It was not pretty, but UCF will take it. The Golden Knights clinched the outright American Athletic Conference championship by coming from behind int he second half at SMU, 17-13. It was the seventh time this season UCF won a game by seven points or less.
This was the coldest game in UCF program history, and there were times when it was clear the temperature was causing some problems for quarterback Blake Bortles and the rest of the offense. Bortles had a football slip out of his hands while on the move and receivers had a tough time holding on to the football. UCF started cold as well, scoring just three points and trailing the Mustangs 10-3 at the half. Things were not much prettier in the second half, but it worked for UCF as the offense finally found some plays to build on.
Bortles rushed for two touchdowns in the third quarter to give UCF the lead and the score stayed there though the entire fourth quarter. He ended his day completing 24 of 35 pass attempts for 242 yards. SMU quarterback Neal Burcham, playing in place of an injured Garrett Gilbert, had to be taken out of the game in the fourth quarter after landing hard on the cold turf and suffering a concussion. That left the bowl hopes of SMU in the hands of Garrett Krstitch, a very inexperienced quarterback. Krstitch was intercepted once and was unable to lead SMU back late in the game.
The loss ensures SMU they will stay home this postseason. SMU had played in four straight bowl games entering this season under head coach June Jones. After seeing the football team’s win total diminish each of the past two years now, what kind of changes are on the way in Dallas could be interesting to watch.
UCF now awaits to find out their official BCS bowl destination, although it is expected they will be heading to the Fiesta Bowl. The Orange Bowl would be more desirable for UCF though, given the in-state proximity and the number of fans already saving up for an overseas trip to play Penn State in Ireland to open the 2014 season.
Earlier this month, Purdue honored Joe Tiller. Later this month, the program that propelled him to West Lafayette will do the same.
Tiller passed away Sept. 30 at the age of 74 at his home in Buffalo, Wyoming. From 1991-96, Tiller served as the head coach at Wyoming, guiding the Cowboys to a 39-30-1 record during his six years with the football program.
For UW’s Oct. 28 Homecoming game against New Mexico, the Cowboys will wear helmet decals with Tiller’s initials to honor their former head coach.
His last season in Laramie, the Cowboys went 10-2. The school hasn’t won more than eight games in a season since he left to take over at Purdue after that 1996 season.
Army is taking on Temple on Saturday afternoon with a chance to punch the first postseason bowl ticket of the 2017 season. Other teams may already be bowl eligible, but Army will be the first team to have a chance to accept an invitation to a bowl game on Saturday if they can manage to get by the Temple Owls.
Army has a spot waiting for them in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth as long as they are bowl-eligible this season. At 5-2, the Black Knights can start making their bowl plans as soon as they win one more game. If they do clinch their bowl eligibility on Saturday, it will be the first time Army will go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1984 and 1985 seasons. Army played in and won the short-lived Cherry Bowl in the 1984 season and the Peach Bowl in the 1985 season. After going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season for their first bowl trip since the 2010 season, Jeff Monken and his program are looking to make going to a bowl game a regular thing.
Army defeated Temple in the season opener a year ago, and Monken is aware that can be a motivating factor for Temple despite these Owls being a much different team from the AAC champions of last season.
”This is a tough football team that won their conference last year,” Monken said. ”They’ll have a ton of confidence and they feel as though they have to come in and win this game. We had the chance to come out with a win at their place, and I’m sure they’d love to return the favor.”
Monken took over the Army football program in 2014 after a successful run as head coach of Georgia Southern, then a powerhouse FCS program. His run at Army took a couple of years to get going, but Army has shed their losing ways under his watch, and that was highlighted by a long-awaited victory over Navy in last season’s Army-Navy Game. Picking up a win against Temple will continue to prove Army is continuing to improve as a program, and that also means Monken will potentially be finding himself on the radar in the coaching rumor mill. The Nebraska job has had some people mentioning Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, but perhaps Monken would be a name to keep an eye on as well. As long as that means Army is winning games, so be it.
Keep in mind this would not be the first time Army would have back-to-back bowl eligible seasons since the mid-1980s. The Knights have had winning seasons on multiple occasions since last going to back-to-back bowl games, but the bowl game picture was quite different in the 1980s than it is today. With an oversaturation of bowl games available to schools today, Army stands a much better chance of going to a bowl game this season even with just six or seven wins than they would have 30 years ago.
Contrary to previous internet uniform rumors, Ohio State’s alternate helmet for their big division showdown with Penn State next week is far closer to home to the traditional Ohio State look than some of the outside-the-box helmet designs that had been floating around in various rumor mills in Ohio State circles lately.
Ohio State is rolling out with an alternate gray uniform, for some reason (recruiting!), next week when the Buckeyes host Penn State. And to keep the look from head to toe, Ohio State will wear a gray helmet with a slightly abstract pattern seemingly mimicking camouflage.
Two years ago when Ohio State hosted Penn State, the Buckeyes took the field in an all-black uniform. The Buckeyes have also worn all-white uniforms (excluding the helmet) for road games against Michigan and Penn State in recent seasons.
Penn State, barring any unforeseen announcements, will stick with their traditional all-white look for the road game. Although, Penn State did wear a specially designed uniform this season a few weeks ago. It’s a new era, so never say never.
Ohio State is off this week. Penn State hosts Michigan Saturday night. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions meet in Columbus next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The Big Ten is planning ahead to buckle down and try to make Thursday night and Friday night football a thing in the conference. After breaking the ice on Thursday and Friday night football in the 2017 season, the conference has officially moved five games on the 2018 conference schedule to Thursday and Friday nights.
Purdue will host Northwestern in the Big Ten season opener on Thursday, August 30, marking the second straight season the Big Ten will kick off the college football season with a Thursday night football game. Indiana hosted Ohio State in a Thursday night season opener this season. The opening week of the season will continue the following night with Michigan State hosting Utah State and Wisconsin hosting Western Kentucky on Friday, August 21, 2018. This will mark the second straight season Wisconsin will open the season at home on a Friday night in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers hosted Utah State on Friday, September 1 this season.
The three games on Thursday and Friday night in the opening week of the 2018 season keeps the Big Ten on the primetime lineup on various TV partners between ESPN, FOX Sports, and the Big Ten Network, although the programming specifics will come later on. But the idea of adding games to Thursday and Friday nights has been designed to add programming to TV partners and add content across all partner networks as part of the latest contracts with ESPN and FOX, along with the Big Ten Network.
The Big Ten has moved two additional games Friday nights next season as well. Illinois will host Penn State on Friday, September 21, 2018. Minnesota will host Indiana on Friday, October 26, 2018.