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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.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner adds four-game suspension to rocky Boise State résumé

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 12: Mitchell Juergens #87 of the Brigham Young Cougars catches this 4th down, 4th quarter go ahead touchdown between defenders Darian Thompson #4 and Dylan Sumner-Gardner #29 of the Boise State Broncos at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Provo, Utah. BYU won 35-24. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The roller coaster career of Dylan Sumner-Gardner at Boise State is on a downward trajectory yet again.

Tuesday, Boise announced that Sumner-Gardner (pictured, No. 29) has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.  According to the school’s release, the suspension stems from the defensive back “failing to meet NCAA football academic eligibility requirements.”

Sumner-Gardner will kiss games against Louisiana-Lafayette, Washington State, Oregon State and Utah State.  Provided the current timeline holds, Sumner-Gardner would be eligible to return for the New Mexico game Oct. 7.

After playing in 13 games as a true freshman, Sumner-Gardner started the first four games last year before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.  In November he was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge, then didn’t travel to BSU’s Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois in late December because of what was described as an unspecified violation of team rules.  His status for the upcoming season has been a question mark throughout the offseason.

Sumner-Gardner, a four-star 2014 prospect who was the Broncos’ highest-rated recruit in that class, had been a projected starter at safety; with the junior sidelined, Cameron Hartsfield is listed as the starter instead.

Heart condition forces Okla. St.’s Josh Mabin to retire

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 25:   An Oklahoma State Cowboys flag billows before the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders September 25, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Sadly, a non-football health issue will bring to an end Josh Mabin‘s football-playing career.

On his personal Twitter account, Mabin announced that he will be forced to retire from the sport due to a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  The Mayo Clinic’s website describes the disease as one in which “the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied),” with the thickened heart muscle making it harder for the heart to pump blood.  The condition could cause “problems in the heart’s electrical system, resulting in life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).”

Oklahoma State has yet to publicly address the linebacker’s status with the program moving forward.

It’s likely Mabin will remain on scholarship at OSU, but won’t count against the Cowboys’ 85-man limit.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Mabin was rated as the No. 18 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 54 player at any position in the state of Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Mabin played in five games last season.  He was credited with four tackles in that limited action.

Mabin was listed as the backup middle linebacker to starter Chad Whitener on the depth chart OSU released last week.

Arrested Auburn S Stephen Roberts suspended for opener vs. Clemson

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 07:  Stephen Roberts #14 of the Auburn Tigers is called for pass interference on Christian Kirk #3 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the fourth quarter at Kyle Field on November 7, 2015 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Facing the best quarterback in the country, Auburn will need all hands on deck in the secondary for the opener.  Unfortunately for the SEC Tigers, that won’t be the case.

Late last week, Stephen Roberts was arrested following a traffic stop and charged with attempting to elude a police officer and possession of a firearm without a permit.  Tuesday, head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed that the defensive back will be suspended for Saturday’s season opener against No. 2 Clemson.

It’s uncertain if Roberts will return for the following Saturday’s game against Arkansas State as Malzahn labeled the suspension “week-to-week.”

Roberts played in 13 games last season, starting the final four games of the year.  He was expected to start at one of the safety positions for the Tigers this season.

Both of the charges Roberts is facing are misdemeanors.  His first court appearance is currently scheduled for Nov. 17.

Alabama’s Alphonse Taylor found not guilty of DUI

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 06:  Alphonse Taylor #50 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates their 42 to 13 win over the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 6, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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It appears the door is wide open for Alphonse Taylor‘s unfettered return to the playing field when Alabama kicks off the new season this weekend.  Maybe

Stephanie Taylor of the Tuscaloosa News was the first to report that Taylor had been not guilty of driving under the influence.  Al.com subsequently confirmed the news.

The offensive lineman was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident last month.  It was subsequently reported that Taylor, who called police himself to notify them that he had hit another vehicle, took two breathalyzer tests and both came back at 0.0.

“Of course I am pleased with this verdict,” Taylor’s attorney, Jason Neff, told the News. “I hope Mr. Taylor will have an opportunity to move forward with his football career.”

Neff added that “[t]he judge is expected to issue a ruling on the leaving the scene of an accident charge after the vehicle that was struck has been repaired,” the News wrote.

It was announced the day after his arrest that Taylor had been indefinitely suspended, although he has since been permitted to practice with the team.  His status for Saturday’s opener against USC is unclear at the moment.

A redshirt senior, Taylor has played in 35 games during his time in Tuscaloosa, starting 17 of those contests.  15 of his starts came at right guard during the Tide’s run to the title in 2015.

Last month, the media tabbed the redshirt senior as second-team preseason All-SEC.