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Backup RB transferring from Washington

Dezden Petty AP

For the second time in a week, Washington is losing a player to transfer.

According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, head coach Steve Sarkisian acknowledged Saturday that running back Dezden Petty has decided to take his leave of the Huskies football program. No reason for the decision was given.

As is ofttimes the case, though, a crowded depth chart — including Bishop Sankey and his 1,439 yards — could’ve factored heavily into utilizing the departure option.

As a redshirt freshman last season, Petty rushed for 99 yards on 29 carries.  He was a two-star member of the Huskies’ 2011 recruiting class.

Last weekend, it was confirmed that defensive lineman Corey Waller would be transferring from UW as well.

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Report says Testaverde transfers out of Texas Tech

It has been a while (well, at least a few weeks) since the Texas Tech quarterback depth took a hit, so this may have been just a little overdue.

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury may be one of the best quarterbacks in Texas Tech program history, but he sure seems to have a rough time keeping quarterbacks in the stable in Lubbock. Freshman quarterback Vincent Testaverde, son of former Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, will reportedly transfer out of the Red Raiders program.

A report from Wreck Em 247 says the younger Testaverde transferred with the intention of moving closer to home in Tampa, Florida. No school has been reported as the next college football home for Testaverde, who played in one game this season.

Testaverde will have to sit out the 2015 season if he transfers to another FBS program due to NCAA transfer rules. He would be eligible to play in 2015 if he transfers to a lower division school, however.

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No starting QB decision for Notre Dame from Brian Kelly

Everett Golson

Notre Dame is preparing for LSU in the Music City Bowl, but head coach Brian Kelly has yet to decide, or at least make public, his decision on the starting quarterback for the game against the Tigers.

Will Kelly go with the veteran Everett Golson or the younger option, Malik Zaire? For now, both are getting time to lead the offense in practices. Kelly has said previously both quarterbacks should be expected to play during the game.

“I haven’t made the decision on who the starter is yet,” Kelly said following a practice on Friday, according to Inside the Irish. “Both are getting quality reps. I probably have to make it here in the next 24 hours. They’re both going to play, and I’m just going to have to just get a feel for it and the flow of the game.”

If Kelly is going to allow both quarterbacks to play in the bowl game, which one gets the starting nod may be inconsequential. Kelly has welcomed Golson back this season after sitting out the 2013 season due to an academic issue, but his struggles down the second half of the season left for some uneasiness when he was on the field. Still, it might be a mild surprise if Golson does not get the start, for whatever that is actually worth in this bowl match-up.

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Baylor keeps OC job in the Briles family with promotion of Kendal Briles

Photo: Baylor Athletics

When Baylor lost offensive coordinator Phil Montgomery to a head coaching opportunity at Tulsa, the search for a new offensive coordinator of the Baylor offense was on. That search has come to an end, with Kendal Briles getting the promotion to be the new offensive coordinator for the Bears.

Briles, the son of Baylor head coach Art Briles, had been the passing game coordinator and offensive recruiting coordinator. This is his seventh season on Baylor’s coaching staff, and third as the passing game coordinator. This is his first opportunity to handle the responsibilities as an offensive coordinator. He has earned respect from his peers in the recruiting game, as he was voted the Big 12 recruiter of the year in 2013 and 2014.

The younger Briles will begin taking on the new role as offensive coordinator right away. His first test as offensive coordinator will not be an easy one. Baylor faces Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. The Spartans defense may not have been up to par with the defense of some recent seasons, but Michigan State still figures to be a good defensive unit to plan for given the time off to prepare for the game.

Photo credit: Baylor Athletics

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Conference USA made a statement this bowl season

CUSA Football Championship - Louisiana Tech v Marshall Getty Images

The college football world may not have given Conference USA a tremendous amount of respect this season, but the conference handled itself very well in postseason bowl play this year.

