Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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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.

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.

Seven 2016 finalists headline Manning Award preseason watch list

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This is the last preseason watch list you’ll have to endure this year. I promise. I think.

Wednesday, the Manning Award released its list of the top 30 quarterbacks in the country, although a player not on this initial list is not necessarily precluded from winning the award. This is the only major award, it should be noted, that is handed out after the bowls, and is named in honor of the quarterbacking triumvirate of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.

Highlighting this year’s list are seven of the 10 finalists from a year ago: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma).

All FBS conferences are represented, led by the ACC and SEC with five watch listers apiece. The Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Sun Belt are next with three each, with two apiece for all of the AAC, Big 12, Conference USA and MAC. Class-wise, there are 13 seniors, 12 juniors and five sophomores.

 

“We once again have a great group of quarterbacks returning to college football this fall,” said Archie Manning said in a statement. “While this Watch List has many of the best returning players, we look forward to making midseason additions as teams settle on definite starters and as young players step up and make names for themselves. I’m really looking forward to getting the season rolling to see which guys will rise to the top and become Manning Award finalists.”

Deshaun Watson was the 2016 winner of the award.

Below is the complete 2017 Manning Award preseason watch list.

Western Kentucky dismisses likely starting lineman after arrest

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A dismal offseason off the field for Western Kentucky continues, with a potential, or even likely, starter along the defensive line finding himself on the outside of the program looking in.

A WKU official confirmed Monday that Tanner Reeves has been dismissed from the team. While violating unspecified team rules is the generic reasoning, the Bowling Green Daily News reports that Reeves was arrested very early Sunday morning on charges of careless driving, operating on a suspended driver’s license and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with aggravated circumstances.

From the Daily News‘ report:

The officer observed Reeves drive a 2007 GMC Yukon across the fog line on Nashville Road approaching the intersection of Nashville Road and Campbell Lane, per a police report.

Upon contact, the deputy detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Reeves’ person and vehicle. He was asked to exit the vehicle and conduct standardized field sobriety tests. During Reeves’ horizontal gaze nystagmus test, he displayed lack of smooth pursuit and maximum deviation. He used his arms to balance during the one-leg stand test. And Reeves failed to maintain the start position eight steps down during the walk and turn, according to the report.

Reeves consented to a preliminary breath test on scene, resulting in the presence of alcohol. Dispatch confirmed Reeves’ license to be suspended.

This was the fifth-year senior’s second brush with the law in less than a year, having been cited for disorderly conduct last October.

Reeves started five of the 14 games in which he played last season. He had been expected to start at one of the end positions for the Hilltoppers this season.

A week ago, WKU confirmed that three players — sophomore running back Quinton Baker, redshirt freshman wide receiver Xavier Lane and redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler Obee — have been suspended for the 2017 opener against Eastern Kentucky not long after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a frat house assault. The day before, starting cornerback De’Andre Simmons was lost for the entire season because of a knee injury.

The Hilltoppers were the media’s preseason favorite to win the East Division of Conference USA.

Three Western Kentucky players suspended for 2017 opener

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An offseason off-field situation has seen its chickens come home to roost for Western Kentucky.

WKU confirmed Tuesday that three football players — sophomore running back Quinton Baker, redshirt freshman wide receiver Xavier Lane and redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler Obee — have been suspended for the 2017 opener against Eastern Kentucky.  Monday, each of those players pleaded guilty to complicity to second-degree wanton endangerment and complicity to fourth-degree assault under extreme emotional disturbance.

Those charges were misdemeanors.

In early June, that trio was charged with first-degree complicity to wanton endangerment; fourth-degree complicity to assault; and third-degree criminal trespass.  The wanton endangerment charges were felonies, while the others were misdemeanors.

All of the charges stemmed from an alleged assault outside of a fraternity house.

Two other players, senior defensive lineman Chris Johnson and redshirt freshman wide receiver Jahcour Pearson, were charged with third-degree criminal trespass stemming from the same incident.  As those are misdemeanors, no game suspensions will be levied.

Last season, Baker’s 575 rushing yards were second on the Hilltoppers, while his four rushing touchdowns were second on the team as well.  For that, he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

Johnson started all 14 games last season and was second on the team with 12.5 tackles for loss, leading to honorable mention All-Conference USA honors.