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Baylor caps remarkable turnaround season off with wild Texas Bowl victory over Vandy

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A year ago at this time, Matt Rhule was coming off a dismal 1-11 campaign in his first season in Waco. It was rough for his fellow coaches, the players and a fan base that had grown accustomed to winning plenty in recent seasons.

Well, what a difference a year makes.

Baylor capped off a remarkable turnaround from those dark days to grab victory No. 7 on the season in the Texas Bowl in shootout fashion 45-38 over Vanderbilt.

The Bears, as you could predictably rely on for a Big 12 squad, used their offense to rack up big plays galore and numerous long scoring drives. QB Charlie Brewer was dealing both inside and outside the pocket, throwing for 384 yards with two scores and a pick. He also accounted for 109 yards rushing and scored one of four Baylor touchdowns on the ground.

As good as Brewer was though, his top target was hard to beat coming out of the backfield as Trestan Ebner ran for 90 yards and a score while catching three passes for 109 yards with another trip to the end zone off a fantastic 75-yard scamper over the middle.

Maybe even more wild was the fact that Ebner wasn’t even the tailback with best performance in the game.

That would be belong to Vandy’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who you really should know all about after the way he broke off three 60+ yard runs to finish the year in style. The junior wound up with 243 yards on just 13 carries and probably should have seen the rock even more the way he was running.

It wasn’t totally a one-man show for the Commodores though. QB Kyle Shurmur became the school’s all-time leading passer with 286 yards (1 TD) on the night and Khari Blasingame was an all-purpose threat with 96 total yards and three touchdowns.

In the end though, bad tackling — something both sides were quite guilty of — in key situations in the second half that proved to be Vandy’s undoing in a pretty fun game to close out an otherwise boring Thursday during bowl season. While the Dores will head back home to Nashville wondering why they couldn’t get that one key stop or put up one more big play, the Bears will head up the highway to Waco and celebrate all the way after capping a wild turnaround in 2018 with a win.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 27 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 27 bowl menu, which today features a pair of Power Five vs. Power Five matchups as well as an AAC-ACC clash.

WHO: Temple (8-4) vs. Duke (7-5)
WHAT: The 43rd Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
WHEN: 1:30 ET on ESPN
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
THE SKINNY: Contrary to popular belief, Temple interim head coach Matt Foley Ed Foley did not live in a van down by the river before coming to the Owls and setting Shreveport on fire with his motivational prowess. … Foley takes over for this one game for Geoff Collins, who left after two seasons with the football program to take the same job at Georgia Tech. The permanent replacement, Manny Diaz, will be coordinating Miami’s defense in the bowl game right after this one. … After not appearing in a bowl game in nearly two decades, Duke has played in one in six of the last seven seasons. Head coach David Cutcliffe has been responsible for six of the football program’s 14 postseason appearances all-time and two of its five bowl wins, with the Blue Devils looking to win a third straight bowl game for the first time in the school’s history. … Temple, meanwhile, will be playing in its fourth straight bowl game, including a win in last year’s Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. … The Owls come into today’s game having won three in a row and six of their last seven, while the Blue Devils have dropped two straight and four of their last six after starting the regular season 5-1. Duke lost those last two games, incidentally, by a combined score of 94-13 (Clemson 35-6, Wake Forest 59-7). … Temple has the nation’s seventh-ranked pass defense in yards per game (166.3) and is tops in the FBS in allowing just 5.1 yards per pass attempt. … Duke starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who staged a miraculous in-season return from a broken clavicle, is tied for 104th nationally in averaging 6.4 yards per attempt.  Jones, playing in potentially his last game for the Blue Devils as the redshirt junior considers an early leap to the NFL, is capable of putting up big numbers as he accounted for 547 yards of offense (361 passing, 186 rushing) in a mid-November win over rival North Carolina earlier this year. … Today’s game will mark the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
THE LINE: Duke, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Temple 28, Duke 27

