CFT Previews: Your Dec. 30 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 30 bowl menu, which features seven Power Five teams, including a pair of ACC-SEC matchups.

WHO: Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)
WHAT: The 10th Birmingham Bowl
WHERE: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
WHEN: Noon ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Memphis, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)
WHAT: The 14th Belk Bowl
WHERE:
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of multi-dimensional quarterbacks, this matchup is one helluva way to close out 2015.  Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is 26th nationally in passing efficiency while his counterpart, North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett, is sixth in the ACC in that very category.  Prescott also leads his team in rushing, while Brissett is fourth on the Wolfpack on the ground.  If you’re the opposing secondary and looking to get the ball back via a turnover good luck as the two quarterbacks have combined to throw eight interceptions — four apiece — in 802 attempts this season.  Should MSU grab its fourth bowl win (in six tries) under Dan Mullen, it would mark the first time in the football program’s history that the Bulldogs have won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons.  An NCSU win would give Dave Doeren eight wins for the second time in his first three seasons, the first Wolfpack coach to pull off that trick his first three seasons since Chuck Amato in 2000 (8-4) and 2002 (11-3).  And a factoid that might only interest me?  The Wolfpack’s last bowl win against a team from the SEC came back in 1994 against… the Starkville Bulldogs.  That said, history likely won’t repeat itself as MSU is playing for the beloved Prescott and wants desperately to send the senior out on a winning note.  That emotion should prove to be the difference, especially in a game that could very well be decided by the two opposing offenses.
THE LINE: North Carolina State, +6
THE PREDICTION: Mississippi State 48, North Carolina State 45

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WHO: Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5)
WHAT: The 18th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHERE:
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: The biggest question mark surrounding this game is what exactly Texas A&M will get under center.  A&M has already seen the quarterback who began the 2015 season as the starter decide to transfer… and then watched as the player who finished the 2015 season as the starter bolt as well.  With Kyle Allen (the former) and Kyler Murray (the latter) gone, enter Jake Hubenak, he of the stat line that includes 12-of-27 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown in his career.  Conversely, Louisville is very stable at the position for the foreseeable future as true freshman Lamar Jackson has grabbed the job by the throat, becoming one of just a handful of FBS quarterbacks to lead his team in passing and rushing.  The much-improved Aggies defense, though, has shown the ability to contain running quarterbacks this season, although the Prescott mentioned up above did manage 96 yards in a losing effort in early October.  And then there is sophomore Myles Garrett, the Aggies defensive end who is tied for sixth nationally with 11.5 sacks and could prove to be a very disruptive force for such a young player.  With a win, the Aggies will extend their bowl winning streak to five straight… a skein that comes on the heels of losing five in a row.  The U of L could end their 2015 season with back-to-back wins over teams from the SEC for the first time in program history, and could also beat a team from that conference in a bowl game for the first time since 1990 (Alabama, Fiesta Bowl).  One final note: expect Kevin Sumlin‘s name to be very much a part of the NFL coaching carousel once the final gun sounds on this game, regardless of whether the Aggies win or lose.
THE LINE: Texas A&M, +4½
THE PREDICTION: Louisville 27, Texas A&M 26

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WHO: USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
WHAT: The 38th National Funding Holiday Bowl
WHERE:
WHEN: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Wisconsin, +3½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Army on cusp of rare back-to-back bowl seasons for first time since 1984-85

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Army is taking on Temple on Saturday afternoon with a chance to punch the first postseason bowl ticket of the 2017 season. Other teams may already be bowl eligible, but Army will be the first team to have a chance to accept an invitation to a bowl game on Saturday if they can manage to get by the Temple Owls.

Army has a spot waiting for them in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth as long as they are bowl-eligible this season. At 5-2, the Black Knights can start making their bowl plans as soon as they win one more game. If they do clinch their bowl eligibility on Saturday, it will be the first time Army will go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1984 and 1985 seasons. Army played in and won the short-lived Cherry Bowl in the 1984 season and the Peach Bowl in the 1985 season. After going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season for their first bowl trip since the 2010 season, Jeff Monken and his program are looking to make going to a bowl game a regular thing.

Army defeated Temple in the season opener a year ago, and Monken is aware that can be a motivating factor for Temple despite these Owls being a much different team from the AAC champions of last season.

