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USF and UCF take their rivalry up a notch with new trophy competition

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South Florida and UCF first met in football in 2005, at which point a pretty natural rivalry was christened. From the earliest of days, some sportswriters dubbed the logical rivalry the “War on I-4,” and now that is the official name for the rivalry between the two schools.

Graphic via USF Athletics

Unlike the rivalry UCF has with UConn, the Knights and Bulls mutually agreed to form an actual trophy for a series of competitions between the schools, including the annual football game. The competition gets underway this weekend with athletic events in volleyball and men’s soccer and points will be awarded throughout the academic year in a variety of athletic competitions between the two schools. At the end of the year-long competition, a trophy will be awarded to the school with the most accumulated points and hold the bragging rights until losing control of the trophy.

One cannot read the press release for this new trophy competition though without feeling the schools are teaming up to make a sales pitch to a certain power conference in search of potential new members.

The “War on I-4” represents a long-standing and passionate rivalry between the fan bases of two of the nation’s largest and fastest growing universities. The Tampa Bay and Orlando metropolitan areas, which form the fourth largest media market in the nation, are connected by a 100 short miles of Florida Interstate I-4.

UCF and USF will play in football on November 26, the final game of the regular season for each. Six points in the War On I-4 standings will be on the line.

SMU reportedly tabs former Cal, La Tech head coach Sonny Dykes as new head coach

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Sonny Dykes will take over as SMU’s head coach, according to multiple reports. The move was first reported by FotballScoop on Monday morning, and since confirmed by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

Dykes takes over for Chad Morris, who left last week to become the head coach at Arkansas.

Morris was hired to re-establish ties with the Texas high school community after the program flatlined under June Jones, and Dykes has a similar appeal as his predecessor. Like Morris, Dykes is a former Texas high school coach, though only briefly. (He spent one year as the running backs coach at Richardson Pearce High School in 1994.) But more importantly he’s a name that will resonate with Texas high school coaches as the son of the legendary Spike Dykes.

The younger Dykes served as an assistant at Navarro Junior College and Texas Tech before taking over as the head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 mark with one WAC championship from 2010-12. That success led him to Cal, where he took the Golden Bears to one bowl game in four seasons.

He was let go after the 2016 season, and spent the 2017 campaign laying low nearby the Hilltop, as an offensive analyst at TCU.

Dykes will inherit a 7-5 SMU team that ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense and 113th in scoring defense. The Mustangs will meet Dykes’s former team Louisiana Tech in the inaugural Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Interim head coach Jeff Traylor garnered significant support inside the locker room to take over on a full-time basis, so it will be interesting to see if Dykes works to keep the former Texas high school coach on staff, perhaps in an offensive coordinator capacity.

Report: Former Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard named Cardinal offensive coordinator

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It can be argued Tavita Pritchard started the current era of Stanford football. Trailing 23-17 with 48 seconds left, it was Pritchard that hit Mark Bradford for a 10-yard touchdown to push the Cardinal past No. 2 USC for a 24-23 win in 2007, at the time the largest point-spread upset in college football history and kickstarting the Jim HarbaughDavid Shaw era that continues today.

And now it will be Pritchard’s job to keep the ball he first pushed way back when rolling.

According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Pritchard will be named Stanford’s offensive coordinator.

Still only 30, Pritchard graduated from Stanford in 2009, but he never really left the Stanford football program. He volunteered with the coaching staff in 2010, began working with the Cardinal defense in 2011 and was promoted to the full-time coaching staff in 2013, working with the running backs.

Pritchard was moved to quarterbacks and wide receivers in 2014 and has remained there the past four seasons, but is now in line to take over the entire offense with offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren now the head coach at Rice.

Led by Doak Walker Award winner Bryce Love, Stanford concluded the regular season ranked 32nd in rushing, 61st in passing efficiency, 19th in yards per play and 39th in scoring at 32.0 points per game. The 13th-ranked and Pac-12 North champion Cardinal will meet No. 15 TCU in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Darrell Dickey to join Texas A&M staff as offensive coordinator

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Memphis offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey is taking the same job at Texas A&M, according to a report from, uh, me.

Dickey has been on the Memphis staff for the past six years, first as an original member of Justin Funete‘s staff and continued on under new head coach Mike Norvell. His 2017 unit ranked among the top five nationally in scoring, total offense and yards per play, and came within a defensive stop of winning the American championship and playing in the Peach Bowl.

Beyond Memphis, the appeal for Jimbo Fisher is Dickey’s extensive experience in Texas. A Galveston, Texas, native, Dickey broke into coaching as a graduate assistant on Jackie Sherrill‘s staff at Texas A&M and bounced around in the state as the offensive coordinator at UTEP, SMU and Texas State, and served as the head coach at North Texas from 1998-06. He led the Mean Green to four straight Sun Belt championships from 2001-04.

It will be interesting to see how much control of the offense Fisher gives to Dickey. Memphis ran 882 plays in its 12 games this season, 41st nationally, while Florida State ranked 122nd with 734 — a difference of a dozen snaps a game.

Ratings for most major college football TV packages down in 2017

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TV ratings are down across the board for most sports and, heck, most of any form of televised entertainment these days. As our culture becomes more fragmented, so, too, do the ways we choose to consume in-home entertainment. And college football is not immune to that.

Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch compiled ratings for the major college football TV packages with the help of Sports Business Journal‘s Austin Karp, and here’s what he found:

CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.

ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.

Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.

NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.

ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.

FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.

However, this is not a doom-and-gloom report for college football. The pie isn’t shrinking, it’s just being cut into even smaller slices.

“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp told SI. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year.”

With the College Football Playoff returning to New Year’s Day this fall, expect many stories about how TV ratings were up for college football’s 2017-18 postseason. For the record, the last time the Rose and Sugar bowls held the semifinals, the Rose Bowl drew 28.2 million and the Sugar Bowl 28.3 million.