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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 16 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 16 bowl menu, which on opening weekend features five FBS bowl games as the 2017 postseason officially kicks off.  The featured teams include the first Power Five squad to make its 2017 postseason debut, the first Group of Five member ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 and one of the two Sun Belt Conference co-champions.

WHO: Troy (10-2) vs. North Texas (9-4)
WHAT: The 17th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The first of three Conference USA-Sun Belt Conference tilts on the day kicks off opening weekend, and also marks the 10th-ever meeting between the two teams — the Trojans lead 8-2 — and the first in the postseason.  With a win, the Mean Green would reach double digits for the first time in the 65-year history of the program; the Trojans, meanwhile, have won 10 games in back-to-back seasons and would set its own school record by defeating the former SBC program.  One of those 10 wins for Troy came against LSU in Death Valley while one of the losses came on the road to Mountain West champion Boise State in the opener.  The other loss?  An inexplicable one to 4-8 South Alabama… at home, no less.  Three of UNT’s losses came to Florida Atlantic (twice, the second of which came in the conference championship game) and Iowa in Iowa City.  One data point of note: the Mean Green is 20th nationally in scoring offense at 35.9 points per game, the Trojans are 11th in the country in scoring defense at 17.5 points per game.  If defenses can win championships, they can also win bowl games.
THE LINE: North Texas, +6½
THE PREDICTION: Troy 34, North Texas 23

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WHO: Western Kentucky (6-6) vs. Georgia State (6-5)
WHAT: The 3rd AutoNation Cure Bowl
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
THE SKINNY: This is one of my favorite stats of the postseason: Georgia State is 5-1 on the road this season… and 1-4 at home.  As Orlando is nearly 450 miles from GSU’s Atlanta campus, the Panthers should feel right at home six hours away from home.  One thing that might make them feel a little queasy and a bit uneasy?  Mike White.  The senior quarterback from Western Kentucky has thrown for over 3,800 yards this season after putting up nearly 4,400 last year.  To make matters worse, GSU is 91st in the country in allowing 242.4 yards per game through the air.  In its fifth year of existence, the Panthers have never finished a season with a record above .500 — the closest they came was 6-7 in 2015 — something they could do with a win.  A loss, on the other, hand, would give the Hilltoppers their worst season since going 2-10 in 2010.  WKU had put up back-to-back 10-win seasons under Jeff Brohm, now at Purdue, before slipping in Mike Sanford‘s first year.  Neither team comes in on much of a winning roll, with WKU losing four of its last five while GSU lost its last two by a combined 38 points.  Both of those losses, of course, came at home.
THE LINE: Georgia State, +6½
THE PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 38, Georgia State 35

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WHO: No. 25 Boise State (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)
WHAT: The 26th Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Whitney, Nevada
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
THE LINE: Boise State, +7½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Marshall (7-5) vs. Colorado State (7-5)
WHAT: The 12th Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Pay attention, America, and introduce yourself, if you haven’t already, to one of the best wide receivers in the country that not enough people talk about.  Colorado State’s Michael Gallup is currently tied for third in the FBS with 94 receptions and fifth in receiving yards with 1,345.  Gallup is part of an offense that averages just north of 500 yards per game; Marshall, though, is stingy defensively, finishing the regular season second in Conference USA and 17th nationally by giving up 19.3 points per game.  If you’re a fan of streaks, here’s one: the Thundering Herd has won five straight bowl games, while the Rams have dropped three straight in the postseason.  CSU’s last win, though?  The 2013 New Mexico Bowl.  The two teams, which will be facing each other in football for the first time ever, come stumbling into this matchup as Marshall has lost four of five while Colorado State has dropped three of four.
THE LINE: Marshall, +5½
THE PREDICTION: Colorado State 44, Marshall 27

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WHO: Middle Tennessee State (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-4)
WHAT: The 4th Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The final Conference USA-Sun Belt matchup of the day, history suggests that the day’s nightcap could be the closest of the five played opening weekend.  Three Camellia Bowls have been played, with that trio of games being decided by a combined 10 points.  MTSU and ASU have met 12 times previously as members of the SBC, the last coming in 2012.  The Blue Raiders, who have lost four straight bowl games and haven’t won one since 2009, come into their matchup with their former conference rivals on a mini-roll with three wins in their last four to squeeze into a bowl slot.  The Red Wolves are playing in their seventh consecutive bowl game after playing in just one in the program’s history prior to the streak kicking off in 2011 under head coach Hugh Freeze.  After losses to Nebraska and SMU sandwiched between a win over an FCS team, ASU went 6-2 the rest of the way in nearly claiming at least a share of its third straight SBC championship and sixth in seven seasons.  Quarterback Brent Stockstill is expected to be back close to 100-percent health after battling injuries throughout the season, and MTSU’s late-season roll not so coincidentally coincided with his return.  In that vein, and while acknowledging ASU’s own threat at QB in Justice Hansen, Stockstill’s healthy presence should be enough to tip the scales in favor of the Blue Raiders’ hopes of snapping their bowl-win drought.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee State, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Middle Tennessee State 41, Arkansas State 38

Three-star 2019 decommits from Rutgers after brother’s dismissal

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A burgeoning off-field scandal has cost Rutgers a future football prospect.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that sophomore linebacker Brendan Devera was one of two players who had been dismissed from Chris Ash‘s football program. While the stated reason given at the time was unspecified violations of team rules, it was subsequently learned that Devera was one of eight Scarlet Knight football players being investigated for fraudulent use of credit cards.

