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.

Four-star 2017 DE Nathan Proctor leaving Virginia Tech

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If Nathan Proctor is to live up to his recruiting pedigree, he’ll be doing it somewhere other than Blacksburg.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday, Proctor announced that he has decided to transfer from Virginia Tech for unspecified reasons. The defensive lineman’s name is already listed in the NCAA transfer database, although he could decide to withdraw from the portal and return to the Hokies.

“Virginia [T]ech is an outstanding institution and has a great football program and I am very thankful to have called it my home the past two years,” Proctor wrote as part of his goodbye missive. “Thank you to all of the coaches that helped me along the way and all of my friends and family for the support.”

A four-star member of Tech’s 2017 recruiting class, Proctor was rated as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Maryland. Only one signee in the Hokies’ class that year, defensive back Devon Hunter, was rated higher than Proctor.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Proctor played in eight games this past season and was credited with three tackles.

As for a potential landing spot? Three Virginia Tech players have already transferred to Maryland this offseason, and Proctor is from Maryland.

Two Georgia Tech players retire because of medical issues

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So much for the positives on the personnel front for Geoff Collins.

After seeing three transfers this month denied immediate-eligibility waivers, Georgia Tech confirmed this week it had officially added a transfer from Notre Dame. The same day, however, the football program also announced that two players, senior defensive lineman Brad Morgan (back) and redshirt freshman wide receiver Tija’i Whatley (unspecified), have both been forced to retire from the sport because of medical issues.

The sliver of a silver lining, though, is that the school stated both Morgan and Whatley will remain on scholarship — neither will count against the program’s 85-man limit, it should be noted — and involved with the team in non-playing capacities.

“I feel for both Brad and Tija’i,” the head football coach said in a statement. “It goes without saying that they will continue to be a part of the Georgia Tech football family and we’re looking forward to the contributions that they continue to make to our organization and the Institute.”

Morgan played in 28 games the past three seasons, starting three games at right guard this past season. This offseason, he moved from offensive to defensive line and was expected to be part of the Yellow Jackets’ rotation prior to being forced to walk away.

Whatley was a three-star 2018 signee who took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Nick Saban brings in Ray Rice to speak to Alabama players

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If you’re trying to show your players how to avoid doing the wrong things, bringing in someone who did one of the most absolutely vile and abhorrent things — and is successfully turning his life around — is probably not the worst way to go about your business.

Already this offseason, Nick Saban has brought in Mike Tyson to speak to his Alabama football team.  On Thursday, Ray Rice was in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide head coach’s “Title IX speaker” to touch on subjects such as domestic violence.

Then a member of the Baltimore Ravens, the former Rutgers running back was suspended by the NFL in 2014 after videos surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.  Initially suspended, Rice never played another down in the NFL because of an incident Kyle Flood, then the Scarlet Knights’ head coach and now an assistant coach at Alabama, described at the time as a sad day for RU football.

Rice, who is now married to Janay Palmer, has since turned into a motivational speaker of sorts, speaking in front of football players at programs such as Georgia (HERE) and Ohio State (HERE).

Prior to Rice’s latest appearance, Saban explained his reasoning for bringing Rice in.

Well, he’s obviously going to talk about how to treat the opposite sex and having the proper respect for other people,” Saban said when asked about Rice’s appearance. “And I think that’s important to relationships. It’s important as a person to be able to do those things in a very respectful manner.

I think a lot of the players can relate to (Rice’s) circumstance,” Saban said. “And it will be interesting to hear a guy that has had issues that now has turned a corner and has really done everything he can to help other people not have the same problem that he has. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him doing that and we’re certainly glad to have him here.

UTEP mourns passing of TE Luke Laufenberg, 21, after two-year battle with leukemia

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For the second time this month, the insidiousness that is cancer has struck at the heart of college football.

Following a nearly two-year battle with leukemia, Luke Laufenberg passed away early Thursday morning, his father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg, heartbreakingly revealed on Twitter. ” The hole in our hearts will never be filled,” Laufenberg wrote. “You are my hero. RIP my sweet Luke. See you on the other side.”

The younger Laufenberg had just signed with UTEP this past February as a tight end and was expected by many to win a starting job before his health began to fail again later on in the offseason.

Laufenberg actually began his collegiate career as a walk-on at Texas A&M. On the day after Christmas 2017, Laufenberg was diagnosed with leukemia; in May of the following year, he was declared cancer-free and, after the 230-pound player had regained the 90-plus pounds he had lost during chemotherapy, began his trek back to college football, first at a junior college in 2018 before signing with UTEP earlier this year.

By the summer, sadly, the disease had returned with a fatal ferocity, with doctors telling his family in July that “his condition was terminal and that he had just a few weeks left.”

Below is a statement from UTEP head coach Dana Dimel:

Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever. His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football. He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person. He was a very talented young man that lived his life and left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with. He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team. Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity. I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a MINER!

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those affected by the young man’s way-too-early passing.­