CFT Previews: The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

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WHO: No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 8 Michigan State
WHAT: The 79th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
WHEN: 12:3o p.m. ET on Jan. 1 (ESPN)
WHERE: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
THE SKINNY: He’s officially the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh by now but Pat Narduzzi will serve one last game as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator, joking that he wouldn’t have accepted the job had he not received permission to coach this game. It’s “unfinished business,” as he called it.

Unfortunately for Narduzzi, there’s a high chance it may not go very well for him. Yes, the Spartans rank sixth nationally in total defense, 21st in yards per play allowed and 14th in scoring defense, but have you checked their schedule? Michigan State dominated the decent, mediocre and bad offenses it faced this season, and got boat-raced by the really good ones. We’re talking 46 points, nearly 500 yards and 7.22 yards per play against Oregon and 49 points, 568 total yard and 8.48 yards per play in a loss to Ohio State. Baylor has much more in common with the Ducks and Buckeyes than, say, Maryland. The Bears lead FBS in scoring and total offense for the second year in a row – though they do rank one spot behind Michigan State in yards per play.

As strange as it sounds, if Michigan State wins this game it may be because they out-scored Baylor. The Bears ranked a solid 39th in scoring defense and 33rd in yards per play allowed, but Connor CookJeremy Langford and Tony Lippett should have their opportunities.

Since we’ve thrown out why Michigan State won’t win, here’s some shade on why Baylor won’t win to even things out: how sure are we that Baylor is any good? Sure, the Bears could probably beat the Houston Texans if they got to play them in Waco, but what has this program done outside of the city limits in the past two years? The Oklahoma win was impressive, sure. But outside of that, there’s the loss to West Virginia this season, the blowout loss at Oklahoma State last year, and then the Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida last New Year’s Day. AT&T Stadium may feel an awful lot like home by kickoff, but it’s not McLane Stadium.

In the end, this game boils down to how much Baylor’s other receivers show up. Kurtis Drummond figures to go mano-y-mano on K.D. Cannon, so what kind of damage can Bryce Petty inflict with Antwan GoodleyJay LeeCorey Coleman and company?

THE PICK: Baylor 45, Michigan State 37

LSU opens as double-digit favorites on Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.

Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released.  LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.  No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship.  Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1.  Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.

Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners.  Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.

The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.

LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004.  Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.

Arkansas confirms hiring of Georgia OL coach Sam Pittman as head coach

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When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.

Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman.  A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.

“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.

“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”

The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.  He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.

The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.

Mizzou zeroing in on Eli Drinkwitz as next head coach

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Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.

Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”

An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.

The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football.  App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.

Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.

Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock reportedly suffered ACL tear in SEC title game loss

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A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.

As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.

Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.