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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

Kliff Kingsbury admitted to doing something at Texas Tech a number of coaches in college football probably do

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Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, now the head coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, recently admitted to using fake social media accounts as a way to monitor what his players were doing in social media. The NFL world is reacting to the story now as Kingsbury prepares for his first season as an NFL head coach, with Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio noting Kingsbury will likely be asked about his social media conduct when he addresses the media for the first time since the story broke in the Arizona Republic at training camp.

The question college football people are probably wondering is “so what?”

The act of using fake social media profiles to keep tabs on others can be a risky move. Not only can it come off as deceiving because, well, it is, but improper use of fake social media accounts can lead to more trouble than it is worth sometimes. But was Kingsbury doing anything he should not have been doing with regard to his players at Texas Tech?

More and more often, college football coaches and staff members are stressing the importance of players keep their noses clean when it comes to social media habits. The problem is there are some difficult ways to constantly monitor and act on any player’s personal account, which is why going under the radar with a fake account seems to make sense. If a player is more likely to respond or react to another online profile they think is not their coach, they may be more open to expressing themselves more naturally. And that may be exactly the point for Kingsbury or any other coach who chooses to check in on players through a fake account.

We may never know for sure, but there could potentially be hundreds of college football or athletics staffers who are tasked with chatting with players through a fake account. And if anything fishy or questionable comes up, the staff can act on it accordingly as they best see fit. Coaches and staff members are there not only to win games but also pave a solid path for their players for life beyond the football field. In today’s world, having a good sense of how to appropriately handle social media can never be stressed enough.

Every coach and staff has a different way to handle social media, of course. Some programs force players to log out of their social media accounts during the season. Others don’t set any limits on social media screen time. There may not be a perfect solution, but with players getting more chances to express themselves directly, it is increasingly more important to have staffers logged in and tuned in to what is going on in the world of social media to ensure their program and university, and the player, will not cross any lines that don’t need to be crossed.

In light of this Kingsbury story, I fully expect one of the many anonymous coaches polls at conference media days to ask whether or not they or another staff member monitor players with fake accounts. And I’d wager a hefty sum the majority of them would confirm it.

Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech last season. He then was named offensive coordinator at USC and eventually left the Trojans to become the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

The last time the Washington Huskies won the national championship…

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The top playoff contender from the Pac-12 in recent seasons has been Washington. The Huskies have risen to the top of the conference under head coach Chris Petersen with two Pac-12 titles and one appearance in the College Football Playoff, but the quest to win the school’s first national championship in football since earning a split title in 1991 continues as we approach the 2019 season.

Washington took home the coaches poll’s top spot for the 1991 season after polishing off a 12-0 record with a victory over No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The run to the split national championship was the first for head coach Don James, who won multiple coaching awards for the success of the 1991 season to pave his path to the College Football Hall of Fame. The Huskies also featured All-Americans Steve Emtman (who also won the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy), Mario Bailey, Dave Hoffman and Lincoln Kennedy. Washington’s defense remains one of the best college football has seen in the modern era.

Expectations were high for Washington in 1991 after coming off a 10-2 season the year before. Washington solidified their hype as a national title contender with a second-half rally on the road against No. 9 Nebraska and three straight blowouts before a big road win at No. 7 California in mid-October. Aside from a defensive battle on the road against USC in November, there was little standing in the way of Washington and a national championship claim. Even Big Ten champion Michigan was little match for the Huskies, who took the Rose Bowl with a 34-14 victory.

Washington fans continue to dream of seeing their Huskies experience similar feats as the program looks to defend their Pac-12 crown this fall. Let’s take a snapshot of the last time Washington won the national title, nearly three decades ago.

Last National Title Season: 1991 (28 years and counting)

Who was President?

George H. Bush was in the second half of his presidency when Washington was winning it all in 1991. The elder Bush was in the White House when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Dan Quayle was still a year away from making his “Murphy Brown” speech, and we didn’t know he was unaware how “potato” is spelled.

In related news, current President Donald Trump filed for the first of his six bankruptcy cases in 1991 with the Trump Taj Mahal.

What was on TV?

The top-rated TV programs of 1991 included NBC’s “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World,” and “Wings.” Other shows people were tuning into at the time included “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” and newcomer “Home Improvement.”

Perhaps one of the more notable developments in television in 1991 was the return of Seinfeld to NBC. After five initial trial episodes from 1989 through 1990, Seinfeld became a mainstay in the NBC lineup beginning in 1991 with a 12-episode order.

What movies were hot?

There were some true masterpieces released at the box office in 1991, including the animated Disney adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” But nobody could overtake Arnold Schwarzenegger with the blockbuster release of “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” It may be the movie that really first alerted us to the dangers of technology thinking for itself and the term “liquid metal.”

