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.
Former Texas offensive lineman Octavious Bishop has rejoined the program as the Longhorns’ director of student leadership and personal development. The position is a new one, created specifically for Bishop.
Texas’s release announcing his hire says Bishop will work with Charlie Strong and the UT football staff to “provide strategy and implementation of programs to support student-athlete development. Among the program’s goals and objectives will be personal growth, character enhancement, leadership assessment and development, life skills and career preparation.”
“I had an unbelievable conversation with Octavious about what we were looking for in this position and knew right away that he was the man for the job,” Strong said in a statement. “He’s an engaging and energetic person who has a ton of experience working with personal development and has gained so much knowledge in handling all aspects of student-athletes’ lives. I just really loved his passion and all of the ideas he was bringing to the table. On top of that, he’s a Longhorn letterman who overcame a lot of obstacles in his own life. I’m so excited to have him joining our staff.”
Bishop is a former three-year starter at left tackle for the Longhorns, best known as one of the road graders for Ricky Williams‘s NCAA record-breaking 1998 Heisman Trophy campaign. Bishop played professionally for the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons as well as in NFL Europe and the XFL before returning to Texas to finish his social work degree in 2001. He’s since earned his Master’s degree in social work from UT and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Walden University in Minnesota. He has work experience as a social worker and counselor, dealing with marriage, family and addiction counseling and working with students with mental health needs.
“Many of the student-athletes who will attend The University of Texas come from backgrounds similar to my own,” Bishop said. “I have a unique perspective, as a former player and student, that many of them will share. The relationships I’ve established outside of football have played a profound role in my professional and personal development.”
A year ago, the SEC adopted a rule banning its member schools from accepting transfers who were disciplined at their previous institution for sexual assault or other forms of sexual violence. The rule came about after Alabama accepted a transfer from Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, whom Mark Richt dismissed after he was arrested for domestic violence, only to see him again be arrested for domestic violence in Tuscaloosa. Chalk that entire episode up as just another way Nick Saban has changed the way the SEC conducts business.
Now the league is considering expanding the ban to other forms of misconduct in advance of its annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla.
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, a student-athlete working group has recommended expanding the rule to “bar transfers who were convicted of, pled guilty or no contest to a serious misconduct felony.”
“The rule that was passed at the last spring meeting was a first step,” SEC associate commissioner for legal affairs and compliance William King told the paper. “I think commissioner (Greg) Sankey made that clear from the beginning that this was a first step and that the conference would revisit the rule.”
The Big 12 and Pac-12 adopted similar rules to mimic the SEC, and it’s likely this policy will only see stronger teeth considering it was his practice of accepting players with violent pasts from other schools that led to Art Briles‘ eventual ouster.
The rule removes the incentive for coaches who fear that dismissing troubled players will only see them on the opposite sideline a season or two later.
SEC schools are expected to conduct background inquiries into all transfers, and a loophole exists for schools to appeal to the conference’s executive committee. Many believe the rule banning transfers will eventually apply to incoming freshmen as well, though that does not appear to be on the table for this year.
Baylor quarterback Seth Russell has been on a mission trip with other Bears athletes to Brazil, and he returns from his South American voyage to a much different program than he left behind.
Head coach Art Briles is gone. So, too, are two of Baylor’s top incoming freshmen. More coaches and players may follow.
As QB1, Russell had to address the goings on in Waco one way or another, and did so Saturday in an Instagram post that speaks to the Bears’ crisis without really speaking to it while quoting — who else? — Robert Griffin III.
What an amazing experience these past few weeks have been. I, and 33 other Baylor student-athletes, have spent the last two weeks in Brazil sharing God’s love and pouring into children from Maceio and Rio de Janeiro. Through our sports, we were able to share our faith in hopes of changing lives, not just others, but our own as well. I can’t thank all who helped make this mission trip possible enough. I am forever grateful for my time spent growing with others, and ultimately growing with the Lord.
As we head back to Waco, I can’t help but think of all that has changed since we first left for South America. Although I was in a different hemisphere, the heartache was still immensely present. However, being in the environment I was, the Lord was easily able to remind me of how great He is.
We are broken. We are hurting.
But at the end of the day, we are His. With that gift alone, there is no reason to not overcome through these hard times.
My prayers for Baylor University are that we never forget that we need God as desperately on our best days as we do on our worst. We will overcome. We will become stronger. We will be who God has allowed us to be.
Baylor we are and Baylor we’ll always be, but it’s up to us to define what that means-RGIII
What an amazing experience these past few weeks have been. I, and 33 other Baylor student-athletes, have spent the last two weeks in Brazil sharing God’s love and pouring into children from Maceio and Rio de Janeiro. Through our sports, we were able to share our faith in hopes of changing lives, not just others, but our own as well. I can’t thank all who helped make this mission trip possible enough. I am forever grateful for my time spent growing with others, and ultimately growing with the Lord. As we head back to Waco, I can’t help but think of all that has changed since we first left for South America. Although I was in a different hemisphere, the heartache was still immensely present. However, being in the environment I was, the Lord was easily able to remind me of how great He is. We are broken. We are hurting. But at the end of the day, we are His. With that gift alone, there is no reason to not overcome through these hard times. My prayers for Baylor University are that we never forget that we need God as desperately on our best days as we do on our worst. We will overcome. We will become stronger. We will be who God has allowed us to be. Baylor we are and Baylor we’ll always be, but it’s up to us to define what that means-RGIII
Russell started Baylor’s first seven games — all wins — before a broken neck bone suffered in a collision against Iowa State ended his season. He completed 119-of-200 passes for 2,104 yards (10.5 yards per attempt) with 29 touchdowns and six interceptions while rushing 49 times for 402 yards and six scores.
Ole Miss dropped its long-awaited Notice of Allegations, which revealed the spin of the majority of the 28 allegations being against non-football sports and former head coach Houston Nutt‘s staff to be technically true but also just that — spin.
Of the 13 allegations against the Rebels’ football program, nine came against current head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff. However, the majority of those were relatively minor in nature (free rental cars, comped hotel rooms), and the largest did come against two former assistants. Former defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn and former operations staffer David Saunders were accused of setting up a fraudulent ACT system to get players into school.
“We usually know about who is going to make it in by May,” Nutt said of the players whom those ACTs got into school. “We were gonna place them in junior college.”
Still, Nutt told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports he felt a twinge of validation from Friday’s release.
“It’s the most frustrating thing there is,” Nutt said, “to be on the sidelines and hear your name keep getting mentioned and mentioned. It’s hurtful. It makes you mad.
“I don’t have a major violation in 30 years of coaching.”
Nutt won 75 games at Arkansas and led Ole Miss to a 19-8 mark and back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories in his first two seasons in Oxford — read: with Ed Orgeron‘s players — and fell to 6-18 (1-15 SEC) in his final two seasons. That, plus the sting of these violations falling on his record, is likely to continue to keep Nutt out of coaching — at least at the highest levels of FBS.
Still, he remains optimistic.
“I’m going on five years without a team,” he said. “There were a few opportunities I went after. I’d love to coach again. I feel like I’ve got 10 more seasons in me.”