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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.

Michigan heads to France for Wolverines’ European Vacation, The Sequel

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Brace yourself, Paris, for the 2018 version of the Khaki Invasion.

Last year around this time, the Michigan football program took a trip to Italy as part of a spring practice schedule that included meeting the Pope as well as distributing backpacks to refugees.  Thursday, as previously announced, the U-M program is leaving Ann Arbor to head to Paris and Normandy for what this year will be strictly a true vacation as the Wolverines’ have already put the finishing touches on their 15 spring practice sessions this year.

According to mlive.com, this year’s trip will include “tours of the famous Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, a football clinic for locals, civic and community service events.”

“It’s an educational opportunity,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said according to the Detroit News. “(We all) connect. Not all learning is done in the classroom or on the football field.”

The Wolverines will be entering their fourth season under Harbaugh.  In the previous three years, they’ve gone a combined 28-11 and finished third (2015), third (2016) and fourth (2017) in the Big Ten East.  Last year, Harbaugh was the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten and the third-highest in the country at just a shade over $7 million.

Wyoming’s Craig Bohl issues statement on Josh Allen’s controversial tweets

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Yes, this is really a thing.

Josh Allen is expected to be one of the first. if not the very first, players selected in the 2018 NFL draft that kicks off tonight.  However, overnight, years-old tweets surfaced after they were mined from the former Wyoming quarterback’s personal Twitter account that have landed the rocket-armed signal-caller in a bit of hot water.

Specifically, some of the tweets that surfaced, which have since been deleted, had Allen dropping n-bombs and other offensive language posted in 2012 and 2013, when Allen would’ve been around 15 or 16 years old.  While it was later learned that most of the words in the offending tweets came from popular television shows or movies, Allen has since apologized by stating he was young and dumb.

With the Allen camp in full damage-control mode — Allen reportedly called Stephen A. Smith at two a.m. this morning to explain and apologize for the tweets — his former college football program has gotten involved as well, with Craig Bohl issuing a statement of support for his ex-quarterback.

“I know Josh has apologized for the Twitter comments he made while in high school,” the Cowboys head coach stated. “As a member of our football team, he had great relationships with his teammates and our fanbase. During his time at Wyoming, he embraced diversity. We wish him all the best on his big night.”

Despite the mini-controversy less than 24 hours before the draft, it’s not expected that it will impact Allen’s positioning.

Georgia loses second player to transfer in as many days

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On the same day they picked up a significant graduate transfer, Georgia has seen another player leave Kirby Smart‘s football program.

As all of the cool transfers are doing these days, Jaleel Laguins took to his personal Twitter account to confirm that, “[a]fter careful consideration with coaches and family, I’d like to announce that I will be transferring from The University of Georgia.” “Athens will always be a special place for me, but now it’s time to start a new journey,” the linebacker added.

A four-star member of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class, Laguins was rated as the No. 10 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Georgia. He was the top-rated linebacker in UGA’s class that year, and only three signees on the defensive side of the ball — defensive tackles Julian Rochester and Michail Carter, and defensive end Chauncey Manac — were rated higher.

As a true freshman, Laguins played in six games. He took a redshirt for this past season, and would have to sit out the 2018 season if he moved on to another FBS program.

Laguins was the second Georgia player to transfer this week. Tuesday, Pat Allen, a four-star 2015 offensive lineman, announced on his private Twitter account that he too was moving on from the Bulldogs. Allen began the 2017 season as UGA’s starting left guard but lost it heading into Week 2 and never regained it.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.