UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 26:  Penn State Nittany Lions fans celebrate during the first half against the Michigan State Spartans on November 26, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Penn State defensive lineman Garrett Sickels to enter NFL Draft

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Get ready to see another Penn State defensive lineman be picked up by an NFL team in the NFL Draft. Redshirt junior Garrett Sickels has announced he will be entering the NFL Draft this year, thus passing on the final year of eligibility he had with the Nittany Lions.

The All-Big Ten selection is coming off a season with a career high in tackles (47) and sacks (6) and proved to be a dominant force up front off the end of Penn State’s defensive line this season.

“This journey has been an amazing ride from my commitment to Penn State in 2012 to this past Rose Bowl game,” Sickels said in a statement released on Twitter. “I have made friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. I’m so unbelievably proud to call myself a Penn Stater. I take great pride in knowing me and my fellow classmates of the 2013 recruiting class have left Penn State in a much greater place then when we arrived.”

Sickels was one of the key recruits in Penn State’s Class of 2013 that remained committed to the program immediately after the program was slammed with NCAA sanctions at the time. That same class brought quarterback Christian Hackenberg, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, linebacker Brandon Bell and tight end Adam Breneman (who just finished off a stellar season at UMass), among others.

The loss of Sickels means Penn State will replace both starters at defensive end in the fall, although the Nittany Lions have some young options that have been waiting to get in the mix, including four-star addition in the Class of 2016 Shane Simmons, who redshirted this past season.

No. 8 Wisconsin brings No. 15 Western Michigan dream season to close with a loss

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02:  Natrell Jamerson #12, Leo Musso #19, Sojourn Shelton #8, D'Cota Dixon #14, and Derrick Tindal #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers dive after a fumble in the second quarter during the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between Western Michigan and Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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It was a magical season for No. 15 Western Michigan (13-1), but the mission of ending the season without a loss was blocked by No. 8 Wisconsin (11-3) in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas on Monday afternoon. The Badgers took control of the game early on and kept Western Michigan at a comfortable distance the rest of the way in a 24-16 victory.

Wisconsin established order with its running game in the first half, with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale each ending the first two possessions of the day with a touchdown run, but the Broncos battled back and hung around heading into the fourth quarter. Corey Davis caught a desperation pass in the end zone on a fourth down heave from Zach Terrell, giving the Broncos some life late in the game, but a missed extra point attempt meant the MAC champions would need to either recover an onside kick or come up with one last defensive stand against the Badgers. The onside kick bounced out of play, giving the ball to Wisconsin, and Troy Fumagalli caught a big first down to finish off a stellar day in the passing game (Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook were a combined 13-of-14 for 178 yards). Fumagalli also had one touchdown grab and a brilliant one-handed catch in the first half.

Regardless of how it ended, it was a pure joy to watch Western Michigan grow as the season went along. One of the hottest teams in the MAC at the end of the 2015 season had the look and confidence of a MAC champion from the opening kickoff to the 2016 season, which started with a pair of victories against Wisconsin’s division foes in Northwestern and Illinois. Western Michigan ended the regular season as one of two undefeated teams in the country, joining Alabama. Western Michigan may have come up short on the scoreboard, but the Broncos belonged on the same field as Wisconsin.

In 2017, the Wisconsin Badgers will likely be among the top contenders for the big Ten Wets Division.The Badgers will get a slight relief on the Big Ten schedule in 2017 by not having to play Ohio State on the cross-divisional rotation. The Badgers will add Indiana instead in addition to a home game with Michigan. Wisconsin also plays at Nebraska and will get a nice out-of-conference test on the road against BYU. The 2017 season kicks off in Madison against Utah State on Friday, September 1.

Western Michigan will be fortunate to have P.J. Fleck back on the sideline in 2017, but expect his name to be floating around a number of coaching rumors in the year to come. The 2017 season will start with two road games against USC on Saturday, September 2 and against Michigan State the following week.

Wisconsin starts strong, but WMU fights back in Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02:  Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs for a touchdown in the first quarter during the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between Western Michigan and Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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Undefeated Western Michigan rowed its way into the Cotton Bowl, but that boat is in danger of sinking for the first time this season. Wisconsin’s power running game is set the tone early but the Big Ten runners-up own a 17-7 lead on the MAC champion in the Cotton Bowl at halftime after Western Michigan finally gained some confidence on offense.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell rolled out on a brilliantly called play and dodged one defender to score a touchdown.

The Badgers did respond to the first score of the day from Western Michigan by tacking on a late field goal to extend the lead to 10 points juts before halftime.

Corey Clement got right to work on the first drive of the game for Wisconsin by rushing for over 40 yards and easing his way through a tunnel in front of him to open the scoring with a touchdown. Terrell completed a 22-yard pass to Corey Davis on the first offensive snap from the Broncos, but Western Michigan was forced to punt three plays later, which led to a second Wisconsin touchdown run. This time it was Dare Ogunbowale scoring from one yard out to complete an 88-yard touchdown drive.

Wisconsin owned an advantage in offensive yards after one quarter, 166-46, including 104 rushing yards to Western Michigan’s four. Bart Houston has also been the quarterback for the Badgers, with Alex Hornibrook also getting on the field.

