NC State Wolfpack

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after throwing a 68-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Alabama opens as Bovada’s early 2017 title favorite

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Alabama may have seen their dynasty temporarily derailed Monday night in Florida, but at least one wagering establishment expects Nick Saban to get it back on track post-haste.

Bovada.lv released its opening set of 2017 national championship odds very early Tuesday afternoon, with the bookmaker installing Bama as a 4/1 favorite coming off the loss to Clemson.  Last year at this time, coming off their fourth title in seven years, the same book had the Crimson Tide as a 7/1 favorite.

The team ‘Bama beat, Clemson, is at 16/1, tied with ACC Atlantic rival Louisville and behind six other teams besides the one they beat on the field last night — Florida State (7/1), Ohio State (15/2), Michigan (9/1), Oklahoma (9/1), USC (9/1) and LSU (12/1).  The other 2016 playoff team, Washington, is at 40/1, the same as 4-8 Notre Dame and behind the likes of Texas (28/1) and Miami (33/1).

Boise State, at 75/1, was the highest favorite amongst Group of Five programs.

Below are the complete list of 2018 title odds for the championship following the 2017 season, again courtesy on Bovada.lv:

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 27 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03:  Members of the Temple Owls celebrate after defeating the Navy Midshipmen 34-10 win the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 27 bowl menu, which features just the second ranked team to play in the postseason as well as two ACC teams along with one each from the Big 12 and SEC.

WHO: Army (7-5) vs. North Texas (5-7)
WHAT: The 6th Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
WHERE: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This is one of those unique bowl games in which there’s very tangible recent history on which to look back on — North Texas easily handled Army 35-18 in Denton in Week 7 of the 2016 season, thanks in very large part to a whopping seven Black Knight turnovers.  Since that win, UNT has stumbled while Army hasn’t, with the former going 1-4 down the stretch and the latter 3-2.  Army is easily one of my favorite stories of the 2016 college football season, though, with the service academy winning at least seven games — two of those came against FCS teams, it should be noted — for the first time since 2010 and just the third time in nearly three decades; an eighth win would be the program’s most since going 10-2 during the 1996 season.  They capped off this bounceback regular season in the best way possible, too, beating Navy and snapping a 14-game losing streak in the rivalry game in the process.  While it came in a sub-.500 season, the Mean Green will be playing in a bowl game to cap 38-year-old Seth Littrell‘s first season as a head coach, with UNT going bowling for the first time since 2013.  This is likely the most relevant stat for this game: Army is second nationally in rushing yards per game at 327.8, while UNT is 105th (out of 128 teams) in the country in stopping the run at 219.2 ypg.  Army ran for 303 yards in the loss to UNT earlier in the season, but the Mean Green scored 21 points off Black Knights turnovers to secure the 35-18 win.  Here’s to guessing that more than a half-dozen turnovers aren’t on Army’s bowl agenda and they get that eighth win.  Plus, #Merica, which goes without saying
THE LINE: North Texas, +10
THE PREDICTION: Army 27, North Texas 17

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WHO: Wake Forest (6-6) vs. No. 24 Temple (10-3)
WHAT: The 9th Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
THE LINE: Wake Forest, +11½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
WHAT: The 39th National Funding Holiday Bowl
WHEN: 7:00 PM ET on ESPN
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
THE LINE: Minnesota, +10
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2)
WHAT: The 28th Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
WHEN: 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
THE LINE: Baylor, +7½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

NC State smashes Vanderbilt in Independence Bowl rout

North Carolina State running back Matthew Dayes (21) tries to fight off a tackle by Vanderbilt safety Ryan White (14) in the first half of the Camping World Independence Bowl NCAA college football game in Shreveport, La., Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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NC State was too much for Vanderbilt on Monday night. More specifically, the pitch-and-catch combination of Ryan Finley-to-Jaylen Samuels was too much for Vanderbilt, as the Wolfpack raced to a 41-17 Independence Bowl victory in Shreveport, La.

Finley and Samuels hooked up six times for 104 yards and three decisive touchdowns on the night. The first came at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter, a 9-yard strike to put NC State on top 7-3, handing the club a lead it would not relinquish. The second connection came nearly eight minutes later, a 55-yard snatch-and-dash that all but put the game out of reach at 14-3.

After a 5-yard scoring rush by Reggie Gallaspy II pushed the lead to 21-3, Finley’s third and final strike to Samuels, a 17-yard connection, put the game out of reach with 5:34 still to play in the third quarter.

