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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 21 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 21 bowl menu, which today features a pair of MAC teams and one from Conference USA as well as a football independent.

WHO: Florida International (8-4) vs. Toledo (7-5)
WHAT: The 5th Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The sponsor of this bowl is an Illinois industrial park that paid $300,000 for the right to have its name slapped on the game. … Butch Davis has won eight games in each of his first two seasons at FIU; a ninth win later today would set a single-season record for a football program that first played at this level in 2004. … The seven wins for 2017 MAC champion Toledo, meanwhile, are the program’s fewest since going 7-5 in 2013.  The previous four seasons before this year, the Rockets had totaled 11, nine, 10 and nine wins. … This marks Toledo’s eighth bowl appearance the past nine seasons; the Rockets are 3-4 in that span. … FIU has lost two straight bowl games (2017 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) after winning its first postseason appearance in the 2010 Little Caesar’s Bowl against, you guessed it, Toledo. … FIU quarterback James Morgan, a transfer from Bowling Green, has already set a single-season school record with 26 touchdown passes, but won’t be able to add to it as he will be sidelined due to a sore throwing arm. … As a team, Toledo has thrown 11 interceptions this season; FIU, conversely, is tied for fifth nationally with 17 picks. … Both teams are coming into the game playing fairly well, with the Panthers winning six of their last eight while the Rockets have won four of five. … All of Toledo’s wins in that span have been by at least 22 points for a squad that’s 11th nationally in scoring at 41.1 points per game. The Rockets have scored at least 45 points in all seven of their wins this season. … FIU is tied for 46th in the country as they give up an average of 24.7 ppg.
THE LINE: FIU, +5
THE PREDICTION: Toledo 51, FIU 38

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WHO: Western Michigan (7-5) vs. BYU (6-6)
WHAT: The 22nd Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHERE: Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
WHEN: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The two teams have met in football five times previously, with the most recent coming way back in 1970. BYU leads the miniseries 3-2 for what it’s worth. … BYU is playing in its first bowl game since having its streak of 12 straight bowl appearances snapped amidst a 4-9 2017 season. … WMU has lost six of its seven bowl games. … BYU is 0-5 playing on Boise State’s famed — or infamous — blue turf, while WMU will be taking to the abnormally-colored field for the first time in the football program’s history. … This will mark the only postseason game this year in which each team is quarterbacked by a true freshman — BYU’s Zach Wilson and WMU’s Kaleb Eleby. … The Broncos stumbled down the stretch as they lost three in a row before beating Northern Illinois, which went on to win the MAC championship, by seven in the regular-season finale. NIU, incidentally, beat BYU 7-6 in late October. … In those three late-season losses for WMU, they gave up a whopping 152 points combined. … Given WMU’s defensive struggles of late, the fact that BYU averages just 25.2 points per game (110th at the FBS level out of 130 schools) could bode well for the Broncos. … One matchup that could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game is WMU’s rush offense vs. BYU’s rush defense. The Cougars are 24th stopping the run (129.4 yards per game) and tied for 33rd in yards per carry allowed at 3.7, while the Broncos are 35th in rushing yards per game (204.6) and tied for 41st in ypc at 4.7.
THE LINE: Western Michigan, +12
THE PREDICTION: BYU 23, Western Michigan 20

NCAA adjusts targeting, overtime rules

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The NCAA will tweak the targeting rules and has ended ultra-marathon overtime games, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Monday will now require replay officials to either confirm or deny all targeting fouls called on the field. Any targeting foul that cannot be confirmed by video review will now be overturned. On the flip side, the NCAA has now approved a penalty system for repeat offenders, where all players who accrue three targeting fouls in the same season will now serve a 1-game suspension.

In the other major change to emerge Tuesday, the NCAA has officially ended any 7-overtime games. Spurred by the marathon LSU-Texas A&M game last November, all games that get beyond a fourth overtime will now see both teams alternate 2-point plays until one team converts and the other does not, rather than begin at the 25-yard line like any other overtime session. The first four overtime sessions will remain unchanged, where teams will be required to go for two after the second overtime. A mandatory 2-minute break will now be instituted after the second and fourth overtime sessions.

