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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 19 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 19 bowl menu, which on “opening weekend” features five bowl games as the 2015 postseason officially kicks off.  Included in that quintet of contests is one bowl making its debut, another in just its second year as well as the holiest of Beehive State wars.

WHO: Arizona (6-6) vs. New Mexico (7-5)
WHAT: The 10th Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The uncertainty over the availability of Arizona starting quarterback Anu Solomon (concussion) has some sportsbooks, including the one we use for lines, Bovada.lv, taking the game off the board.  If Solomon is healthy, the Wildcats would likely be double-digit favorites; without him, one could make a very good case for the Lobos.  In fact, the Wildcats went 0-3 in games that Solomon either didn’t start or didn’t finish because of injury.  Even with Solomon on the field for most of the last five games, though, UA still lost four of those.  UNM, meanwhile, comes into its first bowl berth since 2007 on a high, finishing out the season with wins over bowl-bound Utah State (6-6), Boise State (8-4) and Mountain Division champion Air Force (8-5).  The combination of how both teams finished the season, the uncertainty over Solomon and ‘Zona likely feeling underwhelmed with its postseason lot has a very motivated Lobos squad primed for an upset.
THE LINE: Off the board
THE PREDICTION: New Mexico 33, Arizona 27

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WHO: BYU (9-3) vs. Utah (9-3)
WHAT: The 24th Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Whitney, Nevada
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
THE SKINNY: This promises to be one of the best “non-marquee” bowl games of the 2015-16 cycle because not only are both teams coming into it with nine wins but because of the whole “Holy War” aspect, and in Sin City no less.  The two football programs have been on a sabbatical the last two seasons in a rivalry that’s seen 89 previous matchups, but will resume in the regular season beginning next season and running through 2020.  The Utes have won four straight in the series and nine of the last 12 meetings dating back to 2002.  The Cougars’ situation is somewhat muddled as their long-time head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, has accepted the same job at Virginia but will coach his “former” team in the bowl game.  After beginning the season 6-0 and with playoff talk dancing in their heads, the Utes muddled through the remainder of the schedule at 3-3.  Here’s to guessing the Cougars, winners of seven of their last eight, add to their rival’s late-season misery and send their old coach with off with his first bowl win since 2012 — especially if words can be used as motivation.
THE LINE: BYU, +3
THE PREDICTION: BYU 27, Utah 23

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WHO: Ohio (8-4) vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
WHAT: The 2nd Raycom Media Camelia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: There were 21 teams that won 10 or more games during the 2015 regular/championship season; I’d bet you could make some pretty decent coin regarding Appalachian State’s inclusion in that select group.  And ASU’s two losses this year came against top-ranked Clemson in Death Valley and 2015 Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State.  Ohio University, not to be confused with Brady Hoke‘s derisive “Ohio” directed at Ohio State, had a near-perfect start to the season at 5-1, with the only loss coming by three at Minnesota… before they lost three in a row (two by a combined 66 points)… before they regrouped to win their last three by a combined 49 points.  The Bobcats are looking for their first bowl win since 2012, while the Mountaineers are playing in their first bowl game as an FBS program.  ASU is a touchdown favorite… and even that might be a little on the short side.
THE LINE: Ohio, +7½
THE PREDICTION: Appalachian State 45, Ohio 24

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WHO: San Jose State (5-7) vs. Georgia State (6-6)
WHAT: The 1st Cure Bowl
WHERE: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
THE SKINNY: If you like underdog stories, tune into this one.  Georgia State went 3-29 from the beginning of the 2013 (first FBS season) through the eighth game of the 2015 season.  The Panthers then ripped off four straight wins — by double digits in each, no less — to close out the year and reach a level 6-6 to become bowl-eligible.  GSU’s Nick Arbuckle, one of the most prolific quarterbacks you’ve probably never heard of, is currently sixth in the country in passing yards with 4,160.  Its head coach, Trent Miles (pictured), will very likely be one of the hot names on the 2016 spinning of the coaching carousel.  As for San Jose State?  I have zero desire to discuss a sub-.500 team that doesn’t deserve a bowl bid.  And this isn’t to pick on the Spartans; rather, this will be a running theme throughout these types of posts when it comes to 5-7 teams getting an unwarranted and undeserved invitation to the postseason. [/steps off soapbox]
THE LINE: Georgia State, +3
THE PREDICTION: Georgia State 31, San Jose State 21

