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Big plays help UCF overcome turnovers for Fiesta Bowl halftime lead

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If you overlooked the Fiesta Bowl, you are missing out on some good, quality entertainment. UCF leads Baylor 28-20 at the half thanks to some big plays by the offense.

UCF running back Storm Johnson gave the Golden Knights an early spark. An 11-yard touchdown run gave UCF an early 7-0 lead following a 76-yard drive over six plays. Minutes later Johnson entered the end zone once again on a shorter run to capitalize on a drive that started at midfield. Quarterback Blake Bortles had 183 passing yards in the first half, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown pass to Rannell Hall midway through the second quarter to build a 21-13 lead and another 34-yard touchdown play to Hall for the final score of the half.

Before it turned in to a lopsided half, Baylor managed to counter with their first touchdown of the game. Late in the first quarter, quarterback Bryce Petty picked up a short touchdown run to put the Bears on the scoreboard. Petty later helped Baylor capitalize on an interception thrown by UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. Petty completed a pass over the middle to Levi Norwood, who then maneuvered out of traffic and made a run for the end zone to bring Baylor to within one point. A botched extra point attempt left Baylor trailing by one, 14-13.

Baylor got another chance immediately following the ensuing kickoff though. Johnson had the ball punched out of hands by a Baylor defender and the Bears recovered in great field position. UCF returned the favor though by picking off a pass from Petty in the end zone to protect the 14-13 lead. Five plays later Bortles connected on the 50-yard touchdown pass to Hall for the 21-13 lead.

After Petty’s summersault in to the end zone brought the Bears to within one, Bortles again led UCF to a touchdown. He did so once again by connecting with Hall. Bortles completed a pass to Hall, who managed to find an open path to the end zone down the right sideline with a blocker in front of him down field. A leap in to the end zone extended UCF’s lead to 28-20 in the final minute of the half.

Baylor kicker Aaron Jones had a last-second field goal attempt sail just right of the uprights as the half came to a close.

Charlie Strong, Temple have reportedly spoken as USF talk heats up

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Charlie Strong of the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl on October 11, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Temple lost its head coach to an FBS program in the state of Texas. Could the Owls find his replacement in the form of the former head coach at that state’s flagship university? Or, as is looking more and more likely, could they “lose” him to a fellow AAC school?

According to at least one report the former could be the case as the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing a source familiar with the situation, reported that Strong and Temple officials have spoken about the vacant head-coaching job. How strong, so to speak, the former Louisville and Texas head coach’s interest is in the AAC football program is something the source couldn’t gauge, the Inquirer noted.

That said, “[t]hey had a conversation with Strong, that is a fact,” the source said.

The strongest, so to speak, competition for Strong may very well be coming from USF, with Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders reporting that “[i]t is believed that USF has already begun negotiating a contract with Strong.” A subsequent report from the Tampa Bay Times noted that USF spent Thursday in heavy pursuit of Strong.

The 56-year-old coach had previously been connected to the USF job, and his deep ties to the fertile recruiting grounds in the state that makes a marriage almost a no-brainer for both sides.

Strong was fired by the Longhorns in November after going just 16-21 during his three seasons in Austin. UT currently owes Strong roughly $11.2 million as part of his buyout. Per the terms of his contract, Strong must make “reasonable efforts” to obtain another job. If he does, USA Today wrote, “Texas’ obligation to him will be offset by an amount equal to 50% of the total compensation Strong receives from his new job.”

Matt Rhule, who left Temple for Baylor earlier this week, was paid just north of $1 million for his final season with the Owls, a figure that was eighth amongst AAC coaches. Willie Taggart, who created the USF vacancy by leaving for Oregon, was the fifth-highest paid coach in the conference at $1.7 million.

Strong’s salary final salary of $5.2 million was sixth nationally.

Lamar Jackson, Jonathan Allen among those to win 2016 college football awards

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 26:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals throws a pass during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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The college football world gathered in Atlanta on Thursday night as nearly a dozen of the sport’s most prestigious awards were handed out from the College Football Hall of Fame.

