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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

Mike Weber to leave Ohio State early for NFL, but will play in Rose Bowl

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Mike Weber has officially decided to ply his football wares at the next level, but not until his last season at this level has played out.

After going back and forth on the subject for the past couple of months, Weber announced on Twitter Sunday that he has decided to leave Ohio State early “and will live the dream I’ve had since 5 years old. I will be declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft.” Additionally, the running back confirmed that he will play in the Rose Bowl against Washington New Year’s Day.

A highly-touted 2015 signee whose OSU career got off to a bit of a bumpy start off the field, Weber has rushed for 2,580 yards (15th all-time at the school) and 24 touchdowns the past three seasons.  The Detroit, Michigan, native’s 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman led the Buckeyes, while his nine rushing touchdowns tied for the team lead that same season.

Weber’s 858 yards and five touchdowns in 2018 are currently second on the team.

UCF’s 25-game winning streak now longest in all of college football

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When we say a streak, a stat, a side of the ball is the best in college football, typically it’s implied such a statement applies only to FBS. The game’s highest division gobbles up 99.9 percent of the attention, and with good reason — that’s where 99.9 percent of the best players live.

But when we say UCF’s 25-game winning streak is now the longest in college football, it’s actually true now.

Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) knocked off Mount Union (Ohio) 24-16 in the Division III National Championship on Friday night, in the process ending the Purple Raiders’ 29-game winning streak and handing UCF the crown.

According to a CFT study, half of the nation’s 10 longest winning streaks reside in the FBS, and with good reason. While the other divisions funnel all their best teams into one bracket in order to find the very best team, FBS puts only four teams in its tournament, allowing UCF to put together two straight unbeaten seasons (minus one game) without competing for the national championship.

Top 10 College Football Winning Streaks
1. UCF — 25 games
2. North Dakota State (FCS) — 20
3(t). Alabama — 15
3(t). Mary Hardin-Baylor (Division III) — 15
3(t). Morningside (NAIA) — 15
3(t). Valdosta State (Division II) — 15
7(t). Clemson — 13
7(t). Notre Dame — 13
9. Princeton (FCS) — 10
10. Army — 8

Certainly the Knights would trade their 25-game winning streak for a shot at Alabama, Clemson and the like, but their consolation prize is the longest winning streak in all of college football — for as long as they keep winning.

Oregon lands commitment from nation’s No. 2 player

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Mario Cristobal got the biggest win of his Oregon head coaching tenure on Saturday, the Ducks don’t play again until New Year’s Eve.

Oregon landed the commitment of 5-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on Saturday, a 6-foot-4, 239-pound defensive end out of Oaks Christian in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Thibodeaux announced his pledge on ESPN during halftime of Utah State’s New Mexico Bowl drubbing of North Texas.

Thibodeaux is rated the No. 1 player in ESPN’s rankings and No. 10 by Rivals and 247Sports. Those rankings put him at No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite rankings, trailing only IMG Academy defensive end Nolan Smith, a Georgia commit.

Oregon beat out Alabama, Florida and Florida State for Thibodeaux’s services.

“There were a lot of reasons why I chose Oregon,” Thibodeaux said, via 247Sports. “I have a great comfort level with the coaching staff and I know I can go in there and get developed. I’ve known coach (Keith) Heyward since I was just a freshman and I really like coach Joe (Salave’a, DL coach) a lot. He’s a great coach, one of the best coaches in the country and I can’t wait to learn from him.

Thibodeaux will be only the third 247Sports Composite top-2 player to sign with a Pac-12 school in the past decade, following USC’s Matt Barkley in 2009 and UCLA’s Jalean Phillips in 2017. As a cautionary tale for all in Eugene, neither player really lived up to his respective billing. Barkely did not lead USC back to the elite of college football and has thrown just 174 passes as a mid-round NFL draft pick, while Phillips is reportedly leaving the team after two seasons at UCLA.

With Thibodeaux now in the fold, Oregon’s 2019 class now ranks No. 5 nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, a 20-man class that includes 11 4-stars and now a 12th blue chip player in Thibodeaux.

Morningside College claims first NAIA national title

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A 16-yard touchdown pass from Trent Solsma to Connor Niles with 1:29 remaining handed Morningside College its first NAIA national championship on Saturday, capping a 35-28 win over Benedictine in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Morningside College is located Sioux City, Iowa, while Benedictine College is in Atchison, Kan.

The Solsma-to-Niles connection was massive for Morningside. Solsma completed 19-of-36 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions, with the bulk of the damage going to Niles, who caught seven passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns.

The game started with a Shaefer Schuetz 26-yard touchdown pass for Benedictine, as the Ravens held leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 20-14 — all in the first half. But the Morningside defense stepped up in the second half, allowing the Mustangs to take control of the game with two Solsma touchdown passes, the first an 80-yarder to Niles, then a 19-yard score to Reid Jurgensmeier, putting Morningside in front 28-20 at the 9:53 mark of the third quarter.

Benedictine forged the game’s third tie with a 1-yard Frank Trent rush with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, then had a chance to take the lead again after forcing a Morningside punt, but a holding call killed the Ravens’ drive and then disaster struck when a botched punt snap handed Morningside the ball at the Benedictine 18-yard line with two minutes remaining. On a 3rd-and-8 from the 16, Solsma found Niles for the winning score.

“It was going to him no matter what,” Solsma said. “He’s made big plays his entire career. This was no different.”

Niles’ catch, the last of his career, saw him finish with 6,175 career receiving yards, the most in NAIA history.

“I just remember catching it and then going to my knees,” Niles said. “After that, it was all cameras and teammates mobbing me. This is absolutely amazing.”

Morningside had been on the cusp of their first national title for the majority of the decade; the Mustangs lost the NAIA title game in 2012 and then fell in the NAIA semifinals in four of the past five seasons. The semifinal round saw Morningside avenge its 2016 and ’17 playoff losses to the University of Saint Francis — who would go on to win those seasons’ national titles — in a 34-28 overtime thriller.

“I’ve been motivated to not let this season end,” Morningside head coach Steve Ryan said. “The toughest part for me was that, at the end of the night, the year would be over. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. It ended the way we were hoping … I’m ecstatic.”