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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

Report: Baylor LB DeMarco Artis, WR Rajah Preciado leave team

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Baylor linebacker DeMarco Artis and wide receiver Rajah Preciado have left the team, according to a report from SicEm365The site reports that the pair leave the program on good terms; both players are still on the online roster as well as the paper roster that was distributed at Big 12 media days on Monday.

Artis was a rising sophomore from Sanford, Fla. He appeared in six games as a true freshman in 2017, recording one tackle and one hurry.

Preciado was a junior from College Station, Texas. Appearing in 18 games over his freshman and sophomore seasons, Preciado did not record a catch but posted 14 career tackles and returned one kickoff for 10 yards.

 

 

Former Ohio State defensive MVP Mike Kudla passes away

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Former Ohio State defensive end Mike Kudla passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, according to a Facebook post from his high school alma mater, Highland High School in Medina, Ohio. Kudla was 34.

Kudla signed with Ohio State in 2002 and immediately helped the Buckeyes to their first national championship since 1968. He would go on to become one of the top 15 sack artists in Ohio State history, a First Team All-Big Ten performer and Ohio State’s defensive MVP in 2005. He recorded 41 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and 9.5 sacks.

Kudla worked in business after football and eventually returned to Ohio State in 2012 as managing director of development for the Fisher College of Business. At the time of his death, Kudla worked as the owner of Core Plex, which “built medical facilities all over the country.”

“Despite his success on and off the football field, Mike remained humble and was extremely generous with his time and resources,” Highland school district director of communications Dawn Marzano wrote in the Facebook post. “He was always willing to share his experience and mentor youth. He was loved and respected by many and will be missed terribly.”

Lincoln Riley suggests there is a competition for QB that nobody should believe

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It’s a standard procedure for a head coach to suggest there is an open competition for any number of positions on a football team, but nobody seems to be buying the idea there is a competition at Oklahoma to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. And when one of the players supposedly in the running for the job has a lucrative baseball career on the table, the idea is a little more comical.

Kyler Murray was drafted by the Oakland A’s with the No. 9 overall pick in the recent amateur MLB amateur draft. His contract with the A’s guarantees him $5 million and still allows for him to play one more year of football, which Murray has stated is his plan at Oklahoma. Still, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley addressed the quarterback situation at Big 12 media days on Monday and suggested Murray will have to win the job against redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall.

“Kyler’s not the quarterback yet,” Riley said when asked how the offense will change with Riley at the position following the departure of No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Mayfield to Cleveland. “There’s a really good competition going on and Kyler’s gonna have to fight like crazy to win this job.”

Sure. OK. Whatever you say, Riley.

It is worth noting Murray appeared in seven games for the Sooners last season with 18-of-21 for 359 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in backup duty for Mayfield. Kendall redshirted last season and was named one of the team’s Offensive Scout Team Players of the Year. Kendall did make appearances in two games in 2016 in a back-up role. While Kendall may have a bright future in Norman, few are willing to accept Oklahoma is welcoming back Murray to potentially be a back-up quarterback when he could jump right into his pro baseball career right now.

But this could just be nothing more than the latest example of a coach simply setting the tone for the offseason and holding the bar high for even the most talented of players on the roster. Riley may be blowing smoke, but it could also pay off in the long run of the 2018 season.

Tennessee DL Ryan Thaxton suspended, charged with domestic assault

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Tennessee defensive lineman Ryan Thaxton has been suspended by the football program after being arrested and charged for an alleged domestic assault of his girlfriend. The incident leading to the arrest and charge occurred over the weekend.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thaxton was arrested Sunday night and charged with domestic assault and false imprisonment. According to police records, Thaxton is accused of pushing his girlfriend to his dorm room while she refused to follow him. It is reported Thaxton than carried the unidentified woman to his dorm room and blocked the door so she could not leave as an argument continued inside the room.

“We are aware of the incident,” a statement from Tennessee read. “The student-athlete has been suspended from all team activities while law enforcement and the university investigates.”

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is scheduled to address the media at SEC Media Days on Wednesday.