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CFT Previews: TaxSlayer Bowl

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WHO: No. 23 Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Louisville (8-4)
WHAT: The 73rd TaxSlayer Bowl
WHEN: Sat. Dec. 30th at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida
THE SKINNY: This has been an up-and-down season for both the Cardinals and Bulldogs so it’s fitting that the two should meet in what was formerly the Gator Bowl for a shot at capping 2017 off with a ninth win and a little momentum heading into the offseason.

If you’re looking for a reason to tune in, look no further than Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who likely will be playing his final game for the team before leaving to go to the NFL but has one last chance to leave a lasting impression for fans, scouts and opponents. The electric dual-threat has been as good if not better this year than he was when he was named the most outstanding player in the sport and you can bet that he is looking to add significantly to his already eye-popping numbers (4,932 total yards and a whopping 42 touchdowns) in this game as a potential swan song to his Louisville career.

MSU, on the other hand, heads to sunny Florida in a much different position. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald broke his ankle in the Egg Bowl to end the year and head coach Dan Mullen (along with several assistants) departed for Florida not long after the regular season ended. While there is plenty of talent on the roster — especially on defense with defensive linemen like Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons — it will be interesting to see how a group with an interim defensive coordinator tries to slow down one of the most dangerous players in the country. Add in that this will be the first start for freshman signal-caller Keytaon Thompson and it’s safe to say that MSU is a team in that finds itself in quite a transition during the lead up to the game.

Still, there are enough athletes on both sides to make this one a potentially fun finish to close out 2017 and one of the better matchups of bowl season outside the New Year’s Six. The Cardinals have a pretty clear-cut edge coming into the TaxSlayer Bowl but given what a wildcard the Bulldogs are at the moment, they could certainly make things interesting until Jackson really gets going with his arm and his legs.

THE PICK: Louisville 34, Mississippi State 24

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 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 “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.