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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 24 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which features a pair of games on islands and teams from four different conferences: AAC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West.

WHO: Middle Tennessee State (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
WHAT: The 2nd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: A 3-5 start to the 2015 season put Middle Tennessee State’s bowl eligibility in jeopardy, but Rick Stockstill‘s crew righted the ship and finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak.  Western Michigan was in control of its MAC West fate at 5-0 before back-to-back losses to Bowling Green and eventual division champion Northern Illinois essentially ended their conference title game hopes, although they did knock off Toledo in the finale to rip the West from the Rockets and hand it to the Huskies.  History is not on WMU’s side, however, as the Broncos have played in six bowl games previously… and lost all six.  What WMU does have on its side is a pair of receivers, Daniel Braverman (103-1,266-12) and Corey Davis (82-1,253-11), who combined for 185 receptions for 2,519 yards and 23 touchdowns. MTSU can move the ball through the air as well as Brent Stockstill has passed for 3,678 yards.  Offense should rule the day overall as both are prolific on that side of the ball — WMU’s 22nd nationally in total offense, MTSU 30th — while the Blue Raiders are in the middle of the pack defensively (51st in scoring defense).  The Broncos, meanwhile, are 78th in scoring.  With a win, WMU would win eight or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history; an MTSU win, meanwhile, would give that program exactly eight wins in three of the last four seasons.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee State, +4½
THE PREDICTION: Western Michigan 37, Middle Tennessee State 34

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WHO: San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)
WHAT: The 14th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Very quietly, Mountain West champion San Diego State is one of the hottest teams in the country, with their nine-game winning streak tied with Alabama for the second-longest streak nationally behind Clemson’s 16 in a row.  In fact, one more win for the Aztecs would tie the single-season school record of 11 set back in 1969 under Don Coryell.  The 10 wins are already SDSU’s first double-digit win season since 1977 and just the fifth since becoming an FBS program.  Cincinnati, on the other hand, won back-to-back games just once this season, although they didn’t lose back-to-back games at all in 2015.  The Bearcats are also dealing with some internal strife as starting quarterback Gunner Kiel will not play because of what are being described as “personal reasons.”  The Bearcats, though, are prolific offensively, ranking 24th in the country with 36.1 points per game.  The problem is that San Diego State is among the stingiest in giving up points, with their 17 points per game positioning the Aztecs 10th nationally in that category.  SDSU has given up 20 or more points four times this season, and just once, in a 27-24 win over Air Force, during their winning streak.  That said, the key to the game could be Cincinnati’s run defense: UC is 106th in allowing teams to average 5.0 yards per carry, while SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey‘s 1,554 yards are 10th nationally as he averages 5.5 ypc.
THE LINE: Cincinnati, +1½
THE PREDICTION: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 28

UCF close to selling out season tickets for 2019 season

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The last couple of seasons have been great for UCF. With back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, a New Years Six bowl victory over Auburn and a claimed national title, the Knights are rolling right now as a program and hoping for another big year in Orlando this fall. And the excitement seems to have been catching on with the season ticket sales as the school is claiming there are fewer than 200 season tickets remaining for the 2019 season.

On behalf of our coaches, staff and student-athletes, thank you for your support of UCF Athletics. Season ticket members are an integral part of a championship winning program.

As of today, fewer than 200 season tickets remain,” an email from the UCF ticket office claimed on Wednesday. “In other words, it will be more challenging than ever to assist you with access to single-game tickets during the 2019 season (and possibly in future seasons).”

Spectrum Stadium, the home of the UCF Knights, has a seating capacity of 44,206 (according to Wikipedia), and the Knights have averaged 44,019 fans per game last season. The Knights saw the second-largest attendance growth from the 2017 season, with an increase of 7,173 fans per game from 2017 to 2018, according to the NCAA’s attendance records. Only Northwestern had a higher average attendance boost in 2018 (home games against Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame certainly helped boost attendance for the Wildcats last season en route to a Big Ten West Division crown).

UCF’s home schedule has some good games on the agenda with visits by Stanford from the Pac-12, Dana Holgorsen and Houston, and rival USF. Of course, the end of the Civil ConFLiCT could be in the mix too with UConn making a visit south at the end of September.

For a school that went 0-12 just four years ago, being this close to selling out season tickets is quite a feat for the program.

Helmet sticker to the college football community on Reddit.

Randy Edsall releases statement as UConn trustees approve move back to Big East

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The future of the UConn football program is as foggy to predict as it may have ever been. On Wednesday, the UConn Board of Trustees formally voted to approve the school’s move back to the Big East for non-football sports, with basketball at the forefront of the call to change conference affiliation. The move will make sense for UConn basketball programs but leaves the future of the football program heading into unchartered waters with not a ton of options to work with.

