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.

Florida’s Cece Jefferson expected back for start of camp

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There’s a sizable sliver of a silver lining involving the health of Florida’s most productive defensive lineman.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Cece Jefferson would be sidelined for four months after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week; such a timeline would’ve had the lineman out until the middle of August, after summer camp had started. Thursday, however, brought word that Jefferson is instead expected to be recovered in time for the start of camp in early August.

It should be noted that, as of yet, the football program has not publicly addressed Jefferson’s status moving forward.

Jefferson was a consensus five-star prospect, rated as the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the Class of 2015; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 7 player overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board.

This past season, Jefferson led the Gators with 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. After considering early entry into the 2018 NFL draft, the 6-1, 242-pound lineman opted to return to Gainesville for one more season.

Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, others pay tribute to Earle Bruce

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Not surprisingly, the memorials are pouring in for the passing of a College Football Hall of Famer.

Friday morning, the four daughters released a statement through Ohio State announcing that their father, former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce, had passed away at the age of 87.  Shortly thereafter, OSU released a statement from its current head football coach on the man who had battled Alzheimer’s for years.

“I’ve made it clear many times that, other than my father, Coach Bruce was the most influential man in my life,” Urban Meyer said. “Every significant decision I’ve made growing up in this profession was with him involved in it. His wife [Jean] and he were the role models for Shelley and me. They did everything with class. He was not afraid to show how much he loved his family and cared for his family.”

Others expressing their condolences included Jim Harbaugh of rival Michigan as well as Iowa State, where Bruce was the head coach from 1973-78 before taking over in Columbus in 1979, and the Cyclones’ current coach for good measure.

A&M’s Koda Martin transferring, joins dad, father-in-law at Syracuse

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Koda Martin‘s collegiate playing career has taken a familial turn.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday night, the offensive lineman announced that he would be transferring from Texas A&M.  Not only that, but Martin confirmed that he already has a new college football home — Syracuse.

Martin’s dad, Kirk Martin, was named as the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse earlier this year.  Last summer, Koda Martin married Jazzmin Babers, who happens to be the daughter of Orange head coach Dino Babers.

Whether it’s coincidence or not, Martin’s move from College Station comes two weeks after a heat stroke he suffered during an Aggies spring practice session left him near death according to a social media post from his father.

As Martin will graduate from A&M in May, he’ll be eligible to play for the Orange in 2017.  The upcoming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

Martin had started 14 games for the Aggies the past two seasons, including 10 last season as a redshirt junior.

Colorado State lands $37.7 million stadium naming rights deal

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Colorado State’s athletic department coffers will be a little more full thanks to one development this week.

CSU announced Thursday a 15-year agreement with Public Service Credit Union for the naming rights to the university’s year-old football stadium. The long-term agreement will result in the school being paid $37.7 million over the life of the deal. Per the school, “annual escalator clauses for inflation, as well as a signing bonus,” are also included in the agreement.

The on-campus stadium opened in July of last year at a cost of $225 million, with the first game played in August of 2017.

“This is a partnership that makes so much sense for our university community and for Public Service Credit Union, and we’re thrilled to announce this new agreement,” said CSU president Tony Frank in a statement. “Our stadium will carry the name of a Colorado-based business that shares our commitment to creating opportunity and opening doors for people at all income levels. Our mission and our values as a university align so well with those of PCSU, and the investment by the credit union and its members in our campus and programs will bring great visibility to how much they accomplish as a visionary community partner.”

According to the school’s release, the new naming rights deal, when combined with the field naming rights deal previously announced, actually compares reasonably well with some of the agreements reached by Power Five programs.

The agreement, which when added to the $20 million given in 2016 to name Sonny Lubick Field, brings the total naming rights revenues at Colorado State to $57 million for the stadium. This is comparable to the recently announced $69 million United Airlines Memorial Coliseum at University of Southern California and the $41 million Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium at the University of Washington.

Interestingly, Lubick, the legendary former Rams head football coach, currently serves as the vice president of community outreach for the credit union.