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CFT Previews: The Rose Bowl Game

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WHO: No. 5 Penn State (11-2) vs. No. 9 USC (9-3)
WHAT: The 103rd Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
THE SKINNY: The Granddaddy of Them All is not a College Football Playoff Semifinal this season but it has that that sort of feel with a high caliber matchup between two of the hottest teams in the country that each has a pretty good case to be in the final four.

The Nittany Lions head West as Big Ten champions after a magical run that included beating Ohio State in a thriller and Wisconsin in the conference title game thanks to a remarkable comeback. The team has not skipped much of a beat defensively from last year behind defensive end Garrett Sickels (12.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks) and safety Marcus Allen (101 tackles) but it’s the offense that has really helped spark the team’s run to the roses.

Quarterback Trace McSorley has really impressed with 25 touchdown passes against just five interceptions on the year and forms a potent backfield tandem with tailback Saquon Barkley, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Head coach James Franklin has done a masterful job of bringing this team together to regroup from some painful early losses to finish the season playing as well as anybody but there’s still one task left on the table for Penn State to accomplish.

That would involve beating USC, who is no stranger to starting off the year in ugly fashion. The Trojans made it through the first month of the season with a 1-3 record and plenty of talk that the school needed to fire recently named head coach Clay Helton. Instead the team lived up to their motto and fought on, running off eight straight wins that included a throttling of playoff participant Washington up in Seattle.

A change at quarterback has proven to be the spark that set the team off and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold is a key cog to USC’s recent success, looking less like a young signal-caller and more like some of the big time QB’s who have come through the program in recent years. He’s able to lean on an experienced offensive line and has a deep stable of playmakers to distribute the ball to, including wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Ronald Jones II. Defensively, Thorpe Award winner and superstar return man Adoree’ Jackson headlines a talented group of players that can throw just about every look out there that you can imagine.

All that makes for one of the most compelling games of the postseason as the two teams return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since meeting back in 2009 (a 35-24 USC win). Each program has been through the ringer of NCAA sanctions and extensive coaching turnover since that point and will be looking to show the rest of the country that they are back among the college football elite with a win. Talent favors the Trojans in this one but the Nittany Lions haven’t let that stop them this year and won’t go without a fight to begin 2017 in what should be a fantastic game.

THE PICK: USC 34, Penn State 27

Ex-South Carolina QB signs Cal financial aid agreement

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It’s now officially official.

Just a day after Brandon McIlwain indicated on social media that he would be transferring to Cal, the Golden Bears acknowledged in a release that the quarterback “has signed a financial aid agreement and will join the school’s football program.”  Additionally, the football team confirmed that the two-sport student-athlete is expected to play baseball for the university as well.

In late February, McIlwain announced that he would be transferring from South Carolina.  The true sophomore will not play for the football Bears in the upcoming season, but will have three years of eligibility at his disposal after that.

“We’re excited that Brandon has decided to enroll at Cal and become a member of both our football and baseball programs,” a statement from head coach Justin Wilcox began. “We’re looking forward to his contributions and having him join the competition in our quarterback room.”

“I am excited to develop under the incredible coaching staff at Cal,” McIlwain said in his statement. “The Golden Bears have a great quarterback history. In addition, I am equally excited about returning to the Bay Area and taking advantage of the university’s amazing education.”

As a true freshman last season, McIlwain started three of the 12 games in which he played.  In that time, he completed 62-of-118 passes for 600 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, while he added 127 yards and another two scores on the ground.

The emergence of fellow freshman Jake Bentley midway through the season, however, left McIlwain with no clear football path to a starting job.

Title IX probe into sexual assault allegations involving three Michigan State football players completed

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The Title IX investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving playing members of the Michigan State football team has ended, the Associated Press and other media outlets are reporting.

In early February, three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst allegations that a sexual assault took place on January 16 at an on-campus apartment complex.  As a result of the allegations, a Title IX investigation into the alleged incident commenced in early February and lasted a little over three months.

That investigation was headed by Rebecca Veidlinger, an independent Title IX consultant and Ann Arbor attorney who previously worked in MSU’s Title IX office.  Because of federal privacy laws, the university will not release the findings of Veidlinger’s probe.

As for the next step in the process? Mlive.com explains.

Speaking generally about Title IX investigations, [university spokesperson Jason] Cody said there are two possible outcomes at the conclusion of an investigation. If no university policy violation is found, then the matter would be closed. If a policy violation was found, the case would then be sent to the school’s student conduct system.

The student conduct system could then levy any sanction ranging from a warning or probation to suspension or expulsion.

The alleged sexual assault has spawned three separate investigations, including the recently-completed Title IX probe.  A criminal investigation conducted by campus police led to requests for four arrest warrants to be issued, although the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office has thus far declined to act.  Additionally, the university has hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the football program and its handling of the allegations.

Thus far, the names of the players allegedly involved in the assault have not been released.  The suspended staffer was subsequently identified as Curtis Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance.  Blackwell, who is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault but rather a non-sexual crime after the fact, has received a pair of one-month contract extensions since his suspension was levied.

Ball State transfer WR Damon Hazelton officially added to Virginia Tech roster

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Virginia Tech officially bolstered its receiving corps Monday, although they won’t see an offensive dividend this season.

A little over a month ago, Ball State’s Damon Hazelton took to Twitter to reveal that he would be transferring to Tech. In a press release, the Hokies announced that the wide receiver began summer classes yesterday and will continue his collegiate playing career with the football team.

That continuation won’t happen on the field in 2017, though, as NCAA transfer rules will force Hazelton to sit out this season. He will then have three years to use three seasons of eligibility beginning in 2018.

The 6-2, 207-pound receiver will, however, be permitted to practice with the team while he sits out his transfer year.

Hazelton was a two-star member of Ball State’s 2016 recruiting class. As a true freshman last season, Hazelton was second on the Cardinals with 51 receptions for 505 yards, while his four receiving touchdowns were tops on the team.

Starting Marshall corner charged with drunk driving

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The “Days Without An Arrest” ticker had just gotten to halfway to double digits… and then Rodney Allen came along.

According to WSAZ-TV in Huntington, the Marshall cornerback was arrested on multiple charges over the weekend, including driving under the influence. Additionally, he is facing one count each of crashes involving damage to vehicle and not having a driver’s license.

From the television station’s report:

According to the criminal complaint, Allen was stopped early Sunday morning in the 1400 block of 4 1/2 alley. Allen was driving a vehicle attempting to leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.

According to the criminal complaint, Allen showed indications of being impaired at the scene. He then blew a .167 BAC into an intoxometer at HPD headquarters.

Allen only had an ID card out of Texas and not a driver’s license.

“We are aware of the situation and will handle it internally and appropriately,” a statement to the station from the university’s athletic department read.

Allen started 11 of 12 games for the Thundering Herd last season. His four forced fumbled tied for 10th nationally and his 14 passes defensed were tops in Conference USA, while his two interceptions tied for the team lead.