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Big weekend for the AAC and Mountain West Conference

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For a conference trying to sell itself as the nation’s sixth power conference, Week 3 looks to be a pretty big one to do its best to prove it. The American Athletic Conference, which is going all in on its belief it is the sixth power conference and not one of the Group of Five conferences, will play games against the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 this weekend. And that includes games against four ranked opponents, two of which will be played in an AAC stadium.

It all gets started tonight with preseason favorite South Florida hosting Illinois from the Big Ten. The Bulls are a prohibitive favorite, which comes as no surprise. Quarterback Quinton Flowers could go off against the Illini, who have a record of 2-0 thanks to wins against Ball State and Western Kentucky. With Charlie Strong as head coach, the Bulls have not looked quite as automatic through the first two weeks as many predicted, but this could be their opportunity to put it all together on a national stage.

On Saturday, Memphis will look to score a significant upset at home against No. 25 UCLA. The Bruins are off to a 2-0 start but cross-country trip for a noon eastern kickoff has been known to give a west coast team trouble in the past. If the Tigers can catch the Bruins off to a slumbering start, Memphis may have to hope Josh Rosen and company don’t wake up in the fourth quarter the way they did against Texas A&M. A Memphis win would be key to the AAC as a whole too, as a win against a ranked opponent from a power conference gives the AAC a strength of schedule argument to boost itself up in the long run.

The AAC will have a few other cracks at ranked opponents. The team with the best chance, most likely, to score a win against a ranked team may be SMU. The Mustangs visit rival TCU, ranked 20th in the AP poll and coming off a win on the road against Arkansas. East Carolina hosts No. 16 Virginia Tech, and Tulane visits No. 2 Oklahoma. Either AAC team picking up a win in those games would be a shocker.

One other game against an ACC school was scratched due to Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. UCF, who looked really good in their opener, was to host Georgia Tech. Instead, the Knights will get a week off before returning to action next week on the road against Maryland.

The one game that should probably be the most interesting to watch, however, may take place in Ohio. MAC favorite Toledo is hosting Tulsa in a key Group of 5 vs. Group of 5 matchup. The Rockets have looked good and are a solid favorite, but Tulsa is a team to keep an eye on in the AAC. A year after an undefeated MAC champion grabbed the New Years Six spot in the bowl lineup, the AAC delivering a blow to the preseason MAC favorites could knock the MAC out of contention entirely before even getting to October.

AAC vs. Power 5 In Week 3

  • No. 22 USF vs. Illinois (FRI)
  • Memphis vs. No. 25 UCLA
  • Virginia vs. UConn
  • East Carolina vs. No. 16 Virginia Tech
  • No. 20 TCU vs. SMU
  • No. 2 Oklahoma vs. Tulane

Not to be outdone, the Mountain West Conference has a healthy diet of games against power conference competition this weekend as well. Air Force travels to No. 7 Michigan, Utah State visits Wake Forest, Colorado State is in Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama, Wyoming is hosting Oregon, Fresno State visits No. 6 Washington, San Jose State visits Utah, and San Diego State hosts No. 19 Stanford. That is seven games against power conference teams, including games against three top 10 teams. Most of those matchups do not appear to give the MWC many favors, although San Diego State hosting Stanford could be interesting.

Before conference play begins in these conferences, this will be the last major opportunities for the AAC and MWC to showcase their stuff in non-conference play. These games could make or break the conference’s chances of getting in the lucrative New Years Six lineup at the end of the year, so neither conference will want to squander their opportunities this weekend.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

HBO releases new trailer for Joe Paterno movie starring Al Pacino

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We’re inching closer to the release date of HBO’s Paterno about former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and his story in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. Emotions already run high in State College whenever this subject is brought up and that seems like it will be the case again after today as the worst scandal in college sports history is relived and brought vividly to life on cable TV.

This is something that is happening however and HBO released a new, official trailer for the film on Friday that gives us an extended look at both Al Pacino in the title role and a bit more on some of the plot lines that are being brought to the silver screen.

In addition to starring Pacino, Barry Levinson is directing the movie, Riley Keough plays reporter Sara Ganim, Kathy Baker is Sue Paterno and Darren Goldstein was cast as former Nittany Lions coach-turned-whistleblower Mike McQuearyAs you can see in the trailer above, the film is mostly centered on what Paterno did or did not know about Sandusky — the team’s defensive coordinator who was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a prison sentence of at least 30 years.

Paterno premieres April 7th on HBO.

UConn head coach Randy Edsall: We’ve become a farm system, pay the players

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The FBI sting into college basketball malfeasance has gotten a lot of folks riled up on Friday afternoon, especially when it comes to NCAA rules and potential violations. This, in turn, is leading to everybody and their brother rehashing the argument to pay (or not pay) players.

While you would probably not have expected it, even football coaches are wading into the discourse and there’s a somewhat surprising line of thinking being taken by UConn head coach Randy Edsall on Twitter:

While Edsall’s first point about football coaches getting nervous about the FBI probe spilling over into their sport probably rings true, it’s not every day you see a head coach openly advocating for paying players and calling college football a farm system for the NFL.

The Huskies head coach’s latter tweet is referring to a proposal put forward by the SEC that was approved last month which essentially allows non-coaching analysts to evaluate film of recruits in ways they could not previously do so. This has led to many expecting programs (looking at you, Alabama) creating player personnel departments in even greater numbers to streamline evaluating prospects and allow certain staffers to handle more of the recruiting load.

Edsall is far from the first coach to advocate paying players but something says his comments on Friday will also mean he will just be the latest in a long line of advocates for advancing much the same cause, especially in light of the payments going on in college basketball that are just beginning to come to light.

Charlotte’s Greg Adkins reportedly Marshall’s new O-Line coach

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Country roads, take him home.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Charlotte assistant Greg Adkins is expected to return to his alma mater of Marshall to take over as the Thundering Herd’s next offensive line coach.

Adkins is well known around Huntington for his work with the team back in the early 1990’s when they were winning NCAA titles and making regular title game appearances at the then-Division I-AA level. He also had stops at Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and with the Buffalo Bills among others before being hired at Charlotte by Brad Lambert.

The return of Adkins fills the hole on Marshall’s staff after the departure of offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, who left for Oregon earlier in the week.