CFT Previews: Your Dec. 27 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 27 bowl menu, which among its five games features nine Power Five conference teams, the lone exception being Cincinnati.

WHO: Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The 7th Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Were it not for a four-point win over in-state rival Virginia in the regular season finale, Virginia Tech would’ve been home for the postseason holidays for the first time since 1992.  And this was a team that began the season 2-0, with the second win coming on the road by 14 points over College Football Playoff participant Ohio State.  The low point of a 4-6 skid to close the regular season was a 6-3 double overtime loss to Wake Forest in Week 13 that left Tech needing a win the following weekend to become bowl-eligible.  Cincinnati, meanwhile capped its second consecutive nine-win season with a co-AAC championship.  The Bearcats also come into this game on a veritable roll, following up a three-game losing streak in late September and early October with a seven-game winning streak.  The two teams had a trio of common opponents: Ohio State, Miami and East Carolina.  The Hokies were 1-2 against those teams (35-21 win over OSU, losses of 28-21 and 30-6 to ECU and The U, respectively) while the Bearcats went 1-2 as well (54-46 win over ECU, 50-28 and 55-34 losses to OSU and The U, respectively).
THE LINE: Virginia Tech, +3
THE PREDICTION: Cincinnati 31, Virginia Tech 20

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WHO: No. 15 Arizona State (9-3) vs. Duke (9-3)
WHAT: The 80th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHERE: The Sun Bowl, El Paso, Tex.
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
THE SKINNY: To say that Arizona State is disappointed with its bowl destination would be a massive understatement.  After nine games, ASU was looking at a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and, possibly, a berth in the College Football Playoff.  Two losses in their last three games — an inexplicable 35-27 loss to 5-7 Oregon State and a seven-point loss to in-state rival Arizona in the finale — shattered both of the dreams and sent them to this mid-major bowl.  How the Sun Devils respond to being sent to a lower profile bowl than what had been expected a month ago will go a long ways in determining the outcome.  Duke, though, is in a similar situation.  With three games remaining, all Duke needed was a pair of wins to clinch its second consecutive ACC Coastal title.  Instead, they lost two of three — 17-16 to Virginia Tech, 45-20 to North Carolina — to hand the division and a marquee bowl berth to Georgia Tech.  The Blue Devils, though, are playing in their third consecutive bowl game, the first time in the football program’s history that’s happened.  In fact, prior to the start of that streak in 2012, the program had a total of three bowl appearances in a span of 54 years. ASU will mark the first ranked opponent Duke has faced since Georgia Tech Oct. 11.
THE LINE: Duke, +7½
THE PREDICTION: Arizona State 34, Duke 24

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WHO: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 39th Duck Commander Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6)
WHAT: The 5th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re suffering with a bit of insomnia, boy do we have a cure for you.  Although, if you love tremendous defense, you’re in luck.  Boston College is 19th in the country in points allowed (20.5 ppg) while Penn State is even stingier, coming in at seventh (17.7 ppg).  The latter gave up more than 30 points just twice (Michigan State 34, Ohio State 31) and 20 or fewer eight times.  As good as they are defensively, both teams are woeful offensively.  BC is 123rd in passing yards (132 ypg) and 84th in scoring (25.9 ppg), with PSU a paltry 115th in scoring offense (19.8 ppg).  The lone redeeming offensive quality in this game will very likely be BC quarterback Tyler Murphy.  While he was just 111th among quarterbacks in passing yards (1,526), he was third to only Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (1,182) and Georgia Southern’s Kevin Ellison (1,096) in rushing yards at the position (1,079).  The best hope for the Nittany Lions?  That quarterback Christian Hackenberg reverts to the promising form he showed as a true freshman.  In 2013, Hackenberg tossed 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.  This season, it was eight touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in just 42 more attempts.  If Hackenberg can somehow recapture that 2013 magic, the Nittany Lions, playing in its first bowl game since being slapped with a postseason ban by the NCAA in 2012, could very well see their first bowl win since 2009.
THE LINE: Penn State, +3
THE PREDICTION: Boston College 13, Penn State 10

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WHO: Nebraska (9-3) vs. No. 24 USC (8-4)
WHAT: The 37th National University Holiday Bowl
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Oklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra lead off 2019 watch list for the Mackey Award

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Being a tight end in today’s version of college football means you’re a player wearing many hats.

While blocking is emphasized less than ever before, players at the position still need to do it in addition to splitting out wide, running reverses and lining up all over the field in a variety of offensive sets. This year’s annual watch list for the 2019 Mackey Award includes a host of players who can do it all and leave an impact between the lines that can make them a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.

While the entire list includes just about every starter at the position in the country, some of the headliners for the upcoming season include Washington’s Hunter BryantOklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra, Alabama’s Miller Forristall, Memphis’ Joey Magnifico, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and Vandy’s Jared Pinkney.

The full list of players on the Mackey Award watch list can be found here.

Last year’s winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, who later became a top 10 draft pick for the Detroit Lions the following spring.

Jim Harbaugh says Michigan is close to scheduling a football game overseas

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Jim Harbaugh hasn’t yet conquered the Big Ten but he sure is trying his best to plant the Michigan flag all around the globe.

Speaking to reporters at the conference’s media days on Friday, the Wolverines head coach was asked about his program playing an actual football game abroad and he indicated that plans are in the works for just that.

“Yeah, you know, we like travel. Mexico City would be great,” Harbaugh remarked. “I know you can talk about this, we’re scheduling — I think we’re really close to announcing, actually, playing another team on foreign soil. I won’t say what it is because — have you heard anything about this? Then I’d better not say it because we’re probably not ready to release that yet. But I think there’s something really imminent. There will be an announcement soon on that.”

