Rice vs. Air Force
Sat., Dec. 29 – 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN
Fort Worth, Texas – Amon G. Carter Stadium
It’s true. Rice once played in the Cotton and Sugar Bowls – a half-century ago.
Now on to current events. With a kickoff time better suited for brunch, the Owls (6-6) take on the Air Force Falcons (6-6).
Bowl games don’t come as easily for Rice these days. This one certainly didn’t. Rice needed victories in five of its last six games to become bowl eligible. Rice is the nation’s 29th-best rushing team and three players have accumulated 500-yard seasons.
That sounds pretty good.
Until you examine the statistics of Air Force, the nation’s second-best rushing team (328.8 yards per game). The Falcons defeated Hawaii 21-7 … and didn’t even attempt a pass. Not one.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun needs a victory for his sixth consecutive winning season, a nice accomplishment at a military academy.
Opening point spread: Rice by 1
The pick: Air Force 28, Rice 14
Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.
Illinois has extended year-long interim head coach Bill Cubit for another two seasons, the program announced Saturday afternoon. Does that make him a short-term full-time head coach or a long-term interim coach? Or a combination of the two?
Either way, Cubit is in Champaign to stay through the 2017 season.
A mitigating factor here, undoubtedly, is the absence of a full-time chancellor and a full-time athletics director.
“Bill has stepped in during an extremely difficult period and done an outstanding job in leading our football program since August,” interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk said in a statement. “Our student-athletes have responded in a positive manner and we feel he is the best person at this time to be the head coach. We wanted to allow Bill to make decisions regarding the program as the head coach without the interim title, and lead the Fighting Illini into Saturday’s game without speculation.”
Cubit’s extended contract will pay him $1.2 million annually. Former Illini head coach Tim Beckman made a reported $1.8 million.
“During the past three months, Coach Cubit has led this team with a steady and experienced hand,” interim chancellor Barbara Wilson said. “He has earned respect and appreciation from all of us. This move will allow the permanent Athletics Director to evaluate the program at his or her own schedule and make decisions based on those evaluations once that search is completed.”
Illinois is 5-6 this season, playing to extend its season at home against No. 16 Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).
Confirming what was reported earlier this week, Tulane announced Saturday morning it had relieved head coach Curtis Johnson of duties.
Johnson closed his four-year tenure with a 45-34 loss to Tulsa Friday night, a game where the Green Wave led midway though the fourth quarter but were undone by two pick-sixes. He closes his run with a 15-34 record, peaking with a 7-6 mark and a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning only eight games in his other three seasons.
“I want to thank CJ for his hard work and his dedication to rebuilding the Green Wave football program,” Tulane AD Rick Dickson said in a statement. “His efforts were rewarded in 2013 when Tulane reached its first bowl in 11 years. Since then, however, the program has not progressed to the level that we aspire to.”
Similar to Illinois, Central Florida and possibly Rutgers, Tulane says it will find a replacement for Dickson (who originally said he’d step down mid-2016) before finding a new head coach.
Many assume Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood won’t survive this disappointing and scandal-ridden fourth season of his. But it could be his boss, the highly controversial Julie Hermann, that receives the ax first.
According to a report from Keith Sargeant of NJ.com, Hermann could see her 30-month tenure end as soon as this weekend.
“Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann is expected to meet with university President Robert Barchi before the end of the weekend, three people familiar with the situation told NJ Advance Media on Friday,” Sargeant wrote. “The meeting, presumably called by Barchi, is the first evidence the university’s administration is preparing to act.”
Sargeant writes that Hermann has been kept in the dark while the university conducts a top-to-bottom investigation into the football program’s compliance efforts. Flood was suspended three games and fined $50,000 earlier this season for overriding the church-state relationship between football and academics.
The results of that investigation could find Rutgers joining the ranks of Illinois and Central Florida among schools looking to hire an AD and head football coach at the same time.
“The futures of Flood and Hermann could hang on a report being compiled by the university’s office of enterprise risk management, ethics and compliance,” wrote Sargeant. “The report is expected to detail allegations of failed drug tests and other issues that could result in NCAA infractions and possible sanctions, multiple people familiar with the situation have told NJ Advance Media.”
In addition to a losing season on the field, Rutgers football has dealt with drug suspensions and player arrests off the field this fall.
A 40-23 loss to Boise State Friday condemned San Jose State to a third straight bowl-less season, but Spartans AD Gene Bleymaier said afterwards the setback would not result in a change in job status for head coach Ron Caragher.
“There’s no question about his status,” Bleymaier told the Contra Costa Times. “Ron’s our coach, and he’ll be our coach going forward.”
Hired away from San Diego to replace the departed Mike MacIntyre, Caragher is just 14-22 in three seasons leading the Spartans.
San Jose State did go 6-6 in his debut season of 2013 but did not garner a bowl invite.