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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 23 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 23 bowl menu, which not only gives us our first multi-bowl GameDay since the opening Saturday of the postseason but also the first matchup involving a team ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25.

WHO: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Nearly three decades ago, Eastern Michigan won the first bowl game in the first postseason appearance in the football program’s history.  Since then, the Eagles have been searching for the school’s second postseason win — mainly because they haven’t played in a bowl game in the ensuing 29 years.  Chris Creighton has led a remarkable turnaround in Ypsilanti, with EMU winning just three combined games his first two seasons before the jump to seven in Year 3; those seven wins are the most since they won the same number in 1989.  An eighth win would be just the third time they’ve hit at least that mark in their FBS history.  Old Dominion is also in uncharted territory as they didn’t become an FBS program until 2014, and this will mark the Monarchs’ first-ever bowl appearance.  The two teams come into their first-ever matchup on different trajectories, with ODU riding a five-game winning streak in winning eight of its last nine — all of those wins came by double digits — while EMU went 3-4 after 4-1 start.  Both the Eagles and Monarchs average more than 30 points per game offensively, while their defenses aren’t in the top half of the country in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.  The final scores in the first two Bahamas Bowls, also featuring Conference USA and MAC teams, were 49-48 and 45-31.  I’m guessing this game won’t deviate too much from those previous offensive matchups.  If there is one player to watch, it might be ODU’s David Washington.  Washington (28-4) was one of just three starting quarterbacks at the FBS level who threw 28 or more touchdowns and four or fewer interceptions during the 2016 regular season, the others being Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell (32-3) and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky (28-4).
THE LINE: Eastern Michigan, +4
THE PREDICTION: Eastern Michigan 37, Old Dominion 36

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WHO: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. No. 25 Navy (9-4)
WHAT: The 14th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE LINE: Navy, +6
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Dollar General Bowl
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This might be my most favorite not-even-remotely relevant fun fact of the entire 2016 postseason: Ohio head coach Frank Solich (72) is exactly twice as old as his Troy counterpart Neal Brown (36).  The former Nebraska coach, though, has turned his Bobcats into an annual postseason presence.  After just one bowl game his first four years, OU will be playing in its seventh the last eight years.  While a postseason game has become an annual expectation in Athens, Brown will be leading Troy, playing in its home state, to its first bowl appearance since 2010 in just his second season with the program.  OU won by 16 points at Kansas — hey, technically, they are a Power Five team — lost by just nine points at Tennessee and then took Western Michigan, unbeaten and headed for a New Year’s Six game, to the brink in losing the MAC championship game by six points.  Ohio’s last three losses?  By a combined 20 points to three teams that will be bowling this season.  Then there’s Troy, which held a first-quarter lead on College Football Playoff semifinalist Clemson in Week 2 and was down just 13-10 at the half before dropping a 30-24 road decision to the No. 2 team in the country.  A win here would give the Trojans their first-ever 10-win season in their 16 years as an FBS program.  If the latter portion of the 2016 season is any indication this could be a close game as eight of Ohio’s last nine games were decided by 10 points or less, with seven of those decided by seven or less.  There might be one certainty in this game: don’t expect much when it comes to the ground game as Troy is 19th nationally in stopping the run (123.7) while Ohio is seventh (105.8).
THE LINE: Ohio, +4
THE PREDICTION: Ohio 24, Troy 20

Randy Edsall abruptly pulls plug on news conference after being asked leading DC question

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Randy Edsall wanted no part in heading down the road one media member at least attempted to get him to travel.

Following a subpar start to the 2018 season on that side of the ball, Wake Forest earlier this week announced that they had decided to part ways with defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel. On a related note — you’ll see in a minute — UConn is currently dead last among the 130 FBS programs in total defense (a staggering 664 yards per game; next closest is Ohio at 540.3) and scoring defense (54.4 points per game; next closest is Bowling Green at 44).

At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Edsall was asked about the Wake situation and his philosophy on such an in-season move. Suffice to say, the head coach wasn’t particularly fond of the media member’s line of questioning.

