CFT Previews: Capital One Orange Bowl

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WHO: No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-3)
WHAT: The 80th Capital One Orange Bowl
WHERE: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
WHEN: 8:00 p.m. ET Dec. 31 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Assignment football will be the name of the game when the No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs meet the No. 12 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

The last time Mississippi State traveled to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl was 1941.  Head coach Allyn McKeen led his team onto the field against the Georgetown Hoyas 11 months before the United States experienced the attack at Pearl Harbor. The Mississippi State Maroons — as they were called at the time — won the contest 14-7.

Fast forward 73 years, and the Bulldogs will face another throwback offense in the Orange Bowl.

Georgia Tech’s triple option attack is the most difficult run game to stop among the Power Five conferences. The Yellow Jackets averaged 333.6 yards per game. That is nearly 30 more yards per game than the Wisconsin Badgers with Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon on the roster.

Playing an option offense is all about discipline. Each defender along the front seven has an assignment they must complete on each and every down. If one of those defenders fail, the Yellow Jackets will be able to exploit the crease that is inevitably created.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen isn’t just worried about the triple option. Justin Thomas isn’t a typical run-first quarterback in Paul Johnson‘s system.

“…he’s got guys in there that run the system very, very well,” Mullen said during his final meeting with the media Tuesday, via MississippiState.scout.com. “They have a play-making quarterback to me that’s dangerous, not just running the option, obviously, which is what he needs to be able to do, but also extending plays and making those outside-the-box plays when it all breaks down being able to make something else happen outside of the framework of the play, makes them a pretty difficult team to stop.”

The undersized signal-caller is a dynamic running threat, but he can also beat teams with his arm. Despite being an option quarterback, Thomas already threw for 17 touchdowns this season.

However, the Bulldogs have consistently won the battle in the trenches this season. Mississippi State owns one of the most talented and deepest defensive lines in college football. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney — all 6-5 and 245 pounds of him — will be roaming behind that front wall. Mississippi State has the size and athleticism up front to present plenty of problems even for Georgia Tech’s prolific rushing attack.

Meanwhile, quarterback Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs offense will face the nation’s 64th-ranked defense. Despite its ball control offense, Georgia Tech still surrenders nearly 400 yards per game. Prescott and running back Josh Robinson — both of which already ran for more than 900 yards this season — should be able pound the ball as well.

This is Georgia Tech’s seventh appearance in the Orange Bowl, but the Yellow Jackets last victory came in 1952. It’s unlikely that trend will change this year.

THE PREDICTION: Mississippi State 31, Georgia Tech 28

Wyoming signs son of Rocket Ismail, Rocket Jr.

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Raghib Ismail had one of the greatest nicknames in football history. The former Notre Dame and NFL wideout was known as The Rocket. It wouldn’t have worked if his name didn’t sound similar to the nickname and if he played any other position besides wide receiver, but he didn’t. It was great.

When Ismail’s younger brother Qadry Ismail came on the scene at Syracuse and later in the NFL, he was known as The Missile. Makes perfect sense, right?

So as the Rocket’s son begins his own college football career one generation later, it’s only natural he gets his own nickname, right? It runs in the family at this point. Well, considering the son’s name is Raghib Ismail, Jr, his nickname is also The Rocket. And The Rocket is now a Cowboy.

Wyoming on Saturday announced Ismail’s signing. A native of Carrollton, Texas, Ismail signed with TCU out of college but later transferred to Cisco Junior College in Texas, where he caught 48 balls for 434 yards and four touchdowns.

“Rocket (Ismail) is a young man who brings great speed and athleticism to the wide receiver position,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said in a statement. “He does a lot after the catch with the ball in his hands.  He catches the ball extremely well, catches it away from his body, and will bring great value to the wide receiver room.”

Wyoming also announced the addition of Ja’lani Ellison, a cornerback from Resada High School in California.

Tennessee frosh All-American OL Trey Smith out indefinitely with ‘medical issue’

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A potentially serious issue has arisen at Tennessee as starting offensive lineman Trey Smith is out indefinitely with a “medical issue.” While the nature of the issue was not disclosed, Smith will miss at least the the first portion of spring practice, but his absence could linger much longer than just spring ball.

Smith is reportedly seeking further medical evaluations. Wes Rucker of GoVols247 reported there is no timetable for Smith’s return, but VolQuest, citing sources close to Smith, reported he is expected to return in time for the 2018 season.

One of the lone bright spots in Butch Jones‘s final season, Smith, a 5-star recruit from Jackson, Tenn., became the first Tennessee true freshman to start at left tackle in over 30 years. Smith was a Day 1 starter for the Vols, starting at right guard for a season-opening win over Georgia Tech.

He led the club with 41 knockdowns on the year, including eight against Alabama.

He was a consensus Freshman All-American in 2017 and was rated by PFF College as the No. 1 offensive linemen among all freshmen and the No. 7 overall freshman in 2017.

Former Arizona State DB Robbie Robinson arrested for ‘terroristic threat’

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Former Stanford and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was detained and questioned by authorities on Friday after a social media post contained a vague threat to a school shooting, but that wasn’t the only such incident involving a former football player and a possible school shooting to emerge on Friday.

Former Arizona State defensive back Edward “Robbie” Robinson was arrested Friday night after making “terroristic threats” against students and staff at ASU after a social media account purporting to be his said he was trying to buy a gun to “spray the stadium up.”

Here is the tweet in question.

In another post, Robinson’s account posted a screenshot of a text message exchange with someone claiming to be an Arizona State police detective saying, “You’re not in trouble. We just want to talk to you.”

ASU police notified the campus after receiving word of “threats of violence against members of the Sun Devil athletics community,” according to the Arizona Republic.

Robinson (left, No. 6) was a 3-star recruit out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hampton, Va., who signed with the Sun Devils as part of their 2016 class. He has not been enrolled in school for more than a year, according to the Republic.

Bond for Robinson was set at $50,000, and a GoFundMe account had raised just over $1,500 toward that number at press time. However, Robinson was still tweeting as of Saturday evening.

 

Former Michigan WR Drake Harris announces transfer to Western Michigan

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Michigan wideout Drake Harris announced  in November he’s leaving Ann Arbor for his final season of college football. On Saturday, we learned Harris is heading west. But not that far west.

Harris revealed in an Instagram post he will enroll at Western Michigan as a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately for the Broncos. “I’m happy to announce that I will be playing my last year of eligibility at Western Michigan University, while pursuing a masters degree. Excited to get working with Coach Lester and the rest of the coaching staff for a great year next season. Go Broncos,” he wrote.

Harris was one of the prized members of Brady Hoke‘s final recruiting class, but never found his footing as a Wolverine. In 25 career games, Harris caught nine passes for 60 yards.

He’ll join a receiving corps that returns intact but could use help. Western Michigan returns all eight wide receivers who caught a pass in 2017, but none of them snagged more than 30 receptions. WMU ranked 111th in completions and 116th in passing en route to a 6-6 finish in Tim Lester‘s first season as head coach.

Harris will face Syracuse in his first game as a Bronco — Aug. 31 in Kalamazoo — before returning to a familiar place for Game No. 2. Western Michigan visits the Big House on Sept. 8.