff once again returns to the most prestigious bowl of them all. This year’s matchup of two teams who do not regularly make their way out West promises to be extra special as it pits the best offense in the sport against one of FBS’ top defenses.

The Sooners are of course led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, the maestro of the team’s Air Raid attack that has been responsible for putting up more yards per play and per game than anybody. Adding to the intrigue of seeing the colorful signal-caller is the fact that he has been dealing with an illness in the week leading up to the game (but has been practicing). There are no doubts that Mayfield will play in the game but the best player in the country not being at 100 percent could be an issue against a defense that is second nationally against the pass.

Oklahoma is not all about their QB though as they have a host of All-Americans that have helped them reach this point as well. You can start with the guy protecting Mayfield’s blindside in left tackle Orlando Brown or his favorite target in tight end Mark Andrews but don’t discount the impact that end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will have in this matchup either as he’s capable of shutting down opposing offenses as one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12.

Waiting for them will be the SEC champs, who used a familiar formula of excellent defense and a top-notch ground game to power their way into a semifinal. Led by All-American linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bulldogs allow just over 13 points per game and are as stingy as they come with the best front seven in the country. Fast and physical is a common refrain you hear when describing the unit and that should come as no surprise with a defensive-minded head coach in Kirby Smart and veteran defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

Offensively, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is the rare true freshman to guide his team to such a successful season but has been just what the team needed since taking over for the injured Jacob Eason in the season opener. While he lacks the gaudy passing stats of his opposite number, that’s not that big of a deal considering he has no qualms turning around and handing it off to the stable of tailbacks the Bulldogs have. That includes the prolific tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who may be the best tailback duo in college football history given their production the past four years.

It should all make for one of the most enticing matchups of the entire bowl season and that’s before you dig into the bigger aspirations both Georgia and Oklahoma have of capturing another national title next week in Atlanta. There’s a little bit of a history element involved as well as this will be the first meeting all-time between the two powerhouses and just the second trip to Pasadena for either side.

The Rose Bowl could play out a number of different ways but chances are high that it’s a close, hard-fought affair that sees the Sooners squeak out a close one in the fourth quarter thanks to their outstanding quarterback.

THE PICK: Oklahoma 33, Georgia 30

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

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Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

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Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”