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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

45,161 fans see Ithaca beat SUNY Cortland to set D3 attendance record at MetLife Stadium

Keenan Slusher
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MetLife Stadium has been home to some awful NFL football this season but this past Saturday fans in the Tri-State region were at least treated to a far more interesting product on the field..

As we noted back in early October, this year’s Battle for the Cortaga Jug was going to be extra special because it was going to take place in the Meadowlands as Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland attempted to set a new Division III record for attendance. According to the Ithaca Journal, the pair did just that with 45,161 fans showed up to the game as the Bombers (that’s Ithaca) won their third straight Jug, 32-20.

“The electricity was unreal,” Cortland senior running back Zach Tripodi told the paper, “… When I scored, I don’t think I’ve ever felt something like that. You really felt the crowd.”

The final tally broke the previous D3 mark of 37,355 (from a 2017 matchup between St. Thomas and St. John’s at Minneapolis’ Target Field) by a considerable margin.

For what it’s worth, the D3 game at MetLife also had a bigger crowd than the ones that watched some of the FBS programs in New York, including the 16,286 down in Durham, N.C. that saw Syracuse thump Duke, the 8,450 that saw Buffalo lose at Kent State or the 25,747 in West Point that saw Army beat Virginia Military Institute.

Good football, it seems, is hard to come by in the Empire State but fans will come out for quality play no matter what level.

Louisville AD dons a bird mask, breaks out Pappy van Winkle to celebrate bowl berth

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For some teams, reaching a bowl game — even those obscure dot com-sponsored ones — is quite meaningful. Such is the case at Louisville as they have embarked on one of the better turnarounds in the country this season under new head coach Scott Satterfield. 

Following up a 2-10 disaster at the hands of Bobby Petrino last year, the new staff has revitalized the program and secured bowl eligibility on Saturday by beating N.C. State 34-20. That’s a cause worth celebrating around the city and Cardinals AD Vince Tyra certainly did not short himself on that front after the sixth victory of 2019 by donning a rather comical mask in the locker room and breaking out some very expensive whiskey to share with the head coach.

Tyra and Satterfield may indeed be the only ones to drink Pappy out of a Gatorade cup but it probably tasted even sweeter than it normally does given the accomplishment it’s celebrating. While some fans may scoff at reaching six wins in a season, the jubilation in Louisville is a good reminder that benchmarks like that have plenty of meaning for programs who sat at home in disarray last year.

 

Auburn receives $10 million gift toward new football building

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Auburn may have lost the battle with Georgia in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry on Saturday but the Tigers at least made some progress on the facilities war.

According to the school, Walt and Ginger Woltosz made the largest gift to the athletic department in program history over the weekend thanks to a $10 million pledge that will help kickstart construction on a new football facility.

“We always tell our players to use their influence in a positive way,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “Walt and Ginger are a great example of that. Their gift will help us compete for championships and serve our student-athletes for generations. They represent everything that Auburn stands for. Hard work, concern for others and generosity.”

AU said that $31.5 million has already been raised for the new building in total, which has gone through a number of board approvals already and just needs to finalize a design and budget before shovels can hit the ground.

The primary motivation behind such a project is pretty clear as regional and conference rivals from Clemson to Alabama to the aforementioned Bulldogs have all added flashy new facilities in recent years while the Tigers’ current digs were built over three decades ago.

AP Poll: Georgia moves past Alabama; Texas A&M, Virginia Tech join top 25

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Voters are still struggling with what to do with Alabama after Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury but it’s pretty clear that the immediate effect for the Tide is to drop behind their SEC rival Georgia in the polls.

After doing so in the Coaches Poll earlier Sunday, the new No. 4 Bulldogs flipped places with the No. 5 Crimson Tide, following the example set by the CFP Selection Committee last Tuesday as well.

Elsewhere in the poll, previously undefeated Baylor and Minnesota dropped several spots after taking their first L’s of the year. The Bears were only down one place however to No. 13 while the Gophers were punished a little harsher by moving from No. 7 to No. 11. That latter spot is, it should be noted, two places behind the team it just beat a week ago in No. 9 Penn State.

No. 17 Cincinnati remained the top Group of Five team in the poll but there was some movement at the bottom of the rankings following a number of losses in the 20-25 range. No. 23 Appalachian State returns to the rankings after thumping Georgia State while No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Virginia Tech also earned an appearance.

The full AP Top 25 entering Week 13:

  1. LSU (54 first-place votes)
  2. Ohio State (5)
  3. Clemson (3)
  4. Georgia
  5. Alabama
  6. Oregon
  7. Utah
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Penn State
  10. Florida
  11. Minnesota
  12. Michigan
  13. Baylor
  14. Wisconsin
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Auburn
  17. Cincinnati
  18. Memphis
  19. Iowa
  20. Boise State
  21. SMU
  22. Oklahoma State
  23. Appalachian State
  24. Texas A&M
  25. Virginia Tech