CFT Previews: Fiesta Bowl

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WHO: No. 7 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 8 Notre Dame (10-2)
WHAT: The 44th BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
WHEN: 1:00 PM ET, Jan. 1 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The defending national champions from Ohio State may have gone 11-1 this season and been left out of the College Football Playoff for a chance to defend their title, but playing in the Fiesta Bowl is something this program has come to embrace over the years. The Buckeyes have a strong history in the Fiesta Bowl. This will mark Ohio State’s seventh trip to the Fiesta Bowl, breaking a tie with Penn State, Arizona State and Nebraska for the most all-time appearances. Ohio State is 4-2 in the Fiesta Bowl, including a 34-20 victory over Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. The times have changed, but Ohio State still looks like a solid favorite over the Fighting Irish in this year’s Fiesta Bowl pairing.

Ohio State will be looking to send its seniors and a handful of juniors out with a win. Defensive end Joey Bosa and running back Ezekiel Elliott will be playing their final game in a Buckeyes uniform, as well as quarterback Cardale Jones. All three could have an impact on the game, although Jones will be backing up J.T. Barrett. One other player that tends to get overshadowed is Braxton Miller, the quarterback turned wide receiver. It would be fitting if Miller could get a chance to shine for Ohio State one last time considering his history with the program. All that remains to be seen is if Ohio State can put it all together and play to its abilities and potential in the final game of the season, and also avoid a letdown of not playing in the playoff.

On the other side of the field will be a Notre Dame team that has become more athletic in recent years and one that has become faster. This is not the same Notre Dame team Brian Kelly coached to the BCS National Championship before being obliterated by Alabama. This Notre Dame team has grown and evolved from that team. This Irish team has also been one to overcome injury issues and diminishing depth time and time again. Because of all of the injuries to key players on offense and defense this fall, you can argue Kelly had one of his best seasons as a head coach, because Notre Dame pushed both Clemson and Stanford to the limit on the road this season. Those were the only losses Note Dame experienced. No matter how much Notre Dame has been weakened, they seem to battle back.

Freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer will be tested and should be under pressure at times, but Will Fuller should be able to make some big plays down the field. Notre Dame’s big plays may come too few and far between though to beat Ohio State.

THE PREDICTION: Ohio State 38, Notre Dame 23

Florida to host Florida Atlantic in 2021

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Florida will host Florida Atlantic in 2021, FAU announced Tuesday. The game will take place on Sept. 4 and serve as the season-opener for both schools.

The schools have met three times previously, all of them in Gainesville. Florida won 59-20 on Nov. 17, 2007, 41-3 on Sept. 3, 2011, and 20-14 on Nov. 21, 2015.

The game will round out both schools’ non-conference schedules.

Florida will visit USF on Sept. 11, host Florida State on Nov. 27 and has a TBD home game against Samford, most likely on Nov. 20.

Today’s news means Florida has a future game on the schedule with every FBS program in the Sunshine State except UCF and Florida International. Florida beat Miami in Orlando to open this season and will play a home-and-home with the ‘Canes in 2024-25.

Florida Atlantic will follow its Gainesville trip with an excursion to Colorado Springs to play Air Force. After that, the Owls will host Fordham and Georgia Southern to round out September.

 

With Husky mascot retiring in 2021, Northern Illinois to introduce successor on Tuesday

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Northern Illinois’ husky mascot, Mission, is retiring in 2021, and on Tuesday the school will introduce his successor.

Mission II, born on July 6 and weighing a tender 14.5 ounces, will replace Mission two years from now, and the puppy will begin his official duties as NIU’s next official mascot on Tuesday.

“We have long been searching for the heir apparent to Mission, and there is no question that we have found the right Huskie,” NIU Alumni Association Executive Director Reggie Bustinza said. “Mission has set very high expectations, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mission II cannot only meet those demands, but surpass them.

“We are happy that Mission will have plenty of years to enjoy his retirement.”

Mission will turn 10 years old in 2021, and by that time Mission II will be fully versed in all the expectations placed upon the Official Northern Illinois Husky.

Mission II, a Siberian husky born in southern Wisconsin, will accompany Mission “to all eligible events for experiential learning and proofing,” which begins at a tasting for an NIU-branded beer on Tuesday evening in DeKalb.

The school has not revealed when Mission II will make his debut at a Husky football game, and in the meantime he’ll continue training with Lisa Boland while also attending daily puppy classes.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing Mission and Mission II do the job together during the training period,” Boland said. “It will be wonderful to watch ‘Mini-Mish’ learn from Mission, and see them work as a team. Mission has set a very high bar in mascotting, and Mission II will be working very hard to follow in his footsteps. I am so proud of Mission and the work that he’s done as the official NIU mascot.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege of guiding his successor to best represent Huskie Nation.”

Troy loses RB B.J. Smith, SBC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, to season-ending injury

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This one will certainly leave a lasting mark.

Over the summer, Troy’s B.J. Smith was named as the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Two months later, the football program confirmed, the running back will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2019 season because of an injury sustained in the Week 3 loss to Southern Miss.

While the specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged by the school, it’s believed Smith injured his knee midway through the second quarter of last Saturday’s game.

Last season, Smith led the Trojans with 1,186 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.  This season, the fourth-year senior had rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in two games.

Because of the timing of the injury, Smith can take a redshirt for the 2019 season and return to the Trojans next season.

Texas LB Caleb Johnson enters transfer portal

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Sitting at the quarter-pole of the 2019 regular season, and Texas is the latest FBS program to feel the pain of the portal.

Joe Cook of InsideTexas.com was the first to report that Caleb Johnson has placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report, writing that the junior linebacker “feels he has not fit in well since he arrived at Texas.”

247Sports provided further details as to the events leading up to Johnson’s decision.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson met with the staff Monday morning to inform them of his intentions to enter the transfer portal. While the staff requested he think more about his decision, Johnson decided to enter his name into he NCAA Transfer Portal, and is listed in the portal as of Tuesday morning.

Johnson joined the Longhorns from the junior college level, enrolling early and taking part in spring practice this past offseason.  He was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 3 JUCO outside linebacker in this past year’s class.

Through three games, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the field for the Big 12 program.