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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 29 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 29 bowl menu, which today features a trio of teams that finished in the final regular season College Football Playoff Top 25, with two of them squaring off in the first ranked vs. ranked matchup of the 2016-17 bowl season.

WHO: South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 11th Birmingham Bowl
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
THE SKINNY
: At least when viewed in the light of its start to the season — they were 2-4 after six games — South Carolina, winners of four straight bowl games, was very respectable in the latter half of 2016 as they went 4-2 down the stretch, including a win over a Tennessee team that was ranked 18th in the country at the time.  Their opponents, though, have been on a roll for most of the season, with South Florida, looking for its first bowl win since 2010, coming into this game armed with a pair of three-game winning streaks and a four-gamer that closed out the regular season.  The 10 wins are the first time in program history they’ve hit double digits, and led to head coach Willie Taggart taking the same job at Oregon (offensive coordinator T.J. Weist will serve as interim coach as Charlie Strong goes about assembling his new USF staff).  This game will serve as a matchup of two teams with vastly different strengths, with the Bulls seventh in the country in scoring offense (43.6 ppg) and the Gamecocks 45th in scoring defense (24.8 ppg).  Conversely, USF is tied for 85th in scoring defense (31 ppg) and the SEC USC is tied for 121st in scoring offense (19.3 ppg).  It should be noted that USC’s offense has seen significant improvement since Jake Bentley took over under center, with the ‘Cocks averaging 24.5 a game after the true freshman staked his claim as the starting quarterback.  USF, though, is led by one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country most of you likely pay next to no attention to, with junior Quinton Flowers accounting for 37 touchdowns in 2016 — 22 passing, 15 rushing.  His 1,425 yards rushing are second only to Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson‘s 1,538 amongst quarterbacks.  Fun fact: USC head coach Will Muschamp is a part of this particular Alabama-based bowl game for the third consecutive year, with the first coming as the head coach at Florida in 2014 and the second as the defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2015.  Fun fact, the sequel: a team from the SEC has claimed each of the last four Birmingham Bowls.  Last year’s winner, Auburn, came into the game 6-6.  The team they were facing?  A 9-3 Memphis team that hailed from the American Athletic Conference.  This year’s game has a very similar ring record-wise and conference-wise, but I’m inclined to lean toward a decidedly different result.
THE LINE: South Carolina, +10
THE PREDICTION: South Florida 31, South Carolina 27

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WHO: Arkansas (7-5) vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-4)
WHAT: The 15th Belk Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
THE LINE: Arkansas, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 12 Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. No. 10 Colorado (10-3)
WHAT
: The 24th Valero Alamo Bowl
WHEN
: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
THE LINE
: Oklahoma State, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Iowa struggling to sellout game vs. Penn State

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The Iowa Hawkeyes are about to host a top-four team at Kinnick Stadium this Saturday night, and it seems there is slightly more trouble trying to sell out the game than anticipated. According to Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen (and not the NCAA president by the same name), Iowa still had 4,000 tickets for this week’s game against No. 4 Penn State sitting in the box office as of earlier today.

Price concerns for the game coupled with a delay in knowing the kickoff time apparently had some influence on the unexpected ticket availability this close to the game.

Schools are becoming more and more commonly known for having higher-priced tickets for the more marquee games on their home schedule, and Iowa is no exception. Iowa has tiered ticket pricing for their home games, and Penn State being the defending conference champion with a decent traveling fanbase made this week’s matchup an ideal fit for being priced in the higher tier. Later this year, Iowa’s home game against Ohio State will also be priced at $95. $95, for some, is not worth the effort to go to a game and tailgate all day. It may be fine for a good number of fans, but it’s not for everybody.

Having to wait to know what time a game will kickoff can be a nuisance for those football fans who like to plan ahead. And while a primetime game may be great for exposure, it can be a cumbersome chore for some fans who would much rather stay home and not have to deal with a late-night drive home.

So if you are looking to get a ticket to the game this weekend in Iowa City, you may have a good chance to pick up a ticket.

Indiana will wear uniforms honoring the late Terry Hoeppner this weekend

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This weekend when Indiana takes the field, the Hoosiers will be honoring former head coach Terry Hoeppner. To do that on the 10th anniversary of the former coach’s passing, Indiana’s uniforms will have a slight modification to the numbering. Rather than a traditional white block numbering on the front and back, Indiana’s uniform numbers will feature a pattern mimicking Hep’s Rock, which was introduced to the program by the former head coach and remains a fixture within the program.

Hoeppner passed away at the age of 59 in the summer of June 2007. Hoeppner had planned to step away from coaching to focus on a battle with brain cancer that summer, but he fell victim to the disease on June 19, 2007. Though he may have only coached for Indiana for two seasons, his impact on the program was noticeable in helping the program build a foundation. The Hoosiers won four and five games in the two seasons coached by Hoeppner, but the 2007 team carried on his mission to “Play 13” by advancing to the Insight Bowl (now known as the Cactus Bowl). Members of the 2007 bowl team (Indiana lost to Oklahoma State in that bowl game) will be in Bloomington to celebrate the life of Hoeppner, who remains an inspiration for the program to this day.

Houston expects WR D’Eriq King to be available for Texas Tech game

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As Houston prepares for a game that could quickly become a shootout of sorts with Texas Tech, the Cougars could have one more wide receiver good to go this weekend. D’Eriq King is expected to make his season debut for the Cougars this week after missing the past two games coming off an offseason knee injury.

Houston head coach Major Applewhite announced on the radio he feels his young wide receiver option is finally ready to get back at it, and it could come at no better time.

As a freshman in 2016, King caught 20 passes in 10 games for 228 yards and a touchdown. King was expected to be a contributor to the offense this season. Having a healthy receiver is going to be key against a Texas Tech offense that will not shy away from the pass.

Derrius Guice ‘very questionable’ for LSU vs. Syracuse

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LSU could very well be without its most potent offensive weapon when it looks to bounce back from an embarrassing Week 3 loss.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee.  The star running back hasn’t practiced at all this week, even as Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury.

On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, however, the head coach acknowledged that it could be much worse than he’d been letting on, so much so that the Guice could miss the Week 4 game against Syracuse.

“I don’t know if Derrius is going to play,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t dress out yesterday in pads. He’s very questionable right now.”

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns.  His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Should Guice be unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) would likely be next in line to shoulder the running-game load.