Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Georgia’s running duo, Roquan Smith, and kicking game may give Bulldogs the edge on Alabama

5 Comments

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has established quite a reputation when going up against his former assistants, but Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is looking to break the trend in the biggest game imaginable. Saban’s perfect record against his former assistants will be put to a mighty test against the Bulldogs, coming off a red-hot offensive performance in the Rose Bowl to come away with a double-overtime victory to clinch a spot in Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game. Unlike other former Saban assistants, Smart may have the best opportunity to put a dent in Saban’s record against his assistants.

Saban improved his career record against former assistants to an amazing 11-0 when Alabama crushed Florida State in the season opener in Atlanta, setting the tone for a lost season in Tallahassee that ended with Jimbo Fisher finding his way to Texas A&M. That particular season opener was supposed to be one of the toughest challenges Saban had against one of his former assistants, with Florida State entering the 2017 season as a popular pick to make a national title run. As we found out, that was far from the case. But this will be the first time Saban has had to go up against one of his more recent assistants, and Smart is arguably the best equipped to give Saban some concerns.

It begins with Georgia’s running game. As the Rose Bowl showed, these Bulldogs are a force to reckon with on the ground with the running duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Oklahoma was incapable of slowing either down, with Chubb rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries and Michel going off for 181 yards on 11 carries with three touchdowns, including the game-winner in double overtime off a direct snap. Georgia’s ability to dabble in a power running game with Chubb and more of a speed attack with Michel was a challenge for Oklahoma to keep up. The major difference in the championship game is Oklahoma has the 54th-ranked rushing defense and Alabama comes in ranked first in the nation against the run, allowing just 91.77 yards per game and eight rushing touchdowns all season long through 13 games. Do not expect Georgia to rack up the offensive yardage on the ground the way they did against the Sooners, but Georgia’s advantage will be the ability to adjust their running styles to keep Alabama on their toes.

You also have to wonder if Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm will ever cave under the pressure when the lights are the brightest. So far, the answer has been a resounding “nope.” Fromm comes into the national championship game with a higher passer rating, more passing yards, and more passing yards than his Alabama counterpart, Jalen Hurts. Hurts has been in this game before, of course, but Fromm is quickly amassing a number of big games himself, including in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the SEC Championship Game was definitively won by the Bulldogs against Auburn. Fromm will come into the game without an interception in his last three games; a rivalry game against Georgia Tech, the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, and the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma. At this point, Fromm has arrived and will be as confident as you can get for a freshman.

The offense will be up against a juggernaut with Alabama’s defense, and Georgia’s defense may need some plays out of Roquan Smith. It took a while for Smith to have a significant impact in the Rose Bowl, but the game reached a point where Smith put himself in position to make clutch tackles. Look for Smith to play a big role on the defense once again. Georgia will need that out of him, but the Bulldogs also need to tighten up their own defensive concerns after a long day against Oklahoma.

And if there is one distinct advantage Georgia has in this game, it is placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship. Blankenship nailed a 55-yard field goal against the Sooners at the end of the first half that helped Georgia gain an ounce of momentum before the break. Alabama’s kicking woes have long been a concern for the Crimson Tide. Not having that kind of anxiety on the Georgia sideline if a field goal is needed should be comforting for Smart.

FCS team suspends head coach amid probe into ‘alleged violations of university policy’

Getty Images
1 Comment

We don’t normally do much with the FCS level of football here at CFT; when we do, though, it normally doesn’t trend toward the positive.

Such is the case in this instance, with Stephen F. Austin announcing Monday night that head coach Clint Conque has been suspended.  In its statement, the university wrote that the suspension is “pending an investigation into alleged violations of university policy.”

The alleged violations weren’t detailed.

“The investigation is expected to take several weeks,” the school’s statement read, in part. “No comments will be made by the university until the investigation is complete.”

The Magnolia Reporter wrote that “Conque’s suspension comes two weeks after SFA appointed Ryan Ivey as the new director of Athletics – a position he is set to officially assume on July 1.”

Conque has been the head coach at SFA the past four seasons.  In that span, he went 21-25 overall and 17-18 in Southland Conference play.  Since going 8-5 and qualifying for the FCS playoffs his first season, the football program has gone 4-7, 5-5, 4-7 the last three years.

Prior to that, Conque was the head coach at Central Arkansas from 2000-13, with the last seven of those years spent in the Southland Conference.  During his time with the Bears, he went 105-59.

In a statement released by that university in July of 2010, prior to the start of his 11th season with that FCS team, Conque admitted to what he described as “an inappropriate relationship” that stemmed from “some poor personal decisions.”

