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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

Ex-UConn QB transfers to D2 school to compete for starting job

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Quarterback Jordan McAfee never got his chance to play at UConn, so he is transferring to a new program to get a crack at a starting job. McAfee will look for his chance at Assumption College, a Division 2 school in Worcester, Massachusetts competing in the Northeast-10 Conference.

It is not often you see a player move from a FBS program down to a Division 2 school, but it is not unprecedented.

I transferred to compete for the starting job,” McAfee said to Hearst Connecticut Media, according to a report from New Haven Register. As noted by the report, Assumption has a handful of quarterbacks already on the roster but lacks experience at the position. Not that Mcafee fixes that concern, but he figures to bring a bigger upside to the position.

McAfee committed to UConn over an offer from Boston College, according to his Rivals profile, in the Class of 2017. The pro-style quarterback never got a chance to play for the Huskies in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season as a redshirt player.

Suddenly, UConn is in a bit of a bind at the quarterback position with spring football next on deck for the Huskies. Just two quarterbacks are currently on the roster following offseason departures for graduation or transfer with redshirt freshman Marvin Washington and freshman Steve Krajewski. UConn will add incoming recruit Jack Zergiotis this summer as the Huskies could have a three-man race for the starting job leading up to the start of the 2019 season.

Because McAfee is transferring to a lower-division program, he will be eligible to play right away in 2019 instead of having to sit out a year before becoming eligible again.

Is new Georgia OC James Coley already on NFL radar?

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This time of the year generally leads to plenty of speculation and name dropping for the sake of creating buzz and conversation. Many times, names of “potential” candidates for various coaching jobs, whether for head coach or an assistant role, around the college game and the NFL will be thrown against the wall just to see what sticks. So when a name pops up in the conversation immediately after a coaching change anywhere is made, it is best to tread carefully around the rumor mill and give things some time to breathe.

But that won’t stop us from monitoring what is being thrown out there when it relates to some coaches around college football. Case in point, the idea that Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley could be a potential target for the Dallas Cowboys following a coaching change with the NFC East champions earlier today. The Cowboys fired offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on Friday and are now in the market for an offensive coordinator. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, via Twitter, Coley could be among those considered for the opening with the Cowboys.

Coley’s name popping up for a possible NFL job isn’t all that shocking. It seems anyone with even the slightest connection to Alabama head coach Nick Saban seems to be in the pool of candidates for any number of jobs every year in the coaching carousel around college football and in the NFL. We previously noted that was seemingly becoming more and more the case with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart even having his name floated around the NFL rumor mill a bit. Coley is a former Saban assistant during Saban’s time at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins. He has also been a part of the Florida State coaching staff from 2008 through 2012, Miami from 2013 through 2015 and Georgia since 2016. He has had plenty of experience around players going on to the NFL and that is not taken lightly.

Coley was just promoted to being the offensive coordinator at Georgia following the departure of Jim Chaney to Tennessee. Odds are probably pretty good Georgia won’t have to worry about losing a second offensive coordinator this offseason, but you just never know this time of the year.

Joe Moglia steps down as head coach at Coastal Carolina, Jamey Chadwell promoted as replacement

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Just when you thought the coaching carousel closed the books once again for the offseason, it appears there is at least one more change to make note of heading into the 2019 season. Joe Moglia is stepping down as head coach of Coastal Carolina, the school announced on Friday afternoon. Associate head coach and offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell will take over as the new head coach of the program.

Moglia announced he will stay on as Chairman of Athletics for the remainder of his current contract with the university, which runs through June 2021. Moglia will have executive authority over the football program as well.

“On behalf of the Coastal Carolina University family I want to thank Joe Moglia for all he has done not only to transform our football program, but for his support of the University,” Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo said in a released statement. “Joe is one of those individuals who bring such great talent and success to everything he’s touched. He’s taken us to a level that years ago was simply a dream. He leaves the coaching ranks with all the well-deserved accolades; and leaves a Coastal football legacy that is poised for even better accomplishments.”

Moglia took one of the most unique paths to becoming the head coach of the Chanticleers. Moglia left a career in the financial industry when he stepped down as CEO of TD Ameritrade in 2008. He joined Bo Pelini in an assistant coaching role at Nebraska, his first time coaching football since being the defensive coordinator at Dartmouth in 1983. After two years with the Huskers, Moglia was named the head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks of the short-lived UFL in 2011, and he became the head coach at Coastal Carolina in 2012.

Under Moglia’s leadership, Coastal Carolina became a rising power at the FCS level with successive playoff appearances from 2012 through 2015 before making the transition to the FCS in 2016. Coastal Carolina went 10-2 in their transition season before jumping into the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. Moglia, however, took the 2017 season off for medical reasons. Chadwell took on the role of interim head coach for the 2017 season and remained on the staff as associate head coach and offensive coordinator in 2018 after Moglia returned to the sidelines for the program.

With Chadwell as the next head coach of the Coastal Carolina program, there should be a smooth transition with some stability on the coaching staff late in the offseason for coaching changes.

Wisconsin renews contract of Paul Chryst into 2024

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In what has seemingly been an annual tradition in Madison, Wisconsin has renewed the contract of head football coach Paul Chryst by tacking on another year. Chryst is now under contract through Jan. 31, 2024 with his latest renewal following approval from the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board.

Wisconsin renewed Chryst’s contract a year ago, extending his contract through the end of Jan. 2023. Wisconsin and Chryst originally agreed on a contract that was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2020 with a written agreement that the contract may be extended with a positive annual review beginning after the 2015 football season.

The Badgers may be coming off a relatively disappointing season with a record of 8-5, but Chryst has gone 42-12 in his first four seasons as head coach of the Badgers and it is expected Wisconsin will remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten West Division with a shot to play for and win the Big Ten championship in the years to come.

According to the USA Today coaching salary database for the 2018 season, Chryst was paid $3.75 million last season. Specific details of how much Chryst will be paid now were not announced by Wisconsin.

Wisconsin also renewed the contracts of volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield, women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins, and men’s soccer coach John Trask.