Miami (Ohio) RedHawks

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

2 Comments

Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Mississippi State blocks Miami (Ohio) field goal to seal St. Petersburg Bowl win

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - DECEMBER 26: Tight end Justin Johnson #81 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs drags a Miami (Oh) Redhawks defender after making a catch late in the second quarter of the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field on December 26, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett, Jr. /Getty Images)
Photo by Joseph Garnett, Jr. /Getty Images
5 Comments

Mississippi State (6-7) blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt by Miami (Ohio) (6-7) in the final 10 seconds of the St. Petersburg Bowl to secure a 17-16 win. The blocked field goal let Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen off the hook for a questionable coaching decision on the Bulldogs’ final offensive possession.

Rather than kick a field goal to extend the lead to four points, and immediately after having starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald limp his way off the field, Mullen had Damian Williams roll out and look to convert on a fourth and four from the Miami 22-yard line. The pass fell incomplete, and gave Miami a chance to move down the field to set themselves up for a potential game-winning field goal. The RedHawks moved their way to the Mississippi State 17-yard line and then appeared to settle for a field goal, using their next two plays to set the ball at the desired spot for kicker Nick Dowd while sacrificing three yards in exchange for forcing Mississippi State to burn two timeouts. With Dowd set for a 37-yard attempt, the kick was blocked by Nelson Adams with five seconds to play.

Mississippi State battled back from a 16-7 deficit in the second half to take a 17-16 lead with 10 straight points. Fitzgerald ripped off a 44-yard touchdown to generate a spark in the second half and a field goal early in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the day. Fitzgerald ended the day rushing for a game-high 132 yards and two scores and passing for 136 yards. Mississippi State was outgained by Miami, 433-335, but won the turnover battle with two forced turnovers and no turnovers by the Bulldogs offense.

The MAC falls to a woeful 0-5 in bowl games this season, while the SEC gets things started on the right foot with a 1-0 record. Also, going back to last season, teams reaching the bowl season with a 5-7 record (as Mississippi State did) are now 4-0 in bowl games.

Mississippi State opens the 2017 season at home on September 2 against Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs will also host BYU and UMass in non-conference play and go diving head first into the SEC schedule at home against LSU on September 16. Mississippi State’s 2017 road schedule includes games at Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas.

Miami will open the 2017 season on the road against Marshall from Conference USA. The RedHawks will also play Cincinnati (at home) and Notre Dame next season.

Late TD gives Mississippi State some confidence at halftime of St. Petersburg Bowl

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 26:  Nick Fitzgerald #7 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks for a receiver downfield during a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  The Bulldogs defeated the Rebels 55-20.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

After largely being shut down in the first half, Mississippi State may have found a reason to be optimistic about the rest of this afternoon’s St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulldogs trail Miami Ohio 9-7 at the half, but finally got the offense going with Nick Fitzgerald scoring a touchdown in the final minute of the half.

Mississippi State has been unable to get much going on offense against the Miami defense. No drive traveled more than 28 yards before Mississippi State’s final possession of the half. The Bulldogs have been forced to punt three times and turnover the ball once on downs before working their way down the field late in the half. Fitzgerald has completed six of 13 passes for 73 yards and leads the team with 33 rushing yards.

Miami opened the game with a field goal on the first possession of the afternoon. The lead was extended to 9-0 in the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass from Gus Ragland to James Gardner. The extra-point attempt was blocked, keeping the lead from going to double digits.

Miami had a chance to put more points on the scoreboard in the second quarter but a fumble inside the red zone cost the RedHawks a scoring opportunity. The defense held strong though and forced a three-and-out, which led to Miami’s touchdown drive.

The MAC could really use a boost, even if it has to come against a team with a losing record. The MAC is 0-4 this bowl season. Mississippi State is getting the postseason underway for the SEC.

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)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

__________

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.

__________

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.

Behold: The full 2016-17 college football bowl schedule is here

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 17: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
Getty Images
21 Comments

The College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six lineups are set, but there’s much more to bowl season than the top line games. Running 40 games deep and stretching from Dec. 17 to Jan. 9, the 2016-17 bowl schedule came together Sunday afternoon, which we’ve compiled here for your viewing enjoyment.

Let’s dive right in.

Saturday, Dec. 17
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (2 p.m. ET, ESPN): UTSA vs. New Mexico
Las Vegas Bowl presented by Geico (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): Houston vs. San Diego State
Raycom Media Camelia Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Appalachian State vs. Toledo
AutoNation Cure Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): Central Florida vs. Arkansas State
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): Lousiana-Lafayette vs. Southern Miss

Monday, Dec. 19
Miami Beach Bowl (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Central Michigan vs. Tulsa

Tuesday, Dec. 20
Boca Raton Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Memphis vs. Western Kentucky

Wednesday, Dec. 21
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): BYU vs. Wyoming

Thursday, Dec. 22
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Idaho vs. Colorado State

Friday, Dec. 23
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ESPN): Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisiana Tech vs. No. 25 Navy
Dollar General Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): Ohio vs. Troy

Saturday, Dec. 24
Hawai’i Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee

Monday, Dec. 26
St. Petersburg Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State vs. Miami (Ohio)
Quick Lane Bowl (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Boston College vs. Maryland
Camping World Independence Bowl (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2): NC State vs. Vanderbilt

Tuesday, Dec. 27
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (noon ET, ESPN): Army vs. North Texas
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 24 Temple vs. Wake Forest
National Funding Holiday Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Washington State vs. Minnesota
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN): Boise State vs. Baylor

Wednesday, Dec. 28
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (2 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern
Russell Athletic Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 16 West Virginia vs. Miami
Foster Farms Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX): Indiana vs. No. 19 Utah
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): Texas A&M vs. Kansas State

Thursday, Dec. 29
Birmingham Bowl (2 p.m. ET, ESPN): South Florida vs. South Carolina
Belk Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Arkansas vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech
Valero Alamo Bowl (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State

Friday, Dec. 30
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (noon ET, ESPN): TCU vs. Georgia
Hyundai Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET, CBS): No. 18 Stanford vs. North Carolina
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 21 Tennessee vs. Nebraska
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, Campus Insiders): South Alabama vs. Air Force
Capital One Orange Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State

Saturday, Dec. 31
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ABC): No. 20 LSU vs. No. 13 Louisville
TaxSlayer Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ESPN): Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky
CFP Semifinal at Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (3 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama
CFP Semifinal at PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson

Monday, Jan. 2
Outback Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ABC): No. 17 Florida vs. Iowa
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (1 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 15 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (5 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Penn State
Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): No. 14 Auburn vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

Monday, Jan. 9
College Football Playoff National Championship (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): ALA/WASH vs. CLEM/OSU