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.

Pandemic-related restrictions force Western Michigan to schedule a new season-opening opponent

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The coronavirus pandemic has already impacted the 2020 season for Western Michigan football.

Western Michigan was scheduled to open the upcoming football season against Colgate on Sept. 4.  However, the Patriot League, Colgate’s conference, mandated late last month that all of its member schools not be permitted to travel by air or stay overnight in another locale.  As the distance between Hamilton, NY, to Kalamazoo, Mich., is nine-plus hours, that opener was certainly in jeopardy.

This week, Western Michigan confirmed that it will now open the 2020 college football season against Stony Brook.  The game will still be played Sept. 4 at Waldo Stadium, the football home of the Broncos.

“We are looking forward to opening the 2020 season with Stony Brook,” WMU head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “We know coronavirus has changed, and will keep changing, how we operate this season. We will continue to operate with an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff members, fans and WMU community.”

It should be noted that Syracuse is also supposed to open its home schedule Sept. 19 against Colgate.  It’s unclear if that game will be played, although distance certainly isn’t as much of an issue as it was for Western Michigan.

WMU is coming off a second consecutive 7-6 season under Lester, who will be entering his fourth season with the Broncos.  That 2019 campaign also included narrowly missing out on a berth in the MAC championship game.

Injuries force Oklahoma State starting LT Dylan Galloway to retire

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The Oklahoma State football depth chart has seen its offensive line take a significant hit.  But, hey at least it’s not some of the other headlines the school has seen of late.

In a text message to SI.com this week, Dylan Galloway revealed that he has decided to retire from the sport due to injuries. The offensive lineman has dealt with multiple shoulder injuries the past couple of seasons as well as a right leg injury last season.

Galloway will be leaving the Oklahoma State football team and Stillwater as a graduate.

“I’m done with football,” Galloway told the website. “I was getting hurt so much and I felt like all of my injuries were piling up to where they were effecting me too much on and off the field.”

Galloway was a three-star member of the Oklahoma State football Class of 2016.  As a redshirt, the Dallas native took a redshirt.

All told, Galloway played in 31 games during his time with the Cowboys.  He started five games at left tackle in 2018 and another nine this past season.  The 6-5, 297-pound lineman missed three games in 2019 because of the injury to his right leg.

As noted by SI.com, “[t]he Preseason Athlon’s College Football Preview has Galloway listed as second-team All-Big 12.”

Toledo reportedly hires ex-Michigan State assistant Mark Staten

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Toledo is the new home for a former Michigan State football assistant.  Reportedly.

When Mel Tucker took over for Mark Dantonio earlier this month, the former Colorado head coach retained just two of his predecessor’s assistants, Mike Tressel and Ron Burton.  Two other former Dantonio assistants, Terrence Samuel and Paul Haynes, took jobs at UNLV and Minnesota, respectively.

This week, it’s being reported that a third former Dantonio assistant has landed on his coaching feet as Mark Staten is now a member of the Toledo football staff.  Staten is expected to coach tight ends and offensive tackles for the Rockets.

Interestingly, Michigan State is set to host Toledo on Sept. 19 of the college football season.

If the hiring comes to fruition, it will mark the first time since 2003 that Staten is not part of a Dantonio-led coaching staff.  From 2004-06, Staten was at Cincinnati.  He spent the past 13 seasons at MSU.  From 2007-10, Staten coached tight ends and offensive tackles for the Spartans.  Staten moved to offensive line coach in 2011, a position he held until 2018.  Amidst a reshuffling of Dantonio’s offensive staff, Staten became tight ends coach for the 2019 season.

Prior to Michigan State and Cincinnati, Staten had served as a graduate assistant at Ohio State (2002-03) and Miami of Ohio (2001).

Kansas is the latest to hit the coronavirus-related pause button on workouts as a dozen Jayhawks test positive for COVID-19

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Go ahead and add Kansas to the growing list of football programs hitting the workout pause button.

The Big 12 announced back in May that student-athletes could begin returning to campus June 15 for voluntary workouts.  Kansas was one of those football programs in the conference to take advantage of the edict.  Nearly three weeks later, however, KU has announced that it’s suspending those workouts.  The reason?  A dozen Jayhawk football players tested positive for COVID-19.  Less than a week ago, just three were positives.

“Due to the positives within our own program and the increased cases in our region including our student-athletes’ home communities, we believe all football student-athletes and staff should self-quarantine for 14-days,” the school stated in a release.  After the 14 days, all players and staff will be tested again.

Below are statements from the Kansas athletic director and its head football coach.

Jeff Long
After the increase in positive COVID-19 tests within our football program, our medical team at Kansas Team Health has recommended discontinuing voluntary workouts immediately. Our priority remains to keep our student-athletes safe and healthy, especially during this pandemic, and will follow the recommendations of our medical professionals.

“We will only resume our preparations after the 14-day quarantine is complete and our student-athletes and staff have been tested for the virus prior to participating in football activities. In the meantime, we continue to educate our student-athletes, as well as coaches and staff, on the importance of following the policies and procedures and recommendations from our Kansas Team Health physicians and the CDC.

Les Miles
When we welcomed our young men back to campus a couple of weeks ago for voluntary workouts, even with the policies and procedures in place to try and protect them from becoming infected with the virus, events outside of our control has made the decision to pause these workouts necessary. Our trainers and doctors will remain in daily contact with each of the student-athletes that tested positive to support them and what we hope will involve only minor symptoms if any. We will follow medical recommendations on returning to activities.

Kansas football is the latest but certainly not the first impacted by the pandemic.  Or the last, more than likely

Early this past week, Arizona announced that it was pausing its phased return of student-athletes to campus.  Prior to that, eight individuals connected to the Boise State football program tested positive, forcing the school to temporarily scuttle workouts.  June 20, K-State announced that it is pausing all voluntary workouts as well.  The reason?  “[A] total of 14 student-athletes have tested positive for active COVID-19 following PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing of more than 130 student-athletes.” The weekend before that, Houston decided to put a halt to voluntary on-campus workouts after six symptomatic UH student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.

Other programs have seen a high number of players test positive but continue workouts.  Among those are Clemson (37 players tested positive), LSU (30 players quarantined), Texas (13 confirmed positives for football players) and Texas Tech (23 positives for players/staffers).