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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 31 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 31 bowl menu, which today features two ACC vs. SEC matchups as well as a pair of games that may garner a little bit of attention beginning mid-afternoon and onto the night.

WHO: No. 20 LSU (7-4) vs. No. 13 Louisville (9-3)
WHAT: The 70th Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
THE SKINNY
: Of all the non-playoff games, and aside from the Orange Bowl, this might be the most anticipated bowl game of the 2016-17 postseason cycle, at least from my perch on this part of the world.  The most obvious — and deliciously delectable — storyline for the first-ever meeting between the two football programs is Louisville’s high-powered offense, triggered by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, that’s second nationally in points per game (45.3) squaring off with an LSU defense that’s sixth in the country in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard (16.4 ppg).  The Tigers allowed more than 21 points in a game just once this season, a 54-39 win over Texas A&M in the regular-season finale; the Cardinals scored 24 or more points in every game but one in 2016, a 36-10 loss to Houston in their penultimate regular-season game.  One of the more underrated, under-the-radar matchups in this game?   A U of L run defense that’s a very stingy ninth (110 ypg) versus an LSU rushing attack that, despite Leonard Fournette sitting this one out, is 19th at 238.1 yards per game.  That said, this game is all about how a pair of defensive masterminds, Ed Orgeron, the permanent replacement for Les Miles as head coach, and coordinator Dave Aranda, plan to handle the dynamic, all-purpose talent that is Jackson.  Houston provided LSU a road map of sorts, limiting Jackson to 211 yards through the air (on 20-of-43 passing) and a season-low 33 yards rushing in a Nov. 17 win that officially eliminated the U of L from playoff contention.  Orgeron and Aranda have had nearly four weeks to devise a game plan to mirror and match the Cougars’ success, albeit with athletes vastly superior overall to what UH has at its disposal.  Watching the chess match between the Jackson-led Bobby Petrino offense and the Tigers defense will be absolutely fascinating to see unfold.  One potential X factor: Danny Etling.  Since taking over as the starting quarterback the first month of the season, Etling has steadily righted a listing passing ship, culminating a mini resurgence in that phase of the offense with a 324-yard performance in the last game of the regular season.   Given how prolific Louisville’s offense has been, and the stoutness of their run defense, Etling may be forced to match or exceed that statistical breakout just to keep pace.  Fun fact: the last six Citrus Bowls were all decided by at least 10 points, with five of those decided by 14 or more and two by 34 or more.  The last single-digit game?  The one following the 2009 season, which saw Penn State come away with a 19-17 win over… LSU, of course.
THE LINE: Louisville, +3
THE PREDICTION: LSU 31, Louisville 30

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WHO: Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT: The 71st TaxSlayer Bowl
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
THE SKINNY
: A 2-3 start to the season that included a nine-point loss to Southern Miss had the pitchfork, torch-carrying Lexington mob howling at Mark Stoops‘ door, with the Kentucky head coach’s seat that was already warm entering 2016 heating up significantly.  A 5-2 close to the year, including a win over in-state rival Louisville, however, completely changed the tenor of the conversation, with the Wildcats qualifying for a bowl for the first time in the four-year Stoops era and first time for the football program overall since 2010.  A win in this game would give UK eight this season, the most since hitting the same mark in 2007.  Kentucky’s opponent comes into this game on an uptick as well, with Georgia Tech winning five of their last six games, a stretch that included road wins over then-No. 14 Virginia Tech and in-state rival Georgia.  If you’re a fan of rushing offense, this game is for you as Tech is 10th nationally at 257.4 ypg while UK is not far behind at 16th at 241.3.  The Wildcats, though, are tied for 107th in stopping the run at 225 per game (the Yellow Jackets are a middling 65th, more than 50 yards fewer than their SEC opponent).  Speaking of the SEC, that conference has claimed the last two TaxSlayer Bowls and four of the last six.  The ACC hasn’t won one since after the 2009 season, a Florida State triumph in what was Bobby Bowden‘s final game of a Hall of Fame career.
THE LINE: Kentucky, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 24, Kentucky 20

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WHO: No. 4 Washington (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (13-0)
WHAT: The College Football Playoff at the 49th Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
THE LINE: Washington, +14½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 3 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 2 Clemson (12-1)
WHAT
: The College Football Playoff at the 46th PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
WHEN
: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
THE LINE
: Clemson, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Baker Mayfield named winner of 2017 Manning Award

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Baker Mayfield‘s collegiate career may be over, but he’s not finished collecting some hardware from this level.

