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CFT Previews & Predictions: Georgia-Alabama Tale of the Tape

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WHO
No. 3 Georgia (13-1) vs. No. 4 Alabama (12-1)

WHAT
The College Football Playoff championship game, presented by AT&T

WHEN
8:00 p.m. ET (8:17 p.m. ET kickoff)

WHERE
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

HEAD COACHES
Georgia’s Kirby Smart (13-1 in his first season with the Bulldogs, 13-1 overall)
Alabama’s Nick Saban (126-20 in 11 seasons with the Crimson Tide, 217-62-1 overall; five national championships)

STATISTICAL LEADERS
Georgia
Passing: Jake Fromm, 165-259 (63.7%), 2,383 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions
Rushing: Nick Chubb, 1,320 yards; Sony Michel, 16 touchdowns
Receiving: Javon Wims, 44 receptions, 704 yards, seven touchdowns
Punt returns: Mecole Hardman, 11.3 yards per on 21 returns
Kick returns: Hardman. 27.5 yards per on 17 returns
Punting: Cameron Nizialek, 44.9 yards per, 25 of 55 inside 20
Kicking: Rodrigo Blankenship, 17-20 field goals, long of 55; 61-61 extra points
Tackles: Roquan Smith, 124
Tackles for loss: D’Andre Walker, 13½
Sacks: Smith and Walker, 5½
QB Hits: Smith, 17
Interceptions: Dominick Sanders, four
Passes breakups: Deandre Baker, nine

Alabama
Passing: Jalen Hurts, 151-247 (61.1%), 2,060 yards, 17 touchdowns, one interception
Rushing: Damien Harris, 983 yards, 11 touchdowns
Receiving: Calvin Ridley, 59 receptions, 935 yards; Henry Ruggs III, five touchdowns
Punt returns: Trevon Diggs, 8.9 per on 13 returns
Kick returns: Ruggs III, 18.4 per on 13 returns
Punting: JK Scott, 42.4 yards per, 25 of 48 inside 20
Kicking: Andy Pappanastos, 16-21 field goals, long of 46; 54-54 extra points
Tackles: Ronnie Harrison, 70
Tackles for loss: Rashaan Evans, 11½
Sacks: Raekwon Davis, 7½
Interceptions: Mack Wilson, four
Passes breakups: Levi Wallace, 14

STATISTICAL MATCHUPS
Alabama’s 10th-ranked rush offense (255.8 ypg) vs. Georgia’s 20th-ranked run defense (121.9 ypg)
UGA’s 8th-ranked rush offense (267.4 ypg) vs. UA’s top-ranked run defense (91.8 ypg)
UA’s 91st-ranked pass offense (193.9 ypg) vs. UGA’s 8th-ranked pass defense (167.6 ypg)
UGA’s 109th-ranked pass offense (172.9 ypg) vs. UA’s 3rd-ranked pass defense (160.6 ypg)
UA’s 12th-ranked scoring offense (37.9 ppg) vs. UGA’s 5th-ranked scoring defense (15.7 ppg)
UGA’s 17th-ranked scoring offense (36.3 ppg) vs. UA’s top-ranked scoring defense (11.1 ppg)

COMMON OPPONENTS
Auburn
Georgia lost 40-17 in Auburn Nov. 11 and won 28-7 in SEC championship game rematch, Alabama lost 26-14 in Auburn Nov. 25.

Mississippi State
Georgia won 31-3 in Athens Sept. 23, Alabama won 31-24 in Starkville Nov. 11.

Tennessee
Georgia won 41-0 in Knoxville Sept. 30, Alabama won 45-7 in Tuscaloosa Oct. 21.

Vanderbilt
Georgia won 45-14 in Nashville Oct. 7, Alabama won 59-0 in Nashville Sept. 23.

LOSSES
Georgia: 40-17 to No. 10 Auburn (10-4) in Auburn Nov. 11
Alabama: 26-14 to No. 6 Auburn (10-4) in Auburn Nov. 25

PORTFOLIO
Wins vs. bowl teams: Georgia 8, Alabama 6
Wins vs. current CFP Top 25 teams: UGA 4, UA 3
Wins in true road games: UGA 4, UA 3
Wins by 10-plus points: UGA 11, UA 10

THE BOVADA.LV LINE
Georgia, +5 (opened +4½)
Over/under, 45

THE PREDICTIONS
Zach Barnett
Maybe I’m just a fool, but I don’t believe anyone can beat Alabama at their own game until it actually happens. Yeah, the Tide has lost its share of games over the years — so rarely you can probably remember each individual one — but all those losses have come from the same formula, a formula Georgia can’t replicate. Georgia’s run game is good, but Bama’s run defense is better. Jake Fromm is an effective game manager, but Jalen Hurts has another dimension the Bulldog freshman doesn’t. When push comes to shove (and it will), I think it’s that extra dimension that will push Alabama over the top. Again.
Alabama 21, Georgia 14

Bryan Fisher
I go back and forth on this game every 30 minutes, that’s just how close the two SEC foes are when you look at where their programs and rosters are at this point in the season. Both sides are a little tired after two very different semifinal games and from the toll of traveling back on a short week.  That likely leads to a slower, more conservative approach on both sides of the ball to shorten the game up and that in itself might play a little bit more into Alabama’s hands. While Georgia might have better starting 22 talent overall if you go down the list, the quarterback run game is a difference maker for the Tide with Jalen Hurts behind center. It will be a close, hard-fought title game but ultimately Nick Saban‘s side has just enough to best the hometown team and hoist another trophy
Alabama 28, Georgia 23

