CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which on “opening weekend” features five bowl games as the 2014 postseason kicks off.

WHO: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
WHAT: The 14th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Unless you were on Bourbon Street the night before, what better way to cap off your Saturday morning, and start the 2014 bowl season, than with a little Mountain West vs. Sun Belt action?  After never making a bowl in the first 38 years of the football program’s existence, Louisiana-Lafayette has now qualified for four straight under Mark Hudspeth.  Not only that, but they’ve won their first three appearances — all of which came in this very bowl.  Nevada, meanwhile, has lost its last two bowl games and six of its last eight.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are also playing very well as they head into the postseason, closing out the regular season with a 7-1 burst.  That burst came after a 1-3 start to the season that featured losses to nationally-ranked Ole Miss and Boise State as well as Conference USA runner-up Louisiana Tech. UL-L will prove to be a significant challenge to Nevada, one that Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack may not be able to overcome.
THE LINE: Louisiana-Lafayette, +1
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nevada 27

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WHO: Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
WHAT: The 9th Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
WHEN: 2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of old school football that features copious amounts of defense and pounding yards out on the ground, this game is for you.  Utah State is very stingy defensively, giving up just 20.8 points per game (21st nationally).  USU is also very good against the run (26th, giving up 129.2 ypg); that also happens to be UTEP’s strength offensively (35th, 213.8 ypg).  The Aggies, though, are coming off their worst performance of the season, giving up 50 points and nearly 500 yards in the regular-season finale against Boise State.  Something tells me that it’ll be the Miners who will end up paying the price for that debacle.
THE LINE: UTEP, +10½
THE PREDICTION: Utah State 48, UTEP 17

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WHO: Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
WHAT: The 23rd Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
WHEN: 3:30 ET on ABC
THE SKINNY: The first day of bowl action has landed what could be one of the best and most intriguing matchups of the postseason.  Colorado State is coming off its best regular season in over a decade, but will also be without its head coach as Jim McElwain took the Florida job and won’t coach in the bowl game.  Utah, the only Power Five team in action today, began the 2014 season 6-1, but stumbled to a 2-3 finish that eliminated it from contention for a significantly more important bowl berth.  The teams do have one 2014 opponent in common in Colorado, with CSU winning at home 31-17 in Week 1 and the U of U winning 38-34 in Week 14 on the road.  A significant focus for Utah’s defense, one of the best in the country, will be shutting down All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins.  If the Utes can accomplish that feat — it won’t be easy as Higgins has at least 143 yards receiving in each of the last seven games — it would go a long way in securing their first bowl win since after the 2011 season.
THE LINE: Colorado State, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Utah 27, Colorado State 20

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WHO: Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Id.
WHEN: 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This game very easily could’ve been called the Turnaround Bowl.  The fact that either team, let alone both, are playing in the postseason somewhat constitutes a minor miracle as Air Force won a mere two games in 2013 while Western Michigan trumped even that with just a single win last season.  This game is also your classic immovable object vs. irresistible force matchup: WMU is 37th in the country in rushing yards given up per game (142.7) while AF, as service academies ofttimes are, is seventh in rushing offense at 272.2 yards per game.  Throw in how the Falcons gain those yards on the ground, and it could be a long day for the Broncos.
THE LINE: Western Michigan, +1
THE PREDICTION: Air Force 37, Western Michigan 24

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WHO: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
WHAT: The Inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: It’s appropriate that South Alabama is appearing in the first-ever Camellia Bowl as the Jaguars, who moved to the FBS level three years ago, are making their first-ever bowl appearance.  Their opponents, meanwhile, are playing in their seventh bowl game the past 12 years.  The Jaguars have struggled to score points all year long, with their 20.2 points per game ranking 113th out of 128 FBS teams.  The Falcons, meanwhile, have struggled to stop the opposition from scoring all season, as its 33.9 ppg (109th nationally) attests.  Whichever trend continues will play a significant role in determining the outcome.
THE LINE: Bowling Green, +3
THE PREDICTION: Bowling Green 38, South Alabama 24

ACC endorses free one-time transfer for all student-athletes

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The ACC is now on-board with the idea of allowing student-athletes in all sports a chance to have a free one-time transfer without having to sit out a season. The conference released a brief statement on Monday afternoon confirming the ACC supports a one-time transfer opportunity.

