Central Florida vs. Ball State
Fri., Dec. 21 – 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
St. Petersburg, Fla. – Tropicana Field
Nothing says pre-Christmas bowl season like Conference USA vs. the MAC in a baseball stadium. At least Tropicana Field should be full. That’s usually a struggle for the Tampa Bay Rays during the summer.
Central Florida (9-4) will be playing about 120 miles from its campus, so expect the Knights to be well-represented. Without a pair of defeats against Tulsa – 23-21 during the regular season, 33-27 in overtime during the C-USA title game – the Knights would really have something special.
Ball State (9-3) does have something special.
The Cardinals enter with a six-game winning streak. They have scored 30 or more points in 10 of 12 games. Remember this name: Pete Lembo. He’s the fast-rising BallState coach – and he might not be in Muncie many more seasons.
Ball State is ultra-sound on offense with precise quarterback Keith Wenning, powerful runner Jahwan Edwards (1,321 yards, 6.1-yard average, 14 TDs) and game-breaking receiver Willie Snead (82 catches).
It says here Ball State has never won a bowl game (0-5). That’s about to change.
Opening point spread Central Florida by 7
The pick: Ball State 34, Central Florida 30
Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.
It’s not yet Signing Day, but Notre Dame has already secured a major commitment for what Brian Kelly hopes is a major bounce-back 2017 season.
Offensive lineman Quenton Nelson announced Sunday he is returning for his senior season. “Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out,” Nelson wrote in an Instagram post. “I’m right behind you Coach.”
Nelson, who hails from “Westeros, GOT,” according to his Twitter bio, is a two-year starter at guard for the Irish. Notre Dame finished tied for 62nd nationally in yards per carry this season, but ranked eighth in that same metric a year ago en route to earning a finalist not for the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the nation’s best offensive line unit — and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Former California head coach Sonny Dykes is set to join TCU’s staff in a to-be-determined role, multiple outlets reported Sunday evening. Jeremy Clark of TCU’s 247 site broke the news.
Dykes, of course, was the head coach of the Golden Bears through last Sunday, when the school abruptly fired him. He was 19-30 in four seasons with Cal.
With Doug Meacham off to Kansas and Sonny Cumbie running the show for the Horned Frogs’ offense, Dykes is a natural fit to slide in and assist Cumbie. Dykes was an offensive assistant of Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2000-06, and Cumbie played for the Red Raiders as a quarterback from 2000-04. Sharing the same first name can’t hurt, either.
Chip Long is off to call plays at Notre Dame, and now Tigers head coach Mike Norvell has moved his remaining staff up a line.
The Tigers announced Sunday associate head coach/running backs coach Darrell Dickey has been bumped to offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, who spent last season as a graduate assistant working with the quarterbacks, is now the full-time quarterbacks coach, and offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield has added a run game coordinator title.
“The interest generated by our opening was remarkable,” Norvell saida. “But after the process of visiting with a number of coaches and coordinators from a variety of schools and just about every conference across college football, I feel the best option to continue our high standard of offensive success is to promote from within our staff. Our players have done a great job in adjusting to the offensive system we brought here this past season, and I believe next season, we have a chance to build off what we did as a unit. With these changes, as well as Coach (wide receivers coach David) Johnson and myself, I feel like we will continue to have one of the top offensive staffs in the country.”
Dickey has spent the last five seasons on staff at Memphis, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Justin Fuente before he left for Virginia Tech. Dickey is best known for his run of four consecutive Sun Belt championships from 2001-04 as the head coach at North Texas.
“Coach Dickey brings a wealth of experience coordinating explosive offensive units and I believe that with the offensive staff we have in place, the brightest days ahead for this Memphis Tigers’ offense. Darrell does a tremendous job of leading men and developing relationships not only with players, but also with everyone associated with our program. He has done an outstanding job over the last five years here in Memphis developing a running backs group that I believe is one of the most dynamic in the country.”
Memphis finished the 2016 season ranked 33rd nationally in yards per play and tied for 15th in scoring despite losing first-round pick Paxton Lynch at quarterback.
Michigan offensive lineman David Dawson announced shortly after the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State he would seek a home elsewhere, and now he has found that home.
Dawson announced Sunday through his Twitter account he will undergo a graduate transfer to Iowa State for the 2017 season.
“I would like to thank God for granting me another opportunity to play the game that I love and also allowing me to meet such a great staff and team at Iowa State!,” he wrote. “I’m proud to announce that I will finish my college career in Ames, IA.”
Dawson was a career reserve in Ann Arbor, logging 12 career games in maize and blue, according to MLive.
The Cyclones can use all the help they can get, though. Iowa State finished 80th nationally in yards per carry and tied for 97th in sacks allowed in 2016, and lose four offensive line starters to graduation.