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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 23 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 23 bowl menu, which not only gives us our first multi-bowl GameDay since the opening Saturday of the postseason but also the first matchup involving a team ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25.

WHO: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Nearly three decades ago, Eastern Michigan won the first bowl game in the first postseason appearance in the football program’s history.  Since then, the Eagles have been searching for the school’s second postseason win — mainly because they haven’t played in a bowl game in the ensuing 29 years.  Chris Creighton has led a remarkable turnaround in Ypsilanti, with EMU winning just three combined games his first two seasons before the jump to seven in Year 3; those seven wins are the most since they won the same number in 1989.  An eighth win would be just the third time they’ve hit at least that mark in their FBS history.  Old Dominion is also in uncharted territory as they didn’t become an FBS program until 2014, and this will mark the Monarchs’ first-ever bowl appearance.  The two teams come into their first-ever matchup on different trajectories, with ODU riding a five-game winning streak in winning eight of its last nine — all of those wins came by double digits — while EMU went 3-4 after 4-1 start.  Both the Eagles and Monarchs average more than 30 points per game offensively, while their defenses aren’t in the top half of the country in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.  The final scores in the first two Bahamas Bowls, also featuring Conference USA and MAC teams, were 49-48 and 45-31.  I’m guessing this game won’t deviate too much from those previous offensive matchups.  If there is one player to watch, it might be ODU’s David Washington.  Washington (28-4) was one of just three starting quarterbacks at the FBS level who threw 28 or more touchdowns and four or fewer interceptions during the 2016 regular season, the others being Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell (32-3) and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky (28-4).
THE LINE: Eastern Michigan, +4
THE PREDICTION: Eastern Michigan 37, Old Dominion 36

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WHO: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. No. 25 Navy (9-4)
WHAT: The 14th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE LINE: Navy, +6
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Dollar General Bowl
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This might be my most favorite not-even-remotely relevant fun fact of the entire 2016 postseason: Ohio head coach Frank Solich (72) is exactly twice as old as his Troy counterpart Neal Brown (36).  The former Nebraska coach, though, has turned his Bobcats into an annual postseason presence.  After just one bowl game his first four years, OU will be playing in its seventh the last eight years.  While a postseason game has become an annual expectation in Athens, Brown will be leading Troy, playing in its home state, to its first bowl appearance since 2010 in just his second season with the program.  OU won by 16 points at Kansas — hey, technically, they are a Power Five team — lost by just nine points at Tennessee and then took Western Michigan, unbeaten and headed for a New Year’s Six game, to the brink in losing the MAC championship game by six points.  Ohio’s last three losses?  By a combined 20 points to three teams that will be bowling this season.  Then there’s Troy, which held a first-quarter lead on College Football Playoff semifinalist Clemson in Week 2 and was down just 13-10 at the half before dropping a 30-24 road decision to the No. 2 team in the country.  A win here would give the Trojans their first-ever 10-win season in their 16 years as an FBS program.  If the latter portion of the 2016 season is any indication this could be a close game as eight of Ohio’s last nine games were decided by 10 points or less, with seven of those decided by seven or less.  There might be one certainty in this game: don’t expect much when it comes to the ground game as Troy is 19th nationally in stopping the run (123.7) while Ohio is seventh (105.8).
THE LINE: Ohio, +4
THE PREDICTION: Ohio 24, Troy 20

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.