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Army officially accepts Armed Forces Bowl invitation

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The calendar may say October, but we’re already talking bowl bids.

Specifically, it was announced Saturday afternoon that Army has officially accepted a bid to play in the 2017 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  The service academy’s sixth win of the season came courtesy of a 31-28 overtime win over Temple.

“We are absolutely delighted that Army West Point has accepted an invitation to play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl,” bowl executive director Brant Ringler said in a statement. “Coach Jeff Monken has been outstanding since his arrival at West Point, and again reaching the post-season is a tremendous accomplishment. We are thrilled to be able to host the Army West Point football team and the cadets in Fort Worth.”

“To return to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is very special for our football program and the U.S. Military Academy,” Army athletic director Boo Corrigan said in his. “The bowl did an exceptional job in 2010 in our win over SMU and we are looking forward to another great experience for our players, coaches and staff in Fort Worth in December.

The bid acceptance is contingent, though, on Army not being selected for the Group of Five’s slot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.  The Black Knights are currently 6-2 on the season; as of this posting, there are two G5 unbeatens (USF, UCF) and four with one loss (Memphis, Navy, Marshall, Toledo).

As we noted this week, Army will be making its first back-to-back bowl appearances since the 1984-84 seasons.

Army on cusp of rare back-to-back bowl seasons for first time since 1984-85

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Army is taking on Temple on Saturday afternoon with a chance to punch the first postseason bowl ticket of the 2017 season. Other teams may already be bowl eligible, but Army will be the first team to have a chance to accept an invitation to a bowl game on Saturday if they can manage to get by the Temple Owls.

Army has a spot waiting for them in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth as long as they are bowl-eligible this season. At 5-2, the Black Knights can start making their bowl plans as soon as they win one more game. If they do clinch their bowl eligibility on Saturday, it will be the first time Army will go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1984 and 1985 seasons. Army played in and won the short-lived Cherry Bowl in the 1984 season and the Peach Bowl in the 1985 season. After going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season for their first bowl trip since the 2010 season, Jeff Monken and his program are looking to make going to a bowl game a regular thing.

Army defeated Temple in the season opener a year ago, and Monken is aware that can be a motivating factor for Temple despite these Owls being a much different team from the AAC champions of last season.

”This is a tough football team that won their conference last year,” Monken said. ”They’ll have a ton of confidence and they feel as though they have to come in and win this game. We had the chance to come out with a win at their place, and I’m sure they’d love to return the favor.”

Monken took over the Army football program in 2014 after a successful run as head coach of Georgia Southern, then a powerhouse FCS program. His run at Army took a couple of years to get going, but Army has shed their losing ways under his watch, and that was highlighted by a long-awaited victory over Navy in last season’s Army-Navy Game. Picking up a win against Temple will continue to prove Army is continuing to improve as a program, and that also means Monken will potentially be finding himself on the radar in the coaching rumor mill. The Nebraska job has had some people mentioning Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, but perhaps Monken would be a name to keep an eye on as well. As long as that means Army is winning games, so be it.

Keep in mind this would not be the first time Army would have back-to-back bowl eligible seasons since the mid-1980s. The Knights have had winning seasons on multiple occasions since last going to back-to-back bowl games, but the bowl game picture was quite different in the 1980s than it is today. With an oversaturation of bowl games available to schools today, Army stands a much better chance of going to a bowl game this season even with just six or seven wins than they would have 30 years ago.

Ohio State WR Austin Mack cleared to return, Buckeyes still cautious with RB Mike Weber

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Perhaps the most discussed topic around college football this week has been what’s wrong with Ohio State’s offense in the wake of their loss at home to Oklahoma. While play-calling and quarterback J.T. Barrett have been the biggest talking points, what’s gone under the radar is the number of players who are banged up for the Buckeyes.

The team received some good news on that front after practice on Wednesday night however, as it appears they will be getting wideout Austin Mack back for their game against Army after he underwent concussion protocols.

“He passed every test,” Urban Meyer said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s going to practice (Thursday).”

Mack has just two catches for 37 yards on the season but he helped setup a scoring drive with a big play against the Sooners and is a player many expected to help make the leap into a big time contributor in the team’s new offensive system in 2017. While the prognosis is good for the receiver to return to action in week three, the coaching staff remains cautious with another starter in tailback Mike Weber.

While the sophomore did play last week, the same report from the Dispatch says that Weber remains limited with a strained hamstring and it appears the workload for freshman J.K. Dobbins won’t be seeing a big change going forward as last year’s starter continues to recover from the injury.

Those personnel moves might not mean much against the Black Knights on Saturday but with Big Ten play beginning in earnest shortly, you can bet that Meyer and his offensive staff want all hands on deck in order to help win the league.

Head coach Jeff Monken agrees to multi-year extension with Army

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Four years into his tenure, Army head coach Jeff Monken has done a terrific job in turning around the program and getting the Black Knights back to being an extremely competitive team. That’s why it’s not too surprising to see West Point and Monken announce Thursday that the coach has agreed to a new multi-year contract extension that will keep him in black and gold for the foreseeable future.

“I want to thank West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, Army West Point Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan and the entire West Point community for their confidence and trust in me to be Army’s head football coach,” Monken said in a statement. “My family and I are humbled and honored to be associated with the world’s premiere leadership institution and I am especially proud to have the privilege of coaching the outstanding young men that make up the Army West Point Football Brotherhood at the United States Military Academy.”

Monken is just 16-23 at the academy but a closer inspection shows just how far he’s brought the team from one of the worst in the FBS to one of the more competitive ones out there. For example, in 2016 he guided Army to their first win over Navy in 15 years, won a bowl game for the first time in six seasons and recorded the most wins with the program in two decades. They’ve won five straight games going into Saturday’s contest at Ohio State and look to be well on their way to another bowl game when all is said and done in 2017.

Monken does run the triple option so it would take a unique program to lure him away from West Point, but he could be an interesting name to pop up in the annual coaching carousel after the season concludes. After Thursday’s extension though, that just got a lot harder as it looks like the coach is set to remain with the Black Knights for years to come.

ESPN’s traveling College GameDay circus setting up shop in New York City in Week 4

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You want to know about the overall strength of college football’s Week 4 slate?  Here’s your sign.

Even before Week 3 has been played, ESPN announced that its hugely-popular College GameDay traveling will set up camp in that mecca of college football, New York City, next weekend.  Yep, Rece, Kirk, Desmond, Coach Corso and company are headed to the Big Apple and Times Square of all places.

Suffice to say, it’s the first time the show will originate from NYC, although it’ll be the second time it’s aired in the state (at West Point for South Florida-Army in September of 2003).

In fairness, there weren’t many other FBS options, although there were at least a couple that more than likely merited consideration.

At the moment, there are just two games that weekend involving ranked-against-ranked teams — No. 20 TCU at No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 25 UCLA at No. 19 Stanford. The show was last in Stillwater in November of 2015, and at Stanford in November of 2011.