Toledo Rockets

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 26:  A general view of Notre Dame Stadium as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Massachusetts Minutemen on September 26, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame, Toledo schedule first meeting for 2021

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Notre Dame and Toledo will play each other for the first time on Sept. 11, 2021 in South Bend, Toledo announced Monday.

“We are very pleased and excited to add Notre Dame to our 2021 football schedule,” Toledo vice-president and athletic director Mike O’Brien said. “Notre Dame has one of the greatest college football traditions in the country so it definitely will be a matchup our football team will be looking forward to. The game also has the added benefit of only being just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Toledo, so I know many of our fans will travel to South Bend for the contest.”

Toledo will be the fifth school currently in the MAC to play Notre Dame when it does in five years, joining Miami (1909, 2017), Akron (1910), Western Michigan (1919, 1920 and 2010) and Ball State (2018).

Notre Dame will be coming off a season-opening game at Florida State on Labor Day five days prior to its meeting with Toledo in 2021.

Group of Five Power Rankings: Boise State is back? Boise State is back

BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Jeremy McNichols #13 of the Boise State Broncos runs through traffic during second half action against the Washington State Cougars on September 10, 2016 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 31-28. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
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The highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt as ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee is awarded a guaranteed spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up at the end of the year. Boise State earned that in the 2014 season and Houston claimed it in the 2015 season. Houston again appears like a very strong candidate for the spot once again this fall after two weeks of play.

Keep in mind these rankings do not include independent programs BYU and Army, as neither qualifies for the automatic New Years Six bowl spot reserved for the Group of Five representative. So, without any further delay, here is how I would rank the Group of Five contenders through the first two weeks of the season.

1. Houston (2-0)

Houston had to play without quarterback Greg Ward last weekend against Lamar, but that was no problem at all. The Cougars blanked Lamar, 42-0, a week after scoring one of the best wins of the opening weekend against Oklahoma. With that win, it may be difficult for any Group of Five contender to chase down Houston unless the Cougars stumble. The win over the Sooners will look even better if Oklahoma can pick up a home win this weekend against Ohio State.

2. Boise State (2-0)

The Broncos filled in at the fifth spot last week but get the jump up to No. 2 this week after picking up a win against Washington State. Now I know what you’re saying. But Kevin, Washington state lost to an FCS school at home! This is true, but the Broncos have been looking pretty decent out of the gate and may be emerging as the team to beat in the Mountain West Conference already.

3. San Diego State (2-0)

Oh yeah. Then there’s San Diego State, fresh off a win at home against Cal. Donnel Pumphrey is a one-man wrecking crew on the ground. Should the Aztecs be ranked ahead of the Broncos? It’s debatable. The only reason the Broncos get the edge for now is San Diego State has a win against an FCS opponent and Boise State went on the road to demolish a possible Sun Belt contender in the opener. San Diego State hits the road this week to play Northern Illinois, which could help nudge the Aztecs past Boise State.

3. Western Michigan (2-0)

I would have easily kept Western Michigan higher this week after putting up 70 against an FCS opponent, but the luster of a win on the road against Northwestern that was nearly handed away to the Wildcats lost a little luster when Northwestern lost at home to an FCS opponent, in which they only scored seven points. But that’s not Western Michigan’s fault! If Western Michigan goes 2-0 in Big Ten play, they could ascend right back up the ranking next week. The Broncos head to Illinois this week.

4. Southern Mississippi (2-0)

A week after a big rally on the road against Kentucky for a win, Southern Mississippi wasted Savannah State, 56-0, as expected. The Golden Eagles get Troy at home this week, after the Trojans just made Clemson work hard for a win. Get this one and the Golden Eagles should be in business.

5. East Carolina (2-0)

Making their season debut in the top five here is East Carolina. The Pirates scored a nice win over North Carolina State for some in-state bragging rights, and they could go 2-0 vs Power Five opponents this week with a road game at South Carolina. Do that and then they head to Blacksburg, Virginia for a game with the Hokies. East Carolina has a chance to make a move in this ranking before conference play opens.

On the Radar: Air Force, Cincinnati, Navy, South Florida, Western Kentucky, Toledo, Central Michigan, Temple, Georgia Southern

I was tempted to place Central Michigan in here, but I refuse to acknowledge the Chippewas actually did win as both the MAC and Big 12 confirmed the officials in the game blew the call. Under that set of circumstances, I believe the game should be vacated, so I cannot bring myself to acknowledge the win. I will, however, keep them on the radar because they took advantage of an opportunity presented to them, and in the end I cannot hold that against them too much.

Group of Five Power-Ranking: It’s Houston and everybody else

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars takes the field for warmups with his teammates prior to the start of their game against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Advocare Texas Kickoff on September 3, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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As you no doubt know by now, one spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up at the end of the year will be reserved to the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference as viewed by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Houston of the AAC took that honor last season with a 12-1 record and took advantage of it by smacking around Florida State in the Peach Bowl. As the 2016 season got underway, Houston left little doubt they intend to be back in the New Years Six lineup again this season, and they may even have their sights now locked in on a possible playoff debate down the line.

One thing to take note here is I tend to not give teams credit for winning games against FCS opponents. Naturally, there were a handful of those games this past weekend. Also, I do not include BYU or Army in this power-ranking, as they do not qualify for the automatic New Years Six bowl spot the way the system is currently organized. But each had solid victories this weekend as well. So, if I had to rank the Group of Five candidates after one week of games, here is how I would rank them to date.

