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Florida flare in Monday night’s College Football Playoff Title Game

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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CFB

Gators at Vols and USF trying to stay unbeaten top Saturday primer

Jamil King

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The latest Saturday of college football around the State has every school in Florida in action. Some will be paying each other; one will be in a rivalry and another looking to bounce back vs. a MAC opponent.

Here’s what to watch for as September rolls on:

The Florida Gators will be taking on SEC East Rival Tennessee in a game in Knoxville, TN, that looks to be just who can make the least amount of mistakes.We wrote earlier this week about how the rivalry has lost its luster.

The Gators will need to try to find an offensive identity in this game, whether that be with QB Felipe Franks finding a grove or establishing a downhill running attack. After dropping his first conference game to Kentucky, Dan Mullen will look to get his first conference win, as a Gator.

The Florida State Seminoles are just looking for something to go right for themselves this weekend. After the second humiliating offensive performance of the season last Saturday, Willie Taggart needs this game to go his way. Still, as we also wrote this week, Taggart is not going anywhere during or after this season.

Against NIU this afternoon, the Noles need to keep QB Deondre Francois on his feet and establish the run. Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick need to get a lot of carries early and often in this one so the Noles can set a tone. Will the offensive line be better. Can the Seminoles defense make plays?

The Canes will get in-state rival FIU in a battle of south Florida. Miami has bounced back from their early-season defeat to LSU. However, Canes haven’t played any significant opponents in Savanah State and Toledo. The Canes though have used these games to fix an offense that was broken in Dallas.

QB Malik Rosier has improved over the weeks, and the Canes may have found a playmaker in Dee Jay Dallas. Miami will look to continue the offensive momentum before starting ACC play.

Finally, USF is under the lights at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, and should have a fairly easy time with American Conference opponent East Carolina. The Bulls come off back to back impressive wins over Georgia Tech and last week in Chicago against Illinois.

In that game, QB Blake Barnett threw the winning TD pass in the final two minutes to help the Bulls start 3-0 for the second straight year under Charlile Strong.

Let’s see if the Bulls make quick work of the visiting Pirates.

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CFB

Bulls travel to Illinois as part of Saturday College Primer

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another Saturday of college football in September and two of the state’s teams travel on the road in the biggest matchups of the weekend.

USF will take on Big Ten power 5 team Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago at 3:30 Eastern.

The Bulls are fresh off a 49-38 defeat opponent Georgia Tech last weekend. In that game, quarterback Blake Barnett (above) played solidly. And, special-teams speedster Terrence Horne raced two kick off returns back for touchdowns in the first quarter alone, to help the Bulls get a win over a Power Five conference team.

For his efforts, Horne was named Special Teams Player of the Week in the American Conference.

Meanwhile, it has been a struggle for Illinois and former Buccaneers and Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Winless in the Big Ten a year ago and now in his third season, Illinois struggled to get by two easy opponents to start this season. His team is going with a Young quarterback in A.J. Bush and the oddsmakers have the Illini as 12 point underdogs at home.

The pressure is on Smith to get something going, particularly in conference play in a bad outing maybe a bad omen.

The next biggest game of the day comes up at Noon Eastern time when Florida State travels to Syracuse in an ACC game at the Carrier Dome.

As we wrote earlier in the week the Seminoles better have their track shoes on, as this one is likely to be and up and down the field high-scoring game.

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey is excellent dual threat, and probably better at running the football. FSU’s defense has really struggled in the first two games with Virginia Tech and Samford and has to get themselves back on track.

Meanwhile, quarterback Deondre Francois, running back Cam Akers and the Noles offense know that they have to put the points on the board, as well. They did so in the second half of last week’s come back when over the Bulldogs at Doak Campbell Stadium.

New coach Willie Taggart needs a good showing to qwell the growing criticism early on of his hire.

The Miami Hurricanes, they are in Toledo, Ohio taking on the MAC’s Rockets, also in a Noon Eastern Time game. Canes had no trouble with Savannah State last week in a 77 – 0 blowout win.

Quarterback Malik Rosier played only part of the first have that’s coach Mark Richt was able to get some playing time for two of his backups as the game went on.

Toledo actually played Miami tough for a half last year at Hard Rock Stadium leading 16-10 at intermission before Miami pulled away in the second half.

Toledo’s home stadium, known as the Glass Bowl seats 25,000, and they have been waiting for this game for two years. Let’s see if the Hurricanes have some struggles.

And finally, the Gators play host to Colorado State at the swamp at 4 p.m. Florida is still smarting from their upset loss at home last week to Kentucky in the SEC opener. As you probably know, the Wildcats napping 31 game losing streak to the Gators completely out playing them especially in the second half.

Florida’s defensive line in particular struggled for much of the night to do anything to stop the Wildcats rushing offense.

A while this will not be an easy task has Colorado State comes in having knocked off SEC West team Arkansas at home last week behind quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels, who has already thrown for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns in three games for the Rams.

Ironically, this is a game being played because former coach Jim McElwain and the University of Florida worked out a deal with Colorado State to help let him out of his contract, if they would host the Rams in a game.

Of course McElwain was dismissed in late October last season, and now the new coach, Dan Mullen, is trying to regain some swagger after last week’s stinging defeat.

Gators cannot get caught looking ahead to next week showdown at Tennessee.

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CFB

Week two Saturday college football primer

Florida Football Insiders

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a hot September Saturday in Florida and all five of the prominent state school teams will be hosting games this week.

For FSU, Miami and UCF, they have easy opponents and should win convincingly. For the Gators, it’s the SEC opener with a team that has been their slave for four decades (Kentucky) and USF plays the game with the most intrigue this weekend, as they host perennial ACC contender Georgia Tech.

First for the easy ones, Florida State will look to bounce back from their 24-3 defeat Monday night against Virginia Tech on a short week against Samford. Look for the Noles to score early and often tonight in this one with a much easier level of competition.

Miami is still smarting from their Sunday night lost to LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Canes will get an easy game today with Savannah State at Hard Rock Stadium. Quarterback Malik Rosier has got to get himself back on track to open this season.

And in Orlando, UCF puts the nation’s longest winning streak on the line at 14 in a row, and will easily make it 15 in a row in a game with South Carolina State. Look for QB McKenzie Milton and Co. to light them up and not play much in the second half of this one.

For USF, they have the noon Eastern Time start with the Yellow Jackets, as we wrote earlier this week the toughest task is defending their triple option. It will be difficult on USF defense to stop quarterback Taquon Marshall and all of their assorted runners in the backfield.

Bulls quarterback Blake Barnett threw for three scores and ran for another against easy competition in Elon. However, this will be a step up in competition for him as well, against Tech.

And finally tonight in Gainesville, the Gators open SEC play against Kentucky, a program that they have owned since 1986. Our Matt Zemek took a unique look many different parts of life and pop culture that started 32 years ago when the Wildcats last beat the Gators.

In the present day, quarterback Felipe Franks Franks looks to follow up on his five touchdown first half performance last week against Charleston Southern. The Gators will also try to use running back Jordan Scarlett more this week as well. Florida is heavily favored to be 2-0 and 32 for 32 against the Wildcats.

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