Conference USA

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 03:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers looks to pass the ball during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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College football records highest-ever scoring season in 2016

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The average college football team topped 30 points per game for the first time in the game’s history, according to data compiled and released by the NCAA.

The typical team scored 30.04 points per game this fall, busting the record of 29.7 points per game per team set last fall. The Big 12 led all conferences with an average of 33.58 points per game. Western Kentucky led all teams with 45.5 points per game.

Consequently, the 2016 season also set the record for the longest average game time in FBS history.

As Dennis Dodd for CBS Sports notes, this is the seventh time since 2000 the average scoring record has been broken. That same record was broken 19 times in the previous 63 seasons.

This season also saw records broken for average total offense (417.5 yards per game), yards per play (5.83), yards per pass attempt (7.39) and touchdowns per game (3.82).

However, teams did average 182.99 rushing yards per game, the highest number since 1979.

DC Mark Banker one of two coaches no longer on Nebraska staff

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 29: Head Coach Mike Riley of the Nebraska Cornhuskers walks the sidelines during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Once again, change has come to Mike Riley‘s Nebraska coaching staff.

In a press release Wednesday, Riley announced the departures of a pair of his assistants.  One of those was a forced departure as Riley confirmed that the contract of defensive coordinator Mark Banker is not being renewed.

Banker recently completed his second season coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense.  All told, Banker has spent the past 17 of the past 18 seasons coordinating Riley’s defenses, including stops at both the collegiate (2003-14) and NFL (1999-2001) levels.

“I want to thank Mark for his hard work and contributions to our football program the past two years and for all of his service and dedication as a member of my other coaching staffs,” Riley said in a statement. “We will conduct a national search to find a great coach, teacher and recruiter as we continue our pursuit of championships.”

In addition to Banker, Riley announced that safeties coach Brian Stewart had left to pursue other opportunities.  That other opportunity is expected to be as the defensive coordinator at Rice.

Stewart was the defensive backs coach in 2015, then moved to cornerbacks in 2016.  He further moved to safeties in December last year following the addition of Donté Williams, who was hired to replace Bruce Read.  Riley fired Read as special teams coordinator shortly after the Cornhuskers’ regular-season finale.

“Brian Stewart has informed me of his plans to take a defensive coordinator position at another university,” Riley said. “Brian feels this is a great opportunity for him and his family and I respect his decision. We appreciate Brian’s contributions to our program the past two years and wish him the best of luck. We will work diligently to replace him with an outstanding coach, teacher and recruiter.”

CFP extends contract of executive director Bill Hancock

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 10:  College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock attends the ESPN College Football Playoffs Night of Champions at Centennial Hall on January 10, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images for ESPN)
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The leadership at the top of the College Football Playoff will remain as its been since its inception.

In a press release Wednesday morning, the CFP board announced it has reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension with executive director Bill Hancock.  The new deal leaves Hancock signed through June of 2020.

“Bill Hancock is not only one of the most widely respected people in college football, he’s one of the kindest, most decent, and able people anyone will ever meet,” said USC president and CFP board chair C. Max Nikias in a statement. “Under Bill’s leadership, the playoff for three years in a row has been a huge success, making it an event that is loved by fans, students and alumni throughout the country. We’re delighted to extend the contract of a man who is so dedicated to helping students be successful in college and in life.”

Hancock has been the executive director of the playoff all three years of its existence.  Prior to that, he served in the same capacity for the Bowl Championship Series.

One of the biggest issues facing Hancock, Nikias and the rest of the board will be declining television ratings and what if anything can be done about them. (Hint: moving the title game to Saturdays certainly couldn’t hurt.)

New pro league would help players bypass college, prep for NFL

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 10: This is the 50 yard line marker in Rice Eccles Stadium before the Utah Utes and Brigham Young Cougars college football game on September 10, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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College football’s talent pool could get a bit shallower if one “in-between” football league comes to fruition.

According to the esteemed Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, a handful of individuals, including Mike Shanahan, ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter and officiating guru Mike Pereira among others, are among a group in the midst of creating what’s being called Pacific Pro Football.  Unlike other pro leagues, however, the PPL wouldn’t look to compete with the NFL; rather, it will look to develop college-aged players in the pro-style aspects of the sport, particularly on offense, and becomes what Wetzel writes is “a place with a preferable set-up for training and identifying potential draft picks.”

Each team in the four-team league, all based in Southern California initially, would consist of 50 players, with those players receiving $50,000 apiece — and full workers’ comp — instead of tuition. The league, which is tentatively scheduled to begin play in 2018, would also offer tuition reimbursement if a player wanted to go to a community college. There would be an age limit, with players only permitted to compete up to being four years removed from high school.  Those who have already played a year or two in college would also be welcome, provided they’re not beyond the age limit — someone looking for a non-NFL option for his fifth year would not be permitted to play in the PPL.

As for the financial particulars, Wetzel writes that “[a] round of angel funding recently closed and additional funding efforts are possible.” There’s also hope that a media rights deal could be reached as the group includes former ESPN and FOX Sports executives.

