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CFT Previews: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

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WHO: Temple (6-6) vs. FIU (8-4)
WHAT: The 10th Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
WHEN: 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Tropicana Field, Saint Petersburg, FL
THE SKINNY: A year after finishing the regular season with a conference championship, the 2017 season was much different for the Temple Owls. First-year head coach Geoff Collins had some bumpy first tests after taking over the program, but the Owls seemed to find an offensive identity that could work in the final weeks of the season.

Junior quarterback Frank Nutile finished the season on a high note and made the case to keep the starting job in 2018 with 11 touchdowns in the final five games of the season. Nutile’s late surge in the offense provided some stability for the offense and helped to open up the game a bit for the Owls, but the running game remains the key to the Owls offense. Ryquell Armstead and David Hood have split the carries for share of the carries to a balanced effect, and that should continue against the Panthers.

Lost in the attention given to Lane Kiffin turning FAU around is the job done by Butch Davis at FIU. Perhaps even more impressive than the job done by Kiffin this season, Davis returned to the sideline and quickly built an eight-win team with FIU. The offense exploded in the final weeks of the season with 41 points against Western Kentucky and 63 against UMass. If FIU brings that type of firepower into the bowl matchup, Temple could have trouble keeping up the pace.

Davis is no stranger to coaching against Temple, although this is not the same Temple program Davis faced while coaching the Miami Hurricanes in the old Big East. The playing field is much more even now for Temple and Davis.

THE PICK: Temple 31, FIU 27

Five-star DB who flipped from Michigan to Alabama a week ago flips back to Michigan

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This just might be the perfect example of how a verbal commitment is not even remotely binding.

On Sept. 18 of this year, five-star 2019 prospect Daxton Hill announced that he had committed to playing his college football at Michigan.  On Dec. 8 of this year, that same recruit announced that he had decommitted from Michigan and, on the same day, committed to playing his college football at Alabama.

As the second Early National Signing Period dawned earlier today, Hill decommitted from Alabama and signed his National Letter of Intent with… Michigan.

And, at least for now, there will be no additional flipflopping as Hill is officially signed, sealed and delivered to Ann Arbor.

Hill, the younger brother of Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, is the top-rated safety in the Class of 2019 and, according to 247Sports.com‘s composite board, the No. 8 prospect overall.

Battle won: Alabama flips four-star DB commit from Ohio State

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In late June, four-star Florida defensive back Jordan Battle committed to Ohio State.  A little over five months later, Urban Meyer announced his retirement as OSU’s head coach; a couple of weeks later, Meyer’s replacement, Ryan Day, officially suffered his first big loss.

Even after Battle committed to OSU, and before Meyer’s retirement announcement, he took official visits to, among others, Alabama.  As the second Early National Signing Period kicked off Wednesday, the uncertainty for the Buckeyes over the level of Battle’s commitment morphed into a hard reality as the St. Thomas Aquinas product officially flipped his commitment from OSU and signed with the Crimson Tide.

It’s a big loss for Day as Battle had been the third-highest-rated commitment in OSU’s 2019 recruiting class, and the highest-rated recruit on the defensive side of the ball.  Battle becomes the first 2019 commit to decommit since Meyer announced he was stepping down, although two 2020 four-star prospects decommitted in the days after the announcement.

On the flip side, of course, Battle’s signing merely adds to an Alabama class that entered the day as the top-ranked group in the country.

Battle is a consensus four-star prospect, rated as the No. 6 safety in the country; the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 77 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  As was the case with the Buckeyes, it’s believed he will, at least initially, play cornerback for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama enters Early Signing Day with nation’s top-ranked class, could add at least two five-star undecideds

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It appears very likely the 2018 cycle will indeed be but a hiccup for the recruiting machine that is the Alabama Crimson Tide.

From 2011-17, Nick Saban pulled in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class to Tuscaloosa.  Last year, however, Georgia and former UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart knocked Saban off his recruiting perch and claimed the top class in 2018.

As we head into the second Early National Signing Day, Alabama once again sits atop 247Sports.com‘s team rankings with 304.52 points (24 commits, including two five-stars and 21 four-stars).  The Tide is also poised to add to their recruiting riches as they are in play for five uncommitted five-star prospects:

  • Florida running back Trey Sanders — No. 5 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Louisiana defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher — No. 9 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • West Virginia offensive tackle Darnell Wright — No. 10 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Mississippi linebacker Nakobe Dean — No. 14 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Florida offensive tackle Evan Neal — No. 20 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board

Of the five, though, Alabama is only currently projected to corral two of them (Sanders, Neal).  LSU is in line to land Sopsher (per 247 crystal ball projections), who is expected to wait until the February signing period to put pen to paper, while Tennessee is an overwhelming favorite for Wright.  Dean is viewed to be a near tossup between UA and Georgia, with a slight lean toward UGA but also with other SEC schools (Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss) in the mix.

After Alabama, the rest of the current Top 10 consists of, in order from Nos. 2-10, Georgia (287.38), Texas A&M (282.55), LSU (274.12), Oregon (272.07), Clemson (269.57), Texas (268.18), Oklahoma (263.03), Michigan (262.36) and Ohio State (255.99).

Those last two rivals, incidentally, could make a big early splash as both are in the mix for the top uncommitted 2019 prospect, Ohio defensive end Zach Harrison (No. 4 on 247′s composite board).  While Penn State is also a finalist, the home-state Buckeyes are the projected front-runners for Harrison, who will tweet his school of choice around 12:30 ET this afternoon.

And that’s it.  A tweet.  No dog-and-pony show, no elaborate signing ceremony.  Just a tweet to announce where he will spend at least the next three years.  Refreshing.

Oklahoma losing WR A.D. Miller to transfer

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As Oklahoma is set to add players as part of the Early Signing Period later on today, it appears the Sooners will also see one leave its roster as well.

According to a tweet from Brett McMurphy of WatchStadium.com, A.D. Miller has decided to transfer from Lincoln Riley‘s OU football program.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed that “Miller is looking to transfer and has entered his name into the NCAA transfer pool.”

No specific reason for the departure was given.

A three-star 2015 signee, Miller started 10 games during his time with the Sooners.  The wide receiver made four of those starts during his redshirt junior season this past year.

The Dallas native will finish his time in Norman with 236 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on 21 catches during his 27 appearances with the Sooners.