2014 Bowl Preview

The postseason has arrived. It is a bittersweet time of the college football season. Sweet because there are some great matchups to watch and bitter because this means the season is almost over. But let’s not be sad yet. There are still 39 more games this season. This is also the first season of the College Football Playoff. The top-ranked Crimson Tide will take on 4Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and 2Oregon, led by Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, will play 3Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Then the winners will duke it out on January 12 for the National Championship in Jerry World. It has been a great year of college football and it should be a great bowl season as well.

*All times Eastern

December 20:
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette; This is a very interesting game to kick off the bowl season. The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette are appearing in this bowl for the 4th consecutive year and undefeated when playing in this bowl. The Wolf Pack of Nevada has to travel a very long way for this game and that could hurt them. I think this will be a close game. The two teams have similar offensive attacks. Both senior QBs are run threats along with being good passers. I expect both teams to score more than 25 points. This could be a shootout. I am picking Louisiana-Lafayette. 11 a.m. on ESPN

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs. UTEP; I haven’t really had a chance to see UTEP play this season, so I’m going base my knowledge of them off of stats. The Miners have a strong rushing attack, but Utah State had the best rush defense in the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies are a strong team and have overcome a lot of injuries (3QBs and 4LBs) to finish the season 9-4. I think that Utah State is the better team and UTEP just won’t be able to keep up with them for a full 60 minutes. I am picking Utah State. 2:20 p.m. on ESPN

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: 22Utah vs. Colorado State; Colorado State had a great season. So great that Florida swooped in and hired their coach. Utah also had a great season and was ranked for a good portion of the season. The Rams ended their regular season with a heartbreaking loss at Air Force to finish 10-2. Utah played in a lot of very close games this season, including 3 overtime games, two of which went to 2OT. Neither team has to travel very far for this game, so that shouldn’t be a factor. I expect this to be a close game. A high-scoring game favors the Rams, but I think the Ute defense and special teams will be the reason for their win. I am picking Utah. 3:30 p.m. on ABC

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Air Force; Air Force ended Colorado State’s hopes of being ranked at the end of the season and their chances of going to a New Year’s Six bowl game. Western Michigan and Air Force each had amazing turnaround seasons. The Broncos went 1-11 last season and are 8-4 coming into this bowl and AF went 2-10 last year and is currently 9-3. WMU also had a chance to knock Northern Illinois out of the MAC Championship game but were unable to hold back a rally from the Huskies. This should be a good and competitive game, but I think the Falcons will own the 4th quarter and win by a comfortable margin. I am picking Air Force. 5:45 p.m. on ESPN

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green; South Alabama and Bowling Green both had ok seasons. That being said, Bowling Green played for the MAC Championship (lost to NIU 17-51). The Jaguars had another 6-6 season and when they lost, it was by a lot. I don’t think South Alabama’s offense or defense matches up well with Bowling Green. I think the Falcons will be able to outscore the Jaguars and will also be able to get stops on defense. I don’t expect a very close game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if South Alabama was still in it in the end. I am picking Bowling Green. 9:15 p.m. on ESPN

December 22:
Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. Memphis; Memphis might be one of the best teams you haven’t heard much about. The Tigers quietly went 9-3 this season and won a share of the AAC title. This team has a very good defense that will be tested against a high scoring BYU offense. The Cougars dropped 4 games in the middle of the season after losing QB Taysom Hill to a broken leg in the Utah State game. Their last 4 wins were not against strong teams and I worry that they won’t be able to get anything going against a very good Memphis team. I think the Tigers will be too much for the Cougars to handle. I am picking Memphis. 2 p.m. on ESPN

December 23:
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois; I am so excited for this bowl game. After the playoff games and the Arkansas game, it is the game I am most looking forward to. These are two of the best non Power 5 teams in the country over the last couple seasons. The two teams have a combined 47-9 record over the past two seasons. Northern Illinois has had somewhat of a down season. Many of their games were close this season. This is why I think Marshall has the upper hand. I like Rakeem Cato to get one more win to finish his great college career at Marshall. I think it will be close for the first 3 quarters, but then Marshall will pull away in the fourth quarter. I am picking Marshall. 6 p.m. on ESPN