Thursday, the Allstate Sugar Bowl announced that Mayfield has been named as the winner of the 2017 Manning Award.  The award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — ArchiePeyton and Eli — is the only one to take into account a quarterback’s performance in the postseason.

“I would like to thank the Allstate Sugar Bowl for creating this award in our family’s name 14 years ago,” said Archie Manning in a statement. “It is an honor to have our name associated with the top quarterback in the nation each year. I would also like to congratulate Baker Mayfield, who capped a tremendous career with an outstanding senior season to earn this honor. To say he took a different path to success would be an understatement. I doubt there’s ever been a player who walked on to two different teams and reached this level of success.”

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner won this honor over a field of finalists that included J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Kelly Bryant (Clemson), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Trace McSorley (Penn State), McKenzie Milton (UCF), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) and Khalil Tate (Arizona).

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson had been the winner of the last two Manning Awards.

Report: Death of Bill Snyder’s grandson being investigated as suicide

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The situation in Manhattan is tragic enough.  This latest development merely serves to add to the sorrow.

Kansas State confirmed in a statement Thursday morning that the grandson of legendary head football coach Bill Snyder and longtime K-State assistant Sean Snyder, 22-year-old Matthew Snyder, passed away unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon.  While details are scant, USA Today Sports is reporting that Snyder’s death is being investigated as a suicide.

A police spokesperson told the Kansas City Star that the young man’s passing is being classified as an “unintended death,” an umbrella under which suicide falls.

“Right now it is still being classified as an unintended death,” the spokesperson told the Star. “A suicide does fall under that category, but at this time ‘unintended death’ is the language that we are using until we can further investigate.”

Emergency personnel were called to Snyder’s residence in Manhattan yesterday afternoon on an unspecified medical call.  The address of the house to which the first responders were called is listed as being owned by Sean Snyder and his wife.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Snyder family during this very difficult time,” a statement from KSU athletic director Gene Taylor read. “We are deeply saddened to learn of this news and ask that the family’s privacy continue to be respected. Sean, Wanda, and the entire Snyder family are greatly appreciative of the outpouring of support displayed by the K-State Family as they cope with this tragedy.”

In wake of Tyler Hilinski’s suicide, Drew Bledsoe sends powerful message to men

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As Washington State continues to come to grips with tragedy, there are those connected to the program who are hoping, even pleading, that something good can come out of the pain.

Tyler Hilinski‘s body was found Tuesday evening at his residence, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head.  As those close to Hilinski mourn the sudden death of the 21-year-old redshirt sophomore quarterback, some, including teammate John Bledsoe, took to social media to express their grief.

Bledsoe is a freshman quarterback at Wazzu who is also the son of Cougar great Drew Bledsoe. On his Instagram account Wednesday, the elder Bledsoe, who acknowledged that he didn’t know Hilinski well, sent out a heartfelt message imploring men “to learn to TALK about how we are feeling.”

“If we sprain an ankle we go see a doctor,” Bledsoe wrote. “If we’re struggling emotionally we have to learn to treat it the same way.”

Everybody needs help at some point.  Male or female, if you’ve gotten to that point, reach out for the help.  As Bledsoe stated, it’s not a sign of weakness it’s the ultimate sign of strength.  Talk to a family member, friend, co-worker, clergy, anyone.  If you’re too embarrassed to talk to someone you know, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is just a phone call away at 1-800-273-8255.

Just talk to someone.  Whether you believe it at the time or not, your life is worth it.

Kansas State ‘deeply saddened’ by death of Bill Snyder’s grandson

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In a statement, Kansas State has confirmed the passing of head coach Bill Snyder‘s grandson and assistant coach Sean Snyder‘s son.

Emergency personnel were called to the home of Matthew Snyder Wednesday afternoon for what was described as a medical emergency.  Other than the 22-year-old was deceased, no further details of the events surrounding his death have been released.

While neither of the long-time Wildcats coaches have, understandably, addressed the tragedy, K-State athletic director Gene Taylor did in a statement.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Snyder family during this very difficult time. We are deeply saddened to learn of this news and ask that the family’s privacy continue to be respected. Sean, Wanda, and the entire Snyder family are greatly appreciative of the outpouring of support displayed by the K-State Family as they cope with this tragedy.