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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

Attorney: Dozens of former Buckeye football players among ex-Ohio State team physician’s victims

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An attorney preparing a lawsuit against Ohio State says that most of his 50 clients victimized by former Buckeye team Dr. Richard Strauss were former Buckeye football players.

Dayton-based attorney Michael Wright told the Associated Press some of his clients, all of whom remain anonymous at this time, went on to play in the NFL. “Clearly they had good relationships with the university, and they believe the university will either retaliate or significantly distance themselves from these athletes,” Wright said.

Strauss’ abuse of Ohio State athletes has been in the news lately, but his actions have been primarily focused on the Buckeyes’ wrestling program. Former wrestler Mike DiSabato met with Ohio State in March 2018 to discuss the abuse he says he and other athletes suffered at Strauss’ hands, prompting the school to hire the Seattle-based Perkins Coie law firm. That firm released a 232-page report on Friday that found Strauss abused at least 177 male students; the report made one specific reference to football, and said three former football players were interviewed.

“We find that University personnel had knowledge of Strauss’ sexually abusive treatment of male student-patients as early as 1979, but the complaints about Strauss’ conduct were not elevated beyond the Athletics Department of Student Health until 1996,” the report stated.

Strauss worked for Ohio State from 1979 through 1998. He committed suicide in 2005.

“Although a weight has been lifted off my back, I am deeply saddened to hear and relive the stories of so many others who suffered similar abuse by Dr. Strauss while Ohio State turned a blind eye,” DiSabato’s said in a statement.

Part of the reason the public discourse has centered on Ohio State’s wrestling program is because Jim Jordan, a U.S. Representative from Ohio’s fourth district, served as an assistant coach for the Buckeyes’ wrestling team from 1987 through ’95. Jordan maintains he knew nothing of Strauss’ actions.

But Wright’s lawsuit could broaden the scope and discussion of Strauss’ abuse and Ohio State’s knowledge therein, particularly if any of the victims come forward. Wright told the AP he plans to file his lawsuit late next week.

Former Oregon WR Keanon Lowe thwarts potential school shooting

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Former Oregon wide receiver Keanon Lowe performed an all-too-common act of heroism on Friday when he thwarted a potential school shooting before it could begin.

The incident occurred at Portland’s Parkrose High School, where witnesses saw 18-year-old Angel Granados Dias dressed in a dark trench coat and brandishing a shotgun in the doorway of a classroom. Students immediately began fleeing the room, but Lowe managed to tackle Dias before he fired any shots. Dias did not fire any shots or point the gun at anyone, according to the Portland Police Department. He was taken into police custody early Sunday morning, according to The Oregonian.

“Incidents such as the one that occurred today strikes the worst fear in the hearts of students and parents,” Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said in a statement. “The officers and school staff worked together to respond quickly and ensure the safety of all involved. I commend the school staff member who displayed quick actions and bravery when he confronted the subject.”

“At some point, a staff member at the high school confronted him,” police said in a statement. “A Portland Police School Resource Officer and other officers arrived and immediately entered the school and found the staff member detaining the subject in the hallway.”

Lowe played wide receiver for the Ducks from 2011-14, where he caught 68 career passes for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a member of the 2014 Oregon squad that won the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl and reached the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship, Lowe hauled in 28 grabs for 414 yards and five touchdowns. Lowe worked as an analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers before joining the Parkrose staff. The 2018 campaign was his firs at the school.

“I think (Lowe) deserves a lot of credit for his bravery,” Parkrose student Elijah Reginald told The Oregonian. “If it wasn’t for him, someone could have gotten hurt or potentially lost their life.”

Iowa, Iowa State football accounts knocked off Twitter

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If you’re in charge of communications for a major college football program, the third Saturday in May should be one of the rare times in the year when you can relax. Spring football is over, and the season is still months in the distance.

Except if you’re in charge of messaging for a major program in the state of Iowa. Then you’ve had quite a Saturday.

Both Iowa and Iowa State saw their football programs’ official Twitter accounts shut down on Saturday. Both accounts, @HawkeyeFootball and @CycloneFB, were suspended, with a standard note saying, “Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules.” Each account remains shut down as of this writing, hours after they were originally knocked offline.

Twitter’s landing page for suspended accounts says accounts are commonly shut down for one of three reasons:

Spam: Most of the accounts we suspend are suspended because they are spammy, or just plain fake, and they introduce security risks for Twitter and all of our users. These types of accounts are against our Twitter Rules. Unfortunately, sometimes a real person’s account gets suspended by mistake, and in those cases we’ll work with the person to make sure the account is unsuspended.

Account security at risk: If we suspect an account has been hacked or compromised, we may suspend it until it can be secured and restored to the account owner in order to reduce potentially malicious activity caused by the compromise.

Abusive Tweets or behavior: We may suspend an account if it has been reported to us as violating our Rules surrounding abuse. When an account engages in abusive behavior, like sending threats to others or impersonating other accounts, we may suspend it temporarily or, in some cases, permanently.

Since neither account was engaged in spam or abusive behavior, the most likely factors are that a rogue actor was attempting to hack the accounts, or that they were unwittingly posting copyrighted material. The fact that both programs in the state of Iowa were the only ones among the 24 combined Big Ten and Big 12 programs is certainly suspicious.

Both programs told the Des Moines Register they are looking into the matter.

 

EA Sports would be interested in reviving ‘NCAA Football’ franchise if rules change

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College sports is a big business, as everyone including Dabo Swinney knows. So big, in fact, that it served as the inspiration for a major video game franchise you may have heard of: NCAA Football, by EA Sports.

EA Sports began producing college football titles with Bill Walsh College Football in 1993, an obvious companion to the NFL’s Madden series. The franchise rebranded to NCAA Football in 1997 and continued until the final edition, NCAA Football 14, which hit shelves on July 9, 2013.

And then it all stopped.

The Ed O’Bannon suit ended the gravy train, when a federal court ruled EA Sports had illegally licensed college football players’ likenesses without compensating them. EA paid out $60 million in settlements and promptly stopped licensing the game from the NCAA.

But that could change, maybe.

With Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) launching separate crusades against the NCAA’s amateurism model, the NCAA announced last week it has formed a committee to review its NLI rules before the federal government does it for them. And if the NCAA grants NLI athletes to its athletes? Hello, NCAA Football 21. Said former NCAA Football executive producer Ben Haumiller to 247Sports:

“We loved making college football games. If the opportunity ever presented itself we’d be very interested in potentially getting back into that space.”

Now, we’re still a long way from the NCAA opening the floodgates on NLI payments. Amateurism is the core tenet of the NCAA until it’s not.

But if and when the day comes when college sports no longer demands its players play something other than cash, well, college sports is a big business and EA would like to cash in just as much as everybody else.