Duke (8-2, 4-2 ACC) is one step closer to an ACC Championship… Game appearance. Yes, Duke football is now in a favorable position to get to the ACC Championship Game to face Florida State thanks to a 48-30 victory over Miami (7-3, 3-3 ACC) on Saturday in Durham. Duke scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to push a one-point lead to a 18-point victory and with some help around the conference on Saturday the Blue Devils are now in a great position in the ACC Coastal Division.
Because Georgia Tech (6-4, 5-3 ACC) lost Thursday and Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3 ACC) lost earlier in the day, Duke can clinch the ACC Coastal Division by winning their final two games of the season without the need to rely on tie breakers.Duke’s final two games of the regular season will be played on the road, at Wake Forest and at North Carolina. If Duke loses one of those final two games the Coastal Division will have to be settled by tiebreakers dependent on how many teams are tied for the division lead. Still, Duke’s head-to-head winning percentage against teams likely to be in that scenario should give Duke an edge.
This Duke team, and the rest of the ACC, may be on a level clearly below Florida State, but what the Blue Devils have done over the last season and a half is worthy of plenty of praise. On Saturday Duke put together over 500 yards of offense against Miami and hammered out key fourth downs on the ground, including a dagger by way of a 33-yard touchdown run by Shaquielle Powell on a fourth and one play in the fourth quarter. Although Miami put together a big offensive day with over 500 yards of offense and 30 points, the defense came through late in the game to hold off Miami.
Duke’s Josh Snead had nine carries for 138 yards and Jela Duncan came close to a 100-yard day as well. Brandon Connette scored four rushing touchdowns and passed for one more to fuel the offense. Connette became the school’s all-time leading touchdown rusher in the victory as well.
The win was Duke’s eight of the season, giving the Blue Devils their most wins in a single season since 1994. The last time Duke won nine games in a season was 1941. Duke has only won nine games in a season four times in program history.
Now, what about Miami?
The Hurricanes have lost three straight games and they have been plunging since facing Florida State as a top ten team. Injuries have cost Miami of course, but the Hurricanes need to stop the bleeding quickly. Miami will still be going to a bowl game but now the Hurricanes are in fourth place in the ACC Coastal Division and losing bowl standing. Miami takes on Virginia (2-8, 0-6 ACC) at home next week and should be able to get back in the win column. It is not too late to end the season on a high note.
In the year prior to Seth Littrell‘s arrival in Denton, North Texas went through an abysmal one-win season. Twelve months later, they participated in the postseason. A couple of months after that, the football program’s head coach has been rewarded for the immediate turnaround.
In a press release Friday afternoon, UNT announced that the university and Littrell have reached an agreement on a new five-year deal. The school’s Board of regents has already signed off on the contract.
With the new deal, the 38-year-old Littrell is now signed through the 20121 season.
There’s no official word yet as to what financial enhancements were included as part of the new pact. Last season, his first as a head coach, Littrell was paid $815,000. That number was third among Conference USA coaches in 2016 according to USA Today‘s salary database.
“We are excited to announce this new agreement with coach Littrell,” said athletic director Wren Baker in a statement. “Under one of the brightest young coaches in the country, our football program had the second-best turnaround in the nation last season and his performance was recognized by his colleagues and media members around the nation. This new contract represents an aggressive move to keep coach Littrell, his staff, and their positive momentum intact. This is validation of the successful efforts that Seth has led in the early stages of the turnaround of North Texas football.”
While the Mean Green finished the 2016 regular season 5-7, they were one of the five-win teams to qualify for a bowl game. It was the program’s first bowl appearance since 2013 and just the second in the last dozen years.
The four-win turnaround from the previous season was the second-best at the FBS level.
North Carolina’s reported poaching of North Texas’ coaching staff is officially official.
UNC acknowledged in a press release Friday that Mike Ekeler has been hired as the Tar Heels’ new linebackers coach. Ekeler will take over the job previously held by John Papuchis, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Gene Chizik abruptly stepped down to spend more time with his family.
“We’re thrilled to add Mike to our coaching staff,” said head coach Larry Fedora in a statement. “He’s a well-respected, energetic coach who has worked with other members of our defensive staff in the past, which will make the transition to Carolina that much easier. He’s an outstanding coach and recruiter who will be a great fit for our program. We look forward to having Mike and his wife and kids join the UNC family.”
Ekeler spent the 2016 season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Mean Green. Prior to joining UNT, he spent two seasons as inside linebackers coach at Georgia.
He’s also worked on coaching staffs at USC (2013), Indiana (2011-12), Nebraska (2008-10), LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04). At the latter two stops, Ekeler served as a graduate assistant.
Not surprisingly, Syracuse’s top returning defensive back will get to spend a little additional time with the Orange.
On social media Thursday, Antwan Cordy announced that the NCAA has granted him a medical hardship waiver for his 2016 season. Because of the medical redshirt, the safety will have two seasons of eligibility at his disposal instead of just the one prior to the decision.
Should he choose, Cordy could play for the Orange in 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Cordy started the first two games last year, but sustained what turned out to be a season-ending arm injury in a Week 2 loss to Louisville.
In 2015, Cordy started all 12 games for the Orange, with the 5-8, 175-pounder’s 12 tackles for loss leading the team and setting a school record for defensive backs. That total was also second in the ACC amongst secondary players (Duke’s Jeremy Cash, 18).
Paul Chryst is certainly taking a unique approach in reconstituting his Wisconsin coaching staff.
Earlier this month, Chryst hired Jim Leonhard as his new defensive coordinator despite the latter having just one year of experience as a coach at any level. Now, reports have surfaced that Chryst is bringing Bob Bostad back to Madison to fill a vacancy on the staff.
While Bostad was an offensive assistant during his first tour of duty with the Badgers, he’ll be a defensive coach in this latest stint. Specifically, he’ll serve as UW’s inside linebackers coach.
Bostad would technically replace Justin Wilcox, the coordinator Leonhard replaced after Wilcox took the head-coaching job at Cal last month.
From 2006-11, Bostad was an assistant for the Badgers — the first two seasons as tight ends coach, the last four as offensive line coach. After spending four seasons as the line coach for two NFL franchises — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Tennessee Titans (2014-15) — Bostad spent the 2016 season as tight ends coach at Northern Illinois.
In a coaching career that spans 27 seasons, this would be Bostad’s first job on the defensive side of the ball.
UPDATED 12:59 p.m. ET: Wisconsin has confirmed the hiring of Bostad.