CFT Previews: Your Dec. 29 Bowl Viewer’s Guide


Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 29 bowl menu, which features three games in which all six participants hail from Power Five conferences.

WHO: Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
WHAT: The 56th AutoZone Liberty Bowl
WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: With starting quarterback Clint Trickett being forced to retire do to multiple concussions, most would think it’s be advantage Texas A&M.  However, Trickett’s replacement, Skyler Howard, has performed well in taking over for the starter, throwing for nearly 500 yards, five touchdowns and, most impressively, zero interceptions the last two games.  A&M will be looking to extend its bowl winning streak to four straight (last loss: 2010) while WVU will be trying to win its first postseason game since 2011.  Neither team played particularly well down the stretch, with the Aggies going 2-5 in its last seven games while the Mountaineers closed out the regular season on a 1-3 run.  The two teams ended up having one common opponent in Alabama, with both losing to the Tide.  The respective scores, though, showed a showed a significant difference in margin of defeat as WVU fell by 10, 33-23, in Week 1 while A&M was rolled by the Tide in Week 8 to the tune of 59-0.
THE LINE: Texas A&M +3½
THE PREDICTION: West Virginia 31, Texas A&M 30


WHO: Oklahoma (8-4) vs. No. 17 Clemson (9-3)
WHAT: The 25th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHERE: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.


WHO: Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)
WHAT: The 9th AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston, Tex.
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: These are two teams entering this particular bowl game on very similar trajectories.  Texas won four of its last six games to become bowl-eligible, while Arkansas won three of its last five.  UA’s spurt, though, was far more impressive as two of the wins came over ranked teams (LSU, Ole Miss) by a combined score of 47-0, while its two losses were to ranked teams (Mississippi State, Missouri) by a total of 14 points.  This game is one for the traditionalists in the crowd as it marks the renewal of an old SWC rivalry that’s been played 75 times, the first in 1906 and the last in 2008.  The two teams have previously met one time in the postseason, a 27-6 Razorbacks win in the Cotton Bowl played after the 1999 season. One thing that doesn’t bode well for the Longhorns avenging that loss?  UT is 63rd in run defense (162.1 yards per game) while UA is 28th in rush offense (220.3 ypg).  Perhaps an even bigger question for the ‘Horns is which Tyrone Swoopes shows up, the one that tossed four interceptions in a regular season-ending loss to TCU or the one who completed nearly 73 percent of his passes for 305 yards in a win over Oklahoma State the week before.  Incidentally, this is the Razorbacks’ third game in the state of Texas this season, and they are currently 1-1: a 49-28 win over Texas Tech in Week 3, a Week 5 35-28 overtime loss to Texas A&M.
THE LINE: Texas +6½
THE PREDICTION: Arkansas 24, Texas 17

As of now, Jim Harbaugh plans to play Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game

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Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.

Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.

“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”

Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’KornBrandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.

Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.

Big Ten could realign divisions yet again, according to PJ Fleck

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Whether he knew it or not, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck broke news that will set certain circles of the college football blogosphere (including this one) by touching on the topic that is consistently gobbled up like Thanksgiving turkey: realignment.

“Change is inevitable,” Fleck told The Athletic. “I think we all know that. I think that the East and West have been around for a while. I like it, I like the division of it. But I don’t think it will stay the same. I think we’ll change it at some point because change is coming somehow, some way. And I think people are going to want to move it around, and shake it up a little bit.”

Fleck said the topic came up during the Big Ten’s spring meetings in Arizona; the conference did not comment on the topic.

The Big Ten split into divisions upon Nebraska’s 2011 arrival, memorably going with the idiotic Legends and Leaders alignment that was designed to protect rivalries and preserve competitive balance. That alignment lasted three years, until Maryland and Rutgers joined the party in 2014 and the conference rejiggered its alignment into a more sensible East and West split.

While a geographic divide does preserve rivalries and makes both logistical and logical sense, it has come at the price of competitive balance. The East champion has gone a perfect 5-for-5 in Big Ten title games under the current arrangement.

However, the East is a mere five games ahead of the West in regular season matchups, an average of one extra victory per season.

If — and at this point’s a very big if — the Big Ten does realign again, the conference could return to a Legends and Leaders format (hopefully with different names) or it could scrap divisions altogether, giving each school two or three protected rivals while putting the rest of the league in a regular rotation. The positive aspect of this alignment is it guarantees the top two teams would meet in Indianapolis, but the drawback is it could trigger an instant Michigan-Ohio State rematch.

It’s too early to report when and if a second realignment would happen, but as Fleck reminded us this week it is never too early to speculate.

Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos, RB Journey Brown suspended through rest of July

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The season does not begin today, but if it did Penn State would be without one of its best players.

Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin confirmed to the press at Big Ten media days that defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and running back Journey Brown are presently suspended for a “violation of team rules” dating back to spring practice. The suspension is slated to end Aug. 1.

Gross-Matos, a junior, led Penn State in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (20) while registering 54 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the season. He enters the year a candidate for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I talk to him all the time,” Franklin told Lions247 of Gross-Matos, despite the suspension. “[He is] doing great.”

Brown, also a junior, posted eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown in 2018.

Ex A&M, Arizona LB can’t walk on at Colorado because of domestic violence arrest

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Santino Marchiol‘s college football career was brief and scandalous, and now it appears it’s over.

Marchiol first joined the news cycle at Texas A&M, where he attempted to cast himself as a whistleblower against NCAA violations committed by Jimbo Fisher‘s staff. When that stick of dynamite turned into a dud, Marchiol transferred to Arizona to reunite with the coach who signed him out of IMG Academy, but he was gone from Tucson as quickly as he arrived after video surfaced showing Marchiol using a racial slur against his black teammates at Texas A&M.

Marchiol returned to his native Colorado in attempt to walk on at CU, but that comeback attempt has once again died before it could live as it turns out Marchiol was arrested for domestic violence on June 24. From the Denver Post:

According to Pueblo police records, Marchiol was arrested at about 3:30 p.m. on June 24 and booked on suspicion of second-degree assault bodily injury, a felony. Marchiol faces two misdemeanor assault charges, court records indicated, as well as a violation for contempt of a court protection order. He was released on bail June 25.

“Santino was never enrolled as a CU Boulder student,” Colorado said in a statement. “He was invited to be a walk-on for the football team this fall. Coach Tucker has since rescinded that invitation.”

Marchiol would’ve had to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA rules, but now it seems as if he may sit out the remainder of time as it’s unlikely any other college football staffs will take on a player who attempted to narc to the NCAA on violations that, frankly, aren’t a big deal to begin with, then was caught using a racial slur against black teammates and then was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence.