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Saquon Barkley headlines Hornung Award finalists

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The one-time front-runner for the Heisman Trophy is now in line for another major college football award.

Thursday morning, the Hornung Award unveiled the four finalists for the 2017 edition of the honor — Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, North Carolina State running back Nyheim Hines, Iowa State linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning and Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis.  The Hornung Award has been handed out annually since 2010 by the Louisville Sports Commission to the nation’s most versatile player.

Barkley, Hines and Pettis — he has set a handful of FBS punt return records this season — all contribute as return specialists, while Lanning not only leads the Cyclones in tackles but is ISU’s third-leading rusher and has attempted three passes this season.

Below are the credentials of each finalist, courtesy of the Hornung Award:

Saquon Barkley, running back/return specialist
Junior, Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2, 4-2 conference)
Barkley earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll four times this season. Primarily a running back who also lines up at slot receiver, wildcat quarterback, and returns kicks, Barkley is second in the nation in all-purpose yards with 195.6 per game and has accounted for 15 touchdowns four different ways – rushing (9), receiving (3), kickoff return (2), and passing (1). He set a Penn State record with 358 all-purpose yards on 43 touches in a last-second win at Iowa, returned opening kickoffs for touchdowns against Indiana and Ohio State, and scored three touchdowns against Michigan. Barkley showed breakaway speed with kickoff returns of 98 and 97 yards, an 80-yard touchdown run, and an 85-yard touchdown reception.

Rushing: 152 carries, 864 yards, nine touchdowns
Receiving: 39 receptions, 504 yards, three touchdowns
Kick Return: 13 returns, 393 yards, two touchdowns
Passing: two attempts, two completions, one touchdown, 36 yards

Nyheim Hines, running back/return specialist
Junior, NC State Wolfpack (6-3, 4-1 conference)
Hines earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll three times this season. Hines is a workhorse out of the backfield who also returns punts, kickoffs, and is gunner on punt coverage. He accounted for 217 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns, a two-point conversion, and downed a punt on the two-yard line in a home win over Louisville; came back the next week with 249 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, and downed a punt inside the 5-yard line in a road win over Pitt. In an opening week loss to South Carolina, Hines lined up at several positions in the backfield, and accounted for 192 all-purpose yards on 26 touches rushing, receiving, and returning kicks and punts. He has been slowed with an ankle injury since the Notre Dame game on Oct. 28.

Rushing: 126 carries, 688 yards, six touchdowns
Receiving: 18 receptions, 94 yards
Punt Return: eight returns, 148 yards, one touchdown
Kick Return: 17 returns, 377 yards

Joel Lanning, Iowa State, linebacker/quarterback
Senior, Iowa State Cyclones (6-3, 4-2 conference)
Lanning earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll three times this season. The starting middle linebacker who plays spot duty at quarterback and is a regular on special teams, Lanning is the Cyclones’ leading tackler with 10.4 tackles per game, the team’s third-leading rusher with 77 yards, three-of-three on fourth down conversion rushing and two-of-three passing for 25 yards. Lanning played 93 snaps in ISU’s road win over Texas Tech, and was the ironman when the Cyclones stunned Oklahoma in Norman with 78 total snaps: 57 plays on defense with eight tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery; 13 plays at quarterback with eight rushes for 35 yards and two passes for 25 yards; eight plays on the punt team and field goal defense. His 10.4 tackles per game rank second in the Big 12 and ninth in FBS.

Defense: 94 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks (20 yards), 6.5 tackles for loss (29 yards), one interception, one fumble recovery, two quarterback hurries, two PPUs
Rushing: 23 carries, 77 yards
Passing: three attempts, two completions, 25 yards

Dante Pettis, wide receiver/return specialist
Junior, Washington Huskies (8-1, 5-1 conference)
Pettis earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll once this season. Pettis is a dual threat wide-out / return specialist who tied the NCAA record by returning a punt for a touchdown in three consecutive games (Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State) and last week added a fourth punt return touchdown and a scoring reception in the No. 8-ranked Huskies win over Oregon. Against Oregon State, he caught 12 passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns, and has seven scoring receptions on the season. Pettis averages an astounding 21.7 yards per punt return, nearly 12 yards per reception and completed his only pass of the season for 36 yards. He also holds the NCAA career record with nine punt returns for touchdowns.

Receiving: 49 receptions, 571 yards, seven touchdowns
Punt Return: 19 returns, 412 yards, four touchdowns
Passing: one attempt, one completion, 36 yards

UCLA relieves Jim Mora of head coach duties effective immediately

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UCLA has announced it has relieved head coach Jim Mora of his coaching duties effective immediately. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will take over as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.

“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our University,” UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero in a released statement. “Jim helped reestablish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward. While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations. We thank Jim and his family for his service to our school and his unquestionable commitment to our student-athletes.”

Mora was in his sixth season as the head coach of the Bruins and it was largely a run that had some promise at times but never fully took advantage of a division that included a USC program held back by NCAA sanctions. Mora coached UCLA to two 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 and has seen his win totals hit 8, 4 and 5 wins in the three seasons since. What makes the Mora legacy so frustrating is he had talent to work with. Among solid recruiting classes during his time at UCLA, Mora coached two NFL quarterbacks in Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen as well as one of the top defensive players in recent years (Myles Jack) still failed to deliver a Pac-12 championship. Mora was 46-30 as UCLA’s head coach, but the trends were heading in the wrong direction at a time when crosstown rival USC continues to be rising, thus increasing the pressure for UCLA to keep up.

UCLA’s loss on Saturday night to the Trojans dropped UCLA to 5-6 on the season, leaving the Bruins in need of a win this week against Cal in order to become bowl eligible (without hoping for vacancies needing to be filled by 5-win teams). USC will play for the Pac-12 championship a year after going winning the Rose Bowl in the stadium UCLA calls home.

