CFT Previews: Your Dec. 30 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 30 bowl menu, which features seven Power Five teams, including a pair of ACC-SEC matchups.

WHO: Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)
WHAT: The 10th Birmingham Bowl
WHERE: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
WHEN: Noon ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Memphis, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)
WHAT: The 14th Belk Bowl
WHERE:
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of multi-dimensional quarterbacks, this matchup is one helluva way to close out 2015.  Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is 26th nationally in passing efficiency while his counterpart, North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett, is sixth in the ACC in that very category.  Prescott also leads his team in rushing, while Brissett is fourth on the Wolfpack on the ground.  If you’re the opposing secondary and looking to get the ball back via a turnover good luck as the two quarterbacks have combined to throw eight interceptions — four apiece — in 802 attempts this season.  Should MSU grab its fourth bowl win (in six tries) under Dan Mullen, it would mark the first time in the football program’s history that the Bulldogs have won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons.  An NCSU win would give Dave Doeren eight wins for the second time in his first three seasons, the first Wolfpack coach to pull off that trick his first three seasons since Chuck Amato in 2000 (8-4) and 2002 (11-3).  And a factoid that might only interest me?  The Wolfpack’s last bowl win against a team from the SEC came back in 1994 against… the Starkville Bulldogs.  That said, history likely won’t repeat itself as MSU is playing for the beloved Prescott and wants desperately to send the senior out on a winning note.  That emotion should prove to be the difference, especially in a game that could very well be decided by the two opposing offenses.
THE LINE: North Carolina State, +6
THE PREDICTION: Mississippi State 48, North Carolina State 45

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WHO: Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Louisville (7-5)
WHAT: The 18th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHERE:
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: The biggest question mark surrounding this game is what exactly Texas A&M will get under center.  A&M has already seen the quarterback who began the 2015 season as the starter decide to transfer… and then watched as the player who finished the 2015 season as the starter bolt as well.  With Kyle Allen (the former) and Kyler Murray (the latter) gone, enter Jake Hubenak, he of the stat line that includes 12-of-27 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown in his career.  Conversely, Louisville is very stable at the position for the foreseeable future as true freshman Lamar Jackson has grabbed the job by the throat, becoming one of just a handful of FBS quarterbacks to lead his team in passing and rushing.  The much-improved Aggies defense, though, has shown the ability to contain running quarterbacks this season, although the Prescott mentioned up above did manage 96 yards in a losing effort in early October.  And then there is sophomore Myles Garrett, the Aggies defensive end who is tied for sixth nationally with 11.5 sacks and could prove to be a very disruptive force for such a young player.  With a win, the Aggies will extend their bowl winning streak to five straight… a skein that comes on the heels of losing five in a row.  The U of L could end their 2015 season with back-to-back wins over teams from the SEC for the first time in program history, and could also beat a team from that conference in a bowl game for the first time since 1990 (Alabama, Fiesta Bowl).  One final note: expect Kevin Sumlin‘s name to be very much a part of the NFL coaching carousel once the final gun sounds on this game, regardless of whether the Aggies win or lose.
THE LINE: Texas A&M, +4½
THE PREDICTION: Louisville 27, Texas A&M 26

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WHO: USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
WHAT: The 38th National Funding Holiday Bowl
WHERE:
WHEN: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Wisconsin, +3½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Thirteen-year-old twins forged paperwork to participate in LSU football camp

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This is some McGyver-level moxie right here.

Joshua and Jacob Johnson are twin brothers who are getting set to begin the eighth grade in Geismar, Louisiana. At 5-11 and already weighing in the neighborhood of 240-245 pounds, they are also very talented football players on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Too young to actually participate in an LSU football camp last month, the twins were taken to it by their trainer, former collegiate defensive back Keith Ballard, under the assumption that they would be spectators and not participants. Unbeknownst to both the trainer and the players’ father, however, the sibling duo fudged some of their particulars — i.e., they “enhanced” their ages upwards — in order to participate in the clinic.

“They must have taken their money out of their piggy bank, because when I turned around, they had forged the paperwork and had signed up for the camp and started doing drills with the rest of the linemen,” Ballard said by way of USA Today High School Sports. “I asked them, ‘What are you doing?'”

From the report:

The twins’ father, Herm Johnson, said he was a little shocked but not angry that his sons had signed up for the camp, even if they had to lie about their age to get in.

“These dudes have put us on a roller coaster ever since they came about,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. I think they have the heart and skill level to compete.

Despite the shenanigans that got them there, the twins caught the attention of the Tigers’ current football boss.

And, yes, the Johnson brothers would be a part of the 2023 recruiting class. Whether Coach Eaux will still be there to sign them as part of that year’s class certainly remains to be seen.

Family: Heatstroke caused death of Maryland’s Jordan McNair

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According to the family of Jordan McNair, the Maryland offensive lineman died earlier this offseason as a result of heatstroke.

McNair was hospitalized in late May after collapsing during a strength & conditioning workout.  After being hospitalized in critical condition for a little over two weeks, and after receiving a liver transplant, McNair died June 13.

