Sneak Peek: 2013 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

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WHO: 11-1 Baylor (Big-12) vs. 11-1 UCF (AAC)

WHAT: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (42nd year)

WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

WHEN: Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET

WHY: Head coach George O’Leary went 0-11 in his first season at UCF. Ten years later, the No. 15 Knights are 11-1 and have already secured their best season ever. This is a program that got its start back in 1979, which just so happens to be one year before the last time its opponent in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl — No. 6 Baylor — won a conference title.

Make no mistake: Neither team is used to playing in this rarefied air. The Bears are fresh off their first Big 12 title and, if not for a late-season loss to Oklahoma State, they would be playing in the BCS title game against Florida State, not Auburn.

UCF will have its hands full trying to stop one of the great offenses in college football history. Baylor averages 53.5 points and 624 yards per game. Quarterback Bryce Petty has thrown for 3,844 yards with 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Bears are dangerous on the ground, too, with 1,000-yard rusher Lache Seastrunk and 862-yard rusher Shock Linwood.

Baylor is vastly improved on defense. The Bears finished 17th in total defense and 20th in total defense after finishing 113th and 123rd, respectively, in those categories last season.

So the odds are stacked a little bit against the Knights, but UCF is a very good team in its own right. Quarterback Blake Bortles is a first-round NFL prospect after throwing for 3,280 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 179 yards and five scores. He’s a tough leader who has complete command of the UCF offense. Storm Johnson rushed for 1,015 yards and 11 scores to lead the ground game.

The Knights defense is also underrated, finishing in the national top 20 in both total and scoring defense. They’ll need to get some early stops if UCF is to have a shot in this one.

Baylor is the big favorite here and for good reason. The Bears offense is special and hasn’t really been stopped all season (though it has been slowed down). UCF will put up a battle, but Baylor will pull away by the third quarter and grab its first BCS bowl win.

PREDICTION: Baylor 48, UCF 31

Nick Saban thinks skipping bowl games could lead to recruits doing same thing in high school

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Grand Poobah of college football and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has had some interesting ideas about the sport over the years that conflict with the general consensus of his peers. The latest subject to fit that mold? How players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipping their bowl games could filter down to the high school level with recruits.

“Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season,” Saban told CBS Sports. “It will take a few years, then some kid will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame. I’m not playing my senior year.'”

The Crimson Tide coach is referencing not only the two tailbacks skipping bowl games but also the possibility that upcoming December signing date could be moved up on the calendar. Big 12 commissioner (and chairman of the Football Oversight Committee) Bob Bowlsby said at his conference media days that the date for signing could be changed or even extended to a longer signing period as part of ongoing discussions about the recruiting process.

Talk of players signing with a college prior to their senior season in high school has not been broadly talked about by coaches or administrators but it does seem like everything is on the table when it comes to NCAA reforms in this area. It remains to be seen if any recruit will actually go as far as sitting out a full year in order to protect himself from injury in order to play in college… just as it remains questionable as to whether Fournette and McCaffrey’s decisions will develop into a broader trend at the college level.

Coaches are no fans of dramatically altering the status quo and it seems Saban is among the group who want to stem the postseason defection of players before things turn into a regular occurrence at any level of football.

Coastal Carolina coach Joe Mogila has precautionary surgery on trachea

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Coastal Carolina is one of the newest members of the FBS ranks and the program’s first ever Sun Belt conference media day was supposed to be one of the highlights for the school transitioning the ranks in college football. Unfortunately for the Chanticleers, their head coach won’t be able to make it following a health scare.

The Sun Belt released a statement Friday afternoon saying that Coastal Carolina assistant Jamey Chadwell will represent the team at media day after head coach Joe Mogila “had a precancerous nodule on his trachea and doctors wanted it removed as a precaution.”

The 68-year-old Mogila is perhaps best known to those outside the sport for his time on Wall Street, including a productive stint as CEO of the company now known as TD Ameritrade. He got the itch to coach college football however and has been in charge of the Chanticleers since 2012, leading the program to a 51–15 record at the FCS level.

Chadwell was named CCU’s offensive coordinator this past January after previously serving as head coach at Charleston Southern. Neither the school or the conference indicated any timetable for Mogila’s recovery but based on the release it seems the operation was a success and the coach is now recovering.

Coastal Carolina opens the season on September 2nd against UMass in what will be the school’s first game as a FBS program.

So it begins… Ole Miss recruit decommits after Hugh Freeze departure

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It didn’t take long before Ole Miss to suffer on the recruiting trail from the abrupt departure of Hugh Freeze as head coach on Thursday evening.

In what was probably only a matter of time (just a few hours as it turns out), Rebels 2019 Houston (Tex.) cornerback recruit Bobby Wolfe confirmed to ESPN that he had decommitted from the program on Thursday night following Freeze’s resignation. Several other recruiting services also confirmed the news and noted that many of Ole Miss’ 2018 commitments are starting to have second thoughts about the situation in Oxford.

That the team is struggling to pull in recruits like they were in Freeze’s heyday when the Rebels were a regular in the top 10 of the recruiting rankings is not exactly surprising. Even before the head coach was shown the door, the school was dealing with the fallout from an ongoing NCAA infractions case and are facing the possibility that their bowl ban will extend beyond the self-imposed sit-out of the 2017 season.

With Wolfe no longer committed, Ole Miss doesn’t have a single 2019 pledge according to 247Sports and has just 10 players in the 2018 class — all of whom are three-stars or lower — that currently sits 11th in the conference team rankings. As for the Texas cornerback, he recently picked up an offer from SEC rival LSU and had Baylor extend a verbal scholarship offer not long after re-opening his recruitment.

Former 49ers executive reportedly joining Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor

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Jim Harbaugh is reaching back to his NFL days for the latest hire at Michigan.

Veteran Bay Area journalist Tim Kawakami reports that recent San Francisco 49ers personnel executive Tom Gamble is headed to Ann Arbor to join the Wolverines staff.

According to the fine folks over at sister site ProFootballTalk, Gamble left the 49ers in February shortly after John Lynch was hired by the franchise as general manager. He worked with Harbaugh when their tenures with San Francisco overlapped in 2011 and 2012 before Gamble eventually departed for a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s unclear what role specifically Gamble will take with the Wolverines as Harbaugh already hired a new director of player personnel this year by bringing Sean Magee over from Navy. The former 49ers executive doesn’t have much college experience in the past few decades beyond scouting so it will be interesting to see what his official title at Michigan will be once formally announced by the school.

Either way, it seems like Harbaugh is fully investing in off-the-field roles like his peers at Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State and he is not shying away from reaching into the NFL ranks to do so.