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.

For ‘personal reasons,’ starting BYU LB Francis Bernard will redshirt the 2017 season

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BYU’s linebacking corps has taken a significant and somewhat unexpected hit on the brink of the start of a new season.

The football program announced Thursday that Francis Bernard (pictured, No. 13) will miss the 2017 season because of what were described as unspecified “personal reasons.” The linebacker, at least for now, is scheduled to return as a playing member of the Cougars as a fourth-year junior in 2018.

Despite not playing in games, the school stated in its release that “the 6-foot-1, 240-pound outside linebacker will continue to participate in all team practices, meetings and activities during the upcoming season.”

“The fact that he is still around means we will still have his presence here,” senior captain Fred Warner said according to the Daily Herald. “We lift each other up. Anytime we face any adversity, we are all there for each other. We’re a tight-knit group.”

Bernard started 12 games for the Cougars last season. His 80 tackles in 2016 were third on the team.

Rutgers declares war on Washington, comes armed with jacuzzi for fans

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Rutgers will open up the 2017 season at home against defending Pac-12 champion Washington on Friday, September 8, and the Scarlet Knights are declaring war on the Huskies. In a somewhat awkward promotion for the season opener, Rutgers is advertising the game as the “War Before the Shore,” thus encouraging fans to come out to the game before enjoying their Labor Day weekend down at the Jersey shores in the final weekend of the summer.

The first 5,000 fans attending the game will be handed a rally towel complete with the “War Before the Shore” logo designed for the game. In addition, students attending the game will walk away with a tank top that reads “Rutgers The State Football Team of New Jersey.” Students will also receive a pair of sunglasses to go with their new tank top, if they are among the first 2,000 fans to walk through the gates of the student section. The student section will also feature a temporary jacuzzi.

But if that’s not enough to entice fans to come out and enjoy a football game, Rutgers will fill the areas outside the stadium with volleyball courts, food trucks, carnival rides and boardwalk games to keep a shore feeling going.

Washington defeated Rutgers 48-13 in the 2016 season opener. The Huskies went on to win the Pac-12 and play in the College Football Playoff. Rutgers struggled through a 2-10 season in the first season with Chris Ash as head coach. Rutgers lost home games to No. 4 Michigan 78-0 and No. 9 Penn State 39-0 last season. If this season plays out on a similar note, Rutgers may want to add some more hot tubs.

Texas TE Andrew Beck out 6-8 weeks with broken foot

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On Wednesday in practice, Texas tight end Andrew Beck went down with a foot injury. Texas later announced the injury was a broken foot, and it will cost Beck some playing time at the start of the year.

This is the second time this offseason Beck has been sidelined with a lower body injury. He also sat out of spring practices with a broken foot. It has been unconfirmed if the injury is to the same foot or not. Whatever the case may be, Beck will be out of action for the next six to eight weeks at the minimum. Going off of that timeline, the earliest Beck might be available would be for the Big 12 opener against Iowa State in Ames, Iowa on Thursday, September 28. That is six weeks out from now. The two weeks after that will be games against Kansas State and Oklahoma.

The Longhorns will have to figure out who to trust at the tight end position now. The leading candidate may be Syracuse graduate transfer, Kendall Moore. Moore started four games for the Orange in 2014 and 2015, so his starting experience is limited. Moore just joined the Texas program at the end of July and was immediately thought to be a potential starter in the event Beck suffered a setback with his foot. The depth at the tight end position is not quite where Herman would ideally like to have it, but the Longhorns may be able to survive the first part of the season with their heads above water until Beck is able to return.

Foot injury puts Georgia CB Malkom Parrish on sideline

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With the start of a new college football season just around the corner, Georgia suddenly has a concern in the defensive secondary to address. Senior Malkom Parrish reportedly suffered a foot injury that will require surgery. As a result, his status for the start of the season is now in question.

The news of the injury surfaced Thursday after reporters noticed Parrish had been missing from practice for a second straight day. Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation reported the injury was a broken bone, according to an anonymous team source. Georgia has not commented on the injury status at the time of this writing. Taking the place of Parrish on the practice field was Aaron Davis, who normally plays a safety position for the Bulldogs.

Georgia’s defense returns a loaded unit of starters from last season, including Parrish. His absence from the defense for whatever amount of time he may miss could be critical if recovery time extends deeper into the season. Georgia opens the 2017 season at home against Appalachian State and continues the next week on the road against Notre Dame.