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.

Vols ‘very confident there was no inappropriate conduct’ between Butch Jones, player

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers watches the action during a game against the Chattanooga Mocs at Neyland Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”

Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.

At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August.  The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.

“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”

Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.

Michigan’s keeping ‘fingers crossed’ for leading rusher’s availability

De'Veon Smith
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Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5.  The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.

De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland.  Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.

“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”

Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.

Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).

In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well.  The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury