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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 30 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 30 bowl menu, which features four Power Five vs. Power Five matchups, including one that is, on paper, inarguably the best bowl game outside of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.  Plus, there’s a fifth game pitting MWC and SBC programs that’s only available online, so there’s that, which is nice.

WHO: Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)
WHAT: The 58th AutoZone Liberty Bowl
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
THE SKINNY
: This game could be very well be subtitled as the “Disappointment Bowl” as TCU was ranked 13th in the country and Georgia 18th in the Associated Press preseason poll.  Over the next baker’s dozen weeks, neither was much of a factor in their respective conference races and have been relegated to a mid-level bowl game.  Both teams had won at least 10 games in each of the previous two seasons, adding yet another level to the collective disappointment.  The consternation is particularly palpable in Athens, with UGA “parting ways” with long-time head coach Mark Richt and handing the keys to the program to Kirby Smart.  The former Alabama defensive coordinator and first-time head coach then proceeded to produce seven wins; a loss in this game would leave the Bulldogs with their lowest win total since the 2010 season and mark just the second time since 1996 they failed to reach at least eight wins in a season.  After a midseason stumble — they lost four of five from late September to late October — the Bulldogs righted the listing ship by winning three of its last four, including one over an Auburn team that was ranked No. 9 in the country at a time.  The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, lost four of their last six, with three of those losses coming by 24 or more points.  A loss in this game would give TCU just its third losing season in the 16 years under Gary Patterson.  Schools from the SEC (Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State) have won the last three Liberty Bowls; here’s to thinking that UGA, albeit not easily, extends the conference’s winning streak in this game to four in a row.  One thing to remember, though: TCU always gets up for the bowl games under their current head coach as they are 9-3 since losing their first postseason matchup with Patterson at the helm in 2001.  More recently, they’ve won four of their last five bowl games.  Then again, UGA is 14-5 in bowls since 1997, so…
THE LINE: TCU, +1
THE PREDICTION: Georgia 27, TCU 26

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WHO: No. 18 Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
WHAT: The 83rd Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
THE LINE: North Carolina, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 21 Tennessee (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)
WHAT
: The 19th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHEN
: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
THE LINE
: Nebraska, +4
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Air Force (9-3)
WHAT: The 2nd Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET online at CampusInsiders.com
WHERE: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
THE SKINNY
: The inaugural edition of this bowl game was certainly unique beyond its online broadcast as, because of a lack of bowl-eligible teams from both Conference USA and the Sun Belt, two teams from the Mountain West squared off, marking the first time since 1979 that teams from the same league faced each other in a non-championship bowl game.  Air Force will come into this game riding a five-game winning streak… which was preceded by a three-game losing streak… which was preceded by a four-game winning streak to start the 2016 season.  South Alabama is an odd team, with wins on the road at Mississippi State and at home over Mountain West champion San Diego State on its résumé… along with a narrow overtime win over FCS Nicholls State as well as a pair of losses to SBC teams that won a combined nine games this season.  If you’re looking for a close game, this one, despite the point spread courtesy of Bovada.lv you’ll see below, might just do it for you: eight of Air Force’s 12 games this season were decided by a combined 48 points, while eight of South Alabama’s games were decided by seven points or less, with another decided by 10.  If the Jaguars are going to stay in this game, though, their 98th-ranked run defense (212.1 yards per game) must find some way to contain a Falcons offense that enters the game ranked third nationally rushing yards per game at 322.8.
THE LINE: South Alabama, +14
THE PREDICTION: Air Force 41, South Alabama 31

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WHO: No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State
WHAT
: The 82nd Capital One Orange Bowl
WHEN
: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
THE LINE
: Florida State, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Virginia Tech defends decision to put Michael Vick in Hokies Hall of Fame

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Athletically, there is no question Michael Vick belongs in Virginia Tech’s athletics hall of fame. Heck, the Hokies might as well name the thing after him.

In his two seasons on campus, Vick (pictured, left) threw for 3,299 yards and 21 touchdowns — averaging 9.6 yards per attempt on 56 percent completions, in an era where anything over 50 was considered above-average — while adding an electrifying 1,299 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Vick led the Hokies to a 22-2 record, a Big East championship and appearance in the BCS national title game as a redshirt freshman in 1999, a campaign that saw him finish third in Heisman Trophy voting.

He was essentially a combination of Vince YoungJohnny Manziel and Allen Iverson, in a time when the I-formation and pocket passers still ruled college football.

But there is, of course, the non-football side of Vick’s life.

In the prime of his career — he came 26 passing yards short of a 2,500/1,000 season in 2007 — Vick’s NFL career essentially ended when he was convicted of running a dogfighting ring and served 21 months in federal prison. And all throughout that time, Virginia Tech was tangentially related to the biggest villain in sports.

