SEC

College football championship pits South Florida brothers against each other

Calvin Ridley of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates a reception for a touchdown in the first quarter of the AllState Sugar Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 1, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Calvin Ridley of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates a reception for a touchdown in the first quarter of the AllState Sugar Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 1, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Getty Images

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been through the national championship game experience before. It’s his third time on the biggest stage of college football in as many years.

This time is different, though. For the first time in those three years, the Clemson Tigers aren’t on the other side of the field — Alabama took care of Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl last week.

Instead, the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide will face fellow SEC team and third-ranked Georgia at 8 p.m. in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

And with that, Calvin Ridley will face his younger brother, Georgia sophomore Riley Ridley.

The brothers from Coconut Creek said that they haven’t spoken all week and won’t until after the championship game ends and one of them hoists up the national title.

“It’s been intense,” Riley Ridley told SEC Country. “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.”

Calvin Ridley added in an interview with ESPN: “We have a good relationship. He’s my brother. We talk all the time. … We look out for each other.”

Calvin Ridley, a former standout at Monarch High in Coconut Creek, has been a mainstay on the Crimson Tide’s offense since he joined the team in 2015. Heading into the national championship game, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior has 220 career catches for 2,749 yards and 18 touchdowns. Alabama has gone 50-3 in that span, won two SEC championships and reached the national championship game each year. The Crimson Tide defeated Clemson 45-40 to win the title in Calvin Ridley’s freshman year and then lost 35-31 in a rematch to the Tigers last year.

“It’s crazy,” Calvin Ridley said. “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. I just feel like we work hard here and I see the reason why we get there every year.”

Calvin Ridley credits Alabama coach Nick Saban for ensuring his players have the right mentality each year.

“Don’t settle for less,” Calvin Ridley said, summarizing Saban’s message. “Go for the national championship every year.”

As for Riley Ridley, who made a name for himself at Deerfield Beach High before going to Georgia, it’s his first time in the national championship. His stats this year (eight catches, 136 yards, two touchdowns) aren’t as glamorous as his older brother’s, but Riley has one edge on Calvin this season: an SEC Championship.

Now, with a national title on the line, the brothers are upping the ante.

More South Florida connections

The Ridleys are two of eight players from Broward and Miami-Dade counties playing in the national championship. The others:

▪ Georgia senior running back Sony Michel, a Plantation American Heritage alumnus who clinched the Bulldogs’ title-game berth with a 27-yard touchdown in double overtime against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.

▪ Georgia junior defensive back Deandre Baker, who played his prep career at Miami Northwestern. Baker leads the Bulldogs with 11 defended passes and has also recorded 41 tackles on the season.

▪ Georgia junior Juwan Taylor, out of Hallandale High, has recorded 13 tackles as a reserve linebacker.

▪ Georgia freshman defensive back and Mater Academy graduate Latavious Brini has not played this season.

▪ Alabama freshman wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, a Deerfield Beach High alumnus, has 244 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches this season.

▪ Alabama freshman defensive back and Laudedale Lakes Boyd Anderson product Daniel Wright has recorded 10 tackles on the season while primarily playing on special teams.

Richt makes his pick

Miami coach Mark Richt, who served as Georgia’s head coach from 2001 to 2015 and won a pair of SEC championships with the Bulldogs but never reached the national championship game, weighed in on Twitter about the All-SEC matchup, favoring his former employer to win its first national championship since 1980.

“Good luck to the Dawgs tonight!” Richt tweeted Monday morning. “I’m happy for the players, coaches, and the Georgia people! U Family!”

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