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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 26 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 26 bowl menu, which features, for the first time this bowl season, teams from Power Five conferences.  In fact, five of the six teams playing today come from the P5, with two each from the ACC and SEC and one from the Big Ten making up that power quintet.  Oh, and another team that didn’t at least win as many games as it lost.

WHO: Miami of Ohio (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (5-7)
WHAT: The 9th St. Petersburg Bowl
WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Mississippi State is the first of two 5-7 teams — and the second of three with sub-.500 records — that qualified for a bowl game this season to take the field.  Their reward?  Becoming the first SEC school to play in this particular game, and just the second Power Five team (North Carolina State, 2014).  The Bulldogs are making their seventh consecutive postseason after going bowl-less in Dan Mullens‘ first season in 2009, and are looking to push their record in bowl games to 5-2.  Miami of Ohio comes in making some history, becoming the first team ever to start the season 0-6 and still become bowl-eligible.  They’re also appearing in their first bowl game since the 2010 season.  RedHawks quarterback Gus Ragland has seemingly been the linchpin of this remarkable turnaround, becoming the starter at midseason and guiding the team to a 6-0 close to the regular season, tossing 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the process.  MSU, it should be noted, was 34th nationally in passes intercepted, returning three of those for touchdowns.  Ragland’s counterpart, at least from my perspective, is the player to watch.  Faced with the unenviable task of replacing MSU legend and NFL rookie sensation Dak PrescottNick Fitzgerald has been borderline sensational, leading the Bulldogs in rushing (1,243 yards, 14 touchdowns) and sporting a passer rating that was eighth in the SEC in the sophomore’s first year as a starter.   After throwing nine interceptions his first nine games, he threw just one his last three (vs. Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss) while tossing five of his 21 touchdowns in that same span.  A breakout performance by Fitzgerald in this game could give the young signal-caller an additional boost of confidence and portend even better things for the Bulldogs’ offense in 2017.
THE LINE: Miami of Ohio, +14
THE PREDICTION: Mississippi State 48, Miami of Ohio 17

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WHO: Maryland (6-6) vs. Boston College (6-6)
WHAT: The 3rd Quick Lane Bowl
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
THE LINE: Boston College, +1
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
WHAT: The 41st Camping World Independence Bowl
WHEN: December 26, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
THE LINE: Vanderbilt, +4
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano progressing from foot surgery, but might miss Oregon’s opener

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There was good news and potentially not-so-good news on the Scott Pagano front Thursday for Oregon.

A transfer from Clemson this offseason, Pagano suffered a broken bone in his foot in the Tigers’ mid-November win over Pitt that forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season.  After moving on to the Ducks as a graduate transfer in mid-April, UO’s medical staff decided he needed to undergo surgery to repair the damage in his foot.

First-year head coach Willie Taggart Thursday declared the defensive lineman ahead of schedule in his recovery from the medical procedure, but didn’t guarantee he’d be on the field for the 2017 opener.

“Something he had that he needed to be corrected,” Taggart said of the surgery according to oregonlive.com. “He’s ahead of schedule right now. I don’t like putting certain weeks on guys because everybody heals differently.

“He’s one of those kids that has been rehabbing his tail off and is itching to get back out there. He’s ahead of schedule right now. Hopefully he’s there for the Southern Utah game.”

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. He started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Before opting for UO, Pagano had taken an official visit to Oklahoma as he had whittled his to-do list down to those two. Arkansas, Notre Dame and Texas were also among the lineman’s five allotted official visits in his second round of collegiate recruiting.

CB Ryan Mayes no longer part of Miami football team

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There’s been a slight tweak to Miami’s defensive secondary ahead of the start of summer camp.

In a press release that consisted all of two sentences, the Hurricanes announced that Ryan Mayes is no longer a member of Mark Richt’s football program.  No reason was given for the separation, nor is it known whether the move was voluntary or involuntary.

A three-star member of The U’s 2014 recruiting class, Mayes was rated as the No. 48 cornerback in the country and the No. 92 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He held offers from, among others, Boston College and Syracuse.

As a true freshman, Mayes played in three games, then saw action in just one game the following season as he took a redshirt.  In 2016, the defensive back played in 11 games, mainly on special teams.

Prior to his departure, the redshirt junior was expected to fill a reserve role in the Hurricanes’ secondary.

Kyle Whittingham confirms Darren Carrington is at Utah, not yet a Ute

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Former Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington‘s father confirmed his son of the same name was headed to Utah on Wednesday, and the head coach of the team in question has now double confirmed it.

But just because Carrington is at the University of Utah does not make him a Ute. Not yet.

Speaking at Pac-12 media days, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said Carrington is in school but has hurdles to clear to join the team.

“Not just yet. There’s a process that has to occur, some things that have to transpire and we’ve just got to wait for all that to kind of take place,” Whittingham said, via Deseret News.

It’s not sure what “things” have to transpire and when that is expected to happen; Whittingham couldn’t be sure Carrington would be with the team when camp opens Friday.

“Right now I don’t have a good answer because everything’s being sorted through right now,” Whittingham said.

Carrington will be immediately eligible to play as a graduate transfer. He caught 43 passes for a team-leading 606 yards and six touchdowns last season. Utah’s leading returning receiver, junior Raelon Singleton, nabbed 27 passes for 464 yards and four scores a year ago.

Clay Helton: O.J. not welcome back at USC

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OJ Simpson is one of the greatest Trojans of all-time. A unanimous two-time All-American, Simpson won the 1968 Heisman Trophy and was a member of USC’s 1967 national championship team.

OJ Simpson will also soon be a free man.

Granted parole from his felony armed robbery conviction last week, Simpson will be free on Oct. 1. The question, then, if you’re a reporter at Pac-12 media days is whether or not USC will welcome back one of its most accomplished — if not favorite — sons.

The answer? Uh, no.

To be clear, Simpson has not indicated he wanted to be part of USC football again. The 70-year-old indicated to the parole board he would return to Florida if granted his freedom.

USC has distanced itself from Simpson ever since his 1994 double-murder trial, but his Heisman Trophy remains on display at Heritage Hall.