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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

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.