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AAC releases 2016 conference schedule

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The American Athletic Conference released its 2016 conference schedule highlighted by, oddly enough, non-conference games that pit league gem Houston against Oklahoma (on opening day at Houston’s NRG Stadium) and Louisville (in Houston on Nov. 19).

Those two games, more than any others, will sink or swim the conference’s chances of not only grabbing the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six, but a spot in the College Football Playoff itself.

The 2016 conference slate kicks off with Navy meeting Connecticut on Sept. 10 and concludes with the second annual AAC title game on Dec. 3 at a to-be-determined campus site.

The AAC led the way in scheduling Power 5 opponents — highlighted by a Week 3 schedule that will see the entire East Division punching up a weight class — and includes the likes of Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, Syracuse, Kansas, TCU and Oklahoma (for all intents and purposes) visiting AAC campuses.

View the full AAC slate here:

 

Deshaun Watson earns Manning Award as nation’s top QB

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Late last night, Dabo Swinney took home honors as the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year.  A day later, a player who was instrumental in the Clemson head coach’s 2015 success has been honored as well.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl announced Thursday that true sophomore Deshaun Watson has been awarded the Manning Award, given annually to the nation’s top quarterback.  The award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — Archie, Peyton and Eli — is the only one to take into account a player’s performance in the postseason.

There were 11 other finalists for this year’s trophy: Brandon Allen (Arkansas), Trevone Boykin (TCU), Connor Cook (Michigan State), Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky), Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Chad Kelly (Ole Miss), Paxton Lynch (Memphis), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Keenan Reynolds (Navy) and Greg Ward, Jr., (Houston).

“We are honored to present this year’s Manning Award to Deshaun Watson,” Archie Manning said in a statement. “Deshaun led his team to a perfect regular season and then an impressive win in the Playoff Semifinal before his 478-yard performance in the national championship. He may not have won the title but he showed the world what an outstanding talent he is and what a tremendous competitor he is.”

Watson, a consensus All-American and Heisman finalist, becomes the third player from the ACC to win the Manning, joining Boston College’s Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007) and Florida State’s Jameis Winston (2013).

Dabo Swinney claims Bear Bryant coaching award

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In an ironic twist, a prestigious coaching award named in honor of an Alabama coaching legend has been claimed by a Clemson man with both ties to Tuscaloosa and a recent loss to the Tide on his résumé.

A couple of days after his Tigers fell to the Tide in the College Football Playoff championship game, Dabo Swinney has been named as the 49th Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year.  Swinney was one of seven finalists for this year’s award.  Another of those seven?  Nick Saban, whose Tide beat Swinney’s Tigers to claim his fifth career national championship, one behind the FBS’ all-time leader, Paul “Bear” Bryant.

The other five finalists were North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Houston’s Tom Herman, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and Stanford’s David Shaw.

Entering the title game, Swinney’s Tigers’s had won a school-record 17 straight games, including the first 14 to start the 2015 season.  While Clemson failed Monday night to claim its first national championship since 1981, the 14 wins is a school record, breaking the record of 12 held by that last title team.

This is also the fifth straight season under Swinney the Tigers have won at least 10 games in a season.  The Tigers have also won a pair of ACC titles (2011, 2015) since Swinney’s first full season in 2009; prior to Swinney’s arrival, the last conference title for the school was 1991.

The Bryant is the seventh national coach of the year honor claimed by Swinney, with the previous six being awarded by the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Foundation, ESPN, The Sporting News, the Maxwell Club of Philadelphia and the American Football Coaches Association.

Alabama tops final AP poll; Big Ten leads all conferences with six top 25 teams

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The final Associated Press top 25 of the college football season has been published, with No. 1 Alabama claiming all 61 first-place votes following its College Football Playoff national championship victory over No. 2 Clemson. The Crimson Tide and Tigers swapped spots atop the poll, the first since conference championship weekend in early December.

The final poll saw Pac-12 champion Stanford move up to No. 3 thanks to a dominating showing in the Rose Bowl against No. 9 Iowa. No. 4 Ohio State climbed up three spots with a win over No. 11 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The next spots were filled by the other two participants in the College Football Playoff, with No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Michigan State each falling in the polls. The top 10 also included No. 7 TCU, No. 8 Houston and No. 10 Ole Miss.

The Big Ten placed six teams in the final AP Top 25 poll of the season, one more than the SEC’s five. Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern all finished in the final poll with a combined record of 66-14. The Big Ten also had three teams finish in the top 10, although both Michigan State and Iowa suffered two of the worst bowl losses by any team during the bowl season. the Big 12 finished with four teams in the final top 25, and the ACC and Pac-12 each placed three in the final ranking. The American Athletic Conference was represented by Houston and Navy and Western Kentucky carried the Conference USA banner in the final poll.

Final AP Top 25 Teams By Conference

  1. Big Ten – 6
  2. SEC – 5
  3. Big 12 – 4
  4. ACC – 3
    Pac-12 – 3
  5. AAC – 2
  6. C-USA – 1

Final AP Top 25 Poll of the 2015 Season

  1. Alabama (61 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson
  3. Stanford
  4. Ohio State
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Michigan State
  7. TCU
  8. Houston
  9. Iowa
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Michigan
  13. Baylor
  14. Florida State
  15. North Carolina
  16. LSU
  17. Utah
  18. Navy
  19. Oregon
  20. Oklahoma State
  21. Wisconsin
  22. Tennessee
  23. Northwestern
  24. Western Kentucky
  25. Florida

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds will attend Obama’s final State of the Union

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the Military Bowl NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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When President Barack Obama makes his final State of the Union Address tomorrow night in Washington D.C., Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds will be there to witness it. Reynolds will be a guest of Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper, according to Navy football’s memo. Reynolds is a Tennessee native.

If any college football player is worthy of receiving such an invite, it has to be Reynolds. The Navy quarterback closed out a storied career with the Midshipmen on the football field this past season by setting multiple records along the way to leading Navy to its first 11-win season. Reynolds also finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and became a bit of a fan favorite for the award as the final weeks flew by. He also received All-American honors from the Associated Press after helping Navy clinch the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy by becoming the first Navy quarterback to go 4-0 against Army in the annual Army-Navy Game.

So if you are tuning in for the State of the Union on Tuesday night, keep an eye out for one of college football’s finest in the crowd.