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CFT Previews: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

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WHO: Marshall (8-4) vs. South Florida (7-5)
WHAT: The 11th Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
WHEN: 8:00 p.m., ET, ESPN
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
THE SKINNY: South Florida may be playing a bowl game in their home stadium, but the Bulls will do so with a rash of injuries that have taken a toll on the team this season. Among those players who have been roughed up this season is quarterback Blake Barnett, who is looking to close out his well-traversed collegiate career with a win.

A shoulder injury took Barnett out of action late in the season, leading Charlie Strong to look to sophomore Chris Oladokun as the next man up against UCF in the regular-season finale. Oladokun ended up benched in favor of Brett Kean, who also struggled. In short, quarterback play is a concern for the Bulls in this one. Marshall’s defense has given up 231.7 passing yards per game this season and the Thundering Herd have picked off 12 passes.

Injuries certainly took South Florida’s season off course. After starting the year with a record of 7-0, the Bulls limp their way into the bowl season on a five-game losing streak. Marshall is coming in much warmer, although they took a loss in their last-second addition to the schedule with a road loss to Virginia Tech to help the Hokies keep their bowl streak alive. Doc Holliday and the Herd won five of six before the Virginia Tech game.

Marshall wide receiver Tyre Brady, a former Miami Hurricane, will be the go-to receiver against a South Florida defense with 11 interceptions this season. The Bulls can also keep teams from having overwhelming success through the air, but Brady will be a constant threat all game long.

THE LINE: USF, +3
THE PREDICTION: Marshall 27, South Florida 23

No. 9 UCF remains undefeated but loss of QB Milton clouds outlook moving forward

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For the second straight year, No. 9 UCF (11-0, 8-0 AAC) will enter the AAC Championship Game without a loss on their record, putting them one win away from a likely trip to a New Years Six bowl game. The Knights finished off their regular season with a clean 11-0 record after securing a 38-10 win on the road against South Florida (7-5, 3-5 AAC) on Friday. The win, the 24th straight for the program, came at a price for UCF, however, as starting quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered what appeared to be a severe leg injury in the first half that required him to be carted off the field for further medical treatment.

Coming off the bench to lead the offense for UCF in the absence of Milton was Darriel Mack Jr., but the Knights could get by with the running game and a strong defensive effort to carry the load. Greg McRae rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns to power UCF past the Bulls. As a team, UCF rushed for 325 yards. McCrae’s third touchdown run, a 31-yard run, essentially slammed the door shut on South Florida after Charlie Strong made a puzzling decision to punt away from the USF 43-yard line on 4th & 1 with USF trailing 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Four plays later came McCrae’s long touchdown run. UCF outscored South Florida 14-0 in the fourth quarter and 21-7 after halftime.

Milton’s injury was severe enough to prevent him from returning to the game, but there was no updated on his status moving forward. However, odds are he will not be available next week for the conference championship game. As such, how UCF fares without their MVP quarterback in the near future will be scrutinized heavily as UCF is sitting in position to not only compete for a chance to play in a big bowl game, but how this potentially impacts their standing in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee should a few breaks open things up for UCF down the line. But in order for that to matter, UCF has one more game to win first.

South Florida played the entire game without Blake Barnett, who was banged up himself. That led the Bulls to split the duties between Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean, but neither was able to spark the South Florida offense against a determined UCF defensive effort. Running back Johnny Ford had 16 carries for 120 yards, but that was the highlight of the offense for the Bulls. South Florida was stooped twice on fourth downs, including one at the UCF three-yard line that was followed by a 97-yard UCF touchdown drive in the first half. Getting stuffed twice on fourth down may have led Strong to decide to settle for a field goal deep in UCF territory in the second quarter when a touchdown would have been much more important.

UCF will host Memphis in the AAC Championship Game next weekend in Orlando. The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday, Dec. 1. The game will be a rematch of last year’s AAC Championship Game, won by UCF by a score of 62-55 in double overtime, and an earlier regular season meeting this year in Memphis won by UCF 31-30. A win by UCF next week at home will likely send UCF back to a New Years Six bowl, which would make the Knights the first Group of Five team to make consecutive New Years Six bowl trips in the College Football Playoff era.

South Florida will slump their way into the postseason after ending the season on a five-game losing skid. But the Bulls have enough wins to go to a bowl game, which will be determined at a later time.

Charlie Strong: 7-6 won’t work for USF this season

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The bar has been set high for South Florida as Charlie Strong prepares for his second season at the helm of the Bulls. Focusing on establishing an unmistakable identity for the program to avoid any confusion on the recruiting trail with rival UCF, Strong is not shy about saying what will or will not work for South Florida this season.

