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Alabama mounting comeback but Georgia still leads as National Championship Game enters final stretch

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ATLANTA — The first half of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game went to plan as a low-scoring, hard-hitting, defensive-minded affair. It seemed a bit of coffee at halftime was all that was needed to jolt some life into No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday night though as the two powerhouses started to break things open and put on a show in the second (and far more important) SEC title game for all the marbles.

In front of what amounted to a relative home crowd, it was the Bulldogs who held a 20-10 lead as they chase their first national title since 1980 with the clock winding down to the fourth quarter. Though the low score was representative of how things began, there were still several big plays that jolted both shades of red to their feet in Atlanta.

Alabama corner Tony Brown kicked things off by picking off Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm’s second pass of the game, wrestling a pass out of the hands of Javon Wims in what might be the play of his career given the stage. While it amounted to a bit of an arm punt given the down and distance, it was nevertheless the start that the Tide wanted defensively.

The Bulldogs defense made sure that the turnover was not painful on the scoreboard however, allowing Jalen Hurts (3-of-8 passing, 47 yards rushing) to march down the field but keeping him out of the end zone thanks to a missed throw to wideout Calvin Ridley and then drawing a false start that eventually led to a missed field goal from Andy Pappanastos.

The more curious thing from the Georgia sideline may have been the offensive play calling. The team opened with seven straight passes for Fromm and didn’t run the ball until the first quarter was more than halfway over. Still, tailback Sony Michel picked up where he left off in the Rose Bowl against No. 2 Oklahoma with the team’s biggest play of the first quarter by hitting the edge and jetting up the sideline for 26 yards. He finished with XX on the ground all told while teammate Nick Chubb was general held in check with 16.

That one long run by Michel helped keep the Bulldogs’ third drive alive before it stalled just outside the red zone — a bit of a habit for the team early on. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship calmly nailed a 41 yard field goal to put Georgia up 3-0 and later added another from 27 out.

The Bulldogs’ offense did seem to find a groove right before the break however as they used some big throws by Fromm to drive nearly the length of the field with just 79 seconds left on the clock. Aided in part by an Alabama penalty, the team eventually found pay dirt thanks to a touchdown off a direct snap to Mecole Hardman.

In terms of halftime adjustments, Nick Saban saved up his biggest of the season by pulling the team’s starting quarterback and inserting true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The lefty breathed life in to the Tide almost right away and completed a remarkable scramble to extend a drive on his second series. That eventually resulted in a touchdown throw to Henry Ruggs III and help cut into some of that lead.

The Bulldogs would mount an impressive response however to seize momentum right back. Just three plays later it was Fromm who found a streaking Hardman down the field, dropping in a perfectly thrown pass over the shoulder and resulting in an 80 yard touchdown after the wideout tip-toed his way down the sidelines. The defense later responded with an interception that would have felt like a killer had their own quarterback not thrown one off a tipped pass just a play later.

There’s just one quarter to go before a champion is crowned and history will be made.

Scott Frost says RB Maurice Washington not part of Nebraska’s plans ‘in the immediate future’

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Maurice Washington played in Nebraska’s most recent game, a 34-7 loss to No. 12 Minnesota on Oct. 12, toting the ball six times for 20 yards in the setback.

However, the running back has not practiced with the team since that game and is apart from the team indefinitely, Scott Frost revealed Monday.

What’s notable here is Frost said Washington’s absence is not related to the running back’s pending court date in California, where he is accused of violating the state’s revenge-porn laws. As our own John Taylor summarized the issue just a few short days ago:

It’s alleged that Washington sent a sexually-explicit 10-second video, recorded two years prior by someone other than Washington, involving a then-15-year-old female and two other boys, neither of whom was Washington, to that same female in early March of 2018. The female has claimed she is being sexually assaulted in the video, which allegedly shows the teenager performing oral sex on one boy while another masturbates.

