2018 fantasy football composite rankings: RB

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead.

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

For longer explanations, you can find their individual rankings here: Joe and Braxton.

Here are the composite running back rankings:

Running back rankings: 1-10

1. Todd Gurley- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

2. Ezekiel Elliot- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 3

3. Le’Veon Bell- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank: 1

4. Leonard Fournette- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 7

5. Kareem Hunt- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 5

7. David Johnson- Arizona Cardinals

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 4

8. Saquon Barkley- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 8

9. Melvin Gordon- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank: 9

10. Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 10

Running back rankings: 11-20

11. Devonta Freeman- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 12

12. Jerick Mckinnon- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank: 15

13. Jordan Howard- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 13

14. Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 11

15. LeSean McCoy- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 14

16. Joe Mixon- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 18

17. Derrick Henry- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 20

18. Alex Collins- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 17

19. Lamar Miller- Houston Texans

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 19

20. Kenyan Drake- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 16

Running back rankings: 21-30

 21. Derrius Guice- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 21

22. Royce Freeman- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 24

23. Carlos Hyde- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank: 28

24. Mark Ingram- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 27

25. Jay Ajayi- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 25

26. Marshawn Lynch- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: 22

27. Marlon Mack- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 29

28. Ronald Jones- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 26

29. Rashaad Penny- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: N/A

Joe’s rank: 23

30. Sony Michel- New England Patriots

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank: N/A

 

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running back rankings

2018 fantasy football running back rankings

As I joked about in my quarterback rankings, these will likely be irrelevant in a matter of weeks. Thankfully, the news about Mark Ingram and his four-game suspension was released this week. It will no doubt impact his draft stock and the usage of every player on the Saints’ offense through the first four games. So, let’s get right into running back rankings for 2018.

Running Back Rankings: 1-10

1. Ezekiel Elliott –  Dallas Cowboys

No offense is going to rely more on their running back than the Dallas Cowboys. The losses of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten means that the rest of their skill positions are unproven commodities and to this point, Dak Prescott isn’t capable of elevating those players. Ezekiel Elliott, as a result, is going to play a much larger role in the passing game. While he’s not as fluid a receiver as some other elite backs, the added touches will give Elliott the weekly upside of players like Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. Not to mention, he’ll enter the season with fresh legs and a monster chip on his shoulder. An angry Ezekiel Elliott has me excited about his fantasy prospects in 2018.

2. Todd Gurley –  Los Angeles Rams 

I’m on record saying this entire offense is going to take a step back. Now, I think Todd Gurley’s production will be the least impacted by the regression. His volume in this offense is too great to keep him out of the top three spots. His involvement in the passing game, particularly in the screen game, would likely make him the number one overall pick in most PPR leagues. However, Sean McVay’s system will not take any coordinator by surprise and one injury to this offensive line would severely limit his production.

3. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell is scaring the hell out of me at the number three spot. He once again will not be reporting to camp and won’t be working with the team until the first week of regular season practice. It took two games before we saw the kind of production we’re used to from Bell, then he exploded against Baltimore. Apart from sitting out training camp, Bell has a history of missing games for injury and suspension, and always seems to be feuding with management. Despite all of those potential negatives, he’s too talented and in too great of a system to be lower than the number three spot.

4. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette is in a similar role to Ezekiel Elliot. Fournette is the going to be the focus of a run-first offense and will be receive a tremendous amount of volume. However, there are a few negatives Elliott does not have. Fournette’s role in the passing game is not as substantial, his offensive line is not as good and he missed multiple games in his rookie season. What separates Fournette from a the other players in the top ten is his consistent volume, and his team’s unquestioned commitment to the running the ball.

5. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs

As a Kareem Hunt fan, it was absolutely egregious that he was not named the offensive rookie of the year in 2017. Alvin Kamara was great, but he didn’t lead the NFL, or even his own team in rushing yards. Rant aside, Kareem Hunt is in a great position entering 2018. The only person who can stand in his way is Andy Reid. As a season-long owner of Kareem Hunt last year, Reid would randomly not give the ball to Hunt for more multiple games in a row. Now that Patrick Mahomes is the starter, one can surmise that Hunt will receive a larger volume of touches as a result. Also, starting running backs in Andy Reid’s system are always viable fantasy options.

6. Saquon Barkley – New York Giants

Saquon Barkley will likely be over drafted come August. He’s a great player in a good situation. He’s the unquestioned starter and playing with an upgraded offensive line, an elite perimeter player and a capable quarterback. The only problem is that his popularity and camp reports will inflate his value to the point where he is going over players like Hunt and Fournette, which I struggle to agree with. If you want Barkley, you might have to take him with a top-five pick by mid-August.

7. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints

Given my Kareem Hunt analysis, you might think I don’t like him. That could not be farther from the truth. I drafted him in all my redraft leagues when he was slated as the third running back on the depth chart. The only problem I have with Kamara is that he doesn’t appear to be a running back capable of handling 20 carries and 3-5 catches a game, on top of his kick return duties. What made him so great was Sean Payton’s ability to match him up with linebackers in coverage, and give him carries in unconventional running situations. Even with Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension, his volume will not that of an Elliott, Gurley or Bell. The Saints will more than likely ask Drew Brees and company to shoulder more of the load during their stretch without Ingram.

8. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals

David Jonson’s slide to the eighth spot is the result of a few things. He’s playing in a new offensive system. During Mike McCoy’s tenure as a head coach or offensive coordinator, his offenses on average ranked 14th in attempts. When Melvin Gordon was his starting running back, his team ranked 22nd in rushing attempts both seasons. Gordon and Johnson are similar in terms of volume and involvement in the passing game, with the overall edge going to Johnson. However, the quarterback play will likely be sub-par because Sam Bradford will get injured and McCoy’s playbooks are notoriously difficult to absorb. Johnson will be a productive fantasy running back, but he should not be viewed as the same number one overall pick he was touted as last season.

9. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons

Devonta Freeman’s production, like everyone on the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, dipped. I do think he and the offense as a whole will improve with another year under Steve Sarkisian. But, there were some concerns towards the end of last season. Seemingly out of nowhere, Freeman got the football equivalent of the yipps and could not score on the goal line. In fairness, he was dealing with an injury late in the season, but it will be telling if the Falcons decide to use Tevin Coleman out of shotgun in short yardage, as opposed to pounding the ball inside with Freeman.

10. Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers

It seems like the Chargers are the most underrated team in terms of fantasy production when you consider that consistent producers like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen are all on same offense. Every year Gordon is a good starter and is a heavy volume player. The only thing keeping Gordon from being higher on this list is that he doesn’t produce explosive plays like Kamara or Hunt.

Running Back Rankings: 11-20

11. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are shaping up to be a dangerous team. They are incredibly well-balanced on offense which bodes well for Dalvin Cook, especially since he’s coming off an injury. Kirk Cousins and his perimeter weapons will help open up running lanes for Cook. Even if the upgrade at the quarterback position takes away from Cook’s volume, he no longer has to compete with Jerick McKinnon for third down touches. Don’t expect Cook’s overall production, or in draft stock.

12. Jerick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers

I am so excited about the prospects of Jerrick McKinnon in San Francisco. For those who doubt McKinnon’s role as a full-time starter, show me the last running back who was paid $36 million and didn’t see the majority of the touches in the backfield. This is going to sound crazy, but Jerrick McKinnon is Alvin Kamara in terms of ability. McKinnon actually is faster, more explosive, just as capable as a receiver, and only smaller by one inch and four pounds. While I don’t think he can handle a full workload, I absolutely think his production is going to skyrocket with an increased role in San Francisco.

13. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans

Now that Derrick Henry is finally rid of Demarco Murray, he is going to see a Leonard Fournette type of volume. Henry’s knock is that he lacks explosiveness and benefited from splitting time with Murray, which is accurate but may not apply moving forward. It will be interesting to see in the first four weeks whether or not he can keep his yards per carry up while seeing the increased volume.

14. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears

Last year Jordan Howard disappointed fantasy owners, especially those who took him in the second round. Howard was no longer sneaking up on defenses and was actually the primary focus given the team’s rookie quarterback. Thankfully, the Tarik Cohen fad faded as the season progressed, but Benny Cunningham is a classic third-down back who will still take away touches in the passing game from Howard in 2018.

15. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon could explode in productivity this year. The Bengals upgraded their left tackle position and spent a first-round pick on interior defensive linemen, Billy Price. Mixon asserted himself as the best player in this backfield and will see the majority of the touches from week one. Giovani Bernard is still there, so he will likely assume the third-down role. However, Mixon is absolutely the starter and could end up being a value on draft day.

16. Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns

Much of my Jerick McKinnon excitement can be applied to Carlos Hyde in Cleveland. Hyde is a complete back and no longer has to convince Kyle Shanahan to give him the ball over Matt Breida. Hyde should be drafted as a fourth-round pick though because of the presence of Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb. Johnson will be the primary third down back, and Nick Chubb could threaten Hyde’s share of the carries.

17. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills

This could be the final season for LeSean McCoy in terms of fantasy relevance. While he’s still dynamic, there are too many new variables that can hamper his success. McCoy has to deal with a new starting quarterback, new starting left tackle and a new starting guard. He will no longer get the benefit of the Tyrod Taylor and running the read option. We also have to keep in mind that McCoy will be 30 years old this July.

18. Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos

Royce Freeman is going to be the week one starter if the Broncos don’t sign a veteran player at the position. The Broncos are so confident in Freeman’s ability that they did not retain C.J. Anderson. Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charless and De’Angelo Henderson were all on the roster last year and none of them could assert themselves as the dominant back. It also doesn’t hurt that Pro Football Focus has Freeman slated as the starter. I will be aggressively targeting Freeman in redrafts and rookie drafts.

19. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey was higher in my rankings until the C.J. Anderson acquisition. I believe McCaffrey will be the starter and dominate all the touches between the 20’s. However, Anderson could turn into a goal-line vulture, especially knowing that the Panthers like to bring on big personnel in short yardage for Cam Newton or the former, Jonathan Stewart. I can still see them using McCaffrey in red zone passing situations to exploit matchups, but it’s possible the Anderson steals multiple touchdowns from McCaffrey this season.

20. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is going to be, or I hope will be, a great value on draft day. Picking Ingram is going to come down to which round I can draft him in. If you told me right now that I could get Ingram in the fifth round, I would jump at that opportunity. If I only get 75 percent of his production last season, since he’s missing the first four games, that means I would be getting 173 carries, 843 yards, and 9 touchdowns. I’ll take that all day in the fifth round.

Running Back Rankings: 21-30

21. Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins

I’m not too high on Derrius Guice. He will certainly have every opportunity to start, but, this team had no interest in running the ball last season. They ranked 24th in rushing attempts in 2017. Also, Chris Thompson will return as the unquestioned third down and pass catching back.

22. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans

Lamar Miller is another player I’ll be aggressively targeting. Every year no one wants Lamar Miller, and every year he finishes top 15 in points (average finish of 11.25 in points the last four seasons). He’s going to play in a potentially dynamic offense based on what we saw last season. And, he’s going to be the beneficiary of seven men boxes because of their explosive perimeter players.

23. Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens

While the Ravens are trying to transform their wide receivers and potentially their quarterback, they are committed to running the ball. The Ravens upgraded their offensive line, and, did not draft a running back in this year’s draft. Alex Collins should be a starter in all leagues and will likely be picked in the fourth or fifth round.

24. Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts

The entire team hinges on Andrew Luck, including Marlon Mack. Mack will likely be the starter week one, but will not have the upside of a starter in fantasy if Luck is not under center.

25. Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins

Kenyan Drake came on strong for the Dolphins last season. He showed the ability to be an all-around running back. However, the Dolphins have shipped a lot of their talent elsewhere, and aside from Josh Sitton, their interior linemen are sub par.

26. Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles

I love Jay Ajayi and he’s in a system, but the Eagles just signed Matt Jones this week and brought back Darren Sproles. How in the hell is he going to get enough touches to be productive? Just do yourself a favor and shy away from anyone on the Eagles.

27. Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots

I approach the Patriots the same way I approach the Eagles, just don’t (unless there’s an injury). Rex Burkhead will likely get the goal line carries and be used to exploit some receiving mismatches, but at a much smaller rate than James White.

28. Ronald Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronald Jones will probably be the starter. Just as a result of that, he will accumulate production worthy of being drafted. I’m not sure what his upside will be behind that offensive line and in a system that wants to primarily throw the ball to a multitude of targets.

29. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders

Marshawn Lynch is projected to start week one. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires before the start of the season. It’s very possible that he and Jon Gruden will clash, and as a result, he hands up his cleats again. It’s also a crowded backfield with Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington.

30. Sony Michel – New England Patriots

My best guess is that Sony Michel will assume the Dion Lewis role for the Patriots. He’s substantially more talented than Lewis, but he cannot overcome the Patriots’ system. Unless there’s an injury, don’t count on Michel for production.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of SI.com

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The 2018 Drafted New England Patriots

The 2018 NFL draft kicked its first round off on Thursday night. The New England Patriots sat in a position to draft two players on both the first round (Thursday) and the second round (Friday).

The Patriots ended up gaining draft picks through the last year or so. The two picks they inherited were the #23 overall pick that was the Los Angeles Rams, and the 43rd overall pick from the 49ers. Those two draft picks were landed in the business transactions that saw Jimmy Garoppolo as well as Brandin Cooks depart from Foxboro.

The Patriots sought out what seemed to be an annual list of “needs”. The usual Offensive Lineman, Cover Linebacker and Cornerback all made appearances in another draft portfolio. That same portfolio that has “quarterback” probably in bold by now. For all of these four picks, it seemed as though the Patriots would attempt to fill the needs with suitable players. Let’s be honest here, if you thought that’s what they were going to do then you’ve never watched Bill Belichick.

The First Round:

#23

Many rumors circulated about the Patriots potentially taking Lamar Jackson at their 23rd selection. After all the smoke cleared the Patriots passed on Lamar not once but twice. The 23rd pick resulted in the University of Georgia Offensive lineman, Isaiah Wynn.

This pick proved to be a very smart move being that they lost Nate Solder this offseason. Wynn proved to be a very solid run blocker as Georgia’s two-back rushing attack was one of the best in the country and showed that he could hold up in pass protection as well. Wynn will be the immediate plug and play to replace Nate Solder and I don’t think too many New England fans are disappointed with that.

#31

This pick was the Patriots original draft selection, and one that surprised most people. After an offseason where they lost one of their lead backs in Dion Lewis, then turned around and signed former Cincinnati Bengal standout in Jeremy Hill, they turned to the draft to pick another back to be in an already crowded backfield. The Patriots shocked some people by taking Sony Michel with the 31st pick. Sony Michel is another Georgia Bulldog and a very good one at that.

Despite being in a dual backfield at Georgia, Michel was one of the stars of college football. He especially seemed to shine in the College Football Playoffs. Against Oklahoma and their subpar defense, Michel managed to get 222 yards on 16 carries. In the National Championship, basically on the opposite side of the spectrum, he got 98 yards on 14 carries against the nations toughest defense in the Alabama Crimson Tide. Michel took over the backfield and outshined Nick Chubb. He could be a possible Jeremy Hill but younger. He joins a backfield that doesn’t have a true running back but has a bunch of pass catching backs.

James White and Rex Burkhead have shown that they are the two heavy load backs, but the Patriots have lacked a true runner. Mike Gillislee is the closest thing the Patriots have to a true running back and he’s the same weight and height as the unproven Michel. Gillislee has proven to not be the guy for the Patriots, so Michel could get the opportunity to shine behind a very solid offensive line and in a great offense.

Second Round:

#56

New England Patriots

Duke Dawson Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What was originally two picks heading into the second round then turned to one. The Patriots, rather classically, traded out of their selection and managed to drop further back into another draft. They did, however, manage to take care of one of the glaring holes on their defense. Duke Dawson is a corner that played for the Florida Gators (Ah yes, SEC defenders). He is coming in trying to be the complement to Stephon Gilmore. He will come in looking to be a solid cover corner to fill in for Malcolm Butler who the Patriots let go this offseason.

