WHO: No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
WHAT: The 7th NewEra Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, New York, NY
THE SKINNY: Pitt running back James Conner will play his final college football game before turning pro in the house that Derek Jeter built, Yankee Stadium. Conner has been one of the true inspirations in college football this season as he has overcome cancer to remain one of the top running backs in the nation. Connor rushed for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns as a key cog in Pitt’s potent offense. How much they can keep that going in the bowl season will be something to watch after losing offensive coordinator Matt Canada to LSU to be a part of Ed Oregon’s coaching staff in Baton Rouge.
Pitt had the second-highest scoring offense in the ACC this season behind Louisville, with 42.3 points per game, highlighted by a road victory over ACC champion and No. 2 Clemson, an early-season victory over eventual Big Ten champion Penn State, and scoring at least 36 points in all but one game since the season opener. The defense, however, has been the polar opposite of the Pitt offense, giving up at least 30 points in all but two games this season. The season ended by giving up 61 points to Syracuse, although the Panthers managed to get the win.
Northwestern’s offense could struggle to keep up the scoring pace Pitt has been accustomed this season, although the Wildcats have some talent on offense to cause problems for Pitt’s defense. Justin Jackson ended the regular season as the Big Ten’s rushing leader with 1,300 yards (eclipsed only by Wisconsin’s Corey Clement with the benefit of the Big Ten championship game). Jackson averages 108.33 rushing yards per game. The Wildcats also have the Big Ten’s leading receiver, Austin Carr, the only 1,000-yard receiver in the Big Ten this season (84 receptions, 1,196 yards, 12 touchdowns all lead the Big Ten).
The Pinstripe Bowl has packed some fun games the last two years since the ACC and Big Ten paired up for the game. Penn State clipped Boston College in overtime (31-30) two seasons ago and Duke edged Indiana in overtime (44-41) last December. Expect some good offensive fireworks between the Panthers and Wildcats, and another one going the distance.
THE PREDICTION: Pitt 52, Northwestern 46
New Mexico AD Paul Krebs (right) had it all figured out. He wanted to go to Scotland to play golf (who doesn’t) but he didn’t want to pay for it (who does?). So he came up with a solution: he’d turn it into a UNM fundraising trip and make the school pay for it.
The school sold 23 packages to travel across the pond for a getaway of luxurious accommodations and bucket-list golf, but put the bills of himself, two UNM executives and a handful of local businessmen on the school’s dime. Lots of dimes, in fact. The trip cost the Lobos nearly $65,000.
“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs told KRQE-TV earlier this month.
Despite his attempt at justification, it appeared Krebs knew from the start the trip was an ethical no-no. The $65,000 bill was classified as a basketball tournament on UNM’s accounting paperwork, and Krebs failed to disclose the nature of the June 2015 trip to acting president Chaouki Abdallah until last week.
“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” Abdallah told KRQE. “I was not happy.”
It is not clear why the UNM Foundation or the Lobo Club, non-profits that handles the school’s and the athletics department’s fundraising efforts, respectively, did not cover the cost of the trip, especially since Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey was one of the UNM officials who was on the trip. Putting the bill on the university’s ledger also appears to be a violation of the state’s anti-donation laws. The $24,000 cost to take the Albuquerque businessmen has since been refunded by an anonymous donor.
“(Krebs) told me about it in no uncertain terms,” Abdallah told said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”
The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.
The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.
Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.
The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.
“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”
The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.
It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.
In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony. Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.
As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record. The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.” A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.
The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.
“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”
At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.
Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.
One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.
The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today. He was just 48 years old.
No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”
After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989. In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.
The third overall pick of the 1990 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks. In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.