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CFT Previews: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

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WHO: No. 21 Northwestern (9-3) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT: The 20th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
THE SKINNY: It was not all that long ago the thought of Northwestern being able to win a bowl game seemed like an impossible feat, but the times have changed. This year, the Wildcats are going for their second-straight bowl victory in as many years for the first time in school history. In order to get it, they will have to fend off the Wildcats of the SEC from Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, where the Wildcats figure to have a bit of an advantage in the crowd.

Kentucky slides into the bowl season with more than enough wins to be here, but they do so having lost two straight games by a combined score of 86-30 against division foe Georgia and in-state rival Louisville. Defensively, Kentucky was overmatched by the eventual SEC champions and playoff participant and a Louisville team and Heisman finalist Lamar Jackson out for revenge from last season. So how much can Mark Stoops regroup Kentucky to prepare for what could be a decent battle with Northwestern?

For Kentucky, converting inside the red zone will be essential. Kentucky has left too many points on the field by having to settle for field goal attempts this season once getting inside the 20-yard line. In 39 red zone trips, Kentucky has scored just 24 touchdowns and had to kick 12 field goals. Northwestern has been much more successful in the red zone with 39 red zone touchdowns (in 54 trips), with 10 field goals.

Kentucky’s offense will be fueled by running back Benny Snell, who has rushed for 1,318 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Stephen Johnson has done well in avoiding making too many costly mistakes, and he’ll have to do that again against a feisty Northwestern defense.

This will also be a chance for Northwestern running back Justin Jackson to shine in one final game for the Wildcats. One of the top running backs in the Big Ten a year ago, Jackson got lost in the shuffle of talented running backs in the conference this season, but still rushed for 1,154 yards and nine touchdowns. Expect him to be a factor against the 61st-ranked run defense of Kentucky.

THE PICK: Northwestern 30, Kentucky 26

West Virginia fills 2024 schedule with FCS opponent

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West Virginia fans have some good game sot look forward to in 2024. The latest addition to the schedule probably won’t be one of them.

The University of Albany announced today they have added a future road game against the Mountaineers for the 2024 season. The game will be played on Sept. 7, 2024 in Morgantown. According to a report from The Times Union, Albany will receive a guaranteed payment of $475,000 for the game.

With a nine-game conference schedule in the Big 12, the addition of Albany completes West Virginia’s schedules through the 2024 season.

It will be the first time the FCS program has played a team from the Big 12, although the school has played an FBS opponent every year since 2015 and has more on the schedule. Albany will play at Central Michigan this fall, at UMass in 2020, at Syracuse in 2021, and at Hawaii in 2023. There is currently no FBS opponent lined up for 2022.

West Virginia has not officially announced the addition of Albany to the schedule and may be waiting to lump the news in with some other scheduling notes once they are confirmed. The date of the Albany game will fill a gap on the WVU schedule that sees West Virginia open the 2024 season at home against Penn State (Aug. 31, 2024) and visit Pitt on Sept. 14, 2024 as the Mountaineers rekindle some old regional rivalries. West Virginia renews their rivalry with Pitt beginning in 2022 with the first of four games, and WVU will begin a two-game home-and-home series with the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley in 2023.

West Virginia has also filled the gap between games against Penn State and Pitt in their 2023 schedule with a home game against another FCS opponent, Duquesne. They will do a similar scheduling setup in 2020 by hosting Eastern Kentucky between games against Florida State (in Atlanta) and a home game against Maryland in 2025, and by hosting Indiana State between a road game at Maryland and a home game against Virginia Tech in 2021.

Texas A&M bumps 2019 opener up to Thursday night

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Texas A&M and Texas State fans now have officially moved 48 closer to the first kickoff of the new college football season. The season opener hosted by Texas A&M originally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31 has officially been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29.

Texas A&M announced the rescheduling of the season and home opener for the Aggies and addressed some of the procedures that will be utilized to accommodate the Thursday night home game on campus, although classes will still remain in session for the day.