CFT Previews: Cotton Bowl Classic

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Corey Davis #84 of the Western Michigan Broncos tries to avoid the tackle of Kylan Nelson #23 of the Ohio Bobcats of the Ohio Bobcats after a first half catch during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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WHO: No. 15 Western Michigan (13-0) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3)
WHAT: The 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
WHEN: 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
THE SKINNY: MAC champion Western Michigan ran the table this season, ended the year as one of two FBS undefeated programs with Alabama being the other. That was still far from good enough to get a crack at the College Football Playoff, but P.J. Fleck has his upstart program rowing their boats to the Cotton Bowl to take on Wisconsin.

The Badgers hope quarterback Alex Hornibrook is healthy enough to stay in the game after getting roughed up against Penn State in the Big Ten championship game. Regardless of who plays quarterback, the real focus of the Wisconsin offense should fall on the running game with Corey Clement working behind a steady offensive line that should have an advantage on the line of scrimmage.

It should go without saying that Wisconsin will be, by far, the best defensive team Western Michigan has faced all season long, led by T.J. Watt. The Broncos may feel confident having two wins already this season against Big Ten opponents (Northwestern and Illinois), but the Badgers beat those two teams as well by a combined 59 points, as opposed to Western Michigan’s combined 25-point margin of victory over the Wildcats and Illini. Wisconsin’s defense did get exposed in the Big Ten championship game by Penn State’s big play offense though, and it should be expected Western Michigan will attempt to find those some cracks with Zach Terrell looking to find future NFL receiver Corey Davis for some big gains.

Western Michigan may be overmatched in the trenches, but the running game should be a key for the Broncos regardless. Jarvion Franklin rushed for 1,300 yards this season, but finding room to run against the Badgers defensive front will be his toughest challenge yet, especially if Wisconsin comes out looking to rebound from a poor showing in the Big Ten championship game.

Which brings us to the all-important yet completely unpredictable motivation factor. It would not be fair to take anything away from Western Michigan’s effort should things go well, but what exactly is the motivation level for Wisconsin? The Badgers were the favorite in the Big Ten championship game and lost steam to go from playing in the Rose Bowl (or potentially the College Football Playoff?) and now are paired up with this year’s Group of Five representative in the bowl lineup. Wisconsin does not seem like the kind of program that will go through the motions, and Paul Chryst may not strike you as a rah-rah go-get-em type of coach, but he will have the Badgers ready to go on the big stage in Arlington.

There is a bit of an experience factor at play as well, as a majority of this Wisconsin team has already played in AT&T Stadium. Wisconsin opened the 2015 season in this stadium against Alabama, so the initial wow-factor of playing in this venue may not be a concern. Western Michigan, however, is playing on this kind of stage for the first time in program history. Will that be an intangible?

THE PREDICTION: Wisconsin 35, Western Michigan 20

Appalachian State claims second straight Camellia Bowl thriller

Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb (11) is upended after a big gain by Toledo cornerback Trevon Mathis (6) during the Cramton Bowl NCAA college football game in Montgomery, Ala., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
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If the College Football Playoff games can be half as good as the Camellia Bowl, we’ll be in good hands this bowl season.

For the second consecutive December, Appalachian State won a back-and-forth Camellia Bowl, backing up last year’s buzzer-beating 31-29 defeat of Ohio with a 31-28 see-saw win over Toledo on Saturday night.

In what would be the theme all night, the Mountaineers opened the scoring on a 72-yard drive capped by a 16-yard scoring strike from Taylor Lamb to Deltron Hopkins only to see Toledo immediately answer when Logan Woodside found Michael Roberts for a 15-yard score to end a 75-yard march.

Midway through the second quarter, Marcus Cox put App State back in front when he punched in a 13-yard rush to close a 93-yard march, which Kareem Hunt later answered by way of a 26-yard rush to tie the game at 14 at the break.

App State again opened the scoring in the second half, this time a 13-yard Lamb rush, and Toledo again answered on a 4-yard toss from Woodside to Cody Thompson. Appalachian State immediately nudged back in front when Darrynton Evans raced the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 28-21 lead. Five plays later, Toledo knotted its fourth tie when Hunt found pay dirt for a second time with a 1-yard plunge with 43 ticks left in the third quarter.

The Mountaineers blew a scoring chance on their next possession when a fake field goal pass on a 4th-and-13 flew incomplete, but the App State defense held serve by forcing a three-and-out. Back in field goal range a second time, App State head coach Scott Satterfield made the sensible call by asking Michael Rubino to knock in a 39-yard field goal, which he did, giving the Mountaineers a 31-28 lead with 5:14 remaining.

Given a chance to break serve and take their first lead, Toledo could not convert a 3rd-and-2 rush from the App State 8-yard line. Rockets head coach Jason Candle briefly looked like he was going to try a make-or-break 4th-and-2 with the clock rolling under two minutes to go but accepted a delay of game instead. He will live to regret that decision; Jameson Vest‘s game-tying 30-yard field goal sailed wide right.

Appalachian State (10-3) accepted the ball with 1:42 remaining and did not give it back. The Mountaineers out-rushed Toledo (9-4) 297-127 on the night. Lamb carried nine times for 126 yards and a score while completing 14-of-32 throws for 119 yards and a touchdown. Cox rushed 22 times for a game-high 143 yards and a touchdown.

For Toledo, Woodside completed 18-of-26 passes for 247 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Hunt added 22 carries for 120 yards and two scores.