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AAC announces divisional alignments

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As expected, the American Athletic Conference has announced its divisional alignments for 2015 and beyond.  And, just as expected, it’ll prompt those who value geographical sensibility to throw up a little bit in their collective mouths.

As was hinted at earlier this month, commissioner Mike Aresco revealed Friday the makeup of the AAC’s two divisions for the 2015 season and coinciding with the arrival of Navy, the last of a handful of new additions to replace the departed Louisville and Rutgers. The conference opted to go with East-West divisional split, which, given the far-flung nature of the current and future membership, lends itself to some head-scratching.

The biggest example of that will be Navy, with the Annapolis, Maryland, service academy being dropped into the West division.  On the other side, albeit not as geographically egregious, is the placement of Cincinnati in the East division.  Somewhere, the Big Ten with its 14 teams and the Big 12 with its 10 teams are chuckling mildly.

Regardless, here is the complete look at how the East-West divisions will be filled:

East Division
UCF
Cincinnati
UConn
East Carolina
USF
Temple

West Division
Houston
Memphis
Navy
SMU
Tulane
Tulsa

“This is an exciting step in the continued development of our conference,” said Aresco in a statement. “With our performance on the field and the exposure we received from our media partners, I couldn’t be more satisfied with our first year of American Athletic Conference football. Creating this divisional format will allow us to build upon that success. Our fans will enjoy our divisional play and the championship game that will be established in 2015.

“The East-West format we have adopted gives each division a distinct identity, provides long-term competitive balance and protects traditional rivalries while allowing each school to travel across the conference’s geographical footprint on a regular basis.”

In addition to the divisional alignment, the AAC also announced the tiebreak procedure for the 2014 season — a conference championship game will be held in 2015 as the league moves to 12 teams.  Below is that procedure:

For the 2014 season, the American Athletic Conference Football Champion will be the team that finishes the regular season with the highest winning percentage in conference games. If more than one team has the same winning percentage, the tied teams are declared co-champions. To determine the College Football Playoff/Host Bowl representative, the co-champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff Committee will be eligible to receive the automatic bid shared with Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences.

Report: Lane Kiffin to interview for Houston job after SEC title game

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Jake Coker #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks with offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in the first half while taking on the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Earlier in the week it was reported that Lane Kiffin was in the mix to fill the head coaching vacancy at Houston. Come Sunday, or shortly thereafter, the Alabama offensive coordinator may be taking the next step in returning to lead his own college football program.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, SBNation.com‘s Steven Godfrey is reporting that Kiffin will interview for the Houston job after Alabama’s SEC Championship game against Florida Saturday afternoon. Kiffin has also been mentioned as a possibility to take over the coordinator role at LSU, giving his current head coach motive to campaign for him to land the Cougars job.

From Godfrey’s report:

Multiple sources have also confirmed to SB Nation that Alabama head coach Nick Saban is actively promoting Kiffin to Houston, ostensibly to keep his OC from jumping to a division rival next season.

Kiffin is in his third season as the Crimson Tide’s coordinator. He has been a head coach at the collegiately level on two different occasions, compiling an overall record of 28-15 during stops at Tennessee (2009) and USC (2010-13). He also had a disastrous stay with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, posting a 4-12 record his first year before being fired after a 1-3 start to his second season.

Cougars offensive coordinator Major Applewhite and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will also interview for the job.  Orlando is serving as UH’s interim head coach and will coach the Cougars in their bowl game.  Ex-LSU head coach Les Miles and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley have also been connected to the opening.

WR Allen Lazard says he’s returning to Cyclones for senior year

AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 3: Wide receiver Allen Lazard #5 of the Iowa State Cyclones pulls in a touchdown pass as defensive back Jamison Whiting #29 of the Northern Iowa Panthers blocks in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. Northern Iowa Panthers won 25-20 over the Iowa State Cyclones (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Amidst the beginning wave of early departures for the NFL, Iowa State has staved of attrition on that front.

In a missive posted to his personal Twitter account, Allen Lazard announced that, “after discussing my options with my family and coaching staff, I have decided to return for my senior year.” His reasoning for eschewing the NFL for another year? “”I feel we’re on the verge of something special here and I want to be along for the ride.”

