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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 four Power Five vs. Power Five matchups, including one that is, on paper, inarguably the best bowl game outside of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.  Plus, there’s a fifth game pitting MWC and SBC programs that’s only available online, so there’s that, which is nice.

WHO: Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)
WHAT: The 58th AutoZone Liberty Bowl
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
THE SKINNY
: This game could be very well be subtitled as the “Disappointment Bowl” as TCU was ranked 13th in the country and Georgia 18th in the Associated Press preseason poll.  Over the next baker’s dozen weeks, neither was much of a factor in their respective conference races and have been relegated to a mid-level bowl game.  Both teams had won at least 10 games in each of the previous two seasons, adding yet another level to the collective disappointment.  The consternation is particularly palpable in Athens, with UGA “parting ways” with long-time head coach Mark Richt and handing the keys to the program to Kirby Smart.  The former Alabama defensive coordinator and first-time head coach then proceeded to produce seven wins; a loss in this game would leave the Bulldogs with their lowest win total since the 2010 season and mark just the second time since 1996 they failed to reach at least eight wins in a season.  After a midseason stumble — they lost four of five from late September to late October — the Bulldogs righted the listing ship by winning three of its last four, including one over an Auburn team that was ranked No. 9 in the country at a time.  The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, lost four of their last six, with three of those losses coming by 24 or more points.  A loss in this game would give TCU just its third losing season in the 16 years under Gary Patterson.  Schools from the SEC (Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State) have won the last three Liberty Bowls; here’s to thinking that UGA, albeit not easily, extends the conference’s winning streak in this game to four in a row.  One thing to remember, though: TCU always gets up for the bowl games under their current head coach as they are 9-3 since losing their first postseason matchup with Patterson at the helm in 2001.  More recently, they’ve won four of their last five bowl games.  Then again, UGA is 14-5 in bowls since 1997, so…
THE LINE: TCU, +1
THE PREDICTION: Georgia 27, TCU 26

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WHO: No. 18 Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
WHAT: The 83rd Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
THE LINE: North Carolina, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: No. 21 Tennessee (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)
WHAT
: The 19th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHEN
: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
THE LINE
: Nebraska, +4
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Air Force (9-3)
WHAT: The 2nd Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET online at CampusInsiders.com
WHERE: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
THE SKINNY
: The inaugural edition of this bowl game was certainly unique beyond its online broadcast as, because of a lack of bowl-eligible teams from both Conference USA and the Sun Belt, two teams from the Mountain West squared off, marking the first time since 1979 that teams from the same league faced each other in a non-championship bowl game.  Air Force will come into this game riding a five-game winning streak… which was preceded by a three-game losing streak… which was preceded by a four-game winning streak to start the 2016 season.  South Alabama is an odd team, with wins on the road at Mississippi State and at home over Mountain West champion San Diego State on its résumé… along with a narrow overtime win over FCS Nicholls State as well as a pair of losses to SBC teams that won a combined nine games this season.  If you’re looking for a close game, this one, despite the point spread courtesy of Bovada.lv you’ll see below, might just do it for you: eight of Air Force’s 12 games this season were decided by a combined 48 points, while eight of South Alabama’s games were decided by seven points or less, with another decided by 10.  If the Jaguars are going to stay in this game, though, their 98th-ranked run defense (212.1 yards per game) must find some way to contain a Falcons offense that enters the game ranked third nationally rushing yards per game at 322.8.
THE LINE: South Alabama, +14
THE PREDICTION: Air Force 41, South Alabama 31

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WHO: No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State
WHAT
: The 82nd Capital One Orange Bowl
WHEN
: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE
: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
THE LINE
: Florida State, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

Lane Kiffin pushed back against wearing bulletproof vest in return to Tennessee as Alabama OC

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College football, y’all.

Suffice to say, Lane Kiffin‘s departure from Rocky Top after one season as head coach at Tennessee for the same job at USC left a bad taste in the mouth of many members of Vols Nation.  How bad of a taste?  From ESPN.com in January of 2010:

But the real trick for Kiffin was figuring out a way to leave the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center late Tuesday night in one piece.

Groups of angry students and fans began surrounding the football complex after the news leaked that Kiffin had taken the USC job. Eventually, it evolved into a mob-like scene, with police moving in and barricading Johnny Majors Drive in front of the football complex.

Every time a car moved anywhere in the vicinity of the complex, the mob ran in that direction, shouting and chanting, “F— you Kiffin!

Fast-forward nearly five years, and Kiffin made his return — a triumphant, winning return as it turned out — to Neyland Stadium as the offensive coordinator at rival Alabama in October of 2014.  Ahead of that return, security was fearful for Kiffin’s life.  So fearful, in fact, that they wanted the former Volunteers head coach to wear a bulletproof vest into the famed stadium.

