American Athletic Conference

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with his team after their 54 to 16 win over the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

AP poll: Alabama runs the wire at No. 1, Penn State moves past Michigan

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The Alabama Crimson Tide have run the gauntlet of the regular season and conference championship weekend without losing an edge at the top of the Associated Press top 25 poll. The defending national champions started the season as the overwhelming favorite as the preseason No. 1 and they will enter the College Football Playoff as the top-ranked team in the AP Top 25. With not a whole lot going on outside a number of conference championship games, there was not much to change with the final AP Top 25 of the regular season, but Big Ten champion Penn State has moved ahead of Michigan.

The top four remained unchanged with Ohio State, Clemson and Washington holding form behind Alabama, respectively. Alabama, Clemson and Washington won their respective conference championships this weekend. Penn State moved up on the strength of a Big Ten championship game victory over No. 8 Wisconsin (down two spots). Michigan moved down one spot in the reshuffling despite a blowout victory over Penn State earlier in the season. Big 12 champion Oklahoma held on to the seventh spot in the AP poll, with No. 9 USC (up one) and No. 10 Florida State (up two) moving up this week.

There was one newcomer to the AP poll this week. No. 23 Temple moved into the poll in the final week of the season after upsetting Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship. The Owls and No. 25 USF are the two representatives from the conference this week, but each are well behind undefeated MAC champion Western Michigan. The 13-0 Broncos are No. 12 this week and are likely heading to the Cotton Bowl.

Here is the most recent AP Top 25, with Alabama receiving all 61 first-place votes.

  1. Alabama (61)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Wisconsin
  9. USC
  10. Florida State
  11. Colorado
  12. Western Michigan
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. West Virginia
  15. Louisville
  16. Stanford
  17. Auburn
  18. Virginia Tech
  19. LSU
  20. Florida
  21. Iowa
  22. Pittsburgh
  23. Temple
  24. Nebraska
  25. USF

Tom Herman’s Texas deal worth nearly $30 million over five years

Tom Herman holds up the Hook 'em Horns sign during a news conference where he was introduced as Texas' new head NCAA college football coach, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Austin. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Associated Press
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Not surprisingly, Tom Herman‘s move from Houston to Texas will prove very beneficial financially.

Exactly a week after officially announcing his hiring, UT’s board of regents on Saturday approved Herman’s five-year contract.  Herman is scheduled to receive $28.75 million in compensation over the five years, with the first year being worth $5.25 million.  The man Herman replaced, Charlie Strong, earned $5.2 million in 2016 according to USA Today‘s salary database.

He’ll be eligible for annual raises of $250,000.  The final year of the deal, at this moment, would be worth $6.25 million.

Those numbers do not include any potential bonuses Herman may earn.  USA Today‘s Steve Berkowitz writes that “Herman will be able to make up to $725,000 a year in bonuses – about $275,000 less than Strong had been able to get.”

There’s also a little bit of history as part of the deal.  From the San Antonio Express-News:

His contract, approved unanimously by the board of regents, is believed to be the first to call for a UT coach to owe the school a lump-sum buyout if he leaves for another job. In that case, Herman would owe UT $3 million per year remaining on his contract, plus the salaries of any remaining assistants.

In Herman’s first year at Houston, he had a total pay before bonuses of $1.45 million.  That number was bumped to $3 million in November of last year, and the university was prepared to raise it even further in an attempt to entice the coach to stay.

Based on this year’s numbers, Herman’s 2017 salary would’ve been tied for fifth nationally (Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher) and solo second in the Big 12 (Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, $5.5 million).  Besides Stoops, Herman would’ve trailed only Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($9 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($6.94 million) and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6.1 million).

Four of those five coaches, aside from Harbaugh, have won at least one national championship.

Temple claims first conference championship since 1967; likely sends WMU to Cotton Bowl

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03: Marshall Ellick #10 of the Temple Owls (R) celebrates with Adonis Jennings #17 after catching a first half touchdown pass against the Navy Midshipmen during the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
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The Temple Owls (10-3) did their part to make the job a little bit easier for the College Football Playoff’s selection committee in the next 24 hours. A 34-10 victory in the American Athletic Conference championship game in Annapolis against No. 19 Navy (9-3) will more than likely mean MAC champion Western Michigan will be heading to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. For the Owls, it is the first conference championship in program history since 1967, and just the second conference crown for the Owls.