Kevin McGuire
It is hard not to get carried away with what Georgia did running the football in the Rose Bowl, but the truth is Alabama is much better equipped to slow down Georgia’s running game the way Oklahoma could only dream. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb will have an impact, but 30, 40-, and 50-yard touchdowns are not going to happen against the Tide the way they did against the Sooners. On the same line of thinking, it’s hard not to go overboard with Alabama’s defense after dismantling Clemson the way they just did. Georgia’s offense operates differently though, and odds are we get a national title game that falls somewhere in between the semifinal performances for both. As much as Georgia is the best-equipped to give a Nick Saban assistant more than a puncher’s chance against Nick Saban (11-0 vs. former assistants, including 1-0 in College Football Playoff era), Alabama will be able to play their style of game and allow Jalen Hurts to make some plays to lead Alabama to yet another national title.
Alabama 27, Georgia 23

John Taylor
How can you bet against Nick Saban and Alabama? Since the Nicktator took over the Crimson Tide in 2007, they are 9-1 in games played in Atlanta, including nine straight wins since losing to Florida in the 2008 SEC championship game.  Saban is also 11-0 all-time against head coaches who were his former assistants.  Where’s tonight’s game being played?  In Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Who’s Georgia’s head coach?  Saban’s former defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart. Last year at this time I went against the CFT grain and picked Clemson over ‘Bama; despite that ominous-looking 20-1 mark staring me square in the face I’m doing the same this time around as UGA’s ground game will prove to be too much for even the suffocating UA front seven, with the underdog Bulldogs denying Saban his latest shot at tying the great Bear Bryant for most national championships — and their program’s first since 1980.
Georgia 24, Alabama 20

Texas Tech adds sixth graduate transfer this offseason, this one a starting corner from Utah State

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With the start of the 2019 regular season a little over a week away, Texas Tech has bolstered its defensive secondary with an experienced addition to its roster.

Tuesday evening, Tech confirmed that Ja’Marcus Ingram has joined Matt Wells‘ football program and practiced with the team for the first time earlier in the day.  The cornerback began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Utah State before opting to leave the MWC school earlier this offseason.

As Ingram has already graduated from USU, he will be eligible to play immediately for Tech in 2019.  Including this coming season, the defensive back will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Ingram started the 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017 and then five of the first six games for the Aggies this past season before going down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury.

As noted by the school in its release, Ingram is far from the first grad transfer added by Tech this offseason.

Ingram becomes the sixth graduate transfer to arrive in Lubbock this summer, joining a group that already includes Zech McPhearson (Penn State), Evan Rambo (Cal), Armand Shyne (Utah), RJ Turner (Louisiana-Monroe) and Jackson Tyner (Rice). Of that group, the trio of McPhearson, Rambo and Ingram will all have two years of eligibility remaining.

Tennessee’s Kurott Garland pulls name out of transfer portal

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It doesn’t happen very often, but it does, every once in a great while, play out this way.

Earlier this offseason, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kurott Garland signaled his intention to leave Tennessee by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  As we often note, players are not bound to transfer by entering the portal and can instead return to the team.

Tuesday, that rare phenomenon played out as Jeremy Pruitt confirmed that Garland has decided to remain with the Volunteers.

“He was thinking about possibly transferring. We supported him all the way through, and in the end, he decided to come back here,” the head coach said by way of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “He’s here. We’re excited that he’s here. I think the guy has lots of ability.”

Garland was a three-star member of the Volunteers’ 2018 recruiting class.  He played in four games as a true freshman, which allowed him to take a redshirt for the past season.

Prior to his decision to enter the portal, Garland had been in line to see increased playing time as part of the Vols’ defensive line rotation. How that plays out moving forward this season remains to be seen.

NCAA denies third immediate-eligibility waiver for transfer to Georgia Tech this month

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It hasn’t been a good month waiver-wise for the Georgia Tech football program.

As we noted Tuesday, the NCAA has already denied immediate-eligibility waivers being sought for Antonneous Clayton and Myles Sims, who transferred to Tech from Florida and Michigan, respectively, this offseason.  That same day, Marquez Ezzard took to Twitter to reveal that “[t]he NCAA has decided to not grant my waiver to play at Georgia Tech this season, and I will have to sit out.”

The wide receiver opted to transfer from Miami in January of this year, ultimately landing at Tech the following month.

With the decision, Ezzard will still have three years of eligibility he can use beginning with the 2020 season.

Ezzard was a four-star 2018 signee who played in three games as a true freshman, catching two passes for 24 yards during his brief stint with the Hurricanes.

Ex-Minnesota QB now in the FCS facing multiple felony rape, sexual assault charges

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A rather disturbing story involving a former Power Five quarterback is currently playing out in the state of Tennessee.

According to The Tennessean, Tennessee State quarterback Demry Croft was arrested Monday and charged with six felony counts of rape and two counts of sexual battery.  The charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred Dec. 1 of last year and came about after the allegations were presented to a grand jury by the university police department.

Other than the alleged rape wasn’t reported until April 4 of this year, no details surrounding the case have been revealed.

Croft remains a part of the FCS school, with the newspaper writing that “TSU officials would not confirm if Croft has been suspended from the football team.”

Croft began his collegiate playing career at Minnesota, but opted to transfer from the Gophers and ultimately landed at Tennessee State in December of 2017.

During his last season with the Gophers, Croft, who started the last six games of 2017,  completed 42 percent of his 122 passes for 674 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. His 87.6 pass efficiency rating is not amongst the top 126 quarterbacks in the country.  Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of his Gophers career was posting a negative quarterback rating in a mid-November loss to Northwestern two weeks before he decided to transfer.

Conversely, though, he was good with his feet as his 309 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns were fourth and third on the team, respectively.

At TSU, Croft started four games before missing the last half of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury.  Prior to the off-field issue, Croft had been penciled in as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.