Updated: Tulane, ECU join the Big East

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The move by Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten started up another round of realignment rumors. Most, as usual, are complete malarkey. However, one that emerged Tuesday morning caught just about everyone off guard. And it’s apparently as legit as it is hilarious.

Per multiple reports including WaveReport.com, ESPN, CBS, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Tulane will join the Big East in all sports. A press conference — reportedly for a formal announcement — is set for 2 p.m. ET. The university has yet to confirm or deny any realignment reports, but the press conference would be the response.

The AP and ESPN are also reporting that East Carolina (finally, y’all!!!!!) will join as a football-only member in 2014. A press conference for ECU is set for later this afternoon.

The Big East recently lost Rutgers to the Big Ten as part of the latest round of expansion. Maryland also joined the Big Ten from the ACC. Louisville and UConn are among the programs connected to the ACC through the rumor mill.

Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU are supposed to join the Big East in 2013 with Navy joining in 2015. That means in 2014, nine of the Big East’s members will have formerly resided in Conference USA.

More coming once — if — this becomes official.

Updated 2:00 p.m. ET: As expected, Tulane has joined the Big East as a full member. The Green Wave will move from Conference USA in the 2014-15 academic year. That’s the same year Tulane is expected to complete a 30,000-seat on-campus stadium.

“I am pleased and excited to welcome Tulane University to the BIG EAST Conference,” said Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement.  “Tulane University is an outstanding academic institution and is committed to excellence in athletics.  They will be a valued member of the BIG EAST.”

“Tulane University is pleased to accept membership in the BIG EAST Conference,” said Tulane President Scott Cowen.  “The BIG EAST is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane.  We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the BIG EAST to the Big Easy!”

For ECU…

“We are very excited to welcome East Carolina University into the BIG EAST Conference for football,” said Aresco.  “They have a strong football tradition and a consistently successful program that will help elevate our football league.  The University is an outstanding academic institution that reflects the values important to the BIG EAST Conference.”

“ECU is excited to become a football member of the BIG EAST Conference,” said ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard.  “We know we will be successful and add value to the BIG EAST.  While hundreds of dedicated Pirates have contributed to this day, I especially want to recognize the relentless energy of Terry Holland and Nick Floyd in making this day a reality.  It is a great day to be a Pirate.”

Conference USA also issued a statement this afternoon:

“We thank East Carolina and charter member Tulane for all their contributions to the league and wish them well. These are unprecedented times in higher education. Notwithstanding the changes, we are excited about our future and we remain committed to our strategic plan – a major market, two-division conference that is student-athlete friendly.

“To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have made at this time. We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially led process to evaluate our future options.”

Charles Barkley to serve as College GameDay’s guest picker ahead of huge Iron Bowl showdown

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Really, could there be anybody else?

As it’s the last full Saturday of the 2017 college football season, there are a handful of huge matchups with significant implications both nationally and conference-wise.  Given where each stands in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, however, there’s none bigger than No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 6 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl.

Not surprisingly, ESPN‘s wildly popular College GameDay pregame show had previously announced that it would set up shop on The Plains for the rivalry game.  And just as much of a non-surprise is the show’s designated guest picker.

Charles Barkley, of course, played his college basketball at Auburn and has since turned into not only an NBA Hall of Famer but also someone who is never, ever shy about giving an opinion on pretty much anything — including issues related to college football and, of course, “hatred” of all things Crimson Tide. Well, except for the Nicktator.

Of course, there’s also the little matter of a preseason bet with a certain ‘Bama starting quarterback that will no doubt get some run during Barkley’s third appearance on the show.  His first two, Barkley picked Auburn… and was correct both times, the first being 2004 when he opted for his alma mater over Tennessee.  The second?  November of 2013, when he tabbed the Tigers to top the Tide, which they did.

Just sayin’, is all.

Virginia Tech loses starting DE Vinny Mihota for rest of 2017

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For the second straight week, Virginia Tech has lost a starting member of its defense.

The school confirmed in a press release that Vinny Mihota will miss what’s left of the 2017 season because of a knee injury. The defensive end suffered the injury in the Week 12 win over Pittsburgh.

This is the second consecutive season Mihota’s year has ended prematurely because of injury as he missed last year’s bowl game with a lingering shoulder issue that required surgery.

“I share Vinny’s disappointment that he’ll miss the rest of the season,” a statement from head coach Justin Fuente began. “But based off last offseason, I also know no one will rehab more diligently than Vinny to get back on the field with his teammates.”

Mihota has started all 11 games thus far this season. He’s been credited with 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks.

A week ago today, Tech announced that starting safety Terrell Edmunds would miss the remainder of the year after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.