From the Hartford Courant:

Reporter: “Wake Forest just fired their defensive coordinator. I’m just curious about your philosophy on that.”

Edsall: “What does that have to do with us? I’m done. I can see where this is going. I’m not — I’m done.

Edsall’s defensive coordinator is Billy Crocker, who is in his second year with the football program. In Crocker’s first season, the Huskies were 122nd in scoring defense (37.9 ppg), 127th in total defense (519 ypg) and 130th (dead last) in pass defense (339 ypg).

Prior to his time at UConn, Crocker was on the coaching staff at Villanova for 12 seasons, the last five of which he spent coordinating the FCS team’s defense. In his last season with the Wildcats, they had the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense at that level.

Ankle injury leaves RB LJ Scott ‘day-to-day’ for Michigan State against Central Michigan

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Michigan State could again be without one of the top returning running backs in the Big Ten.

In the third quarter of the Week 2 loss to Arizona State, LJ Scott went down with an ankle injury and did not return to the game. The injury also sidelined him for the conference opener, a 14-point win over Illinois, in Week 4.

With its non-conference finale against Central Michigan set for this Saturday, it appears the senior back will be essentially a game-time decision. At least, I think that’s what his head coach was getting at.

“Probably a little of both,” Mark Dantonio said when asked if Scott was day-to-day or will play against CMU. “I expect him to play. Maybe day-to-day.

“He may be out there today or he may not be. Probably the best answer I can give you.”

Despite missing nearly a game and a half, Scott’s 103 rushing yards are still tops on the Spartans. Scott has led Michigan State in rushing each of the past three seasons — 898 yards in 2017, 994 in 2016 and 699 in 2015.

Following MSU’s Holiday Bowl win last December, Scott confirmed that he would be eschewing early entry into the 2018 NFL draft and would be returning to East Lansing for a fourth season.

Nevada’s EJ Muhammad announces season-ending surgery on Instagram

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Once again, a player has utilized social media to make a rather significant announcement.

On his Instagram account earlier this week, Nevada defensive back EJ Muhammad announced that he will miss the remainder of the 2018 season after undergoing surgery. Just what the medical procedure he underwent is unclear at the moment.

The football program, for what it’s worth, has not addressed Muhammad’s status moving forward.

Muhammad appeared in nine games as a redshirt sophomore last season, starting three of those contests. He had started the first two games of the 2018 season as well before missing the last two because of the injury that ultimately will sideline him for the remainder of the year.

Demoted Clemson QB Kelly Bryant misses second straight practice

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Things are certainly getting interesting, quarterback-wise, for the second-ranked team in the country.

Monday, Dabo Swinney confirmed that senior Kelly Bryant had been benched in favor of true freshman Trevor Lawrence.  A day later, Swinney revealed that he and Bryant had a lengthy conversation in which the two discussed, among other things, the possibility of a transfer.

According to Swinney, he gave Bryant the day off from practice Monday to allow him to wrap his head around the demotion.  Both TigerNet.com and The State are now reporting, though, that Bryant missed a second consecutive day of practice on Tuesday.

The obvious intimation from a second straight day of missing practice is that Bryant is seriously contemplating a move from the Tigers — or has already decided a move on is in his best interests.  Because of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, Bryant, who started the first four games of the 2018 season, could leave the Tigers now and retain a year of eligibility that he can use in 2019 at another school.

If he were to play another down this season, however, Bryant’s collegiate career would be over at the end of the 2018 season.

“Certainly if he walked in here today and said, ‘Hey coach, I don’t want to play the rest of the year unless you’ve got to have me,’ well ‘Ok, if that’s what you want to do I’m all for it.’ I love Kelly,” Swinney said earlier today, prior to the reports od a second missed practice surfaced. “I would be disappointed in that because we need him. But I wouldn’t judge him for that.”

Bryant has started the last 18 games under center for the Tigers, winning 16 of those contests.  Lawrence was a highly-touted five-star 2018 signee who had outplayed the incumbent the first third of the regular season.