On Friday, Conference USA put the finishing touches on a 4-1 bowl season, its third 4-1 postseason record over the last four football seasons. This year’s bowl record included a win against the Big Ten, two against the MAC and a two-game split with the Mountain West Conference. Louisiana Tech pulled away from Illinois, but the big wins of the bowl season for Conference USA were conference champion Marshall topping MAC champion Northern Illinois and Western Kentucky hanging on against Central Michigan.

In the new era of college football and the increased emphasis on conference strength, Conference USA performing well against the other Group of Five conferences will help change the way the conference strength is evaluated. Marshall was passed over by Boise State, champions of the Mountain West Conference, for the New Years Six bowl spot. The Herd were overlooked largely due to the overall body of work this season, which is why Conference USA stepping up to the plate in postseason play can be significant.

The American Athletic Conference (1-1 this bowl season) still has three bowl games to play. The MAC (1-3) still has one more bowl games, but the conference is locked into a losing bowl record for a third consecutive season (3-13 bowl record since 2011 season). The Mountain West Conference (2-4) is also locked to a losing bowl record but will have a chance to score the biggest win of any Group of Five conference with Boise State facing Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sun Belt Conference split its two bowl games this season and has one more to play.

The only loss handed to Conference USA this year came at the expense of UTEP. The Miners had no offense in the New Mexico Bowl against Utah State, representing the Mountain West Conference.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 27 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

Boston College Vs. University Of Maine Football At Alumni Stadium

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 27 bowl menu, which among its five games features nine Power Five conference teams, the lone exception being Cincinnati.

WHO: Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The 7th Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Were it not for a four-point win over in-state rival Virginia in the regular season finale, Virginia Tech would’ve been home for the postseason holidays for the first time since 1992.  And this was a team that began the season 2-0, with the second win coming on the road by 14 points over College Football Playoff participant Ohio State.  The low point of a 4-6 skid to close the regular season was a 6-3 double overtime loss to Wake Forest in Week 13 that left Tech needing a win the following weekend to become bowl-eligible.  Cincinnati, meanwhile capped its second consecutive nine-win season with a co-AAC championship.  The Bearcats also come into this game on a veritable roll, following up a three-game losing streak in late September and early October with a seven-game winning streak.  The two teams had a trio of common opponents: Ohio State, Miami and East Carolina.  The Hokies were 1-2 against those teams (35-21 win over OSU, losses of 28-21 and 30-6 to ECU and The U, respectively) while the Bearcats went 1-2 as well (54-46 win over ECU, 50-28 and 55-34 losses to OSU and The U, respectively).
THE LINE: Virginia Tech, +3
THE PREDICTION: Cincinnati 31, Virginia Tech 20

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WHO: No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
WHAT: The 80th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHERE: The Sun Bowl, El Paso, Tex.
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
THE SKINNY: To say that Arizona State is disappointed with its bowl destination would be a massive understatement.  After nine games, ASU was looking at a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and, possibly, a berth in the College Football Playoff.  Two losses in their last three games — an inexplicable 35-27 loss to 5-7 Oregon State and a seven-point loss to in-state rival Arizona in the finale — shattered both of the dreams and sent them to this mid-major bowl.  How the Sun Devils respond to being sent to a lower profile bowl than what had been expected a month ago will go a long ways in determining the outcome.  Duke, though, is in a similar situation.  With three games remaining, all Duke needed was a pair of wins to clinch its second consecutive ACC Coastal title.  Instead, they lost two of three — 17-16 to Virginia Tech, 45-20 to North Carolina — to hand the division and a marquee bowl berth to Georgia Tech.  The Blue Devils, though, are playing in their third consecutive bowl game, the first time in the football program’s history that’s happened.  In fact, prior to the start of that streak in 2012, the program had a total of three bowl appearances in a span of 54 years. ASU will mark the first ranked opponent Duke has faced since Georgia Tech Oct. 11.
THE LINE: Duke, +7½
THE PREDICTION: Arizona State 34, Duke 24