Summary:

The Patriots have done a very nice job in the earlier rounds of filling some of the voids they have. Year in and year out it seems like people are worried about who is going to take over for Tom Brady. This season was no different, many people were expecting Lamar Jackson to come off the boards and go with the Patriots. Instead, they are stocking up their assets for Brady to exploit and stashing some picks later in the draft to take a chance on a quarterback for the future. The Patriots have yet again done another solid job on building a roster back up after it seemed to be depleted this offseason.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

The SEC is going to win the National Championship, it’s just a matter of which team. Both Georgia and Alabama were able to win their semi-final matchups and now will go to Atlanta for the big game. Nick Saban will go up against his former defensive coordinator for a shot at his fifth national championship. Here is the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview:

4 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

Jalen Hurts (Photo by seccountry.com)

Alabama didn’t struggle at all with Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Saban had his team ready to play with the defense not even allowing a touchdown. A lot of critics said that Alabama didn’t deserve to be in the College Football Playoff, but they used that as fuel to beat Clemson. Now they find themselves in the same position most great Alabama teams find themselves in: a chance to win a National Championship.

The offense wasn’t explosive, but got the job done against Clemson. Jalen Hurts completed 66.7% of his passes for 120 yards and two scores. He did what he has been doing all year, protecting the football and moving the chains. Hurts still has just one interception on the season. Protecting the ball will be at a premium once again when he goes up a very good Georgia defense.

Top receiver Calvin Ridley wasn’t the most productive he’s ever been, but had four receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown. Surprisingly defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne scored the other receiving touchdown when he was in as a fullback on the goal line. They have talent at the wide receiver position, especially with Ridley, but the key is making the most of their chances since Alabama isn’t the greatest passing offense.

Only three rushers got the ball in the semi-final against Clemson. Damien Harris led the way, like he has all year, with 77 rushing yards. Hurts added 40, while Bo Scarbrough could only muster 24 yards on 12 carries. They played an elite defensive front in Clemson, so this wasn’t a great surprise. Georgia’s defense is good, but the defensive line isn’t nearly as good as Clemson’s, so Alabama should have more success running the ball.

The defense stepped up to the challenge against Clemson and held the Tigers to under 200 total yards. They allowed wide receiver Deon Cain to do well, but for the most part didn’t let receivers get separation and completely shut down the running game. Rashaan Evans stepped up at linebacker with nine tackles, which was needed due to a lot of injuries at the linebacker position for Alabama. There are a lot of good players on this defense, who will have to step up against the Bulldog’s great running backs.

3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1)

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

Nick Chubb (Photo by fanragsports.com)

Georgia looked like they were going to lose to Oklahoma right before the half, when they were down by 17 points. They were fortunate to get a field goal before the break and then the defense started to play up to their potential in the second half. The game went into two overtime periods. In the second, Bulldog linebacker Lorenzo Carter blocked a field goal attempt and then Sony Michel ran in a touchdown to seal the victory for the Bulldogs.

Jake Fromm also did a great job of protecting the football with 210 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. If he can protect the football and help move it a little bit, the offense usually does well with the great running backs they have. He completed 20 of 29 passes in the game and didn’t waste too many opportunities.

The top receiver for the Bulldogs against Oklahoma was Javon Wims, who had six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Sony Michel showed again that he can do more than run the ball with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Like Alabama, the passing game isn’t the strong point of the team. The Bulldogs’ strongest position on offense is running back.

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are the most dynamic duo of running backs in the history of college football. It is a great one-two punch, but Georgia also has freshman D’Andre Swift in the mix as well. Chubb and Michel had great games in the semi-final with 367 total yards and six touchdowns between the two. While Chubb is the more physical runner, Michel is multi-talented and has great quickness. They compliment each other really well and will need to have good games against Alabama.

The defense started off slow against Mayfield, but in the second half looked completely different. Oklahoma was only able to score 14 second half points, with seven of them coming from a defensive touchdown. While they allowed 48 points, no one is going to completely stop Oklahoma’s offense, but they hope to slow it down like Georgia did.

Roquan Smith had a rough first half, but when he stepped it up in the second half, the whole defense played better. He led the team with 11 total tackles. Smith did a good job spying on Mayfield, which will also come in hand against Alabama and Hurts. The other linebackers of Georgia are special too and will have to aid the defensive front in stopping the run.

Prediction

Beating Alabama at their own game is very tough and that is what Georgia will have to do. LSU has tried the blue print of having a pro-style offense, running the ball and playing tough defense for a while and have been largely unsuccessful against the Crimson Tide. Alabama definitely has the edge due to their history of beating teams who play similar styles.

Stopping the run is going to be something both teams focus on, which means it will likely come down to which quarterback and receivers can make the most plays. Hurts is the more experienced, has less turnovers and can run the ball well if he is pressured. He also has Calvin Ridley, one of the best receivers in college football, to throw to. The Crimson Tide have the advantage here too.

On defense, Georgia has the better linebackers. They have so many good ones they can’t even get all of them on the field all the time, while Alabama is struggling to stay healthy at the position. On the rest of the defense, Alabama is better than Georgia.

Expect a low-scoring game that centers around that style of running the ball and stopping the run. Alabama will let Hurts run, while feeding Scarbrough and Harris. If it doesn’t work, Hurts will protect the football and get it in Ridley’s hands. The Crimson Tide defense will at least be able to slow down the Georgia running backs, helping them secure the win.

