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Easy dozen: No. 1 Alabama rolls to 12th straight win over Tennessee

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The good news for Tennessee: the Vols scored more points on No. 1 Alabama than they have at any point in their 11-game losing streak to the Clemson Tide.

The bad: it wasn’t near enough.

Though backup quarterback Keller Chryst exploited worrisome vulnerabilities in a work-in-progress Alabama secondary, it was too little, too late as Tua Tagovailoa and company overwhelmed the Vols en route to a 58-21 romp in Knoxville.

Alabama opened up leads of 14-0 less than five minutes into the game and 28-0 a dozen minutes in, cruising to a 42-14 halftime lead. It was the fifth time in eight games Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) has hit the 40-point barrier in the first half, and the first half Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) has allowed the same since a 62-37 loss to Florida on Sept. 16, 1995.

The 58 points are the most Alabama has ever scored in 100 games against Tennessee. The 37-point margin marks the ninth time (and third consecutive) Alabama has beaten Tennessee by at least 20 points during the ongoing 12-game streak.

In two-plus quarters, Tagovailoa furthered his Heisman campaign by hitting 19-of-29 passes for 306 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Chryst entered for an injured and ineffective Jarrett Guarantano (5-of-10 for 63 yards) and fired two second quarter touchdown passes, finishing 9-of-15 for 164 yards with no interceptions.

Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and, for the eighth time in eight tries, scored a touchdown on its opening possession. Tagovailoa guided the Crimson Tide 58 yards in nine plays, including a 10-yard connection to Jaylen Waddle on a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 35 and an 11-yard scoring toss to Jerry Jeudy.

And then came the knockout punch.

On a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 25, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney sacked Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Christian Miller for the visitors at the Vols’ 3. Josh Jacobs punched it in for the score, putting the Tide up 14-0 at the 10:35 mark of the first quarter.

After the score, Alabama’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Tagovailoa hit Waddle for a 77-yard touchdown strike on the first snap of the ensuing possession.

After another Vols three-and-out, Alabama moved 93 yards in nine plays, gaining 46 yards on two completions to Jeudy and scoring on a 3-yard Damien Harris rush, pushing Alabama’s lead to 28-0 with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.

Tennessee regrouped in the second quarter, forcing two straight three-and-outs (a first for Alabama this season), then moving 75 yards in five plays to get on the board. Guarantano hit Josh Palmer for a 30-yard gain but was forced to leave the game after taking a hit. Chryst entered and found Ty Chandler for consecutive gains of 26 and 10 yards, the latter putting Tennessee on the board at 28-7 with 7:21 to play in the first half.

Jeremy Pruitt called for an onside kick after the score, which Tennessee recovered… one yard before it was allowed to do so.

Alabama took over at the Tennessee 43 and capitalized with its fifth first half touchdown, a 2-yard Jacobs plunge that moved Alabama’s lead to 35-7 with 4:23 left in the first half.

But Chryst’s presence in the game continued to exploit a vulnerability in the Alabama secondary. Facing a 3rd-and-12 at his own 17, Chryst found Jauan Jennings for consecutive gains of 23 and 40 yards to move the ball to the Alabama 20. After an incompletion to Jennings, Chryst connected with Tyler Byrd for a 20-yard touchdown strike, pulling the Vols back within 21 with 2:18 left before the break.

Though Tennessee may have cracked the Alabama defense, the Tide’s offense remained unstoppable. Alabama needed 123 seconds to move 85 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 9-yard toss from Tagovailoa to Irv Smith, Jr.

Alabama opened the second half scoring by corralling Chryst in the end zone for a safety, then completed Tagovailoa’s day with a 41-yard scoring strike to Henry Ruggs III.

Jalen Hurts entered and contributed Tennessee’s third touchdown on a 27-yard pick-six to defensive lineman Kyle Phillips, but he immediately made up for the score by capping an 8-play, 70-yard drive with a 21-yard scoring jaunt.

In wake of Odell Beckham kerfuffles, CFP to review sideline, locker room access policies

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Odell Beckham may have just ruined it for everybody.  Or, at the very least, curtailed it for most everybody.

Monday night, LSU beat Clemson for its first national championship since 2007.  Odell Beckham, a former star wide receiver with the Tigers, was on the sidelines for the game.  And on the field and postgame locker room as well.

And that’s where the trouble began.