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WHO: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 39th Duck Commander Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
WHAT: The 5th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re suffering with a bit of insomnia, boy do we have a cure for you.  Although, if you love tremendous defense, you’re in luck.  Boston College is 19th in the country in points allowed (20.5 ppg) while Penn State is even stingier, coming in at seventh (17.7 ppg).  The latter gave up more than 30 points just twice (Michigan State 34, Ohio State 31) and 20 or fewer eight times.  As good as they are defensively, both teams are woeful offensively.  BC is 123rd in passing yards (132 ypg) and 84th in scoring (25.9 ppg), with PSU a paltry 115th in scoring offense (19.8 ppg).  The lone redeeming offensive quality in this game will very likely be BC quarterback Tyler Murphy.  While he was just 111th among quarterbacks in passing yards (1,526), he was third to only Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (1,182) and Georgia Southern’s Kevin Ellison (1,096) in rushing yards at the position (1,079).  The best hope for the Nittany Lions?  That quarterback Christian Hackenberg reverts to the promising form he showed as a true freshman.  In 2013, Hackenberg tossed 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.  This season, it was eight touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in just 42 more attempts.  If Hackenberg can somehow recapture that 2013 magic, the Nittany Lions, playing in its first bowl game since being slapped with a postseason ban by the NCAA in 2012, could very well see their first bowl win since 2009.
THE LINE: Penn State, +3
THE PREDICTION: Boston College 13, Penn State 10

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WHO: Nebraska (9-3) vs. No. 24 USC (8-4)
WHAT: The 37th National University Holiday Bowl
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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CFT Previews: The National University Holiday Bowl

Ameer Abdullah

WHO: No. 24 USC (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)

WHAT: The 37th National University Holiday Bowl

WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

WHEN: 8:00 p.m. ET Dec. 27 on ESPN

THE SKINNY: Nebraska goes into this postseason match-up with an interim coaching situation following the removal of Bo Pelini as head coach. The Huskers have since hired Mike Riley from Oregon State, although he will not coach this game. He should, however, be familiar with Nebraska’s opponent. The Huskers take on USC, with Nebraska looking for its first victory against the Trojans in the small history of the series.

Steve Sarkisian‘s offense will look to find success through the air. USC quarterback Cody Kessler passed for 3,505 yards and 36 touchdowns with just four interceptions this season. Nebraska’s pass defense ranks 27th in the nation with just 12 touchdown passes allowed and 12 interceptions. But they have not faced a passing offense like USC’s. Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith are a solid 1-2 punch as targets, and running back Javorious Allen is a 1,300-yard rusher with the ability to catch and run as well.

Of course, Nebraska has a pretty good running back too. When healthy, Ameer Abdullah is one of the best running backs in the country. Injuries have slowed him down a bit this season, but Abdullah has had time to get ready for the game and should be expected to carry the bulk of the load on offense for Nebraska. The Huskers also bring Randy Gregory as a defensive force to be reckoned with.

THE PREDICTION: USC 31, Nebraska 23

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CFT Previews: Duck Commander Independence Bowl

Steve Spurrier

WHO: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 39th Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET Dec. 27 on ABC
THE SKINNY: In a battle to see which team emerges with less of a disappointing season than the other, the underachieving South Carolina Gamecocks face the Miami Hurricanes in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

Both teams entered this season with aspirations of winning their divisions. Instead, both are 6-6 with one team leaving Shreveport, Louisiana with a record over .500.

Steve Spurrier‘s Gamecocks limped their way through a worse overall season. The program was expected to compete for the SEC East with the Georgia Bulldogs to eventually play in the SEC Championship Game. After finishing 11-2 the previous three seasons and opening the 2014 campaign ranked ninth overall, expectations remained sky high. Instead, the Gamecocks feel flat by losing five of their last eight games.

When South Carolina was successful, though, the Gamecocks offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Running backs Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds combined for 1,494 rushing yards. Davis already stated he will leave Columbia after this year to join the NFL ranks. The junior will likely be showcased in his final game with the program.

Likewise, Miami’s best weapon is running back Duke Johnson. Johnson, who is also expected to leave Miami after this season for the NFL, is the barometer for the Hurricanes’ success. During a six-game stretch through the middle of the season, the running back ran for over 100 yards in each contest. Miami finished 4-2 during that stretch. The program is 2-4 in the games when Johnson ran for less than the century mark.