Now that UConn’s leaders have voted to move forward with a reunion with the Big East, the school must now determine what happens to the football Huskies. UConn currently is set to play the upcoming 2019 season in the American Athletic Conference. While it is not quite officially a parting of the ways for the AAC and UConn on the football field, the general assumption is the Huskies will play one final season in the conference before beginning to play as an independent football program once again, just as it did when the school moved up from the FCS to the FBS prior to joining the Big East. The AAC is expected to remain at 11 members, but this type of story leads to plenty of rumors that carry various amounts of weight at any given moment. This time as an independent will be different than the last time, as it was part of the plan for the Huskies to join the Big East in football after moving up from the FCS to essentially replace Temple, which was ousted by the Big East. Now, there is no clear future vision for the program other than to move forward.

Now the Big East is set to hold a grand press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York on Thursday to officially welcome UConn back to the conference. The event will include appearances by UConn leaders, including athletic director David Benedict and men’s and women’s basketball coaches Dan Hurley and Geno Auriemma. Basketball first. Basketball second. Football…?

That puts head football coach Randy Edsall in one of the toughest positions as a head coach of a college football program. How do you sell your program when there are so many questions about its future?

As far as Edsall is concerned, you focus just on the things you can control.

“As I told my TEAM on Sunday afternoon, we have a schedule for 2019 and that is what we have been preparing for since January and they have been doing a great job of staying focused and not allowing any distractions to get in the way of our preparation and training,” Edsall said in a released statement to the media earlier today.

“All my focus and work has been on getting this program and facilities back to where we all want it regardless of WHERE WE PLAY OR WHO WE PLAY [Note: emphasis kept as written in Edsall’s statement], so I’m leaving the decision up to the Board of Trustees, University Leadership and Athletic Director to find the best situation for our Football Program.,” Edsall continued in his statement. “Myself, my staff and my players will not address this situation in the future as our focus is all on the 2019 season which is right around the corner.”

Oh, how naive of Edsall to think this subject won’t be brought up again. Don’t forget that conference media days are coming up quickly. How this subject is discussed at AAC media days will be something to watch form a variety of angles.

But in all honesty, what more is Edsall supposed to do at this point? As much power and responsibility, we think head football coaches have, they are still at the will of the leaders above them. This isn’t a football power we are discussing either, as anyone who has been watching UConn can say. This is a rare situation in which basketball comes first, and UConn clearly sees that as the priority, which is OK. For UConn, at least.

Edsall may not be particularly happy about what is going on that is out of his control, but there’s nothing he can really do about it. The decisions have been made and the wheels are in motion for UConn’s transition as an athletics program. How long Edsall stands by to lead the Huskies into the great unknown remains to be seen.

Troy adding emoji swords to new football field

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With the summer heat spreading, now is the time to perform some top-notch grounds-crew maintenance on football fields for the upcoming fall. Or, in the case of schools with artificial turf, now is the time to tear up the old rug and install the new one. That is what Troy is doing now inside their football stadium.

Troy showed off a look at the brand new artificial turf being installed in The Vet to be ready for the beginning of the 2019 season. The previous turf had been used since 2012, and as artificial turfs go, it has seen its fair share of wear and tear for the Trojans.

“This is an important project on numerous levels,” Director of Athletics Brent Jones said in a released statement. “First and most importantly the new turf is a commitment to the safety of our student-athletes, and the dynamic design of the turf will enhance our already strong brand recognition with every one of our home games broadcast live via an ESPN medium. The design also returns some traditional elements which our fans will enjoy while watching games in The Vet.”

As the diagram shown off shows, the Troy logo will be found at midfield and the shades of green will alternate every five yards. The Sun Belt Conference logo will be shown at the 25-yard lines, one toward each sideline. “TROY” will be painted in one end zone, and “TROJANS” will be found in the opposite endzone, both in accompanying Troy school colors. But if you look closely, you will see what appears to be the dueling swords emoji (⚔️) found at the 35-yard lines. That is intentional, as the university uses the emoji on social media platforms.

The turf is manufactured by Hellas Construction in Texas. The same company has provided turf surfaces to the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, and Oakland Raiders for either stadium surfaces or practice fields.

UConn adds three transfers, including former FIU kicker

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While there is tumult surrounding its conference affiliation moving forward, the UConn football program continues to go about the business of player procurement.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, the Huskies officially confirmed the addition of three players to the roster — safety Diamond Harrell, offensive lineman Andrew Torres-Silva and kicker Sean Young.  Harrell and Torres-Silva join the team from the junior-college ranks, while Young heads north from Florida International.

All three additions will be eligible to play immediately for the Huskies in 2019.

After spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons at a junior college, Young served as a kickoff specialist for the Panthers this past season.  His Panthers bio states that Young “[h]elped FIU rank second overall in C-USA for kickoff yards (5,075), kickoff average (64.2), touchbacks (54), and net average (41.8).” His touchback percentage of 81.4 was eighth at the FBS level as well.