Temple took care of business in the first half by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions to go up 21-0, stunning the home Navy crowd in the process while key Midshipmen went down with injuries. Starting quarterback Will Worth was among those lost for the day in the first half, while Temple’s Phillip Walker was tossing two touchdown completions with great confidence; one 22-yard pass to Ventell Bryant and a 56-yard deep ball to Keith Kirkwood. Jahad Thomas ran in the first touchdown of the day for the Owls on the opening drive of the game.

For the first time in program history, Temple has won 10 games in a season in back-to-back years. This also marks Temple’s conference championship game victory, a year after playing in the first AAC Championship Game last season as East Division champion on the road against Houston. Perhaps the experience of last season came into play, as did the experience of playing Army in the season opener (which Temple lost). If he has not already, expect Temple head coach Matt Rhule to start hearing his name in a few more rumors and his phone to be a bit more busy as the coaching carousel continues to spin.

Temple is not expected to essentially come out of nowhere to pass an undefeated Western Michigan with three losses on their record, so the Owls will be first in line among the AAC programs to slot into bowl games with conference affiliations this season. A slot in the Miami Beach Bowl would be a nice reward, but a chance to play an ACC opponent in the Military Bowl may also be an option. That would mean returning to Annapolis for a second straight game in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Navy already had a spot in the bowl  lineup reserved due to an association with the Armed Forces Bowl. The bowl invitation has already been represented but the Naval Academy was wise to hold off on accepting it until known whether or not a bigger bowl game could be on the horizon. That will not happen this year, as Navy is eliminated from the Group of Five New Years six conversation with the loss to Temple. So Navy will be heading to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on December 23. Their opponent is contracted to come from the Big 12, but that spot could be open if the Big 12 cannot fill all of its bowl spots. North Texas could benefit from such a situation, and having a team from Texas would be an ideal alternative for the bowl game. Navy still has one more game to play though, as they play rival Army in the annual Army-Navy Game next weekend in Baltimore. Considering some of the injuries that came into play Saturday, Navy’s health should be a concern with a rested Army coming up next week.

Oregon has reportedly met with Bryan Harsin, Willie Taggart

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Head coach Brian Harsin of the Boise State Broncos coaches during a game against Northern Illinois Huskies in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on December 23, 2015 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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It appears Oregon’s search for a new head coach is beginning to heat up.

According to John Canzano of The Oregonian, athletic director Rob Mullens set up shop in Texas Thursday and is directing the search from Dallas.  The reason for that is Mullens is on the College Football Playoff selection committee and that’s where they will be performing their duties on the final weekend of the 2016 regular season.

Per Canzano, Mullens interviewed USF’s Willie Taggart the same night he arrived in Dallas. “Taggart fulfills the State of Oregon’s ‘Rooney Rule’ law for head coach hires by public universities,” Canzano noted.  In confirming the Taggart report, FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman also reported that Boise State’s Bryan Harsin has interviewed as well.

It has been expected that Mullens will talk to Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck at some point; however, Canzano writes, ” there’s some internal concern in Eugene that there’s a lot of sizzle and not enough steak to the act.” Still, Fleck has not been ruled out as an option.

It’s also been rumored that mega-booster Phil Knight, who will be intimately involved in the search, is enamored with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.

Regardless of who ultimately replaces Mark Helfrich, it’s thought that the position could be filled as soon as this coming Tuesday.

Houston AD: Art Briles not on list of potential coach candidates

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 6:  Head coach Lloyd Carr (L) of the Michigan Wolverines talks with head coach Art Birles of the Houston Cougars before a game on September 6, 2003 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Houston 50-3. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
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That was very swift.  And definitively resounding.

Earlier this afternoon, a report surfaced that Art Briles would be interviewing for the Houston job at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Given Briles’ controversial departure from Baylor, and even given his past ties as the Cougars’ head coach, it was more than a mild surprise that he was even being considered.

As it turns out, he’s not.

In an unusual move, UH athletic director Hunter Yurachek released a statement a short time later in which he acknowledged that Briles had expressed interest earlier this week in returning as head coach.  However, “after discussion with University of Houston leadership, we developed a list of candidates to be interviewed that did not include Art.”

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, ex-LSU head coach Les Miles, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and UH’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Todd Orlando, respectively, are believed to be on Yurachek’s short list.