As the program’s all-time leading rusher, Johnson’s success is vital for Miami to emerge victorious.

But the Gamecocks can take over a game with its talented offensive line. Those big eaters up front should give South Carolina a slight advantage in a game that pits two of the nation’s most inconsistent teams against one another.

Spurrier succinctly summed up exactly what’s on the line, “They’re 6-6 just like us, so somebody is going to be a winner and someone is going to leave a loser. So, a lot on the line for this game.”

THE PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Miami 21

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Bowl win confirms NC State going in right direction under Dave Doeren

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl

A year ago, North Carolina State’s decision to hire Dave Doeren didn’t reflect favorably on the university. A year later and Doeren helped orchestrate the second biggest turnaround in major college football this season.

With the 34-27 victory over the UCF Knights in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, the Wolfpack finished 8-5 overall, which is a five-game improvement in the win column for Doeren.

The improvement came naturally for a young and improving roster. Only six seniors started on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the young players stepped up, particularly during the bowl game.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a Florida transfer, strung together an outstanding performance against the Knights. The junior was 15-of-26 passing for 262 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback carried the team to a 17-10 halftime lead before the running game took over in the second half.

Both junior Shadrach Thornton and sophomore Matt Dayes finished the opening half with less rushing yards (29) than Brissett. Yet the duo exploded in the second half courtesy of a strong run-blocking effort by North Carolina State’s offensive line.

Wolfpack offensive coordinator Matt Canada repeatedly called inside zone runs to gash UCF’s stout defense. The Knights entered the bowl game with the fifth-ranked rush defense. Thornton and Dayes, however, shredded George O’Leary‘s defense with 174 total yards including a pair of touchdowns from the sophomore.

Despite the loss, UCF continues to prove its one of the best programs among the Group of Five conferences. The Knights finished 9-5 overall. It’s the fourth time in five years that O’Leary led the program to at least nine wins.

But the spotlight will shine on Doeren Friday due to the tremendous job he orchestrated this season with a program that wasn’t expected to compete at a high level.

The coach will now be expected to take the program to yet another level next season, and it’ll be possible to do so with a seasoned Brissett behind center and a talented stable of running backs.

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Report: Minnesota TE Maxx Williams will turn pro after bowl game

Maxx Williams, Desmond King

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will have to replace the program’s most talented player for the second straight season.

Once Ra’Shede Hageman graduated a year ago, tight end Maxx Williams became the focal point of opponents’ game plans. Williams didn’t disappoint either.

Even with two years of eligibility remaining, the redshirt sophomore will reportedly enter the 2015 NFL draft, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN in Twin Cities.

“Sources also indicate that they realize the 2015 Draft is not strong for tight ends,” Wolfson wrote. “The expectation is that Williams can go as high as the late first or second round. He did submit his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, and the belief is the feedback they will continue to provide will cement his decision.”

The tight end finished first on the team with 29 receptions for 471 yards and seven touchdowns. When the Golden Gophers required a big play in the passing game, the pass was almost always intended for Williams.

As a result, Williams was a finalist for the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end.

With Williams and senior running back David Cobb both headed to the NFL, Jerry Kill’s staff will be forced to replace over 47 percent of the team’s offense next season.

But there still is one more game to go this year. Williams will be on display Jan. 1 during the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl against the No. 16 Missouri Tigers.

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Jacoby Brissett steals show as NC State leads UCF 17-10 at halftime of St. Petersburg Bowl

Bitcoin St Petersburg Bowl - North Carolina State v Central Florida

North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett was nearly perfect through two quarters of play in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. As a result, the Wolfpack established a 17-10 lead over the UCF Knights with the two teams preparing for the second half of play.

Brissett was 10-of-12 passing for 197 yards and a touchdown. He was elusive in the pocket, extended plays and placed plenty of stress on UCF’s defense due to his ability to run the football if needed. The quarterback led the Wolfpack with 29 rushing yards.

