ACC pushing for conference championship game changes; Big 12 listening

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Ask anyone who follows ACC football who the best two teams in the conference were in 2013 and the response would likely be Florida State and Clemson. both went on to play in BCS bowl games, Florida State winning the BCS National Championship and Clemson winning the Orange Bowl,but it was Duke that played the Seminoles in the ACC Conference Championship Game in Charlotte last season. Florida State and Clemson were the best two teams in the conference in 2012 as well, but Florida State was paired up with Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game despite the Yellow Jackets actually being the third best option out of their own division (Miami voluntarily sat out of the postseason and North Carolina was on a postseason ban). If the ACC gets its way, the two best teams in the conference regardless of division affiliation will get a chance to compete for the conference championship in the future.

According to a report by Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, the ACC is asking for a deregulation of football conference championship games. If approved by the NCAA, conferences will be permitted to establish the rules and guidelines for their respective conference championship games instead of following the mandated NCAA blueprint that requires two division champions to face off even if potentially more worthy teams are available. If approved, the Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West Conference could do the same. The American could follow suit when Navy joins the conference and a championship game is introduced in 2015. And yes, even the Big 12 could revisit the idea of a conference championship game.

The Big 12 has had to put their conference championship game on ice in after the previous rounds of realignment reduced the conference to a 12-member league to 10. Texas A&M and Missouri left for the SEC, the pioneer conference of the championship game. Nebraska joined the Big Ten, allowing that conference to form two divisions and create a conference championship game. Colorado left to join the Pac 10 along with Utah from the Mountain West Conference. That allowed the Pac 10 to rebrand to the Pac 12 and start their championship game as well. The Big 12 has since added West Virginia and TCU, but has been sitting on 10 members for the past few years. Although the Big 12 could have applied for a waiver to approve a conference championship game — any conference below 12 members is allowed to ask — the Big 12 has settled on life without a conference championship game. But how long will that last?

“You wouldn’t any longer have to have 12 (teams),” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in Dodd’s report. “You wouldn’t any longer have to play a full round-robin in your subdivision. That would actually afford us the opportunity to have a playoff between two selected teams by whatever process we would want to select. I doubt we’re going to do that but we would likely have the prerogative.”

With conference media rights packages continuing to draw big bucks, the demand for more attractive match-ups is rising and television partners are more than willing to give a nudge when needed. If the Big 12 does not want to be left behind, returning to a conference championship game might be a good idea. The best part is it would help the Big 12 stay at 10 members because the need to expand will no longer be there for the conference. If the NCAA allows for a deregulation of the conference championship games, getting to 12 teams becomes less of a priority. The problem the Big 12 faced once losing Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado and adding West Virginia and TCU is there was a lack of attractive expansion candidates that would boost the membership to 12 schools. The BYU talk has been sitting in a corner waiting for a reason to pull up a seat to the table, but without a 12th member that made any sense for the Big 12, nothing really developed.

The Big 12 has the perfect setting just waiting for the championship game to make a return in Arlington. The television partners with the conference, ESPN and FOX, surely would jump at the opportunity to add another championship game to the line-up as well. The pieces are just about all in place for the Big 12. Somebody just needs to put them all together.

Potential 2013 Conference Championship Match-ups with Deregulation
(using BCS standings for placement)

So what would the conference championships have looked like in 2013 if there was a deregulation of the championship game rules in 2013? Honestly, perhaps not all that much different. The Big Ten and Pac 12 would have had the same match-ups, but the match-ups may have been different in the ACC and SEC, where an Iron Bowl rematch would have taken place one week after that memorable finish. The Big 12 may have given Oklahoma State a Mulligan for a loss in the Bedlam game to Oklahoma if using BCS standings, but the Sooners finished second in the conference standings. One of them would have faced Baylor, who won the Big 12 title last fall.

ACC: Florida State vs. Clemson

American: UCF vs. Louisville

Big 12: Oklahoma State vs. Baylor

Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Pac 12: Stanford vs. Arizona State

SEC: Auburn vs. Alabama

Conference USA: Marshall vs. Rice (although a Marshall vs. East Carolina rematch may have come in to play if going off expanded BCS standings)

MAC: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

Mountain West: Fresno State vs. Utah State

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Arkansas State

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

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Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

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It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

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Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

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Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.