During a period of time in my life I made some poor personal decisions. I had an inappropriate relationship in the past that I regret and these mistakes and missteps have hurt the ones that I love the most. While we have been dealing with these issues privately, I regret that we must now deal with this in a public manner.

“I take sole and complete responsibility for my actions as my family and I continue the process of healing and rebuilding. I want to once again sincerely apologize first to my family, also to the university community, the administration, the university’s athletic staff, and to our football staff and team. I will emerge from this a better man, husband, father and coach. I appreciate the support that I have received from the Board of Trustees, President (Allen) Meadors, (Athletic Director) Dr. (Brad) Teague, and the university during this extremely difficult time.

“I would genuinely appreciate everyone extending Angele and my three sons the privacy and compassion needed to move forward in our personal lives. I look forward to the 2010 football season and the beginning of fall practice.

Conque remained on as the head coach at Central Arkansas for four more seasons, going 32-16 in that post-admission span and qualifying for the FCS playoffs twice for good measure.

Notre Dame football to have all-new radio team in 2018

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When it comes to Notre Dame’s radio booth on football gamedays, it’ll apparently be out with the old and in with the new.

Earlier this offseason, it was announced that JMI Sports had taken over as Notre Dame’s multimedia partner.  As part of that partnership, JMI Sports would have control over, among other entities, the football program’s national radio broadcasts.

Since 2006, there’s been a two-man radio booth consisting of play-by-play voice Don Criqui and color analyst Allen Pinkett.  Come the 2018 football season, the latter confirmed, there will be a complete makeover of the Fighting Irish’s radio broadcasts.

“Their plan is they want someone more local — like ‘live in South Bend’ local — because they want to do some packages during the week, and they wanted somebody who was there,” Pinkett told the South Bend Tribune. “So it was a good run. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to do it since 2001, but this thing comes to an end, so I just wish whoever’s going to do it next the best of luck.”

The “whoever” Pinkett mentioned is still in question as the radio replacements have yet to be announced.

The 54-year-old Pinkett was a star running back at Notre Dame in the eighties, twice earning All-American honors.  He was the first Fighting Irish player to ever rush for 1,000-plus yards in three straight seasons.

The 78-year-old Criqui is a Notre Dame graduate as well.  Prior to this 2006-17 stint, he was also the play-by-play voice of the Fighting Irish from 1974-76.

Lincoln Riley will (barely) make more than his starting QB in 2018

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One running joke that’s made numerous laps around the college football world this month has officially run its course.

After being taken ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the June Major League Baseball draft, Kyler Murray reached an agreement on a contract with the stick-and-ball club that will not only allow him to play football for Oklahoma in 2018, but will pay him a signing bonus of nearly $4.7 million for good measure.  As Lincoln Riley was paid $3.1 million in 2017, there was a very real possibility that the Sooners’ starting quarterback would earn more in 2018 than OU’s head football coach.

Tuesday, however, that particular plotline was put to bed as the university’s Board of Regents confirmed a long-expected revised contract for Riley.  The coach’s 2018 salary?  $4.8 million (plus bonuses).

Take that, Kyler Murray.

The new salary figure would’ve made Riley the third-highest paid head coach in the Big 12 last season, behind only Texas’ Tom Herman ($5.5 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($5.1 million).  His actual salary last year was seventh in the conference.

In his first season at the helm for the Sooners, the 34-year-old Riley guided OU to a 12-2 record, a Big 12 championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. In addition to a raise coming off that wildly successful year, Riley also had his contract extended through January of 2023.

New Mexico LB Rayshawn Boyce arrested, suspended after May incident with ex-girlfriend

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Not surprisingly at this point in the offseason, it’s once again time to push the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes.

The latest to trigger a reset is New Mexico’s Rayshawn Boyce, with KOB-TV in Albuquerque reporting that the linebacker was arrested over the weekend on multiple charges stemming from an incident involving an ex-girlfriend last month. Specifically, Boyce has been charged with one count each of aggravated battery, battery of a household member, criminal damage to private property and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

From the television station’s report:

According to a criminal complaint, he attacked a man inside his ex-girlfriend’s home back in May and then hit his ex-girlfriend in the face. Boyce then left the house and fired shots at her vehicle.

Police interviewed Boyce, who admitted to being at the home but says he never went inside. He claims he fought the man outside of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

As a result of the incident, Boyce has been indefinitely suspended from the Lobos football by head coach Bob Davie, who’s had his own off-field issues this offseason.

“I want to emphasize that we have standards and expectations of conduct for all UNM student-athletes that include civility and mutual respect,” UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez said in a statement. “We cannot, and will not, accept anything less.”

After transferring in from a California junior college, Boyce played in eight games for the Lobos this past season. He was credited with 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack.