Toledo’s Tuesday night big MAC challenge: Northern Illinois

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When it comes to the Group of Five conversation this season, the American Athletic Conference has continued to take the lead with three teams currently ranked in the top 25 (Memphis, Houston, Temple) and another suffering just one loss (Navy). With the Mountain West Conference slipping this fall, the American has taken advantage and pushed to the front of the line. There is one potential obstacle beyond the control of the AAC though; Toledo.

The MAC frontrunners are off to a solid 7-0 start this season, which includes a victory on the road at Arkansas and a home win against Iowa State. For a while the win against the Razorbacks was the top Group of Five performance of the season, but Memphis has since taken that title with a win against Ole Miss. Still, Toledo has a chance to run the table this season and add a MAC championship that would see a 13-0 program be up for strong consideration for the New Years Six bowl reservation awarded to the top-ranked Group of Five conference champion. If that ends up being the case, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell will have some interesting job offers come his way this coaching carousel cycle (he has already been a trendy name for some coaching stories this season). There is still business to attend to for Toledo before we can dive head first into those debates and discussions about where the Rockets stand against other contenders like Memphis, Houston or perhaps still Temple and Navy. First up is Northern Illinois.

Toledo takes on Northern Illinois tonight in a Tuesday night MACtion special. This may not be a dominant NIU team, but it is still a scary one when it is rolling. The Huskies have scored at least 45 points in each of their last three games to rebound from a three-game losing streak that included a good scare for the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. No team should be aware of how dangerous NIU can be than Toledo though. The Huskies have been a bit of a nemesis for the Rockets lately, with NIU claiming victory in each of the past five meetings. The Huskies took last year’s game, 27-24. In 2011 these two combined for 123 points in a 63-60 shootout. If Toledo is going to make a run at the MAC, shaking off the ghosts of Northern Illinois is a huge step forward in that pursuit. That may not be easy.

NIU will bring the MAC’s top running game to Toledo, averaging 217.5 rushing yards per game and a conference-leading 24 rushing touchdowns, 14 by junior running back Joel Bouagnon. Toledo is no slouch running he football with Kareem Hunt warming up and Terry Swanson and Damion Jones-Moore leading the charge for the MAC’s second-leading rushing offense. Toledo has allowed just five rushing touchdowns all season, so they will be put to the test tonight. For Toledo, the key will be to force fumbles, which NIU has been prone to do this season despite the big running numbers. NIU has lost nine fumbles this year, more than any other MAC program.

A win by Toledo will keep them in the thick of the Group of Five discussion, but the more important goal for the Rockets right now is simply winning the MAC. Toledo has not played in the MAC Championship Game since 2004, so it has been a long time coming. Northern Illinois and Central Michigan have dominated the appearances from the MAC West since Toledo’s last appearance in the game. After NIU tonight, Toledo will get a crack at CMU on the road next Tuesday night before playing in what could be a MAC Championship Game Preview against Bowling Green on November 17.

Toledo has some land mines to tiptoe by. If they manage to do so, the Rockets will have a decent argument at the end of the year.

In case you missed it…

Toledo is the big headline in the MAC right now, deservingly so, but Toledo is currently tied for first place in the MAC West with Western Michigan. The Broncos have somewhat quietly played their way into a good spot in the division race. P.J. Fleck‘s program got off to a rough 1-3 start with losses against the top two programs in the Big Ten (Michigan State and Ohio State) and a road loss at Georgia Southern (a blowout 43-17 setback). Things did not look great for Western Michigan, but in conference play the Broncos appear to have flipped a switch.

After clipping Central Michigan 41-39 in their MAC opener, Western Michigan has won each of the next three games on its schedule by a minimum of 22 points. Two of those wins have come against Miami-Ohio and Eastern Michigan, who are a combined 2-16 this season, but Western Michigan should not have to apologize for that. Western Michigan’s challenging schedule in MAC play is about to commence. On Thursday, they host Ball State, but after that they host MAC East-leading Bowling Green on a Wednesday night next week (a short week), and then visit Northern Illinois the following Wednesday.

If you are looking ahead, Western Michigan wraps up the regular season on the road against Toledo on November 27.

