Dan McCarney

Sneak Peek: 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl

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WHO: 7-5 UNLV (Mountain West) vs. 8-4 North Texas (Conference USA)

WHAT: Heart of Dallas Bowl (4th year)

WHERE: Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas

WHEN: Jan. 1 at noon ET

WHY: Somewhere in Denton, our beloved Ben Kercheval will, despite a hangover for the ages, be smiling heartily at his Mean Green being back in the postseason.

For the first time since the 2004 New Orleans Bowl, UNT will take the field for a bowl game, and one on New Year’s Day no less.  The opponent, though, has endured an even longer stretch of bowl-less seasons, with the Rebels last appearance coming in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.  In fact, this will mark UNLV’s first bowl game outside of Las Vegas since the 1984 California Bowl.

The Mean Green enter the Texas-based bowl game on a roll, having won six of its last seven games after beginning 2013 at 2-3.  Neither team does anything exceptionally well offensively, with neither team ranking higher than 48th or lower than 67th in rushing, passing and scoring offense.

Where the game could turn, though, is on the defensive side of the ball in general and in the front seven specifically.  UNT has the 19th-ranked run defense entering the game, while UNLV is an abysmal 110th against the run.  Thanks in large part to that run defense, the Mean Green is ninth in the country in scoring defense at 18.1 points per game.  Conversely, the Rebels give up an average of 31.5 points per game, a number that’s good for 92nd in the FBS.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl will serve as the fourth-ever meeting between the two football programs and the first since September of 2000.  For what it’s worth, the Rebels are 3-0 all-time against the Mean Green.

PREDICTION: North Texas 34, UNLV 17

Lombardi Award changes criteria so ‘a Johnny Manziel’ can’t win it

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies drops back to pass in the first half during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The Lombardi Award had a nice thing going. Run by the Rotary Club of Houston, the award had chugged along since 1970, honoring college football’s best offensive lineman, defensive lineman or linebacker. Past winners include the likes of Lee Roy SelmonSteve EmtmanOrlando PaceAaron Donald and Scooby Wright, to name a few current and future College Football Hall of Famers.

Essentially, the Lombardi Award was the Heisman Trophy for players who never had a snowball’s chance in Tempe to actually win the actual Heisman.

Except the Rotary Club this week announced it will open the Lombardi’s criteria to all players…. exactly like the Heisman, therein rendering itself totally irrelevant. And the reasoning makes even less sense after they explain it.

“If someone were to push me in a corner and ask me, ‘What’s the difference between this award and the Heisman Trophy award?’ I would tell you this. The difficult truth is a Tim Tebow could have won this award, but a Johnny Manziel could not have won this award. That’s the difference,” former Oklahoma running back and longtime college football television analyst Charles Tillman told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Ignoring the brain-melter that Manziel himself wouldn’t have been eligible for the Lombardi Award’s stiffarm under the previous system, the character-based system presents a couple questions:

A) Where is the “character” line drawn, and who draws it? As the Plain-Dealer points out, all we knew of Manziel by the time he collected his Heisman in December 2012 were some viral photos of him (obviously) drinking underage in a Scooby Doo costume and a misdemeanor arrest for being involved in a fight and producing a fake ID. That doesn’t make him Tebow, but it doesn’t make him significantly worse than a lot of other talented players, either.

B) Hasn’t the Jerry SanduskyJoe Paterno saga taught us anything? Sandusky and Paterno were exalted as saints among mere mortals until the passage of time exposed them as something far worse. The same could happen to Tebow. It probably won’t, but it could. And that’s the problem: we don’t know these guys. All we know is the image they project. On-field performance never changes, but our awareness of players’ supposed character could irrevocably flip at any moment.

There are dozens of college football awards, each elbowing for a glimmer of sunshine the Heisman doesn’t grab for itself. The Lombardi Award had some of that sunshine. It had history, it had a niche and it had credibility. To render itself irrelevant is already strange, but to do so for such a dubious reason is even more perplexing.

Report: Pac-12 reaches deal with Fox Sports Australia

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 02:  Larry Scott, CEO of the WTA speaks to the media during the draw for the Sony Ericsson WTA Championships at the Pearl conference centre on Novemeber 2, 2008 in Doha, Qatar. The Championships willl take place in Doha from November 4-9, 2008.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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What, you thought Cal was going all the way to Sydney for…. fun? The student-athlete experience?

