UCF finishes off first year in American with Fiesta Bowl win

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Officially the result of the Fiesta Bowl will go down as a significant upset, but UCF left no doubt who the better team was in the Fiesta Bowl. The Knights pulled away in a shootout with Big 12 champion Baylor as quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 301 yards three touchdown passes and running back Storm Johnson rushed for 124 yards and three more in a 52-42 victory. It is UCF’s first BCS bowl appearance and victory, and it puts the cherry on top of the first year for the American Athletic Conference’s existence.

The scary part is UCF may just be getting started.

UCF is currently set up very well for long term success in the American Athletic Conference. With Louisville leaving the conference to join the ACC in 2014 and Rutgers leaving to join the Big Ten, the level of competition in the conference figures to be swinging more and more in favor of UCF given the resources and location for the program. Cincinnati should be a perennial contender as well, but UCF right now has all of the momentum in the conference as some new members will join the fray next season.

Now the question will be whether or not Bortles returns to the program for more in 2014. Bortles is being hyped as a rising quarterback prospect by NFL scouts and those who break down the NFL Draft, although he is officially waiting for the results of an official evaluation and review from the NFL before making any decision final. Against Baylor Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes for 301 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Two of those touchdown passes went to receiver Rannell Hall, the first a fine 50-yard pass in the first half.

Baylor opened the second half by tying the game at 28-28 with a Bryce Petty touchdown run. Petty rushed for three touchdowns in the game and passed for one more, but the high-scoring Baylor offense was unable to keep up with UCF in this one.UCF went on a 28-14 run to close out the game following that game-tying touchdown. The Knights put up 558 yards of offense in a game that saw the teams combine for over 1,000 yards.

UCF will open the 2014 season across the Atlantic Ocean against Penn State in the Croke Park Classic in Ireland. In addition to that opening game, UCF will also play on the road at Missouri, who played for the SEC championship this season. UCF also hosts BYU in October. Are they set up for a run for another impressive season and perhaps sneak in to the new four-team playoff?

Baylor will enter next season as the defending Big 12 champions and expect to have Petty back. As long as the program keeps head coach Art Briles in Waco, instead of leaving for Austin or the NFL, the Bears should offer more of the same sort of offensive production. Defense, as usual, will be what keeps Baylor from being a true national title contender.

Starting USC DT Josh Fatu in concussion protocol after car wreck

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This is one you don’t see very often.

USC’s Josh Fatu was involved in a multi-car accident and is currently in concussion protocol because of a head injury he received in the incident, head coach Clay Helton confirmed Tuesday.  The coach added that the accident in which Fatu sustained the injury was not the defensive tackle’s fault.

Fatu has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game against USC, and is officially listed as day-to-day for the annual rivalry clash.

Heading into Week 8, Fatu had started every game along the defensive line this season for the Trojans.  His seven tackles for loss are currently second on the Trojans behind Christian Rector‘s eight, while his five sacks are behind just Rector’s 6.5.

If Fatu is unable to go against the Irish, Brandon Pili will likely take over as the starter.

Given Scott-Frost-Nebraska chatter, UCF announces funding initiative

Associated Press
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If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do.  That, though, isn’t stopping UCF from at least trying to stave off the inevitable.

Mike Riley could very well be on the hot seat at Nebraska, leading to speculation, especially with a new athletic director, that he could be three-and-done in Lincoln.  While some chatter on any potential replacement has involved a pirate, a favorite son has significant support amongst the fan base if a change is made.

Not only is Scott Frost a former Nebraska quarterback, but, as the head coach at UCF, he has the Knights ranked 20th nationally with a 5-0 start.  And that’s coming off a six-win first season for Frost with a program that was winless the year before he arrived.

The pedigree as both a player and young head coach would make him a natural fit at a place like Nebraska, which explains why Frost’s current employer announced Tuesday an initiative to “secure commitments of over $1.5 million annually for the next five years” for the football program.  Specifically, any money raised would largely be used to enhance coaching salaries, both for the head coach and his assistants.

Called the UCF Football Excellence Fund, the program is “pursuing gift commitments ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 annually to further enhance the program’s operating resources.”  Frost himself has already committed his own money to the fund.

“I’m very excited about the success we’ve had in our time here and I’m committed to helping this program continue growing,” Frost said. “I’m happy to be part of the UCF Football Excellence Fund. We need more resources to keep taking this program where we want it to go. I’m hopeful my support will be a catalyst for others to jump on board and take part.”

According to the USA Today‘s salary database, Frost’s $1.7 million salary in 2016 was sixth among AAC head coaches, although the top two, Houston’s Tom Herman and Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, are no longer with those programs.  With built-in raises, Frost will likely make in the neighborhood of $2 million for this season.

That said, we go back to what was written as the opening sentence: If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do — even if it’s not the 42-year-old Frost’s alma mater that comes calling.

Three-star 2015 BYU signee added to Utah roster, immediately eligible

Utah athletics
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Mika Tafua will begin his collegiate playing career in the state of Utah, but not at his original school.

In February of 2015, Tafua signed his Letter of Intent with BYU on National Signing Day.  The linebacker then left on a two-year LDS mission in Tacoma, Washington, with the plan initially being to head to Provo when that church work was completed.

With the church mission completed, Tafua has decided, instead of BYU, he’ll start his career with Holy War rival Utah.  The football program announced the development Tuesday.

Tafua will also be eligible to play immediately for the Utes, who have six games remaining in the 2017 season. And, apparently, the true freshman could see action sooner rather than later.

“He’s already in the mix,” defensive line coach Lewis Powell said according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “He’s lifting and running around with the fellas. We’re excited about him.”

A three-star 2015 recruit, Tafua was rated as the No. 17 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Hawaii on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

Western Michigan’s three-pronged rushing attack down one for foreseeable future

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The top-ranked rushing attack in the MAC will have one less weapon in its running-game arsenal for the foreseeable future.

LeVante Bellamy sustained an injury to his right leg in the Week 7 game against Akron that required an air cast prior to being carted off the field.  While there’s no official word on the extent of the injury, it doesn’t appear that the running back will be on the field anytime soon.

“He’s booted up right now,” head coach Tim Lester said by way of mlive.com. “He’s not going to put weight on his leg for at least a week, and we’re going to revisit it. I don’t know if it’s a season-ending injury yet, but he’s not putting weight on it right now.”

Bellamy, who played in three games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has 394 yards rushing this season, third on the team behind Jarvion Franklin (538) and Jamauri Bogan (462).  His eight yards per carry leads the Broncos, while he’s second with three rushing touchdowns.

Through seven games, WMU is 20th nationally and first in the MAC averaging 237.9 yards per game on the ground.