The UCLA job is one that should be expected to draw some interesting names to the rumor mill. Among them could end up being Chip Kelly, who doesn’t feel like a great fit in the SEC and has past success in the Pac-12 while at Oregon. UCLA’s release confirms the school will begin a national search for a new head coach.

AP Top 25 stands firm with few modifications; TCU back in top 10

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Like the coaches poll, the AP Top 25 saw few changes to its look this week after a fairly straight-forward weekend of college football for the nation’s top-ranked teams. No. 1 Alabama remains the clear favorite among the AP voters, with 58 first-place votes to stay ahead of the field.

The top nine teams remain unchanged from last week with Miami falling in at second behind Alabama, with Oklahoma, Clemson, Wisconsin, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State, and Notre Dame next in line. No. 10 TCU is the newest member of the top 10 in the AP poll after moving up one spot this week, followed by USC and Penn State with similar moves up. All three were bumped up after former No. 10 Oklahoma State fell to No. 18 this week following a home loss to Kansas State. No. 13 UCF, No. 14 Washington State, No. 15 Washington, No. 16 Mississippi State, and No. 17 Memphis all moved up a spot at the expense of the drop by the Cowboys.

Three new teams appear in the top 25 this week at the bottom of the poll. No. 23 Northwestern, No. 24 Virginia Tech, and No. 25 Boise State fill out this week’s poll.

Here is this week’s AP Top 25:

  1. Alabama (58 first-place votes)
  2. Miami (3)
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. TCU
  11. USC
  12. Penn State
  13. UCF
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Mississippi State
  17. Memphis
  18. Oklahoma State
  19. LSU
  20. Stanford
  21. Michigan State
  22. USF
  23. Northwestern
  24. Virginia Tech
  25. Boise State

2017 College Football Bowl Projections after Week 12

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Sad as it is to say but we’ve got only one week left in the regular season for nearly everybody in the Power Five conferences and are just two weeks out from the all important Selection Sunday. The College Football Playoff race has turned into a modified eight team playoff with all of the conference title games going on and the continued jockeying for a New Year’s Six bid and other major bowl berths is filtering down to teams far and wide.

With all that in mind, CFTalk decided to peer into our crystal ball and take a look at the postseason picture — figuring out which teams wind up in certain bowl games prior to the official announcement. Running through all the scenarios, here’s how the bowl picture could play out from the final four to the very first one on December 16th:

College Football Playoff

Bowl Teams
Rose Bowl No. 2 Clemson No. 3 Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl No. 1 Alabama No. 4 Ohio State

New Year’s Six

Bowl Teams
Peach Bowl UCF TCU
Fiesta Bowl USC Wisconsin
Orange Bowl Miami Georgia
Cotton Bowl Notre Dame Penn State

2016 FBS Bowl Games

Bowl Teams
New Mexico Bowl Colorado State North Texas
Las Vegas Bowl Oregon Boise State
Cure Bowl UTSA Georgia State
Camellia Bowl Arkansas State Akron
New Orleans Bowl Southern Miss Troy
Boca Raton Bowl Temple Marshall
Frisco Bowl Houston Central Michigan
Gasparilla Bowl USF Florida Atlantic
Bahamas Bowl Florida International Northern Illinois
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Wyoming Ohio
Birmingham Bowl La. Tech Memphis
Armed Forces Bowl Army* UAB
Dollar General Bowl Toledo App. State
Hawaii Bowl Fresno State SMU
Cactus Bowl Kansas State Utah
Quick Lane Bowl Western Michigan UNLV
Heart of Dallas Bowl Western Kentucky UCLA
Independence Bowl Florida State Arizona State
Pinstripe Bowl Boston College Purdue
Texas Bowl Iowa State Missouri
Foster Farms Bowl Stanford Iowa
Military Bowl Virginia Navy
Camping World Bowl Virginia Tech Oklahoma State
Alamo Bowl Texas Washington State
Holiday Bowl Washington San Diego State
Belk Bowl Wake Forest South Carolina
Sun Bowl Louisville Arizona
Music City Bowl Kentucky Northwestern
TaxSlayer Bowl N.C. State LSU
Liberty Bowl West Virginia Texas A&M
Arizona Bowl Utah State N.M. State
Outback Bowl Mississippi State Michigan
Citrus Bowl Michigan State Auburn

*Accepted bowl invite

Coaches poll sees minimal movement after routine weekend

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Without much drama around the country this weekend in college football, there were very few changes seen in this week’s updated Amway Coaches Poll. While three teams dropped out to make some room for some fresh faces at the bottom of the poll, the top 12 remained unchanged from last week. No. 1 Alabama remains atop the coaches poll with all 64 first-place votes cast in their favor.

A few schools making some movement of note this week included No. 17 Mississippi State and No. 18 LSU moving up two and three spots, respectively. No. 20 Stanford also moved up three places this week. The biggest drop within the top 25 this week was taken by No. 21 Oklahoma State, with the Cowboys falling eight spots after a home loss to Kansas State. The Wildcats remain unranked in this week’s coaches poll.

Michigan, NC State, and West Virginia each fell out of the top 25 this week following their respective losses. That made room for No. 23 Northwestern, No. 24 Boise State, and No. 25 Virginia Tech.

Here is this week’s full coaches poll:

  1. Alabama (64 first-place votes)
  2. Miami
  3. Clemson
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. USC
  11. Penn State
  12. UCF
  13. TCU
  14. Washington
  15. Washington State
  16. Memphis
  17. Mississippi State
  18. LSU
  19. USF
  20. Stanford
  21. Oklahoma State
  22. Michigan State
  23. Northwestern
  24. Boise State
  25. Virginia Tech