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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 22 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 22 bowl menu, which today features the best feel-good team of the 2017 college football season as well as a quarterback who could be a Top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

WHO: UAB (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4)
WHAT: The 4th Bahamas Bowl
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
THE SKINNY: Normally, I couldn’t give a spit who wins any of these bowl games as long as they put on a good, entertaining show.  This is one of the lone exceptions, however, because how can you not root for the UAB football program in general and the players and coaches in particular?  After the administration unnecessarily disbanded the football program and then, under intense public pressure and alongside a massive fundraising effort, resurrected it less than a year later, the Blazers resumed football on the field in 2017 following a two-season sabbatical.  And what a remarkable return it was as Bill Clark‘s squad won eight games in the regular season, already the most in the program’s history — topping the old standard of seven set in 2004 — and finished second in the Conference USA’s West division.  After a so-so 4-3 start, they finished the regular season by winning four out of five games, with the lone loss being to Florida in Gainesville.   Oh, and have I mentioned that this will mark just the second-ever bowl game for the Blazers?  Fitting the glass slipper on this football Cinderella story won’t be easy, though.  Ohio has made its hay this season on the ground, finishing the regular season 17th in the country in rushing yards per game at just over 244; UAB, conversely, was slightly below average in giving up 169.8 ypg (71st out of 130 FBS teams).  The Blazers can also run the ball quite effectively as they’re 37th nationally (190.3 ypg); that plays right into the MAC school’s strength, however, as the Bobcats are 11th in stopping the run (111.4 ypg).  That said, Ohio stumbled into the postseason having lost two games in a row… and they’ve also lost three bowls game in a row… and, dammit, UAB is just too good of s story for it to end any other way than with a win.  Here’s to saying the program will celebrate its second-ever postseason tilt by winning in its first-ever bowl game.  That could just be the heart, not the head, talking, though.
THE LINE: UAB, +7
THE PREDICTION: UAB 27, Ohio 26

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WHO: Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Wyoming (7-5)
WHAT: The 21st Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHEN: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
THE SKINNY: Arguably the marquee player with the most national name recognition today makes his appearance in this game, quarterback Josh Allen, after a little bit of injury uncertainty, suits up for and starts in what’s expected to be his last game at the collegiate level.  That said, Allen struggled this season compared to last as an inferior supporting cast and the injury to his throwing arm did him no favors; Central Michigan’s pass defense (23rd in the country, 188.2 ypg) could do him no favors in his college football swan song, either. … Neither team has had much success of late in the postseason, with the Chips dropping three bowl games in a row (last win: 2012) and the Cowboys two straight (last win: 2009). … If you’re looking for the hotter of the two teams in the here and now, it’s easily the MAC school as CMU closed out the regular season winning five in a row while their opponent today dropped two straight to end the year.  Allen didn’t play in those two losses, it should be noted, and UW was 7-3 in games the junior signal-caller started this season. … This bowl game will serve as a quasi-home game for the Cowboys as Boise is a mere 680 miles from Laramie.  For comparison’s sake, Kalamazoo is just over 1,800 miles away, so the Cowboys have that going for them.  Which is nice. … One stat of which you may not be aware before we leave: Wyoming is 12th in the country in scoring defense, giving up an average of just 17.8 points per game.
THE LINE: Central Michigan, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Central Michigan 24, Wyoming 20

Ex-Western Michigan WR reportedly holding up payouts in $208 million lawsuit with NCAA

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It’s been well over a year since the NCAA reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over grant-in-aid/cost of attendance and yet the $208 million the organization is still just sitting in a bank account waiting to be doled out. While you might first think that this is the result of the usual dragging of their feet from those in Indianapolis, it turns out that is not the case at all.

USA Today is reporting that it’s actually former Western Michigan wide receiver Darrin Duncan who is the one holding things up. He withdrew from the class-action case but his attorney, Caroline Tucker, “attempted to obtain $200,000 from the plaintiffs’ lawyers in exchange for dropping the objection.” The lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side have naturally responded in force, asking either of the two to post a five-figure bond to cover their own legal fees resulting from this delay. The judge in the case, Claudia Wilken, knocked that down to $5,000 last Friday by calling Tucker/Duncan’s objection to the case “meritless and thus his appeal is unlikely to succeed.”

