CFT Previews: Your Jan. 2 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Jan. 2 bowl menu, the final multi-game day of the 2014-2015 postseason.

WHO: Houston (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)
WHAT: The 12th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Tex.
WHEN: noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: You could very easily dub this one the Interim Coaches Armed Forces Bowl as both squads will be led by someone other than the one who did the leading during the regular season. Houston’s Tony Levine was replaced by Tom Herman, the Ohio State offensive coordinator who stayed with the Buckeyes for their playoff run, while Pittsburgh’s Paul Chryst returned home to Wisconsin.  Regardless of what you dub it, it marks the third meeting between the football programs and the first since 1997.  Pitt is a team of streaks, having won its first three games of the season and its last two, while a stretch in the middle portion of the schedule featured a pair of three-game losing streaks wrapped around a win over Virginia Tech.  Both teams are middling scoring offenses, but UH is 12th in the country in points per game at 19.5.  The Panthers, meanwhile, eclipsed that total in 11 of 12 games.  Pitt will also look to prop up its conference’s subpar postseason record this go around, with the ACC currently struggling along at 4-6.  That’s fourth among the Power Five conferences, ahead of only the Big 12’s 1-4 mark.  Perhaps the most interesting matchup will be Houston’s run defense vs. James Conner as the latter is fifth in the country in rushing yards per game at 139.6 while the former is 29th at 136.3 ypg.  UH has only given up 14 rushing touchdowns, while Conner’s 24 are tied for third nationally.
THE LINE: Houston, +3
THE PREDICTION: Houston 26, Pittsburgh 17

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WHO: Iowa (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
WHAT: The 70th TaxSlayer Bowl
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
WHEN: 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY:  The last of four Big Ten-SEC bowl matchups (the Big Ten currently leads 2-1) is the third matchup between the two football programs.  The only other postseason game between the two was the 1982 Peach Bowl, a 28-22 Hawkeye win.  After struggling through the first two-thirds of the season at 3-5, Butch Jones righted the listing ship to push the Vols to their first bowl game since after the 2010 season.  The bad news for the Vols is that they struggle sometimes to score as they average 23.4 points per game — that number drops to 16.6 ppg if you take out the 95 combined points in wins over South Carolina and Kentucky — while the Hawkeyes give up 24 points per game, 35th in the country.  The player I’ll be watching the closest?  UT quarterback Josh Dobbs, who is a star in the making.  The sophomore had a game for the ages against the Gamecocks, and the Vols went 3-1 in games he started.  While the Vols struggled to score for most of the 2014 season, they didn’t when Dobbs was under center.  That could very well be the difference in the contest.
THE LINE: Iowa, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Tennessee 31, Iowa 28

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WHO: Kansas State (9-3) vs. UCLA (9-3)
WHAT: The 22nd Valero Alamo Bowl
WHERE: Alamodome, San Antonio, Tex.
WHEN: 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: As mentioned earlier, the Big 12 is struggling mightily this postseason, and it could really use a quality win to salvage something from what’s been a lost bowl season.  And, fortunately for that conference, K-State is just the team that can do that; whether they do it is another matter entirely.  The Wildcats have one of the best offenses and defenses in not only the league but in the country, entering the third-ever meeting between the teams (last: 2010) 24th nationally in scoring offense (35.8 ppg) and 25th in scoring defense (21.8 ppg).  The fact that K-State can put points up on the board doesn’t bode well for a UCLA defense that is currently 75th nationally and ninth in the Pac-12 by giving up 27.5 ppg.  Eight times this season, the Bruins gave up 30 or more points; in all three of their losses, they gave up 30-plus points.  K-State has struggled in the postseason of late, though, going just 1-5 in its last six bowl games.  They did, however, claim the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, so they have that going for them.  Which is nice.
THE LINE: Kansas State, +1½
THE PREDICTION: Kansas State 44, UCLA 31

