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College Football Bowl Preview: Your Dec. 20 Viewer’s Guide

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Your trusty and semi-daily college football bowl preview that today takes a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which on Opening Day features a pair of games with schools from three different conferences — two from the MAC, one each from Conference USA and the MAC.

WHO: Buffalo (7-5) vs. Charlotte (7-5)
WHAT: The 6th Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: For those curious, the sponsor of the bowl, Makers Wanted, is not a whiskey.  Or a bourbon.  Rather, it serves as the slogan for an industrial park in a Chicago suburb, the largest such park in the United States. … Under fifth-year coach Lance Leipold, Buffalo has already won more games in a two-year span (17) than it has at any other point in its history.  The Bulls are also playing in a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever, but are seeking their first-ever postseason win. … Charlotte is even more of a postseason neophyte than today’s opponent.  The 49ers are in just their fifth season at the FBS level, and this will mark their first-ever bowl game. … Charlotte enters that first-ever postseason appearance riding a five-game winning streak, easily the longest in the program’s short history. The old standard? Two in a row, accomplished twice. … Buffalo isn’t exactly freezing cold at the moment, though, as the MAC school won five of six to end the regular season. … If you want one player on which to focus, try Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson (pictured). The sophomore running back leads the MAC and is fifth nationally with 1,626 yards. His 17 rushing touchdowns are also tops in the conference and tied for eighth in the country. … That could prove to be a frightening proposition for Charlotte as the 49ers are 97th in stopping the run (190.8 yards per game).
THE LINE: Charlotte, +6½
THE PREDICTION: Buffalo 27, Charlotte 17

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WHO: Utah State (7-5) vs. Kent State (6-6)
WHAT: The 3rd Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
WHERE: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
TICKETS: Click here
THE SKINNY: Utah State’s postseason hopes nearly went up in smoke when three players, including starting quarterback Jordan Love and leading rusher Gerold Bright, were popped for pot, but it has since been confirmed that the trio will play in the game. … Come to think of it, it’s a shame USU isn’t playing in today’s Bahamas Bowl. … Kent State, meanwhile, is bowl-eligible for just the fifth time in the last four decades.  The Golden Flashes last played in a bowl game in 2012, and have played in just two in the program’s FBS history. The MAC school has never won a postseason game. … Kent’s six losses this year are its fewest since that 2012 season.  And, it should be noted, three of those 2019 losses came at the hands of Arizona State, Auburn and Wisconsin. … Kent enters this game riding a three-game winning streak, its longest in seven years.  USU has won three of four entering the postseason. … The Aggies averaged over 50 points per game on offense a year ago; that number has been cut in half this season (25.2 ppg). … What could help USU is Kent and its porous defense. The Golden Flashes give up 31.8 ppg (88th nationally) and 6.3 yards per play (108th). … The two programs have met just twice previously (1973 & 1974).  Each team won one game in that home-and-home. … History, as brief as it is, would suggest this particular game won’t be close. The first two Frisco Bowls had a combined score of 78-10.  To that, I say history be damned.
THE LINE: Kent State, +6
THE PREDICTION: Kent State 31, Utah State 30

Georgia Tech adds 2023 game against Bowling Green, makes slight change to 2021 schedule

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Georgia Tech is loving itself some #MACtion.

The school announced a pair of future schedule moves against teams from the eponymous league on Wednesday. Among the most immediate actions for the Yellow Jackets is that their 2021 contest against Northern Illinois will be shifted to become the season-opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 4.

GT will then play FCS Kennesaw State at home and conclude the early non-conference slate with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2021. Their annual rivalry contest against Georgia will conclude the regular season the final weekend of November as usual.

Tech also added Bowling Green to their upcoming docket. The Falcons will head to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. A trip to Ole Miss and the in-state rival Bulldogs coming to Atlanta will round out the Jackets’ non-conference schedule with one more opening still to be signed (likely against an FCS opponent).

Head coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 squad will have their attention on a conference opponent to open the upcoming season as they take on ACC opponent Clemson at home on Thursday, Sept. 3. The two programs will also meet again in city for the 2022 season opener at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well.

While those big name opponents will get more attention from fans in the region, don’t discount a bit of that #MACtion heading South either.

Waiting to cancel game with FCS opponent cost USC an extra $500,000

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Keeping Clay Helton around wasn’t the only decision last year that upset USC fans. Now the school backtracking on a choice it just made has cost the program a pretty penny.

For those not in the know, cardinal and gold supporters up in arms last year when it was announced the program had agreed to a non-conference game with UC Davis for the 2021 season. Such a contest typically doesn’t draw much attention but it did in Los Angeles as it was the first FCS opponent the Trojans were to play in their illustrious history.