While a few of the winners were announced before the televised ceremony, here were the players who took home some hardware at the annual awards show:

Walter Camp Player of the Year — Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson

Maxwell Award as national player of the year — Lamar Jackson

Chuck Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year — Alabama’s Jonathan Allen

Davey O’Brien Award for best quarterback — Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (his second in a row)

Doak Walker Award as best running back — Texas’ D’Onta Foreman

Biletnikoff Award for best receiver — Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook

Outland Trophy for outstanding interior lineman — Alabama’s Cam Robinson

Rimington Trophy for best center — Ohio State’s Pat Elflein

Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back — USC’s Adoree’ Jackson

Lou Groza Award for outstanding place kicker — Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez

Ray Guy Award for best punter — Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky

John Mackey Award for outstanding tight end — Michigan’s Jake Butt

Butkus Award for best linebacker – Alabama’s Reuben Foster

Wuerffel Trophy for community service — Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight

Home Depot Coach of the Year — Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre 

Nick Saban says transferring quarterbacks will stay at Alabama through College Football Playoff

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Cooper Bateman #18 of the Alabama Crimson Tide prepares to take on the USC Trojans during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Alabama is busy preparing to face Washington at the end of the month in the College Football Playoff but news surfaced this week that two of the team’s backup quarterbacks are looking to transfer out of Tuscaloosa in the near future.

Redshirt sophomore David Cornwell announced on Twitter Wednesday that he will be headed elsewhere and redshirt junior Cooper Bateman did the same a few days prior. While there was a little concern that neither of them would be around for the Peach Bowl to backup starter Jalen Hurts, head coach Nick Saban confirmed the two transfers will be staying with the team through the semifinal and possible national title game berth.

“Absolutely. They have every intention of finishing the season,” Saban said in a press conference at the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday. “I think these are situations when a younger guy won the job this year that these guys want to play someplace, and we want to — Cooper is a graduate, so he’ll be a graduate transfer, and we’re very supportive of these guys. They’ve done a fantastic job for us, and we hope that they get a good opportunity and a chance to play someplace. But they will be with our team, and they’re all anxious to finish the season with us.”

While Saban was very supportive of all the transfer decisions, the clearing out of the quarterback room probably isn’t what he had in mind in terms of roster management. Remarkably, Cornwell and Bateman are only two of the four signal-callers who have moved on from the Crimson Tide in 2016 alone. Blake Barnett actually started the season opener for Alabama but left school shortly after losing the full-time job to Hurts and is headed to Arizona StateAlec Morris transferred to North Texas back in January.

After Hurts, only a walk-on quarterback is listed on the Tide’s roster behind him heading into next season (not counting any incoming freshmen who have yet to enroll). Guessing that’s why Saban has been busy hitting the recruiting trail ahead of the upcoming dead period this week.

Former coach Art Briles sues Baylor officials for libel and conspiracy

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 06:  Head coach Art Briles of the Baylor Bears during play against the Northwestern State Demons at McLane Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Baylor’s on-going scandal over reported sexual assaults looks like it is about to get even uglier.

Former head coach Art Briles has filed a lawsuit for libel and slander against three school regents and a vice president, according to the Associated Press, accusing them of falsely stating he knew of sexual assaults by players and didn’t report them.

Perhaps most eyebrow-raising is that the lawsuit also accuses the officials of conspiring to keep him from getting another coaching job. Briles has been connected to openings such as the one at Houston but school officials quickly denied reports that he was formally considered for the vacant head coaching spot.

Briles was fired in the spring by Baylor after an investigation from law firm Pepper Hamilton determined the school mishandled reports of alleged sexual assaults, some of which involved numerous football players. The coach denied he knew about the alleged assaults but several regents — including the three named in the recent lawsuit — told the Wall Street Journal on the record that Briles failed to report alleged assaults.

While the football team may be looking to move on from all of this with the recent hire of Matt Rhule as the new head coach, it appears the school itself will continue to deal with the fallout from one of the worst scandals in college football history.