CFT Previews: Your Jan. 2 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Jan. 2 bowl menu, which features a pair of Big 12-Pac-12 tilts as well as a teacher-student affair.

WHO: Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)
WHAT: The 71st TaxSlayer Bowl
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
WHEN: noon ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Penn State, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Kansas State (6-6) vs. Arkansas (7-5)
WHAT: The 57th AutoZone Liberty Bowl
WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: From the You-May-Not-Have-Known Department: Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema served as the defensive coordinator for Bill Snyder at Kansas State from 2002-03.  Snyder might wish he had Bert back in charge of that side of the ball as his Wildcats have given up 30 points in seven of 12 games this season.  Just two of K-State’s six wins came against teams that will play in bowl games this year (Louisiana Tech, West Virginia).  And then there’s this oddity: K-State won their first three games of the 2015 season… then lost their next six… then won their last three.  Arkansas, meanwhile, has been a roll heading into the postseason, winning five of their last six — and two of those wins came on the road against teams that were ranked ninth (LSU) and 18th (Ole Miss) at the time of the meetings.  That was a departure from earlier in the season when the Razorbacks lost back-to-back-to-back home games to Toledo, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.  The biggest concern for Snyder & Company will likely be the not-so-friendly skies as his Wildcats are 119th nationally (out of 127 FBS teams) in pass defense while the Razorbacks are 33rd in the country and third in the SEC in passing yards per game at 264.3.  A win for Arkansas would give the Hogs three consecutive bowl victories for the first time in the program’s history — and the eight wins would be the most since Bobby Petrino went 11-2 in 2011 — while a loss for K-State would mean the first losing season for the program since 2008.  A win for the latter would also serve as just the second bowl triumph in eight tries dating back to the 2003 season.
THE LINE: Kansas State, +13
THE PREDICTION: Arkansas 38, Kansas State 17

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WHO: Oregon (9-3) vs. TCU (10-2)
WHAT: The 23rd Valero Alamo Bowl
WHERE: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
WHEN: 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Off the board because of the Trevone Boykin situation
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6)
WHAT: The 27th Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
WHERE: Chase Field, Glendale, Arizona
WHEN: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: However you choose to parse it, Arizona State is among the 3-5 most disappointing teams of the 2015 season.  Entering the campaign as not only one of the favorites in the Pac-12 but also a darkhorse playoff contender, ASU proceeded to immediately crash back to earth in the opener with a 21-point loss to an average Texas A&M squad.  A 28-point loss to USC at home three weeks signaled an end to any and all CFP talk, while a three-game losing streak from mid-October through early November officially ended any type of conference title chatter.  After a 3-4 start to the season — four straight losses to teams currently ranked in the CFP Top 20 included — had the whispers growing louder that Dana Holgorsen‘s time in Morgantown was fast coming to an end, West Virginia righted the ship with a four-game winning streak before an inexplicable loss to Kansas State in the regular season finale took some of the oomph out of that late-season momentum.  One of the best matchups in this contest will be WVU running back Wendell Smallwood (1,447 yards this season) vs. an ASU defense that is 21st in the country in stopping the run at 124.4 yards per game.  The Mountaineers, with a win, would secure its winningest season since a 10-3 mark in Holgorsen’s first year in 2011, while the Sun Devils are looking to avoid their first non-winning season since that same season, the last prior to Todd Graham‘s arrival.
THE LINE: Arizona State, +1
THE PREDICTION: Arizona State 30, West Virginia 24

Marshall’s Larry Aaron, paralyzed in New Year’s Eve shooting, dies

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Sadly, what was already a tragic situation at Marshall has taken an even more heartbreaking turn.

The Thundering Herd confirmed Thursday afternoon that rising redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Larry Aaron died earlier in the day at a Maryland hospital.  Aaron was paralyzed from the waist down after being struck by a stray bullet during a New Year’s Eve party, and passed away as a result of complications connected to those injuries he sustained in the shooting.

According to reports at the time, Aaron had stepped in front of his girlfriend to shield her from the bullets.

“Marshall University lost a very special young man today and it has shocked and saddened us all,” a statement from Marshall head coach Doc Holliday began. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Larry Aaron’s family and friends, many of whom were his fellow Thundering Herd teammates. His loss will be felt in every corner of our program and his spirit will never be forgotten.”

After redshirting as a true freshman, Aaron played in eight games this past season.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those impacted by Aaron’s senseless death.

Alabama confirms handful of staff changes, including addition of Miami’s DL coach

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An offseason of upheaval on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has apparently come to an official end.

Early Thursday afternoon, the Crimson Tide announced the additions of two new assistant coaches as well as the promotions/new responsibilities for others on the staff last season.  As previously reported HERE and HERE, the new hires are Dan Enos as quarterbacks coach and Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach.  Both coaches, who come to Tuscaloosa from Michigan and Miami, respectively, will also carry the titles of associate head coach.

“We are pleased and happy to have Dan Enos joining our coaching staff at The University of Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of knowledge with five years of head coaching experience and numerous stops as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Dan is a bright football mind and an outstanding recruiter who will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best chance to be successful.”

In addition to those hirings, Saban also confirmed that Mike Locksley (HERE) has been promoted to offensive coordinator and Tosh Lupoi (HERE) has been promoted to defensive coordinator.  Locksley replaces Brian Daboll, who left after one season in Tuscaloosa for the same job with the Buffalo Bills last month, while Lupoi takes over for Jeremy Pruitt, who left after Alabama’s win in the national championship game to take over as the head coach at Tennessee.

As had previously been announced, Jeff Banks will serve as special teams coordinator while also being in charge of the Tide’s tight ends.  Josh Gattis, who was confirmed as the new wide receivers coach late last month, will also carry the title of co-offensive coordinator, while Pete Golding, in addition to his duties as inside linebackers coach, has been given the title of co-defensive coordinator.

And, finally, Burton Burns will step away from his longtime role as running backs coach and take on an unspecified off-field position.  Replacing Burns in his on-field role is Joe Pannunzio, who had been in charge of tight ends.

NCAA grants Houston LB Austin Robinson another season of eligibility

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As it turns out, Houston will have the services of Austin Robinson a little while longer than originally expected.

The football program announced Wednesday that the NCAA has granted Robinson a sixth season of eligibility. While the school wrote in its release that the linebacker “received a legislative relief waiver” from The Association, the specific reasoning behind the waiver being granted is unclear.

With the NCAA’s decision, Robinson will now have eligibility he can use in both 2018 and 2019.

Robinson began his collegiate career at UT-San Antonio in 2014, playing in eight games as a true freshman before transferring to UH and sitting out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He then played in 11 games in 2016 and 12 this past season, starting four contests in 2017.

This past campaign, Robinson was credited with 33 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. He also had a pair of quarterback hurries on his statistical resume.

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

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Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.