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy vs. San Diego State; I’m not ready to give up on my Aztecs just yet. They didn’t have the year I thought they would, but they still had a good season. If they are going to win this game, it will need to be relatively low scoring. If Navy is able to score more than 30 points, SDSU is going to have a hard time winning. Navy was able to overcome a slow start against Army last weekend and Ken Niumatalolo became the first Navy HC to go 7-0 in his first 7 games against Army. I think SDSU’s defense will be they win this game. They need to stop the 2nd ranked rush attack of the Midshipmen. This should be an interesting game. I am picking San Diego State. 9:30 p.m. on ESPN

December 24:
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky; We all know Western Kentucky can score. They proved that in their 67-66 OT win over Marshall in their final game of the regular season. Central Michigan is a team I didn’t get to recap, so I don’t know too much about them. But to have a chance in this game, the Chippewas need to play great defense, and I just don’t think they will be able to contain the Hilltoppers. I think WKU will blowout CMU and win by a very comfortable margin. But, the bowl season is different than the regular season. You never know if a team really wants to be where they end up going (ok, maybe that doesn’t apply to this bowl which is being played in Nassau), or how their practices went. This is a chance to play on national TV and anything can happen. I am picking Western Kentucky. Noon on ESPN

Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice; This is an interesting matchup. Fresno State is going to a bowl even though they are 6-7 after losing the MWC Championship game. Rice was in contention to play for the C-USA Championship before being blown out by Louisiana Tech in the last weekend of the regular season. I think this will be a competitive game with a lot of points. Fresno State doesn’t have to travel near as far and is accustomed to playing in Hawaii every other season. I think this will be a close one that will come down to the end. I am picking Fresno State. 8 p.m. on ESPN

December 26:
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech; Illinois needed to win its final two games to become bowl eligible. They have a good win against Minnesota, but that’s about it. Louisiana Tech, on the other hand, had a very good season. They went 8-4 overall and 7-1 in Conference USA. The Bulldogs also came very close to upsetting Marshall in the C-USA championship game. LA Tech has also shown they can score a lot. I don’t have much confidence in this Illinois team, but I think this game has the potential to be a close one. I am picking Louisiana Tech. 1 p.m. on ESPN

Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers vs. North Carolina; This has the potential to be a very high scoring game. Neither team has been known for their defense this season and both have been able to score on teams with not so great defenses. North Carolina has given up a lot more points than Rutgers, but they have also scored more. I think this will be a shootout that will probably come down to the team who has the ball last. This should be an exciting game. I am picking Rutgers. 4:30 p.m. on ESPN

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl: North Carolina State vs. UCF; NC State played a relatively easy ACC schedule this season, facing only two ranked teams. They nearly upset Florida State (as did so many other teams) but were not match for then 24th ranked Georgia Tech. UCF ended their season with an amazing win at East Carolina. A last second Hail Mary gave the Knights a share of the American Athletic Conference title. UCF was able to show that they could still be a strong team without star QB Blake Bortles. I believe that UCF will still be up from their miracle win over ECU and will be able to end the season with a win. This should be a good game. I am picking UCF. 8 p.m. on ESPN

December 27:
Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech; Virginia Tech needed to win their final game against Virginia to become bowl eligible. The Hokies do have that win over Ohio State early in the season, but it is now clear that was a fluke. Virginia Tech has struggled to score in the second half of the season. Cincinnati ended the season with 7 straight wins over conference opponents. This Bearcat team has also been known to score a lot of points this season. I think that Cincy has too much firepower for this Virginia Tech team to handle. I don’t think this game will be all that close. I am picking Cincinnati. 1 p.m. on ESPN