At this point, Duncan/Tucker can either put up the money and risk losing it to continue their objection or drop things and let the payments — which could go as high as $6,000 per athlete — begin. While this is naturally focused on money, there’s a bit more to what the former Broncos receiver is going through:

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of Duncan dealing with personal hardship.

Now 28, he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his mother and a GoFundMe page established on his behalf about a year ago. He has received death threats because of his objection to the settlement, his mother, Arleen Pollard, said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports.

It does appear as though a solution to this long-running saga is in the cards somewhat soon but until then, the wait continues before the checks can start hitting the mail.

Pitt reportedly poaches Mississippi State staffer to be new director of recruiting

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Could we have the start of a budding rivalry between Pitt and Mississippi State? No, but the two programs did see one poach a staffer from the other.

A source told FootballScoop that Mississippi State assistant director of football operations Reed Case has taken the director of recruiting position at Pitt. Both positions are off-the-field roles but as anybody who has worked in a football office will tell you, each is crucial to the day-to-day success of a program.

Per the folks over at FootballScoop, this is one of the first big jobs that Case has had at an ACC program in the Northeast but he’s got a diverse background from stops at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and East Carolina among others.

The move by Pat Narduzzi fills the vacancy left behind by long-time staffer Mark Diethorn, who previously served as the Panthers’ director of recruiting for six years before heading to a new job at his alma mater of Virginia Tech last week.

Recruit who reportedly didn’t have offer still commits to Virginia, Hoos pick up actual pledge from Danish recruit instead

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Ahh ‘crootin.

The lifeblood of every college football program, recruiting can sometimes give us some awkward moments and it appears we have another courtesy of Virginia. Let us first bring up this tweet from Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep Class of 2019 wide receiver Anthony Gordon, who seemingly committed to the Cavaliers last Thursday.

Great for the kid, right? Well, there’s just one problem, 247Sports says that Gordon is not actually a commitment for the program for a rather big reason:

There was an issue though, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound wide receiver never had the scholarship offer from UVA he reported in March. According to multiple sources, Virginia had not been in contact since March and no call was made to the Virginia staff before the post on social media.

So… yeah. This immediately brings Kevin Hart (no, not that one) to mind after the former offensive lineman staged a ceremony to commit to Cal even though the Golden Bears never recruited him nearly a decade ago. It does seem like there is at least some contact between Virginia and Gordon in this case though, as that report makes clear, it has been a while since the two have talked.

All is not lost for Cavs fans though, as the program did add a commitment from Emil Bo Andersen at their summer camp. Why would we mention this? Well, Anderson is not only a 6-foot-5, 280-pount defensive tackle that comes at a position of need, but he’s actually Danish and is apparently ticketed to a full-ride across the pond thanks to what he showcased at the UVA camp. Very cool and not the first ACC player to come from overseas either should his pledge hold up.

It’s never dull in the ‘crootin world.

Syracuse QB Rex Culpepper on beating cancer: It felt like beating Clemson

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There’s been a lot of cool moments across college football this past spring but one of the best came in one of the most unlikely of places: Syracuse. At the Orange’s spring game in mid-April, backup quarterback Rex Culpepper suited up in between chemotherapy treatments and managed to throw a (tear-jerking) touchdown pass in the final drive of the afternoon.

Fast forward a few months and Culpepper, after undergoing over 100 hours of treatment, was declared cancer-free in early June. Fully healthy and finally cleared to return to regular football activities, the signal-caller recently went through an offseason workout with his teammates and later spoke to the media about everything that has happened throughout the process.

And how did he describe beating cancer? Well, naturally he brought an a very special on-the-field victory from last season.

“The closest thing I can say is it felt like beating Clemson,” Culpepper said, according to Syracuse.com. “You just feel so incredibly ecstatic that nothing in your life could ever go wrong.”

We’re pretty confident that even Tigers fans won’t mind hearing that given what the quarterback has been through and what a joyful moment that it was for the program back in October.

Next up for Culpepper and the team? Fall camp later this year as he competes with senior Eric Dungey in one of the more impressive quarterback rooms in the ACC for a variety of reasons.