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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

Big Ten releases list of preseason honors

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As the Big Ten gets set to begin their media day fun in Chicago, the conference assembled a panel of media members to come up with a list of 10 players to receive preseason recognition. Five players from each division were named to this year’s mini-watch list of Big Ten players, with Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley the lone player designated as a unanimous selection.

Ohio State is represented on the list by two players in the East Division with sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and junior defensive end Nick Bosa each being recognized by the panel. Bosa was last year’s defensive lineman of the year in the Big Ten despite not being a full-time starter. Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary and Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke were also honored in addition to McSorley of Penn State.

The West Division representatives is highlighted by last season’s freshman of the year in the Big Ten, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. The Badgers also are represented by linebacker T.J. Edwards. Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fischer, Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. and Iowa tight end Noah Fant also made up the West Division representatives.

Some names that stand out as possible omissions include Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, but it may be difficult to argue against the names appearing on this preseason list.

Ole Miss reveals Great White Shark uniform with new white helmet for season opener vs. Texas Tech

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With Shark Week upon us, Ole Miss is playing right into the theme with the announcement of its brand new “great white shark” uniform selection for the upcoming season. When Ole Miss takes the field for the season opener against Texas Tech in Houston, they will do so in a uniform featuring white from head to toe, including the helmet.

Ole Miss traditionally wears a blue helmet, so coming out in white is a brand new look for the Rebels. It also completes the idea of going all in on a great white shark theme, which is a play off the idea of Ole Miss embracing the land shark as its spirit animal on the football field. The video showed no nameplate on the back of the uniform, but that may just be because it is a demo uniform used specifically for the promotional video.

Ole Miss faces Texas Tech on September 1 in Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Sun Belt championship game MVP will get an MVP Belt

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The Sun Belt Conference will introduce a brand new conference championship game beginning this season, and the player of the game will be taking home quite the unique reward. The Sun Belt Conference championship game MVP will be given a championship belt, as opposed to a traditional trophy. It looks fantastic.

With the Sun Belt now home to the best conference championship game MVP prize, it is time for other conferences to step their game up!

Iowa DT Brady Reiff arrested for public intoxication

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Iowa defensive tackle Brady Reiff could face some upcoming internal discipline following an arrest over the weekend. Reiff was arrested for public intoxication early Saturday morning by Iowa City police.

According to Hawk Central, Reiff was released from jail at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, a little less than seven hours after his arrest. A statement from Iowa Athletics Director stated the university was aware of the incident and was gathering more information on the story.

At this time, there has been no discipline handed out to Reiff from within the Iowa football program or athletics department, but some form of punishment should probably be expected down the line. A loss of playing time in the season opener would appear to be the most likely result given the misdemeanor caliber of the crime involved.

Reiff recorded 13 tackles, one sack and one interception while appearing in 12 games for the Hawkeyes last season. Reiff is expected to compete for a starting job on Iowa’s defensive line this season.