Vanderbilt briefly climbed back in the game when Ralph Webb posted a 30-yard touchdown run and Khari Blasingame bulled in from the 1-yard line to pull the Commodores within 28-17 with 10:37 left in the game, but NC State (7-6) immediately ended any comeback hopes when Nyheim Hines raced the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmer provided NC State its final score of the night when Niles Clark returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Shurmur finished the night hitting 19-of-46 passes for 158 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Vanderbilt (6-7) managed 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 4.5 yards per carry.

Finley closed his season connecting on 19-of-30 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Matthew Dayes led the Pack on the ground with nine carries for 47 yards.

The win pushed the ACC to 2-0 in bowl games pitting 6-6 teams and clinched at least a .500 record for the conference against the SEC in 2016. The ACC is now 7-3 against its southeastern rival with three games and the possibility of a Clemson-Alabama CFP national championship still remaining.

NC State leads Vanderbilt in low scoring Independence Bowl

Vanderbilt v Mississippi State
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NC State holds a 14-3 lead over Vanderbilt at halftime of the Independence Bowl. And with the way Vanderbilt’s offense performed through the first two quarters, an 11-point separation might as well be 100.

Vanderbilt opened the scoring when Tommy Openshaw concluded an 8-play, 46-yard drive with a 52-yard field goal at the 6:06 mark of the first quarter. But as Vanderbilt’s offense gave the ‘Dores the lead, their next possession did the opposite. Kyle Shurmur was intercepted in his own territory, and NC State capitalized when Ryan Finley hit Jaylen Samules for a 9-yard scoring strike at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter to give the Wolfpack the lead.

The Commodores marched 62 yards in seven snaps on their next possession, but Openshaw’s 27-yard try was a duck that sailed wide left. Vanderbilt had a great opportunity to take a late lead before the halftime gun, accepting the ball at its own 36 with 3:09 remaining, but punted just 55 seconds later.

After the punt, Finley again found Samuels — this time on a 55-yard snatch-and-dash that gave NC State its second score of the day at the 1:24 mark of the half. Finley closed the half connecting on 14-of-17 throws for 164 yards with two touchdowns while rushing three times for 19 yards, and Samuels netted eight grabs for 87 yards and both of the scores. NC State has also rushed for 87 yards on 19 attempts.

Shurmur struggled mightily to throw the ball, completing 6-of-18 passes for 63 yards with an interception. The ‘Dores have rushed for 94 yards on 16 carries, but 45 of them came on one Trent Sherfield carry.

Vanderbilt will receive to open the second half.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 26 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 12:  Nick Fitzgerald #7 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs passes against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 26 bowl menu, which features, for the first time this bowl season, teams from Power Five conferences.  In fact, five of the six teams playing today come from the P5, with two each from the ACC and SEC and one from the Big Ten making up that power quintet.  Oh, and another team that didn’t at least win as many games as it lost.

WHO: Miami of Ohio (6-6) vs. Mississippi State (5-7)
WHAT: The 9th St. Petersburg Bowl
WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Mississippi State is the first of two 5-7 teams — and the second of three with sub-.500 records — that qualified for a bowl game this season to take the field.  Their reward?  Becoming the first SEC school to play in this particular game, and just the second Power Five team (North Carolina State, 2014).  The Bulldogs are making their seventh consecutive postseason after going bowl-less in Dan Mullens‘ first season in 2009, and are looking to push their record in bowl games to 5-2.  Miami of Ohio comes in making some history, becoming the first team ever to start the season 0-6 and still become bowl-eligible.  They’re also appearing in their first bowl game since the 2010 season.  RedHawks quarterback Gus Ragland has seemingly been the linchpin of this remarkable turnaround, becoming the starter at midseason and guiding the team to a 6-0 close to the regular season, tossing 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the process.  MSU, it should be noted, was 34th nationally in passes intercepted, returning three of those for touchdowns.  Ragland’s counterpart, at least from my perspective, is the player to watch.  Faced with the unenviable task of replacing MSU legend and NFL rookie sensation Dak PrescottNick Fitzgerald has been borderline sensational, leading the Bulldogs in rushing (1,243 yards, 14 touchdowns) and sporting a passer rating that was eighth in the SEC in the sophomore’s first year as a starter.   After throwing nine interceptions his first nine games, he threw just one his last three (vs. Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss) while tossing five of his 21 touchdowns in that same span.  A breakout performance by Fitzgerald in this game could give the young signal-caller an additional boost of confidence and portend even better things for the Bulldogs’ offense in 2017.
THE LINE: Miami of Ohio, +14
THE PREDICTION: Mississippi State 48, Miami of Ohio 17

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WHO: Maryland (6-6) vs. Boston College (6-6)
WHAT: The 3rd Quick Lane Bowl
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
THE LINE: Boston College, +1
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
WHAT: The 41st Camping World Independence Bowl
WHEN: December 26, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
THE LINE: Vanderbilt, +4
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.