No, there was always a pot of gold at the end of that transpacific rainbow.

According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News, a good of a source as there is for all things Pac-12, the league has reached a content agreement with Fox Sports Australia to show Pac-12 football and basketball.

Wilner reports that Fox Sports Australia will show 21 men’s basketball games and 13 football contests, with the possibility of other Pac-12 teams heading Down Under in the near future.

Globalization has been a key charge of Larry Scott‘s commissionership. Washington opened the 2015-16 college basketball season by “hosting” Texas in Shanghai last November and, of course, there was Cal’s game with Hawaii Friday night.

North Dakota State starts 5-time FCS title defense with OT defeat of Charleston Southern

AMES, IA - AUGUST 30: North Dakota Bison fans cheer on their team in the second half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Ames, Iowa. North Dakota State defeated Iowa State 34-14. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Charleston Southern came at the five-time kings, and they missed.

Playing in the third annual FCS Kickoff — the official opening to college football season whenever there’s not a game in Australia — the No. 6 ranked Buccanneers had a chance to knock off the top-ranked and five-time defending FCS national champions at their raucous FargoDome home yesterday. After tying the game at 17-17 with 2:59 remaining in regulation, Charleston Southern allowed North Dakota State to march to their 35-yard line when Troy McGowens stepped in front of an Eason Stick and raced the ball to the Bison’s 40-yard line.

With just 18 ticks remaining, Charleston Southern pushed the ball to the Bison 33, setting Jacob Smoak up for a game-winning 51-yard field goal. It sailed wide left.

And, as they’ve done so many other times this decade, the Bison capitalized when winning time presented itself.

North Dakota State (1-0) opened overtime by scoring on their very first play, a 25-yard King Frazier scoring dash, then limited Charleston Southern (0-1) to just one yard on its possession, forcing Kyle Copeland into an incomplete pass on 4th-and-9 from the 24.

The 24-17 overtime win pushed North Dakota State to an unthinkable 72-5 since the beginning of the 2011 season, including a 43-3 mark in the FargoDome.

Overall, North Dakota State held a 194-94 yardage edge through the air, 230-169 on the ground and a 21-11 edge in first downs. Stick completed 17-of-27 throws for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Copeland hit only 8-of-20 passes for 94 yards with a pick. Frazier led the Bison with 11 carries for 79 yards and a score, while Mike Holloway led all rushers for the Bucs with 10 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Each team will have a chance to prove its mettle on the FBS level next month. North Dakota State — 4-0 against FBS competition during its run, all on the road (obviously), with three wins of those wins by multiple touchdowns — visits defending Big Ten West champion Iowa on Sept. 17. Charleston Southern visits No. 4 Florida State on Sept. 10.

Tennessee to wear helmet decals in remembrance of Pat Summitt

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 7:  A Tennessee Volunteer holds up his helmet in the team huddle before the NCAA football game against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders at Neyland Stadium on September 7, 2002 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won 26-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Tennessee will wear helmet decals to honor the memory of legendary Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt throughout this season, the Vols have announced.

The decal, according to the release, will be a capital “P” inside a circle, which is based on Summitt’s signature.

Summitt passed away June 28 at the age of 64 due to a lengthy bout with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She served as the Lady Vols’ head coach for 38 seasons, compiling an NCAA basketball record 1,098 wins, eight national championships and 16 SEC titles before her retirement in 2012. She was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

“As a coach, I stand in awe of Pat and what she accomplished on and off the court,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said at the time of Summitt’s passing. “She is someone I admired when I decided I wanted to get into coaching. You study all the great coaches, the traits that made them successful, and you try to incorporate those into your own program and teams.  She demanded excellence and her teams played to her personality.

“It was about more than basketball for her, it was about life. She wanted every player that left the program to be prepared for the next stage of their life. Every player received a degree, and that was as important to her as any win on the court. She wouldn’t settle for anything but the best effort on the court and in the classroom.”

Tennessee opens its season Thursday against Appalachian State in Knoxville.