Irish a unanimous AP No. 1

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As expected, Notre Dame retained its spot atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll after a win over USC clinched one of the two spots in the Jan. 7 BcS title game.  In its latest release, all 60 media voters tabbed the Fighting Irish as the No. 1 team in the country.

If Notre Dame can beat the winner of the SEC championship game, they would become the first team since BYU in 1984 to finish the season as the AP No. 1 after beginning the same season unranked.

As was the case last week, the Tide, Bulldogs and unbeaten Ohio State filled spots 2-4 behind the Irish, with Florida moving into the Top Five on the strength of its win over then-No. 10 Florida State.  The Seminoles were the lone team to drop out of the Top 10 this weekend, falling three spots to No. 13.

Oregon (No. 6), LSU (No. 9) and Texas A&M (No. 10) dropped one spot each despite wins in Week 13.  Stanford, which beat UCLA to clinch the Pac-12 North and earned the right to face the Bruins again next weekend for the conference championship, was up three to No. 8.

Kansas State held serve at No. 7 from a week ago to round out the Top 10.

A trio of teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences each moved up five spots apiece: No. 18 Kent State, No. 19 Northern Illinois and No. 20 Utah State.  If some combination of those three teams, along with Boise State, finish in the Top 16 of the final BcS rankings released next Sunday — the Golden Flashes and Huskies square off in the MAC championship game this Friday — one team (the highest-ranked) would earn a BcS berth.

Louisville (then-No. 19), Rutgers (No. 21) and Mississippi State (No. 25) all dropped out of the Top 25, replaced by Northwestern (No. 22) and Boise State (No. 25).  With the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights dropping out, the Big East has no ranked teams in the AP poll.

(Writer’s note: I mistakenly juxtaposed the coaches’ poll with the AP poll when writing on first-place votes.  The error has been corrected.  Apologies to all.)

Temple prepares for next step in quest for new on-campus football stadium

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With time running out on the current lease at Lincoln Financial Field appearing on the horizon, Temple University continues to move forward with exploring their plans for a potential multipurpose facility that could be used to host Temple football on Temple’s campus. The school is now preparing to take the next step forward with the idea by presenting the plans to the City Planning Commission with the hope of being given the approval to continue pushing toward breaking ground on a new facility on Temple’s campus.

“We have said from the start that our first priority has been to engage with our neighbors and local leaders to determine the potential for, and impact of, this facility,” Temple president Richard Englert said in a released statement. “After more than two years of these discussions, and in light of the project’s tremendous value for Temple and North Philadelphia, I have concluded that the time is right to take this step.”

One of the biggest concerns about any on-campus football stadium is the reaction from the neighboring community that has been reluctant to embrace a football stadium being dropped right in the neighborhood.

Englert said in a released statement the university “will continue our conversations with neighbors to address concerns over the impact of the project.”

The football stadium would, in theory, be able to serve multiple purposes in addition to football and will be designed with surrounding economic opportunities in mind. Space for retail locations will be a part of the master plans to help inject some revenue into the surrounding area, and educational facilities will be included in the plans as well.

In all, the plan is currently estimated to cost roughly $130 million. Temple recently negotiated a short-term extension on their lease to use Lincoln Financial Field through 2019. If Temple is given the approval to move forward with their stadium plan, they could theoretically be able to play a true home game on their campus beginning in 2020.

Chuckie Keeton returns to Utah State as offensive assistant coach

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One of Utah State’s all-time best players is back with the program. Chuckie Keeton is joining the Utah State coaching staff, although his exact title has not yet been officially confirmed.

What role Keeton will take on remains to be officially announced, although the speculation is he will be an offensive assistant coach who will work with the Utah State quarterbacks. This will be Keeton’s second coaching job since his playing days came to a close. Keeton got started at Oregon State under former Utah State and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen. Keeton joined the Oregon State coaching staff in 2016. With changes in the Oregon State program with a coaching change this offseason, now was as good a time as any for Keeton to return to Utah State, where he became one of the top players from a non-power conference program to become a bit of a household name.

Keeton shared his reaction to returning to his alma mater on Twitter.

Keeton holds a number of Utah State records including career records for completion percentage and pass efficiency and season records for most touchdown passes, passing yards, total offensive yards, and completion percentage. Utah State finished the 2017 season ranked 69th in the nation in passing offense and ended the year with 17 passing touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Keeton’s college career was sidetracked by injuries far too often, but it will be good to see Keeton back with the Utah State program as he continues his coaching career.

Louisville, USF announce future three-game series

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This is one we would’ve liked to have seen when Lamar Jackson and Quinton Flowers would’ve been taking the field.

Be that as it may, Louisville and USF announced Thursday morning that the football programs have reached an agreement on a future three-game series.  The Cardinals will travel to South Florida for Sept. 21, 2024, for the middle game of the series.  The Bulls will head to Papa John’s Stadium Sept. 24, 2022, and Sept. 19, 2026.

“The USF and Louisville programs have featured some of the most exciting players in college football over the last few seasons,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “We are excited to have Louisville returning to Raymond James Stadium and to add a three-game series with an exciting, top-level opponent with which we share a great deal of history.”

Tne two schools have met in football 11 times previously, most coming when both were members of the now-defunct Big East conference. They first played in 2003, with the last matchup coming in 2013.

The Cardinals hold a 6-5 lead in the mini-series.

Baker Mayfield named winner of 2017 Manning Award

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Baker Mayfield‘s collegiate career may be over, but he’s not finished collecting some hardware from this level.

Thursday, the Allstate Sugar Bowl announced that Mayfield has been named as the winner of the 2017 Manning Award.  The award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — ArchiePeyton and Eli — is the only one to take into account a quarterback’s performance in the postseason.

“I would like to thank the Allstate Sugar Bowl for creating this award in our family’s name 14 years ago,” said Archie Manning in a statement. “It is an honor to have our name associated with the top quarterback in the nation each year. I would also like to congratulate Baker Mayfield, who capped a tremendous career with an outstanding senior season to earn this honor. To say he took a different path to success would be an understatement. I doubt there’s ever been a player who walked on to two different teams and reached this level of success.”

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner won this honor over a field of finalists that included J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Kelly Bryant (Clemson), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Trace McSorley (Penn State), McKenzie Milton (UCF), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) and Khalil Tate (Arizona).

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson had been the winner of the last two Manning Awards.