Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

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)
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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

Alabama RB Derrick Gore transfers to ULM

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Derrick Gore #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown against the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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It seems to happen every now and then, but Alabama is losing a running back to a transfer this spring. Derrick Gore, a redshirt junior, is transferring to Louisiana-Monroe to continue his college football career, as reported by The News-Star.

Gore will be given a better chance to compete for a significant role in ULM’s offense as he gets out from the deep running back stable at Alabama that makes it difficult to get everyone involved. Gore had played a reserve role on offense behind the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarbrough and Kenyan Drake at a position that is generally stacked for the Crimson Tide. Gore did find a role for himself on special teams. Gore blocked a punt against Florida in the SEC Championship Game last December and returned it for a touchdown. He was a walk-on at Alabama.

Gore will be eligible immediately to play for ULM starting this fall and will have two years of eligibility to use with the Warhawks.

Provisional plans in place in case Navy, ahem, wreaks bowl havoc

ANNAPOLIS, MD - NOVEMBER 14: Sean Reaver #99 of the Navy Midshipmen and teammates run onto the field holding U.S. flags before playing against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland. The Navy Midshipmen won, 55-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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As un-American as it is, there are numerous individuals associated with the bowl process, including bowl officials and affected schools, who will be rooting for Navy to lose later on today.

Why? Because if the service academy beats Temple in the AAC championship game, it was initially thought, a portion of the bowl process could be paralyzed as Navy would be in line for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid but still has its annual rivalry game with Army to play next weekend. A handful of bids would likely be delayed for another seven days, potentially putting some teams in a predicament where they would have as little as a 72-hour turnaround from learning where they will play in the postseason to actually playing in the game.

However, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports, a provisional plan has been hatched that would allow 37 of the 40 bowl bids to be announced Sunday as planned regardless of what happens in the AAC title game this afternoon. The plan is based on four teams in particular winning this weekend, with one of the four, Washington, taking care of business Friday night by beating Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game.

The other teams that need to win? No. 3 Clemson (in ACC title game vs. Virginia Tech), 5-6 Louisiana-Lafayette (at 4-7 Louisiana-Monroe) and 5-6 South Alabama (vs. 3-8 New Mexico State). If those three teams win, McMurphy reports, this is what would transpire when it comes to the remaining three bowl games that wouldn’t be able to offer bids this weekend:

Navy is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Navy goes to the Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Army plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Western Michigan is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Western Michigan goes to the Cotton Bowl, Army plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Navy plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

That said, it’s still possible this tentative plan could be blown to smithereens and the postseason hurled into temporary chaos.

However, bowl officials stressed that those scenarios get blown up if more than three 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowls or there are major upsets in the Power 5 championship games.

“If so,” a source said, “then we’ll have to reshuffle the cards again.

The Group of Six bid, the Cotton Bowl, will come down to either No. 19 Navy or No. 17 Western Michigan, which remained unbeaten with a win in the MAC championship game Friday night.

Report: Sun Belt may hold keys to LSU-Florida being played

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers prepares to run the ball against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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The flap over the postponement of the LSU-Florida game because of Hurricane Matthew continues, although an unlikely partner could hold the keys to getting the game played.

Florida has publicly stated it would be willing to buy out its Nov. 19 game against Presbyterian and play LSU in Gainesville.  LSU, which had offered to host the Gators or even play at a neutral site this past weekend, is unwilling to give up a home date Nov. 19 by buying out South Alabama in order to get the UF game rescheduled.

According to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, there are two viable options to getting the game played, with both options involving Sun Belt teams juggling their schedules to accommodate the LSU-UF game Nov. 19:

Scenario 1:

LSU at Florida is moved to Nov. 19;

South Alabama at LSU is moved from Nov. 19 to Oct. 29, LSU’s current open date;

South Alabama moves its Oct. 29 home game with Georgia State to Nov. 19;

Georgia State moves its Nov. 19 home date with Georgia Southern to Nov. 26, which is an open date for both Sun Belt teams.

Scenario 2 is the same as Scenario 1 (LSU at UF Nov. 19; USA at LSU on Oct. 29) with the exception of:

South Alabama moves its Oct. 29 home game with Georgia State to Nov. 12, USA’s current open date;

Georgia State moves its Nov. 12 home game with Louisiana Monroe to Nov. 26, which is an open date for both teams.

The Sun Belt teams involved, which McMurphy wrote “likely would require some financial compensation for the various expenses in rescheduling home games,” are amenable to multiple moves, while UF athletic director Jeremy Foley has previously stated he would be willing to give the home date against the FCS school in order to get what could be a key conference game played.  Foley’s counterpart at LSU, Joe Alleva, has previously stated very staunchly that he will not give up the Nov. 19 home game, although either of the two options noted by McMurphy would allow the program to keep its full complement of home games this year.

Playing the game Nov. 19 would likely also require the LSU-Texas A&M game, scheduled for Thanksgiving Day five days later, to be moved back two days to Saturday.  All involved would likely sign off on such a move.

One other potential scenario that had been bandied about, moving the SEC championship game from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10 and playing the LSU-Florida game on the vacated date, is labeled as “highly, highly unlikely” by McMurphy, specifically because the College Football Playoff committee will not hold off on releasing the final standings that will determine the four semifinalists.  That release is scheduled for Dec. 4.

If the game is not played at all, it has the potential to cause some embarrassment for the SEC as it pertains to its championship game.

Per conference bylaws, the winner of the East or West divisions of the SEC is determined by the team with the highest winning percentage. LSU currently stands at 2-1 in league play; if the Tigers win out to finish at 6-1, which would include a win over Alabama, and again the postponed game is not made up, the Tigers could lose out on the West’s spot in the conference championship game to a 7-1 Tide team they beat on the field because of winning percentage (.875 for UA, .857 for LSU).  That scenario, of course, assumes both LSU and ‘Bama handle current conference-unbeaten Texas A&M.

While the potential situation in the other division is not nearly as embarrassing as the above, it’s still a possibility.

Tennessee and Florida are currently tied for the SEC East lead at 2-1, with the Gators’ lone loss coming to the Vols. Should the Gators win out they’d finish at 6-1. If the Vols stumble twice to finish at 6-2, Florida would receive the title game berth based of winning percentage.

GoDaddy Bowl changes name to Dollar General Bowl

MOBILE, AL - DECEMBER 23: Members of the Georgia Southern Eagles celebrate after defeating the Bowling Green Falcons on December 23, 2015 at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The Georgia Southern Eagles defeated the Bowling Green Falcons 58-27. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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The jokes pretty much write themselves on this one.

The GoDaddy Bowl has changed its name to the Dollar General Bowl effective immediately, it was announced Wednesday.

“Having a title sponsor in today’s world is just fantastic,” bowl president Jerry Silverstein told AL.com. “There are a lot of bowls out there, and for Mobile to get the recognition from a national sponsor, to want to participate in the event we have here, just leads to the national stage of what we try to produce here in Mobile.”

The new sponsor was celebrated in a very, uh, Dollar General way.

Heading into its 18th season, Dollar General Bowl will be the sixth different name and third separate title sponsor for the Mobile, Ala., based game. It was born in 1999 as the Mobile Alabama Bowl, then changed to the GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl a year later. The name stuck as simply the GMAC Bowl from 2001-10, before the name switched to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2011. The “.com” was dropped before the 2014 game.

Representatives from the Sun Belt and MAC will compete in the 2016 game for the eighth consecutive season on the night of Dec. 23 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Georgia Southern took last year’s game by a 58-27 score over Bowling Green. The Sun Belt has claimed three of the last four Dollar General Bowls over its northern adversaries.