West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Sat., Dec. 29 – 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bronx, N.Y. – Yankee Stadium
With all the wacky conference realignment continuing to go on across the country, maybe this third-year baby bowl is on to something. Perhaps reuniting rivals that don’t have time for each other anymore will be the wave of the future, replacing the rigid, yet random business of having lame conference tie ins.
This will be the 60th time that the Mountaineers and Orange collide, but this time its for the Steinbrenner Trophy instead of the Schwartzwalder Trophy. And who knows when it will happen again.
West Virginia (7-5) shouldn’t have any trouble getting up for this game. Most of the Mounties were around last year to experience the embarrassing 49-23 loss to the Orange, and all of them are looking to further distance themselves from the five-game losing streak that short-circuited this campaign.
Syracuse (7-5), which played in the first football game ever played at the original Yankee Stadium in 1923, will be trying to keep a lid on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who returned to his early-season form in the 59-10 victory over Kansas, completing 23-of-24 for 407 yards and three touchdowns.
The Big East co-champion Orange have a dangerous quarterback of their own in senior Ryan Nassib, who has thrown for 3,619 yards and 24 scores this season.
This will be high-flying shootout and everyone knows you can’t trust the Mountaineer defense in one of those.
Opening point spread: West Virginia by 3 1/2
The pick: Syracuse 42-38
Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.
It appears Keyshawn Johnson Jr. will continue his collegiate playing career a little bit further west than where it began.
On the same day that Kevin Sumlin was hired as the head coach at Arizona, Nate Clouse of Rivals.com reported that Johnson will be enrolling at UA this week and play for the Wildcats. The son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson will be eligible to play immediately for Sumlin in 2018.
In late June of last year, Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. Not long after, the wide receiver decided to take a leave of absence, with his famous father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and would not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.
At the time, the plan was for the junior Johnson to return to Lincoln and play his college football for Mike Riley. With his father’s college offensive coordinator dismissed at the end of the regular season, Johnson took to Twitter in mid-December to announce that he wouldn’t be returning to the Cornhuskers.
Johnson was a four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2017 recruiting class who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, but never played a down for NU. Before signing with Nebraska, he held offers from, among others, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State and USC.
Roster attrition across college football continues unabated, with Minnesota the latest to lose one its football players.
Zo Craighton revealed on his Twitter account Monday that, “[a]fter prayers and considerations,” he has decided to transfer out of P.J. Fleck‘s football program. “There will always be a place in my heart for Minnesota,” the redshirt sophomore cornerback wrote in his social media missive. “I made friends for life and I appreciate the fan base for all the support.”
Craighton played in 11 games the past two seasons, missing the final nine of the 2017 season because of injury. Coming out of high school in Louisiana, the defensive back was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2015 recruiting class.
Sean Lewis‘ first staff at Kent State will come armed with a famous coaching surname.
The football program announced Monday that Lewis has hired a total of six new assistants. One of the coaching sextet is Mackey MacPherson, the grandson of former Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson.
The younger MacPherson will coach the Golden Flashes running backs after spending the past two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant with the Orange. Both Lewis and MacPherson were on Dino Babers‘ staff at the ‘Cuse.
The other full-time assistant hired by Lewis are as follows:
Zac Barton — special teams coordinator
Brian Cochran — defensive line
Jon Cooley — safeties coach
Matt Middleton — wide receivers coach
Bill O’Boyle — offensive line
Nearly two weeks ago, Lewis announced the hiring of his coordinators on both sides of the ball.
There’s a new leader in the clubhouse for “Early Entrant With the Most Vowels in his Surname.”
On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Joel Iyiegbuniwe announced that he is leaving Western Kentucky early and making himself available for the April NFL draft. The linebacker, a native of Bowling Green, Kent., stated that he came to his decision “[a]fter much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, coaches and advisors.”
This past season, Iyiegbuniwe led the Hilltoppers in tackles with 117, tackles for loss with 11.5 and forced fumbles with three. He was named first-team All-Conference USA following the regular season.
Including last season, Iyiegbuniwe had started 27 straight games at outside linebacker for the Hilltoppers.
Today is the deadline for draft-eligible players to inform the NFL of their intentions.