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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 31 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 31 bowl menu, which today features a whopping six games involving 11 Power Five schools (at least one from each of those conferences) and one 10-win team from the Group of Five.

WHO: Cincinnati (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The 11th Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
WHERE: Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland
THE SKINNY: Thanks to Florida State’s all-time record being snapped, Virginia Tech now owns the nation’s longest bowl appearance streak at 26 straight seasons. The Hokies are 1-1 in bowl games under Justin Fuente. … Cincinnati hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2015 and hasn’t won in the postseason since 2012, the final year under Butch Jones. … Coming into the postseason, Cincinnati won four of its last five regular-season games, with the lone loss being to unbeaten UCF. … Virginia Tech rebounded from a four-game losing streak that ran from mid-October to mid-November to win its last two games and keep its bowl appearance streak alive. … The Hokies have allowed at least 31 points in six straight games, the longest such streak for the football program in more than 60 years. … In that six-game stretch, the Hokies have given up an average of 290 yards rushing per contest. For the season, they are 105th nationally in giving up 206.5 yards per game.  That doesn’t bode well as the Hokies will be facing a Bearcats rushing attack that’s 16th in the country at 238.1 yards per game. … Cincinnati is also extremely stingy on the scoreboard as they lead the AAC and are seventh in the country in giving up just 16.1 points per game. … The football programs have met 10 times previously, with the most recent meeting coming in the 2014 Military Bowl.  The Hokies won that game 33-17, and hold a 6-4 edge in the series all-time.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech, +5½
THE PREDICTION: Cincinnati 34, Virginia Tech 17

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WHO: Stanford (8-4) vs. Pitt (7-6)
WHAT: The 84th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
THE LINE: Pitt, +5½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Michigan State (7-5) vs. Oregon (8-4)
WHAT: The 17th Redbox Bowl
WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on FOX
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
THE LINE: Michigan State, +2½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Missouri (8-4) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
WHAT: The 60th AutoZone Liberty Bowl
WHEN: 3:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
THE LINE: Oklahoma State, +8½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Northwestern (8-5) vs. Utah (9-4)
WHAT: The 41st San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: San Diego, California
THE LINE: Northwestern, +7
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: NC State (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
WHAT: The 73rd TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
THE SKINNY: Because of injuries, Texas A&M will be without its leading tackler in linebacker Otaro Alaka and its second-leading tackler in defensive back Donovan Wilson.  The former also leads the Aggies in tackles for loss, the latter in interceptions. … A&M will be making its 10th straight bowl appearance, although the Aggies have lost three in a row after winning four straight from 2011-14. … NC State, meanwhile, has won two consecutive bowl games and are 3-1 in the previous five under Dave Doeren. …  The Wolfpack comes into the game having won three in a row and, if they make it four straight, will reach double digits in wins for the first time since the 2002 season.  It would also mark just the second such season in the football program’s history. … A&M also comes in on a mini-roll as the Aggies have won three straight as well, the last of which was the 74-72, seven-overtime thriller against LSU in the regular-season finale. … One player to watch, and this is no joke: punter Braden Mann.  The 2018 Ray Guy Award winner has averaged 51.1 yards per punt this season and could break the single-season record of 50.3 set by LSU’s Chad Kessler back in 1997. Mann has already set one FBS record this season as his 60.8 yards per punt against Alabama broke the single-game mark of 60.4 set by BYU’s Lee Johnson in 1983. … Based on statistics, don’t expect much from the running game for either team as A&M is second in the country in giving up 92 yards per game on the ground while NC State is 13th at 109.1. … The scoreboard operator could get some work, though, as NC State is tied for 21st in scoring offense at 35.6 points per game and A&M is 27th at 34.7 ppg. … The two teams, which will be meeting for the first time in football, have one common opponent this season in Clemson.  NC State lost to the second-ranked team in the country 41-7 in late October, while A&M fell 28-26 the second week of the season.
THE LINE: NC State, +7
THE PREDICTION: NC State 37, Texas A&M 31

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.