How many more Terminator movies to come before Washington wins it all again?

We should also note that we were first introduced to the legendary Rufio in 1991 as well.

Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?

Nobody, because it didn’t exist yet.

Washington’s last national title claim was staked two years before the introduction of “Bill Walsh College Football,” which eventually evolved to be the “NCAA Football” franchise of games from EA Sports. Even the long-running Madden NFL franchise was still very early in its beginnings in 1991, with the release of John Madden Football II on the PC and John Madden Football ’92 on the SEGA Genesis.

There was, however, “All-American College Football,” a DOS college football simulator.

A blue hedgehog also became the mascot for the SEGA Genesis in 1991. Sonic the Hedgehog got a jump on the competition but Nintendo released the Super NES just before the 991 college football season started, with Super Mario World included.

What else happened in 1991?

One of the greatest World Series came to a wild ending with the Minnesota Twins topping the Atlanta Braves with a 1-0 victory in Game 7. The Twins won Games 6 and 7 at home in extra innings to capture their most recent World Series championship.

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls topped Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 1991, bringing an end to the Showtime Lakers era and ushering in the Jordan Reign in the NBA. The summer after Washington’s national championship run would see Jordan and Johnson team up at the Olympics as members of the United States’s Dream Team.

At the end of the 1991 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills lost their second straight Super Bowl with a loss to the Washington Redskins (also the most recent title won by that Washington).

Washington defeated him in the Rose Bowl, but Michigan’s Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy in the 1991 season.

The 1991 season was also the first season the Big East sponsored football, although official standings would begin a year later. Inaugural conference members included Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. Nebraska won the Big Eight. Texas A&M won the Southwest Conference. The Pac-12 was still the Pac-10.

A lot has changed in college football since 1991, although Clemson did win the ACC!

As for current head coach Petersen, he was a wide receivers coach at UC Davis. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was in his first year as a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns (coached by Bill Belichick!), and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was suiting up to play wide receiver for Alabama.

Washington remains the Pac-12’s most recent College Football Playoff team

There have been just two teams from the Pac-12 to reach the College Football Playoff. Oregon reached the national championship game in the inaugural season of the playoff format, but only Washington has been able to manage a single invitation to the playoff since. The Huskies were overpowered by Alabama in the Peach Bowl in 2016, with the Crimson Tide later being defeated by Clemson in the national championship game. Like the Big Ten, the Pac-12 has struggled to get its champion into the playoff at the end of the year largely due to the conference beating itself up at the worst possible times.

Washington’s bid for a possible playoff spot last year were given a hard speed bump right out of the gates with a neutral site loss to Auburn. Although the Huskies went on to win the Pac-12, a trip to the Rose Bowl was all that was ever in the cards for the Huskies, who were taken down by Big Ten champion Ohio State last January. Coming into the 2019 season, Washington figures to face some stiff competition once again from within the division as Oregon is being viewed as a team on the rise and the Huskies have some roster turnover in place.

Ex-Texas Tech RB Da’Leon Ward announces transfer to FCS program

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Former Texas Tech running back Da’Leon Ward is about to jump out of the transfer portal, ready to suit up for a brand new program. Ward announced on Twitter this week he is committed to Stephen F. Austin University, allowing him to stay in the state of Texas and remain eligible for the upcoming college football season.

Last season with Texas Tech, Ward was the second-leading rusher on the team with 341 yards and three touchdowns. Ward was out of the mix for the bulk of the spring practices under new Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells, although the reasoning behind that was never explained. ward was charged with a felony theft charge, although that case was dismissed.

Ward has two years of eligibility remaining, which he will begin using again this fall with his new program. Ward announced his decision to enter the transfer portal earlier this month.

Sadly, the Mike Leach home assistant device is not real

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Just as there is a seemingly endless supply of streaming services and battle royale-style video games, the home assistant device market continues to be flooded with options tailored for your preferences. Amazon has Alexa. Google has Google Home. Apple has a device. Now, Washington State has the Mike Leach Mini.

In a new season ticket promo, Washington State head coach Mike Leach is the inspiration for a fictional (yes, unfortunately, this is NOT a real device) home device that will answer any and all questions asked of it. “They say it knows everything, just like the real Mike Leach.”

If you have ever had a mystery question of life, the artificial intelligence version of the Cougars’ head coach delivers the charm expected of Leach with a dose of awe and blunt honesty.

Imagine getting to use a Mike Leach device to add items to your shopping lists, check the weather, check your email, or anything else that falls into your daily routine? I’m sure a digital Leach would offer a unique and introspective take on your daily chores and reminders.

It really would be the perfect addition to anyone’s home, or at least it would be if Washington State ever decides to make such a device available to the masses. Hey, Washington State. I would add this to my desk in the office. Just saying.