At least that’s what the current Florida Atlantic head coach claimed on Marty Smith‘s podcast, by way of 247Sports.com:

It’s crazy. They were literally talking about like — from the bus in — a bulletproof vest. I’m like, ‘Come on, guys. This is football.’ They said, ‘No, really.’ They had security with me the whole way, even walking on the field and stuff like that,” Kiffin said. “I’m just like ‘I’m not wearing a vest, guys. All right?’ That’s a little bit over the top. It was all in fun. There was a lot of mean words said — four-letter words. That speaks of Tennessee’s fans, just how passionate they are. I think Phillip Fulmer said it the other day, ‘We have the most passionate fans in the country.

Of course, all that angst and anger had waned by the time UT’s next search for a head coach kicked off as a small but very vocal portion of the fanbase actually wanted the one-time Knoxville pariah to replace Butch Jones late last year.  Hell, it was even reported that, in the midst of what was a circus of a search, “Lane is definitely on board if Tennessee gives him a call” about returning as head coach.

Ah, what could’ve been…

Nebraska transfer QB Patrick O’Brien officially lands at Colorado State

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In mid-April, Patrick O’Brien took to social media to announce his decision to transfer from Nebraska.  Earlier this month, the quarterback announced his new college football home.  Wednesday, said new college football home confirmed O’Brien’s addition.

In a press release, Colorado State acknowledged that O’Brien has indeed joined Mike Bobo‘s football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the 6-4, 230-pound O’Brien will be forced to sit out the 2018 season.

However, beginning with the 2019 season, he will have two years of eligibility that he can use moving forward.

A four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2016 recruiting class, O’Brien was rated as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback that year.  It’s that pro-style of play that led him to transfer away from Scott Frost and Nebraska after the new regime’s first spring practice came to an end earlier this offseason.

As the primary backup to Tanner Lee last season, and after redshirting his true freshman season, O’Brien completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and an interception.  He also ran for four yards on 14 carries.

Oregon student charged in death of former Ducks LB Fotu Leiato

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An arrest has been made in connection to the death of a former Oregon football player, the Eugene Register-Guard and The Oregonian are reporting.

Ex-Ducks linebacker Fotu Leiato was found dead early Friday morning as the result of what was described as a single-car accident. Pedro Chavarin Jr. was the driver of a vehicle that rolled over and crashed in Eugene; at the time, the 22-year-old UO student told police that he was the only occupant of the vehicle.

While Chavarin was initially charged with DUII, one count of first-degree manslaughter has since been added as Leiato’s body was found hours after the crash.  According to police, the 21-year-old Leiato had been a passenger in Chavarin’s Kia sedan at the time of the wreck.

According to The Oregonian, Chavarin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

Leiato played in 37 games the past three seasons for the Ducks.  He was dismissed from the football program in April after the second of his two arrests this offseason.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Fotu, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” a statement from the university at the time of Leiato’s passing began. “He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him.”

Rice’s Blain Padgett died from effects of drug designed to be elephant tranquilizer

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An already tragic story has taken an even sadder turn.

In early March, Rice defensive end Blain Padgett was found dead in his apartment after he failed to show for a football workout and a wellness check was performed.  This week, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the 21-year-old’s death was caused by the “toxic effects of carfentanil, which is an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl,” KTRK-TV in Houston wrote.

From the television station’s report:

Dr. Richard Pesikoff, a Baylor College of Medicine employee, said carfentanil is a dangerous opioid that was designed to be an elephant tranquilizer.

It’s 10,000 times more potent than morphine, and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

Dr. Pesikoff said carfentanil is deadly because it causes the brain to suppress breathing.

“It’s a dangerous recreational drug,” Dr. Pesikoff said. “Probably the most dangerous. Maybe LSD is equally as dangerous because it comes in micrograms and just the tiny bit that you touch go through the pores in your skin.

In 2016, the 6-5, 250-pound Padgett was second on the team in tackles for loss with 5½ and led all Owls defensive linemen with 41 tackles.  He played in just three games this past season, while also playing in eight games as a true freshman in 2015.

In response to the cause-of-death report, the university issued the following statement:

The Rice community was deeply saddened by the loss of Blain Padgett. Out of respect for Blain and his family, we will not discuss personal or private matters. His family, teammates and friends continue to have our deepest condolences.

The drug involved in his player’s death led head coach David Bailiff to state that “[i]t makes you evaluate again as a man is there something else you could’ve done? Is there some other outreach that we could’ve lead to?” The family’s question as it pertains to the findings is a poignant one as well.

“We would like to know how Blain got his hands on this drug that seems very difficult to get,” Mical Padgett, Blain’s father, said. “That’s our main question. How did he get it and why did he take it?