Tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship could be bursting with Florida flavor.
While Alabama and Georgia feature an abundance of players from their respective home states, several key playmakers tonight hail from outside the walls of the two neighboring states. The Sunshine State will feature several of the games most flavorful offensive stars for both Alabama and Georgia.
Calvin Ridley (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) is the Southeastern Conference’s third leading receiver and projected first-round NFL Draft pick for the Crimson Tide. The Dawgs counter with the league’s fifth-leading rusher Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla.).
Hailing from the football factory American Heritage, Michel is the focal point of UGA’s run-first offense along with backfield mate Nick Chubb, the SEC’s third-leading rusher. He’s also coming off his biggest game of the season.
In the Dawgs’ 54-48 double overtime win over Oklahoma last week in the Rose Bowl, Michel carried 11 times for a season-high 181 yards and a game-high three TDs. The senior also caught four passes for 41 yards and a TD. He’s no joke.
“We came back to work,” Michel said this week after he and Chubb spurned the NFL to return for another season in Athens. “Our whole focus was to buy into this program and get as much accomplished as we can.”
“They’ve got two great running backs, do a really good job with the play-action passes,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “The combination of the balance that they create with the running game and their ability to throw the ball down the field … makes them very difficult to defend.”
The Dawgs are on the cusp of their first national title since 1980. If second-year head coach Kirby Smart’s team is going to put the CFB Playoff national championship trophy on the buys back to Athens tomorrow, it’ll be due to big games on the ground from Michel and Chubb.
“They put this team on their shoulders and all they do is do it right,” Smart said.
Alabama also embodies the run-first mentality offensively like Georgia. However, the Tide boast tonight’s biggest threat in the passing game: Ridley.
Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver coming out of Monarch High School, the 6-foot-1 Ridley is as explosive as they come. He was the only Bama offensive player to score a touchdown in last week’s 24-6 win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
Ridley has caught 18 touchdowns in three years for Saban and is one again quarterback Jalen Hurts’ unquestioned favorite target. As a precise route runner, he’s caught 59 passes this season and the next closest Tide player is running back Bo Scarbrough with 16 receptions.
“Before I became a player here, I told myself, ‘When I get there, we’re going to win a national championship,’ and every year, we’ve been here,” Ridley said.
An interesting twist tonight? Ridley’s younger brother Riley will be standing across the field. In a Georgia uniform.
“Mom doesn’t know who she wants to root for. She’s a little nervous because both of her boys will be on the field at the same time,” Riley told SECCountry.com.
The Tide aren’t without more Florida blood tonight. Second-leading tackler and defensive back Ronnie Harrison hails from Tallahassee and is one of Bama’s veteran leaders in the secondary.
And Georgia All-American left tackle Isaiah Wynn was a standout offensive lineman for coach Cory Moore at Lakewood High School in St. Pete.
Our latest power rankings still have college flare
Another week has come and gone. And it was another week of several losses taking place in the state. With that being said, here is how this week’s rankings shape up:
5. FAU Owls- With almost every other team losing someone has to land at five. The Owls were spectacular in wiping out the FIU Panthers in their 49-14 win. Devin Singletary flashed his great abilities with 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Former FSU Qb De’Andre Johnson jump-started the offense with two touchdowns of his own. Lane Kiffin and FAU won’t get back to the C-USA Title game, but that was a quality showing against the local rival.
4. Florida Gators- It was a sad Saturday at the swamp. The Gators offense couldn’t get anything going. In fact, Kyle Trask came on in relief of Feleipe Franks and now the debate is who should be the QB? The Gators were on a nice run before dropping two games in a row now. Florida though still finds themselves 15th in the latest CFB Playoff polls. There’s still an outside shot at a good bowl game, too.
3. Miami Dolphins- Would you look at this?! Another team that actually, won a game last week. The Dolphins battled lousy field conditions in route to an ugly 13-6 win over the Jets. The defense forced four interceptions, one for a TD and Jason Sanders field goals got the victory. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Phins and gave them momentum into a clash with Green Bay Sunday.
2. FIU Panthers- The Panthers, did drop a game last week to FIU, but the body of work keeps them here. I know it sounds like the CFB committee right there, who I will get to later. At 5-1, coach Butch Davis and the Panthers can win out and still play for the C-USA title. So they do control their own destiny for that.
