Pittsburgh Panthers

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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Justin Jackson’s career day helps Northwestern nip No. 23 Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28: Justin Jackson #21 of the Northwestern Wildcats dives for a touchdown in front of the Pittsburgh Panthers defense during the first half of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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If you’re a fan of Northwestern football, go ahead and send all of your thank you notes and/or cards to Justin Jackson, c/o NU athletics.  Although, you could save some for the secondary as well.

Thanks in very large part to Jackson’s career day, Northwestern (7-6) was able to hold off No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-5) and stake its claim to the 7th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium with a 31-24 win.  The victory was the Wildcats’ first in a bowl game since 2012 and just the third ever since the program was established in 1892.

And, again, thanks be to Jackson.  The junior running back gashed the Panthers defense for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.  His previous career-high was 188, set in a mid-October win over Michigan State earlier this season.

Jackson was part of a back-and-forth second half, with the lead changing hands four times in the last two quarters after the Wildcats had taken a 14-10 lead into the halftime locker room.  What turned out to be the final lead change didn’t involve Jackson, though, as Clayton Thorson connected with Garrett Dickerson for a 21-yard touchdown pass on a fourth and one with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a four-point lead.

On the first play of the ensuing possession, Quadree Henderson, playing in pace of the injured James Conner, fumbled the ball back to the Wildcats at the Panthers’ 27-yard line; four plays later, a Jack Mitchell 37-yard field goal extended the lead to seven.

Pitt’s second-to-last chance to tie the game nearly ended in a touchdown but for a tremendous defensive play in the end zone and instead came to a halt on an interception tossed by Ben DiNucci, who prior to this game had never attempted a pass at the collegiate level.  The redshirt freshman was in the game because starter Nathan Peterman sustained a third-quarter head injury and didn’t return.  Conner suffered the same fate on the same type of injury in the same quarter.

Another DiNucci interception with 1:22 left sealed the Panthers’ third consecutive bowl loss.  The 24 points were the fewest for a Pitt offense this season that came into the game 11th in the country in scoring at 42.3 points per game.

Interestingly, with Pitt’s loss, ranked teams are off to an 0-3 start to the bowl season.  The Big Ten is 2-1 this postseason, while the ACC suffered its first loss after winning its first three.

Red-zone stands, Justin Jackson push Northwestern to halftime lead on No. 23 Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 28: A general view prior to the Northwestern Wildcats taking on the Pittsburgh Panthers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Northwestern’s defense bent to the point of breaking but (mostly) never snapped, leading the Big Ten school to a surprisingly defensive 14-10 halftime lead on No. 23 Pittsburgh in the 7th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Already up 3-0 late in the first quarter, Pitt was looking at a fourth and goal from the Northwestern one-yard line that if successful would’ve extend its lead to two scores.  Instead, leading rusher James Conner was stuffed for no gain, with the Wildcats flipping that turnover on downs into a 10-play, 99-yard drive that was aided greatly by a 68-yard Justin Jackson run and capped off by Jackson’s eight-yard touchdown run.  The junior running back accounted for 88 rushing yards by himself on that drive.

The Panthers, though, seemed poised on the ensuing possession to regain the lead.  On a second and goal from the 10-yard line following a false start penalty, however, Nathan Peterman was picked off by the Wildcats’ Godwin Igwebuike with just under 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter.  Pitt’s defense, though, returned the favor, with Avonte Maddox intercepting a Clayton Thorson pass in the end zone five minutes later to snuff out a Wildcats’ scoring opportunity.

The Panthers’ offense could do nothing with the gift, handing the ball right back to the Wildcats on a three and out.  Eight plays and 74 yards later, another Jackson touchdown run, this one from 16 yards out, pushed the lead to 14-3 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.  In addition to scoring both touchdowns, Jackson ran for 147 yards on his 18 carries.

On the next possession for Pitt, however, it was the big play that got the Panthers back into the game, with Peterman hitting Jester Weah on a beautifully-thrown 69-yard touchdown pass just 17 seconds after the Wildcats’ second score.

The fact that the Wildcats held the high-scoring Panthers to a mere 10 points through two quarters was, along with Jackson’s play, the story of the first half.

Pitt came into today’s game 11th in the country in scoring at 42.3 points per game.  The Panthers scored at least 36 points in 10 of 12 regular season games, and in the other two they scored 28.  In their regular-season finale, they scored 76 points in a win over Syracuse.

Despite the relative lack of points, both teams moved the ball relatively well.  Northwestern finished with 294 yards of total offense, Pitt 264.  The Panthers came into the game averaging 447.5 yards per game while the Wildcats are less than 100 yards away from hitting their seasonal average of 392.9.

Having deferred after winning the pregame coin toss, Pitt will open the second half on offense.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 28 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

MORGANTOWN, WV - DECEMBER 03: The West Virginia Mountaineer mascot interacts with fans in the final moments of the West Virginia Mountaineers 24-21 win over the Baylor Bears at Mountaineer Field on December 3, 2016 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 28 bowl menu, which today features the first three ranked teams that hail from Power Five conferences.  In fact, all eight of today’s participants hail from the power leagues — and all five of those conferences are represented — as we head into the meat of this year’s bowl buffet.

WHO: No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
WHAT: The 7th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
THE LINE: Northwestern, +5
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 16 West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)
WHAT: The 27th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
THE LINE: West Virginia, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Indiana (6-6) vs. No. 19 Utah (8-4)
WHAT
: The 15th Foster Farms Bowl
WHEN
: 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX
WHERE
: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
THE LINE
: Indiana, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4)
WHAT: The 11th AdvoCare V1oo Texas Bowl
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
THE LINE: Kansas State +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

CFT Previews: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 25: James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers runs with the ball against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the game at Heinz Field on October 25, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Panthers lost 56-28. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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WHO: No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
WHAT: The 7th NewEra Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, New York, NY
THE SKINNY: Pitt running back James Conner will play his final college football game before turning pro in the house that Derek Jeter built, Yankee Stadium. Conner has been one of the true inspirations in college football this season as he has overcome cancer to remain one of the top running backs in the nation. Connor rushed for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns as a key cog in Pitt’s potent offense. How much they can keep that going in the bowl season will be something to watch after losing offensive coordinator Matt Canada to LSU to be a part of Ed Oregon’s coaching staff in Baton Rouge.

Pitt had the second-highest scoring offense in the ACC this season behind Louisville, with 42.3 points per game, highlighted by a road victory over ACC champion and No. 2 Clemson, an early-season victory over eventual Big Ten champion Penn State, and scoring at least 36 points in all but one game since the season opener. The defense, however, has been the polar opposite of the Pitt offense, giving up at least 30 points in all but two games this season. The season ended by giving up 61 points to Syracuse, although the Panthers managed to get the win.

Northwestern’s offense could struggle to keep up the scoring pace Pitt has been accustomed this season, although the Wildcats have some talent on offense to cause problems for Pitt’s defense. Justin Jackson ended the regular season as the Big Ten’s rushing leader with 1,300 yards (eclipsed only by Wisconsin’s Corey Clement with the benefit of the Big Ten championship game). Jackson averages 108.33 rushing yards per game. The Wildcats also have the Big Ten’s leading receiver, Austin Carr, the only 1,000-yard receiver in the Big Ten this season (84 receptions, 1,196 yards, 12 touchdowns all lead the Big Ten).

The Pinstripe Bowl has packed some fun games the last two years since the ACC and Big Ten paired up for the game. Penn State clipped Boston College in overtime (31-30) two seasons ago and Duke edged Indiana in overtime (44-41) last December. Expect some good offensive fireworks between the Panthers and Wildcats, and another one going the distance.

THE PREDICTION: Pitt 52, Northwestern 46