“During the league’s annual winter meetings (February 12-14), the ACC discussed the transfer environment and unanimously concluded that as a matter of principle we support a one-time transfer opportunity for all student-athletes, regardless of sport,” the statement from the ACC said. “As a conference, we look forward to continuing the discussion nationally.”

It is important to understand this does not mean players in the ACC will now be given a free transfer. This is merely a step in the direction toward allowing the free one-time transfer and shows the ACC would support any potential adjustment to the NCAA transfer rule. As the transfer rule currently stands, any player transferring from one school to another at the same level of competition (FBS to FBS, for example), is required to sit out one full season before being ruled eligible again. This takes away a year of eligibility or burns a redshirt season, barring any potential exemptions granted by way of a waiver. Graduate transfers are generally the only transferring players allowed to play immediately at a new school.

The Big Ten quietly proposed just such legislation last year, but no movement was made on the proposal. The NCAA instead opted to have a committee spend additional time reviewing the current policies regarding transfers with the intent of continuing the discussion this year as rule changes begin to be reviewed.

That gives us two power conferences that appear to be ready to embrace the one-time transfer rule. Don’t be shocked if more join the party, and expect the transfer rule to be altered soon enough. Maybe even as early as this upcoming year.

The NCAA modified the redshirt rule two years ago. The transfer rule appears the next most likely rule to be altered regarding a player’s eligibility.

Indiana completes coaching staff with Tulane DL coach Kevin Peoples

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After being left at the altar by a Michigan State assistant coach, Indiana had found a way to plug its hole at defensive line coach. Kevin Peoples is reportedly leaving Tulane to join the Hoosiers, multiple reports said on Monday. News of the coaching hire in Bloomington was first shared by Football Scoop.

Peoples will be taking on the job on the Indiana coaching staff previously set to be filled by Michigan State assistant Ron Burton. Burton decided to remain in East Lansing with the Spartans and new head coach Mel Tucker over the weekend before officially making his way from one Big Ten school to another. With the addition of Peoples to the coaching staff, the Hoosiers will now have a full coaching staff barring any potential adjustments before spring football begins.

With Peoples in charge of the defensive line, Tulane was not among the conference leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in the American Athletic Conference in 2019, but Tulane did have the conference’s fourth-best rushing defense; Tulane allowed 156.31 rushing yards per game in 2019, an averages that is inflated slightly from playing Navy in conference play (allowed 385 yards to the triple-option Midshipmen) and Army in non-conference play as well as a road game against Auburn. Tulane allowed just 58 rushing yards in its bowl victory over Southern Mississippi.

Peoples is filling the role previously held by Mark Hagen. Hagen left Indiana to accept a coaching position with Texas this offs

Utah, LSU to play home-and-home in early ’30s

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The SEC and Pac-12 are in a bit of a love affair right now. Actually, scratch that. They’re full-on obsessed with one another.

More than 30 SEC v. Pac-12 games are on the docket for future years, and two more were added to the ledger on Monday when LSU and Utah inked a home-and-home.

Utah will host LSU on Sept. 6, 2031, and LSU will return the favor on Sept. 11, 2032.

“Our aspirations to continue to grow and elevate our football program make opportunities like this especially important,” Utah AD Mark Harlan said. “For our student-athletes it is an incredible opportunity to play a high-profile opponent in two fantastic environments. It also is incredibly attractive to our fans to host a team like LSU at Rice-Eccles Stadium and to go on the road to Baton Rouge and cheer on their Utes.”

Utah has two more home-and-homes against SEC schools coming, against Florida in 2022-23 and Arkansas in 2026 and ’28. LSU has home-and-homes with UCLA (2021, ’24) and Arizona State (2029-30) on its docket.

The schools have met twice previously, with LSU winning in Baton Rouge both time, 35-10 in 1974 and 35-7 in ’76.

Bret Bielema reportedly interviewing for Colorado job

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Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.

Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.

The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.

He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.