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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 15 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 15 bowl menu, which on opening weekend features five FBS games as the 2018 postseason officially kicks off.  The featured teams include the first Power Five squad to make its 2018 postseason debut, the first Group of Five member ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25, two conference champions and a pair of league runner-ups.

WHO: Utah State (10-2) vs. North Texas (9-3)
WHAT: The 13th New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: North Texas and Utah State have met seven times previously (the last coming in 2004), with the Aggies holding a 4-3 edge. … The Mean Green is playing in their third straight bowl game, while the Aggies have played in two straight and seven of the last eight years. … Matt Wells, the head coach for Utah State’s last five bowl appearances, accepted the same job at Texas Tech and was replaced by Gary Andersen, who was responsible for the first two appearances on USU’s bowl run. … North Texas’ Seth Littrell, meanwhile, removed his name from consideration for the Kansas State job to remain in Denton. … Utah State sandwiched a 10-game winning streak between losses to open and close out the 2018 regular season. … Just two teams this season averaged more points per game than Utah State’s 47.2 — Alabama (49.5) and Oklahoma (47.9). … As North Texas is 21st nationally at 36.4 ppg, this game could morph into a classic bowl shootout. … “Could” is the key word there, though, as both defenses also rank inside the top 40 in points allowed (UNT, 31st, 21.8 ppg; USU, 38th, 23 ppg). … The Mean Green’s Mason Fine has thrown for 3,734, which is eighth nationally, while the Aggies’ Jordan Love is 16th with 3,208 yards. … North Texas is looking to win 10 games in an FBS/Div. 1 season since the football program first played at this level in 1953. … Utah State, meanwhile, would tie a school record, first set in 2012, with its 11th win.
THE LINE: North Texas, +8
THE PREDICTION: Utah State 44, North Texas 38

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WHO: Tulane (6-6) vs. Louisiana (7-6)
WHAT: The 4th AutoNation Cure Bowl
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
THE SKINNY: While the two teams will each travel more than 650 miles to face one another in this game, the cities in which the schools reside are separated, per MapQuest.com, by just 135 miles in real life. … Given their proximity, it’s no surprise that the Green Wave and Ragin’ Cajuns have met 26 times previously, with the current AAC program holding a decided 22-4 edge in the in-state rivalry… Prior to 2011, Louisiana, The School Formerly Known As Louisiana-Lafayette, had never played in a bowl game; since then, they’ve played in six, with the first five coming in the New Orleans Bowl. … Tulane, meanwhile, is ending a bowl drought that stretches back to… the 2013 New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana. …. The Green Wave won four of its last five games to reach bowl eligibility, while the Ragin’ Cajuns won three of their last four to get past the magic six-win mark. … Louisiana’s lone loss in that stretch?  To Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference championship game. … Unit matchup to watch: Louisiana gives up 209.8 yards rushing per game, good for 117th nationally, while Tulane is 32nd in the country in rushing at 208.3 yards per game. … Tulane hasn’t won a bowl game since 2002, while Louisiana carries a 4-1 all-time bowl record into the game.
THE LINE: Louisiana, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Tulane 24, Louisiana 20

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WHO: No. 21 Fresno State (11-2) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
WHAT: The 27th Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Whitney, Nevada
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
THE LINE: Arizona State, +4½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Georgia Southern (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5)
WHAT: The 5th Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This marks the only bowl game this season in which both teams are nicknamed the Eagles, so the Raycom Media folks have that going for them.  Which is nice. … This will also mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs. … Georgia Southern is the only team in the country that hasn’t thrown an interception in 2018; that stat would be more impressive, of course, if GSU had more than the 110 pass attempts it does this season. … Against FBS teams, Eastern Michigan scored 28 or more points in just one game this season, while Georgia Southern hit or surpassed that mark in eight of its 12 games. …  Conversely, EMU gave up 27 or more points twice, while GSU gave up 25-plus points in all but three games. … Both teams come into this game riding mini-winning streaks, with the MAC Eagles winners of three straight and the Sun Belt Eagles having won two in a row. … This is the fifth season for Georgia Southern at the FBS level and its second bowl appearance, with a win in its first making it undefeated in postseason play thus far. … Eastern Michigan has or will have played in three bowl games over the last 44 years — 2018, 2016 and 1987; they’re 1-1 in those limited appearances. … If the game is as close as the sportsbooks currently see it, the outcome could very well come down to the kicking game.  In that phase, lean heavily towards GSU as its kicker, Tyler Bass, has hit on 16-of-18 field goal attempts this season while his EMU counterpart, Chad Ryland, is 12-20.
THE LINE: Eastern Michigan, +2½
THE PREDICTION: Georgia Southern 34, Eastern Michigan 17

