‘Extra juice’: Title-seeking TCU used to underdog label

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Big right guard Wes Harris and his TCU teammates are hearing again just how big and physical their next opponent is and how much of an underdog they are against Georgia in the national championship game.

They heard a lot of the same things going into their College Football Playoff semifinal against Big Ten champion Michigan, which is sitting at home while the Horned Frogs (13-1) get ready to play the defending national champions Monday night.

“It just kind of lights a fire underneath you,” Harris said Tuesday. “Definitely gave us a little bit of extra juice. We were tired of hearing about it … and were able to make a statement to show we were a physical football team, too.”

Immediately after their 51-45 win in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve, first-year Frogs coach Sonny Dykes said he felt they were the definitely the most physical team on the field. TCU had four sacks and outrushed Michigan 263 yards to 186, even after the Wolverines had a 54-yard run on the game’s very first snap.

“We knew we were a physical team, and we got to show that during the game, and we’ve got to keep the same mindset,” said defensive end Dylan Horton, who had all four of those sacks.

The Horned Frogs are listed as 13 1/2-point underdogs against Georgia (14-0) in the championship game in California, according to Fanduel Sportsbook. They were 7 1/2-point underdogs against Michigan.

Linebacker Dee Winters said the predictions were simply fuel for the team.

“Obviously being the underdog is something we’re not unfamiliar with,” added standout receiver Quentin Johnston. “So going to try to just keep moving like we did the rest of the season. And keep our heads to the ground and keep playing football.”

TCU’s only loss this season was in overtime to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game after Heisman Trophy runner-up Max Duggan led them to 11 points in the final 7 1/2 minutes of regulation to tie the game. The Frogs won five games in the regular season by coming from behind after halftime, including double-digit deficits in back-to-back games against Top 25 teams in October.

“The interesting thing was we felt like we’ve been a physical team all year. And I think those inside the football program certainly recognize that,” Dykes said. “We felt like our success in the second half was because of that physical play, that mentality that we carried, really, all season. As the game went along, we felt like our guys got stronger and got more physical. And that’s been, you know, pretty consistent really throughout the year.”

Dykes sees a lot of similarities in Georgia and Michigan, though he believes the Bulldogs are more athletic, including their “typical SEC defensive ends” that are physical with great speed and skills.

“That’s kind of the whole team,” Dykes said. “It’s just a very athletic football team, what you would expect from a defending national championship team and a team that’s been No. 1 for most of the year.”

Duggan said the Horned Frogs took about 24 hours to enjoy the victory over Michigan, but turned their attention to Georgia after returning Sunday to campus.

They know everyone is now wondering if they can be more physical than Georgia, and repeat what they did against then-undefeated Michigan.

“I don’t see why not, man. I mean, shoot, it’s a one game tournament,” Harris said. “Everybody’s got both feet and 10 toes down, and we’re excited to go out there and just have another opportunity to play another game. This one just happens to be for a national championship.”

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

Mickey Welsh / Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.