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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

Butch Jones says the most Butch Jones quote of all time

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It’s become a theory among some in the media that Butch Jones is conducting a social experiment or participating some sort of performance art. While that’s the more charitable and fun interpretation, I tend to think the Tennessee head coach is just frighteningly insecure and, thus, fighting for every inch of public approval he can in a likely doomed attempt to keep his job.

That approach has backed him into some verbal corners that, in the long run, make his job more difficult on himself.

I’m talking about the “Champions of Life” quote of last season or, in February, actually stating that he didn’t want 5-star players, he wanted 5-star hearts.

This season has seen Jones go on an odd rant blaming the media for negative recruiting and saying Tennessee had one of the best bye weeks ever last week.

It wasn’t one of the best bye weeks ever, because Tennessee lost at home to South Carolina, 15-9. And you’re not going to believe Jones’s explanation for why Tennessee loss. Scratch that. You will believe his explanation, and that’s the problem here, isn’t it?

Here’s the full quote.

Jones is 33-24 in his four-plus seasons in Knoxville, and 14-21 in the SEC. Those numbers will likely fall to 33-25 and 14-22 after Saturday, when the Vols face No. 1 Alabama. The end is likely near.

And here’s the grand irony of Jones’s everything’s-sunny-here p.r. strategy: his attempt to keep his job by stating blatantly cliche quotes in the state of the obvious will live on much longer than Jones’s actual tenure. Two and three years from now, when Jones is working on someone else’s staff or sitting on his buyout money, the next time an on-the-hot-seat coach says his team won the game everywhere except the scoreboard, we’ll see he Pulled a Butch.

Houston Nutt settles lawsuit with Ole Miss

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Houston Nutt wanted money and an apology from Ole Miss. He’ll have to settle for the second of the two — and a largely different future for the program he used to lead.

It was Nutt’s lawsuit, remember, which exposed the documents that led to a Mississippi State fan finding Hugh Freeze‘s call to a Tampa escort service, which led to Freeze’s resignation, which led to… we have no idea what it will lead to, but, whatever that future is, it will be wildly different than if Freeze was still the Rebels’ coach.

Nutt amended his lawsuit in August to seek simply an apology from Ole Miss, and that apology finally came on Monday.

Each side released their own bitter, short statements.

Nutt will go on, with his apology but without any monetary compensation, while Ole Miss will play out the string of this season, hire a new coach, and move into a future that will be immeasurably different that the one it would have lived had it apologized to Nutt in the first place.

Washington loses LT Adams, CB Miller for the season

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No. 12 Washington’s loss to Arizona State was a disaster on the field — for more reasons than one.

The Huskies not only put their College Football Playoff hopes in danger — they’ll need to sweep their next six games, including a finishing kick that calls for games against No. 22 Stanford, No. 15 Washington State and, presumably, No. 11 USC, two of them away from Seattle. But the road to get there became noticeably more difficult after losing two starters.

Left tackle Trey Adams suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, and cornerback Jordan Miller sustained a broken ankle. Head coach Chris Petersen confirmed Monday that both will be lost for the season. Miller is the third Husky this season to suffer a broken ankle.

The Seattle Times noted that Washington is also without another starting corner in Byron Murphy, who is expected to return later this year from a broken foot. The Huskies are expected to replace Miller with either a pair of true freshmen or a converted running back.

But Adams may be the bigger loss for the Huskies. A junior, Adams was widely expected to be a first round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. It’s the second straight season Washington has lost a key player in the trenches to a season-ending injury; a year ago, it was linebackers Joe Mathis, who finished one sack away from the team lead despite playing in only seven games, and third-leading tackler Azeem Victor.

Maryland AD Kevin Anderson to take 6-month sabbatical

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Maryland AD Kevin Anderson will not be the Maryland AD for the next six months.

Anderson announced Monday he will take a 6-month sabbatical to focus on “professional development.” That leave of absence will see him remain on his national committees with the NCAA and NACDA, the professional organization of ADs.

It was reported over the weekend that Anderson would be out completely as Maryland’s AD, but those reports were knocked down by the university.

Additionally, Maryland announced that former Georgia AD and current Terps associate AD/CFO Damon Evans will run the department in Anderson’s stead.