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WHO: Miami (7-5) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)
WHAT: The 9th Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: 5:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York City, New York
THE LINE: Wisconsin, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Baylor (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
WHAT: The 13th Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
THE SKINNY: Baylor and Vanderbilt have met in football twice previously, with the last meeting coming more than sixty years ago (1954).  Vandy won both of those contests. … The Commodores are looking for their first bowl win since 2013, while Derek Mason is looking to even his bowl record at 1-1 (lost the 2016 Independence Bowl). … The Bears, on the other hand, have won two straight bowl games and four of their last six postseason appearances.  Three of those wins came with disgraced former head coach Art Briles in charge in Waco. … Both teams needed to win their final games of the regular season in order to reach bowl eligibility, which Baylor did with an 11-point win over Texas Tech and Vandy did with a 25-point pasting of in-state rival Tennessee. Vandy actually had to win its last two to become bowl-eligible as they beat Ole Miss as well at UT… Baylor is looking to put the finishing touches on one of the most impressive rebounds in college football as the Bears went 1-11 in 2017. … Baylor is 71st nationally in scoring offense (28.3 points per game) while Vandy is tied for 49th in scoring defense (25.1 ppg). Conversely, the Commodores are 76th in scoring offense (27.7 ppg) while the Bears are tied for 87th in scoring defense (31.2 ppg). … The last four games, three of which were wins, Vandy’s offense averaged 36.7 points per game. … Baylor’s offense, on pace for its worst scoring season in nearly a decade, won’t be at full strength as Jalen Hurd, the Tennessee transfer who is the Bears’ leading receiver (69 receptions, 946 receiving yards) and was named as the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year, will not play in the game due to injury. … One area to keep an eye on: Baylor is 118th nationally in turnover margin (18 turnovers committed, nine turnovers gained) while Vandy is tied for 18th in the same category (21 turnovers gained, 13 lost).  Only LSU (T-6th) and Florida (10th) finished better than Vandy in the SEC.
THE LINE: Baylor, +4
THE PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 24, Baylor 20

Kyler Murray is Oklahoma’s fourth-straight Big 12 offensive player of the year

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An Oklahoma player winning the Big 12 offensive player of the year award is beginning to be routine in Norman. Quarterback Kyler Murray continued a streak for the Sooners by being named the Big 12’s offensive player of the year on Wednesday, marking the fourth consecutive season an Oklahoma player has been recognized as the conference’s top offensive player.

Murray wins the award one year after former Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield won the award. Mayfield won the award in 2015 as well, with former Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook taking the award in 2016. This was Oklahoma’s eighth player in program history to win the Big 12 offensive player of the year award, joining Sam Bradford, Jason White and Josh Heupel on the list.

West Virginia linebacker David Long was recognized as the conference’s defensive player of the year. He is the first Mountaineer to win the award. Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd was named the Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year, and Iowa State defensive back Greg Eisworth took the defensive newcomer of the year award.

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. also was recognized by the Big 12 as the offensive freshman of the year. Texas defensive back Caden Sterns was named defensive freshman of the year.

The Big 12 handed out two awards for coach of the year this season, with the honor being shared by Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.

The full list of Big 12 awards is listed below.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, QB, Jr., Allen, Texas

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
David Long Jr., West Virginia, LB, Jr., Cincinnati, Ohio

OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Jalen Hurd, Baylor, WR, Sr., Hendersonville, Tenn.

DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Greg Eisworth, Iowa State, DB, So., Grand Prairie, Texas

OFFENSIVE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Pooka Williams Jr., Kansas, RB, New Orleans, La.

DEFENSIVE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Caden Sterns, Texas, DB, Cibolo, Texas

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Austin Seibert, Oklahoma, K/P, Sr., Belleville, Ill.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN OF THE YEAR
Dalton Risner, K-State, Sr., Wiggins, Colo.
Dru Samia, Oklahoma, Sr., Sacramento, Calif.
Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia, Sr., Miami, Fla.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR
Charles Omenihu, Texas, Sr., Rowlett, Texas

CHUCK NEINAS COACHES OF THE YEAR
Matt Campbell, Iowa State (3rd Season)
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma (2nd Season)

Murray was one of seven Oklahoma players named to the Big 12’s first-team all-conference offense. The Sooners quarterback beat out West Virginia’s Will Grier for the First Team spot, with the Mountaineers passer headling the All-Big 12 Second Team All-Conference roster.