”This is a tough football team that won their conference last year,” Monken said. ”They’ll have a ton of confidence and they feel as though they have to come in and win this game. We had the chance to come out with a win at their place, and I’m sure they’d love to return the favor.”

Monken took over the Army football program in 2014 after a successful run as head coach of Georgia Southern, then a powerhouse FCS program. His run at Army took a couple of years to get going, but Army has shed their losing ways under his watch, and that was highlighted by a long-awaited victory over Navy in last season’s Army-Navy Game. Picking up a win against Temple will continue to prove Army is continuing to improve as a program, and that also means Monken will potentially be finding himself on the radar in the coaching rumor mill. The Nebraska job has had some people mentioning Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, but perhaps Monken would be a name to keep an eye on as well. As long as that means Army is winning games, so be it.

Keep in mind this would not be the first time Army would have back-to-back bowl eligible seasons since the mid-1980s. The Knights have had winning seasons on multiple occasions since last going to back-to-back bowl games, but the bowl game picture was quite different in the 1980s than it is today. With an oversaturation of bowl games available to schools today, Army stands a much better chance of going to a bowl game this season even with just six or seven wins than they would have 30 years ago.

Ohio State unveils alternate helmet for Penn State game

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Contrary to previous internet uniform rumors, Ohio State’s alternate helmet for their big division showdown with Penn State next week is far closer to home to the traditional Ohio State look than some of the outside-the-box helmet designs that had been floating around in various rumor mills in Ohio State circles lately.

Ohio State is rolling out with an alternate gray uniform, for some reason (recruiting!), next week when the Buckeyes host Penn State. And to keep the look from head to toe, Ohio State will wear a gray helmet with a slightly abstract pattern seemingly mimicking camouflage.

Two years ago when Ohio State hosted Penn State, the Buckeyes took the field in an all-black uniform. The Buckeyes have also worn all-white uniforms (excluding the helmet) for road games against Michigan and Penn State in recent seasons.

Penn State, barring any unforeseen announcements, will stick with their traditional all-white look for the road game. Although, Penn State did wear a specially designed uniform this season a few weeks ago. It’s a new era, so never say never.

Ohio State is off this week. Penn State hosts Michigan Saturday night. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions meet in Columbus next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Big Ten lines up Thursday and Friday night football for 2018

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The Big Ten is planning ahead to buckle down and try to make Thursday night and Friday night football a thing in the conference. After breaking the ice on Thursday and Friday night football in the 2017 season, the conference has officially moved five games on the 2018 conference schedule to Thursday and Friday nights.

Purdue will host Northwestern in the Big Ten season opener on Thursday, August 30, marking the second straight season the Big Ten will kick off the college football season with a Thursday night football game. Indiana hosted Ohio State in a Thursday night season opener this season. The opening week of the season will continue the following night with Michigan State hosting Utah State and Wisconsin hosting Western Kentucky on Friday, August 21, 2018. This will mark the second straight season Wisconsin will open the season at home on a Friday night in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers hosted Utah State on Friday, September 1 this season.

The three games on Thursday and Friday night in the opening week of the 2018 season keeps the Big Ten on the primetime lineup on various TV partners between ESPN, FOX Sports, and the Big Ten Network, although the programming specifics will come later on. But the idea of adding games to Thursday and Friday nights has been designed to add programming to TV partners and add content across all partner networks as part of the latest contracts with ESPN and FOX, along with the Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten has moved two additional games Friday nights next season as well. Illinois will host Penn State on Friday, September 21, 2018. Minnesota will host Indiana on Friday, October 26, 2018.

In statement, Mark Dantonio says LJ Scott’s ‘status will be affected for Saturday’s game, but he will play’

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At least on the field, LJ Scott‘s latest boneheaded misstep won’t prove too costly.

Thursday, it was reported that Scott was arrested Wednesday for the seventh time in the last year and a half for driving on a suspended license or similar offense.  There was some question as to whether this latest off-field incident will cost the running back playing time for Michigan State’s game this weekend against Indiana.

In a statement, head coach Mark Dantonio said it would. Kinda.  Sorta.

In what has been a lengthy process, LJ Scott now has a valid driver’s license, free of any restrictions. He has resolved the matter completely, and has paid a price, both financially and publicly. His status will be affected for Saturday’s game, but he will play.

Scott currently leads the Spartans with 408 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with three rushing touchdowns.  He’s coming off a career-high 194 yards in last Saturday’s win over Minnesota.