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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.

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.

LSU RB Lanard Fournette arrested for illegal gambling at Baton Rouge casino

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The younger brother of Leonard Fournette has finally made a name for himself, albeit for all of the wrong reasons.

Monday afternoon, WAFB-TV reported, LSU running back Lanard Fournette was arrested on a charge of using a fake ID to gamble at a Baton Rouge casino this past weekend.  The 20-year-old Fournette was subsequently released on a $1,000 bond.

The Baton Rouge Advocate has obtained some of the details  led up to the arrest of the redshirt sophomore.

Fournette… was arrested Monday after surveillance video showed and casino personnel confirmed he gained access to the gaming floor Saturday with a different ID than his own driver’s license, according to his arrest report.

Security video showed Fournette playing at a “craps table” for 16 minutes around 1:30 p.m., before walking to the player’s services counter. Fournette then allegedly presented his real ID to the cashier for a cash withdrawal, who determined his accurate age and contacted security, the report says.

Fournette, of Slidell, was detained at the casino, but left before the officer’s arrival, the report says. When casino security asked Fournette about the incident, Fournette said he used another person’s ID to enter the casino, the report says.

Head coach Ed Orgeron is aware of the incident and any discipline will be handled internally.

A three-star 2015 signee, Fournette took a redshirt his true freshman season.  In three games last year, he ran for 13 yards on five carries.

Fournette’s older brother was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft following an Al-American career at LSU.