AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

No. 19 Boise State kisses slim Group of Five hopes goodbye with loss to Air Force

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Boise State entered Friday as the highest ranked Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff standings at No. 19 in the country but needed a few things to happen for them to make the Mountain West title game and keep alive a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

None of that mattered by Friday night as the Broncos fell to their pesky conference rival Air Force in a 27-20 loss.

Quarterback Arion Worthman completed just three passes for the Falcons but was big as the triggerman for the team’s option attack, rushing for 80 yards and allowing the team to dominate time of possession. D.J. Johnson and Shayne Davern each added a pair of rushing touchdowns as well.

Boise State signal-caller Brett Rypien had an ineffective outing on the road, completing just nine-of-26 passes while avoiding the Air Force pass rush numerous times. Normally reliable Jeremy McNichols was limited all day running the football and finished with 88 yards and a touchdown — most of which came on a 56 yard scamper that setup the score one play later.

The team nearly had a chance to tie the game with just a few minutes left on the clock but Air Force’s defense came up with a fourth down stop from the one yard line to virtually seal the result.

The loss by the Broncos ends any hope they had of winning the division and making it to the conference title game, which will instead be a rematch between Wyoming and San Diego State. As for Air Force, the team completes a 9-3 regular season with the victory that includes yet another Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for head coach Troy Calhoun.

College Football Playoff is ‘un-American’ according to Air Force head coach

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Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun isn’t a fan of the College Football Playoff. Calhoun went as far as describing college football’s new postseason as “un-American.”

When college football decided to adapt its system to a four-team playoff, it was clear that programs from “Group of Five” conference would be non-factors in the final decisions. Only those teams in the ACC, Big 10 Conference, Big 12 Conference (OK, maybe not), Pac-12 Conference, SEC as well as Notre Dame would be seriously considered for the two semifinal games.

Programs outside of the powers conferences aren’t happy with the glass ceiling that is now in place. Calhoun clumsily illustrated his point when he discussed the matter Friday.

“There’s no doubt that it’s all set up for five conferences, as it is,” Calhoun told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “You’ve got to be in one of those five conferences.

“It’s un-American, bottom line. We live in a country where upward mobility is possible, where games should be played out on the field.”

While Calhoun has a point about the smaller conferences being excluded, his argument lacks substance at this particular juncture. Air Force finished the season 9-3. Only one team outside of the Power Five conferences finished with at least an 12-1 record. And Marshall’s schedule this season was laughable compared to those teams in the bigger conferences.

The No. 20 Boise State Broncos eventually claimed the lone berth into an access bowl (Fiesta Bowl) granted to the best team in the Group of Five. But none of those teams were ever in serious consideration for one of the top four spots.

However, this is yet another opportunity for advocates of an eight-team playoff to push for change even before the first year of the new system is complete.

House representative Joe Barton (Texas) railed against the system during a recent interview on the “Capital Games” podcast, via ABCnews.com.

“The system as they have it now is going to fail every year,” Barton said. “You can’t squeeze all that sausage into the sack. There’s going to be a few teams left out. So they need to go to at least eight teams, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they went to 12 — with first-round byes — or to 16.”

Of course, Barton is primarily representing his constituency by denouncing a system that left TCU and Baylor out of the equation. These types of gripes will continue every year, though, because the playoff is currently set up to leave multiple deserving teams out in the cold.

Air Force Falcons clip Colorado State Rams with last-second field goal

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The Air Force Falcons have played the role of spoiler all season.

The latest example came Friday against the Colorado State Rams. A Will Conant field goal as time expired proved to be the difference as the Falcons claimed a 27-24 victory.

With the win, Air Force improved its record to 9-3 this season. Colorado State, meanwhile, dropped to 10-2, and the program’s aspirations of possibly being the highest-ranked Group of Five program quickly vanished.

For Colorado State, the Boise State Broncos still needed to lose Saturday against the Utah State Aggies to become the top team from a non-Power Five conference. Now, it doesn’t matter.

Air Force also upset Boise State earlier in the season which made the Broncos’ trek through the season far more difficult before finally being ranked in the College Football Playoff committee’s Top 25 for the first time this past week.

The Falcons haven’t made life easy for any of their opponents.

The academy also claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 2011 despite the Navy Midshipmen being considered the favorites to win the award.

But Air Force would never have been in the position it currently resides without a poor decision from Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain.

With 44 seconds remaining, the Rams faced a 4th-and-2 from the Falcons’ 42-yard line. McElwain decided to go for it instead of trying to pin Air Force deep into their own end. Running back Dee Hart, who ran for 115 yards, was stopped short of the first down, and Air Force took over with 38 seconds left.

A 26-yard pass from Air Force quarterback Nate Romine to junior wide receiver Garrett Brown was the big play the Falcons needed to move into field goal position. Conant proved to be up to the task when it came time to attempt the field goal.

Despite the loss, McElwain provided the quote of the day regarding Conant’s field goal:

At 9-4, Air Force is the fourth team in the Mountain West Conference to win at least nine games.