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Luke Ford has not yet been given an NCAA waiver to play at Illinois.

Jeremiah Holloman, Georgia fans rally to support for former UGA TE Luke Ford

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Jeremiah Holloman, Georgia fans show support for former UGA TE Luke Ford

Justin Fields wasn’t the only member of the Georgia football team to transfer to a Big Ten school. Luke Ford, who was the No. 3 tight end prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle, announced he was transferring home to Illinois.

Part of the reason for Ford’s transfer was to be closer to home as grandfather’s health has declined. That’s more than understandable reason as to why a player would want to transfer from a school like Georgia.

Ford recently spoke with fightingillini.com and provided an update on how things are going at his new school.

“I’m adapting well to it,” Ford said. “The coaches have been a tremendous help throughout the whole process making it a smooth transition. It’s not really that overwhelming because I’ve already learned how to learn a system. I’m coming here and just getting better day-by-day and focusing on doing that.”

Unlike Fields though, Ford has still not yet received a waiver to be cleared to play for Illinois in the 2019 season. That’s despite announcing his transfer on the same day as Fields, and Illinois putting in a waiver for Ford to get immediate eligibility. Fields was granted immediate eligibility on February 8.

On Wednesday night, the hashtag #FreeLukeFord began trending on Twitter. It’s pretty clear a number of people think Ford and Illinois should have some form of an answer on this matter.

Georgia wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman took note and showed his support for his former teammate.

But Holloman wasn’t the only one affiliated with Georgia to back Ford. A number of Georgia fans also tweeted their support of the tight end.

Ford took notice of the efforts and thanked the Georgia fans on Twitter.

The fact that it’s taken this long to get any sort of clearance for Ford is rather absurd. Fields and former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell have already received their waivers and been granted the ability to play right away. Ford — whose reason for transferring was far more legitimate than either quarterback — is still facing some uncertainty for some reason.

More and more players are getting immediate eligibility and that is a good thing. Some might argue relaxed transfer restrictions would only encourage more and more players to transfer. But the student-athletes should have some form of control as to where and when they play. The NCAA shouldn’t prevent Ford from playing for a season because his family situation changed after he initially picked Georgia.

In all likelihood, the NCAA will eventually give Ford his immediate eligibility given the public pressure. But the fact that it has now taken multiple months for the process to play out shows that it isn’t as straight forward as it needs to be.

As for the Georgia angle, it’s good to see that fans are willing to support someone who gave a lot to the Georgia football program, if only for a little bit.

ESPN has Georgia as a top playoff challenger

On Wednesday, ESPN released its College Football Playoff Predictor. It had defending champion Clemson as the team most likely to make the College Football Playoff at an 83 percent chance. Up next was Alabama at 71 percent. Michigan came in at third with a 41 percent chance of making the playoff. And then the Georgia Bulldogs slid into the No. 4 spot with a 40 percent chance.

The Bulldogs actually have a slightly better chance than Michigan of winning the national title, as the predictive model gives Georgia an 8 percent chance of winning it all. Only Clemson and Alabama have a higher percentage of winning two games in the College Football Playoff.

ESPN’s Seth Walder explained why the Bulldogs came in fourth.

“Though Georgia — which also is bringing back a known quantity at QB in Jake Fromm — is a longer shot to reach the playoff than Michigan, Georgia has a better chance of actually winning the national championship,” Walder wrote. “It makes sense: Most (including FPI) would agree that the Bulldogs are better than the Wolverines, but their path the top four is more complicated with Alabama and LSU in the same conference.”

LSU does have a 32 percent chance of making the playoff per ESPN. But Georgia can only play one of Alabama or LSU, provided the Bulldogs make it to the SEC championship game. Georgia has done that in each of the past two seasons, as the Bulldogs beat Auburn in 2017 and lost to the Crimson Tide in 2018.

The winner of the SEC has made it to the College Football Playoff in every season. So if the Bulldogs do win in Atlanta, it likely means a second trip to the College Football Playoff under Kirby Smart.

Other foes on Georgia’s schedule with realistic playoff percentages include Notre Dame at 28 percent, Florida at 10 percent and Auburn at 7 percent.  ESPN’s FPI does give Georgia the fifth hardest schedule among Power Five teams. The Bulldogs have games against the Fighting Irish, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M to go along with their regular SEC foes.

Georgia opens its 2019 season on the road against Vanderbilt on Aug. 31.

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