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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

West Virginia fills 2024 schedule with FCS opponent

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West Virginia fans have some good game sot look forward to in 2024. The latest addition to the schedule probably won’t be one of them.

The University of Albany announced today they have added a future road game against the Mountaineers for the 2024 season. The game will be played on Sept. 7, 2024 in Morgantown. According to a report from The Times Union, Albany will receive a guaranteed payment of $475,000 for the game.

With a nine-game conference schedule in the Big 12, the addition of Albany completes West Virginia’s schedules through the 2024 season.

It will be the first time the FCS program has played a team from the Big 12, although the school has played an FBS opponent every year since 2015 and has more on the schedule. Albany will play at Central Michigan this fall, at UMass in 2020, at Syracuse in 2021, and at Hawaii in 2023. There is currently no FBS opponent lined up for 2022.

West Virginia has not officially announced the addition of Albany to the schedule and may be waiting to lump the news in with some other scheduling notes once they are confirmed. The date of the Albany game will fill a gap on the WVU schedule that sees West Virginia open the 2024 season at home against Penn State (Aug. 31, 2024) and visit Pitt on Sept. 14, 2024 as the Mountaineers rekindle some old regional rivalries. West Virginia renews their rivalry with Pitt beginning in 2022 with the first of four games, and WVU will begin a two-game home-and-home series with the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley in 2023.

West Virginia has also filled the gap between games against Penn State and Pitt in their 2023 schedule with a home game against another FCS opponent, Duquesne. They will do a similar scheduling setup in 2020 by hosting Eastern Kentucky between games against Florida State (in Atlanta) and a home game against Maryland in 2025, and by hosting Indiana State between a road game at Maryland and a home game against Virginia Tech in 2021.

Texas A&M bumps 2019 opener up to Thursday night

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Texas A&M and Texas State fans now have officially moved 48 closer to the first kickoff of the new college football season. The season opener hosted by Texas A&M originally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31 has officially been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29.

Texas A&M announced the rescheduling of the season and home opener for the Aggies and addressed some of the procedures that will be utilized to accommodate the Thursday night home game on campus, although classes will still remain in session for the day.

This will be the second year in a row Texas A&M opens the new season at home on a Thursday night, suggesting there is a possibility this trend could continue if the school is open to moving a game into more of a national spotlight. TV information for the game will be released at a later time, but the Thursday night schedule for Week 1 of the college football season should land the Aggies on an ESPN network, whether that be ESPN, ESPN 2 or SEC Network.

UPDATE: The good folks at FBSchedules.com report the game will air at 8:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

The rescheduled game also gives Texas A&M a little more time to recover and prepare for their next game, a Week 2 road trip to defending national champion Clemson. Perhaps not coincidentally, Clemson is also playing that same Thursday night with a road game at Georgia Tech. That ACC contest will be the first football game aired by the brand new ACC Network. Now, both Texas A&M and Clemson will have the same amount of prep time for their big matchup in Week 2.

Oregon coaches took field trip to Alabama, Georgia

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The 2019 season is one that will see the bar raised for the Oregon Ducks. The second season under head coach Mario Cristobal could see the Ducks challenge for the Pac-12 title if things go according to plan in Eugene. With spring football in season, Cristobal took his entire coaching staff on a trip to see how some of the best coaching staffs in the SEC operate.

As reported by The Oregonian, Cristobal and the Oregon coaching staff paid a visit to Alabama and Georgia to meet up with the coaches of the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs. Cristobal is a former Alabama assistant under Nick Saban and worked under Kirby Smart, who is now the head coach at Georgia. It pays to have some good connections for Cristobal, it would seem.

A trip for a coaching staff like this is not at all uncommon in college football. But it is notable that Cristobal returned to the SEC to have his coaching staff take some notes from Saban’s and Smart’s. Alabama and Georgia are defending division champions in the SEC and met in the SEC Championship Game last season, a year after their national championship showdown in the College Football Playoff of the 2017 season. Of course, Alabama has been on the national championship level for a number of years now and Smart is looking to have Georgia in that same company on a regular basis.

It has been a few years since Oregon was considered a national title contender (their appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game is already fading in the memory bank), but things are starting to look as though they are turning around for the Ducks. And if Cristobal can run his coaching staff the way Saban has over the years, then Oregon will certainly be in good hands in the years to come.

Bobby Petrino went WAY over budget on recruiting at Louisville

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With each passing month, it looks more and more like Louisville was swindled mightily by bringing back Bobby Petrino as head coach. It’s not just the lack of wins despite having a Heisman Trophy-winner at quarterback or the numerous off the field issues, it is the hurt the Cardinals suffered in the wallet even beyond the coach’s hefty buyout.

Per the Louisville Courier Journal, Petrino was over his budgeted recruiting expenses by nearly $1.1 million all told in his final four seasons and nearly double the amount allotted in his final two years alone. The program spent just over $700,000 in 2017 despite a budget of just $320,000 on recruiting and over half a million trying to bring in players the year prior with an even smaller budget.

“I don’t look at this and say, ‘Geez, they spent all this money in recruiting and we went 2-10,’” AD Vince Tyra told the paper. “You have to believe that there’s good effort there, there’s solid effort. Maybe the frustrating part of that is when you hear your current coach say you’re out of balance by position from those efforts.

“That as much as the dollars is probably problematic, because we need to be in position to win, and maybe we weren’t as close as I thought we were.”

Indeed, worse than going over budget was the mediocre results that Petrino and his staff delivered for that amount. The Cardinals never finished above 30th in the 247Sports’ composite team rankings and the lack of recruiting prowess from the former staff has left new coach Scott Satterfield’s group with a big hole to dig out of in terms of the roster.

The program is certainly doing their best to move forward with a number of wholesale changes from top to bottom but it remains glaringly obvious that the ill-fated return of Petrino delivered one transcendent player to celebrate and not much else to the commonwealth.