CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 1: Hayden Moore #8 of the Cincinnati Bearcats looks to pass against the Miami Hurricanes in the first half at Nippert Stadium on October 1, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Gunner Kiel loses Cincinnati’s starting QB battle to Hayden Moore

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The collegiate career of Gunner Kiel has hit yet another speed bump entering his last season.

Cincinnati announced that Hayden Moore will be the Bearcats’ starting quarterback moving forward. Moore and Kiel, a senior, had been engaged in a quarterback battle that began in the spring and continued on into the first portion of summer camp.

Moore’s consistency throughout the competition led to Tommy Tuberville pulling the trigger in his favor in a competition that also included Ros Trail..

“Hayden was our most consistent quarterback from spring football all the way through training camp,” the head coach said in a statement. “He gives us the best chance to win right now. Gunner Kiel and Ross Trail will continue to battle for the backup QB spot, but it’s important all three be ready to play when we kick this thing off in 10 days. It’s important to us to name a starter now so Hayden has some time working exclusively with the first-team offense to continue to develop timing and a comfort level with our offensive skill players.”

Moore started three games last season as a redshirt freshman, throwing for 1,683 yards and eight touchdowns. In relief of an injured Kiel, Moore passed for a school-record 557 yards in a loss to Memphis, then started the next two games. He also started the bowl game as Kiel didn’t play because of what were described as “personal problems.”

Kiel started all 13 games for the Bearcats in 2014, then started 10 in 2015 as he dealt with a head injury.

Kiel officially transferred to the Bearcats April 19, 2013, exactly one month after it was confirmed he was no longer a member of the Irish football program.  He was originally an Indiana commit and then a LSU commit before he flipped his commitment to Notre Dame shortly before National Signing Day, prompting the Tigers’ head coach to take the low road when it came to the five-star prospect and introducing “chesticular fortitude” to the vernacular.

Cincinnati officially tells the Big 12 it’s interested in joining

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 03:  The Cincinnati Bearcat looks on during the game against the Connecticut Huskies on December 3, 2011 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bearcats defeated the Connecticut Huskies 35-27. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
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It was just a formality, but Cincinnati officially sent a letter of interest to the Big 12 last month that could signal the beginning of discussions between the conference and university about linking up.

The Cincinnati Enquirer obtained the letter, dated July 25 and sent by interim university president Beverly Davenport, though an open records request (read their summary here).

Cincinnati appears an early favorite to join the Big 12 as Bob Bowlsby & Co. look to expand by two or four schools from a large group of interested parties. Cincinnati has trumpeted its power-five credentials for a couple years now with inevitable Big 12 expansion in mind.

That doesn’t mean Cincinnati is guaranteed to make the Big 12’s cut, but if it does, it would represent a major financial windfall for a program that only recently has rocketed into national relevance. Cincinnati made its first bowl game in 1997 and, prior to the Tommy Tuberville era, was coached by Butch Jones (now at Tennessee), Brian Kelly (now at Notre Dame) and Mark Dantonio (now at Michigan State). The success those three coaches brought to the Bearcats elevated Cincinnati’s profile to the point where entrance into the Big 12 is a distinct possibility.

Sports Business Journal: Big 12 expansion not sitting well with Fox, ESPN

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
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Could the Big 12’s expansion plans actually hurt its relationship with college football’s most important TV partners?

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reported Monday morning that, actually, the answer to that question could be yes.

Ourand reports ESPN and Fox are non-plussed with the thought of the 10-team conference adding the likes of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and/or UConn, programs which would “water down the Big 12 and make it less valuable.”

ESPN and Fox would owe the Big 12 a combined $20 million per team added to the conference — so $40 million for two teams or $80 million for four teams. The Big 12’s TV deal with both networks runs through 2024-2025.

Read Ourand’s full story here.

The question now becomes for the Big 12: Is the short-term financial windfall worth damaging its relationship with ESPN and Fox?

Both networks easily could walk away from renewing with the conference — or put in a lowball offer —  after 2025 if they feel the quality of play decreased because of, for example, Houston and Cincinnati’s presence. That’s a significant risk for Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12 to take, especially without the safety net of a conference network (as the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will all have by 2019).

But nine years is a long time in today’s media landscape. If the TV rights bubble is already beginning to burst, what will rights payouts look like in 2025? Will cable TV still hold a certain level of importance with alternative offerings proliferating over the the last few years? Will ESPN and Fox even be the best destinations for distributing the Big 12’s product?

In a sense, it’s a risk either way. The Big 12 may very well damage beyond repair its relationship with ESPN and Fox over expansion, but it also may not matter when those networks’ contracts are up. But in the short term, it’ll be fascinating to see how — or if — ESPN and Fox are able to influence the Big 12’s expansion efforts, given that, to paraphrase the Wu-Tang Clan, C.R.E.A.C.F. (Cash Rules Everything Around College Football).