Wyoming QB Josh Allen deleted Twitter off his phone following loss to Oregon

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Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was one of the most heavily discussed signal-callers in the country this offseason and labeled by many as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick. Some thought he has the physical tools to transition effortlessly from the Mountain West to the NFL just like Carson Wentz.

By late September though, people are starting to hit the brakes on the hype train for the Cowboys QB and so, too, is the player himself it appears. The Associated Press published a long profile of Allen this week and one nugget seemed to jump out: following a 49-13 loss to Oregon last Saturday in which he completed just nine passes for 64 yards and an interception, the quarterback promptly deleted Twitter of his phone.

“Those guys on Twitter aren’t making draft picks and putting together teams in the NFL,” Allen said. “All I really care about is respect from my teammates and my coaches here.”

We’ve seen players delete apps or jump off social media when they face a little adversity on the field and it seems that the Wyoming star is the latest to join the bandwagon and swear off tweeting in the foreseeable future. We’ll see if it makes any difference on Saturday as his team takes on Hawaii at home to open Mountain West conference play.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s contract extended through 2025

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The future of the Big 12 conference still seems a little murky but one thing remains clear: commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be in charge no matter which way things go.

The league announced on Friday morning that Bowlsby’s contract was extended through 2025, keeping him at Big 12 headquarters through the next round of television negotiations and right up to the expiration date on the conference’s grant of rights.

“This is an important time for college athletics. This is an important time for the Big 12,” West Virginia President Gordon Gee, the chairman of the conference’s board of directors, said in a video statement. “To have a valiant and committed leader and someone who understands athletics as well as anyone in this country leading our conference is something that is very much important to the league and to the individual schools and I believe to college athletics.”

Bowlsby notably guided the Big 12 through on-again, off-again rounds of conference expansion the past few years and played a big role in bringing a football championship game and new tiebreaker scenarios to the league since he took over in 2012. The former Stanford and Iowa athletic director will be 73 at the end of his new contract, which is paying him right under $2.7 million a year according to USA Today.

Arkansas tailback Devwah Whaley will play against Texas A&M following “disagreement” with teammate

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Things got heated at Arkansas in the lead up to their next game and we’re not just talking about head coach Bret Bielema’s hot seat among the Razorbacks fan base either.

It appears that starting tailback Devwah Whaley was involved in what is being called a “minor disagreement” with a teammate this week at practice. While scuffles in the middle of an intense play are nothing new in football, there were a lot rumors that the running back was actually injured in the brouhaha and wouldn’t be able to take the field at AT&T Stadium on Saturday against Texas A&M.

“He’s ready to play,” the coach said on his radio show, according to Hawgs Illustrated. “How many times are 21-year-olds in a disagreement? Devwah is excited to play in the game in his home state.”

Whaley himself confirmed that he wasn’t injured and would be playing against the Aggies on Twitter:

While one side of this “disagreement” is all set to play at JerryWorld against Texas A&M, the other side is not. That’s because wide receiver Brandon Martinwho was also reportedly involved, is staying home in what Bielema labeled a previously determined decision due to his lingering hamstring injury. Either way, Razorbacks fans are probably hoping for a lot of the same fight they’ve seen this week from the team to carry over to their game on Saturday.

Banged up North Carolina down three starters after trio of season-ending injuries

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North Carolina’s injury situation has gone from bad to worse in the blink of an eye this week.

The school confirmed via their weekly injury report on Thursday night that three starters were lost for the rest of the season as linebacker Andre Smith, offensive lineman William Sweet and receiver Thomas Jackson all won’t return to action. The trio, who were not listed with a specific injury, were part of a whopping 19 players who were banged up on the report.

Smith did not play in last week’s game for the Tar Heels but it appears both Sweet and Jackson went down against Old Dominion and did not return.

“It is what it is. It’s the same old thing: The next guy has to get up, and the next guy has to play,” head coach Larry Fedora said earlier in the week. “You hope you can build some type of continuity at some point.”

The three starters join a lengthy injury list for the Tar Heels that is now up to nearly a 1/10th of the roster — nine names long — out for the year.

Defensive lineman Jalen Dalton was also ruled doubtful for UNC’s game against triangle rival Duke on Saturday, along with cornerback Corey Bell. offensive lineman Cam Dillard and Bentley Spain, as well as wideout Dazz Newsome, were all listed as questionable.