Still, Virginia Tech announced earlier this month that Vick was a member of its 5-person 2017 Sports Hall of Fame class, to be inducted on Friday, Sept. 22. Vick’s inclusion generation a petition that has drawn more than 2,500 signatures protesting the decision.

“You know one of my friends volunteered to go down to his residence where all of this took place at the aftermath to help with the cleanup, if you want to put it that way,” Virginia Tech graduate and petition creator Jennifer Breeden told Collegiate Times. “It’s just kind of an embarrassment that (Virginia Tech) would want to honor someone like that.”

Arguing that Vick has paid his debt to society and shown remorse for his actions, Virginia Tech on Friday released the following statement saying that Vick will remain in the 2017 class.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports hall of fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete—who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university.

We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports hall of fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction, and time he served for his crime were also considered.

And it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives.

This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted.

The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

It’ll be interesting to see the reaction Vick gets at the Hokies’ Sept. 23 home game against Old Dominion.

Michigan pulls recruiting director away from former Michigan coach’s staff

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Michigan is set to add Arizona recruiting czar Matt Dudek as its new director of recruiting, according to a report from FootballScoop on Saturday.

CBS Sports’s Dennis Dodd confirmed the report, adding that Michigan is expected to formally announce the move at Big Ten media days on Monday.

The irony, of course, is that Dudek will leave the staff of former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

Dudek had been with Rodriguez shortly after his late 2011 hiring, first as on-campus recruiting coordinator and player personnel director before being named college football’s first general manager after the 2015 season. He helped the Wildcats win the 2014 Pac-12 South championship and was named a finalist for FootballScoop‘s Player Personnel Director of the Year award multiple times. (Disclaimer: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Prior to Arizona, Dudek worked as director of football branding and events at Rutgers and as assistant director of football operations and recruiting coordinator at Pittsburgh.

At Michigan, Dudek will join a staff that already recruits quite capably under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have finished eighth and fifth nationally in 247Sports‘s composite team rankings in Harbaugh’s two full cycles as Michigan’s head coach.

Dudek’s departure will be viewed by some as an anti-show of faith in Rodriguez’s tenure at Arizona. Since that 10-4, top-20 season in 2014, the Wildcats have slipped to 7-6 in 2015 and 3-9 last fall.

WATCH: Mark Richt takes annual backflip off the high dive

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It’s been quite the summer for Mark Richt. His 2018 recruiting class is one of the best in the nation, he taught the nation the most efficient way to eat a sandwich, and on Friday he executed his annual high-dive backflip at a Hurricanes pool party.

(In case you haven’t seen the sandwich bit, watch it below. It’ll change your life.)

As SB Nation catalogues, Richt has made these backflips an annual thing since he was at Georgia in 2015. It was a skill he learned, he says, to impress the ladies after watching Greg Louganis (yes, that Greg Louganis) do it while they were students at Miami.

Richt and Louganis both enrolled at the University of Miami in 1978, and the future Hurricanes’ coach and his teammates would hang out at the university’s pool, where Louganis and the diving team would practice.

“We would watch him,” Richt said. “You’d go to the pool, because that’s where the girls were, right? So we’d watch the divers work out and say, that guy’s pretty good. Turns out he was the best in the world, like, ever. I had a lot of respect for him.”

Here’s this year’s effort.

Not bad for a guy pushing 60.

Nick Saban thinks skipping bowl games could lead to recruits doing same thing in high school

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Grand Poobah of college football and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has had some interesting ideas about the sport over the years that conflict with the general consensus of his peers. The latest subject to fit that mold? How players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipping their bowl games could filter down to the high school level with recruits.

“Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season,” Saban told CBS Sports. “It will take a few years, then some kid will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame. I’m not playing my senior year.'”

The Crimson Tide coach is referencing not only the two tailbacks skipping bowl games but also the possibility that upcoming December signing date could be moved up on the calendar. Big 12 commissioner (and chairman of the Football Oversight Committee) Bob Bowlsby said at his conference media days that the date for signing could be changed or even extended to a longer signing period as part of ongoing discussions about the recruiting process.

Talk of players signing with a college prior to their senior season in high school has not been broadly talked about by coaches or administrators but it does seem like everything is on the table when it comes to NCAA reforms in this area. It remains to be seen if any recruit will actually go as far as sitting out a full year in order to protect himself from injury in order to play in college… just as it remains questionable as to whether Fournette and McCaffrey’s decisions will develop into a broader trend at the college level.

Coaches are no fans of dramatically altering the status quo and it seems Saban is among the group who want to stem the postseason defection of players before things turn into a regular occurrence at any level of football.