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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.

American going all in on Power 6 push

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There are five power conferences in college football, and the American isn’t one of them. Those five leagues each have their own guaranteed tie-ins to New Year’s Six bowls, while the American tussles for one spot with the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt. That’s just the reality of college football.

It hasn’t stopped the AAC from trying to change the reality, though.

The league’s media days are underway in Newport, R.I., Monday, and the league has opted to use its public relations extravaganza to make its “Power 6” push official.

Note the hashtags.

And nothing says official like a golf ball, right?

This all-too-public push has the potential to backfire on the conference in the inevitable event that the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta bowls do not extend yearly, guaranteed invites to the American. (The Rose, Sugar and Orange spots are all taken.)

Then again, if the conference wants to change its station in life, why not push for it? Ask and ye shall receive, right? Didn’t LaVar Ball teach us that if you want your impossible dreams to become real you have to speak them into existence?

Central Florida and Houston have won BCS or New Year’s Six bowl games in the past four seasons. Cincinnati, Navy and Tulsa have been as consistent winners as anyone else in their weight class. SMU has had its moment in the sun and is rising under Chad Morris. Temple nearly took down a good Notre Dame team two years ago, the same season Memphis beat Ole Miss. South Florida enters the fall as likely the odds-on favorite to snare the Group of 5 this season.

The football in the American is good, but, still, it’s hard to argue the AAC is on par with the Power 5 when a third of the conference has watched its coaching roster leave for Power 5 jobs in the past two years. The American, through new hashtags and logos, is going to make that argument.

ACC, SEC place most DBs on Jim Thorpe Award watch list

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Another day, yet another watch list as the 2017 offseason barrels towards a merciful death.

This time around it’s the Jim Thorpe Award doing the honors, with the trophy given annually to the nation’s top defensive back releasing a watch list consisting of a mere 45 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  Headlining this year’s list are a pair of semifinalists from a year ago, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The ACC and SEC lead all conferences with seven players apiece selected, followed by the Pac-12’s six and five each for the Big Ten and Big 12.  Conference USA was next with four, while the AAC, MAC and Sun Belt had three and the Mountain West two.

Alabama, Florida State and Stanford were the only programs with two players each selected.

USC’s Adoree’ Jackson won the 2016 version of the Thorpe Award.  The other finalists for last year’s trophy were Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and LSU’s Tre’Davious White.  All three of those players were selected in the 2017 NFL draft.

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.