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CFT Previews: Outback Bowl

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WHO: No. 17 Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4)
WHAT: The 31st Outback Bowl
WHEN: 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
THE SKINNY: Few games this bowl season should be the battle of defenses the way the Outback Bowl will this year between Iowa and SEC East champion Florida (so watch this game turn into a wild shootout out of nowhere for no logical reason). This one will feature two of the worst power conference offense sin the country going up against solid defensive teams with playmakers all over the defensive side of the field.

The Gators will have to hope quarterback Austin Appleby can avoid making mistakes the Iowa secondary. Appleby was picked off three times in the SEC championship game by Alabama. Fortunately for Florida, Iowa is not exactly Alabama, but the Hawkeyes have one of the better passing defenses in the country, led by none other than Desmond King. King could have easily turned pro after lasts season, but he opted to return for one final season and will be one player to watch try and leave with a statement. Iowa’s C.J. Beathard will also be tasked with overcoming pressure form the Gators defensive front and must also avoid throwing up a desperation pass and hoping for the best.

With the defenses expected to play a key role in the Outback Bowl, capitalizing on however many red zone opportunities are available will be critical. In the 2016 season, Iowa fared much better with red zone touchdowns than the Gators. Iowa scored a touchdown 71.8 percent of the time they entered the opponent’s 20-yard line (28-of-36), and scored eight field goals the times they did not score a touchdown. Iowa’s red zone touchdown success rate ranked 15th in the nation this season. Florida was on the other end of the spectrum, ranking 116th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage (just 50.0%), with 20 touchdowns on 40 red zone trips. The Gators also only notched eight field goals inside the 20-yard line, thus leaving plenty of points off the scoreboard once penetrating the red zone. Indiana and Rutgers are the only power conference teams with a worse reds zone touchdown percentage than the Gators.

Expect a low-scoring contest between the Hawkeyes and Gators, but pay special attention to which team wins. If Iowa wins, you will get a free coconut shrimp appetizer at Outback Steakhouse on January 3. If Florida wins, it’s a free bloomin’ onion for all diners at Outback Steakhouse on the same day. Choose your side wisely.

THE PREDICTION: Iowa 20, Florida 17

Arizona State, Mississippi State ink home-and-home

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Arizona State and Mississippi State on Tuesday announced a home-and-home series to be played in 2024-25. Arizona State will host the first game in Tempe on Sept. 7, 2024, and the clubs will meet in Starkville on Sept. 6, 2025.

The Sun Devils and Bulldogs have never met previously.

The Arizona State trip is not Mississippi State’s only upcoming trek from the Deep South to the Southwest. The Bulldogs also lined up a visit to Arizona in 2020 and Texas Tech in 2029. Mississippi State will open the 2024 season against Eastern Kentucky and visit Southern Miss the week after its Arizona State visit, on Sept. 14. The Bulldogs have no other games lined up in 2025 as of yet, according to FBSchedules.

Likewise, Mississippi State is not the Sun Devils’ lone upcoming SEC opponent. Arizona State has a home-and-home with LSU on the docket for 2026-28, per FBSchedules. The Mississippi State games complete both of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedules for these respective seasons. Arizona State opens with Wyoming and visits Texas State in 2024, and hosts Northern Arizona and Texas State in 2025.

UCLA lands Texas Tech graduate transfer OL Justin Murphy

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Help is on the way for Chip Kelly‘s offensive line. One graduate transfer offensive lineman has the Bruins on his list, but another has already pulled the trigger for UCLA.

Texas Tech graduate transfer Justin Murphy on Tuesday committed to UCLA in a post on his Twitter account.

A native of Belton, Texas, Murphy signed with Texas Tech in 2014 and made four starts at right guard as a redshirt freshman. He again started four games at right guard in ’15 before moving out to tackle, where he started another four games. But after battling a series of knee injuries, Murphy announced in the middle of the 2016 season he had medically retired from the game.

After sitting out 2017, Murphy announced in March he planned to make a comeback.

UCLA remarkably started the same offensive linemen in all 13 games last season, but tackle Kolton Miller entered the NFL draft, guard Najoee Toran and center Scott Quessenberry graduated.

Toledo posts, then deletes, tweet offering to change mascot to Shrek

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There are plenty of annoying trends on Twitter, but perhaps the worst is the “I’ll do X if this gets retweeted X-thousand amount of times.” I blame Wendy’s.

But blanket policies are never a good way to go through life, and an exception was made on Tuesday when Toledo offered to change its mascot from a rocket to Shrek with 500,000 retweets.

Sadly, some dreams are simply too beautiful to live in this fallen world, and the tweet was outed to be a hoax. “We are definitely not changing the school mascot to Shrek,” Toledo media relations specialist Christine Billau told USA Today. “The tweet was meant to be fun, but it caused too much of a distraction.”

Meanwhile, Bowling Green gleefully hopped on the dog pile with both elbows pointed out.

UMass grad transfer lineman narrows choices to Auburn, UCLA, USC

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It’s not yet known to where Jack Driscoll will transfer, but the field has been significantly narrowed.

Earlier this offseason, Driscoll decided to transfer from UMass.  Tuesday, the offensive tackle confirmed to Rivals.com that he’s down to three schools as a potential landing spot — Auburn, UCLA and USC.

Neither football program will have to wait long for a decision as Driscoll expects to make an announcement Wednesday.  Driscoll had taken an official visit to all three of the campuses prior to whittling down his transfer to-do list.

“It will come down to one of those three schools,” the lineman told AuburnSports.com. “I feel like all three of the schools would be a good fit.”

Driscoll will graduate from UMass early next month, and will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever program he selects.  The upcoming season will be the first of two years of eligibility the 6-5, 294-pound lineman has remaining.

After starting eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, with most of those starts coming at left guard, he started all 12 games in 2017.  All of those starts this past season came at right tackle for the football-independent Minutemen. He was named to Phil Steele’s All-Independent first team while he earned second-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors for good measure.