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UCF rebounds in bitter cold to snap SMU’s bowl hopes

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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.

North Texas regents approve new five-year deal for Seth Littrell

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coaches Jim McElwain of the Florida Gators and Seth Littrell of the North Texas Mean Green shake hands after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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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.

Mean Green DC Mike Ekeler formally announced as Tar Heels’ LBs coach

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 30:  Linebackers Coach Mike Ekeler of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers looks on from the sideline during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against University of Arizona Wildcats on December 30, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Cornhuskers defeated the Wildcats 33-0. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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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.

Top Syracuse DB Antwan Cordy gets medical redshirt for 2016 season

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 31:  Wide receiver Travis Rudolph #15 of the Florida State Seminoles looks to maneuver by safety Antwan Cordy #8 of the Syracuse Orange on October 31, 2015 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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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).

Former Wisconsin offensive coach returning… as defensive assistant

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 15:  Helmets are raised by the Wisconsin Badgers before the start of the game between the Utah State Aggies and the Wisconsin Badgers September 15, 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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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.