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WHO: Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)
WHAT: The 15th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Arkansas State lost its first two games of the 2015 season (USC, Missouri) then won nine of its last 10 to become the first team in Sun Belt history to go unblemished in conference play.  Louisiana Tech features the potent one-two punch of former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel (14th nationally in passing yards with 3,575, 26th in pass efficiency) and touchdown machine Kenneth Dixon (83 career scores, tied for second all-time among FBS players).  One thing to keep in mind if you’re the wagering type when it comes to Driskel’s success through the air this season: the Red Wolves are currently 95th nationally against the pass, giving up an average of 251.9 yards per game; Driskel was held under that number just twice in 2015.  ASU did intercept 26 passes this season (No. 1 in the country), and Driskel tossed three in a season-ending loss to Southern Miss, so there is that if you’re on the Red Wolves side.
THE LINE: Arkansas State, +2
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana Tech 48, Arkansas State 45

Gary Patterson wants names of NCAA employees approving transfer waivers

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Unless I’m missing someone, the coaches that have spoken out about the glut of high-profile transfer waivers that have been approved lately are all against them. Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin said just one day ago that players are transferring because it’s “sexy” and now TCU’s Gary Patterson has cannonballed into the pool with some strong comments of his own.

“I want the names of all those people [at the NCAA] that are deciding to do that, so everybody knows their names when they ruin the game,” Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I don’t care if there’s lawyers involved. I don’t care if any of that’s involved. The bottom line to it is we need to do what’s best for the game.

Patterson’s point, and it’s not necessarily a wrong one, is that coaches who believe tough love is the best way to mold players — i.e. Gary Patterson — will then see all their players leave before that love can appropriately toughen them up.

“After they get away from here, as a general rule, they come back as they mature and understand, they figure out what we were trying to do and accomplish,” Patterson said. “If you can’t go through that process with a young man, and grow them up just like a parent does, then we’re cheating them to be honest with you. That’s my personal opinion about it.”

The good news for Patterson and his ilk: if free agency is truly here, it’s likely not here for long. The NCAA announced last month it will take another look at its loosened transfer protocol, and it’s unlikely you’d make such an announcement if you planned on loosening those restrictions even more.

North Carolina CB KJ Sails, Jr., embarks toward transfer portal

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North Carolina cornerback KJ Sails, Jr., is sailing away from Chapel Hill and voyaging toward a new destination.

The Tampa native on Friday announced he will enter his name onto the transfer portal for his final collegiate season. “Thank you to my Carolina family for giving me the opportunity to play the game that I love this is a great school and I will forever love the university,” he wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “My family and I have decided that it is best for me to seek other opportunities.”

After playing sparingly as a true freshman in 2016, Sails started 11 games for the Tar Heels in 2017, collecting 30 tackles while ranking ninth in the ACC with 13 pass break-ups.

He started three games in four appearances in 2018, but an injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.

Given that he played in only four games, Sails can use last season as a redshirt and play a second senior season elsewhere in 2019, provided he receives a waiver or graduates from North Carolina.

Michigan CB Benjamin St-Juste medically retires

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Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste was not listed on Michigan’s spring roster, and there’s a reason for that. St-Juste has medically retired from football, the program confirmed to the Detroit Free Press.

A 4-star recruit from Quebec, St-Juste appeared in 12 games as a redshirt freshman, primarily on special teams.

He suffered a hamstring injury ahead of the 2018 campaign and did not see any game action. With a similar prognosis ahead of him for 2019, St-Juste has decided to hang up his cleats for good.

LB Jaden Hunter was second Georgia player arrested in March

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A member of the Georgia football program was arrested Wednesday night. Linebacker Jaden Hunter was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license. He was also charged with stopping, standing, or parking in a prohibited area.

Hunter spent just two hours in jail after being released on bond late Wednesday night.

The charges are misdemeanors and his status with the Bulldogs has not been confirmed with regard to any possible suspensions or other forms of discipline by head coach Kirby Smart. Given the nature of the charges, it would seem this would be far from calling for removal from the program or any significant form of discipline unless there is more to the story behind the scenes.

Hunter did become the second Georgia football player to be arrested in the month of March. Earlier in the month, redshirt freshman Latavious Brini was arrested on one count of simple battery.