 

 

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl is a College Football Playoff game, which means the best of the best are playing. Many of these players will go onto the next level eventually and have their impact felt. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl:

Georgia Bulldogs

Roquan Smith, LB

Smith is the most complete linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft class and is the leader of the Georgia defense. The past two years he has produced a lot, but this year he took his game to a whole new level. He has 113 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

He is 6’1″ and 225 pounds which is good enough size to play inside linebacker. He could play in any system that is thrown out there in the NFL. Smith will be the first inside linebacker to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Trenton Thompson, DT

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl

Trenton Thompson (redandblack.com)

Thompson doesn’t have many stats, but the good play of a defensive tackle doesn’t always show up in the stat line. He has 33 total tackles and three tackles for loss. The lack of production is a little concerning, but he does a good job with gap integrity and stopping the run.

At 6’4″ and 295 pounds, Thompson is a perfect fit as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Defensive tackles don’t usually go high in the draft, but should be selected on day two.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-3rd round

Nick Chubb, RB

Chubb is one of the best running backs in SEC history. He has battled injuries, split carries and played against tough competition and has still produced. In his career he has 4,599 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He isn’t the best running back in the class, but has some of the best production.

He is 5’10” and 225 pounds which is good enough for the NFL. Day two of the NFL Draft is likely when Chubb will hear his name called.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other Georgia prospects: RB Sony Michel (3rd round-5th round), TE Jeb Blazevich (7th round-undrafted free agent), OL Isaiah Wynn (2nd round-4th round), LB Lorenzo Carter (2nd round-4th round), LB Davin Bellamy (4th round-6th round), LB Reggie Carter (7th round-undrafted free agent), CB DeAndre Baker (4th round-6th round), S Dominick Sanders (4th round-6th round)

Oklahoma Sooners 

Baker Mayfield, QB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

Mayfield is the best player in college football as the Heisman Trophy winner. That doesn’t always translate into a good pro prospect, but he has done about everything to prove that he can make it in the NFL. In his career, he has 14,320 passing yards, 129 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

Size is a big issue with Mayfield, as he is 6’1″ and 225 pounds. This doesn’t mean he can’t be successful, but NFL executives want prospects to meet their measurables.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Orlando Brown, OT

Brown has a lot of experience blocking for a very explosive offense. It has afforded him the opportunity to get a lot of reps run blocking or pass blocking. He has NFL bloodlines, as his dad played in the NFL. Brown hasn’t shown the greatest mobility, but is still a good prospect.

At 6’8″ and 345 pounds, not many tackles are bigger than Brown. NFL teams will try to take Brown because of his size and try to mold him into a player for their system.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB

Okoronkwo is a good pass rushing prospect and one of the few players from Oklahoma’s defense that can make it to the next level. In his Oklahoma career, he has 157 total tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. That is impressive given that he has only had two years of solid playing time.

He is a little undersized at 6’1″ and 241 pounds, but has production. He will need to show good speed rushing skills in order to move up draft boards.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other notable Oklahoma prospects: TE Mark Andrews (2nd round-4th round), CB Jordan Thomas (4th round-6th round), S Steven Parker (6th round-undrafted free agent)

2018 Rose Bowl preview

The first College Football Playoff game is the 2018 Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma. Conflicting styles will go at it with one high-powered offense going up against a good defense. Here is the 2018 Rose Bowl preview:

3 Georgia Bulldogs (12-1)

2018 Rose Bowl preview

Roquan Smith (Photo by profootballfocus.com)

Georgia is one of the few teams that had a chance to avenge a loss and did so by beating Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. They were tested and beat plenty of tough teams in Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky and Auburn. Facing Oklahoma is a new challenge, but they have some really good players who can make an impact.

The offense scores 34.9 points per game and is fueled by a good running game. Nick Chubb is the leader of three running backs who gain a lot of yardage. Chubb has 1,175 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Sony Michel chips in with 948 yards and 13 touchdowns. Freshman D’Andre Swift is the best third-string running back in the country with 597 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

When Jacob Eason went down with an injury, a lot of Bulldog fans got nervous, but Jake Fromm has stepped up to lead this team to an SEC Championship. He doesn’t have the biggest stat line, but has made some nice throws. He has 2,173 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions on 63% completion. Javon Wims and Terry Godwin are the two leading receivers for the Bulldogs. Wims has 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns, while Godwin has 540 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Their defense has been great and will need to be at its best against Oklahoma. They allow just 13.2 points per game, which is fourth best in the country. Georgia is 11th against the run and second against the pass. The best player on their defense is linebacker Roquan Smith. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year has 113 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.

2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

2018 Rose Bowl preview

Baker Mayfield (Photo by wsj.com)

The Sooners have ridden the great play of quarterback Baker Mayfield to the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma only lost to Iowa State this season and has some pretty impressive wins. They beat Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU twice.

They have a potent offense that averages 44.9 points per game. While Mayfield gets a lot of the headlines, the running game is good too. Rodney Adams leads the team with 960 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Trey Sermon and Abdul Adams also get a lot of carries and produce. Sermon has 710 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while Adams had 542 rushing yards and one score.

Mayfield has had a great season that has garnered him the Heisman Trophy. He has thrown for 4,340 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions on 71% passing. This Georgia defense will put him to the test, but he hasn’t shown he can be totally stopped. His leading receivers are Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. Brown has 981 receiving yards and six touchdowns, while Andrews finished with 906 yards and eight touchdowns.

