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.

Wisconsin renews Paul Chryst’s contract again, keeps him in Madison until 2023

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It’s becoming a regular occurrence around Madison this time of year but Wisconsin has renewed head coach Paul Chryst’s contract once again.

The UW Athletic Board approved the deal on Friday and keeps Chryst around with a five-year contract that runs through January 31, 2023. Other terms of the contract were not announced but this is pretty standard operating procedure for the school after the board did the same back in 2017 and 2016 to keep the coach on what amounts to a rolling five-year deal.

Based on his upgraded deal that agreed to last winter, Chryst is set to set make $3.3 million in 2018 with additional annual raises of $100,000 each year through 2023.

Chryst is 34–7 at his alma mater (53-26 overall as a head coach) and is coming off the team’s best season several years after going 13-1 in 2017 and capping things off with a victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl. The Badgers could be even better in 2018 given what returns to the starting lineup and were slotted in at No. 5 in CFT’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 for next season as a result.

Colorado State officially announces hire of John Jancek as Rams’ new defensive coordinator

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Mike Bobo finally has his defensive coordinator as Colorado State announced on Friday that long time coaching veteran John Jancek was hired to run the Rams’ defense.

“I’ve had the opportunity to coach on the same staff with John at Georgia, and I’ve coordinated offenses that have gone up against his defenses,” Bobo said in a statement. “He has a great deal of experience coaching and winning at the highest levels of college football, and I’m very excited he is part of the Ram Family.”

The hire of Jancek comes a little over a week after the program nearly brought in former Alabama assistant Derrick Ansleywho was set to head to Fort Collins to take the DC job before getting hired by the Oakland Raiders and their new coach Jon Gruden. The team had an opening at the position after Marty English retired following the 2017 season.

Jancek most recently was a defensive consultant at Kentucky this past season but spent the three years prior as the coordinator at SEC rival Tennessee. All told, this is his fifth stop as a defensive coordinator at the FBS level — including a stint at Georgia that overlapped with Bobo’s tenure in Athens from 2005-2009. He also spent one season as the safeties coach at South Florida in 2016 in his last full-time on the field role as a coach.

Jancek’s move west caps off a busy week for Colorado State’s staff after Dave Johnson was hired as run game coordinator and offensive line coach on Tuesday.

Arkansas center giving up football, pursuing law enforcement career

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Zach Rogers ended the 2017 season as a starter at Arkansas.  Now, he’s set to begin the next first phase of his life post-football.

Rogers’ father confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his son has decided to give up playing college football.  According to the dad, the offensive lineman is pursuing a career in law enforcement, with the Democrat-Gazette reporting that Rogers has already interviewed with two police agencies in Washington County (Ark.).

A three-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2015 recruiting class, Rogers was rated as the No. 27 offensive guard in the country and the No. 48 player at any position in the state of Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Rogers played in three games in 2016.

Last season, when Frank Ragnow, a third-team All-American, went down with a season-ending injury, Rogers started the final five games of the year.  Those were the only games he started in his collegiate career, although he would’ve entered summer camp this year as the favorite to land the starting job in the middle of the Hogs’ line.

Now, as the Democrat-Gazette notes, new head coach Chad Morris oversees a roster without a player who’s ever played the center position at this level.

Arizona’s Rod Smith named OC at Illinois

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The postseason coaching carousel continues to spin, with Lovie Smith the latest to make a key addition to his staff.

Rod Smith, it was confirmed by the school Friday, has been hired by Smith to serve as the next offensive coordinator at Illinois.  In addition to his coordinating duties, Smith will also serve as quarterbacks coach as well.

Smith replaces Garrick McGee, who was fired two days before Christmas after two seasons with the Fighting Illini.

“Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois,” Smith said. “His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here. Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops.”

Smith had spent the past six seasons as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona.  With Rich Rodriguez‘s dismissal earlier this month, it was expected Smith wouldn’t be retained by new boss Kevin Sumlin, whose hiring was confirmed over the weekend.

Smith heads to Champaign armed with experience in the Big Ten, coaching quarterbacks and co-coordinating Indiana’s offense in 2011 as well as spending 2008-10 as Michigan’s quarterbacks coach.