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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 26 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 26 bowl menu, which today features two ACC teams, the first two Power Five vs. Power Five matchups and the MWC runner-up.

WHO: Boston College (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-3)
WHAT: The 1st SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
THE LINE: Boston College, +2½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Minnesota (6-6) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
WHAT: The 5th Quick Lane Bowl
WHEN: 5:15 ET on ESPN
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
THE SKINNY: Thanks to the time of day it’ll be played, this will mark the first Power Five vs Power Five matchup of the 2018-19 bowl season. … This will also (presumably) mark the last game of the storied coaching career of Paul Johnson, who announced in late November that he would be stepping down as Georgia Tech’s head coach as it’s “time to take a break” from the coaching profession. … If you’re talking Tech you’re talking running-game prowess and the Yellow Jackets didn’t disappoint in 2018, with their triple-option attack finishing the regular season tops in the nation in rushing yards per game (334.9) and second in rushing yards (4,019).  Their 45 rushing touchdowns are fourth nationally behind Memphis (48), Army (47) and Clemson (46). … Those numbers don’t bode well for a Minnesota defense that is 76th in the country in run defense at 170.7 yards per game.  More to the point, Minnesota gave up huge rushing yardage to a pair of teams, Illinois (430) and Nebraska (383), that leaned heavily on the run this season and are currently inside the Top 30 at the FBS level. … Then again, in its last two games of the regular season, Minnesota gave up just 95 yards on the ground to Northwestern and 170 to a Wisconsin team that averages nearly 270 a game. … The win over the Badgers, incidentally, was the Gophers’ first in the rivalry game since 2003. That win also pushed the Gophers to bowl eligibility for the first time in the second season under P.J. Fleck and helped pave the way for a contract extension for the head coach. … Both teams will enter today’s matchup riding two-game bowl winning streaks. … Both teams will also enter today’s matchup never having faced the other in football. … With Johnson’s retirement after this game, it means that, with Geoff Collins taking over the Yellow Jackets, the triple-option offense will leave the Power Five altogether and be limited to the three service academies (Air Force, Army, Navy) moving forward.  In other words, tune in and enjoy its brutal brilliance one last time.
THE LINE: Minnesota, +5½
THE PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 44, Minnesota 24

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WHO: Cal (7-5) vs. TCU (8-5)
WHAT: The 30th Cheez-It Bowl
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
THE SKINNY: In the past, this bowl game has been known as the Copper Bowl (1989-96), the Insight.com Bowl (1997-2001), the Insight Bowl (2002-11), the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (2012-13), and the Cactus Bowl again from 2014-17 before it took on the Cheez-It brand name for this season. … TCU is playing in its fifth straight bowl game under Gary Patterson, having won three of the last four of those matchups.  All told, the Horned Frogs are 10-5 in bowl games under Patterson; that number improves to 9-3 if you take into account those played since 2005. … Cal, meanwhile, is playing in its first bowl game since the 2015 season and just its second since 2011. … If you’re a fan of the defensive side of the football, this is the postseason game for you. Cal is 24th nationally in points per game allowed (21.3) and 16th in total defense (319 yards per game). TCU, meanwhile, is 44th in the former category (24.4 ppg) and 27th in the latter category (344 ypg). … Neither defense will, at least statistically and on paper, be going up against an offense that will offer much of a challenge.  TCU is 92nd in yards per game (375), Cal is 111th (350); TCU is 98th in scoring offense (24.7ppg), Cal is 109th (22.8). … The Horned Frogs ended the regular season winning three of its last four, while the Golden Bears won two of three. … As is the case in the game that precedes it, this will mark the first-ever meeting between the football programs. … TCU’s starting quarterback is senior Grayson Muehlstein making just his second career start, and you should watch the game based solely on that name alone.
THE LINE: TCU, +1
THE PREDICTION: TCU 17, Cal 16

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.