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WHO: Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
WHAT: The 26th TicketCity Cactus Bowl
WHERE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
WHEN: 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: In a weird oddity, this is the fourth of the four games today that marks the third-ever meeting between the two teams.  If you had to pick a squad with momentum heading into this game, it would have to be Washington as Oklahoma State lost five of its last six games to close out a disappointing campaign.  All five of those losses, incidentally, came by at least 21 points.  The Huskies haven’t exactly been world-beaters of late, though, as, prior to winning its last two games, dropped five of seven.  There likely isn’t a more uneven mismatch, at least on paper, in this 2014-15 postseason than Oklahoma State’s offensive line vs. Washington’s front seven.  OSU has given up 37 sacks this season, tied for 17th-worst in the country; UW’s defense is second in the country in sacks with 49.  If the Cowboys can’t protect their quarterback, it could very well be a long day as they likely won’t even have a running game on which to fall back — OSU is an abysmal 102nd (135.3 yards per game) out of the 128 teams at the FBS level.  Even worse?  The Huskies are 21st in run defense at 121.9 ypg.  Yes, there’s a reason why OSU is nearly a touchdown underdog as this is just not a good matchup for the Big 12 squad.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State, +6
THE PREDICTION: Washington 27, Oklahoma State 13

Games against Arkansas State, SJSU and WKU complete Ohio State’s schedule through 2023

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Ryan Day knows what he’s up against for the next few years.

Ohio State confirmed three additions to their future schedules on Thursday, filling up all their non-conference slots through the 2023 slate in the process. Combined with an already announced Big Ten rotation, the Buckeyes now know who they’re playing and when for the next five years.

The first addition comes in the form of Arkansas State, who will visit Ohio Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022. This will be the first ever meeting between the two programs and follows a mega matchup between the Buckeyes and Notre Dame the week prior. MAC power Toledo is also on the docket for OSU in the non-conference slate for 2022 while the Red Wolves are still looking for one more opponent to go with a trip to Memphis and a home game against UMass that same season.

Per AStateNation, the Sun Belt power is getting a pretty penny to head to the Horseshoe that year too:

Also confirmed were two non-conference games for Ohio State in 2023, with both San Jose State and Western Kentucky making the trip to Columbus. The Spartans will head across the country for a game on Sept. 9, 2023 while the Hilltoppers will make their first ever appearance against the Buckeyes on Sept. 16.

CFT Previews: Six-pack of Heisman darkhorses

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The early frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But history suggests the preseason favorite or favorites for the Heisman Trophy have a rough time getting to the end of the season as the frontrunner. Every season sees new Heisman contenders come and go and the favorites going in may run into a rough patch that does significant harm just because they were the favorite at the start of the season.

The preseason oddsmakers have labeled Lawrence and Tagovailoa as clear favorites for the Heisman Trophy this season, which leaves the pool full of possible darkhorse candidates. Here are six players who may already be flying on the radar or have a shot to skyrocket up the charts with some big performances this season.

ADRIAN MARTINEZ, NEBRASKA
Quarterback

Expectations are high for Nebraska this season as Scott Frost begins his second season on the job. One reason for the optimism this season, aside from the schedule and a wide-open division race, is quarterback Adrian Martinez. As a freshman, Martinez passed for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns. His dual-threat ability should electrify the Nebraska offense this season and could be why the Huskers potentially play for the Big Ten title at the end of the year. A good spotlight performance against Ohio State in Lincoln would fuel the Heisman buzz if things go well for Martinez.

SAM EHLINGER, TEXAS
Quarterback

A year removed from throwing for 3,296 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading Texas to a regular-season victory over Oklahoma and a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, Sam Ehlinger should certainly be on the radar for the Heisman Trophy. Similar production this year with the Longhorns already starting the year in a good spot on the playoff radar should keep Ehlinger in the mix. Improving the touchdown total and leading the Longhorns back to the Big 12 championship game could very well result in a trip to New York at the end of the year for the Texas gunslinger.

SHEA PATTERSON, MICHIGAN
Quarterback

If the Michigan offense truly does improve by opening up the playbook and picking up the pace, as has been the big difference expected this offseason with a new offensive coordinator in charge in Ann Arbor, then Shea Patterson could have a shot. Patterson passed for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions last fall, his first with the Wolverines since transferring from Ole Miss, but those numbers likely won’t cut it. So if the Michigan offense does focus their gameplan more to Patterson’s skill set and comfort level, and if the Wolverines score some big wins along the way to a possible Big Ten title shot (which would include beating Ohio State in conference play and likely a non-conference victory over Notre Dame in October), then Patterson may have some possible marquee moments lined up.

AJ DILLON, BOSTON COLLEGE
Running Back

Quarterbacks may rule the Heisman Trophy conversation these days, but a running back can sneak up every now and then. As a true darkhorse candidate, last year’s leading rusher in yards per game may have the steepest uphill climb. AJ Dillon rushed for 110.8 yards per game last season in 10 games. And his touchdown total of 10 would certainly need to go up this year too. He should get plenty of chances to run the ball at Boston College, so the numbers could pile up.