Hyundai Sun Bowl: 15Arizona State vs. Duke; This shouldn’t be much of a game. I believe Arizona State will be able to handle Duke much like they did Notre Dame. The only worry I have about this game is how the players on the ASU team feel about going to this bowl after a great season. It is a little bit of a letdown to play in the Sun Bowl as the 15th ranked team. The Sun Devils lost 2 of their last 3 games after having only lost one game in their previous 9 games. Duke had a good season, but they also lost 2 of their last 3 games. However, Duke’s losses were worse than ASU’s. Duke also had a much easier schedule than Arizona State, playing just one ranked team to ASU’s 6. Duke might come in with a better mindset than Arizona State, making this a potential upset if ASU underestimates the Blue Devils. I am picking Arizona State. 2 p.m. on CBS

Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. South Carolina; Before the start of the season, I thought South Carolina would have a good year even after losing some major talents to the NFL. After their opening blowout loss to Texas A&M, I realized I had made a mistake. The Gamecocks barely got to .500 and bowl eligibility. Their thrilling comeback against Florida kept their bowl hopes alive. A win against South Alabama was their 6th win. They ended the season with a bad loss to their rivals Clemson (South Carolina had won the previous 5 meetings). Miami ended the season with 3 losses, giving up 30+ points in each game. It’ll be interesting to see which teams show up to this game. Both teams had hoped to have much better seasons this year, so will they just want this game to be over, or will they want to end the year on a high note? I am picking South Carolina. 3:30 p.m. on ABC

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State; This is a very interesting game. Penn State is able to play in a bowl after the sanctions were lifted earlier this season. Penn State also came very close to upsetting Ohio State earlier in the year. Boston College might have only won seven games this year, but many of their losses were very close. I think this will be a close game. I would be surprised if this game was very high scoring or if one team takes a big lead. This should be a good game to watch. I am picking Boston College. 4:30 p.m. on ESPN

National University Holiday Bowl: Nebraska vs. 24USC; For the seventh straight season under HC Bo Pelini, Nebraska won 9 games. While most see that as a success, Nebraska did not. Pelini was fired at the end of the regular season and Oregon State’s Mike Riley will be taking the reigns next season. Barney Cotton will be the interim coach for the bowl game. USC didn’t have the greatest year, but it wasn’t a bad one. Besides their 18-point loss to UCLA, their other 3 losses came by a combined 13 points. I think USC is the more talented team in this matchup and I think the loss of coach Pelini is going to hurt this Nebraska team. I am picking USC. 8 p.m. on ESPN

December 29:
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia; West Virginia hosted 4 ranked teams this season. They beat Baylor by 14 (a fact that didn’t seem to come up a lot when the Bears were campaigning for the playoff) and only lost to TCU by 1. Their road opponents were significantly easier and their only road loss came to Texas. Most of their losses were close, making me think this game will be close as well. Texas A&M had a very inconsistent season, starting with a blowout win at South Carolina. They won 5 straight games to start the season, then had to play 3 of the top teams in a country and dropped all 3. They got an impressive win over a declining Auburn team then ended the season with losses to Missouri and LSU. It’ll be interesting to see which A&M team shows up to this game. I think the Aggies are the better team and will be able to get a win in this game. But I think it will be a close one. I am picking Texas A&M. 2 p.m. on ESPN

Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. 17Clemson; How will Oklahoma respond after their heartbreaking OT loss in their rivalry game against Oklahoma State? Both of these teams had set their sights for the playoffs at the beginning of the season. Oklahoma played 3 ranked teams this year and lost to all 3. The Sooners have needed to score a lot of points to win this season and I think Clemson’s defense will make it hard for OU to score enough points. I think Clemson is going to keep the Sooner offense in check while scoring some points of their own. This should be an interesting matchup. I am picking Clemson. 5:30 p.m. on ESPN

