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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.

Oregon officially confirms swiping of assistant from Wazzu

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Washington State’s coaching loss will prove to be a fellow Pac-12 member’s gain.

Following up on reports that had surfaced throughout the latter part of this past week, new head coach Mario Cristobal announced that he has hired Jim Mastro as his new running backs coach. Mastro will also serve as the Ducks’ run-game coordinator.

Mastro had spent the past six seasons as the running backs coach at Washington State.

“We are thrilled to add Jim to the staff,” Cristobal said in a statement. “He has extraordinary leadership skills which will be of great benefit in developing our talented group of running backs. Jim possesses a wealth of experience both coaching and recruiting on the West Coast, and he has consistently been a tremendous innovator on the offensive side of the ball.”

Prior to Wazzu, Mastro spent one season (2012) as the tight ends coach at UCLA. For the 11 seasons prior to that first taste of the Pac-12, Mastro was the running backs coach at Nevada.

Mastro has also spent time on FBS coaching staffs at Idaho (1998-99) and San Jose State (1995).

QB Keller Chryst announces transfer from Stanford

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Stanford’s quarterback room will have a decidedly different look this coming season.

Keller Chryst announced on his personal Twitter account Sunday afternoon that he has decided to transfer from the Cardinal for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  Chryst will graduate from the university in June, making him eligible to play in 2018 at another FBS program if that’s the path he chooses.

Chryst gave no specific reason for the decision, although the fact that he lost his starting this past season likely played a significant role.

Chryst began the 2016 season as the backup to Ryan Burns, who started the first seven games after winning the job coming out of camp before losing it to Chryst midseason; he replaced Burns midway through that season as the starter.  While he suffered a torn ACL in Stanford’s Sun Bowl win over North Carolina following the 2016 regular season, he began the 2017 season as the starter; an injury in the Week 4 win over UCLA opened the door for redshirt freshman K.J. Costello to start the following week against Arizona State.  Chryst returned in Week 6 and started the next three games.

Ahead of the Washington State game in early November, however, a healthy Chryst was benched in favor of Costello.  In what turned out to be the final three starts of Chryst’s career with the Cardinal, he completed just under 57 percent of his passes for 453 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

In parts of three seasons, Chryst, whose uncle Paul Chryst is the head coach at Wisconsin, passed for 1,926 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions in 289 attempts.

Rich Rodriguez releases statement as additional claim against his alleged behavior is filed

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Rich Rodriguez was fired earlier this month after his former administrative assistant filed an $8.5 million claim against him, saying she was forced to lie to his wife and children to cover up his extramarital affair and that he subjugated her to numerous instances of inappropriate behavior, including brushing up against her breast and making comments about his underwear and genitalia.

He admitted to the affair, but said the other claims were unequivocally false.

On Saturday, the same woman, Melissa Wilhelmsen, filed an additional $7.5 million claim against the University of Arizona, saying the school is liable for its former employee’s behavior.

From the suit, according to the Arizona Daily Star:

The document says that Wilhelmsen and her husband also have claims against Rodriguez for slander, defamation and false light, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from Rodriguez and his wife’s conduct after his firing — including “statements to football players at a team meeting on January 9, 2018.” Rich and Rita Rodriguez spoke to the players in a team meeting run by interim head coach Marcel Yates on that date. It was not immediately clear if any additional legal action had been filed.

Rodriguez on Sunday released a statement, essentially calling Wilhelmsen’s bluff.

Considering the plaintiff is now seeking a sum of $15 million here, the odds of an out-of-court settlement seem so overwhelming that they may as well be taken off the proverbial board.

LOOK: Jalen Hurts cut his hair

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We’ve all known Jalen Hurts for two years, and in that time three characteristics have remained constants about the Alabama quarterback:

1) His calm, unflappable demeanor.

2) His penchant for winning games.

3) His hair.

You can now scratch one of those off the list.

“The deal was if we won the natty, the locs (sic) had to come off lol,” Hurts wrote in a Twitter post. “New look. Same mission. Grind hard and improve every day!”

Hurts was held accountable to the deal by teammate Josh Jacobs.

Honestly, it won’t be the same this season when, after eluding beyond the left hash and just barely picking up a 3rd-and-11 by extending the nose of the football past the stick on the right sideline, we don’t see that same golden ponytail emerging from the crimson No. 2 helmet, calmly trotting back to the huddle like it’s all no big deal.