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No. 2 LSU leading No. 4 Georgia at the half in Atlanta

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No. 2 LSU is halfway to its first SEC championship since 2011. At the break in Atlanta, the Tigers hold a 17-3 lead over No. 4 Georgia.

Georgia came out swinging, as Jake Fromm had Tyler Simmons open for what could have been a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, but Simmons dropped it. Then, facing a 3rd-and-9 at its own 44, Fromm had Demetris Robertson open but the pass skipped off the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf and the Bulldogs punted.

Punting proved fatal against LSU’s offense, as the Tigers went 75 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 23-yard strike to Ja'Marr Chase, a throw made possible because Joe Burrow had about eight seconds to sit and scan against a three-man pass rush. The teams then traded punts, and Rodrigo Blankenship failed to get Georgia on the board when his 52-yard field goal was no good at the 1:56 mark of the first quarter.

The Bulldogs momentarily scored a huge break when Lewis Cine recovered a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble at the LSU 37, but replay showed his right forearm down before the ball popped loose, and so the Tigers retained possession. Four plays later, that possession ended in a 7-yard Burrow pass to Terrace Marshall, Jr., putting LSU up 14-0 with 12 ticks left in the opening frame.

Georgia finally got on the board with a 39-yard Blankenship field goal at the 11:28 mark of the second quarter, then gained even more life when Marshall dropped what would have been the easiest 71-yard touchdown of his career on 3rd-and-6. The Bulldogs’ momentum was halted when Grant Delpit sacked Fromm, not only turning a 2nd-and-8 into a 3rd-and-17 but momentarily knocking Fromm out of the game when the Georgia quarterback’s knee twisted while Delpit pulled him to the turf. Stetson Bennett IV entered the game and threw incomplete, and LSU went 57 yards to set up a 41-yard Cade York field goal.

Fromm re-entered the game and led Georgia into LSU territory, but his 1st-and-10 pass down the sideline was intercepted by Derek Stingley, Jr., handing Burrow the ball at his own 13 with 95 seconds left in the first half. He found Edwards-Helaire for 24 yards on the first play of the drive, ran for 17 and hit Chase for 11 on a 3rd-and-5, but fired incomplete on three straight throws from Georgia’s 30 and York’s 48-yard field goal hooked wide left. Burrow ended the half 17-of-25 for 204 yards with two touchdowns (plus a dropped would-be 71-yard touchdown.) He also leads all players with 39 yards on seven rushes.

LSU out-gained Georgia 255-136 in the half, but Georgia remains in the game. Fromm was 10-of-21 for 117 yards and an interception, while Georgia rushed for just 19 yards on 15 attempts.

The Tigers will receive to open the second half.

Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

TE Jordan Wilson to transfer from UCLA

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UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.

“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.

The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.

Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.