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Tennessee escapes with overtime win over Appalachian State

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Nine years to the day after Appalachian State cut down a mighty Michigan team in an upset for the ages, they aimed to repeat history deep in the heart of SEC country at No. 9 Tennessee.

Could David slay Goliath again?

For most of Thursday night, the answer looked like yes. The Mountaineers pushed the Vols into overtime but ultimately it was the home team who escaped with a 20-13 win in remarkable fashion.

Quarterback Josh Dobbs dived into the end zone on the first possession of overtime and promptly fumbled the football when clocked by a pair of defenders. Luckily teammate Jalen Hurd was in the right place at the right time and was able to dive on the ball for what proved to be the eventual winning score.

Appalachian State failed to even pick up a first down on the ensuing series and had their last-ditch pass knocked away in the end zone to let Rocky Top breath a collective sigh of relief.

But the game was in large part not about the Vols struggles but just how much the Mountaineers punched above their weight and showed they might be even better than last year’s 11 win campaign showed. Star tailback Marcus Cox rushed for 115 yards and looked like a regular in the SEC. The defense straight up dominated the Vols offense and limited them to just 127 yards rushing.

Appalachian State looked like the better of the two teams for most of the first half. They really made UT fans nervous by jumping out to a 13-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter and seemed to dial up the right play defensively to harass the Vols into two turnovers.

Tennessee appeared to regain momentum early in the 4th quarter however when Dobbs lofted a pass over the shoulder of Josh Malone, who promptly ripped away from a defensive back for a 67 yard touchdown that tied the game. The Vols failed to keep things going however, with a number of drives stalling out as the two teams failed to mount any serious drives to end the 4th quarter.

Ultimately, a few miscues in the kicking game may have proven too much to overcome for the Mountaineers though. Redshirt freshman kicker Michael Rubino missed both an extra point and a 42-yard field goal that would have given the team the upset win.

Still, while Appalachian State will head home to North Carolina with their heads held high knowing they can compete with a top 10 team, the win is bound to call into question all of the preseason love that Tennessee received in being picked to win the SEC East. Vols head coach Butch Jones is likely to hear plenty of complaints from the fan base in the ensuing days if things don’t improve significantly on the field from their disjointed effort in the opener. It won’t be easy to with a big test looming in Week 2 as the team travels to Bristol Motor Speedway to take on Virginia Tech.

Perhaps the only saving grace for the Vols is they won’t go down in history like that Michigan team from 2007 that was upset by Appalachian State. But it wasn’t for lack of trying on Thursday night.

USC confirms JT Daniels is still Trojans’ starting QB

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The drama in the Land of Troy, such as it was, is officially over.

For most, there was a three-man battle for USC’s starting quarterback job throughout this offseason — incumbent JT Daniels, Matt Fink and Jack Sears.  Tuesday, the Trojans ended the competition charade by confirming that Daniels will indeed be the team’s starter when they open the 2019 season later this month.

Most intriguing, though, is the fact that true freshman Kedon Slovis, who has been mostly an afterthought in the competition, has been chosen as the true sophomore Daniels’ backup over Fink, a redshirt junior, and Sears, a redshirt sophomore.

Daniels started 11 games as a true freshman for the Trojans this past season, with Sears starting the other.  Fink seriously contemplated a transfer this offseason before opting to remain at USC.  Slovis, meanwhile, was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 26 pro-style quarterback in the country.

In his first season as a starter, Daniels completed almost 60 percent of his 363 passes for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Michigan transfer Brandon Peters wins starting QB job at Illinois

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Michigan transfer Brandon Peters has won the quarterback derby at Illinois, Lovie Smith announced Tuesday.

“We loved Brandon when we got a chance to know him during the recruiting process,” Smith said. “Now that we’ve seen him on the field, he has been everything we though he would be. He has really thrown the ball well and is a better runner than he’s given credit for. Most importantly, he has moved into a leadership role for us. We’re pumped up about Brandon leading us heading into the season.”

A former 4-star recruit, the Avon, Ind., native is a graduate transfer who still has two years of eligibility remaining.

At Michigan he appeared in 10 games with four starts, completing 53 percent of his 110 throws for 680 yards and four touchdowns.

Illinois opens its season Aug. 31 at home versus Akron.

Trevor Lawrence headlines Preseason AP All-American team

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Everyone and their blog now has an All-American team; so many are out there, in fact, that if we wrote about all of them we’d never write about anything else.

But there’s something different about being a Preseason AP All-American, and as such we’d be remiss if we didn’t add to our historical record here at CFT.

Most notably, Trevor Lawrence nudged out Tua Tagovailoa for the First Team quarterback job, where he’s joined by running back Travis Etienne and linebacker Isaiah Simmons on the First Team. Alabama also had three First Teamers — wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and linebacker Dylan Moses.

The SEC led all conferences with eight First Team selections, followed by the Big Ten’s seven.

Without further ado, behold the 2019 Preseason AP All-America First Team:

OFFENSE
QB: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
WR: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
C: Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
OG: Ben Bredeson, Michigan; Shane Lemieux, Oregon
OT: Walker Little, Stanford; Andrew Thomas, Georgia
AP: Rondale Moore, Purdue
K: Andre Szmyt, Syracuse

DEFENSE
LB: Joe Bachie, Michigan State; Dylan Moses, Alabama; Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
S: Andre Cisco, Syracuse; Grant Delpit, LSU
CB: Paulson Abedo, Stanford; Bryce Hall, Virginia
DE: AJ Epenesa, Iowa; Chase Young, Ohio State
DT: Derrick Brown, Auburn; Raekwon Davis, Alabama
P: Braden Mann, Texas A&M

It’s grrrrreat! Tony the Tiger claims title sponsorship of Sun Bowl

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The Sun Bowl has a new title sponsor and it’s, well, it’s great. The El Paso-based postseason college football game will now be sponsored by Tony the Tiger. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not sponsored by Kellogg’s brand or even Frosted Flakes cereal, but Tony the Tiger himself.

“For the last few months we’ve worked closely and collectively with the Sun Bowl association and it’s become clear how well the association understands the strength and resilience of this community and we are honored to be part of it,” Kellogg’s marketing director Bryant Wheaton told the El Paso Times.

The change has already been reflected on the Sun Bowl’s Twitter account — sort of. The name and avatar have been changed, but the handle, as of press time, still reflected the bowl’s previous sponsor, Hyundai.

The Sun Bowl, first played on Jan. 1, 1935 between the El Paso All-Stars and Ranger (Texas) High School, has now welcomed nine title sponsors. The game takes credit for bringing title sponsorship to the college football postseason.

“We were the very first bowl ever to have a title sponsor, back in 1986 when John Hancock saved the Sun Bowl from going extinct,” executive director Bernie Olivas told the El Paso Times. “We have had some great sponsors since then. Our past sponsor, who had been with us nine years, is the longest sponsor we’ve ever had.

“When we got the title sponsor in 1986, there were only 16 bowls. We were the first ones to have a title sponsor. The rest of the bowls shunned us, they said, ‘You sold out.’ Well how do you like us now?”

The 85th annual Sun Bowl will once again pit the ACC against the Pac-12 on Tuesday, Dec. 31 (2 p.m. ET, CBS). Stanford won the 2018 edition, topping Pitt, 14-13.