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FIU closes out best season in program history with Bahamas Bowl victory over Toledo

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After a few nights of lopsided bowl results, college football fans were treated to an entertaining ending Friday afternoon in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl as FIU (9-4) held off Toledo (7-6) for a 35-32 victory. The win was FIU’s first bowl victory since 2010 and FIU head coach Butch Davis picked up his first bowl victory as a head coach since 2010 with North Carolina.

FIU essentially slammed the door shut on Toledo with a smart decision to go for a fourth down conversion with six yards to play and about 2:45 remaining in the game. With Toledo out of timeouts and the winds making for a difficult long field goal attempt, Davis took a shot his quarterback, Christian Alexander could find a receiver to move the sticks. A video replay would have to uphold a first down catch by Tony Gaiter IV to allow FIU to keep the offense on the field and run the clock by keeping the ball on the ground. FIU’s Anthony Jones would break loose up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown run on a third-and-one to put the Panthers up 10 points in the final minute. Toledo needed to allow the score to get the football back, although they would be unable to make a late miracle rally.

Toledo quarterback Eli Peters struggled with his completion percentage but ended his day with 264 passing yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the losing effort. Peters also rushed for a team-high 43 yards to lead the offensive effort. But Toledo had just two third-down conversions out of 11 attempts and the defense could not slow down FIU when they needed to the most.

FIU finished the season with a record of 9-4, the best in program history. Davis wasted no time in turning things around for the program by winning eight games last year and topping that with nine wins and a bowl victory this season. FIU may have fallen shy of playing for the Conference USA championship this season, but the Golden Panthers appear to have found some credibility and stability in a short turnaround. Next season, the bar will be raised for the program as expectations will be raised.

FIU’s win moves Conference USA to 3-2 this bowl season, including a record of 2-0 against the MAC. The MAC is just 1-3 this bowl season, with Ohio scoring the only win in the Frisco Bowl Wednesday night.

FIU will open the 2019 season on the road against Tulane on Aug. 31, 2019. Toledo will open their 2019 campaign the same day with a road game at Kentucky.

LSU opens as double-digit favorites on Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.

Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released.  LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.  No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship.  Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1.  Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.

Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners.  Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.

The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.

LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004.  Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.

Arkansas confirms hiring of Georgia OL coach Sam Pittman as head coach

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When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.

Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman.  A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.

“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.

“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”

The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.  He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.

The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.

Mizzou zeroing in on Eli Drinkwitz as next head coach

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Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.

Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”

An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.

The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football.  App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.

Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.

Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock reportedly suffered ACL tear in SEC title game loss

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A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.

As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.

Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.