The only mistake Brissett made came at the end of the half when he took a sack while the Wolfpack was in scoring position. North Carolina State had an opportunity to extend the lead by two scores and receive the kickoff in the second half, but the sack forced the clock to run out for halftime.

UCF’s Justin Holman hasn’t been quite as good, but he’s been solid and created a few big plays in the first half. The sophomore was 11-of-19 passing for 118 yards and a touchdown. The UCF signal-caller didn’t make any key mistakes, and his team remains within striking distance.

Holman needs help, though. George O’Leary‘s offense is predicated on establishing the run, which allows the quarterback to strike down field. North Carolina State’s defense held the Knights’ rushing attack to 3.7 yards per carry. UCF needs to stay ahead of the chains to keep pressure of its quarterback and put him in the best position to succeed.

Brissett, on the other hand, needs to get his offense into the end zone. North Carolina State drove the ball inside the 30-yard line on its final two drives. Those drives resulted in only three points.

Despite an impressive first half performance, Brissett will need to continue his current level of play for the Wolfpack to secure its first bowl victory under head coach Dave Doeren.

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Report: Michigan will meet with Jim Harbaugh this weekend

Jim Harbaugh

The brass at the University of Michigan is about to turn up the heat on its pursuit of San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

After missing the playoffs this season, Harbaugh is expected to be dismissed from his current position within days of the conclusion of the NFL season. It’s already gotten to the point where his family — specifically his brother, John — already accepts Harbaugh’s plight.

The Michigan job is there for the taking. The university plans to make an offer that would make Harbaugh one of the highest paid head coaches in college football. And it will likely officially do so this weekend.

The timing of the meeting will prove to be interesting.

If Harbaugh meets with Michigan officials and the search firm on Saturday, he’ll clearly be weighing his options, but he can’t immediately accept the job with the 49ers playing the next day. If the coach meets with school late Sunday, he could be Michigan’s head coach by the end of the night.

It all comes down to whether or not Harbaugh wants return to the collegiate game, specifically his alma mater. His family and friends are reportedly pushing for a return to Ann Arbor, though.

Either way, the situation will be resolved within the next few days.

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Rutgers finishes successful first season in B1G with bowl victory

Rutgers v North Carolina Getty Images

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were favored to finish dead last in the Big Ten East — including predictions by this very site — during the program’s first season in the conference.

Kyle Flood and his team exceeded expectations with an 8-5 record and a 40-21 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Quick Lane Bowl held in Detroit, Michigan.

With the bowl victory, Rutgers will finish fourth in the Big Ten East with the potential to own the fifth-best overall record in the entire conference.

The narrative was simple earlier this year: Rutgers was only added to the Big Ten Conference because of its footprint in New York City and New Jersey.

It just so happens that its a pretty good football program, too.

The victory over North Carolina also established early bragging rights for the Big Ten over the ACC.

The North Carolina Tar Heels dropped to 6-7 overall during a disappointing season. Larry Fedora‘s squad was a chic pick to be a Top 25 team this season and potentially steal an ACC Coastal Crown. Instead, the program finished third overall in one of the weakest divisions among the Power Five conferences.

After three straight seasons of diminishing win totals, Fedora will likely enter next season on the hot seat.

Rutgers was simply more physical at the point of attack than North Carolina. The Scarlet Knights ran for a whopping 340 yards. Freshman running back Josh Hicks amassed 202 yards on the ground.

North Carolina’s offense was dynamic at times, but the team’s defense simply didn’t show up and that falls directly on the head coach.

Flood, meanwhile, will enjoy the momentum his program built during its first year in the Big Ten both in recruiting and preparation for next season.

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Report: Rift grows between Kyle Whittingham and Utah’s AD

Kyle Whittingham

Kyle Whittingham is the most successful coach in Utah Utes history. During his 20 years as an assistant coach, coordinator and head coach, Whittingham has been involved in 170 victories. But Whittingham may finally be living on borrowed time as the head coach of the Utes.

The Utah football program is coming apart at the seams.

After losing defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Dave Christensen to other programs in less than a week, Whittingham reportedly isn’t very happy with the current status of his program.

