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Alabama and Penn State land two Jim Thorpe Award semifinalists

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Th semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award were unveiled on Monday, and it goes to show how good the defensive secondaries are for Alabama and Penn State. The Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions were the only schools with two semifinalists out of the 13 total players to be announced as semifinalists for the award for the nation’s top defensive back.

Alabama is represented by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Levi Wallace. Alabama has one Jim Thorpe Award winner in the history of the award (first awarded in 1986), with Antonio Langham winning the award in 1993. Penn State is looking for the first Jim Thorpe Award winner in school history. Marcus Allen and Grant Haley have been named semifinalists for the award this year, giving Penn State a chance to have a player win the award.

Other notable players named as a semifinalist include Florida State’s Derwin James and Duke’s Jeremy McDuffie and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. The Big Ten, SEC, and ACC all have three semifinalists. The winner of the award will be announced during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 7 on ESPN.

2017 Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalists

Marcus Allen, Penn State
Quin Blanding, Virginia
Jalen Davis, Utah State
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Grant Haley, Penn State
Derwin James, Florida State
Jeremy McDuffie, Duke
Parry Nickerson, Tulane
Justin Reid, Stanford
Dominick Sanders, Georgia
Levi Wallace, Alabama
Denzel Ward, Ohio State

AAC West undergoes shakeup as Houston, Navy fall in Week 7

Associated Press
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Entering Week 7, Houston and Navy were 1-2 in the AAC West.  Exiting it?  Not so much.

At 2-0, Houston led the conference’s West division.  At 3-1, No. 25 Navy was right behind.  In a span of about a half-hour Saturday, however, both teams put the finishing touches on losses, the former to Tulsa 45-17 and the latter to Memphis 30-27.

The Cougars’ loss, especially the margin, is borderline stunning as the Golden Hurricane came into the contest sporting a 1-5 overall record and a 0-2 mark in conference play.  Just a week ago, Tulsa was taken to the woodshed by West rival Tulane in a 62-28 whooping.

Meanwhile, the Tigers’ win over the Midshipmen, coupled with the Cougars’ loss, pushes the U of M to the top of the division with a 3-1 record in conference play.  While unranked, Memphis could replace Navy in the Top 25 when the new set of rankings are released Sunday afternoon.

Also lurking in the division are SMU, which enters the weekend 1-1 and will leave with the same mark as the Mustangs are on their bye, and Tulane, also 1-1 and will be that way entering Week 8 as they face Conference USA’s Florida International Saturday night.

Blind walk-on long-snaps on extra point in USC win over Western Michigan

Associated Press
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We’re still in Week 1, but there might not be a cooler or more heartfelt moment than what we witnessed at the Coliseum Saturday evening.

A few years back, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Jake Olson, a teenage fan at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old).  It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.

Fast-forward roughly five years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015.  He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game.  While he didn’t see any game action either year, Saturday, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates.

That. Is. Awesome.  Again, it’ll be hard to top this scene this season.

And, for those who are curious, Olson is the second legally-blind player to appear in an NCAA football game. The first?  Tulane’s Aaron Golub, who long-snapped on an extra point for the Green Wave in October of 2015.

Report: there will be a Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl this year

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I think we can all agree with this: it’s about damn time.

Since the St. Petersburg Bowl was launched in 2008, it’s undergone several name changes, from the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008) to the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef O’Brady’s (2009) to the Beef O’Grady’s Bowl (2010-13) to the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (2014).  Now, the game that’s been known as the St. Petersburg Bowl the past two seasons is set to undergo its most glorious name change yet as Brett McMurphy is reporting that it will now be known as the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

See, absolutely and utterly glorious.  In a similar vein, move over Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl as we have a new king wearing the “Greatest Bowl Game Name Ever” crown.

Bad Boy Mowers bills itself as “delivering the finest cut lawn care professionals and serious landowners demand;” the fact that the home of the bowl game, Tropicana Field, utilizes Shaw Sports Turf as its playing surface merely serves to add to the greatness of the name. And from where does Gasparilla come? McMurphy describes it as “an attempt to make the bowl seem more regional for the Tampa Bay area since the annual Gasparilla Parade is held each year in Tampa.”

The name change for the game, which pits teams from the AAC and Conference USA against each other, is expected to officially be announced Monday.

Running of the Bulls: USF the decisive preseason media favorite in AAC

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Charlie Strong may be taking over a new program this fall, but he will do so in a familiar role as preseason favorite. The preseason media poll was released by the American Athletic Conference today, and Strong’s USF Bulls were the runaway favorite to win the conference championship in 2017. USF swept the first-place votes in the AAC East Division and took 26 votes out of 30 to win the conference championship.

Strong returns to the conference where he previously made a name for himself as a head coach, dating back to the conference’s days as the Big East. In Strong’s first season as head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals were picked to finish last in the conference, to which Strong reflected on how he had never been picked to finish last before. Soon enough, Strong, with the help of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, quickly ascended the ranks of the Big East and developed into a top contender in the conference. At USF, Strong once again has one of the top quarterbacks in the conference with Quinton Flowers, and these Bulls are locked and loaded for a run to a conference title. After a disappointing experience with Texas, USF appears to have everything in place for Strong to quickly prove he can still coach, and now the bar has been placed as high as it can within the conference.

UCF is also expected to improve this season, as the Knights were picked second in the division behind the in-state rivals from Tampa. Defending conference champion Temple, with a first-year head coach in Geoff Collins, was picked third in the East Division by the media.

In the West Division, Memphis enters the year as the prohibitive favorite after receiving 22 first-place votes. Houston picked up six votes, and Navy and Tulsa each picked one one of the remaining first-place votes from the media.

AAC East Division

  1. USF (30 first-place votes)
  2. UCF
  3. Temple
  4. Cincinnati
  5. East Carolina
  6. UConn

AAC West Division

  1. Memphis (22)
  2. Houston (6)
  3. Navy (1)
  4. Tulsa (1)
  5. SMU
  6. Tulane

AAC Championship

  1. USF (26)
  2. Houston (2)
  3. Memphis (1)
  4. Navy (1)

As noted by the AAC, the preseason conference favorite has ended the year as the conference champion just once in the four years of the existence of the AAC. Cincinnati was picked as the 2014 preseason favorite and ended the season in a three-way tie with UCF and Memphis. In 2013, Strong’s Louisville team was picked to win the conference, but UCF ended the year as conference champion. Louisville did go 12-1 that season, with the lone loss coming against the Knights, who went on to beat Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.