Colorado State Rams

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

2 Comments

Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Mountain West commissioner says Chargers’ move to LA played role in Poinsettia Bowl folding

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 21:  President of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Ted Tollner congratulates Harvey Langi #16 of the Brigham Young Cougars  for winning the Defensive Player of the game after defeating the Wyoming Cowboys 24-21 in a game on December 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

One of the bigger surprises this offseason has been the announcement that the Poinsettia Bowl was closing its doors and folding for good this year after a strong dozen year run.

The move has left several in college athletics scrambling as a result of the shakeup to the postseason picture and the league most directly affected is the Mountain West. Perhaps not surprisingly, commissioner Craig Thompson isn’t too thrilled with the big hole in the bowl lineup now and went on 93.1FM/1350AM The Ticket up in Boise, Idaho to discuss the move and some of the reasoning behind it.

What’s most interesting there is the fact that Thompson thinks the Chargers move from San Diego to Los Angeles played a role in the decision to cancel the game. The Holiday Bowl, run by the same organization, has denied that is behind folding the game but has already begun to explore moving from Qualcomm Stadium to the San Diego Padres’ home of Petco Park in case the city decides to close the football stadium after next year.

“This is purely a decision made for our organization,” Mark Neville, executive director of the bowl game association, told the Associated Press last week.”It’s a completely different environment. Doing two games in San Diego, in the span of a week, is becoming more and more challenging in relation to ticket sales and sponsorships.”

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as it has no doubt become much tougher to operate two bowl games in one city and the fact that the local pro football team is heading up the 405 certainly doesn’t help matters. In addition to the Mountain West needing to find a new spot for bowl eligible teams in 2017, BYU — which beat Wyoming in the final Poinsettia Bowl last December — is also looking for a new bowl game to go to next season.

Idaho caps off turnaround season with high-scoring win in Potato Bowl

Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan (10) runs the ball against Colorado State linebacker Max McDonald (31) during the first half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl NCAA college football game in Boise, Idaho, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
AP Images
1 Comment

Idaho hasn’t reached the postseason much over the years but when they do, they win in Boise.

The Vandals capped off a remarkable turnaround season and tied a school-record for wins by thumping Colorado State 61-50 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to move to 3-0 in bowl games as an FBS program.

After a slow start in the first quarter that was dominated by punting from both teams, the Rams were the ones who struck first when wideout Olabisi Johnson found the end zone from 52 yards out.

It appeared as though that was enough to jump start Idaho, which promptly ran off 41 points in a row to take control of the game and end much doubt about who was more motivated to play in this one. Isaiah Saunders led the way on the ground for the Vandals with 147 yards and three scores while quarterback Matt Linehan really came on after halftime and finished with 381 yards and four touchdowns.

CSU did get something going late in the fourth quarter but by that time it was too late to make things interesting as they lost for the second time this year on the blue turf that Boise State typically calls home. Nick Stevens did throw for 445 yards and five touchdowns (with two picks) and was a potent combination on deep balls with Johnson, who had 265 yards and two touchdowns for the game. Michael Gallup chipped in with another three scores and had over 100 yards receiving as well.

But the night belonged to the Vandals, as they went from one of the postseason’s biggest underdogs this year to one of the biggest early winners. With an FCS move looming in 2018, racking up 606 yards of offense and limiting an explosive offense for most of Thursday night isn’t a bad way to close out one of the more impressive seasons at the Group of Five level.

Idaho holds the lead at halftime in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

BOISE, ID - DECEMBER 22: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl MVP and team championship trophies on display at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl between the Utah State Aggies and the Akron Zips on December 22, 2015 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Akron won the game 23-21. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Punts and potatoes made up the bulk of what happened in the first quarter at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl but things picked up considerably after that as Idaho held a surprising 20-7 lead over Colorado State at halftime on Thursday.

The Rams kicked off scoring early in the second quarter as signal-caller Nick Stevens found Olabisi Johnson from 52 yards out for a long touchdown pass that capped an 84 yard drive and injected some life into the game.

But the Vandals would respond in impressive fashion, mounting three straight scoring drives of over 60 yards — the first two of which took just nine plays combined. Running back Isaiah Saunders did the bulk of the damage, finding the end zone from two yards out the first time (the extra point was missed) and then from 26 out the second time.

Saunders finished the half with 77 yards on the ground while his quarterback Matt Linehan managed to rack up 157 yards and a touchdown through the air after a slow start.

While it was not the sharpest of starts for either team, both seemed to get going before the whistle and that could make for a fun second half up in Boise.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 22 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Fans support the Colorado State Rams as they prepare to face the Colorado Buffaloes during the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 19, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 22 bowl menu, which is a little thin volume-wise for the fourth consecutive day but, again, it’s college football in mid-December, right?  Right???

WHO: Idaho (8-4) vs. Colorado State (7-5)
WHAT: The 20th Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Since winning a combined 14 games in 2009-10 and playing in its last bowl game the former season, Idaho went bowl-less and won a total of nine games the next five years.  Very quietly, Paul Petrino led one of the more impressive turnarounds of the 2016 season as the Vandals won eight games, the team’s most since hitting the same mark in 2009 and just the second time they’ve done it in nearly two decades.  A win would keep Idaho perfect in bowls — they’ve won both they’ve played in, with both of those coming in this game — and also get them to nine wins for just the second time in the program’s history at the major college level.  Colorado State, meanwhile, will be looking to end a two-game bowl losing streak and give Mike Bobo his first postseason win as a head coach.  The Rams will come in having won four of their last five games — all four of those wins were by at least 18 points, with the lone loss coming by three at Air Force — while the Vandals have won four in a row and six of its last seven.  In that five-game stretch to close out the regular season, CSU’s offense averaged more than 500 yards and nearly 50 points per game.  During their current four-game winning streak, Idaho gave up an average of just 17.5 points per game.  The Rams are heavily favored, but could the Vandals really lose a game that has its home state as the primary sponsor?  Yeah, probably — but it’s going to be a helluva lot closer than what some of the wagering establishments are suggesting.
THE LINE: Idaho, +13½
THE PREDICTION: Colorado State 34, Idaho 27