Michigan AD Warde Manuel played coy in a subsequent message to the Detroit News and said nothing was finalized but the school may do just that at some point.

Harbaugh has already taken his team to Italy, France and South Africa for visits during the spring but this would be the first time he’s indicated something for the fall. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany indicated he would be in favor of playing a game somewhere like Mexico City on Thursday but did not seem to suggest that anything was in the works for a game to be played south of the border in the near term.

It’s not known if the Wolverines are thinking about taking a conference or non-conference game abroad but something says they can find a willing partner from the Pac-12 if so.

Famed NCAA waiver attorney is changing sides and reportedly joining NCAA enforcement

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If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em?

Seems like that is the case this week as Yahoo! Sports says that famed attorney Thomas Mars is switching sides from battling the NCAA for player eligibility waivers and will instead join the NCAA’s new “Complex Case Unit.”

Mars recently announced that he was getting out of the business of representing players in their battles with Indianapolis to become immediately eligible. While he cited overwhelming demand as one reason for getting out of that line of work, it seems wanting to pursue other opportunities was the more notable aspect of him leaving — in this case going to work for the very people he once sat across from (albeit in a different department now).

In addition to handling high-profile cases like Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Mars also popped onto the college football radar for his work handling Houston Nutt’s lawsuit against Ole Miss.

The Complex Case Unit, which is not an upcoming version of Law & Order: NCAA, is something born out of the commission looking into the federal college basketball scandal. Per Yahoo!, it “is expected to be comprised of a combination of external investigators and members of the NCAA enforcement staff that is tasked to handle the more complicated and large-scale investigations of potential NCAA rules violations.”

It seems Mars is one of those external investigators who will be part of the group in an interesting move from the NCAA.

Tua Tagovailoa, nine other Tide players headline preseason All-SEC first-team

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Alabama and Georgia are the overwhelming favorites in the SEC this year and it’s pretty clear why when looking through the media selections on the preseason All-SEC teams in 2019.

The Tide placed 10 (yes 10 of their 11 starters) players across the three All-SEC offense teams — including six on the first-team — and nine more players on the defensive side. To put that in perspective, the Bulldogs, the massive favorite to emerge out of the East — had 10 players total (not counting specialists) on the six ‘teams’ spread across both sides of the ball.

LSU had eight players make the cut and Auburn placed six plus both of their specialists. Maybe the most interesting selection was that of Joe Burrow as third-team quarterback over somebody like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.

First-Team Offense

QB       Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama          

RB        D’Andre Swift, Georgia            

RB        Najee Harris, Alabama

WR       Jerry Jeudy, Alabama   

WR       Henry Ruggs III, Alabama 

TE         Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri  

OL        Andrew Thomas, Georgia     

OL        Alex Leatherwood, Alabama     

OL        Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn                             

OL        Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama               

C          Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU

Second-Team Offense

QB        Jake Fromm, Georgia  

RB        Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt      

RB        Lamical Perine, Florida           

WR       Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt                         

WR       Jaylen Waddle, Alabama              

TE         Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt    

OL        Solomon Kindley, Georgia        

OL        Damien Lewis, LSU                           

OL        Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Missouri                          

OL         Isaiah Wilson, Georgia

C           Darryl Williams, Mississippi State

Third-Team Offense

QB        Joe Burrow, LSU 

RB        Larry Rountree, Missouri     

RB        JaTarvious Whitlow, Auburn     

WR       Justin Jefferson, LSU

WR       Bryan Edwards, South Carolina              

TE         Miller Forristall, Alabama

TE        Charlie Woerner, Georgia                              

OL        Deonte Brown, Alabama               

OL        Ben Cleveland, Georgia  

OL        Logan Stenberg, Kentucky      

OL        Matt Womack, Alabama             

C          Drake Jackson, Kentucky

First-Team Defense

DL        Raekwon Davis, Alabama      

DL        Derrick Brown, Auburn                            

DL        Rashard Lawrence, LSU                          

DL        Jabari Zuniga, Florida                             

LB         Dylan Moses, Alabama                       

LB        Anfernee Jennings, Alabama       

LB        Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State                             

DB       Grant Delpit, LSU                              

DB        J.R. Reed, Georgia                    

DB        Trevon Diggs, Alabama                    

DB        C.J. Henderson, Florida

Second-Team Defense

DL        Nick Coe, Auburn                                                  

DL        Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M                   

DL        Marlon Davidson, Auburn               

DL        Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina           

LB        Cale Garrett, Missouri              

LB         De’Jon Harris, Arkansas           

LB        David Reese II, Florida                   

DB        Patrick Surtain II, Alabama      

DB        Xavier McKinney, Alabama                             

DB        Kristian Fulton, LSU                               

DB        Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

Third-Team Defense

DL         LaBryan Ray, Alabama  

DL        McTelvin Agim, Arkansas                

DL        Chauncey Rivers, Mississippi State                              

DL        Tyler Clark, Georgia   

LB        Terrell Lewis, Alabama                               

LB         Jacob Phillips, LSU        

LB         Kash Daniel, Kentucky                              

DB       DeMarkus Acy, Missouri             

DB        Shyheim Carter, Alabama                      

DB        Richard LeCounte, Georgia                        

DB       Daniel Thomas, Auburn                            

First-Team Specialists

P           Braden Mann, Texas A&M  

PK        Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia                                             

RS        Jaylen Waddle, Alabama                                              

AP        Jaylen Waddle, Alabama     

Second-Team Specialists

P           Tommy Townsend, Florida                                        

PK        Anders Carlson, Auburn                                                 

RS        Marquez Callaway, Tennessee                        

AP        Kadarius Toney, Florida                      

Third-Team Specialists

P           Arryn Siposs, Auburn        

PK        Evan McPherson, Florida      

RS        Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M       

AP        Lynn Bowden, Kentucky