Nevada Wolf Pack

Part of a record crowd of 50,500 watches Clemson's spring football game Saturday, April 9, 2016, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (Ken Ruinard/Anderson Independent-Mail via AP)
Ken Ruinard/Anderson Independent-Mail via AP

Clemson is No. 1 in spring game attendance (for now)

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Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Clemson Tigers saw the largest crowd attend its spring game during the second weekend of April. With an estimated 50,000 fans coming out to see the defending ACC champs in action, Clemson narrowly edged division rival Florida State for the top spot in the early going of the spring football game attendance leader board.

If history is any indication, Clemson will not remain on top for very long unless Mother Nature gets involved. Ohio State set the record last year with nearly 100,000 coming out to see the defending national champions. Urban Meyer is hoping to cross the 100,000-fan barrier this year. Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska and Penn State are all traditionally big draws for spring football games as well, and they each have spring games still to be played.

When evaluating spring game attendance it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, every school handles the number differently. Some keep an actual count, while others merely give a rough estimate. Some do not even bother to keep track at all, which is why not every spring game attendance can be accounted for. Second, some spring games are held in a different venue than the football stadium. For example, Stanford held a spring scrimmage in a soccer stadium with a much smaller capacity. So take some of these numbers for what they are with all of that in mind.

Here are the most up-to-date spring game attendance numbers as of April 12, 2016 as provided by each school (note: schools with no attendance tracked are not included, as are schools that did not respond to College Football Talk via email on the subject);

  1. Clemson – 50,000
  2. Florida State – 49,913
  3. Florida – 46,000
  4. Auburn – 45,723 (read more about Auburn’s attendance)
  5. Oklahoma – 42,436
  6. Michigan – 35,000
  7. South Carolina – 32,916
  8. Texas A&M – 27,412
  9. BYU – 18,000
  10. Boise State – 6,100
  11. Colorado – 5,100
  12. UNLV – 2,800
  13. Stanford – 2,500
  14. Wake Forest – 2,100
  15. Nevada – 600
  16. Air Force – 500

All updates to this year’s spring game attendance database can be viewed HERE, and you can break the data down by conference.

SEC, Ohio State tops on Carolina, Denver Super Bowl rosters

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Former Tennesse quarterback Peyton Manning and current quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts is honored alongside his former college coach Phillip Fulmer before the start of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Cam Newton may be hurtling toward history, but the former Auburn quarterback will not be the lone player representing the SEC in next month’s Super Bowl.  In fact, he’s far, far from it.

As you may have heard, Newton’s Carolina Panthers are set to square off with Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos in the 50th Super Bowl Feb. 3.  Manning and Newton are two of and FBS-best 30 former SEC players who are on the two teams’ rosters, which includes those on the 53-man, reserved/injured list, practice squad, reserved/suspended by commissioner and reserve/future squad.

The Pac-12 is next with 23, followed by the Big Ten (21) and ACC (17).  The final Power Five conference, the Big 12, has 10, three less than the Mountain West’s 13.  The AAC, with eight, is the only Group of Five league to come close to double digits.  The MAC, meanwhile, is the only conference to be shutout, while all of the other divisions in the NCAA combined for 18 players.

Nearly every SEC team is represented in this year’s big game, the lone exception being Vanderbilt.  Of the dozen schools in the Pac-12, only Arizona and Washington State are missing.  Both the ACC and Big Ten have 11 of their 14 teams in the game, the lone exceptions being Clemson, Louisville and Virginia Tech for the former and Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers for the latter.

One of those B1G schools that’s in, Nebraska, has had at least one player on a Super Bowl roster for 23 straight years, the longest active streak for any FBS program.

Ohio State easily outdistances individual schools with seven, three more than the four each for Auburn, Georgia Tech, Oregon State and Tennessee.  Alabama, Arizona State, Colorado State, Georgia, Nevada, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC and Utah.

A total of 20 schools have two players each, including Coastal Carolina, the only non-FBS program in the group.  The other 19 includes Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, San Diego State, South Carolina, Stanford, Troy, Tulane, Washington and Wisconsin.

Nevada takes inaugural Arizona Bowl from Colorado State

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 29:  Running back James Butler #20 of the Nevada Wolf Pack rushes the football against the Colorado State Rams during the second quarter of the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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If a bowl game is streamed over the Internet and played between two conference foes, did it really happen?

