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Conference USA media poll tabs Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky as division favorites

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In the relatively brief history of the Conference USA championship game, there has never been a rematch of the previous season’s title game. If all goes according to plan as predicted by the media, that could change in 2017.

Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech were each the clear favorites to win their respective divisions in the Conference USA preseason media poll released today. Both programs received 20 first-place votes to easily be named the preseason favorites in the Conference USA divisions, setting the stage for a potential rematch in the Conference USA championship game at the end of the season. Western Kentucky is the two-time defending Conference USA champion, and Louisiana Tech has played in two of the last three title games, so it was hardly a shock to see both programs be named the preseason favorites by the media.

UAB returns to the football field this season, and the preseason poll suggests it will be a rocky return. The Blazers were picked to finish last in the West Division. After Louisiana Tech, UTSA picked up seven first-place votes to come in second in the preseason poll. Southern Miss, now a year removed from playing for the conference championship, received the last remaining first-place vote in the West Division.

Western Kentucky failed to gobble up all of the first-place votes in the East Division as well. Middle Tennessee received four votes, while Old Dominion picked up three. Marshall also received a first-place nod from the voters. New FBS program and conference member Charlotte was picked last in the East, as expected. Lane Kiffin‘s FAU Owls were picked to finish in fifth place.

Here’s how the preseason media poll in Conference USA looks. No picks for conference champion were made.

Conference USA East Division

  1. Western Kentucky (20 first-place votes)
  2. Middle Tennessee (4)
  3. Old Dominion (3)
  4. Marshall (1)
  5. Florida Atlantic
  6. FIU
  7. Charlotte

Conference USA West Division

  1. Louisiana Tech (20)
  2. UTSA (7)
  3. Southern Miss (1)
  4. North Texas
  5. Rice
  6. UTEP
  7. UAB

ACC tops as Bronko Nagurski watch list hits triple digits

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It may not be the biggest award in college football, but it’s certainly the most voluminous.

Watch List Season continued unabated Thursday morning, with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy revealing a group which consists of a whopping 103 FBA players.  Within that triple-digit preseason club, there are 30 defensive backs, 29 linebackers, 25 defensive ends and 19 defensive tackles.

Two 2016 first-team Football Writers Association of America All-Americans appear on the list — Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (pictured) and Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden.

Conference-wise, the ACC leads with 20 players selected for the initial watch list.  The Big Ten is next with 16, followed by the SEC’s 14, the Pac-12’s 13 and the Big 12’s 11.  The AAC paced Group of Five leagues with 10, with the Sun Belt (6), Mountain West (5), Mid-American (3) and Conference USA (2) rounding out the conferences, while football independents chipped in the remaining three.

The Nagurski Trophy has been handed out annually since 1993 to college football’s best defensive player.  Last year’s winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.


In wake of Bob Stoops’ retirement, thought of not being part of a team scares Nick Saban

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With the reverberations of Bob Stoops‘ shocking retirement announcement Wednesday still being felt, some attention has turned to just which long-tenured head coach could be next to step away from the profession.

At the moment, there are currently head coaches who have been at the same program for at least the last 10 consecutive years — Rice’s David Bailiff (2007), Air Force’s Troy Calhoun (2007), Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio (2007), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (1999), Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (2006), Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (2005), Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo (2007), TCU’s Gary Patterson (2000), Alabama’s Nick Saban (2007), Ohio’s Frank Solich (2005), Middle Tennessee State’s Rick Stockstill (2006) and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham (2005).  Of the Power Five coaches in that group, the oldest, as well as most successful, is Saban, who’ll turn 66 in late October this year.

Saban is in the midst of what will be a Hall of Fame career that stretches back 45 years, the past 27 as a head coach.  Given his age and the ever-growing demands of the profession, it’s natural to wonder how long until the winner of five national championships hangs up his coaching whistle.

As for that particular subject, the coach himself doesn’t seem to even want to think about a future that doesn’t include him on the sidelines.

In the full article from Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News, Saban expounded on his coaching future and the “r” word.

