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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.

Florida reportedly moving on from Chip Kelly, who may be headed to UCLA

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Over the past several days, it appeared that Florida had zeroed in on Chip Kelly as its next head coach.  On Black Friday, that appears to no longer be the case.

Earlier this afternoon, FootballScoop.com reported that coaches they’ve spoken to expect Kelly to choose UCLA as his destination for a return to college football.  Not long after, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported that “Florida has moved on from Kelly” as its potential head coach and will move on to other, unnamed candidates.  Forde adds that “UCLA is the increasingly likely new destination for the former coach of the Oregon Ducks.”

Whether Florida moved on because Kelly informed them he was headed to UCLA or because they simply couldn’t reach an agreement is unknown at this time.

These reports come a couple of days after it was reported that UF was prepared to move on from Kelly if he didn’t make a decision in short order.

With Kelly apparently out of the picture in Gainesville, the Gators will very likely turn their attention to UCF’s Scott Frost and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

If Frost is the target, UF will likely have some competition in the form of Frost’s alma mater Nebraska, which is expected to part ways with Mike Riley after the Cornhuskers’ regular-season finale.  MSU, meanwhile, is prepared to “go all in” to retain Mullen.

Report: Mississippi State set to go all in in effort to retain Dan Mullen

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The rumor mill is set to make yet another coach a much richer man.  Again.

While it appears that, at least for the moment, Florida is focused on Chip Kelly as its next head football coach, Dan Mullen‘s name has been mentioned as another realistic possibility to replace the dismissed Jim McElwain.  The connection makes sense as Mullen spent four seasons as UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer before leaving for Mississippi State, where he’s spent the past nine seasons as head coach.  Also, UF’s athletic director, Scott Stricklin, served in the same role in Starkville during a portion of Mullen’s time with the Bulldogs.

In addition to Florida, Tennessee is believed to maintain an interest in prying Mullen away as well.

In that vein, Bruce Feldman of SI.com is reporting that MSU is prepared to “go all in” in an attempt to keep Mullen.  How all in is the university? “The 45-year-old Mullen is already getting paid $4.5 million, but word is the school is willing to bump him up to around $6 million and also making an even stronger financial commitment to his staff,” Feldman wrote.

In his nine seasons, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a record of 69-46 overall and 33-39 in SEC play.  With the exception of 2014 (second), they’ve finished either fourth (2009, 2012) or fifth (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) in the SEC West the last eight seasons; at 4-4, the best they’ll finish this season is tied for fourth.

Feldman’s report comes less than 24 hours after MSU, thanks in very large part to a gruesome first-half injury to its starting quarterback, lost its annual Egg Bowl matchup to Ole Miss.  That loss dropped Mullen’s record in that rivalry game to 5-4.  Prior to Mullen’s arrival in 2009, though, the Rebels had won five of the previous seven meetings in the series.

No. 2 Miami facing another halftime deficit, this time to Pitt

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For Miami, it’s deja vu all over again.

For the first quarter and half Black Friday afternoon, it was looking as if unbeaten and second-ranked Miami would be facing its fifth halftime deficit of the season as 4-7 Pitt was leading the Hurricanes 3-0 midway through the second quarter.  However, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to Ahmmon Richards, which featured some nifty footwork from the latter to get into the end zone, gave the ‘Canes their first lead of the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.

However, a late Pitt touchdown at the end of freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett‘s six-yard scamper gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead heading into the halftime locker room.  Four times previously, UM has trailed at the half — Toledo (16-10), Florida State (3-0), Georgia Tech 14-13) and Virginia (21-14); each time, the Hurricanes came from behind to win.

As the score hints at, neither offense could muster much production, with the Panthers holding a 175-108 edge in yards.  The U’s much-discussed and mega-hyped turnover chain made a pair of appearances, but the Hurricanes couldn’t convert either turnover into points; in fact, the Pitt defense forced three-and-outs on each occasion.

If the Hurricanes can come from behind yet again, they will finish off a perfect 12-0 regular season for the first time since 2002.  That team made it to the BCS title game but lost to Ohio State.

Miami will get the ball to start the second half.

Starting Iowa State corner Brian Peavy arrested for criminal mischief

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The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t an especially positive one for one member of the Iowa State football program.

According to the Des Moines Register, Brian Peavy was arrested Thursday evening on one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief.  The starting cornerback was subsequently released from the county jail a short time later after posting an unspecified bond.

From the Register‘s report:

Ames Police Department Sgt. Christine Crippen said police responded to a call around 5:06 p.m. regarding possible vandalism taking place in a skate park in Ames.

Police discovered Peavy and another male spray-painting underneath a bridge near the park. Peavy and the other male ran when approached by police. Peavy was caught while the other male escaped.

WHO-TV reports that an ISU spokesperson confirmed that Peavy remains in good standing with the team and will play in Saturday’s game against Kansas State.  ISU heads into the weekend with an outside shot at clinching a berth in the Big 12 championship game, pending the result of today’s Baylor-TCU game.

Peavy currently leads the Cyclones in pass breakups with seven; is tied for second in interceptions with two, and is third in tackles with 75.  The redshirt junior has been an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection each of the past two seasons.