The move doesn’t come as too much of a surprise as the 6-5, 233-pound wide receiver had indicated earlier in the season that he was leaning toward returning.

After finishing second his freshman season, Lazard has led the Cyclones in receiving each of the past two seasons. This past season in particular, Lazard was the primary focus of ISU’s passing attack. Lazard’s 69 receptions for 1,018 yards was far and away tops on the team. Next up? The 37 catches from Deshaunte Jones and Trever Ryen, and Jones’ 536 yards.

ISU went 3-9 in Matt Campbell‘s first season in Ames.  This marks the fourth consecutive season in which the Cyclones have failed to reach a bowl game.

Sonny Dykes has reportedly spoken to Baylor; Mike MacIntyre could soon?

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Head coach Sonny Dykes of the California Golden Bears looks on during the third quarter of a game against the San Diego State Aztecs  at Qualcomm Stadium on September 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Has Baylor honed in on its top target — or two — to permanently replace Art Briles?

With a significant number of signs pointing to Chad Morris being Baylor’s initial focus, SMU announced Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with its head coach on a contract extension through the 2023 season. Not long after, Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported that BU would now shift the focus of their search to Cal’s Sonny Dykes.

Thursday night, a report surfaced that Dykes and the Big 12 Bears have been in contact and held conversations.

Dykes completed his fourth season at Cal late last month. In three of those four seasons, including 2016, the Bears have failed to qualify for a bowl. In 2015, Cal won eight games; in the other three seasons, the Bears combined to win 11 games.

The son of legendary Texas Tech head coach Spike Dykes, Sonny Dykes is a well-steeped disciple of the so-called “Air Raid” offense. Given the type of players Briles recruited to Waco the past several years, especially offensively, Dykes would seemingly offer a smoother transition personnel-wise than someone outside that particular coaching tree.  The Texas native’s extensive ties to his home state would be a draw to the program as well.

While Yahoo! has previously disputed the notion that Dykes has now emerged as BU’s focus, Pat Forde says the Cal coach is one of five or six who could still in the mix for the job.  Another?  Mike MacIntyre, according to that and numerous other outlets.

The reports connecting MacIntyre to Baylor come amidst Colorado’s preparations for the Pac-12 championship Friday night against Washington.

MacIntyre took over a Buffaloes program that won a combined four games in 2011 and 2012, but then won just four, two and four games his first three seasons at the school.  In 2016, however, the Buffs went 10-2, the football program’s first 10-win season since 2001. They are also bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2007 season.

This week, MacIntyre has taken home Coach of the Year honors from the Pac-12 and Walter Camp Foundation.

It would seem odd that a coach, even a devout Baptist such as MacIntyre, would leave a program seemingly on the rise for one enveloped in a cloud of controversy. Especially a coach with zero ties, personally, professionally or otherwise, to either the program or the state. Earlier this week, at least one respected national college football writer has attempted to toss some cold water on the speculation.

With his name being mentioned in connection to other jobs, it’s expected CU will commence talks on a contract extension following the title game. In 2016, MacIntyre was the lowest-paid head coach in his conference.

Year after breakout freshman season, WR Desmond Cain to transfer from Illini

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 14: Desmond Cain #86 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is shoe tackled by Raekwon McMillan #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes
at Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A career that began with much promise will, at least the Champaign portion, end with a departure.

On social media Thursday night, Desmond Cain announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere. According to the wide receiver, a desire to be closer to his home in Florida triggered his decision.

After talking it over with my family it’s best to move closer home to finish off my next few years in college! Thank you Illini! Has been amazing these two years I’ve been here and thank you all for the major support GO ILLINI!

A three-star 2015 signee, Cain was rated as the No. 146 player at any position in the state of Florida coming out of high school in Delray Beach.

With Bill Cubit as his head coach as a true freshman, Cain was second on the Illini in receptions (53) and third in receiving yards (492). Those totals dropped to five and 61 in Lovie Smith‘s first year as injuries caused the receiver to miss six games.

If the 5-11, 185-pound Cain ends up at another FBS program, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season. He’d then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.