Georgia defense braces for big test from Stroud, Ohio State

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ATHENS, Ga. — On paper, the Peach Bowl matchup between No. 1 Georgia’s defense and No. 4 Ohio State’s offense is a test of strengths in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

Georgia (13-0) ranks second in the nation with its average of 12.8 points allowed. Ohio State (11-1) ranks second in scoring 44.5 points per game.

The Georgia defense has extra motivation for the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The Bulldogs will be tested by quarterback C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes’ high-scoring offense, especially after LSU passed for 502 yards in Georgia’s 50-30 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Even though LSU was playing from behind after Georgia led 35-10 at halftime, the Tigers’ big plays in their passing game may have revealed some vulnerabilities in the Bulldogs’ secondary.

Stroud says Ohio State won’t try to copy LSU’s plan.

“I mean, that’s LSU,” Stroud said earlier this month. “We’ve got to play Buckeye football. And if that means we have to run the ball, then that is what it is. If that means we got to throw, that is what it is.”

At the very least, the proud Georgia defense has had reason to take advantage of the extra time to prepare for the playoff game.

“It just showed some of the things we’ve got to work on, so we have been attacking that in practice and working to get better,” Georgia inside linebacker Smael Mondon said Tuesday, adding that defensive backs and other defensive players have been “staying after practice trying to get more work. Just trying to get better and fix whatever issues we’ve got.”

Mondon had six tackles and his first career interception in the SEC championship game. He knows the bowl game will present a more difficult challenge. Stroud was a Heisman Trophy finalist and the Buckeyes boast perhaps the nation’s top group of wide receivers.

Marvin Harrison Jr. was a first-team AP All-America pick. Another top wide receiver, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, will miss the game as he continues to rehabilitate a leg injury and prepare for the NFL draft. The Buckeyes still have Emeka Egbuka, who had 66 catches for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns, as the second-leading receiver behind Harrison, who had 72 catches for 1,157 and 12 TDs.

Harrison said the Ohio State offense must “stay on the field.”

“We can’t go three-and-outs,” Harrison said. “Then we get into red zone, guys score touchdowns and not field goals. That’s probably the biggest thing. … We’re gonna need to score a lot of points against Georgia. The defense is probably the best in the country, along with our defense as well, too. But it can be a challenge for us.”

Ohio State’s wide receivers are the challenge for the Bulldogs’ secondary. Georgia defensive tackle Zion Logue‘s focus is on the quarterback.

“Number one, how fast C.J. Stroud gets the ball out of his hands and where he’s looking, who he’s looking to get the ball to,” Logue said. “That’s just been my biggest thing.”

Georgia is the defending national champion and will be playing in a familiar setting. The Bulldogs opened the season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, about 75 miles from the Georgia campus, by beating Oregon 49-3 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game and then returned to the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons for the SEC championship game.

The Ohio State-Georgia winner will play either Michigan or TCU in the Jan. 9 national championship game in Los Angeles. Georgia is trying to become the first team since Alabama in 2011-12 to win back-to-back national titles.

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.