Yes, and Nevada has the trophy to prove it.

The Wolf Pack claimed the inaugural Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl from Mountain West bunkmate Colorado State, 28-23 in Tucson on Tuesday night.

Nevada (7-6) was guided by the ground efforts of James Butler, who rushed 24 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns, including a four-yard burst that put the Wolf Pack on top with 1:06 remaining. Butler’s first score came on a 77-yard jaunt that nudged Nevada to a 13-7 lad with 6:38 left in the first half. Colorado State answered Butler’s touchdown with a field goal, but Elijah Mitchell returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to stake Nevada to a 19-10 lead.

Colorado State (7-6) scored 13 of the next 16 points, notching a 29-yard Wyatt Bryan field goal just before the break, a nine-yard Jasen Oden, Jr., run that pulled the Rams to within 22-20 with 3:55 left in the third quarter, and another Bryan field goal that gave Colorado State a 23-22 lead with 3:40 to play in the game.

Colorado State had a chance to re-take the lead one last time after Nevada’s final score, moving to the Wolf Pack 21 with nine seconds remaining, but Rams receiver Jordon Vaden failed to get out of bounds after a nine-yard reception with no timeouts remaining.

Nick Stevens led Colorado State with 310 passing yards on 22-of-42 passing and one rushing score. Izzy Matthews led the Rams’ rushing game with 87 yards on 12 carries.

Tyler Stewart completed 6-of-13 passes for 74 yards for Nevada while rushing six times for 29 yards.

The win gives Nevada its first bowl victory since a Colin Kapernick-led Wolf Pack took down Boston College in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Colorado State and Nevada became the first conference mates to meet in a postseason game since LSU and Alabama squared off in the 2012 BCS National Championship — though, unlike that game, these teams did not meet in the regular season. Tonight’s game represented just the 14th all-time meeting between the Rams and Wolf Pack; Colorado State holds an 11-3 lead.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 29 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 29 bowl menu, which features five Power Five teams, including the first P5-P5 matchups as well as the SEC’s 2015-16 postseason debut.

WHO: Cal (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5)
WHAT: The 13th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE SKINNY: For the second time this bowl season, exact opposites offensively will square off.  Cal is fourth in the country in passing yards per game (368.8), while Air Force is second in rushing yards per game (321.8).  The good news for the Falcons, at least on the surface, is that they are 23rd nationally in passing yards allowed (190.4 ypg); the bad news for the Golden Bears is that they are 104th in rushing yards allowed (203.3 ypg).  Cal began the 2015 season looking like a legitimate Pac-12 North contender, starting 5-0 before stumbling to a 2-5 finish.  Despite losing their last regular-season game, the service academy claimed the MWC’s Mountain division before falling by three points to 11-win San Diego State in the conference championship game.  Not only would a win give Cal its first bowl victory since the 2008 season in its first postseason appearance since 2011, it would also give the Bears its best record since going the same 8-5 in 2009.  Air Force would also win nine or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time under Troy Calhoun and the first time since 1997 (10-3) and 1998 (12-1).  Here’s to guessing, though, that Jared Goff, in likely his last game as Cal’s quarterback, proves to be too much through the air for a Falcons secondary that hasn’t even remotely faced someone with the future first-round draft pick’s skillset.
THE LINE: Air Force, +7
THE PREDICTION: Cal 43, Air Force 34

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WHO: North Carolina (11-2) vs. Baylor (9-3)
WHAT: The 27th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHERE: Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Baylor, +3
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Nevada (6-6) vs. Colorado State (7-5)
WHAT: The 1st NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
WHERE: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET, CampusInsiders.com
THE SKINNY: In a matchup of Mountain West schools that the conference’s commissioner labeled a “travesty,” this inaugural bowl will be what was described in an October announcement of its creation as “the first digitally-focused bowl game broadcast.”  This is also the first time since the 1979 Orange Bowl, which pitted the Big Eight’s Nebraska and Oklahoma against each other, that teams from the same conference played in the same postseason game.  So this travesty has all of that going for it, which is nice.  Be that as it may, Colorado State comes in as the hotter of the two teams in winning their last four games, while Nevada lost back-to-back games to close out the regular season.  Here’s perhaps the most interesting stat coming into this game: the Wolf Pack is undefeated this season when they run for 230-plus yards, 0-6 when they fall short of that mark.  The Rams’ run defense?  107th in run defense (208.5 yards per game) and 101st in yards per carry (4.9).  CSU, though, is 3-2 in games this season in which in which they give up 230 or more yards on the ground.  Postseason history isn’t on Nevada’s side even if they get to that magical 230-yard mark as the Wolf Pack will be looking for its first bowl win since 2010 and just its second since 2005, a mark of 1-7 in that span.  The Wolf Pack, with a win, will also be looking for its fourth 7-6 season the past five years, while the Rams would hit eight wins or more for the third straight year, which would be the program’s longest such stretch since 1997-2002.
THE LINE: Nevada, +3
THE PREDICTION: Colorado State 31, Nevada 21

