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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

Trevor Lawrence heads Preseason AP All-American team

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Everyone and their blog now has an All-American team; so many are out there, in fact, that if we wrote about all of them we’d never write about anything else.

But there’s something different about being a Preseason AP All-American, and as such we’d be remiss if we didn’t add to our historical record here at CFT.

Most notably, Trevor Lawrence nudged out Tua Tagovailoa for the First Team quarterback job, where he’s joined by running back Travis Etienne and linebacker Isaiah Simmons on the First Team. Alabama also had three First Teamers — wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and linebacker Dylan Moses.

The SEC led all conferences with eight First Team selections, followed by the Big Ten’s seven.

Without further ado, behold the 2019 Preseason AP All-America First Team:

OFFENSE
QB: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
WR: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
C: Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
OG: Ben Bredeson, Michigan; Shane Lemieux, Oregon
OT: Walker Little, Stanford; Andrew Thomas, Georgia
AP: Rondale Moore, Purdue
K: Andre Szmyt, Syracuse

DEFENSE
LB: Joe Bachie, Michigan State; Dylan Moses, Alabama; Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
S: Andre Cisco, Syracuse; Grant Delpit, LSU
CB: Paulson Abedo, Stanford; Bryce Hall, Virginia
DE: AJ Epenesa, Iowa; Chase Young, Ohio State
DT: Derrick Brown, Auburn; Raekwon Davis, Alabama
P: Braden Mann, Texas A&M

It’s grrrrreat! Tony the Tiger claims title sponsorship of Sun Bowl

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The Sun Bowl has a new title sponsor and it’s, well, it’s great. The El Paso-based postseason college football game will now be sponsored by Tony the Tiger. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not sponsored by Kellogg’s brand or even Frosted Flakes cereal, but Tony the Tiger himself.

“For the last few months we’ve worked closely and collectively with the Sun Bowl association and it’s become clear how well the association understands the strength and resilience of this community and we are honored to be part of it,” Kellogg’s marketing director Bryant Wheaton told the El Paso Times.

The change has already been reflected on the Sun Bowl’s Twitter account — sort of. The name and avatar have been changed, but the handle, as of press time, still reflected the bowl’s previous sponsor, Hyundai.

The Sun Bowl, first played on Jan. 1, 1935 between the El Paso All-Stars and Ranger (Texas) High School, has now welcomed nine title sponsors. The game takes credit for bringing title sponsorship to the college football postseason.

“We were the very first bowl ever to have a title sponsor, back in 1986 when John Hancock saved the Sun Bowl from going extinct,” executive director Bernie Olivas told the El Paso Times. “We have had some great sponsors since then. Our past sponsor, who had been with us nine years, is the longest sponsor we’ve ever had.

“When we got the title sponsor in 1986, there were only 16 bowls. We were the first ones to have a title sponsor. The rest of the bowls shunned us, they said, ‘You sold out.’ Well how do you like us now?”

The 85th annual Sun Bowl will once again pit the ACC against the Pac-12 on Tuesday, Dec. 31 (2 p.m. ET, CBS). Stanford won the 2018 edition, topping Pitt, 14-13.

Bo Nix to become Auburn’s first true freshman starting QB since 1946

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Another quarterback battle has been called, and another one has gone to a true freshman.

Auburn has selected Bo Nix as its starter, 11 days ahead of the No. 16 Tigers’ season opener against No. 11 Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

He will be Auburn’s first true freshman starting quarterback since Travis Tidwell in 1946. More recently, he will be the seventh true freshman signal caller for the Tigers since 1969.

Much like at North Carolina, where a true freshman beat out redshirt freshmen for the job, this selection must be viewed in context. Auburn was going with a freshman either way, be it true freshman Nix or redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. The offense was set to go in different directions depending on who got the job, as Gatewood (listed at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds) is built with the Cam Newton starter kit, while Nix is three inches shorter and 26 pounds lighter.

Still, Nix will be able to run the ball, and Auburn’s coaches have long been in love with his arm.

“We started recruiting Bo in 8th or 9th grade,” Gus Malzahn said back on signing day. “You knew early on that this guy had a chance to really be special. Of course when he went to Pinson, they won back-to-back state championships. He was the MVP of both of those.

“He really has something special to him. He did a super job leading. He was one of the leaders of our class, really holding everything together. I really appreciate his leadership with that.”

Playing for his father at Alabama’s Pinson Valley High School, Nix accounted for 12,000 yards of total offense, threw for 127 touchdowns, rushed for 34 more and won back-to-back Class 6A state championships.

Now, he’ll try to lead Auburn to its second SEC West championship in three years during a crucial season for Malzahn and the entire Auburn program.

Ex-Oklahoma WR John Humphrey tweets transfer from Arizona State

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The all-powerful transfer portal could give two spits about a new season that’s fast approaching.

The latest example of the burgeoning phenomenon that is the database is Arizona State and John Humphrey, with the latter confirming on Twitter that he has decided to transfer from the former.  As Humphrey will be leaving the Sun Devils as a graduate transfer, he’s eligible to play immediately in 2019 if he opts to move on to another FBS school.

The upcoming season would the receiver’s fifth season of eligibility, although there’s a possibility he could petition for a sixth year that he could use in 2020 as well.

Humphrey was a three-star member of Oklahoma’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 61 wide receiver in the country and the No. 67 player at any position in the state of Texas. In April of 2016, he announced his decision to transfer from OU; a month later, he announced his decision to transfer to ASU.

After sitting out the 2016 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Humphrey put up huge numbers in his Sun Devils debut, catching seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in ASU’s season-opening win over New Mexico State. In large part because of a knee injury sustained in the opener, however, he finished that season with just 13 catches, 177 yards and the one touchdown.

A torn Achilles tendon sustained in March of last year cost Humphrey the entire 2018 season as well.