The defense is average, but only has to get a few stops a game with the good offense. They allow 25 points per game, with them ranking 41st against the run and 88th against the pass. Pass rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has 70 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles this season.

Prediction

Baker Mayfield is a premier player who isn’t easily stopped. While he will be slowed down by Georgia’s great defense, the Sooners will come out on top. They can throw the ball and run it well, which will keep Georgia off balance. On defense Oklahoma will key on stopping the run and will make Jake Fromm try to keep up with Mayfield. Mayfield will come out on top.

Oklahoma Sooners 34 Georgia Bulldogs 30

 

 

 

 

Five things to watch in week two of college football

We finally have a full week of college football in the books and are ready for week two, which features some big games. Four top 25 matchups will really show everyone who is pretend and who is for real. It is one of many separation Saturdays this fall. Here are five things to watch from the big weekend:

1. Stanford’s rushing attack vs. USC’s defense

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Bryce Love (Photo by zimbio.com)

This game will say a lot about both teams, but will highlight their differences. Sam Darnold will get a lot of attention after not playing his best against Western Michigan in the opener. The thing that may decide this game though is the physicality of Stanford and their ability to run the football.

Bryce Love is averaging a whopping 13.8 yards per carry after his first game against Rice. He looks ready to carry the load for the Cardinal offense and be the next star of the backfield. Love will be running against an experienced offensive line that helped gain Christian McCaffrey fame.

So why does this particular matchup mean so much? USC could not stop Western Michigan on the ground in their season opener. The Broncos rushed for 263 yards against the Trojans and are a shell of the rushing attack Stanford has. The Trojans lost the majority of their defensive front from last season and will need to slow Love and Stanford down in order to win the game.

If USC can stop the run they will win, but if they can’t they will have to win a shootout.

2. Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State’s secondary

Five things to watch for in week two of college football

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

Ohio State playing Oklahoma is drawing a lot of interest this week, because both teams are College Football Playoff contenders. Lincoln Reilly will also be tested in his first big game as head coach of the Sooners. His offense, which is led by Baker Mayfield will be going up against an Ohio State unit that struggled in their opener.

The Buckeyes lost three of four starters in the secondary to the NFL and it showed in their season opening win against Indiana. Ohio State allowed over 400 yards passing to the Hoosiers. Indiana is a good offensive team, but the Buckeyes need to improve if they have National Championship hopes.

Mayfield has two straight appearances as a Heisman Finalist, but has not won. He wants to avenge a loss to the Buckeyes from last year in Norman. He has over 10,000 career passing yards with a completion percentage of 95% in his first game this season. His efficiency is going to be key against Ohio State.

The secondary of Ohio State won’t be able to completely shut down Mayfield, or even play as well as last year, but need to get key stops in order to win.

3. Jake Fromm vs. Notre Dame’s defense

five things to watch for in week two of college football

Jake Fromm (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

The Fighting Irish will host Georgia for the first time in history. In a game involving teams with so much history, anything can happen. Both teams looked good in week one, but Georgia’s starting quarterback Jacob Eason got injured and had to be replaced by Jake Fromm. Now Fromm is getting thrown into a very tough road game at Notre Dame Stadium.

Fromm went 10 of 15 for 143 yards and a touchdown after relieving Eason in the Bulldogs opening game. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and the running game will have to take some pressure off Fromm, but he will need to make some key throws. Fromm is no slouch and is a former four star recruit by most websites and has the capability, he just needs to show composure.

Notre Dame’s defense was anemic last season. They allowed over 27 points per game and only return four starters. They looked much better against Temple in their first game, but Temple is a program that is likely rebuilding after the loss of head coach Matt Ruhle to Baylor.

With a bad defense and an inexperienced quarterback, something is going to give on Saturday night in South Bend.

4. Quarterback play in the battle of the Tigers

Five Things to watch in college football week two

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by reddit.com)

Both Clemson and Auburn had good defenses last season and should continue to have good ones this season. Where they need players to step up is at the quarterback position. This game will likely be decided by which quarterback plays better between the two teams.

Kelly Bryant got sporadic playing time throughout his first two years at Clemson, but now is the lead man. Against Kent State last week he threw for 236 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. He added 77 yards rushing on seven carries as well. His challenge will be tough, as Auburn had the seventh best scoring defense in the country last year.

Leading Auburn’s offense will be Jarrett Stidham, the Baylor transfer. Stidham played a little bit for Baylor two years ago, before deciding to transfer. He looked a little sloppy in his first game for Auburn, but has experience and production in his past. If he is efficient, Auburn has a chance to upset Clemson.

5. Boise State at 20 Washington State

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Luke Falk (Photo by usatoday.com)

One game that is not getting a lot of recognition features the Broncos and Cougars. Last season the two teams played and Boise State came out on top. This season, Washington State is looking for revenge and possibly to compete in the Pac-12 North.

Boise State may not be the same program that they were ten years ago, but they are still a very solid program. They won 10 games last year and have their quarterback Brett Rypien back for another season. The Broncos outlasted a good Troy team in week one and look like they will be solid again.

Mike Leach and the Cougars dodged their yearly loss to an FCS team in week one by beating Montana State. Luke Falk has already racked up 311 passing yards and thee touchdowns this season and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. His ability to chuck the ball all over the field will give Washington State a chance to be a very successful team.

This game should be a close one, especially since Boise State loves the role of the underdog.

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 10-6

The football season is right around the corner so let’s dive into more rankings. This installment will go over top ten teams that will be vying for a title. For a spot on this list, teams need to have a lot of talent on their rosters.

