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

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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

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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.

Peyton Manning, Steve Spurrier (again) among 13 elected to College Football Hall of Fame

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If you’re looking for a class with star power, this one has it.  In spades.

Monday morning, the National Football Foundation announced the 2017 class that will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year.  The group includes 19 players and three coaches.

Players:

  • BOB CRABLE – LB, Notre Dame (1978-81)
  • MARSHALL FAULK – RB, San Diego State (1991-93)
  • KIRK GIBSON – WR, Michigan State (1975-78)
  • MATT LEINART – QB, Southern California (2003-05)
  • PEYTON MANNING – QB, Tennessee (1994-97)
  • BOB McKAY – OT, Texas (1968-69)
  • DAT NGUYEN – LB, Texas A&M (1995-98)
  • ADRIAN PETERSON – RB, Georgia Southern (1998-2001)
  • MIKE RUTH – NG, Boston College (1982-85)
  • BRIAN URLACHER – DB, New Mexico (1996-99)

Coaches:

  • DANNY FORD – 122-59-5 (66.9%); Clemson (1978-89), Arkansas (1993-97)
  • LARRY KEHRES – 332-24-3 (92.9%); Mount Union (Ohio) (1986-2012)
  • STEVE SPURRIER – 228-89-2 (71.8%); Duke (1987-89), Florida (1990-2001), South Carolina (2005-15)

Spurrier is already in the Hall of Fame as a player.  He will become just the fourth individual to be inducted as both a player and a coach, joining Bobby Dodd, Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bowden Wyatt.

In 2011, Faulk was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Gibson is likely known to most as the former Los Angles Dodgers baseball player, whose home run trot in the 1988 World Series remains one of the most iconic moments in the sport’s history.

Kehres is the only head coach at any level of college football to finish with a winning percentage above .900 — his Purple Raiders won a staggering 332 of 359 games (with three ties) for a .929 win percentage during the incredible run that lasted nearly three decades.

Urlacher is the first player from the University of New Mexico to be elected, while the “other” Adrian Peterson is just the second from Georgia Southern (Tracy Ham, 2007).

Bob Davie wins first bowl game as New Mexico wins New Mexico Bowl

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The 2016 bowl season started off by checking off a number of firsts in the New Mexico Bowl. UTSA (6-7) played in its first bowl game and New Mexico (9-4) head coach Bob Davie win his first bowl game as a head coach. It had been a long time coming for Davie, who saw his Lobos come up on the short end of the scoreboard in the New Mexico Bowl a year ago. New Mexico held off UTSA, 23-20, in the first bowl game of the season.

New Mexico running backs Richard McQuarley (game MVP) and Teriyon Gipson each scored touchdowns on the ground as New Mexico opted to play it safe with a run-focused offense in windy conditions. UTSA cut a 16-6 lead to three points with a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Trevor Stevens, but the Lobos ran the ball down the field on the ensuing possession to pad their lead with a second touchdown run by McQuarley.

Davie had been 0-4 in bowl games prior to this season, including three bowl losses during his time as head coach at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001. Davie returned to the sidelines in 2012 with New Mexico following a good run in the broadcast booth. After three losing seasons, Davie turned things around to turn in a seven-win season in 2015 and earning a trip to the New Mexico Bowl. With a record of 8-4 this season, the Lobos returned to the bowl game having taken one step forward. The next step came today to pick up the ninth win of the season and the first bowl win since the 2007 season, also in the New Mexico Bowl.

So what’s next for New Mexico? The bar continues to be raised for the program under Davie. The 2017 season will see a challenging road schedule with conference games on the road against Boise State, San Diego State and Wyoming and non-conference contests against Tulsa and Texas A&M. New Mexico’s 2017 season kicks off on September 2 at home against Abilene Christian.

UTSA will look to build off their first bowl experience as well. The Roadrunners get their 2017 season started on September 2, 2017 against Houston. It was just a couple of years ago when UTSA embarrassed Houston in their brand new stadium, 27-7. This time, Houston travels to San Antonio.

Both UTSA and New Mexico appear to be heading in a positive direction.

New Mexico sticking to ground in windy New Mexico Bowl

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The winds are howling at the New Mexico Bowl, and New Mexico head coach Bob Davie seems content not to take to the air as a result. Well, that and having an effective triple option running game to work with. New Mexico leads UTSA at halftime in the New Mexico Bowl, 10-6, and the Lobos have gotten this far with just one attempted (and completed) pass.

Richard Quarley picked up the only touchdown of the half on a one-yard run at the end of a nine-play, 66-yard drive to give New Mexico the lead. UTSA took the game’s opening possession down the field and scored a 27-yard field goal at the end of a 13-play drive. A 38-yard run by Jarveon Williams gave the Roadrunners a quick jolt on the second play of the game, and a fourth down conversion from the New Mexico 20-yard line showed UTSA was not here to mess around. UTSA was held to a late field goal with about 100 seconds to play in the half after a targeting call on New Mexico was overturned. New Mexico kicker Jason Sanders successfully kicked a 52-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half in the heavy wind to extend New MExico’s lead to four points.

UTSA quarterback Dalton Strum has attempted 12 passes, but just three have been completed for a total of 30 yards. Don’t expect any wild shootouts in this year’s New Mexico Bowl. If the second half plays out in similar fashion, this one will be won on the ground.