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CFT Previews: Dollar General Bowl

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WHO: Buffalo (10-3) vs. Troy (9-3)
WHAT: The 20th Dollar General Bowl
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
THE SKINNY: There was a point not long ago this college football season where it looked like Buffalo was barreling down toward a MAC Championship and Troy was doing the same in the Sun Belt. Both programs had knocked off Power Five opponents from the Big Ten — Rutgers in the case of the Bulls, Nebraska in the case of the Trojans — and each had gathered the occasional top 25 ranking from voters in both major polls.

Neither squad wound up hoisting their respective conference title in 2018 but that doesn’t take much of the shine off this appealing matchup between two of the best Group of Five teams this year.

For Buffalo, this is just their third ever trip to a bowl game and they’re still looking for win No. 1. Head coach Lance Leipold has done a terrific job since moving up from the Division III level to steadily build the program up year-by-year. The Bulls haven’t just beat up on lowly conference opponents this year, they have some legitimate NFL prospects and are led by an explosive offense full of playmakers.

QB Tyree Jackson, who was mentioned in a report by Yahoo! Sports as a possible grad transfer if he doesn’t leave for the NFL, could be playing his last game with the team but was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year and is just shy of a 3,000 yard passing campaign and two back of the school record for touchdown passes. His favorite target is easily wideout Anthony Johnson, a potential first-rounder who missed time earlier this season but still has a chance to go over 1,000 yards for the second time in his career. Tailback Jaret Patterson isn’t to be overlooked either and has a chance to become the first freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season as well.

Troy, who was one of the winners of the coaching carousel this winter by keeping Neal Brown around for another year, also can put up points but can fall back on a pretty stout defense too. They enter allowing just a shade over 21 points per game and have players both young (freshman linebacker Carlton Martial) and old (senior corner Blace Brown) to deal with. Offensively, things have been a bit uneven since Sawyer Smith took over at QB due to injuries but the sophomore is capable of putting up big numbers when he has time to throw. The Trojans have plenty of weapons around him to account for too, including running back B.J. Smith (1,093 yards, 12 TD) and receiver Damion Willis.

Both sides have plenty to play for, including a potential first postseason triumph for Buffalo at the FBS level and a third-straight 10 win season for Troy. It’s not every bowl game that you get a pretty fun matchup of Group of Five teams of similar stature but that’s the case in the Dollar General Bowl. While everybody figures to be plenty motivated coming in, something says the Bulls have just enough firepower to get past the Trojans’ defense to secure the win in enemy territory down in Mobile.

THE PICK: Buffalo 31, Troy 27

Matthew Baldwin’s decision leaves Ohio State with two scholarship QBs

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And then there were two.

Seeing the Justin Fields writing on the wall, Tate Martell transferred from Ohio State in mid-January and ultimately landed at Miami.  Three months later, another OSU signal-caller, Matthew Baldwin, confirmed on Twitter Thursday night that he too has decided to take his leave of the Buckeyes and place his name into the NCAA transfer database.

“[S]pring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me,” Baldwin wrote as part of a very classy Twitter post revealing his decision. “In the end, we feel like it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State.”

A four-star member of OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, Baldwin was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Austin, Texas.  Baldwin didn’t play a down for the Buckeyes as he continued his rehab from an ACL injury he suffered late in his high school career at Lake Travis.

With the twin departures of Baldwin and Martell, OSU is now down to two scholarship quarterbacks — the Georgia transfer Fields (HERE) and West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov (HERE).  Fields was widely expected to be the Buckeyes’ starter under center in the 2019 opener; Baldwin’s decision ensures that, barring injury, that will indeed be the case.

Arkansas to add former Notre Dame OL Luke Jones

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A week and a half after word broke Luke Jones was intending to leave Notre Dame comes the announcement Jones is going to be playing closer to home. The Arkansas native announced with a message on Twitter he is coming home to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“I would like to thank the University of Note Dame for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing college football,” Jones said in a brief message on his Twitter account. “However, I have decided to transfer and play football for the University of Arkansas. I will be enrolling in the summer and am excited for this new chapter in my life!”

Jones spent a brief moment with the Notre Dame program as he was a member of the Class of 2018 in South Bend. Prior to committing to the Fighting Irish, Jones had been committed to the Arkansas football program in his recruiting process, but Notre Dame emerged victorious in the recruiting game during a coaching change with the Razorbacks.

Jones will be required to sit out the 2019 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, although those seem to be more like guidelines these days, so we’ll wait to see if there is a chance Jones gets to jump into the mix in the offensive line for the Razorbacks this fall.

Ex-Pitt TE Tyler Sear announces transfer to Temple

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Tight end Tyler Sear is hopping on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and heading from one metropolitan corner of the state to the next. Sear announced on his Twitter account on Thursday he is transferring from Pitt to Temple.

The Class of 2017 recruit of the Panthers left the program last October for what was simply described as personal reasons. It was unknown if the leave of absence was a short-term or long-term plan as the decisions about the status were being kept close to the vest within the Pitt program.

Sear did battle some injury concerns during his time at Pitt that prevented him from potentially reaching his full potential for the Panthers. He caught two passes for nine yards last season prior to his stepping away from the team.

Perhaps a clean slate with a new program will do Sear good as he steps in to try contributing with the Owls in the AAC. Sear will have to sit out the 2019 season due to standard NCAA transfer rules, unless an exception is granted by the NCAA. It is unknown if a waiver will be filed by Sear and Temple for immediate eligibility.

Sear has not used a redshirt year yet so he could burn that in 2019 while waiting to get back on the field if he is forced to sit out the 2019 season. That ould leave Sear with two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.

Michigan CB Myles Sims enters transfer portal

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Add another name to the growing list of players entering the transfer portal. This time it is Michigan cornerback Myles Sims. According to a report from 247 Sports, the former four-star prospect in Michigan’s Class of 2018 is evaluating his options.

Any player who adds his name to the transfer portal is allowed to make contact with potential programs of interest, but it does not automatically mean that player is gone for god. Sims will have the option of pulling his name out of the portal in the event he decides to stay in Ann Arbor. How quickly Sims will make any decision one way or the other remains to be seen.

Sims did not see the field last season for Michigan so he can use the 2018 season as his redshirt year. That gives the former four-star recruit four years of eligibility remaining, although he will likely have to burn one year of eligibility by sitting out the upcoming 2019 season.

Standard NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a full season before being ruled eligible to play again, although exceptions have been made a bit more frequently over the past year. Whether or not Sims will have the chance to play right away this fall will have to wait to be determined when he decides what his plans will be moving forward.