That would have left rivals UCLA and Notre Dame as the only two FBS programs not to play an FCS team.

Then things changed. The athletic director responsible for the deal, Lynn Swann, was shown the door. His replacement Mike Bohn has gone about trying to make amends and recently announced that USC had eventually backed out of the game against the Aggies.

In their place on the docket at the Coliseum that season is another Bay Area team, San Jose State. We already recounted how the Spartans made out quite nicely on the balance sheet as a result of this (and subsequent buyout from Georgia) swap. As it turns out though, they weren’t the only Northern California team to do so.

According to the Davis Enterprise, the buyout UCD was owed was only supposed to be $225,000. However terms called for that to jump to $725,000 after the start of the new year. Because the Trojans waited around they then had to pony up that extra half million for doing something they had been considering since the new administration came in.

“It’s pretty funny. We had every intention of playing that game,” Aggies senior associate athletics director Josh Flushman told the paper. “We just wanted to make sure (if there were) buyouts we were going to get the money.

“In December, (AD Kevin Blue) and I joking said, ‘Don’t take any phone calls from L.A. numbers until after the first.’”

The call didn’t come until February and the school is that much richer for it. On top of that they added a $400,000 guarantee game from Tulsa to replace Southern Cal on the schedule to boot.

Waiting may be the hardest part for some but it resulted in a nice seven-figure gain at UC Davis.

MAC releases 2020 football schedule

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Fire up those calendars, the MAC has officially unleashed the 2020 football schedule. Indeed, #MACtion is here for all to see.

The conference announced dates and times for the upcoming campaign involving their football teams on Wednesday afternoon. You can find the entire slate here.

Among the many highlights for the league is that this upcoming season will serve as a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the MAC. While some specific festivities will be made public later on, it will nevertheless be a year-long nod to history for those in the Midwest.

Just as important to fans of teams in the conference? The football games themselves, which will be broadcasted across a variety of networks. This includes ESPN2, ESPNU and CBS Sports Network on the broadcast side. ESPN3/ESPN+ will handle things on the streaming side.

It wouldn’t be the MAC without mid-week games late this fall either. This year there will be 14 on tap in the month of November alone. Several more also dot the landscape to kick off 2020 in September as well.

In the non-conference portion, the MAC will again have a gauntlet to fight through. Teams will face a Big Ten opponent 11 times and travel to the SEC four times. In addition, the MAC will play four ACC programs, Notre Dame, BYU and plenty of other Group of Five teams.

Defending 2019 champion Miami (OH) open their season at Pitt and begins conference play at Akron on Sept. 26. Also keep an eye for the Redhawks’ home game against rival Ohio as key to the East Division race. The West side of the bracket could come down to a key Western Michigan-Central Michigan tilt on Oct. 17.

Either way, all roads lead to Detroit as the MAC title game returns to Ford Field again. While a time hasn’t been announced, it will be held on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday, Dec. 5.

Will Muschamp sees college football headed toward XFL-style kickoff

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College football could meet the XFL between the lines.

No, not one league against the sport filled with amateur athletes but rather one adopting the other’s rules. Well, at least according to one coach.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said that he can see CFB adopting what the XFL is doing with kickoffs as a way of making things safer for players.

“I think the (XFL)  kickoff may be where we’re headed. I think it’s an interesting new approach,” Muschamp said, according to The Athletic. “It keeps the kickoff in the game and eliminates some of the collisions we are worried about.” 

For those not familiar with what the startup spring football league does, the kicker is situated at the 30 yard line. His coverage unit is on the opposing 35 yard line while the return team is mostly lined up at their 30 yard line (yes five yards across from each other). Players can’t move until the ball is received by the return man who is back deep. 

The current CFB rule has the kicker at the 35 yard line and a standard return setup of players running full speed down the field. Recent tweaks implemented by the NCAA have resulted in fair catches for touchbacks and the elimination of the wedge among other things designed to make things safer and reduce the risk of concussions for players.

The XFL just takes things a few steps further than that. As you can see in the clip above, that doesn’t rule out returns for touchdowns either.

It does however rule out surprise onside kicks. That is certainly a big adjustment for some but given how few of them actually succeed at any level (and combined with the #collegekickers aspect), perhaps not as impactful as it’s made out to be.

Could college eventually alter their rules to match the XFL?

Only time will tell but everybody from the NCAA to the conferences themselves have been pushing player safety quite hard in recent years so it wouldn’t surprise anybody if tweaks eventually get made to one of the more dangerous plays in the game.