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CFT Previews: Cactus Bowl

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WHO: Kansas State (7-5) vs. UCLA (6-6)

WHAT: The 4th Cactus Bowl

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

WHERE: Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona

THE SKINNY: Kansas State and UCLA are no strangers to playing each other in the postseason — they met just three seasons ago in the Alamo Bowl — but the situation around this year’s meeting could not be further from the last time they played.

While that meeting in San Antonio was marked by an ugly ending that saw a near fight and an angry handshake between head coaches, both programs still appeared to be on solid footing and aiming higher in the future after two pretty good campaigns. In sharp contrast, this game in Phoenix sees both sides limping along to the finish line of a season that had a few notable moments but was otherwise marred by misery, injuries and dysfunction.

Not that UCLA fans are complaining, however, as their .500 season was the impetus for the program to part ways with Jim Mora and make the biggest hire of the coaching carousel in landing Chip Kelly.

Kelly, however, won’t be leading the team onto the baseball field-turned-gridiron the day after Christmas. That would be interim coach Jeff Fisch, who did a good job getting his team bowl eligible in the first place directing the No. 5 passing offense in the country but still is leading a rag-tag group of coaches who are short-staffed and likely looking at other opportunities after the game.

What shouldn’t be lost on the UCLA faithful, however, is that this is almost assuredly the final game of Josh Rosen’s career in powder blues. The likely first-round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft has had a rocky tenure in Westwood due to injuries but a month full of rest before the game will allow him to leave one last impression for scouts against a pretty solid defense that has seen their fair share of good passers this season.

While Rosen is hoping to end the year on a high note, the Wildcats are hoping to keep their late surge going and do the same. The team was dreadful in the middle of the year as injuries hit at several key positions but third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson has proven to be the clutch play-maker Kansas State needed to turn around their season and has powered Bill Snyder’s club to four wins in their last five games. He forms quite the combo with running back Alex Barnes and wideout Byron Pringle, each of whom might not look like much getting off the bus but will easily take it to the house quickly if you don’t contain them early and often.

They could be doing quite a bit of that on Tuesday night. Even with Rosen back under center and making big plays, the Bruins have been unfocused this year. With all that is going on with coaches coming in and out, it remains to be seen if they can pull it all together and get the team’s only win on the road all season long. Perhaps more importantly, UCLA ranks second to last in the FBS in rushing defense while KSU averages 187 yards a game in one of the bigger statistical mismatches of the postseason.

The Kelly era can’t start soon enough for one team and something says that the old white and purple windbreaker on the other sideline ensures that happens quickly and politely out in the desert.

THE PICK: Kansas State 31, UCLA 24

Tennessee officially adds Georgia transfer Deangelo Gibbs

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It is not too often you see one school welcome a transfer player from another program within the same conference, and even more rare to see it within the same division. Tennessee did just that with the addition of Deangelo Gibbs on Monday.

Gibbs, a Georgia native, was officially added to the Tennessee program on Monday, the school announced, after spending the last two years at SEC East counterpart Georgia. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt noted his knowledge and relationship with Gibbs dates back to recruiting him out of high school when Pruitt was a defensive coordinator at Georgia and later a defensive coordinator at Alabama.

“Deangelo is a guy that I knew, and our staff knew in recruiting when he was coming out of high school,” Pruitt said in a released statement. “He’s a guy that can play on either side of the ball. He’s very tough and has unique ball skills. He’s a very instinctive player, and he has size and speed. We are happy to have him at Tennessee.”

Gibbs played defensive back for Georgia, appearing in 13 games over the last two years. Pruitt noted the ability Gibbs has to play on either side of the football. It is unconfirmed which role Gibbs will have for Tennessee primarily or if utilizing his skills in multiple ways will be the plan.

Gibbs will have to wait until 2020 to get back on the field, however. NCAA transfer rules require Gibbs to sit out the 2019 season before being ruled eligible to play once again in 2020 as he is transferring from one FBS program to another.

Houston adding pair of P5 safeties via transfers

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New Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen is busy compiling his first football roster with the Cougars. Two new additions to the roster will come from a pair of power conference programs with the additions of safeties Thabo Mwaniki and Jordan Moore.

