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Big Ten, Conference USA swapping bowl tie-in for 2017

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The middle of September isn’t typically the time that bowl arrangements are tweaked but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

Conference USA confirmed details of a bowl tie-in “swap” with the Big Ten on Wednesday, causing a bit of a Texas two-step in the postseason picture for both leagues in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The move on the Big Ten’s end was originally announced back in May but it appears the CUSA end is just now being confirmed officially.

As a result:

  • A Conference USA team will now play in the Armed Forces Bowl. They’ll play against Army if the Black Knights are eligible,
  • The Big Ten will place a team in Heart of Dallas Bowl against vs. a Big 12 opponent

While the exact reason for the swap is unclear, it certainly makes a little more sense for a Big Ten team to be in Dallas against a fellow Power Five conference like the Big 12. In addition, the Big Ten has not had a team filled a slot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl since 2014 and have actually never scored a victory in the game either.

There was supposed to be a B1G squad in the bowl last season but, because of shortages elsewhere in terms of eligible teams, the game wound up being an Army win over an eventual 5-8 North Texas squad.  Conference USA apparently remains contractually tied to the Heart of Dallas Bowl until 2019, just not this year.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 23 in Fort Worth while the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is slated to be played on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Texas college football programs send equipment trucks in relief convoy in Houston

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With the Houston region still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the University of Houston has taken on a role of organizing relief efforts in any way they can. Basketball coach Kelvin Sampson‘s effort to encourage other programs to send in shirts and shoes and other forms of equipment to help spread around to those in need has been well received. Continuing on that effort, football programs around the state of Texas have put their equipment trucks to good use to help deliver goods to those who need it.

Trucks provided by Baylor, Texas, Texas State, North Texas, SMU, and Texas Tech have joined Houston’s own equipment truck to help out with distributing donated goods.

Houston’s season opening game at UTSA was postponed earlier this week so Houston could focus on taking care of matters closer to home rather than focus on a football game.

Report: there will be a Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl this year

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I think we can all agree with this: it’s about damn time.

Since the St. Petersburg Bowl was launched in 2008, it’s undergone several name changes, from the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008) to the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef O’Brady’s (2009) to the Beef O’Grady’s Bowl (2010-13) to the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (2014).  Now, the game that’s been known as the St. Petersburg Bowl the past two seasons is set to undergo its most glorious name change yet as Brett McMurphy is reporting that it will now be known as the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

See, absolutely and utterly glorious.  In a similar vein, move over Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl as we have a new king wearing the “Greatest Bowl Game Name Ever” crown.

Bad Boy Mowers bills itself as “delivering the finest cut lawn care professionals and serious landowners demand;” the fact that the home of the bowl game, Tropicana Field, utilizes Shaw Sports Turf as its playing surface merely serves to add to the greatness of the name. And from where does Gasparilla come? McMurphy describes it as “an attempt to make the bowl seem more regional for the Tampa Bay area since the annual Gasparilla Parade is held each year in Tampa.”

The name change for the game, which pits teams from the AAC and Conference USA against each other, is expected to officially be announced Monday.

North Texas loses DT Bryce English to broken foot

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Arguably the most-anticipated addition to the North Texas roster for this coming season is defensive tackle Bryce English. A Kansas State transfer, the Dallas-area native arrived in early 2016 and waited, waited and waited to get his turn to don the Mean Green’s eponymous uniform. Heck, English redshirted his only season in Manhattan, meaning he hasn’t played a real game since he was a high school senior in 2014.

He’s going to have to wait a little longer.

English suffered a foot injury in practice Tuesday, and head coach Seth Littrell confirmed Wednesday English will miss several weeks treating the injury, meaning he will miss at least UNT’s opener with Lamar on Sept. 2.

“He was doing the proper things with getting his weight down and getting back into shape,” Littrell told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “He was really coming along. Losing a guy like that hurts you.”

Not that a coach would ever pick and choose an injury he would like a player to have, but he definitely wouldn’t want his starting nose guard to sustain and injury and he especially wouldn’t want that starting nose guard to suffer a foot injury. English said his weight climbed as high as 346 pounds but checked in at 287 earlier this fall. (The North Texas roster lists him at 295.)

The Record-Chronicle reports North Texas could either slide Roderick Young, who started at nose last season but moved to end to make room for English, back to nose or simply promote backup T.J. Tauaalo to the first team.

Whatever the case, North Texas needs English back in a hurry. After opening with Lamar, North Texas visits SMU and Iowa in back-to-back September weeks before opening Conference USA play.

Conference USA media poll tabs Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky as division favorites

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In the relatively brief history of the Conference USA championship game, there has never been a rematch of the previous season’s title game. If all goes according to plan as predicted by the media, that could change in 2017.

Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech were each the clear favorites to win their respective divisions in the Conference USA preseason media poll released today. Both programs received 20 first-place votes to easily be named the preseason favorites in the Conference USA divisions, setting the stage for a potential rematch in the Conference USA championship game at the end of the season. Western Kentucky is the two-time defending Conference USA champion, and Louisiana Tech has played in two of the last three title games, so it was hardly a shock to see both programs be named the preseason favorites by the media.

UAB returns to the football field this season, and the preseason poll suggests it will be a rocky return. The Blazers were picked to finish last in the West Division. After Louisiana Tech, UTSA picked up seven first-place votes to come in second in the preseason poll. Southern Miss, now a year removed from playing for the conference championship, received the last remaining first-place vote in the West Division.

Western Kentucky failed to gobble up all of the first-place votes in the East Division as well. Middle Tennessee received four votes, while Old Dominion picked up three. Marshall also received a first-place nod from the voters. New FBS program and conference member Charlotte was picked last in the East, as expected. Lane Kiffin‘s FAU Owls were picked to finish in fifth place.

Here’s how the preseason media poll in Conference USA looks. No picks for conference champion were made.

Conference USA East Division

  1. Western Kentucky (20 first-place votes)
  2. Middle Tennessee (4)
  3. Old Dominion (3)
  4. Marshall (1)
  5. Florida Atlantic
  6. FIU
  7. Charlotte

Conference USA West Division

  1. Louisiana Tech (20)
  2. UTSA (7)
  3. Southern Miss (1)
  4. North Texas
  5. Rice
  6. UTEP
  7. UAB