If the league is ultimately launched, the season would consist of a maximum of eight games (six regular season, up to two playoff games) and be played on Sundays in July and August. The following, from Wetzel’s report, though, will likely most raise the interest of those in the NFL charged with procuring talent:

  • Each team will have eight full-time coaches with pro and college experience, plus about eight part-time assistant coaches.
  • Play will be pro-style, and based on development and evaluation. For instance, there will be no spread offenses. Quarterbacks will take snaps under center, need to call plays in the huddle and identify defenses at the line of scrimmage. There will be a premium put on one-on-one plays to get viable tape. For example, perhaps rules that prohibit crossing routes for receivers.

Also of interest to the NFL?  None of the practices will be closed as is the case at some colleges, although most of the successful programs provide extensive access to NFL personnel any way.

Non-qualifiers coming out of high school who would normally go the junior college route before heading to the FBS level would seemingly be prime candidates to join the league.  Because of NCAA bylaws, however, they couldn’t go from the PPL back to college football because they would’ve been paid to play the sport.  The league could also be a landing spot for players who find themselves with academic or even legal issues after beginning their careers at the collegiate level.

Wetzel himself acknowledges, though, it would have little effect on big-time college football.

It certainly won’t be the preferred option for every player. The majority of the best college-age players seek the glamor and excitement of the collegiate game.

No one thinks it will topple, or even adversely impact major college football. Certainly, there will be a few less players, but Alabama or Clemson isn’t under any threat of needing to shutter its program.

One of the biggest impacts this league, if it actually launches and is even mildly successful, could have: drive college coaches back toward more of a pro-style offense and away from the spread offenses that have somewhat leveled the playing field all across the sport.  In its never-ending quest to find the unicorn also known as a serviceable quarterback, let alone a franchise one, the NFL will leave no stone unturned.  One of the biggest issues the NFL faces is trying to project how a successful spread quarterback will translate to the pro game.  If a quarterback has spent the previous three years being tutored by former pro coaches on the pro-style game, why wouldn’t the NFL at least give them the same look they give a successful college spread quarterback?

And why wouldn’t the quarterbacks themselves seek out a route to the NFL that wouldn’t have them learning a spread offense for 3-4 years before having to unlearn it?  Conversely, there’s no replacement for steeling and improving yourself against high-level competition, so that would be something both the player and the pros would need to factor in as well.

Another potential impact, if the league were to thrive and grow beyond its Southern California roots? Creating a bigger gap between the Power Fives and Group of Fives by siphoning off talent. By and large, the big names in the high school recruiting game will still go the collegiate route and opt for big-name programs; it’s the shallower end of the talent pool, the recruiting fields the G5s harvest, that would potentially be drained by the PPL.  Three four-team “pods” — Southern California, Northern California, Midwest — with 50 players each means 600 highs schoolers who may otherwise be available to FBS programs would suddenly vanish and have an effect on the G5s’ recruiting bottom lines as the P5s will still get theirs.

All of that, and the effect it would have on the FCS hasn’t yet been mentioned, either.

There is another potential game-changer, if the league is successful and puts players in the NFL causing the salaries to jump from $50,000 a year to, say, $100,000. Or even $150,000  Then, Houston… and Alabama… and Florida… and campuses all across the country, the college football game could have a problem.  That, of course, is a long way down the road, but this league and what if any viability it may have is certainly something to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of the sport.

B1G bowl bust as ACC’s flush with postseason success

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers holds the Fiesta Bowl trophy after the Clemson Tigers beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 31-0 to win the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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During the regular season, the Big Ten was living high on the rankings hog, what with four teams littered amidst the top eight of the College Football Playoff’s Top 25 heading into bowl season. With just one game left in the 2016-17 postseason? Consider it a B1G bowl bust for Jim Delany‘s conference.

Michigan’s oh-so-close loss Friday night in the Orange Bowl gave way to Ohio State’s emasculation in one of the two playoff semifinals Saturday, which subsequently wrought Iowa’s Outback Bowl evisceration along with Penn State’s Rose Bowl comeback that wasn’t two days later. Add it all up — factoring in Wisconsin’s win over the best the Group of Five had to offer for good measure — and it’s a Big Ten that saw its record this bowl cycle plunge to 3-7, easily the worst of any of the Power Five conferences.

In fact, there’s the possibility that none of the other P5s will finish with a bowl record below .500.

The Big 12 wrapped up its postseason at 4-2, while the Pac-12, with all of their games coming against P5 competition — the only power league that can make that claim — came in at 3-3. Auburn’s loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl left the SEC at 6-6 with one game remaining for that conference. That one game? Alabama versus Clemson for the College Football Playoff title.

Heading into the championship game, the ACC will be sporting a sparkling 8-3 record in bowls this season. Seven of those wins — along with all three of the losses — have come against P5 teams.  Against the Big Two of the Big Ten and SEC, the ACC went 3-1.

When it comes to conference bragging rights, the ACC can already puff its chest out. A Tigers triumph over the Tide? That chest-puffing would have, for the first time since 2013 Florida State and just the third since 1999 FSU, some title oomph behind it.

Below appears the conference bowl rankings, based on current postseason winning percentages. If you’re a fan of MACtion, you might want to look away.

ACC, .727 (8-3)
Big 12, .667 (4-2)
Sun Belt, .667 (4-2)
Conference USA, .571 (4-3)
MWC, .571 (4-3)
Pac-12, .500 (3-3)
SEC, .500 (6-6)
Big Ten, .300 (3-7)
AAC, .286 (2-5)
MAC, .000 (0-6)