Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Temple claims first conference championship since 1967; likely sends WMU to Cotton Bowl

1 Comment

The Temple Owls (10-3) did their part to make the job a little bit easier for the College Football Playoff’s selection committee in the next 24 hours. A 34-10 victory in the American Athletic Conference championship game in Annapolis against No. 19 Navy (9-3) will more than likely mean MAC champion Western Michigan will be heading to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. For the Owls, it is the first conference championship in program history since 1967, and just the second conference crown for the Owls.

Temple took care of business in the first half by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions to go up 21-0, stunning the home Navy crowd in the process while key Midshipmen went down with injuries. Starting quarterback Will Worth was among those lost for the day in the first half, while Temple’s Phillip Walker was tossing two touchdown completions with great confidence; one 22-yard pass to Ventell Bryant and a 56-yard deep ball to Keith Kirkwood. Jahad Thomas ran in the first touchdown of the day for the Owls on the opening drive of the game.

For the first time in program history, Temple has won 10 games in a season in back-to-back years. This also marks Temple’s conference championship game victory, a year after playing in the first AAC Championship Game last season as East Division champion on the road against Houston. Perhaps the experience of last season came into play, as did the experience of playing Army in the season opener (which Temple lost). If he has not already, expect Temple head coach Matt Rhule to start hearing his name in a few more rumors and his phone to be a bit more busy as the coaching carousel continues to spin.

Temple is not expected to essentially come out of nowhere to pass an undefeated Western Michigan with three losses on their record, so the Owls will be first in line among the AAC programs to slot into bowl games with conference affiliations this season. A slot in the Miami Beach Bowl would be a nice reward, but a chance to play an ACC opponent in the Military Bowl may also be an option. That would mean returning to Annapolis for a second straight game in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Navy already had a spot in the bowl  lineup reserved due to an association with the Armed Forces Bowl. The bowl invitation has already been represented but the Naval Academy was wise to hold off on accepting it until known whether or not a bigger bowl game could be on the horizon. That will not happen this year, as Navy is eliminated from the Group of Five New Years six conversation with the loss to Temple. So Navy will be heading to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on December 23. Their opponent is contracted to come from the Big 12, but that spot could be open if the Big 12 cannot fill all of its bowl spots. North Texas could benefit from such a situation, and having a team from Texas would be an ideal alternative for the bowl game. Navy still has one more game to play though, as they play rival Army in the annual Army-Navy Game next weekend in Baltimore. Considering some of the injuries that came into play Saturday, Navy’s health should be a concern with a rested Army coming up next week.

Ex-Alabama DL O.J. Smith tweets transfer to Minnesota

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After leaving one Power Five program, O.J. Smith has landed on his feet at another.

On his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts late Thursday morning, Smith announced that he is “Officially Family Of The University Of Minnisota !!!!” While the lineman says his move is official, the Gophers have yet to announce his addition to the roster.

If/when it comes to fruition, Smith will have to sit out the 2017 season, and will then have one year of eligibility to use in 2018.

Smith had announced in early June that he would be transferring from Alabama.

A three-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 recruiting class, Smith was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Louisiana.  The defensive tackle redshirted his true freshman because of an injury suffered in summer camp.

The past two seasons, he’s played in a combined two games and was credited with one tackle in each of those contests.

Protests growing over Michael Vick’s impending induction into Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

Associated Press
Leave a comment

One new addition to Virginia Tech’s Sports Hall of Fame is causing a bit of controversy and consternation and angst.

On July 11, it was announced that Michael Vick would be one of five inductees into the university’s Hall of Fame.  There is little doubt that, on the field, Vick was one of the greatest players in the history of Hokies football and, for that, he deserves a spot.

Off the field, some would argue, precludes him from such an honor.  After leaving Blacksburg, Vick served 19 months in a federal prison after being convicted on dogfighting charges.

As noted by the Roanoke Times,  there are two different online petitions on change.org (HERE and HERE) at the moment that are pushing for the university to reverse its inclusion of Vick as part of this year’s class.  As of this posting, nearly 100,000 individuals combined have signed the petitions, one of which notes that one of the school’s own criteria for inclusion is “[m]ust be of good character and reputation/not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

“The College unequivocally opposes honoring an individual whose past actions contradict our values and the cornerstone of our mission,” a Facebook statement from Dr. Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, began. “Over the course of several days, I have communicated with President [Timothy] Sands and other campus administrators to express our disappointment and opposition to this decision. I continue to be in conversations with the president regarding this issue.”

In response to the burgeoning brouhaha, the university released a statement defending Vick’s induction that includes shining a light on the former Hokies quarterback’s post-conviction actions.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports Hall of Fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete — who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

“In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports Hall of Fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction and time he served for his crime were also considered, and it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives. This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted. The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

Vick’s third-place finish in the voting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy is the highest ever for a Hokie.

The 2017 class, including Vick (for now), are scheduled to be inducted at a Sept. 22 ceremony. A day later, the same group will be honored at halftime of the football game vs. Old Dominion.

6-5, 287-pound 8th grader Jaheim Otis holds offers from Alabama, other SEC schools

Getty Images
3 Comments

You may want to pay attention to Jaheim Oatis as he’s a rather big deal, literally and figuratively, on the recruiting trail.

Otis hails from Columbia, Mississippi, and will be in the eighth grade this school year.  What makes Oatis unique from other football recruits is that, not long after finishing up the seventh grade, he says he stands 6-4 and weighs in at 284 pounds; Scout.com lists him at 6-5, 287 pounds.

Even more unique?  Late last week, he revealed via his personal Twitter account that he has already received offers from Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Oatis isn’t all size, either, as evidenced by his running a 40-yard dash at Ole Miss earlier this year.

Oatis also plays baseball — he claims to have been clocked pitching at 84 mph — as well as basketball — he was the MVP at an AAU tournament this summer.  When it comes football, he plays offensive line along with tight end.

Bowling Green lands Cincinnati grad transfer John Kurtz

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just ahead of the start of summer camp, Bowling Green has further solidified its depth and experience along its offensive line.

Appearing at the MAC football preview Wednesday, Mike Jinks confirmed that John Kurtz has been added to his Bowling Green football roster.  Kurtz comes to the Falcons as a graduate transfer, which would technically give him immediate eligibility.

“He played spring football for Cincinnati and was in the rotation for playing time on the offensive line,” Jinks said according to the Toledo Blade. “He’s a kid who has a chance to have an impact right away.

“The opportunity is there for him to play right away for us. This is a big ‘get’ for us.”

Jinks also hinted that Kurtz, who has two years of eligibility remaining, could be a redshirt candidate for the 2017 season as well.

Despite being just a two-star 2014 recruit, he was rated as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Kentucky.  During his time with the Bearcats, Kurtz played sparingly.