Boise State still in front of Group of 5, but Cincy-Temple is one to watch this week

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As you no doubt know by now, the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference will receive an automatic spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up. The ranking used is not the AP or coaches polls, but the ranking cooked up by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Last season the big bowl spot went to Boise State. The Broncos are once again a favorite to land that bowl invitation, but one slip along the way could open a door for others.

Boise State travels to Provo, Utah this week for a big match-up with BYU. BYU does not figure into the Group of Five conversation as a football independent, but the Cougars play a key role in the outlook anyway. BYU, coming off a wild win at Nebraska and losing quarterback Taysom Hill, could be in positions for a letdown game, but the Broncos and Cougars have put together some tough contests in recent years. This week should be no different. Boise State could potentially lose this weekend and still end the year on top of the Group of Five in the eyes of the selection committee, but one loss is a slim margin for error in this race.

Perhaps Boise State’s top threat in the Group of Five race is Cincinnati, the preseason American Athletic Conference favorites. The BearCats, with Gunner Kiel, should be a program ready to make a run for a New Years Six bowl game on a fairly regular basis given the resources available to them and the overall strength of the conference. If Boise State slips, Cincinnati is next in line. But what if Cincinnati loses this weekend?

Cincinnati hosts Temple this week, with the Owls fresh off their first victory over Penn State since 1941. If Temple manages to pick up a win at Cincinnati — something last accomplished in 1985 — then the Owls may become a trendy team to follow in this season-long discussion. The schedule certainly works in Temple’s favor at least. If Temple escapes Cincinnati with a win, the Owls then have a chance to bring a 3-0 record into the bye week with a road game at UMass. In conference play, Temple does not play Houston or Navy, two potential contenders in the AAC West Division. Temple also gets Memphis and UCF at home. If Temple’s defensive performance against Penn State was a preview of things to come, each of those games could be possible wins. Temple also hosts Notre Dame on October 31, which could make for a nice little spotlight opportunity for the selection committee.

If I had to rank the top five Group of Five teams after one week of play, here is how I think the selection committee might rank them based on performance to date;

  1. Boise State
  2. Temple Owls
  3. Cincinnati Bearcats
  4. Navy
  5. Louisiana Tech

VIDEO: Blind USC long snapper Jake Olson can play quarterback, too

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Jake Olson became one of the stories of the 2017 season on the opening Saturday, when he entered USC’s opener to serve as a deep snapper for an extra point in the waning moments of a win over Western Michigan.

Which would not otherwise be a story except for the fact that Olson is legally blind.

Olson’s athletic ability extends far beyond his ability to accurately snap a football, as he showcased last month.

With Sam Darnold now off to the NFL, Olson has thrown his name in the ring of those vying to become USC’s next quarterback.

After displaying his ability to snap and throw the football, his next step needs to be to kick the pigskin.

Clemson QB Tucker Israel enters his name in graduate transfer market

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Tucker Israel has yet to see significant action during his time at Clemson. With Kelly Bryant coming back and No. 1 quarterback recruit Trevor Lawrence joining the roster, that wasn’t likely to change.

So Israel (the non-Deshaun Watson player pictured above) is leaving.

“My time here at Clemson will always hold a special plate in my heart,” Israel said in a Twitter post released by the school. “I enjoyed every minute being here & thank Coach Swinney for believing in me. After much consideration, I plan on transferring upon getting my degree from this amazing university.”

A former 3-star recruit, Israel redshirted in 2015, threw four passes in 2016 and did not play in 2017. The Orlando, Fla., native will have two years of eligibility remaining upon arriving at his new destination.

Shane Beamer reportedly leaving Georgia for Oklahoma

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After you beat them, join them? Georgia special teams coordinator Shane Beamer is on his way to Oklahoma to become an offensive assistant coach at Oklahoma, according to multiple reports on Monday.

At Georgia, Beamer held the role of special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. At Oklahoma, it is reported Beamer will take on an assistant head coach title and assist head coach Lincoln Riley in preparing the offensive game plan for the Sooners. Beamer was with the Georgia staff for two years under Kirby Smart after leaving Virginia Tech to join the coaching staff in Athens.

Beamer is the son of former Virgina Tech head coach Frank Beamer. Georgia defeated Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, which was a semifinal game for the College Football Playoff last season.

There is no update on how Smart will replace Beamer on his coaching staff at this time, but Dawg Nation notes Georgia has already lost special teams advisor Scott Fountain to join the coaching staff at Mississippi State.

 

Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley among Lombardi Award finalists

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The list of Lombardi Award candidates has been whittled down to a list of seven select finalists for this year’s award. A week after a list of 21 candidates was unveiled, only seven remain after a panel of voters cast their initial ballots for the award.

2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love of Stanford, and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville highlight the list of finalists for the Lombardi Award. Other finalists include Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama, Shaquen Griffin of UCF and Joel Lanning of Iowa State.

The Lombardi Award has a new trophy and criteria this season after opening the award up to any position after previously being reserved for the top lineman or linebacker in the nation. The award is based on performance, leadership, character and resiliency on and off the field.

Lombardi Award Finalists for 2017 Season

  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State (RB)
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (S)
  • Shaquem Griffin, UCF (LB)
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville (QB)
  • Joel Lanning, Iowa State (LB/QB)
  • Bryce Love, Stanford (RB)
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (QB)

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the award for the 2016 season. Carl Nassib of Penn State won the award in 2015, meaning Barkley and Fitzpatrick are attempting to win another Lombardi Award for their school. Oklahoma is the only other school with a Lombardi Award among the schools represented by the finalists for this season’s award. Iowa State, Louisville, Stanford and UCF are all looking for their first Lombardi Award winner in school history. Oklahoma has three all-time Lombardi Award winners, and Alabama and Penn State each have two.