1. UCF Knights- The Knights were able to hold off the rally by Temple to keep the undefeated season intact. Four touchdowns from the returning Milton helped the Knights win 52-40. The problem was that the score was close. In the new CFB playoff rankings, the Knights sit at 12. LSU though is still in the top 10 after getting shutout at home. West Virginia had a great road win at Texas, but also hardly moved up.
As the weeks go by it seems more and more likely that UCF will not be a part of the CFB playoff or even sniff the top 6.
Shakeup in our power rankings this week
What a crazy week we had in Florida. All three pro teams lost (none have wining records), all three power five college programs in action, also lost. So where does that leave us with this week’s rankings?
5. Florida A&M Rattlers- Who? What? How? Why? All questions you probably have with this selection. FAMU is located in Tallahassee for those who don’t know. Yes, a team there is winning right now. They play in the MEAC of the FCS division. The Rattlers though deserve to be here thanks to their good play (five wins in a row) but also the lousy play of everyone else. The Rattlers are currently 1st in the MEAC and sit one win away from clinching their first conference title since 2001. They have an impressive last-second win over 17th ranked North Carolina A&T. While they might be a small school, we don’t forget anyone here at FFI, especially if you are winning.
4- USF Bulls- The Bulls finally suffered their first defeat of the season. We have discussed here at FFI that the Bulls had been playing with fire and the subpar play they showed at times might cost them. Houston did just that and ended the Bulls undefeated season for the second consecutive season. The Bulls still have their whole season in front of them though with games against Cincinnati, Temple, and UCF. The Bulls could win out, win the conference and compete in the New Year’s Six bowls.
3- Florida Gators- The Gators also come off a loss last week at the hands of the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Some costly turnovers hampered the Gators ability to win this one. The Gators though did come in at number 11 in the initial College Football Playoff committee rankings, in fact, one spot ahead of UCF. While the Gators probably won’t be playing for any championships this year if Dan Mullen can win out and beat FSU and get to a major bowl game this season would be a great success.
2- FIU Panthers- The Panthers and coach Butch Davis (above) are the only team from last week’s five to win. Every week I talk about QB James Morgan and every week he leads the team to victory. Morgan tossed three more touchdowns in a win over Western Kentucky. However, the run game was dominating as well. D’vonte Price had 119 yards and two touchdowns. Napoleon Maxwell had 80 yards of his own. The Panthers take on rival FAU this week looking to continue the streak they are on and remain the top team in Conference USA.
1-UCF Knights- The Knights were on their bye week, and the only focus was on the rankings. While they climbed in the AP poll, they debuted at onlyl #12 in the playoff rankings. While it is higher than where they initially were last year, I’m sure they don’t like it. The Knights being behind in-state Florida is what might hurt the most with the Gators having two loses. The Knights though have a few big games ahead of them to end the season, starting with Temple Thursday night, and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out.
Lots of movement up in AP Top 25 for state teams
A very successful weekend for the four prominent college teams in the state and the latest AP poll out Sunday afternoon reflects the upward trend. This includes a team joining the AP Top 25 for the first time this season. More on them in the moment.
First up is UCF, which enters the AP top 10 for the first time this season on the heels of their 48-20 blowout win over SMU Saturday night in Orlando. QB McKenzie Milton threw for two scores and RB Adrian Killins ran for 120 yards and another TD in the easy AAC win. The Knights have now won 18 games in a row and are clearly getting national attention.
The biggest movement up was the Florida Gators racing from number 22 up to #14 in this week’s AP after their thrilling 27-19 victory over LSU Saturday afternoon in the Swamp. Florida, which is in the top 15 for the first time this season, is now coming off the three straight SEC victories. It’s also the first time the Gators had beaten an AP Top five opponent since 2015.
The Miami Hurricanes wild 20-point second-half comeback enabled them to beat rival Florida State 28 – 27 and the Canes have moved up one spot to 16th in the AP poll. Coach Mark Richt’s team breathed a sigh of relief with the win, which also keeps them unbeaten in the ACC.
Meanwhile, USF has entered the AP Top 25 for the first time this season at #23 overall. This after the Bulls got a school record rushing day from RB Jordan Cronkrite in a 58-40 to win at UMass Saturday afternoon.
3⃣ hundo 😱
— USF Football (@USFFootball) October 7, 2018
Charlie Strong’s team had been receiving votes in the AP Poll the last couple of weeks, but it’s interesting that they’re getting this much respect. This is despite the fact that their last three victories have been over teams with losing records.
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