JUSTIN HERBERT, OREGON
Quarterback

Perhaps the Pac-12’s top Heisman Trophy candidate is one the NFL scouts are already watching closely. Justin Herbert opted to return to Oregon for one more season rather than turn pro, and now he could have a chance to lead the Ducks back to the Pac-12 this fall. If he does, then he will likely remain in the Heisman discussion all season long. Herbert passed for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Improving the pass completion percentage would help, but scoring big wins against Auburn to open the season and later against Washington may be the key to a trip to New York.

JK DOBBINS, OHIO STATE
Running Back

Sure, Ohio State may have one of the more talented transfer quarterbacks looking to keep the offense humming this season (Justin Fields), but the Buckeyes may be wise to rely more on running back JK Dobbins this season. Dobbins saw his rushing total take a dip last season after a brilliant freshman season in 2017 (1,403 rushing yards down to 1,053 yards despite nearly 40 more rushing attempts), but he is still one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and it shows. If Dobbins is used more early on this season as the new quarterback gets situated in the offense, Dobbins should rack up some big numbers to get started. Spotlight games at Nebraska, home against Penn State and at Michigan spread out this season and down the stretch give Dobbins a chance to make some loud noises in the Heisman race.

We might as well talk about Jalen Hurts…

Oklahoma has been the home to the last two quarterbacks, with Baker Mayfield winning the award in 2017 and Kyler Murray taking the trophy back to Norman last season. Head coach Lincoln Riley could not have stepped into a better quarterback situation than he did when he took over for Bob Stoops in 2017. Now, with Murray off to the NFL, the Sooners bring in former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. While Hurts may not be exactly the same kind of quarterback Mayfield or Murray were the past two years, the Sooners are gaining an experienced starter who has led his previous team to the national championship game in back-to-back seasons. There is a lot to like about this combination, even if Riley has a few things to work on with Hurts to get the offense where he wants it.

The odds a school claims three straight Heisman Trophy winners are likely against Oklahoma this season. No school has ever had three straight Heisman Trophy winners (Yale and Army have each had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners; USC had back-to-back winners but one (Reggie Bush) has since been officially vacated; Ohio State has back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners courtesy of the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin). Could history be made? Sure. Why not? But the streak probably comes to an end in Norman this year, even if the season goes well for Hurts and the Sooners.

For now, Pac-12 tables talk of 9 a.m. PT kickoffs

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For the time being, there will be no Pac-12 Just After Breakfast.

The conference confirmed last month that preliminary discussions about having an undetermined number of league games kicking off at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET were underway, and could possibly be implemented as early as the 2019 season.  Some head coaches in the conference were for the idea; at least one who has experienced early kickoffs in another conference isn’t exactly a fan of the idea.

According to the esteemed Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, Chris Petersen and others can rest easy for now as the talk of league games in that noon ET time slot has been tabled.

The conference has opted against scheduling games this season at 9 a.m. PT/10 a.m. MT as a means of gaining exposure on the new FOX broadcast window.

Andrew Walker, head of communications for the Pac-12, said several schools are interested in playing early, but the conference couldn’t find “good options” over the coming three months.

The plan, Walker added, is to monitor whichever Big 12 and Big Ten games are slotted into the 9 a.m. window, then re-assess for next season.

How this early-morning scheduling tack tracks will be fascinating to watch play out in the coming months, especially as it pertains to fans on the West Coast embracing the idea of showing up on a Saturday morning at a stadium an hour or two before a football game that starts at nine in the morning their time (or 10 Mountain Time).

Georgia Tech confirms addition of Notre Dame transfer Derrik Allen

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Finally, there’s some positive personnel news for the Georgia Tech football program.

Following rumors of his future at Notre Dame, Derrik Allen confirmed nearly two weeks ago that he would be leaving the Fighting Irish and transferring to the Yellow Jackets.  In a press release Thursday morning, Tech confirmed that the defensive back has enrolled in classes and has been added to the team’s roster.

Not surprisingly, the school also confirmed that Allen will have to sit out the 2019 season because of NCAA transfer regulations.  Beginning with 2020, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility to use.

“We’re excited to welcome Derrik home to Atlanta and into our organization,” head coach Geoff Collins said in a statement. “He’s a great addition to our football program, both on and off the field, and our campus community.”

A four-star member of Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class, Allen was rated as the No. 9 safety in the country and the No. 14 player at any position in the state of Georgia.  He didn’t see the field as a true freshman and took a redshirt.