Following McNair’s death, the lineman’s parents established a foundation in honor of their son.  On that foundation’s website, whose goals in part are to “promote awareness, educate, and advocate for parents and student-athletes about heat-related illnesses at youth, high school, and collegiate levels,” it was written that “Jordan’s untimely death was the result of… heatstroke he suffered during an organized offseason team workout.”

From the Washington Post:

The workout was designed and supervised by the Maryland strength and conditioning staff, and certified athletic trainers were present throughout, according to an account provided by the university. Maryland Coach DJ Durkin was also at the workout, which began around 4:15 p.m. McNair, who was listed as 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, had trouble recovering after completing a series of 110-yard sprints, a standard conditioning test, and received medical attention. McNair soon was transported to the team’s practice facility and later airlifted to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore at approximately 6 p.m., according to the university’s timeline of that day.

In the wake of McNair’s death, the university launched an investigation into the tragedy that will include a thorough evaluation of the football program’s procedures and protocols.  A report on the findings of the external probe is expected to be completed at some point in late September or early October.

“Jordan’s death was a shock to his family, friends, former classmates, and the entire football community near and far,” the foundation’s website stated. “His parents were left with a void and pain that only those who have lost a child could fully understand.

“But in his death, the world learned about the humble young man whose smile communicated more than words ever could. Jordan was a quiet spirit, whose size never went unnoticed in any room, but whose spirit took up the entire room.”

Jake Browning, Jalen Hurts highlight Davey O’Brien Award watch list

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Once the Conference of Defenses, has the SEC morphed into the Conference of Quarterbacks?

According to the folks at the Davey O’Brien Award, that certainly could be the case as the hardware handed out annually to the nation’s top quarterback released its 2018 watch list Tuesday morning, with the SEC accounting for six of the 26 players listed.  Next up are the remaining Power Five conferences, with the Pac-12 leading that group with four, followed by three apiece for the Big Ten and ACC as well as two for the Big 12.  With two each, Conference USA and the MAC pace all Group of Five leagues, with the AAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt all seeing one player on the initial watch list.

Individually, there are a pair of two-time O’Brien Award semifinalists on the roll — Washington’s Jake Browning and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (whether Hurts gets the opportunity to three-peat as a finalist is another matter entirely).  Additionally, there are six other 2017 semifinalists on the list as well — Clemson’s Kelly Bryant, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Arizona’s Khalil Tate.

Of the 26 players on the list, 13 are listed as seniors and 12 as juniors.  The lone sophomore is Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Below is the complete 2018 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List:

Jake Bentley, South Carolina, (Jr., Opelika, Ala.)
Jake Browning, Washington (Sr., Folsom, Calif.)
Kelly Bryant, Clemson (Sr., Calhoun Falls, S.C.)
Mason Fine, North Texas (Jr., Peggs, Okla.)
Ryan Finley, NC State (Sr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (Sr., Richmond Hill, Ga.)
Andrew Ford, UMass (Sr., Camp Hill, Penn.)
Jake Fromm, Georgia (So., Warner Robins, Ga.)
Will Grier, West Virginia (Sr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Justice Hansen, Arkansas State (Sr., Edmond, Okla.)
Justin Herbert, Oregon (Jr., Eugene, Ore.)
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin (Jr., West Chester, Penn.)
Jalen Hurts, Alabama (Jr., Houston, Texas)
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo (Jr., Norton Shores, Mich.)
Daniel Jones, Duke (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Kyle Kempt, Iowa State (Sr., Massillon, Ohio)
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Drew Lock, Missouri (Sr., Lee’s Summit, Mo.)
Trace McSorley, Penn State (Sr., Ashburn, Va.)
McKenzie Milton, UCF (Jr., Kapolei, Hawaii)
Nathan Rourke, Ohio (Jr., Oakville, Ontario)
Brett Rypien, Boise State (Sr., Spokane, Wash.)
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (Jr., Stephenville, Texas)
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (Sr., Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Khalil Tate, Arizona (Jr., Inglewood, Calif.)
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State (Sr., Novato, Calif.)

Kentucky transfer Eli Brown granted immediate eligibility at WKU

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As it turns out, Western Kentucky will be the beneficiary of a Power Five playing sooner than most had expected.

When Eli Brown transferred to WKU in late March, nearly six weeks after leaving Kentucky, it was thought that the redshirt junior linebacker would have to sit out the 2018 season. However, both the Hilltoppers and the player have confirmed that Brown has been granted immediate eligibility, which will allow him to compete in 2018 as well as the 2019 season.

The school didn’t specify on what grounds the waiver was granted, although Brown had left the Wildcats for the Hilltoppers in order to be closer to family.

“Not only is Eli one of the best high school linebackers of the last decade in our area, he is an incredible young man with a powerful story,” a statement from WKU head coach Mike Sanford began. “We’re ecstatic that he will be able to play for us this season. I commend the NCAA for truly putting the student-athlete first in this decision.”

A four-star member of UK’s 2015 recruiting class, Brown was rated as the No. 20 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Kentucky according to 247Sports.com. Brown was the highest-rated player in the Wildcats’ class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Brown played in 12 games in 2016. Because of injuries to others, the 6-2, 215-pound redshirt sophomore started five games this past season and was seemingly in line for significant playing time at the SEC school in 2018 prior to his decision to transfer.