Finally, the NCAA also banned blind-side blocks, to be penalized with a 15-yard flag, and the 2-man wedge formation on all kickoffs.

Ohio State DL coach Larry Johnson denies facilitating player payment at Penn State

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The ongoing federal corruption case against College Basketball, Inc., took an unplanned-but-not-unexpected swerve into college football on Tuesday when a witness for the government said he facilitated payments for numerous college football players from 2000 through 2013.

Pittsburgh-based financial advisor Marty Blazer, who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding clients, is now testifying on behalf of the government during the New York-based trial, and said he paid players representing a handful of programs ranging from Alabama and Michigan to Northwestern and Pitt, funneling them funds ranging from three to five figures.

Blazer did not name names for any coaches on Tuesday, but he did name the name of a player — former Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin — which led anyone who follows college football to figure out his coach — former Penn State defensive line, and current Ohio State defensive line coach, Larry Johnson.

According to Blazer, Maybin was considering leaving school early to enter the 2009 draft when Johnson (without naming his name) arranged a meeting between himself, Blazer and Maybin’s father. There, Johnson got Blazer to give Maybin’s father $10,000, with the hope that the cash-in-hand would keep Aaron Maybin a Nittany Lion while ensuring the player would become a Blazer client when he eventually went pro.

Maybin, as we all know, entered the 2009 draft and was selected 11th overall. Blazer said Maybin’s father later returned the money.

Johnson was reached by Yahoo Sports on Tuesday and vehemently denied the accusation.

“That is not accurate at all,” Johnson said. “That is absolutely false. I would never, ever ask anybody to do that. That is not me.”

“Why is it that something like that comes out and nobody says anything to me?” Johnson Sr. said. “This is the first call I’ve gotten. All of a sudden this Marty Blazer guy can just say whatever he wants? That is absolutely amazing. Wow.”

Johnson coached Penn State’s defensive line from 1996 through 2013 and has been at Ohio State since 2014. The 67-year-old is generally regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in college football, and while it’s unclear if the NCAA would even take an interest in the case, Johnson obviously wants to make sure the testimony of an admitted fraudster does not ruin his reputation.

Clemson lands No. 1 overall player in Class of 2020

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Clemson has managed to dominate college football without really dominating the college football recruiting rankings. Since 2015, the Tigers’ classes have ranked, in order, No. 9, No. 11, No. 16, No. 7 and No. 10, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Those are good classes, to be sure, but not necessarily great ones; they’re the type of classes you’d expect to lead to a team competing for ACC championships and New Year’s Six bowls, not beating Alabama in the national championship game twice in three years.

Clearly, Clemson’s coaches have cornered the market on finding a few great players and a bunch of really good ones, then developing them to all play like great players. The question then becomes: What happens if Clemson starts recruiting a bunch of great players? What happens if, in addition to playing like Alabama, Clemson started recruiting like Alabama?

We’re about to find out.

The Tigers on Tuesday landed Bryan Breese, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive tackle from Damascus, Md., who happens to be the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“At the end of this little run I was really between Clemson, Georgia and Penn State and over that last visit everyone talks about you’ll feel it and I didn’t understand that till the last visit and I got the feeling and knew where I was supposed to be,” Bresee told 247Sports.

But Tuesday’s news wasn’t just about Breese. He became Clemson’s first 5-star commitment of this class, joining a group of 11 4-stars that vaults the Tigers over Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the 2020 team rankings, with three less players on board than the Crimson Tide. Beyond Breese, Clemson is also favored to land 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch and 5-star Myles Murphy, all of whom rank in the top 10 nationally, plus 5-star linebacker Antoine Sampah, who ranks No. 31 in the country.

If all that comes to pass, Clemson could follow one of the best seasons ever with one of the best recruiting classes ever.

“This class could be by far one of the best classes ever,” Bresee said. “I think definitely one of the best classes for Clemson.”

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.