UCF overcomes 5 turnovers to beat USF, clinch share of American

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UCF clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference championship by once again pulling out some dramatic offensive clutch play. Blake Bortles completed a 52-yard pass to Breshad Perriman with just under five minutes to play, giving No. 19 UCF (10-1, 7-0 AAC) a 23-20 lead on rival USF (2-9, 2-5 AAC).

UCF overcame a sloppy performance to put away the Bulls. UCF had five turnovers and completed just one of eight third-down conversions in the game. The defense did not have a great performance against USF, but they came through late in the game with a stop to force a long, 51-yard field goal attempt by the Bulls. That missed field goal set up UCF for their game-winning touchdown drive. On USF’s final offensive possession UCF came up with an interception of USF quarterback Mike White to pretty much seal the game.

UCF is now one win away from winning the outright conference championship, which would guarantee the Knights an automatic BCS berth without the need to worry about any tie breakers. UCF travels to SMU next week. By then they will know what the situation is for the conference. On Thursday night Cincinnati and Louisville will play with a chance to share for the conference championship still a possibility if UCF loses at SMU a few days later.

Here is how the latest AAC championship scenarios look…

UCF wins automatic bid with:

  • Win vs. SMU
  • Lose at SMU and Louisville defeats Cincinnati

Cincinnati wins automatic BCS bid with:

  • Win vs. Louisville AND SMU defeats UCF

So for UCF it is as simple as winning their final game against a struggling SMU team. SMU  (5-6, 4-3 AAC) will need to win that game in order to become eligible for a postseason game.. These two programs have a little history as former Conference USA member. UCF leads the all-time series between the two, 4-1.

USF will wrap up their 2013 season on the road next week at Rutgers. Rutgers could need the game to become bowl eligible if they lose this weekend to Connecticut.

One team paying close attention to UCF is Northern Illinois. The Huskies are ranked ahead of UCF in the BCS standings, and need to stay there in order to receive an automatic BCS Bowl invite for a second straight season. If Northern Illinois defeats Bowling Green in next week’s MAC Championship Game, the Huskies should be heading back to a BCS bowl game under the rules detailing the BCS selection process.

Alabama confirms handful of staff changes, including addition of Miami’s DL coach

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An offseason of upheaval on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has apparently come to an official end.

Early Thursday afternoon, the Crimson Tide announced the additions of two new assistant coaches as well as the promotions/new responsibilities for others on the staff last season.  As previously reported HERE and HERE, the new hires are Dan Enos as quarterbacks coach and Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach.  Both coaches, who come to Tuscaloosa from Michigan and Miami, respectively, will also carry the titles of associate head coach.

“We are pleased and happy to have Dan Enos joining our coaching staff at The University of Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of knowledge with five years of head coaching experience and numerous stops as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Dan is a bright football mind and an outstanding recruiter who will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best chance to be successful.”

In addition to those hirings, Saban also confirmed that Mike Locksley (HERE) has been promoted to offensive coordinator and Tosh Lupoi (HERE) has been promoted to defensive coordinator.  Locksley replaces Brian Daboll, who left after one season in Tuscaloosa for the same job with the Buffalo Bills last month, while Lupoi takes over for Jeremy Pruitt, who left after Alabama’s win in the national championship game to take over as the head coach at Tennessee.

As had previously been announced, Jeff Banks will serve as special teams coordinator while also being in charge of the Tide’s tight ends.  Josh Gattis, who was confirmed as the new wide receivers coach late last month, will also carry the title of co-offensive coordinator, while Pete Golding, in addition to his duties as inside linebackers coach, has been given the title of co-defensive coordinator.

And, finally, Burton Burns will step away from his longtime role as running backs coach and take on an unspecified off-field position.  Replacing Burns in his on-field role is Joe Pannunzio, who had been in charge of tight ends.

NCAA grants Houston LB Austin Robinson another season of eligibility

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As it turns out, Houston will have the services of Austin Robinson a little while longer than originally expected.

The football program announced Wednesday that the NCAA has granted Robinson a sixth season of eligibility. While the school wrote in its release that the linebacker “received a legislative relief waiver” from The Association, the specific reasoning behind the waiver being granted is unclear.

With the NCAA’s decision, Robinson will now have eligibility he can use in both 2018 and 2019.

Robinson began his collegiate career at UT-San Antonio in 2014, playing in eight games as a true freshman before transferring to UH and sitting out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He then played in 11 games in 2016 and 12 this past season, starting four contests in 2017.

This past campaign, Robinson was credited with 33 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. He also had a pair of quarterback hurries on his statistical resume.

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

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Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley pleads guilty to DWI

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An off-field situation for one playing member of the Arkansas football program that began during the 2017 regular season has taken yet another step toward winding its way to a conclusion.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cole Kelley pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving while intoxicated.  While the quarterback was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 89 of those days were suspended while he was given credit for time served for the other.  Additionally, the Democrat-Gazette wrote, the 20-year-old Kelley “was also ordered to complete an alcohol safety class and pay $720 in fines and court costs.”

Kelley was arrested for DWI and reckless driving in November of last year. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game; he was subsequently reinstated after serving what amounted to a one-game suspension.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the 2017 season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with a healthy Allen returning to his starting role for the remainder of the year.

On the season, Kelley completed almost 58 percent of his 151 passes for 1,038 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.  The rising redshirt sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job in 2018 under new head coach Chad Morris.