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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

ACC, SEC place most DBs on Jim Thorpe Award watch list

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Another day, yet another watch list as the 2017 offseason barrels towards a merciful death.

This time around it’s the Jim Thorpe Award doing the honors, with the trophy given annually to the nation’s top defensive back releasing a watch list consisting of a mere 45 players from all 10 FBS conferences.  Headlining this year’s list are a pair of semifinalists from a year ago, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The ACC and SEC lead all conferences with seven players apiece selected, followed by the Pac-12’s six and five each for the Big Ten and Big 12.  Conference USA was next with four, while the AAC, MAC and Sun Belt had three and the Mountain West two.

Alabama, Florida State and Stanford were the only programs with two players each selected.

USC’s Adoree’ Jackson won the 2016 version of the Thorpe Award.  The other finalists for last year’s trophy were Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and LSU’s Tre’Davious White.  All three of those players were selected in the 2017 NFL draft.

Wazzu adds future home-and-home with Houston

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Depending on how the coaching situations at each institution play out over the next couple of years, this one has offensive fireworks written all over it.

Washington State announced Monday that it has agreed to a home-and-home football series with Houston.  The first game will be played Sept. 14, 2019, in Houston, with the second coming Sept. 12, 2020, in Pullman.

“In recent years Houston has been one of the top programs in the country,” said WSU athletic director Bill Moos in a statement. “I believe our fans will enjoy having another quality non-conference opponent in Martin Stadium.”

The two Cougars have met three times previously, with the Pac-12 team with the feline nickname owning a 2-1 edge in the miniseries that was first played in 1959.  The last meeting was a Wazzu win in the 1988 Aloha Bowl.

Additionally, UH announced another home-and-home, this one against North Texas.  Denton on Sept. 28, 2019, will be the venue for the first game of that series, with the Mean Green traveling to Houston for the second on Sept. 23, 2023.

That series is currently tied at seven-all, for those who are curious.

North Texas inks Seth Littrell to new 5-year contract

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Seth Littrell‘s first year at North Texas was good enough for the Mean Green to completely rip up the head coach’s original deal and sign him to a completely new one. With a raise, of course.

According to Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle, Littrell has signed a new 5-year deal that will up his base salary to $900,000. Littrell earned $815,000 in 2016, according to the USA Today salary coaching database. His new contract would place him second in Conference USA in 2016 among publicly available contracts, faintly trailing only Rice’s David Bailiff, who will coach his 11th year on the job this fall.

Littrell also netted a $36,000 bonus just for signing the deal.

He earned the new contract after leading North Texas to a 5-8 mark in his first year on the job, which doesn’t look like much on paper but represented a massive improvement from the 1-11 mark he inherited.

Report: North Texas adds FCS running back transfer

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North Texas is adding running back Loren Easly to the roster, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Saturday.

Easly spent the past two seasons at Stephen F. Austin, a member of the FCS Southland Conference. A Houston native, he appeared in 20 games over two seasons as a Lumberjack, carrying 213 times for 1,256 yards with 11 touchdowns while adding 17 catches for 139 yards.

Denton Record-Chronicle reporter Brett Vito confirmed the transfer on his Twitter account.

As an interdivisional transfer, Easly will be able to play immediately with two seasons of eligibility remaining.

He would join a backfield led by rising senior Jeffrey Wilson, who paced the Mean Green with 936 yards and 14 touchdowns on 169 carries in 2016.