Michigan C Nugent, Texas WR Worthy say they will be full go for playoff after ankle injuries

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1) is tackled after a long gain by Oklahoma State linebacker Nickolas Martin (4) as safety Cameron Epps (7) and linebacker Xavier Benson (1) follow behind in the first half of the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (Tony Gutierrez, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LOS ANGELES – Michigan and Texas both expect to have key players who were limited in their conference championship games healthy for the College Football Playoff.

Michigan center Drake Nugent sprained his ankle in the win over Ohio State on Nov. 25. The Stanford graduate transfer wasn't at his best against Iowa in the Big Ten championship game a week later and said he probably would not have been able to play a week after that.

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“But the fact that I knew we had four weeks to rest up after, it was like let’s let it ride," he said Friday as the top-ranked Wolverines prepared to face fourth-seeded Alabama at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on New Year's Day. "And I’m never going to play in a Big Ten championship again, so why not play.”

Nugent was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy given to the nation's best center.

He missed practice for several weeks following the 26-0 victory over the Hawkeyes, which kept him from continuing to refine his rapport with Karsen Barnhart, who moved to right guard after All-American Zak Zinter broke his leg against the Buckeyes.

Nugent and Barnhart did work together during fall camp, and the extended layoff leading into the Rose Bowl gives Nugent optimism the reconfigured offensive line will be better than it was in its last game. Michigan rushed for 66 yards and allowed four sacks against Iowa.

“Kind of going back to that camp mindset, I guess, when everyone is fighting for spots,” Nugent said. You’re kind of used to playing next to all different sorts of guys and just getting acclimated to each other.”

The last time Texas played, star receiver Xavier Worthy injured his right ankle in a Big 12 title game blowout of Oklahoma State.

Worthy said Friday he is ready to go for the third-ranked Longhorns' Sugar Bowl matchup with No. 2 Washington in New Orleans.

“I wouldn't say it's been frustrating, it's just a little bump that occurred,” said Worthy, who leads Texas with 73 catches for 969 yards.


Having coached with and against Nick Saban for more than a decade, Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has a good perspective on the process that has led Alabama to win six national championships in the past 16 seasons.

“This is not coach-speak, it’s factual,” Steele said. “The game really comes down to us, not the opponent. Do we know our job? Do we do our job? Do we execute our job? That’s what it comes down to.

“I buy into it a lot because I live it, and it’s unique what coach has put together. Obviously, the record speaks for itself. To do what he’s done for as long as he’s done it, it’s hard to do. I think it may be unmatched in this profession."

As to whether or not their success has created or is now fueled by an aura of invincibility surrounding the Crimson Tide, Steele wouldn’t go that far.

“Obviously, there’s some key ingredients in that process that I won’t call it mystique,” he said.


Texas defensive end Barryn Sorrell is playing in his hometown of New Orleans for the first time since high school.

“I mean, I could go on and on about the feeling that I have off the field, just coming back here and being able to play in the Superdome, but I’m very thankful," Sorrell said.

The third-year player went to Holy Cross High School, about a 15-minute drive from the Superdome, where the Longhorns face No. 2 Washington. Sorrell has four sacks this season.

He is one of five players from New Orleans on Texas, including quarterback Arch Manning, the nephew of former NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning.


AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New Orleans contributed.


AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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