 

Blowout of Cincinnati leaves San Diego St. with nation’s second-longest winning streak

SUNSET BEACH, HAWAII - DECEMBER 2:  Current ASP world number 16 Nathan Hedge of Australia was narrowly edged out of the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, USA on December 2, 2002. (Photo by Grant Ellis/Tostee/Getty Images)
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Quick quiz: There are currently two FBS teams with double-digit winning streaks, with top-ranked Clemson, at 16 in a row, one of them; who’s the other?  If you answered San Diego State, collect your fake monopoly money and move on.

After jumping out to a larger-than-it-looked 21-0 lead at the half, SDSU eventually doubled that lead over the final 30 minutes before settling for a 42-7 pasting of Cincinnati in the Hawaii Bowl.  The win is the Aztecs’ 10th in a row, one more than College Football Playoff semifinalist Alabama’s nine.

It’s also SDSU’s 11th win on the season, tying the school record set back in 1969 under the legendary Don Coryell.  This year’s squad, the Mountain West Conference champions, had already become the fifth team in school history to reach double digits in wins and the first to do so since 1977.

From the opening kickoff — literally — there was little doubt that Rocky Long‘s crew would add to its historic season, with Rashaad Penny racing 100 yards in the first 15 seconds to give the Aztecs a lead they would never relinquish.  SDSU’s defense, which came into the game 10th nationally in points allowed (17 points per game), bookended the special teams touchdown on Alex Barrett‘s interception return for a touchdown to extend the lead to 42-0 with 9:04 remaining.

In between, running back Donnel Pumphrey, who may or may not have played his final game in an Aztec uniform, ran and passed for a touchdown, the latter being the first of his career.  Pumphrey’s backfield mate, former walk-on fullback Dakota Gordon, rushed for and caught a touchdown, the latter coming off the arm of Pumphrey.

SDSU’s defense, in addition to pitching a shutout for the first 56½ minutes, forced three turnovers, with all three being interceptions thrown by Hayden Moore.  In just his third career start, the freshman Moore, pressed onto the field because of personal issues involving starter Gunner Kiel, passed for 202 yards.  The Bearcats’ lone touchdown came on Mike Boone‘s one-yard touchdown run.

UC finishes the year 7-6, its first time winning nine or fewer games since 2010.

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 24 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Donnel Pumphrey #19 of the San Diego State Aztecs runs with the ball in the first half against D.J. Dunn #34 of the Air Force Falcons in the Mountain West Championship game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which features a pair of games on islands and teams from four different conferences: AAC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West.

WHO: Middle Tennessee State (7-5) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
WHAT: The 2nd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: A 3-5 start to the 2015 season put Middle Tennessee State’s bowl eligibility in jeopardy, but Rick Stockstill‘s crew righted the ship and finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak.  Western Michigan was in control of its MAC West fate at 5-0 before back-to-back losses to Bowling Green and eventual division champion Northern Illinois essentially ended their conference title game hopes, although they did knock off Toledo in the finale to rip the West from the Rockets and hand it to the Huskies.  History is not on WMU’s side, however, as the Broncos have played in six bowl games previously… and lost all six.  What WMU does have on its side is a pair of receivers, Daniel Braverman (103-1,266-12) and Corey Davis (82-1,253-11), who combined for 185 receptions for 2,519 yards and 23 touchdowns. MTSU can move the ball through the air as well as Brent Stockstill has passed for 3,678 yards.  Offense should rule the day overall as both are prolific on that side of the ball — WMU’s 22nd nationally in total offense, MTSU 30th — while the Blue Raiders are in the middle of the pack defensively (51st in scoring defense).  The Broncos, meanwhile, are 78th in scoring.  With a win, WMU would win eight or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history; an MTSU win, meanwhile, would give that program exactly eight wins in three of the last four seasons.
THE LINE: Middle Tennessee State, +4½
THE PREDICTION: Western Michigan 37, Middle Tennessee State 34

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WHO: San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)
WHAT: The 14th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Very quietly, Mountain West champion San Diego State is one of the hottest teams in the country, with their nine-game winning streak tied with Alabama for the second-longest streak nationally behind Clemson’s 16 in a row.  In fact, one more win for the Aztecs would tie the single-season school record of 11 set back in 1969 under Don Coryell.  The 10 wins are already SDSU’s first double-digit win season since 1977 and just the fifth since becoming an FBS program.  Cincinnati, on the other hand, won back-to-back games just once this season, although they didn’t lose back-to-back games at all in 2015.  The Bearcats are also dealing with some internal strife as starting quarterback Gunner Kiel will not play because of what are being described as “personal reasons.”  The Bearcats, though, are prolific offensively, ranking 24th in the country with 36.1 points per game.  The problem is that San Diego State is among the stingiest in giving up points, with their 17 points per game positioning the Aztecs 10th nationally in that category.  SDSU has given up 20 or more points four times this season, and just once, in a 27-24 win over Air Force, during their winning streak.  That said, the key to the game could be Cincinnati’s run defense: UC is 106th in allowing teams to average 5.0 yards per carry, while SDSU’s Donnel Pumphrey‘s 1,554 yards are 10th nationally as he averages 5.5 ypc.
THE LINE: Cincinnati, +1½
THE PREDICTION: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 28