Thursday, Tyler Devera, a Class of 2019 tight end, confirmed to nj.com that he had decommitted from RU. Tyler, if you hadn’t surmised by now, is Brendan’s younger brother, and confirmed that the development involving his sibling triggered his decision.

“Definitely what happened with my brother and everything,” Tyler Devera stated when asked why he had decommitted. “He was a big factor into why I wanted to go there.

“None of the coaches have contacted me since he’s been removed from the team to even say we still want you or anything like that. They just kind of led me away and made me feel like I wasn’t wanted there.”

Devera, a three-star 2019 prospect who 247Sports.com‘s composite board lists as the No. 77 tight end in next year’s class, had committed to the Scarlet Knights June 21, the same day he took an unofficial visit to the school. In addition to RU, the Bergen Catholic (NJ) high schooler holds offers from, among others, Air Force, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Old Dominion, UMass and Western Michigan.

Rutgers was Devera’s only Power Five offer, although schools such as Boston College, Minnesota and Penn State have expressed interest.

More than five dozen tight ends land on Mackey Award watch list

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If you’re a college football fan, there’s nearly a 50-50 chance that you’ll find one of your team’s players on this latest watch list installment.

The Mackey Award is next up to do the preseason deed, with the hardware going to the nation’s top tight end announcing a 64-player watch list Friday morning.  Unlike most other awards, not a single semifinalist from a year ago are up for the award won by Arkansas’ Mark Andrews in 2017.

A total of five teams placed two players on the list, with three of those coming from — surprise!!! — the Big Ten.  Iowa (Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson), Michigan (Zach Gentry, Sean McKeon) and Wisconsin (Zander Neuville, Kyle Penniston) represent that Midwest conference, while Louisville (Kemari Averett, Micky Crum) and South Carolina (KC Crosby, account for the other.

The Big Ten led all conferences with 12 players on the initial watch list, followed by the SEC (nine), ACC (seven), Pac-12 (seven), Mountain West (six) and Sun Belt (five).  There are four watch listers each hailing from the AAC, Big 12 and MAC, while Conference USA placed three.  There are also three tight ends from football independents.

Below is the complete 2018 John Mackey Award preseason watch list:



Mike MacIntyre, other Colorado officials dropped from lawsuit involving ex-Buffs assistant

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Thursday was a very good day on the legal front for Colorado University.

In early September, Pamela Fine, the woman who alleged she was abused by former Colorado assistant coach Joe Tumpkin, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver in which she alleged assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress perpetrated by Tumpkin.  Additionally, she levied claims of negligence and civil conspiracy against head coach Mike MacIntyre, athletic director Rick George, chancellor Phil DiStefano and president Bruce Benson.

Thursday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported, all four of the CU officials, including MacIntyre, have been dismissed from the case by the federal judge presiding over the lawsuit.  The judge, William J. Martinez, “granted motions by the remaining defendants to dismiss the lawsuit against them, ruling that the university did not owe Fine a legal obligation because she was not affiliated with the school,” the Daily Camera wrote.

The portion of the lawsuit involving Tumpkin remains in place.

CU announced Jan. 27 of last year that Tumpkin, the Buffs’ safeties coach, had “resigned” his position in the midst of domestic violence allegations and was subsequently charged with multiple counts of assault.  Fine, Tumpkin’s ex-girlfriend, had accused MacIntyre’s assistant of multiple acts of domestic violence dating back to 2015 and as recently as November of last year.  She obtained a permanent restraining order against Tumpkin, of which the university became aware Jan. 6 and initially triggered a suspension.

Despite knowledge of allegations that reportedly included 80 episodes of abuse — according to the alleged victim, she first went to MacIntyre’s wife — all parties, including the coach, his athletic director and his chancellor, agreed that Tumpkin would call the defensive plays in CU’s Dec. 29, 2016, bowl game in place of Jim Leavitt, who had taken the coordinator job at Oregon.  CU subsequently defended their actions, and MacIntyre did the same.

CU hired an outside law firm to investigate the program’s and university’s handling of the allegations, finding in part that MacIntyre was informed by Fine Dec. 9 of 2016 of a pattern of physical abuse suffered at the hands of Tumpkin.  In June of last year, disciplinary measures connected to that investigation were announced — MacIntyre and George were forced to donate $100,000 each to domestic violence causes while DiStefano was suspended for 10 days.

Starting Oregon State cornerback Xavier Crawford takes grad transfer to Central Michigan

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After joining Central Michigan this season as secondary coach, Cory Hall will see a very familiar face in his new meeting rooms moving forward.

On CMU’s most recently-updated online roster, Xavier Crawford is listed as a numberless 6-1, 190-pound defensive back; the player also mentions CMU football in his updated Twitter profile. Citing an Oregon State source, The Oregonian confirmed that Crawford had left the Beavers football program earlier this offseason, although no specific reason for the decision was given.

As Crawford joins the MAC program as a graduate transfer — he graduated from OSU in June — he will be eligible to play for the Chips immediately in 2018. Crawford will also have a year of eligibility that he can use in 2019 as well.

Crawford was a three-star prospect coming out of high school in California in 2014. His official OSU bio states that Crawford “[o]riginally signed a financial aid agreement with Oregon State in September 2014 and enrolled in January, thus he was considered a greyshirt.”

After redshirting as a true freshman, Crawford started all 12 games of the 2016 season for the Beavers. That season, he tied for the team lead in passes broken up with 10, while his 70 tackles were good for fourth.

Crawford started the first five games last year before going down with what turned out to be a season-ending back injury.