CFT Previews: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

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WHO: Notre Dame (7-5) vs. No. 23 LSU (8-4)
WHAT: The 16th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHERE: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
WHEN: 3:00 p.m. ET Dec. 30 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the No. 23 LSU Tigers limp their way into the 2014 edition of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The Fighting Irish lost its last four contests and five of its last six. LSU, meanwhile, lost two of its last three games.

The obvious starting point for both teams is which quarterbacks will take the field.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly revealed Friday that redshirt freshman Malik Zaire will get his first career start for the Fighting Irish, while senior Everett Golson will rotate into the lineup throughout the flow of the game.

”I want to put Malik in a position and really challenge him and put him in this kind of environment,” Kelly told the Associated Press.

In limited action, Zaire didn’t fare as well as Notre Dame hoped. The young signal-caller was 9-of-20 passing for 170 yards in six previous appearances. He’ll now face one of the nation’s most tenacious defenses.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis — in what may be his final game with the program — is a master of dialing up pressure on opposing quarterbacks. LSU’s athletic front will certainly be breathing down Zaire’s neck the entire afternoon.

LSU head coach Les Miles, on the other hand, will again trot sophomore Anthony Jennings out as his starting quarterback. Despite completing less than 50 percent (48.8) of his passes and freshman Brandon Harris playing in eight games this season, Jennings received the majority of first-team repetitions during bowl practices.

“I don’t think I’m in a competition at all,” Jennings told NOLA.com. “I get all the one reps. I come in every day and continue to get better. I run with ones, and those guys know that. That’s not really what everybody thinks it is.”

With Jennings behind center, LSU will attempt to set the tone by running the football, which the Tigers have done successfully throughout the season.

“You won’t see much new in this game at all,” Miles told ESPN.com. “What we’re doing is we’ve got young players and we’re trying to grow them up and have them do the things they’ve done in the past here and see if they can do them better, execute well on game day.”

The three-headed backfield of Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hillard combined for 1,867 rushing yards. Against Notre Dame’s 61st-ranked run defense, there shouldn’t be a reason for Jennings to throw the ball all that often.

LSU will likely prove to be a little too big and a little too physical in the trenches for Notre Dame to overcome.

THE PREDICTION: LSU 17, Notre Dame 14

Central Michigan loses one of its highest-rated 2018 signees to the transfer portal

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One of the highest-rated signees for Central Michigan football a couple of years ago is leaving the MAC program.  Or, at least, he is exploring the option of doing as much.

According to 247Sports.com, George Pearson is listed in the NCAA transfer database.  That would be the first step in the redshirt sophomore quarterback’s potential departure from the Central Michigan football team.

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.

Pearson was a three-star member of the Central Michigan football Class of 2018.  Only one offensive signee in that cycle for CMU, wide receiver Keonta Nixon, was rated higher than the New Jersey product.  As a true freshman, Pearson completed 12 of his 24 passes for 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Pearson didn’t play a down for the Chips in 2019.

In 2018, Central Michigan lost a school-record 11 games.  In Jim McElwain‘s first season in 2019, CMU won went 8-6.  Included in the losses was a New Mexico Bowl beatdown at the hands of San Diego State.

Ole Miss pulls in second transfer from a university in Canada

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From Oh Canada to Ole Miss football?  I’m thinking one recruit might be in for a little culture shock.  Actually, make that two.

Last month, a Canadian college football player, the University of Guelph’s Tavius Robinson, committed to Ole Miss football.  On Twitter Wednesday, Deane Leonard did the same. The cornerback comes to the SEC school from the University of Calgary.

“First off I’d like to thank my friends, family, and coaches that have supported me through this process,” Leonard wrote. “I can’t thank each and every one of you enough for all that you’ve done for me over the years. Love you guys!

“With the cancellation of the USports season I’ve decided it’s in my best interest to look at my options down south.

“With that being said, I’ll be transferring to Ole Miss to complete my collegiate career.”

During his time at That Country Up North, Leonard appeared in 23 games.  In that action, the defensive back was credited with 47 tackles, 19 passes defensed, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, one tackle for loss, one sack and one block.  He also returned five kicks for 124 yards (24.8 average) and 19 punts for 195 yards (10.3 avg.).  One of those punts was returned for a touchdown.

Both Leonard and Robinson are expected to be immediately eligible for new head coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels.

SEC commish issues statement in wake of Big Ten’s seismic announcement

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It didn’t take long for the most powerful man in SEC football country to respond to what the B1G wrought.

As you may have heard, the Big Ten confirmed Thursday afternoon that it will be going with a conference-only football schedule for the 2020 season.  That was the first significant Power Five domino to tip, but it certainly won’t be the last.  In the coming days, or perhaps next week, the ACC and Pac-12 are expected to make a similar announcement.  The Big 12 and SEC, though, are widely expected to kick that football scheduling can down the road a bit longer, perhaps as late as the end of July.

Not long after the B1G announcement, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement addressing just where his conference is at decison-wise.

The Southeastern Conference will continue to meet regularly with our campus leaders in the coming weeks, guided by medical advisors, to make the important decisions necessary to determine the best path forward related to SE Fall sports.  We recognize the challenges ahead and know the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans must remain at the forefront of those decisions.

Again, it’s expected that the SEC will make a decision on the football path it will take later this month.  Barring unforeseen circumstances pushing up that timeline, of course.

Big Ten commish, Ohio State AD decidedly pessimistic on B1G having a 2020 college football season

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The Big Ten toppled the first significant domino earlier in the day.  Now, two of the most powerful men in the conference are expounding on the development.  And, if you’re a fan of the sport, you might want to close your eyes when reading the next few paragraphs.  Or take several shots of an adult beverage before proceeding.

Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten confirmed reports that it will be going with a conference-only football schedule for the 2020 season.  All other fall sports are impacted in the same way.

In television appearances following the announcement, the B1G’s commissioner didn’t put a positive spin on football’s immediate future.

“One thing we have to realize is that this is not a fait accompli that we’re going to have sports in the fall,” Kevin Warren flatly stated. “We may not have sports in the fall, we may not have a college football season in the Big Ten. …

“We made a vow early on that, first and foremost, we would put the health, the safety and the wellness of our student-athletes at the center of all of our decisions.

Gene Smith was equally pessimistic.

“I can’t reiterate enough the fact that we might not play,” the Ohio State athletic director said in discussing football in 2020. “We just might not, and I think people need to understand that.”

It’s expected that other Power Five conferences will follow the lead of the Big Ten.  In the coming days, both the ACC and Pac-12 will most likely announce a conference-only football schedule.  The lone exception will be the ACC including Notre Dame, which already has six games against the conference on its 2020 slate, in any revamped schedule.

The Big 12 and SEC are widely expected to kick the scheduling can down the road a bit longer, perhaps as late as the end of July.  In the end, however, both of those Power Fives are likely to come to the same scheduling conclusion.