To look at the previous list of teams, go here.

10. Georgia Bulldogs

College football top 25

Jacob Eason (Photo by 247sports.com)

Kirby Smart had a decent first season as head coach of the Bulldogs and helped them finish 8-5. They won the Liberty Bowl to finish last season, beating TCU 31-23. Smart will have 15 returning starters to work with, which includes 10 on the defensive side of the ball. This season the Bulldogs look to take a step forward and win the SEC East.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are set in the backfield. Jacob Eason will be entering his second season and there are high hopes for his career. He was a highly-touted prospect that threw for 2,430 yards as a freshman. He will have two good running backs in Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel. They will get the bulk of the carries and have amassed almost 6,000 yards on the ground during their time in Athens. Chubb is the lead man and averages 6.4 yards per carry over his career.

The offensive line returns two starters and will be the key to the Georgia attack. There isn’t too much experience returning at the receiver position, but tight end Isaac Nauta is getting a lot of hype. At 6’4″ 246 pounds he provides a good target for Eason, while the receiving unit as a whole needs to step up.

There may not be a weak point on the defense with how much experience they have returning. John Atkins returns in the middle of the defensive line, while Trenton Thompson returns at defensive end. Thompson had five sacks last season. The linebackers might be the most talented unit on the defense. Lorenzo Carter is a good pass rusher from outside linebacker, while Roquan Smith is a good run stopper from his inside linebacker position.

Dominick Sanders is the most talented out of the secondary players and has the most interceptions returning to the team from last year with three. Georgia’s defense was good last year and now must take the step forward to become elite.

Tough non-conference games will be had against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Their games that could give them trouble in conference are Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. Georgia has the talent on their roster to win every game on the schedule. They will likely drop two of the tough games on the schedule and go 10-2 on the season, with a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

9. Clemson Tigers

College football top 25

Christian Wilkins (Photo by si.com)

The Tigers lost a lot from the team that won the National Championship last season, but some respect has to be shown to the fantastic job Dabo Swinney has done recruiting. They do still return 12 starters from last year’s team and will be looking to get back to the College Football Playoff.

Clemson will win a lot of games because of the play of their offensive line, which returns four starters. This includes Mitch Hyatt, who is a 2018 NFL Draft Prospect. The running backs getting carries behind this offensive line will change a lot, but C.J. Fuller looks to be the lead man.

Kelly Bryant has to fill some big shoes that were left by Deshaun Watson. The junior was a good prospect himself out of high school and has all the tools to be successful. If he does end up struggling, Clemson has recruited freshman Hunter Johnson to step in. Deon Cain is a good receiver that now gets his chance to shine without Mike Williams on the team. Hunter Renfroe will continue to do work and make clutch plays from the slot.

The defensive line will be stacked with talent, with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence returning. All three were highly productive for the team last year, with Ferrell leading them all with six sacks. Kendall Joseph leads the linebackers now after the departure of Ben Boulware, but is pretty accomplished himself with 124 tackles last season.

Van Smith is the leader of the secondary from his safety position and has the most interceptions returning with two. The pass defense will likely take a slight step back, while the run defense will stay about the same.

The schedule is tough and will be tougher with the fact that now Clemson will have a target on their back. They have games that will challenge them in Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. For the most part Clemson should be able to manage these tough games, but will likely drop two or three of them.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

College football top 25

Baker Mayfield (photo by usatoday.com)

Oklahoma’s ranking would’ve been higher had Bob Stoops still been the head coach. Lincoln Reilly takes over now and will have a good team to work with. They went 11-2 last season and beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With a lot of talent returning, the Sooners will be looking to make the College Football Playoff.

The offense will start with Heisman Trophy Finalist Baker Mayfield. He has had a storied career so far for Oklahoma and will continue to put up big numbers this season. The problem is that he doesn’t have all the weapons he had in previous years. Jeff Badet transferred in from Kentucky and should provide a spark to a receiving core that only returns one starter, Jeffrey Mead.

There is good news for Oklahoma fans: The offensive line returns every starter. Orlando Brown is getting looks from the NFL and is a dominant force. The bad news is that there isn’t much experience returning at running back and Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson will fight for carries.

Defense for the Sooners was average at best in 2016. The secondary gave up a lot of passing yards, but does return some good players. Jordan Thomas is a good college corner, but teams find a way to throw around him and pick up a lot of yardage.

Ogbonnia Okronkwo returns at linebacker and leads the pass rush with nine sacks last season. The Sooners will be inexperienced up front, with no returning starters on the defensive line.

Oklahoma gets to play Ohio State, Texas (neutral), Kansas State and Oklahoma State all away from home. West Virginia travels to Norman to give them plenty to focus on for this year. The Sooners’ offense will be high-powered enough to get them 10 wins this season and a spot in the new Big 12 Championship Game.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football top 25

Mason Rudolph (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Cowboys finished 10-3 last season and blew Colorado out in the Alamo Bowl. Mike Gundy has one of his most talented teams ever. His team is good enough to win the Big 12 and get to the College Football Playoff, but they have a long road a head and a lot of history to overcome.

Mason Rudolph returns at quarterback, after flirting with the idea of going pro. He will put up big numbers while protecting the football, which makes him an elite college quarterback. The good news for him was that his teammate and top target James Washington also chose to return to school. Tyron Johnson, an LSU transfer, will be eligible to play this season and will provide another good target for Rudolph.

