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

Iowa places longtime strength coach Chris Doyle on administrative leave after allegations from former Hawkeyes flood social media

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Iowa is the latest football program caught up in the maelstrom of needed, necessary change.

Saturday, Iowa announced that longtime strength & conditioning coach Chris Doyle has been placed on administrative leave.  Additionally, an independent review will be conducted into allegations that Doyle directly contributed to “racial disparities in the Iowa football program.”

The development came after former Hawkeye football players took to social media en masse in the past couple of days to accuse Doyle of creating a hostile environment. Specifically, as it pertained to black Iowa football players. One former player spoke of Doyle mocking black football players that “made you walk around the football facility on eggshells … and caused anxiety that could be unbearable at times with your dreams and career on the line.”

“There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program,” former starting offensive lineman James Daniels wrote in a tweet. “Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long.”

In a video statement, Kirk Ferentz described the past 24 or so hours as “a defining moment” for his program.

“I appreciate the former players’ candor and have been reaching out to many of them individually to hear more about their experiences in our program,” the longtime coach stated. “I am planning on talking to all of them in the coming days. This is a process that will take some time, but change begins by listening first.

“Many of the discussions have centered around our Strength and Conditioning program and Coach Chris Doyle. I have spoken with him about the allegations posted on social media. They are troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players. Therefore, Coach Doyle has been placed on administrative leave immediately while there is an independent review. He and I agree that all parties will have their voices heard and then a decision about how to move forward will be made.”

Doyle has been the strength coach at Iowa since 1999. Last year, he was the highest-paid at his position in the country.

Missouri adds 2026 game against Troy in Columbia

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For the second time in a week, Troy has added a Power Five opponent to its future football slates.

Late last month, it was Iowa added to the 2024 schedule.  This week, Troy announced a future football game against Missouri.  That one-off matchup will take place Nov. 21, 2026.

Obviously, the game will take place at Missouri’s Memorial Stadium.

Troy and Mizzou have played four times previously, the first in 2002 and the most recent this past season.  Mizzou won three of those matchups, with the Trojans knocking off a 14th-ranked Tigers squad in 2004 at Troy.  All three of the Missouri wins came in Columbia.

The game against Missouri will actually be the second in 2026 for Troy football against an SEC school.  Troy had previously announced a home-and-home series with Mississippi State that starts that season.  In 2027, the Bulldogs will travel to the Trojans.

Since becoming an FBS program in 2001, Troy has played 25 games against members of the SEC.  The Trojans are 3-22 in those matchups.  The other two wins came against Mississippi State in 2001 and LSU in 2017.

After winning 10-plus games in three straight seasons from 2016-18, Troy tumbled to a 5-7 record in 2019.  That was the Trojans’ first season under Chip Lindsey.  Lindsey replaced Neal Brown, who left to take the head job at West Virginia.

Ole Miss’ Charles Wiley enters transfer portal

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For the first time in a couple of a few months, an Ole Miss football player has hit the transfer portal.

In February, it was cornerback Deantre Prince hitting the transfer database.  Four months later, former Ole Miss football teammate Charles Wiley has done the same.  The Jackson Clarion Ledger was the first to report the move.

Wiley will be leaving the SEC as a graduate transfer.  That will allow the linebacker/edge rusher to play immediately in 2020.  The upcoming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Wiley was a four-star member of the Ole Miss football Class of 2016.  The Stockbridge, Ga., native was the No. 23 player regardless of position in the Peach State.  He was also the No. 17 weakside defensive end in the country.

Wiley took a redshirt as a true freshman.  The next three seasons, he played in a combined 33 games.  The 6-2, 244-pound defender started three of those contests, with all three coming in 2018.

All told, Wiley has been credited with 57 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 5½ sacks.  He set career-highs in tackles for loss (six) in 2018 and sacks (three) this past season.

Highest-rated signee in Duke’s 2018 recruiting class transfers to FCS Eastern Kentucky

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A touted member of a Duke football recruiting class a couple of years ago has found a new home.  And at a lower rung on the collegiate ladder.

In May, it was confirmed that Tahj Rice took the first step in leaving Duke football by entering the NCAA transfer database.  On Twitter this past week, Rice announced that he has committed to Eastern Kentucky.  And he’s changing his surname for good measure.

“Thank you Duke for the moments and memories it won’t be forgotten,” the defensive tackle wrote. “I’m excited to say I’ve transferred to @ekusports and I’ve decided to change my last name to Mcclung because it’s LONG [overdue].”

According to his official Duke bio, Rice is the son of Iana and Marcus McClung.

As Eastern Kentucky plays at the FCS level, Rice/McClung will be eligible to play immediately in 2020.  He’ll have another seaosn he can use in 2021 as well.

Rice was a four-star member of the Duke football Class of 2018.  The Louisville product was rated as the No. 15 strongside defensive end in the country.  He was also the No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Kentucky.

Most notably, Rice was the highest-rated signee in the Blue Devils’ class that year.  In fact, he was the only four-star signee for Duke that cycle.

Rice played in 24 games the past two seasons.  He would’ve played in a 25th, but an appendectomy cost him an appearance in the 2018 Independence Bowl.

During his time with the Blue Devils, he was credited with 16 tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks.

Rice is one of at least five Duke football players ( the others are HEREHEREHEREHEREHERE) who have left the Blue Devils since the calendar flipped from 2019 to 2020.