You can view the entire All-Big 12 teams HERE.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

College football odds for Week 9: Notre Dame, Oklahoma among heavy favorites

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Notre Dame has some history of playing down to the level of heavy underdogs under Brian Kelly, but it is catching a struggling Navy squad in a neutral-site game this weekend.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who made a quarterback switch to Ian Book earlier this month, are 23.5-point favorites on this week’s college football odds against the Navy Midshipmen with a 54.5-point total for Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The matchup takes place at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. During the nine-season Kelly era, the Fighting Irish are 15-1 straight-up and 6-9-1 against the spread as a favorite of 20.0 or more points. Notre Dame (7-0)  is also 1-4 ATS in its last five games against Navy (2-5) and 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games against American Athletic Conference foes. However, Navy comes in saddled with a losing record on the season and a 0-5 ATS record in its last five games. The total has gone OVER in six of the last eight Notre Dame-Navy matchups.

Elsewhere in Week 9 (all times ET):

West Virginia (5-1) at Baylor (4-3), Thursday, 7 p.m.
The West Virginia Mountaineers are 14-point favorites against the Baylor Bears with a 67-point total in a Thursday matchup. West Virginia is 0-4 ATS in its last four games in October. The total has gone UNDER in six of West Virginia’s last eight conference games. Baylor is 0-9 SU in its last nine road games against teams with winning records.

Miami (5-2) at Boston College (5-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
The Miami Hurricanes are 3.5-point road favorites against the Boston College Eagles with a 49.5-point total in a Friday matchup. Miami is 5-1 ATS in its last six games against Boston College. The total has gone UNDER in 15 of Boston College’s last 20 games in October.

Florida (6-1) at Georgia (6-1), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
The Georgia Bulldogs are 6.5-point favorites against the Florida Gators with a 52-point total in a matchup at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Florida is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games in October, according to the OddsShark College Football Database. The total has gone OVER in four of Georgia’s last five games in October.

Clemson (7-0) at Florida State (4-3), Noon
The Clemson Tigers are 16.5-point road favorites against the Florida State Seminoles with a 51-point total. The total has gone OVER in seven of Clemson’s last nine road games against teams with winning records. Florida State is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 conference games.

Texas A&M (5-2) at Mississippi State (4-3), 7 p.m.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are 2.5-point favorites against the Texas A&M Aggies with a 45-point total. Texas A&M is 1-4 ATS in its last five games against Mississippi State. Mississippi State is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games at home in October, but is also 1-5 ATS in its last six conference games.

Iowa (6-1) at Penn State (5-2), 3:30 p.m.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are 6.5-point favorites against the Iowa Hawkeyes with a 51.5-point total. Iowa is 8-1 SU and ATS in its last nine games. The total has gone UNDER in four of Iowa’s last five road games against Penn State. Penn State is 15-6 ATS in its last 21 conference games.

Wisconsin (5-2) at Northwestern (4-3), Noon
The Wisconsin Badgers are 7-point road favorites against the Northwestern Wildcats with a 51-point total. Wisconsin is 12-2 ATS in its last 14 road games. The total has gone OVER in seven of Wisconsin’s last nine road games, with an average combined score of 50.11. Northwestern is 6-14 ATS in its last 20 games at home against teams with winning records.

Kansas State (3-4) at Oklahoma (6-1), 3:30 p.m.
The Oklahoma Sooners are heavy 24.5-point betting favorites against the Kansas State Wildcats with a 64-point total. Kansas State is 21-5 ATS in its last 26 road games against teams with winning records. Oklahoma is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games at home.

Texas (6-1) at Oklahoma State (4-3), 8 p.m.
The Texas Longhorns are 3.5-point favorites against the Oklahoma State Cowboys with a 59.5-point total. Texas is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games against Oklahoma State. The total has gone OVER in seven of Oklahoma State’s last nine conference games.

Washington State (6-1) at Stanford (5-2), 7 p.m.
The Stanford Cardinal are 3-point favorites against the Washington State Cougars with a 53-point total. The total has gone OVER in Washington State’s last six road games, with an average combined score of 72.67. Stanford is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games. The total has gone UNDER in seven of Stanford’s last eight games in October.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.