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WHO: LSU (8-3) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
WHAT: The 10th AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
WHEN: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
THE LINE: Texas Tech, +7½
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

MW commissioner Craig Thompson rails against Colorado State-Nevada bowl matchup

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With 40 bowl games and three 5-7 teams among the 80 participants, the 2015-16 bowl schedule is a bit wonky. Highlighting the wonkery: an all-Mountain West matchup of Colorado State and Nevada in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. It’s believed to be the first intra-conference bowl game since the 1979 Orange Bowl, a Big 8 vs. Big 8 meeting of entirely different circumstances.

It’s also the first bowl not to be shown on national TV in more than 20 years.

Under that backdrop, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson released a lengthy screed Sunday evening, railing against a system he helped create.

For the first time in NCAA history, an insufficient number of deserving bowl-eligible teams (i.e., 6-6 record or better) are available to fill all the bowl games which make-up the current landscape (40 bowls plus the National Championship Game). As a result, a specific group of 5-7 teams ranked according to Academic Progress Rate was granted waivers to expand the bowl-eligibility pool and ensure no bowl game would go dark. Today, we have come to the unfortunate realization another dubious milestone has been reached – two teams from the same conference will face each other in a bowl game later this month. Neither of these developments is good for college football.

While the expansion of the pool to provide additional teams was a necessary step at the end of this season to protect the college football bowl partners, and one which the Mountain West supported for at this moment, a conference match-up in a bowl game did not have to happen. The NCAA decision to allow 5-7 teams to be added to the pool on an equal footing with 6-6 teams was flawed. Our Conference representatives argued steadfastly for an approach whereby all 6-6 teams would first be placed according to primary and secondary agreements among the conferences and bowl games. Our position was that only then would the safety net of 5-7 teams be activated for those games which had not yet secured participants – rather than allow those teams to fulfill conference agreements and usurp 6-6 teams from conferences with back-up agreements. The Mountain West cast its vote against the recommendation of the NCAA Football Oversight Committee (which did not include that parameter), and subsequently also voted in opposition to the action of the NCAA Council to approve that recommendation.

Understanding the implications of the NCAA verdict on Monday and with the knowledge neither of the primary or back-up conferences contracted as opponents in one of our bowl games would be able to provide a team, the Mountain West began immediately to work in earnest toward identifying a solution that would place teams in a manner that could avoid a conference match-up in a bowl game. We exchanged dozens of phone calls, texts and e-mails over the course of six days with numerous bowl games, other FBS conferences, the NCAA staff, the Football Bowl Association and our partners at ESPN Events. We spoke individually with our directors of athletics and convened that group collectively on multiple conference calls. We engaged throughout the week with members of the MW Board of Directors.

The Mountain West explored every possibility for placing the teams in question. We suggested swaps, alternative financial arrangements and creative options. Unfortunately, no one was willing to adjust and those efforts were to no avail. Following the outcome of last night’s games, it became clear there were 80 teams for 80 bowl slots and the only two openings still available for a pair of MW teams would match them in the same game.

It is a travesty the Mountain West has been forced into this situation. Clearly, the system is broken. There is an excess of bowl games due in part to a disparate allocation of openings vs. conference bowl histories. The result is teams with sub-.500 records participating in bowl games. There is consensus change is needed and this year’s outcome must not be repeated.

Thompson’s plan is all well and good, but don’t expect it to result in a reduction of bowl games. That would require turning down free money, something that’s never happened in college sports history.