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WHO: Middle Tennessee State (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-2)
WHAT:
The 18th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE:
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana
WHEN:
9 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY
: The bowl gods saved arguably the best first-day matchup for last as this game pits the Sun Belt Conference champions in Appalachian State against the Conference USA runner-up in Middle Tennessee State. … Brent Stockstill, whose father is MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill, is playing in his last game at the collegiate level and has currently thrown for more than 12,000 yards (12,165) in a career that’s been under-the-radar prolific. … The Stockstills, though, will be going up against an App State defense that is currently third in the country in pass defense, giving up just 148.1 yards per game. Their 15 interceptions on the season are also tied for 15th nationally. … Stockstill, who is 15th amongst FBS quarterbacks with 3,214 yards passing this year, had thrown just six interceptions during the regular season before coughing up two in the conference championship game loss to UAB. … The Mountaineers have played in three bowl games in its four years as an FBS program, and have a perfect 3-0 mark in that span. Those three postseason wins, though, came under Scott Satterfield, who earlier this month was named as the new head coach at Louisville. … In 13 seasons under Stockstill, the Blue Raiders have played or will play in eight bowl games; those are the only bowl appearances in the football program’s history. … MTSU and ASU have met three times previously — Blue Raiders lead 2-1 — although the last meeting was way back in 1992. … App State has managed a pair of five-game winning streaks this season, the last of which they will ride into this bowl matchup. … MTSU stumbled a bit to end the season in going 1-2, although one loss was to then-No. 20 Kentucky and the other in the league title game. Their lone win in that stretch came against the same UAB team that beat them for the Conference USA crown a week later.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee State, +7
THE PREDICTION: Appalachian State 31, Middle Tennessee State 23

Florida State apologizes for MLK Day tweet

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As the old adage goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men’s Twitter accounts often go awry.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Florida State’s official recruiting account on Twitter posted an inspirational quote from the slain Civil Rights leader. It would’ve been fine for all involved if the account would’ve stopped there; unfortunately for all involved, they didn’t stop there.

Instead, a photoshopped image of Dr. King wearing a football glove and apparently performing the Tomahawk Chop was included as part of the tweet.

Not surprisingly, the Twitter account caught significant heat and flack for the image on social media. Just as unsurprisingly, the tweet was deleted less than an hour after it was posted and an apology subsequently issued.

Rutgers hires Andy Buh to coordinate defense

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Rutgers has hired Andy Buh as its defensive coordinator, the program has announced.

“We are excited to add Andy to the Rutgers football family,” head coach Chris Ash said in a statement. “He is an outstanding linebackers coach and has extensive experience in the Big Ten. Andy and I share a defensive philosophy and he is very familiar with the scheme we run, which will benefit the continued development of our defense.”

Ash and Buh worked together previously at Wisconsin, where Ash was the defensive coordinator and Buh the linebackers coach. He spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Maryland and has previous coordinator experience at Stanford, Nevada and Cal.

Buh replaces Jay Niemann, who served as the Scarlet Knights’ defensive coordinator for the first three seasons of the Ash era. Rutgers was 69th in total and yards per play defense and 89th in scoring in 2018, surrendering 31.4 points per game. Buh’s Maryland defense placed 78th, allowing 28.7 points per outing.

Rutgers is 7-29 under Ash and 3-24 in Big Ten play.

North Texas inks home and homes with Baylor, Tulane

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North Texas celebrated MLK Day by announcing a slew of future football opponents.

The Mean Green announced Monday it will play home-and-homes with Baylor and Tulane in the 2028 and ’29 campaigns. North Texas will visit the Bears and Green Wave in 2028, then host both in 2029. UNT will visit Baylor on Sept. 2 and Tulane on Sept. 23 in 2028, while the Mean Green will host Baylor and Tulane in back-to-back weeks to open 2029, with the Bears coming on Sept. 1 and the Green Wave on Sept. 8.

A previously scheduled home game with Army was bumped from 2027 to 2028 in conjunction with Monday’s announcements. North Texas also announced a home game with Texas Southern for Sept. 24, 2022.

Baylor will be the fourth Power 5 program and the second Big 12 opponent to visit Apogee Stadium, which opened in 2011. Indiana visited in Apogee’s opening season, Cal will make a visit in 2022 and Texas Tech will come to Denton in 2027.

“I am thrilled to announce two quality home-and-home series have been added to our schedules,” Mean Green AD Wren Baker said in a statement. “Baylor joins Cal and Texas Tech as Power 5 conference teams coming to Denton over the next few years. Tulane is a quality American Athletic Conference team that will be a fun trip for our fans when we return to New Orleans. I appreciate (COO) Jared Mosley‘s diligent efforts to find compelling games for our fans.”

North Texas and Baylor have met 13 times previously. The Bears have won 12 of those meetings but North Texas took the most recent meeting in Denton, a 52-14 thumping in 2003. That remains UNT’s most recent win over a Big 12 opponent.

The Mean Green and Green Wave have played just once previously, a 21-14 Tulane victory in New Orleans in 2013.

Baylor has a previously scheduled trip to Oregon slated for 2028, a return trip for the Ducks’ flight to Waco in 2027. Tulane also has a home-and-home with Iowa State in 2028-29, with the home dates flipped from the UNT series.

Boise State to replace iconic blue turf (with more, newer blue turf)

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Boise State became a household name through playing on its trendsetting blue turf (and winning a lot), such that the school now owns a trademark for any non-green collegiate field.

The current blue playing surface is set to go away this spring, only to be replaced by a newer, bigger, bluer (probably) version.

“It’s needed,” Boise State AD Curt Apsey told the Idaho Statesman. “We’re not just doing it to do it. It’s near the end of the usual lifespan.”

The current playing surface was installed ahead of the 2010 season; FieldTurf surfaces usually have a lifespan of eight to 10 years.

“The field is shredding,” Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin told the paper last summer. “It’s just old. It needs to be replaced. It’s just time.”

Boise State has played on a blue surface since 1986, when then-AD Gene Blaymaier put in blue AstroTurf at a cost of $750,000. The school did not even join FBS until a decade later.

The new surface will extend beyond the playing field to cover the area that previously held the Broncos’ track. It is expected to cost between $600,000 and $1 million, but the school is approved to spend $600,000 as of now.