“People think UCF,” Strong said in a story published by The Tampa Bay Times. ” ‘Hey, aren’t you on that team that went undefeated?’ A lady in Atlanta asked us that. I told her no, we weren’t that team.”

“I don’t know the number, but we have to have a good year,” Strong added. “We had 11 wins and 10 wins the last two seasons. … No, 7-6 won’t work this season.”

South Florida, complete with new uniforms this season, has some legitimate question marks on the roster but the Bulls do have enough in them to put together a solid season once again. Will it be good enough to get ahead of UCF? That remains to be seen, but getting the Knights at home in the regular season finale could be beneficial for Strong. The bigger question at hand is what a successful season could do for Strong on the job front. After landing at South Florida after being removed as the head coach of Texas, many have wondered if Strong will eventually return to a power conference job again. Only he may know for sure what his ambitions are, but he is certainly saying all the right things as South Florida’s coach right now.

“What people need to realize is that I’m not here to run out,” Strong said. “People think I’m going to run out. Once people see I’m here to run this program, we can build on it. I want to be here. I really am happy to be here.”

Strong has power conference program coaching experience, of course, between his stints at Louisville and Texas, and a successful run at South Florida would likely keep his name on some radars once the coaching carousel opens up between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and any offseason after as long as he sticks around in Tampa.

Florida AD responds to internet coaching rumor by quoting Edgar Allen Poe

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With Florida officially on the market for a new head coach of the football program, it has not taken too long for the rumor mill to get moving. The Florida gig figures to see a number of familiar names attached to it during the rumor season, some more realistic options than others. This is also a time to never take anything for granted but also a time not to place too much faith in every little thing you read. With that in mind, Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin took to Twitter to confront one rumor head on.

Houston radio personality Marc Ryan shared an update on his Twitter feed claiming Florida has reached out to representatives for former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, former Oregon, and NFL head coach Chip Kelly and current USF head coach Charlie Strong to speak about the open posiiton in Gainesville. According to Ryan, he says these are the top three options on the wish list for Florida.

On the surface, it would make sense for a school like Florida to contact these coaches. One is a former coach with a national championship to his name. The other was one of the top coaches in the Pac-12 before taking a stab at the NFL (and failing miserably, but so did former Florida coach Steve Spurrier). And the last one is a former Florida assistant who has redeemed his coaching pedigree a bit this season at USF, one of the top Group of Five contenders right in the state of Florida.

But just as this is the time of the year to spread coaching rumors on the internet, it is also denial season from ADs and other school officials. And Stricklin certainly had quite the denial ready to go once he saw this one making the rounds.

The quote by Edgar Allen Poe comes from a short story, “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether,” that originally was published in a November 1845 issue of Graham’s Magazine. Even if the original report from Twitter has any validity, this is exactly what you would expect an AD to say regarding his coaching search. But at least he had some fun with it by pulling a classic quote from a literary master.

Chad Morris, Derek Dooley among betting favorites to be next Ole Miss head coach

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It did not take long for people to start talking about who the next head coach at Ole Miss will be following the Thursday night resignation of Hugh Freeze. And somehow, one of the betting favorites has quickly become former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.

As noted by Rocky Top Talk, the Tennessee blog on SB Nation, the former Vols coach and current assistant with the Dallas Cowboys is listed as the second most-favored coach to take over at Ole Miss, listed at +500 according to BetOnline. SMU head coach Chad Morris is the current betting favorite on the betting website, with Morris listed at +300 to be the next coach of the Rebels.

Other names on the board include former LSU head coach Les Miles (+800), and former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly (+1400). FAU head coach Lane Kiffin has been having fun trolling about the Ole Miss fallout on Twitter, yet he is also on the board at +1600.

For what it is worth, interim head coach Matt Luke has also been given odds to keep the job, and he is listed at +1200.

Here are the latest odds as listed by BetOnline;

  • Chad Morris +300
  • Derek Dooley +500
  • Blake Anderson +700
  • Les Miles +800
  • Mike Norvell +1000
  • Brent Venables +1200
  • Scott Frost +1400
  • Chip Kelly +1400
  • Neal Brown +1600
  • Lane Kiffin +1600
  • Mike MacIntyre +1600
  • Charlie Strong +1600
  • Willie Fritz +2000
  • Bryan Harsin +2000
  • Bobby Petrino +2500

So place your bets wisely. But if you choose to place your money on Dooley, you might as well just send me your money instead.