AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

UCF finishes off first year in American with Fiesta Bowl win


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.

Cal, Hawaii officially announce 2016 game Down Under

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 14:  The sails of the Sydney Opera House are illuminated in the colours of the French flag on November 14, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. At least 120 people have been killed and over 200 are injured in Paris following a series of terrorist acts in the French capital on Friday.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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In September it was reported that a 2016 Cal-Hawaii game in Australia was a “strong likelihood.”  Two months later, that strong likelihood has come to fruition.

Earlier Saturday, both Cal and Hawaii sent out releases confirming that the two football programs will square off in 2016 in Sydney.  The game, which will be called the Sydney College Football Cup, will be played at the 83,500-seat ANZ Stadium in New South Wales that was built for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience for our student-athletes and an excellent opportunity to see and learn about another culture,” Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “We are proud to represent the University of California at this historic event. A great deal of hard work by many people has gone into making this a reality, and everyone associated with Cal Athletics is excited to take part in it.

“It is a great day for college football and all the fans of our sport. It shows the popularity college football is gaining, and we’re ready to help further introduce the sport to many more fans.”

This contest will be the first college football game to ever be played in Sydney and the first in Australia since games in Melbourne — Wyoming-UTEP in 1985 and BYU-Colorado State in 1987.

Cal has previously played outside of the United States just once, in Japan in 1987 against Washington State. This will mark UH’s first-ever game outside the country.

“The University of Hawai‘i is thrilled for this wonderful opportunity to open the 2016 college football season in Sydney against the University of California, Berkeley,” UH athletic director David Matlin said in his statement. “Our football program has tremendous pride in not only representing the state of Hawai‘i, but all of the Pacific region. From a cultural perspective, this game will afford our student-athletes an experience they will always remember and give most of them the chance to travel outside the United States for the first time in their lives. Traditionally, the University of Hawai‘i has been fortunate to welcome many student-athletes from Australia and we hope this game opens doors for many more.”

Reports: Justin Fuente leaving Memphis for Virginia Tech

Justin Fuentes

Those within the college football industry said Whit Babcock and Virginia Tech would be the first major program with a head coaching vacancy to make a hire. It appears they were correct.

As his team beats SMU down something fierce, reports indicate Memphis head coach Justin Funete is on his way out the door for Blacksburg.

Fuente, 39, arrived from TCU following the 2011 season and brought Memphis out of the college football abyss and into the national consciousness. The Tigers went 7-17 in Fuente’s first two seasons, then skyrocketed to 10-3 with a share of the American Athletic Conference championship in 2014 and a (soon to be) 9-3 mark in 2015.

Memphis opened this season 8-0 — running its overall win streak to 15 games — with a win over Ole Miss, rising as high as No. 13 in the College Football Playoff poll.

In Virginia Tech, Fuente inherits a program many described as the best current opening outside of USC, as the Hokies battle for Virginia for a berth in their 23rd straight bowl game.

And keeping around one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the business? That’s a heck of a start to get the Hokies back on top again.

With LSU rumors swirling, Jimbo reportedly tells FSU prez he’s staying

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher reacts to a play against the Oregon Ducks during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Tonight’s game against Texas A&M will reportedly be Les Mileslast at LSU. Unless it’s not, depending on who or which reports you want to believe.

Regardless, speculation has been rampant that, if/when LSU pulls the trigger and dismisses Miles, their No. 1 target by far is Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. The former LSU offensive coordinator has publicly brushed aside the speculation of late, but now is reportedly telling those in positions of power at his current university that he has no intentions of leaving.

From a report by the Palm Beach Post‘s Tom D’Angelo:

Jimbo Fisher met with Florida State president John Thrasher this week and told Thrasher he does not have to worry about losing his head coach.

Sources have told the Post that Fisher, whose name has been connected to the expected opening at LSU, has made it clear he is happy with the administration, the support he receives and the direction of the program, and has no intentions of leaving Florida State for another coaching job at this time.

It seems likely that Miles’ time in Baton Rouge is quickly coming to an end, even as an ESPN report intimates that he could save his job with a win today, as does FootballScoop.com. It doesn’t appear, though, that Fisher will be riding in on his white horse to “save” the Tigers football program if Miles is jettisoned.

Then again, Nick Saban was not going to be the head coach at Alabama before he was, sooo

Ohio State leads Michigan after tight first half

Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer
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No. 8 Ohio State leads No. 10 Michigan 14-10 at the break in Ann Arbor.

Ohio State struck first with a seven-play, 94-yard march late in the first quarter, aided by a highly questionable flag. The Wolverines had forced a Buckeyes punt from their own 9, but a roughing the kicker call, on a play where Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston didn’t appear to make contact with a Wolverine, kept the drive alive. Ezekiel Elliott broke free for a 66-yard run to plays after the flag, and J.T. Barrett scored from seven yards out two plays later.

After mounting drives of 43 and 28 yards on its first two possessions, Michigan answered Ohio State’s score with a short field goal. The Wolverines moved to the Buckeyes’ 6 until two straight incomplete passes forced a 25-yard Kenny Allen field goal at the 9:25 mark of the second quarter.

Ohio State immediately answered, moving 75 yards in nine snaps — all but the first carries by Barrett or Elliott — to push the lead to 14-3 with 5:01 remaining before the half. Michigan, though, answered that answer with a five-yard Jake Rudock touchdown pass to Jehu Chesson on 3rd-and-2 with one minute remaining.

Rudock threw 24 times in the half, completing 14 for 178 yards and a touchdown. Jabrill Peppers led the Wolverines with five rushes for 21 yards and two grabs for 25 yards. Chesson caught four passes for 53 yards and a score, and Jake Butt nabbed three grabs for 43 yards.

Elliott charged Ohio State with 10 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown, while Barrett rushed eight times for 64 yards and a touchdown while completing 3-of-6 throws for 18 yards.

Ohio State will receive to open the second half.