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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 24 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which features a pair of games on islands and teams from four different conferences: AAC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West.

WHO: Middle Tennessee State (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
WHAT: The 2nd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: A 3-5 start to the 2015 season put Middle Tennessee State’s bowl eligibility in jeopardy, but Rick Stockstill‘s crew righted the ship and finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak.  Western Michigan was in control of its MAC West fate at 5-0 before back-to-back losses to Bowling Green and eventual division champion Northern Illinois essentially ended their conference title game hopes, although they did knock off Toledo in the finale to rip the West from the Rockets and hand it to the Huskies.  History is not on WMU’s side, however, as the Broncos have played in six bowl games previously… and lost all six.  What WMU does have on its side is a pair of receivers, Daniel Braverman (103-1,266-12) and Corey Davis (82-1,253-11), who combined for 185 receptions for 2,519 yards and 23 touchdowns. MTSU can move the ball through the air as well as Brent Stockstill has passed for 3,678 yards.  Offense should rule the day overall as both are prolific on that side of the ball — WMU’s 22nd nationally in total offense, MTSU 30th — while the Blue Raiders are in the middle of the pack defensively (51st in scoring defense).  The Broncos, meanwhile, are 78th in scoring.  With a win, WMU would win eight or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history; an MTSU win, meanwhile, would give that program exactly eight wins in three of the last four seasons.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee State, +4½
THE PREDICTION: Western Michigan 37, Middle Tennessee State 34

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WHO: San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)
WHAT: The 14th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Very quietly, Mountain West champion San Diego State is one of the hottest teams in the country, with their nine-game winning streak tied with Alabama for the second-longest streak nationally behind Clemson’s 16 in a row.  In fact, one more win for the Aztecs would tie the single-season school record of 11 set back in 1969 under Don Coryell.  The 10 wins are already SDSU’s first double-digit win season since 1977 and just the fifth since becoming an FBS program.  Cincinnati, on the other hand, won back-to-back games just once this season, although they didn’t lose back-to-back games at all in 2015.  The Bearcats are also dealing with some internal strife as starting quarterback Gunner Kiel will not play because of what are being described as “personal reasons.”  The Bearcats, though, are prolific offensively, ranking 24th in the country with 36.1 points per game.  The problem is that San Diego State is among the stingiest in giving up points, with their 17 points per game positioning the Aztecs 10th nationally in that category.  SDSU has given up 20 or more points four times this season, and just once, in a 27-24 win over Air Force, during their winning streak.  That said, the key to the game could be Cincinnati’s run defense: UC is 106th in allowing teams to average 5.0 yards per carry, while SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey‘s 1,554 yards are 10th nationally as he averages 5.5 ypc.
THE LINE: Cincinnati, +1½
THE PREDICTION: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 28

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.

LSU RB Lanard Fournette arrested for illegal gambling at Baton Rouge casino

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The younger brother of Leonard Fournette has finally made a name for himself, albeit for all of the wrong reasons.

Monday afternoon, WAFB-TV reported, LSU running back Lanard Fournette was arrested on a charge of using a fake ID to gamble at a Baton Rouge casino this past weekend.  The 20-year-old Fournette was subsequently released on a $1,000 bond.

The Baton Rouge Advocate has obtained some of the details  led up to the arrest of the redshirt sophomore.

Fournette… was arrested Monday after surveillance video showed and casino personnel confirmed he gained access to the gaming floor Saturday with a different ID than his own driver’s license, according to his arrest report.

Security video showed Fournette playing at a “craps table” for 16 minutes around 1:30 p.m., before walking to the player’s services counter. Fournette then allegedly presented his real ID to the cashier for a cash withdrawal, who determined his accurate age and contacted security, the report says.

Fournette, of Slidell, was detained at the casino, but left before the officer’s arrival, the report says. When casino security asked Fournette about the incident, Fournette said he used another person’s ID to enter the casino, the report says.

Head coach Ed Orgeron is aware of the incident and any discipline will be handled internally.

A three-star 2015 signee, Fournette took a redshirt his true freshman season.  In three games last year, he ran for 13 yards on five carries.

Fournette’s older brother was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft following an Al-American career at LSU.

Ex-South Carolina QB signs Cal financial aid agreement

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It’s now officially official.

Just a day after Brandon McIlwain indicated on social media that he would be transferring to Cal, the Golden Bears acknowledged in a release that the quarterback “has signed a financial aid agreement and will join the school’s football program.”  Additionally, the football team confirmed that the two-sport student-athlete is expected to play baseball for the university as well.

In late February, McIlwain announced that he would be transferring from South Carolina.  The true sophomore will not play for the football Bears in the upcoming season, but will have three years of eligibility at his disposal after that.

“We’re excited that Brandon has decided to enroll at Cal and become a member of both our football and baseball programs,” a statement from head coach Justin Wilcox began. “We’re looking forward to his contributions and having him join the competition in our quarterback room.”

“I am excited to develop under the incredible coaching staff at Cal,” McIlwain said in his statement. “The Golden Bears have a great quarterback history. In addition, I am equally excited about returning to the Bay Area and taking advantage of the university’s amazing education.”

As a true freshman last season, McIlwain started three of the 12 games in which he played.  In that time, he completed 62-of-118 passes for 600 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, while he added 127 yards and another two scores on the ground.

The emergence of fellow freshman Jake Bentley midway through the season, however, left McIlwain with no clear football path to a starting job.

Title IX probe into sexual assault allegations involving three Michigan State football players completed

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The Title IX investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving playing members of the Michigan State football team has ended, the Associated Press and other media outlets are reporting.

In early February, three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst allegations that a sexual assault took place on January 16 at an on-campus apartment complex.  As a result of the allegations, a Title IX investigation into the alleged incident commenced in early February and lasted a little over three months.

That investigation was headed by Rebecca Veidlinger, an independent Title IX consultant and Ann Arbor attorney who previously worked in MSU’s Title IX office.  Because of federal privacy laws, the university will not release the findings of Veidlinger’s probe.

As for the next step in the process? Mlive.com explains.

Speaking generally about Title IX investigations, [university spokesperson Jason] Cody said there are two possible outcomes at the conclusion of an investigation. If no university policy violation is found, then the matter would be closed. If a policy violation was found, the case would then be sent to the school’s student conduct system.

The student conduct system could then levy any sanction ranging from a warning or probation to suspension or expulsion.

The alleged sexual assault has spawned three separate investigations, including the recently-completed Title IX probe.  A criminal investigation conducted by campus police led to requests for four arrest warrants to be issued, although the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office has thus far declined to act.  Additionally, the university has hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the football program and its handling of the allegations.

Thus far, the names of the players allegedly involved in the assault have not been released.  The suspended staffer was subsequently identified as Curtis Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance.  Blackwell, who is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault but rather a non-sexual crime after the fact, has received a pair of one-month contract extensions since his suspension was levied.