Washington is facing a felony count of possessing a video or photograph of a person under 18 who is engaging in or simulating sexual conduct and a misdemeanor count of posting a video or photograph of a person engaging in or simulating sexual conduct without consent, leading to the person suffering emotional distress. Washington had dated the alleged victim prior to the video being recorded.

If facing a felony count of disseminating a sexually explicit video involving a 15-year-old girl doesn’t qualify as “non-negotiable,” one has to wonder what exactly Washington did to get himself removed from Nebraska’s team this time around. One would have to assume it’s something serious; otherwise, why would Nebraska go through the trouble to keep a player, only to give him a soft boot for, say, sleeping through a workout?

As it stands, the sophomore from Stockton, Calif., ranks second among Husker running backs with 50 carries for 298 yards and one touchdown. Time will tell if that number changes over the remainder of the season.

It’s official: LSU-Alabama moving to daytime for the first time since 2010

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Astute observers of college football’s television contracts (read: nerds) perked up when CBS announced over the summer it had chosen Notre Dame’s Sept. 21 visit to Georgia as its annual primetime selection, meaning LSU’s Nov. 9 trip to Alabama would likely be played under sunshine for the first time since 2010.

However, there remained a question that CBS could work a backroom deal with ESPN to get Tigers-Tide in prime time, like it did back in 2011 when CBS initially used its annual primetime pick on Florida-Alabama and then nabbed LSU-Alabama when it became apparent that would be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game. With history repeating itself on the field — Alabama is No. 1 in the AP poll, LSU is No. 2 — one had to wonder if history could also repeat itself in the boardroom.

That question was answered Monday, when CBS announced LSU-Alabama on Nov. 9 will indeed be played in the SEC on CBS’s traditional time slot of 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT.

Playing the Crimson Tide in daylight could be a good omen for LSU. The Tigers, losers of seven straight primetime affairs, won the most recent afternoon kickoff, a 24-21 decision on Nov. 6, 2010.

Mark Richt suffers heart attack, says he’s ‘doing fine’

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From the outside, it seems as if Mark Richt is the most relaxed, stress-free person in the entire college football universe. In 18 seasons as the head coach at Georgia and Miami, Richt had an inner peace and perspective that never seemed to let the stresses of the job get to him in the way it did most other coaches or people in similar high-stakes gigs.

Now, he’s very much living that retired multi-millionaire life.

That’s why it was so surprising when Richt announced Monday he suffered a heart attack earlier this morning.

“I am assuming word travels fast,” he tweeted. “So I wanted to be able to inform everyone that I did have a heart attack this morning. I am doing fine. As I went through the experience I had peace knowing I was going to heaven but I was going to miss my wife. I plan to be at work this week.”

While Monday’s news was obviously frightening, it’s comforting to know Richt survived and will hopefully be around to eat many, many more cheese balls on the beach.

 

‘GameDay’ making maiden voyage to South Dakota State

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The Football Championship Subdivision recently made a coordinated, nationwide push for ESPN’s “College GameDay” to pay its brand of football more attention. That push has quickly paid off.

ESPN announced Sunday that “GameDay” will make its first ever visit to Brookings, S.D., as No. 3 South Dakota State hosts No. 1 North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are 6-1 this season, losing only to FBS No. 17 Minnesota 28-21 to open the season and then running off six straight victories by an average of 24.3 points. North Dakota State is 7-0 on the season with four victories over FCS top-20 opponents.

South Dakota State should send flowers to Wisconsin, who lost to Illinois ahead of their visit to No. 3 Ohio State, to Michigan, who lost to Penn State before hosting No. 8 Notre Dame, and to ESPN for their recent visit to Baton Rouge, making a return visit for No. 9 Auburn at No. 2 LSU seem too redundant.

“GameDay” last visited an FCS site on Oct. 14, 2017, as No. 1 James Madison hosted Villanova.

Saturday will mark North Dakota State’s third “GameDay” appearance, passing Harvard for the most among FCS teams. The Bison won both of their previous appearances, a 51-0 drubbing of Delaware State on Sept. 21, 2013, and a 58-0 blowout of Incarnate Word on Sept. 13, 2014.