According to a report from Tulsa World, Mwaniki is heading to Houston after making his decision to leave Oklahoma State last November. After starting the first four games for the Cowboys, Mwaniki was reduced to a backup role in the Cowboys defense.

Moore, who previously played at Texas A&M, announced his decision to transfer to Houston on Sunday night with an image on his Twitter account. The image of Moore in a Houston football uniform included the message “New chapter,” thus noting he was ready to start with a clean slate with the Cougars. Moore announced his decision to transfer from the Aggies just before Christmas.

Moore will be required to sit out the 2019 season and will be eligible to play again beginning in 2020 due to NCAA transfer rules. However, because he only appeared in four games for Texas A&M in 2018, he can preserve a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s redshirt rule. That would make him a redshirt sophomore in 2020.

Mwaniki still has a redshirt option to use as well. Mwaniki appeared in seven games for Oklahoma State last season so he would have to use his redshirt year for the 2019 season, which he would have to sit out anyway due to NCAA transfer rules. Mwaniki will have two years of eligibility to use at Houston.

Taulia Tagovailoa jokes about taking starting job from older brother Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama

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Despite how the 2018 season ended for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, there is absolutely no reason to suspect he is in any jeopardy of not being Alabama’s starting quarterback next season when Alabama opens the 2019 season in Atlanta against Duke. But perhaps there is something to be said about sibling rivalry?

After the conclusion of the Polynesian Bowl this weekend, incoming Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua, joked about the possibility of taking down his older brother for the starting job in Tuscaloosa.

In front of a camera, a teammate from the high school all-star game asked if Taulia was “going to beat your brother out for the spot?” Staring into the camera for a brief moment, Taulia responded “Tune in” with a smile as he walked away from the interview among laughter.

The remark was clearly in good fun and who would expect anything else from a little sibling rivalry like this? You have to love it.

Taulia is a four-star dual-threat quarterback in Alabama’s Class of 2019 and many expect he will be the successor to his brother once Tua Tagovailoa moves on. That could happen as soon as next year with Tua coming up on his junior season. With Jalen Hurts transferring to Oklahoma, it might be possible we see some of the younger Tagovailoa in a backup role in 2019, especially with the new redshirt rule allowing players to appear in four games while still preserving a year of redshirt eligibility.

The jokes are surely fun, but there will be no quarterback competition in Tuscaloosa.

Nebraska’s Super Bowl streak hits 26 and Georgia leads all schools in Super Bowl players

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The Los Angeles Rams captured the NFC championship yesterday with an overtime victory on the road against the New Orleans Saints. With the win, the Nebraska Cornhuskers saw their record of consecutive Super Bowls with at least one former Husker playing in the game extended to 26.

Former Nebraska standout Ndamukong Suh kept the streak alive for the Huskers as a fixture on the defensive line for the Rams. But even if the Rams had lost the game, Nebraska still would have seen their streak extended to 26 later in the day when the New England Patriots clinched the AFC Championship with their own road overtime victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. Patriots running back Rex Burkhead, a former Nebraska running back, had four catches for 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Patriots’ AFC title game victory.

While Nebraska maintains their impressive streak of Super Bowl participants, a number of colleges will be represented by more players in this year’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and Rams. Georgia has a total of five players in the game, edging out Cal, Florida, Miami, and Rutgers for the most players in this year’s Super Bowl. A total of 19 FBS programs will have at least two players in the Super Bowl this season.

As noted by the college football community on Reddit, Georgia could become the second school to have two starting running backs in a Super Bowl if the Patriots start Sony Michel (the Rams would have Todd Gurley). The last team to do that was Cal a few years ago when the Patriots (Shane Vereen) faced off with the Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch). Cal is also making some Super Bowl history as the Golden Bears will be the first school to have a total of five quarterbacks play in a Super Bowl with Jared Goff. Goff joined former Golden Bear quarterbacks Joe Kapp, Craig Morten, Vince Ferragamo and Aaron Rodgers in that Super Bowl QB lineage.

Goff could also be the second-straight Pac-12 quarterback to win a Super Bowl, following Arizona’s Nick Foles last season. Goff would be the third Pac-10/12 quarterback to win the Super Bowl since 2000, joining Foles and Rodgers.