This will be the second year in a row Texas A&M opens the new season at home on a Thursday night, suggesting there is a possibility this trend could continue if the school is open to moving a game into more of a national spotlight. TV information for the game will be released at a later time, but the Thursday night schedule for Week 1 of the college football season should land the Aggies on an ESPN network, whether that be ESPN, ESPN 2 or SEC Network.

UPDATE: The good folks at FBSchedules.com report the game will air at 8:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

The rescheduled game also gives Texas A&M a little more time to recover and prepare for their next game, a Week 2 road trip to defending national champion Clemson. Perhaps not coincidentally, Clemson is also playing that same Thursday night with a road game at Georgia Tech. That ACC contest will be the first football game aired by the brand new ACC Network. Now, both Texas A&M and Clemson will have the same amount of prep time for their big matchup in Week 2.

Oregon coaches took field trip to Alabama, Georgia

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The 2019 season is one that will see the bar raised for the Oregon Ducks. The second season under head coach Mario Cristobal could see the Ducks challenge for the Pac-12 title if things go according to plan in Eugene. With spring football in season, Cristobal took his entire coaching staff on a trip to see how some of the best coaching staffs in the SEC operate.

As reported by The Oregonian, Cristobal and the Oregon coaching staff paid a visit to Alabama and Georgia to meet up with the coaches of the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs. Cristobal is a former Alabama assistant under Nick Saban and worked under Kirby Smart, who is now the head coach at Georgia. It pays to have some good connections for Cristobal, it would seem.

A trip for a coaching staff like this is not at all uncommon in college football. But it is notable that Cristobal returned to the SEC to have his coaching staff take some notes from Saban’s and Smart’s. Alabama and Georgia are defending division champions in the SEC and met in the SEC Championship Game last season, a year after their national championship showdown in the College Football Playoff of the 2017 season. Of course, Alabama has been on the national championship level for a number of years now and Smart is looking to have Georgia in that same company on a regular basis.

It has been a few years since Oregon was considered a national title contender (their appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game is already fading in the memory bank), but things are starting to look as though they are turning around for the Ducks. And if Cristobal can run his coaching staff the way Saban has over the years, then Oregon will certainly be in good hands in the years to come.

Bobby Petrino went WAY over budget on recruiting at Louisville

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With each passing month, it looks more and more like Louisville was swindled mightily by bringing back Bobby Petrino as head coach. It’s not just the lack of wins despite having a Heisman Trophy-winner at quarterback or the numerous off the field issues, it is the hurt the Cardinals suffered in the wallet even beyond the coach’s hefty buyout.

Per the Louisville Courier Journal, Petrino was over his budgeted recruiting expenses by nearly $1.1 million all told in his final four seasons and nearly double the amount allotted in his final two years alone. The program spent just over $700,000 in 2017 despite a budget of just $320,000 on recruiting and over half a million trying to bring in players the year prior with an even smaller budget.

“I don’t look at this and say, ‘Geez, they spent all this money in recruiting and we went 2-10,’” AD Vince Tyra told the paper. “You have to believe that there’s good effort there, there’s solid effort. Maybe the frustrating part of that is when you hear your current coach say you’re out of balance by position from those efforts.

“That as much as the dollars is probably problematic, because we need to be in position to win, and maybe we weren’t as close as I thought we were.”

Indeed, worse than going over budget was the mediocre results that Petrino and his staff delivered for that amount. The Cardinals never finished above 30th in the 247Sports’ composite team rankings and the lack of recruiting prowess from the former staff has left new coach Scott Satterfield’s group with a big hole to dig out of in terms of the roster.

The program is certainly doing their best to move forward with a number of wholesale changes from top to bottom but it remains glaringly obvious that the ill-fated return of Petrino delivered one transcendent player to celebrate and not much else to the commonwealth.