In a matter of time, college football could be adding one more neutral site game to the early season line-up. A group in Nashville is beginning to make a push to add a game in Nashville, Tennessee that would ideally feature one SEC team clashing with a relatively high-profile opponent.
“Music City Sports and Entertainment Group has been working on a significant college football event for Nashville, and we are about 60-90 days from making an announcement,” said Tammy Genovese, CEO of MCSEG according to a report by The Tennessean. The Music City Sports and Entertainment Group is targeting hosting a game in LP Field, the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. LP Field has a stadium capacity of 69,143 and 177 executive suites. The idea of the game would be to mimic the Chick-fil-A Kickoff that is played in Atlanta, with the hopes of becoming as successful and attractive for an early season neutral site game. As The Tennessean reports, Atlanta has seen $44.3 million injected in to the local economy since the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic launched in 2008. The earliest season a neutral site game in Nashville could likely be played is in 2016, so there is time to find a pair of schools willing to play a neutral site game at the expense of potentially losing a home game and for the financial details to be sorted. Concerns over the state’s occupational privilege tax on athletes are some of the issues standing in the way at this time.
Nashville currently is the host city for the Music City Bowl, which has conference tie-ins with the ACC and SEC. The bowl game has been played in Vanderbilt Stadium and is currently played in LP Field. LP Field also is the home stadium for FCS Tennessee State, so the Tigers would have to be on the road or serving a bye week. The Tennessee State schedule is far down the list of potential obstacles though.
Need a somewhat buzz worthy match-up? How about home-town Vanderbilt going up against former head coach James Franklin and Penn State? Penn State actually has a full non-conference schedule with games against Kent State and Temple scheduled at home and a road game at Pittsburgh, so it would be unlikely the Nittany Lions would have any interest in a Franklin Bowl in 2016 away from home. Vanderbilt also has three non-conference games already scheduled in 2016 with road games at Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky and a home date against Middle Tennessee. Vanderbilt may be more open to moving a home game to LP Field, and Middle Tennessee would bring in some more local interest but this is not quite the caliber of game the Nashville group may be hoping for.
Tennessee is out of the picture. The Vols will be kicking off with Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. Alabama will be playing neutral site games in 2014 (vs. West Virginia in Atlanta) and 2015 (vs. Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas). LSU will face Wisconsin in Green Bay in 2016. Texas A&M will play Arizona State in Houston in 2015.
The final open job in FBS is no longer open. According to a report from FootballScoop, Syracuse co-offensive coordinator Sean Lewis will be the new head coach at Kent State. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)
Lewis’s ascension to head coach completes a meteoric rise through the FBS coaching ranks. He was a graduate assistant at Akron in 2011, then joined Dino Babers‘s staff at Eastern Illinois in 2012-13. He followed Babers to Bowling Green where he served as wide receivers coach in 2014 and as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in ’15, then did the same at Syracuse from 2016-17.
The site also reported that former Babers staffer and current Chattanooga defensive coordinator Tom Kaufman will join the staff as defensive coordinator.
Lewis is set to take over one of the most down-trodden programs in FBS. The Golden Flashes carry a lifetime record of 321-500-8 and have three all-time bowl appearances, all of them losses. Kent State has one MAC championship in its history, coming under Don James in 1972.
The 2017 Flashes went 2-10 and ranked 129th nationally in yards per play and scoring, beating out UTEP for the cellar for both spots.
Florida State tight end Mavin Saunders will pursue a graduate transfer to Kansas, according to a report from Bud Elliott of SBNation.
Saunders did not record a statistic as a redshirt junior in 2017. He caught 10 passes for 182 yards in 12 appearances in 2016, and made two starts as a redshirt freshman in 2015.
A native of the Bahamas, Saunders graduated from The Kinkaid School in Houston before enrolling at Florida State. The Jayhawks are losing their top tight end from the 2017 team. Senior Ben Johnson finished second on the club with 30 receptions for 363 yards and one touchdown this fall. He was the only tight end to catch a pass this season.
Scott Frost will have to make room for a little more hardware as he moves to Nebraska. On Monday, the Associated Press named Frost its coach of the year for the 2017 season.
Frost received 21 first-place votes and 100 total points in the voting consisting of 57 voters in the AP Top 25. Frost beat out Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney for the award following an undefeated 12-0 season at UCF that ended with an AAC championship and a berth in the Peach Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Despite already being hired to be the head coach at Nebraska and UCF hiring a new head coach, Frost has stayed committed to coaching the Knights in the bowl game even if it makes for some long days flying between Lincoln and Orlando as he pulls double duty.
Frost turned UCF football around in short order. After inheriting a team that had gone 0-12 just prior to his arrival, Frost reinvigorated the mindset of the program and led UCF to a 6-7 season in his debut as UCF head coach in 2016. To follow that up in 2017, Frost led UCF to an undefeated season and conference championship to help return the program to a big bowl game for the first time since facing Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
Frost already collected a few coach of the year honors with the Eddie Robinson Award from the Football Writers Association of America and the Home Depot Coach of the Year award.
Watch out Big 12, because West Virginia has a very dangerous combination confirmed to be returning in 2018. Days after quarterback Will Grier announced his intention to return to Morgantown for another season, his top wide receiver says he will be there too. David Sills V announced his decision to return for the 2018 season on Monday, giving West Virginia the most potent passing combo in the Big 12 heading into next season.
“After talking with my family and my coaches and taking time in prayer, I have decided to return for my senior season at West Virginia University,” Sills said in a released statement. “I look forward to our bowl game and having another year with my teammates here in Morgantown. It is important to me to finish what I started in the classroom and help our program win a Big 12 championship. WVU holds a special place in my heart, and I am looking forward to seeing what this team can accomplish next year.”
Sills V caught 60 passes for 980 yards and a nation-leading 18 touchdowns this season for West Virginia, leading to being named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and multiple All-American nods.
“David proved this year that he can be one of the best receivers in college football,” West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Another season will help him improve in all areas, and I know our fans will be excited to see him team up with Will Grier for another year.”