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KD Cannon a thorn in Boise State’s side as Baylor takes Cactus Bowl

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Bowl games can often be completely separate animals from the regular season, and no one will prove that phenomenon more true this winter than Baylor. A team that arrived in Phoenix on a 6-game losing streak played like the Big 12 title contender many expected it to be, beating Boise State 31-12 in the Cactus Bowl.

Baylor playing like Baylor again started with getting the ball in the hands of the type of player that dominated games during the Bears’ salad days — wide receiver KD Cannon. The junior caught 14 passes for 226 yards and two crucial first half touchdowns — a 30-yarder to open the scoring in the first quarter and a 68-yard connection to stretch the lead to 14-3 with 12:14 to play in the half.

In addition to not covering Cannon, Boise State was undone by Brett Rypien‘s inability to hold on to the football inside scoring territory. The Broncos’ quarterback tossed first half two interceptions inside Baylor’s 5-yard line and lost a fumble at the Bears’ 16, ending any hopes of a comeback early in the fourth quarter. Rypien’s second pick came inside the end zone and led to an, ahem, controversial 99-yard drive for the Bears’ final score of the half.

Baylor was initially stopped at its own 21 but received new life when Drew Galitz drew a running into the kicker flag, a 5-yard penalty on a 4th-and-4, despite ESPN replays showing clearly no Boise State player actually touched Galitz. The flag stood, though, and JaMychal Hasty ended the 15-play march with a 5-yard scoring dash with 4:19 to play in the half.

Boise State added a second Tyler Rausa field goal, a 26-yard chip shot, to close the first half and opened the second half with a 13-play drive that ended on a turnover on downs when Bryan Harsin eschewed a third field goal try in favor of a fourth-and-goal pass that was broken up by defensive back Ryan Reid. Baylor answered with an un-Baylor-like 21-play drive culminating in a 34-yard Chris Callahan field goal at the 3:19 mark of the third quarter.

Baylor (7-6) closed the door for good after Rypien’s fumble with a 12-play, 71-yard drive that closed with a Zach Smith 14-yard scoring strike to Ishmael Zamora with 10:03 remaining. Smith played the best game of his young career, completing 28-of-39 passes for 375 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Terence Williams, receiving a full work load after Shock Linwood chose to stay home, toted 25 carries for 103 yards.

Rypien (31-of-50 for an even 300 yards) added a cosmetic score when he hit Cedrick Wilson for a 28-yard score with 1:20 to play. His 2-point pass was, fittingly, intercepted.

Playing in the final game of his Boise State careerJeremy McNichols posted a quiet night of 19 carries for 46 yards with five grabs for 24 more yards.

The loss for Boise State (10-3) was a rare one in a metropolitan area that hosted many of the orange and blue’s greatest moments over the past decade. The Broncos are 3-0 in Fiesta Bowls played at University of Phoenix Stadium in nearby Glendale, while Tuesday night’s loss came at Phoenix’s Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Houston adds Dak Prescott’s college QB coach as OC

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Dak Prescott has been one of the breakout stars of the 2016 NFL season.  One of his collegiate mentors, as it turns out, is moving up the coaching ladder as well.

Tuesday afternoon, Houston announced that new head coach Major Applewhite has added Brian Johnson as his offensive coordinator.  Johnson will also serve as the Cougars’ quarterbacks coach.

The latter was Johnson’s role at Mississippi State the past three seasons, the first two of which coincided with Prescott’s last two seasons with the Bulldogs.

“He was unbelievable and I’m very thankful to have him as a coach. Once I got the offense down, he took me to another level and his knowledge of the game was invaluable,” a statement attributed to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback began. “It meant a lot to have someone who has played at such a high level be able to teach you. You look at the success he had with his undefeated season at Utah and you know he can back up what he is teaching. He’s also a great guy who pushes you to be a better person in the community and academically. I’m very proud of him.”

Prior to his time at MSU, Johnson spent four seasons as an assistant at his alma mater Utah.  In 2012 at the age of 24 he was named as the Utes’ coordinator, becoming the youngest FBS assistant to ever hold that title.

Report: Christian McCaffrey to declare for NFL Draft

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Christian McCaffrey will declare for the NFL Draft, according to a report from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.

He would join Texas’s D'Onta Foreman and LSU’s Leonard Fournette among early entrant running backs.

McCaffrey, of course, offers a different skill set than those two and any other running back. Just as much a threat catching the ball or as a returner, McCaffrey set the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage record — rushing for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns, receiving for 645 yards and five scores, accumulating 1,070 kick return yards with one touchdown and returning punts for 130 yards and a touchdown. He finished runner-up to Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy voting while leading Stanford to the Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory.

This season, McCaffrey’s profile dropped as Stanford dropped from the national title conversation, but he actually improved as a running back. McCaffrey’s averages jumped in both yards per game (145.1 vs. 144.2) and yards per carry (6.3 vs. 6.0).

Assuming he does indeed declare, McCaffrey will wrap up his Cardinal career as Stanford faces North Carolina in the Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET Dec. 30, CBS).

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

No. 19 Boise State kisses slim Group of Five hopes goodbye with loss to Air Force

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Boise State entered Friday as the highest ranked Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff standings at No. 19 in the country but needed a few things to happen for them to make the Mountain West title game and keep alive a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

None of that mattered by Friday night as the Broncos fell to their pesky conference rival Air Force in a 27-20 loss.

Quarterback Arion Worthman completed just three passes for the Falcons but was big as the triggerman for the team’s option attack, rushing for 80 yards and allowing the team to dominate time of possession. D.J. Johnson and Shayne Davern each added a pair of rushing touchdowns as well.

Boise State signal-caller Brett Rypien had an ineffective outing on the road, completing just nine-of-26 passes while avoiding the Air Force pass rush numerous times. Normally reliable Jeremy McNichols was limited all day running the football and finished with 88 yards and a touchdown — most of which came on a 56 yard scamper that setup the score one play later.

The team nearly had a chance to tie the game with just a few minutes left on the clock but Air Force’s defense came up with a fourth down stop from the one yard line to virtually seal the result.

The loss by the Broncos ends any hope they had of winning the division and making it to the conference title game, which will instead be a rematch between Wyoming and San Diego State. As for Air Force, the team completes a 9-3 regular season with the victory that includes yet another Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for head coach Troy Calhoun.