Three offensive linemen return, but the unit will be more than capable of protecting Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State found their running back of the future last season in Justice Hill. Hill ran for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman last season. He will be asked to put up similar numbers in 2017.

In terms of scoring defense, Oklahoma State ranked third in the Big 12, but that isn’t saying too much. Essentially they were an average defense. Five starters return including two in the secondary. Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers will be starting again at safety, while new corners are broken in.

Chad Whittener returns to the linebackers and will be asked to step up his production this season after finishing with 71 tackles a year ago. The Cowboys don’t have much returning in the middle of the defensive line, but do have a lot of experience at defensive end. Both starters return as well as Trelund Webber, who comes off the bench to rush the passer. He returns as the team leader in sacks in 2016 with six.

The schedule features games against Pittsburgh, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma State will win at least nine games, but probably finish at 10-2, getting them a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.

6. USC Trojans

College football top 25

Sam Darnold (photo by dailynews.com)

The Trojans went on a magical run to the Rose Bowl last season and beat Penn State in a thriller. Clay Helton did a fine job last year as head coach, but has a new challenge this year. Only 10 starters return, meaning a lot of players will need to step up to help USC win the Pac-12.

Sam Darnold is the potential number one overall pick in the 2018 draft. He still has a lot to prove, but finished the season with 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t start the first few games of last season. Darnold won’t have an elite receiver to throw to this season, unless someone really improves, but Deontay Burnett is the leading returning receiver with 670 yards in 2016.

Ronald Jones II is overlooked because of how well Darnold played last year, but he can flat out run the football. His 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns will be improved upon this season. Just two offensive linemen return this season. If the newcomers don’t step in and do their jobs the whole offense will suffer.

The linebackers return the most experience, with three of four starters returning. Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith are both playmakers. Smith had 83 tackles last season. Only one of three returns on the defensive line, Rasheem Green. Green had six sacks last season and will need to improve production to lead the pass rush.

Iman Marshall returns at corner and will now be asked to shut down the other teams’ best receivers, as Adoree Jackson is now in the NFL. He has a chance to be drafted early, like Jackson was, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marveil Tell is back at safety and Chris Hawkins will be solid at the other starting safety spot in 2017. The defense was good last year and if they want to get to the College Football Playoff, need to improve this year.

USC has a tough schedule, which includes games against Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Notre Dame and UCLA. While they should have their fair share of struggles, they will have at least 10 wins entering the Pac-12 Championship Game. At that point it may be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

 

Featured image by usatoday.com.

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2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Preview

Georgia and TCU both had disappointing seasons based on preseason expectations, but square off in the 2016 AutoZone Liberty.

Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs struggled in the middle of their schedule, which resulted in them finishing at 7-5. They only lost to bowl eligible teams this season and didn’t have any terrible defeats. Their key wins came over North Carolina, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Kentucky and Auburn, showing that they are battle tested.

Liberty Bowl

Nick Chubb (Photo courtesy: cbssports.com)

Jacob Eason had a solid season for a freshman who had unrealistic expectations placed on him. He threw for 2,266 yards and 14 touchdowns. Eason did throw eight interceptions, but only threw multiple interceptions in the same game once, which shows that he isn’t the one losing games for the Bulldogs.

Isaiah McKenzie has been the best of the receivers for Eason. He finished with 530 receiving yards and seven touchdowns this season. McKenzie is quick and able to beat corners with his speed and good moves.

Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have gotten most of the carries for the Bulldogs. Chubb hasn’t looked the same since coming back from injury this season and averages just 4.8 yards per carry with 988 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Michel has been much more effective with his carries averaging 5.5 yards per rush for 753 rushing yards. Both provide Georgia with good hard runners, that stay fresh because they split carries.

The Bulldogs have a good rush defense that allows 141 yards per game, but the pass defense is even better and gives up 187 yards per game.

Georgia doesn’t have too many standouts stat-wise, but play good team defense. Lorenzo Carter can create problems at times with four sacks and five tackles for loss.

TCU Horned Frogs

A lot of people expected the Horned Frogs to win the Big 12 this season, but they struggled and finished at 6-6. They were upset by Texas Tech for their only bad loss of the season. Their one win over a bowl team came over a Baylor team that lost their last six regular season games.

Liberty Bowl

Kenny Hill (Photo courtesy: frogsowar.com)

Kenny Hill, the Texas A&M transfer, took the starting quarterback job this season. He threw for a lot of yards (3,062), but struggled throwing 13 interceptions and only 15 touchdowns. He does add the ability to run and has picked up 537 yards on the ground. Hill can play down to his competition, as he threw three interceptions against Kansas.

Wide Receiver Taj Williams had the best season in terms of yardage with 702 receiving yards. Jaelen Austin only has 23 catches on the season, but has caught five touchdown passes, which ties Williams for the team lead.

Kyle Hicks is the TCU running back. He has rushed for 954 yards at over five yards a carry. His twelve rushing touchdowns are impressive and he should see a few opportunities to run one in the end zone this game.

The TCU rush defense is average and allows 181 yards per game. The pass defense is also average and allows 245 yards per game.

Defensive lineman Josh Carraway has 8 sacks on the season, which leads the team. Nick Orr, a defensive back, has four interceptions on the season to help in the turnover battle.

Prediction

Georgia’s defense will shut down the TCU offense, while Chubb and Michel chew the clock and move the chains. Eason will show how far he has come and will help the Bulldogs get the victory.

 

Georgia Bulldogs 24 TCU Horned Frogs 18

 

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