College football continues growing at multiple levels

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This fall college football will be played on more campuses than ever before thanks to the addition of five programs, including two at the NCAA Division II level.

According to the National Football Foundation, the addition of Cincinnati Christian University, Davenport University (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Morthland College (West Frankfort, Ill.), the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa) and the University of West Florida (Pensacola), there will be 774 college football teams in 2016, the most on record.

West Florida and UT-Permian Basin are in the NCAA’s Division II while CCU and Davenport are in the NAIA and Morthland College’s affiliation is TBA.

The schools come from three distinct regions of the country, including football hotbeds of Florida, Texas and Ohio.

If the name and town of the newest college football program in Texas ring a bell, there’s good reason. Odessa is the home of the Permian Panthers, the high school program immortalized in H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream.

Per the NFF, three more programs are set to come online next year, including the return of UAB as a member of Conference USA in the FBS.

“With more than one million high school students playing football and more than 70,000 spots on college teams, there is plenty of room for expansion,” said NFF chairman Archie Manning in a statement. “Many of these colleges clearly recognize that football can play an important role in encouraging students to continue their educations by enticing them to enroll.”

Last year saw the addition of four new programs, including FCS members East Tennessee State and Kennesaw State (Georgia).

In all, 42 programs have launched at various levels since 2010.

Tom Herman names Shane Buechele starting QB… for now

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It’s certainly expected that Shane Buechele will start at quarterback for Texas this fall. After all, he did so last season and performed capably well — about as well as you could expect for a true freshman on a 5-7 team. Buechele’s competition for the job is true freshman Sam Ehlinger, and you definitely wouldn’t bank on a true freshman beating out an incumbent starter.

Tom Herman confirmed as much Monday. Herman said Buechele would start if the Maryland opener was tomorrow, and that will be the case until it isn’t.

“As of today, Shane’s starting,” he said. “Now, does that guarantee he’ll start against Maryland? No. But, he’ll take the bulk of the ones. If he doesn’t take advantage of them, Sam plays better than him, that’ll change. As of now, Shane’s getting the bulk of the one reps, but Sam will continue to do that…. It’s a good battle, but you can tell Shane’s played 12 games of college football.”

The question, of course, is not who will take the first snap against Maryland, but how much Ehlinger will play and how long Buechele can hold him off.

It’s no secret Herman asks his quarterbacks to take hits, and Ehlinger seems better equipped to do that. Texas lists Ehlinger carrying 230 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, compared to Buechele’s 6-foot-1, 205-pound build. Ehlinger compiled 2,395 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns while playing through injury for the bulk of his senior year. Buechele rushed for 151 yards on 97 carries, while also setting Texas freshman records with 2,958 passing yards.

LSU officially welcomes new Mike the Tiger to his new habitat

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LSU is keeping the tradition of a live tiger mascot alive with the announced addition of Mike VII. The new Mike the Tiger has moved into his new spacious digs and is already having football fans and animal lovers fall in love with him.

The newest addition had to be checked to make sure he was qualified to be released into LSU’s special habitat that has been the home for previous tigers. Mike VII will not be making appearances at Tiger Stadium on game days as has previously been a tradition. Instead, Mike VII will be able to roam a recently updated and renovated tiger habitat in style and root on the Tigers from the comfort of his new home.

Mike VI died of cancer last October.

Utah’s surprise QB announcement tabs Tyler Huntley as starter

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Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham made one of the more surprising decisions on Monday. Instead of naming the senior captain as his starting quarterback, Whittingham chose sophomore Tyler Huntley to be the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1 against North Dakota.

The decision to go with Huntley means Troy Williams will be reduced to backup duty. Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman will also be sitting down on the depth chart, which is another mild surprise from Salt Lake City.

Williams was Utah’s quarterback last season when the Utes made a push for the Pac-12 South Division before falling just short of the Pac-12 championship game. Williams passed for 2,757 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams also rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns for the Utes.

As a freshman, Huntley appeared in six games and attempted just seven passes for 60 total yards. It would seem Huntley has done a lot to impress the coaches to earn the starting nod over an experienced starter and the transfer option. His improvement in the offseason and athleticism are said to be fueling his rise as a quarterback, so we’ll see how that pays off on the field once the games begin.

Jim McElwain says Florida is heading to Texas to “beat the heck out of Michigan”

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It goes without saying that coaches will say what coaches say. Suggesting their team is on a mission to score a big win in front of fans clad in the school colors should not be taken for anything more than simply aiming to get a rise out of the fans. Mission accomplished for Florida head coach Jim McElwain, but possible bulletin board material for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Speaking before Florida students over the weekend, McElwain laid it out there by saying his Gators were looking to do one thing against Michigan; win with authority.

“We’re heading to Dallas here in a couple weeks to go beat the heck out of Michigan, and then come back to you guys,” McElwain said, according to SEC Country.

The Gators are opening the college football season next week in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten. Florida will be a bit undermanned with the recent suspension of seven players, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Michigan also won the most recent meeting between the two schools, with Harbaugh’s Wolverines dominating McElwain’s Gators in the Citrus Bowl two seasons ago (41-7).

Michigan will be looking to reestablish its identity with a good amount of roster turnover this season, but the depth hit from the recent suspensions in Gainesville may help give Michigan an edge. Either way, we can only look forward to seeing how Harbaugh potentially responds once this claim from McElwain makes its way to Ann Arbor.