“In the time since, three assistant coaches have left the program, and sources familiar with the situation tell The Salt Lake Tribune that the relationship between Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and athletic director Chris Hill is severely fractured, perhaps irreparably,” Matthew Piper reported.

“Those sources, who requested anonymity so as not to not compromise their ties to the program, say Whittingham and Hill were on poor terms before the start of the season, and that the rift widened in recent weeks. The two were scheduled to meet Friday, a source said.”

The reported conflict stems from Hill’s inability to provide the financial backing for Whittingham to retain his coordinators.

“A source said Hill’s inability to lock up Sitake made Whittingham feel that Hill was trying to sabotage his program,” Piper added.

With Whittingham growing dissatisfaction with Utah and Hill’s leadership, the Utes’ head coach is actively searching for positions around college football.

“The source confirmed speculation that Whittingham has met with administrators at other schools,” Piper continued.

If that’s the case, Whittingham may be a respectable fallback option for the University of Michigan, which is still attempting to lure Jim Harbaugh from the NFL ranks.

After all, a program like Michigan could do worse than hiring a coach with a 85-43 career record,  eight bowl appearances in 10 years and the 2008 National Coach of the Year on his resume. It was rumored two weeks ago that Whittingham had met with Michigan officials.

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Auburn’s leading receiver ‘running late’ to arrive at Outback Bowl

Arkansas v Auburn Getty Images

A week ago, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wasn’t sure if the team’s leading receiver, D’haquille Williams, would play in the Outback Bowl against the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers.

Williams didn’t practice last week due to an illness plus lingering issues with a knee he injured earlier in the season against the Texas A&M Aggies.

After not practicing with the team, Williams didn’t travel to Tampa, Florida for the bowl game.

While Sammie Coates is one of the nation’s most talented wide receivers, the Tigers lose a lot with Williams out the lineup. The JUCO transfer came into the program and immediately became quarterback Nick Marshall‘s favorite target. He leads the team with 45 receptions and 730 receiving yards.

Williams is also a better overall route runner than Coates. The junior, who is NFL bound,  is one of the nation’s top deep threats. Williams was far more willing to run the routes and make the tough catches over the middle, though.

UPDATE [7:00 p.m. ET]:  Due to D’haquille Williams‘ injury status, Auburn’s top target didn’t initially travel with the team to Tampa, Florida, for the Outback Bowl. However, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters Friday night that the wide receiver will be at the game.

Malzahn never specified whether or not Williams will be cleared to play for the New Year’s Day affair.

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Rutgers ready to add exclamation point on season with 23-0 lead over UNC in Quick Lane Bowl

Kyle Flood

Ten years ago, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights were just starting their ascent to respectability under Greg Schiano. Nine bowl games later, and the program is putting together arguably its strongest postseason effort in the program’s history.

Rutgers dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels 23-0 through two quarters of play in the Quick Lane Bowl.

After losing their past two bowl games, the Scarlet Knights are trying to add an exclamation point to their first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference.

Kyle Flood‘s squad built a lead by winning in the trenches and playing fundamentally sound football.

Rutgers established the run early, and the team’s pair of freshmen running backs, Robert Martin and Josh Hicks, combined for 124 yards on 20 carries.

“Any time your running game works, you’re making guys miss and breaking tackles.” Flood told ESPN as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “I think they’ve both done a good job.”

Overall, the Scarlet Knights gained 281 yards of total offense.

North Carolina, meanwhile, struggled to develop any consistency. The Tar Heels fumbled the ball twice. Once they were finally able to move the ball, kicker Thomas Moore missed a field goal attempt and another was blocked.

It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that North Carolina was finally able to move the ball successfully by stretching the field horizontally. The Tar Heels stayed away from the strength of Rutgers’ defense — its defensive line — and tested its athleticism on the edges.

If North Carolina is going to attempt a comeback, it will have to increase tempo on offense while continuing to get their play-makers in space. Rutgers simply needs to control the ball and the line of scrimmage like it did in the first half to finish the season 8-5 overall.

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