Beckham appeared to hand cash to at least two LSU football players on the field after the game; LSU is looking into the situation.  Beckham appeared to slap the ass of a police officer in the postgame locker room; a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In the wake of all of that, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock has confirmed that his group will review its sideline access policies for both the semifinals and title games.

“Being on the sidelines is a privilege,” Hancock told USA Today. “Along with any privilege comes responsibility, because the focus should be on the people playing and coaching in the game, rather than on any visitors. The CFP will be reviewing its policy for allowing guests onto the sidelines and into locker rooms at future games.”

Kudos, Odell Beckham.  At least you got the attention you so desperately crave.

Doesn’t matter that you’re taking the spotlight away from the players at your alma mater who just put up a historic season, right?  As it’s always been, it’s all about you. That’s all that matters.

Sleep well, basking in the knowledge that it’s (almost) all about you.  Not the team that won a title that you didn’t.

Leading rusher at FCS level declares for 2020 NFL Draft

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For the first time this year here at Ye Olde CFT, there’s an FCS player involved in a 2020 NFL Draft declaration.

On Twitter this week, Pete Guerriero announced that he will be foregoing his fifth year of eligibility and entering the 2020 NFL Draft. Guerriero said he came to his decision “after careful consideration [and] speaking with family and the people close to me.”

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a child and I look forward to what’s to come,” the Monmouth running back wrote.

This season, Guerriero led all FCS players with a school-record 1,995 yards rushing. He also set an FCS playoff record with a 93-yard touchdown run in a loss to James Madison this past postseason.

Guerriero came in third in the voting for the 2019 Walter Payton Trophy, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman. He was also a consensus All-American and two-time first-team all-conference honoree.

Guerriero will finish his collegiate playing career with 3,974 yards and 35 touchdowns on 610 attempts (6.5 yards per carry). The 5-10, 190-pound back also caught 69 passes for 551 yards and another three touchdowns coming out of the backfield.

“The impact he’s had been on our program has been tremendous,” said Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan. “His explosiveness and big-play ability and game production has helped to get us where are as a team and a program, and because of it we’re appreciative and support [his] decision.”

Former four-star Oklahoma LB Levi Draper enters transfer portal

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It appears the Oklahoma Sooners football team will have some depth in its linebacking corps pared.

Thursday, it was reported that Levi Draper is entering his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in leaving OU.  An Oklahoma Sooners football official subsequently confirmed that Draper will be entering the portal.

The linebacker’s time in Norman hasn’t officially come to an end, however, as he could always pull his name from the portal and return.

A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Draper was rated as the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.  On the 247Sports.com composite, he was the No. 118 prospect overall.  Only three signees in the Sooners’ class that year were rated higher than Draper.

Injuries helped lead to Draper take a redshirt as a true freshman.  The past two seasons, Draper played in 28 games.  Most of that action came on special teams.

When Draper does find a new school, it should be as a graduate transfer.  That would then leave him with two years of eligibility to use.

Draper is one of a handful of Sooners who have entered the portal of late. From the school’s student newspaper:

This is the second Sooner linebacker to enter the portal in the last two days, as Ryan Jones reportedly entered it on Wednesday. Along with the two linebackers, wide receiver Mykel Jones, safety Ty DeArman, defensive linemen Coby Tillman and Troy James will all be transferring.

It’s not all attrition at OU, however. Earlier this week, the program confirmed the addition of UCLA transfer wide receiver Theo Howard.  The receiver was honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2018.

Howard graduated from UCLA in December, giving him immediate eligibility at OU this coming season.

Texas A&M transfer Kellen Diesch lands at Arizona State

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The Arizona State football roster is the latest to benefit from a player coming in from a Power Five program.

In early December, Kellen Diesch entered the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a move away from Texas A&M. A month later, Diesch has taken the next step as 247Sports.com has reported that the offensive lineman will transfer to the Arizona State football team.

In fact, the website notes that Diesch is in Tempe and already enrolled in school at ASU.

As a graduate transfer, Diesch will be eligible to play for the Sun Devils immediately in 2020. The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

A four-star member of A&M’s 2016 recruiting class, Diesch was rated as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 17 player regardless of position in the state of Texas. The only signee in the Aggies’ class that year rated higher was strongside defensive end Justin Madubuike.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Diesch has played in 21 games the past three years. A dozen of those appearances came this past season.

Despite the recruiting pedigree, the 6-6, 298-pound lineman didn’t start a game for the Aggies.