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas; This is possibly one of the best games of the bowl season. And I’m not just saying that because I go to the University of Arkansas. This game brings together two teams from the old Southwest Conference. This is a major rivalry game for both teams. Both Texas and Arkansas are also trending upward. Even though both teams were 6-6 this season, they played tough all year. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema is in his second season as the head coach of the Hogs and has turned the team around faster than most thought. Charlie Strong is in his first season as head coach for the Longhorns and is trying to implement his philosophy. If you are a fan of old school football, this is the game for you. Arkansas has an edge because of their offense. Texas has struggled to score this season, but they have had a good defense. I expect Arkansas to win by a comfortable margin, but it will be a hard fought game. I will also be in Houston for this game. I can’t wait to see my Razorbacks play for a 10th time this season. Go Hogs! I am picking Arkansas. 9 p.m. on ESPN

December 30:
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Notre Dame vs. 23LSU; LSU has had trouble getting their offense going against good teams this season. Notre Dame has struggled in the second half of the season, winning only one of their final 6 games after starting 6-0. In each of those last 6 games, they gave up at least 31 points and more than 40 in 3 of them. I think LSU is going to run all over the Fighting Irish. The Tigers didn’t have a great season, only going 4-4 in the SEC. This game might have a similar score to the Alabama vs. Notre Dame national championship a couple years ago. The quarterback position is in question for both teams. I don’t expect this game to be close. I am picking LSU. 3 p.m. on ESPN

Belk Bowl: 13Georgia vs. 21Louisville; It was very hard to pick games that featured Georgia this season. They were up and down all season. They lost to South Carolina, Florida and Georgia Tech, three teams they should have beat. But they beat Missouri and Auburn by scores of 34-0 and 34-7 respectively. What will their mindset be like after their OT loss to rival Georgia Tech? Louisville had a good first season in the ACC and was able to hold on to beat Kentucky in their final game of the regular season. I think this will be a good game for the first 3 quarters. After that I think Georgia will wear out this Louisville team. The Cardinals are also without their best RB, Michael Dyer, due to academic ineligibility. UGA’s Nick Chubb should have another good game. I am picking Georgia. 6:30 p.m. on ESPN

Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland vs. Stanford; Stanford has had a lot of trouble scoring this season. But that isn’t such a big deal when their defense only allowed more than 20 points in two games (26 to Arizona State and 45 to Oregon). Stanford’s defense will give Maryland a hard time and will be the reason the Cardinal win. I think this will be a low scoring game or Stanford will win by a comfortable margin. The Terps didn’t have a bad season, but I don’t think they have a good enough offense to score more points than Stanford. I am picking Stanford. 10 p.m. on ESPN

January 1:
Outback Bowl: 19Auburn vs. 18Wisconsin; Neither of these teams finished the season liked they hoped. After losing to Mississippi State, Auburn finished the season 3-3 including a 7-34 loss to Georgia. Wisconsin won their final 7 games of the regular season, but lost to Ohio State 0-59 in the Big 10 Championship game. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon will need to have a great game to help his Badgers beat the Tigers. Auburn will be looking to make a statement in this game. Their defense will need to play a lot better in this game to have a chance. Wisconsin once again will not have their head coach for their bowl game and I think this will impact the team. This is a big game for both conferences. I am picking Auburn. Noon on ESPN2

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: 8Michigan State vs. 5Baylor; I picked Baylor to be in the Cotton Bowl at the beginning of the season. I also picked them to lose to South Carolina, but that’s beside the point. I also picked Michigan State to be in the playoffs and that didn’t work out for me. I still believe in this Michigan State team. I think Baylor is going to be down from not getting a spot in the playoffs. They are a good team, but not as good as they think they are. I think this will be a close game if Michigan State’s defense can keep this explosive Baylor offense in check. If the Bears get on a roll, this might look like the Ohio State vs Michigan State game. I think Michigan State will be able to score and get some key stops and will win this game. I am picking Michigan State. 12:30 p.m. on ESPN