1. Houston (1-0)

It’s pretty simple, really. Houston was the Group of Five team to beta last year and entered 2016 with that expectation once again. No better way to stay ahead of the pack than by jumping all over Oklahoma, a Big 12 favorite this season. It is predicted Houston could have a stranglehold on this top spot in my personal ranking for quite some time, as I actually have gone on record predicting an undefeated season by Houston. The odds are they could be tripped up somewhere along the way (Louisville?), but after getting by the Sooners you have to be feeling pretty good if you are a fan of Houston.

2. Western Michigan (1-0)

The Rowing PJ Flecks managed to do something in game one that Stanford was unable to a year ago; win a game at Northwestern. True, the Broncos did not have to battle against a time zone shift as the Cardinal did for an early kickoff, and the Broncos nearly handed Northwestern a win (quite literally), but a win’s a win. It’s not as though this is a hapless Northwestern squad either. The Wildcats won 10 games last season, but Western Michigan hung around long enough and took advantage of some late opportunities and had a lucky break go their way in the end. They’ll take it and claim the second spot in the ranking this week. They might just have enough to stay there for a while too.

3. Southern Mississippi (1-0)

Watch out for Southern Mississippi this season. Nick Mullens had some rough moments against Kentucky but pulled it together with a strong running game charged by Ito Smith and George Payne to rally on the road against Kentucky.Southern Miss outscored the Wildcats 28-0 after halftime en route to a 44-35 victory in Lexington, already putting the hopes of a bowl game on thin ice for Kentucky.

4. South Alabama (1-0)

Staying on the road in the SEC, we have the South Alabama Jaguars fresh off a nail biter of a road win at Mississippi State. The Jags fell juts behind Southern Miss here because they nearly let the Bulldogs off the hook. Mississippi State moved right down the field following a kickoff out of bounds, and had the game-winning field goal attempt clang(a) off the goal post, giving the Jaguars a win. But applaud the effort. They put Mississippi State in a hole when they needed it the most.

5. Boise State (1-0)

I whiffed at Boise State last season, but the Broncos got off on the right foot this season. While not of the same caliber of Houston’s win, it was hard not to be impressed with how Boise State smacked around Louisiana-Lafayette on the road. Boise State made the trip down to Louisiana and left with a 45-10 victory in far more impressive fashion than I anticipated for this one. It was the kind of blowout win Boise State would make routine in their prime a few years back. Could this be a sign of things to come? In any event, you get credit for winning head-to-head games against other Group of Five conferences, and the Mountain Wets Conference definitely needed that. Boise State could keep the pressure on Houston to keep winning, if the Broncos can avoid messing up things on their own.

On the Radar: Tulsa, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Cincinnati, Navy, USF, East Carolina, Toledo, Wyoming, New Mexico, Air Force, Utah State, UNLV, San Diego State, Marshall, Georgia Southern

Starting DL Travis Tuiloma ‘probably a month away’ from playing for BYU

Travis Tuiloma
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Like “high-ankle,” there’s a reason the adjective “dreaded” is normally attached to any discussion of a Lisfranc injury.

In BYU’s bowl game in late December last season, Travis Tuiloma sustained a foot injury.  Eight months later and with the season opener against Arizona fast approaching on the horizon, the defensive lineman will not play in that game because of that lingering Lisfranc issue.

In fact, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, Tuiloma’s position coach, Steve Kaufusi, stated that the nose tackle “is probably a month away” from playing.  That revelation came a day after first-year head coach Kalani Sitake officially proclaimed Tuiloma to be a game-day decision.

Should Tuiloma be sidelined for a full month, he’d miss the opener as well as games against Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Toledo.  An Oct. 8 date with Michigan State in East Lansing could be the target for a return.

Last season, Tuiloma started eight of the nine games he played.  The 6-2, 301-pound senior was listed as the starting nose tackle ahead of the opener against Arizona.

Last month, Tuiloma was named to the Outland Trophy watch list.

After missing half of ’15 with broken leg, Jaylen Coleman, suspended for Toledo’s opener, tears Achilles

Jaylen Coleman
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It’s been a decidedly interesting last year or so for Jaylen Coleman, but not even remotely the positive kind of interesting.

The Toledo linebacker missed the last half of the 2015 season with a broken leg. In late June, it was announced that Coleman was one of three Rocket football players who would be suspended for UT’s opener against Arkansas State for “violations of athletic department policies.”

Coleman, though, would’ve been eligible to return for the following weekend’s game against Fresno State… until he tore his Achilles tendon at practice earlier this week. As a result, not only will Coleman miss the ASU game because of the suspension, he’ll miss the remainder of the season, postseason included, as well.

As Coleman would’ve been a fifth-year senior this season, this likely marks the end of his collegiate career. It’s unclear, however, if Coleman, who took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2012, would be able to petition the NCAA for a sixth season.

This season it’s a significant loss for the Rockets’ defense as Coleman was the team’s leading tackler through the first six games before the injury knocked him out for the remainder of last year.

In addition to Coleman, first-year head coach Jason Candle confirmed that a pair of wide receivers, Andrew Davis and Neru N’Shaka, will be sidelined for all of 2016 because of ACL injuries. A sophomore, Davis caught two passes for 30 yards in 2015 while N’Shaka is a true freshman who was a three-star member of Candle’s first recruiting class.