No. 4 Alabama is set to face third-ranked Georgia in front of
what’s likely to be a large contingent of Bulldog fans at the CFP
championship game in Atlanta. Alabama, playing in its third
straight title game, is seeking a fifth national championship in
nine years under coach Nick Saban. Georgia, which hired former
Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart away from Alabama
two years ago, is trying to join the recent list of SEC winners
with its first national title since the 1980 season. Either way, an
SEC team will win the national championship for the ninth time in
the past 12 seasons. President Donald Trump will attend the game,
and at least two groups have announced plans to protest his visit.
The Atlanta branch of the NAACP is urging people to wear white to
the game and to bring white towels to wave, while the group Refuse
Fascism ATL said it was planning to take a knee outside CNN’s world
headquarters near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Ohio State junior Jerome Baker is one of several underclassmen to
announce they’re entering the NFL Draft. Baker is considered one of
the top outside linebackers in his class despite having a bit of a
disappointing season with 72 tackles, including eight for loss, and
three sacks. Also skipping their senior seasons are Tennessee
defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, Clemson receiver Ray-Ray McCloud
and USC wideout Deontay Burnett.
The Bears believe they’ve found the man to help quarterback
Mitchell Trubisky and a lackluster offense take off, naming Chiefs
offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as the 16th head coach in franchise
history. The 39-year-old Nagy will take over a Bears team that
ranked 29th in points and 30th in total offense this past season,
and fired John Fox last Monday on the heels of the club finishing
in the cellar of the NFC North for the third consecutive season.
Nagy, who spent the last five seasons in Kansas City and took over
the play-calling late this season, officially interviewed for the
job on Sunday, one day after Kansas City endured a second-half
collapse against the Titans in its AFC wild-card game.
The NFL and NFL Players Association will review if the Panthers
followed the league’s concussion protocol with Cam Newton in
Sunday’s 31-26 playoff loss to New Orleans. Newton left the field
after taking a hard hit in the fourth quarter and Carolina’s
medical staff evaluated the quarterback in the blue injury tent on
the sideline and determined that he did not show signs of a
concussion. He returned for the next offensive series after missing
just one play and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass. Both Newton and
Panthers coach Ron Rivera offered the same explanation to Newton’s
injury, saying he was just poked in the eye.
Bill Belichick offered a one-word answer when asked if it was his
intention to return to the Patriots as head coach next season –
“Absolutely.” Rumors surrounding a possible departure for Belichick
swirled following a recent ESPN report citing unnamed sources
detailing a growing rift between the head coach, quarterback Tom
Brady and owner Robert Kraft. According to the report, Belichick
was furious and demoralized when Kraft sided with Brady on the
decision to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San
Francisco. Kraft told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King on Saturday
that he “absolutely” believes Belichick will be coaching the
Patriots in 2018. The top-seeded Patriots host the fifth-seeded
Titans in the AFC divisional round Saturday night.
Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue stood by his tweet accusing
Bills guard Richie Incognito of using ”weak racist slurs” during
Sunday’s game. Ngakoue did not provide more details about what was
said, simply backing up his tweet, saying, ”He said what he said.
He knows what he said. I don’t have to repeat it.” Incognito was
suspended for the final eight games of the 2013 season after the
NFL said he and two former Dolphins teammates harassed fellow
offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
NFL leading receiver Antonio Brown is on track to be at full
strength for the Steelers’ divisional-round playoff game against
the Jaguars. Brown has returned to practice and could’ve played in
the wild-card round if it was necessary, according to the NFL
Network. Brown has not played since suffering a calf injury in Week
15 against the Patriots. He still managed to finish first in the
league with 1,533 receiving yards and ranked in the top five with
101 catches and nine TD receptions.
Longtime Panthers fan Stephen Curry says he is absolutely
interested in having an ownership stake in the team. The Golden
State Warriors star guard has people helping him explore options to
buy into the NFL franchise after owner Jerry Richardson announced
he would sell while he is under investigation for sexual and racial
misconduct in the workplace. Last summer, Curry signed a $201
million, five-year contract with the Warriors.
Villanova is back atop the AP Top 25 after last week’s No. 1 and
No. 2 – Michigan State and Duke – were upset over the weekend. The
Wildcats got 52 of 65 first-place votes to move up from third,
while West Virginia moved up to second – its highest ranking since
December 1959 during Jerry West’s senior season. Virginia climbed
five spots to No. 3 followed by the Spartans, and then Purdue and
Wichita State, which were tied for fifth. Duke, Texas Tech,
Oklahoma and Xavier rounded out the top 10.
A few days after pulling out of the Australian Open, Andy Murray
says he has undergone surgery on his right hip. The former No. 1
has not played a competitive match since a quarterfinal loss at
last July’s Wimbledon, and says he’s eyeing a return to this year’s
grass court season in June in time for Wimbledon.