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: 16Missouri vs. 25Minnesota; Minnesota was very competitive in the Big 10 this season. Missouri somehow won the SEC East even though they lost to Indiana at home. If Missouri plays like they did in the second half against Arkansas, they will have no problem in this game. Minnesota has been good at hanging around in games this season, so I expect this game to be pretty close. It will probably be a back and forth game. Missouri has some big time playmakers on the offense and defense. The biggest threat is on the deep ball. The secondary of the Golden Gophers is going to have to play well to keep the game close. I think the Tigers will control the second half of this came and come out on top. I am picking Missouri. 1 p.m. on ABC

January 2:
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Pittsburgh; This is a hard game to pick because I don’t know what mindset either of these teams will have. Both teams will have new head coaches next season. Houston was a strong team this year but didn’t live up to expectations. The Panthers didn’t have that great of a season and I didn’t get too many chances to see them play. I think this will be a close and exciting game. I am picking Houston. Noon on ESPN

TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee; Iowa finished the season with a hard fought game against Nebraska that went to overtime. Tennessee barely got out of Nashville with their sixth win of the season. Tennessee started the season strong but was unable to win some close games. They did get an OT win over South Carolina and came close against Missouri. Iowa only beat one bowl eligible Big 10 team this season. I think Tennessee will end a good rebuilding season with a bowl win. Both of their lines had 0 combined starts to begin the season so they will start next season with a lot of experience. I am picking Tennessee. 3:20 p.m. on ESPN

Valero Alamo Bowl: 11Kansas State vs. 14UCLA; UCLA was dealt a huge blow by Stanford at the end of the season. Their loss to the Cardinal meant they wouldn’t go to the Pac-12 Championship game and also ended a slim hope for the playoffs. Are they going to be up for this game even though it isn’t what they hoped for at the beginning of the season? Kansas State had a strong season but was the third best team in the Big 12. I think they will come in to this game with the better mindset. This should be a very interesting game. It has the potential to be low or high scoring. I think it will be a close one. The Pac-12 and Big 12 have been known for their amazing, last second finishes and I think this will be another classic. I am picking Kansas State. 6:45 p.m. ESPN

TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington vs. Oklahoma State; Oklahoma State is probably still riding high from their OT win over rival Oklahoma. Will that cause a hangover for the team? This is a good Washington team. They were unable to beat a ranked team this season, but they won all of the games they played against unranked teams. It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma State plays after needing an OT win over Oklahoma to become bowl eligible. This was Washington HC Chris Peterson’s first season with the Huskies and did well playing in a very competitive Pac-12. I think he will end his first season on a high note, but it won’t be an easy win. I am picking Washington. 10:15 p.m. on ESPN

January 3:
Birmingham Bowl: East Carolina vs. Florida; One of the most exciting finishes this season was UCFs last second Hail Mary to beat East Carolina. The Pirates started off the season 6-1 with their only loss coming to South Carolina. They were ranked and it looked like they had a chance to get into one of the New Year’s Six bowls until they dropped consecutive road games to Temple and Cincinnati. Though they didn’t end the season as they had hoped, they have a great QB and two amazing receivers. Shane Carden connected with Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy for TDs and long plays all season. Florida had another dismal season, but was able to make it to a bowl game this year. That wasn’t good enough for HC Will Muschamp to keep his job though. This Florida team has a very good defense but has had problems on offense. The Gator defense will be the reason they win this game. A defensive score will be the difference in this game. I think this will be a close one. I am picking Florida. 1 p.m. on ESPN

January 4:
GoDaddy Bowl: Toledo vs. Arkansas State; I didn’t get a chance to see either of these teams very often this season. Toledo had a good season in the MAC and Arkansas State was in the middle of the pack in the competitive Sun Belt. Both teams can score a lot of points and have also given up lots of points. I think this will be a high scoring game. This is the fourth season that the Red Wolves will be playing in this bowl game. They are 2-1 so far. I think they will get another win. I think this will be a close game that comes down to whoever has the ball last. I am picking Arkansas State. 9 p.m. on ESPN

