The 2016 bowl season started off by checking off a number of firsts in the New Mexico Bowl. UTSA (6-7) played in its first bowl game and New Mexico (9-4) head coach Bob Davie win his first bowl game as a head coach. It had been a long time coming for Davie, who saw his Lobos come up on the short end of the scoreboard in the New Mexico Bowl a year ago. New Mexico held off UTSA, 23-20, in the first bowl game of the season.
New Mexico running backs Richard McQuarley (game MVP) and Teriyon Gipson each scored touchdowns on the ground as New Mexico opted to play it safe with a run-focused offense in windy conditions. UTSA cut a 16-6 lead to three points with a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Trevor Stevens, but the Lobos ran the ball down the field on the ensuing possession to pad their lead with a second touchdown run by McQuarley.
Davie had been 0-4 in bowl games prior to this season, including three bowl losses during his time as head coach at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001. Davie returned to the sidelines in 2012 with New Mexico following a good run in the broadcast booth. After three losing seasons, Davie turned things around to turn in a seven-win season in 2015 and earning a trip to the New Mexico Bowl. With a record of 8-4 this season, the Lobos returned to the bowl game having taken one step forward. The next step came today to pick up the ninth win of the season and the first bowl win since the 2007 season, also in the New Mexico Bowl.
So what’s next for New Mexico? The bar continues to be raised for the program under Davie. The 2017 season will see a challenging road schedule with conference games on the road against Boise State, San Diego State and Wyoming and non-conference contests against Tulsa and Texas A&M. New Mexico’s 2017 season kicks off on September 2 at home against Abilene Christian.
UTSA will look to build off their first bowl experience as well. The Roadrunners get their 2017 season started on September 2, 2017 against Houston. It was just a couple of years ago when UTSA embarrassed Houston in their brand new stadium, 27-7. This time, Houston travels to San Antonio.
Both UTSA and New Mexico appear to be heading in a positive direction.
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 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.
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.
For the fourth time under head coach Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide will begin a college football season as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25.
The defending SEC champions received 52 first-place votes from the AP voters, easily pulling away from No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Florida State. Both the Buckeyes and Seminoles received first-place votes, as did No. 4 USC. But none of those schools received more than four first-place votes from the voters. Alabama and Florida State meet in Week 1 next week in Atlanta.
Defending national champion Clemson was left without a first-place vote, but still starts the year highly-ranked at No. 5. They are followed by Penn State, fresh off a Big Ten championship from last season. Defending Pac-12 champion and College Football Playoff participant Washington starts the year at No. 8, one spot behind the defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners with a first-year head coach in Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma travels to Columbus, Ohio to play Ohio State in Week 2. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State round out the top 10 in the preseason AP poll.
The lone Group of Five team in the preseason top 25 is USF, with new head coach Charlie Strong taking over the Bulls. Strong’s new team is ranked No. 19, a few spot s ahead of his old program, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns (now coached by Tom Herman).
The SEC leads the country with six teams appearing in the preseason AP Top 25, followed by the ACC and Big 12 with five ranked teams each. The Big Ten and Pac-12 each have four schools represented. No independent teams appear in the preseason top 25.
And here is the full AP Top 25 preseason poll, with first-place votes noted);
- Alabama (52 first-place votes)
- Ohio State (3)
- Florida State (4)
- USC (2)
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
- Miami FL
- Kansas State
- Virginia Tech
- West Virginia
- Washington State