“I don’t think that anybody can not have those thoughts,” the coach told the News. “But my thought is that I want to do it as long as I feel like I can do it. I really enjoy being around the players. I really enjoy trying to create value for them and their future whether it’s their personal development, seeing them graduate, seeing them develop as football players and have opportunities in life.”

Saban and Stoops and Stoops’ family — there’s a great story HERE about Saban and one of Stoops’ uncles in a Youngstown bar that was robbed — have been friends for more than four decades. Could Stoops’ abrupt decision to step away from the game have an impact on Saban, who earlier this signed off on a contract extension through the 2024 season? That’s unlikely as it seems that Saban has at least a few more good years left in him.

Then again, before Wednesday, most would’ve said the same for the 56-year-old Stoops.

USF the new home for transferring Rice WR Temi Alaka

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USF’s receiving corps, already rife with returning talent, has added yet another experienced piece to its offensive puzzle.

Rivals.com first reported over the weekend that Temi Alaka has transferred into Charlie Strong‘s first-year Bulls football program.  The Tampa Bay Times subsequently confirmed the recruiting website’s initial report.

Alaka opted to transfer from Rice earlier this offseason.  As the wide receiver is coming to the Bulls as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017.

The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Last season, Alaka led the Owls in receiving yards (458) and yards per reception (16.4).  His two receiving touchdowns were tied for second on the team, while his 28 receptions were good for fourth.

Over the past three seasons, Alaka’s 59 catches netted him 817 yards and three touchdowns.  He also completed his lone pass attempt, a 24-yard touchdown last season.

Rimington watch list details list of returning centers

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It’s the dead time of the college football calendar, which means it’s time for this sport’s oldest, most antiquated tradition: watch lists.

First one in line is the Rimington Trophy, given to the best center in college football. And to help voters narrow down their choice for when voting picks up six months from now, the Rimington has helpfully provided this watch list of essentially every returning starting center in college football.

The 2017 list includes (deep breath):

– Aaron Mitchell, Fresno State
– Alan Knott, South Carolina
– Alac Eberle, Florida State
– Antonyo Woods, Florida Atlantic
– Asotui Eli, Hawaii
– Austin Doan, Central Michigan
– Austin Golson, Auburn
– Austin Schlottmann, TCU
– Billy Price, Ohio State
– Blaise Fountain, New Mexico
– Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State
– Brad North, Northwestern
– Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
– Brendan Moore, Maryland
– Brian Allen, Michigan State
– Bryce Holland, Army
– Cameron Ruff, South Florida
– Chandler Miller, Tulsa
– Coleman Shelton, Washington
– Colton Prater, Texas A&M
– Danny Godloveske, Miami (Ohio)
– Dennis Edwards, Western Kentucky
– Drew Keyser, Memphis
– Erick Wren, Oklahoma
– Evan Brown, SMU
– Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
– Gabe Mobley, Georgia State
– Garrett McGhin, East Carolina
– Jake Bennett, Colorado State
– Jake Hanson, Oregon
– Jake Pruehs, Ohio
– James Daniels, Iowa
– James O’Hagan, Buffalo
– Jesse Burkett, Stanford
– John Keenoy, Western Michigan
– Jon Baker, Boston College
– Julian Good-Jones, Iowa State
– Keoni Taylor, San Jose State
– LaVonne Gauthney, Akron
– Levi Brown, Marshall
– Luke Shively, Northern Illinois
– Mason Hampton, Boise State
– Matt Hennessy, Temple
– Mesa Ribordy, Kansas
– Michael Deiter, Wisconsin
– Nathan Puthoff, Kent State
– Nick Allegretti, Illinois
– Nick Clarke, Old Dominion
– Reid Najvar, Kansas State
– Ryan Anderson, Wake Forest
– Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame
– Scott Quessenberry, UCLA
– Sean Krepsz, Nevada
– Sean Rawlings, Ole Miss
– Sumner Houston, Oregon State
– T.J. McCoy, Florida
– Tanner Thrift, Baylor
– Tejan Koroma, BYU
– Tim McAullife, Bowling Green
– Trey Martin, Rice
– Will Clapp, LSU
– Will Noble, Houston
– Zach Shackelford, Texas

Exhale.

Got all that?

Ohio State’s Pat Elflein claimed the honor last season.