College Football Playoff Semifinals (Jan 1):
Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual: 2Oregon vs. 3Florida State; This game marks the start of a new era of FBS football. This is the first of two semifinal games that will determine who will play for the National Championship. This game has potential to be a blowout. Though Florida State remained unbeaten this season, they have not looked great doing it. I don’t think their luck is going to hold up against the great offense of Oregon. Even with Oregon’s loss of All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, I think their defense will give Florida State a hard time. I don’t think the Seminoles have much of a chance in this game. I am picking Oregon. 5 p.m. on ESPN

Allstate Sugar Bowl: 1Alabama vs. 4Ohio State; The game we are all waiting for. You may know that I am a Razorback fan, but you might not know that I am also an Alabama fan (as long as they aren’t playing Arkansas). This game is huge for both teams and both conferences. I know the Tide are big favorites in this game, but I think it will be a close one. Amari Cooper and the Crimson Tide have a tall task to face in the Ohio State defense just like Cardale Jones has with the Alabama defense. Even though both of these teams have great defenses, this could be a shootout of sorts. ‘Bama scored 55 against Auburn in the Iron Bowl and Ohio State scored 59 against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game. I don’t think either team will eclipse the 50-point mark, but don’t be surprised if this game ends up with both teams over 30 points. I am picking Alabama. 8:30 p.m. on ESPN

College Football National Championship (Jan 12):
2Oregon vs. 4Ohio State; The whole season has built up to this final game. For the first time ever the FBS champion will be decided through a playoff. Both semifinals have been played with Oregon and Ohio State moving on to the National Championship. In my opinion, this matchup pits the country’s two best teams against each other. I knew Florida State was overrated and I suspected Alabama was too (but my love of the SEC and dislike of Ohio State clouded my judgment). This should be an exciting game if you like offense. Both of these teams boast high-scoring offenses, but they are very different. Oregon will kill you with speed and explosive plays. Ohio State has big, bruising guys who can run most defenses over and have great speed once they get past the line. I think the speed of Oregon’s offense is going to give the Ohio State defense a tough time. I think this will be a close game, probably within 10 points and could very possibly come down to the team who has the ball last. This is shaping up to be a great end to the fist season of the College Football Playoff. I am picking Oregon. 8:30 on ESPN

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Posted in 2014 Season, Football

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CFP Top 25

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia

5. Alabama
6. Oregon
7. Utah
8. Penn State
9. Oklahoma
10. Minnesota
11. Florida
12. Wisconsin
13. Michigan
14. Baylor
15. Auburn
16. Notre Dame
17. Iowa
18. Memphis
19. Cincinnati
20. Boise State
21. Oklahoma State
*22. Iowa State
*23. USC
24. Appalachian State
*25. SMU

*New Team

Dropped Out: 19Texas, 23Navy, 24Kansas State

AP Top 25

1. LSU (10-0,6-0)
2. Ohio State (10-0,7-0)
3. Clemson (11-0,8-0)
4. Georgia (9-1,6-1)
5. Alabama (9-1,6-1)
6. Oregon (9-1,6-1)
7. Utah (9-1,6-1)
8. Oklahoma (9-1,6-1)
9. Penn State (8-1,5-1)
10. Florida (9-2,6-2)
11. Minnesota (9-1,6-1)
12. Michigan (8-2,5-2)
13. Baylor (9-1,6-1)
14. Wisconsin (8-2,5-2)
15. Notre Dame (8-2)
16. Auburn (7-3,4-3)
17. Cincinnati (9-1,6-0)
18. Memphis (9-1,5-1)
19. Iowa (7-3,4-3)
20. Boise State (9-1,6-0)
21. SMU (9-1,5-1)
22. Oklahoma State (7-3,4-3)
*23. Appalachian State (9-1,5-1)
*24. Texas A&M (7-3,4-2)
*25. Virginia Tech (7-3,4-2)

Dropped Out: 21Navy (7-2,5-2), 22Texas (6-4,4-3), 24Indiana (7-3,4-3)

*New Team

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