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Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Florida WR Antonio Callaway pleads no contest to drug charge

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Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway had charges for marijuana possession dropped after he decided to plead no contest to a drug paraphernalia possession misdemeanor. The no contest plea was part of an agreement Callaway made with the state attorney, which is said to be routine in incidents like the one Callaway was involved.

In May, Callaway was cited for possession of seven grams of marijuana in his pants and another 5.4 grams located in a vehicle Callaway was a passenger in. In June, the state attorney confirmed he had offered Callaway a plea deal, where Callaway could plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and then have the possession charges dropped entirely. The attorney denied making the plea deal because Callaway is a football player at Florida and insisted the plea deal is common for charges involving such a small amount of marijuana.

Callaway will likely be fined and/or sentenced to some community service, but that will be determined at a later point in time. Callaway was fined $301.

What remains to be seen now is how Callaway will be handled within the Florida program. A suspension of some sort would be expected for such an offseason incident, but for how long? It is worth noting Florida opens the season with a big neutral site game against Michigan instead of staying home to play a cupcake opponent in the opener.

No. 17 Florida defense dominates Iowa in Outback Bowl blowout, 30-3

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Austin Appleby may not have been able to beat Iowa (8-5) while he was at Purdue, but he was able to do that on Monday in the Outback Bowl with the No. 17 Florida Gators (9-4). Appleby had early mistakes with a pair of turnovers on the first two drives of the game, but Appleby ended his day with 222 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gators pull away from the Hawkeyes in Tampa in a 30-3 victory.

The story of the game was Florida’s defense, which came up with three interceptions of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and held the Iowa offense to just 55 passing yards. Iowa was limited to just 226 yards of offense and went 4-of-16 on third down. Even a 100-yard day from Akrum Wadley (115 yards) was not enough to keep the Hawkeyes within reach once the game snowballed out of control.

Florida scored the first touchdown of the game on an 85-yard pass play to Mark Thompson with multiple missed tackles along the way. Chauncey Gardner padded a comfortable 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Gators tacked on two more field goals from there to pile on in the 27-point victory. Considering how Florida was embarrassed last season by a Big Ten team in the bowl season (Michigan), this must have been a little extra sweet to do the same to another Big Ten team.

The loss by the Hawkeyes clinches a losing bowl record this season for the Big Ten. At 3-6 and just one game remaining to play (Penn State in the Rose Bowl), the Big Ten had a rough postseason that included two New Years Six bowl losses by Michigan and Ohio State (in the College Football Playoff). A Penn State win would at least give the Big Ten a split in NY6 bowl games if it can beat USC in the Rose Bowl. The SEC is now 6-5 in the bowl season with two more games to play. Auburn faces Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl later tonight and Alabama will face Clemson in the nationla championship game next week.

Iowa has now been outscored 172-75 in its last five bowl games, which has culminated in a five-game bowl losing streak for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Florida head coach Jim McElwain picked up his first bowl victory of his career.

Iowa’s 2017 season will get underway on September 2 at home against Wyoming from the Mountain West Conference. Iowa will play key division game son the road against Wisconsin and Nebraska next fall, as well as on the road against Big Ten East opponent Michigan State (who can’t possibly be as bad in 2017 as they were in 2016, right). The Hawkeyes also host Ohio State in early November next fall.

Florida’s 2017 season will start in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines on September 2 in the Cowboys Kickoff. Other non-conference games will include home games against UAB (the Blazers are back in 2017!) and rival Florida State. In conference play, the Gators host Tennessee as well as LSU and Texas A&M.

As a reminder, the Florida victory means you get a free bloomin’ onion at your local Outback Steakhouse tomorrow, January 3.

Florida leads Iowa, 10-3, in defensive Outback Bowl at halftime

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The Outback Bowl was expected to be a true defensive battle between Iowa and Florida, and through one half of play that has most certainly been the case, although Mark Thompson ripped through for a 85-yard touchdown play late in the first half to give the Gators a 10-3 lead at halftime.

Florida got the ball to start the game, but the drive ended with Austin Appleby being picked off on a tipped and caught by a diving Brandon Snyder. But Florida’s defense responded by forcing Iowa to a three-and-out to force a punt. That would only lead to another interception off a tipped pass from Appleby, this time with Desmond King getting himself in position to have the ball fall in his chest on the ground. It was Florida’s second turnover in the first five minutes of the game.

King’s interception would lead to a field goal by Keith Duncan for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Florida would answer on the next drive with a 44-yard field goal off the leg of Eddy Pineiro.

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard nearly reached across the goal line for the first touchdown of the game midway through the second quarter, but the ball was placed just outside of the end zone and Iowa opted to go for it on fourth down. It did not go so well, with Florida stuffing the play for a turnover on downs.

USF survives in OT, holds off South Carolina in wild Birmingham Bowl

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South Florida had already set a school record for wins in a season.  Thursday, the Bulls added to it.  Barely.

Trailing 29-14 in the first half of the 11th annual Birmingham Bowl, South Carolina (6-7) roared its way back to tie the game late but its USF that will head back to the Sunshine State with a wild 46-39 win, its fifth in a row to close out the season.  The win was the 11th for the Bulls in 2016, setting a school record.  This year, the 20th anniversary of the first season in the football program’s history, was also the first time they’d reached double-digits in wins, with the previous high being nine wins accomplished on three occasions, the last coming in 2007.

The win was also the Bulls’ first in a bowl game since 2010.  It didn’t come easy, though.  At all.

With the Bulls up 39-21 late in the third, an Elliott Fry field goal cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 15.  A little over five minutes into the fourth, a Jake Bentley touchdown pass sliced USF’s lead to 39-31.  With an offense that was dominant in the first half suddenly stagnant, the Gamecocks got the ball back again with 6:33 left in the game.  Five plays later they were at the USF 8-yard line; on the sixth play, A.J. Turner appeared headed for what, with a two-point conversion, could’ve been the game-tying touchdown run but fumbled the ball back to the Bulls a yard short of the goal line.

Forcing a Bulls punt from their own end zone after three plays netted next to nothing, Chris Lammons returned a punt that was initially ruled a touchdown but, upon further review, was placed at the two-yard line.  Three plays later, a Turner one-yard run left the ‘Cocks a two-point conversion away from tying the score; a Bentley pass to Hayden Hurst was complete to knot the score at 39-all and send it to overtime.

Quinton Flowers, dominant in the first half but bothered by injury in the second, hit Elkanah Dillon from 25 yards out on the first play of extra time to give the Bulls back the lead.  Facing a fourth down on their first possession of overtime, a strip-sack of Bentley recovered by the Bulls ended the Gamecocks’ comeback hopes.  It was USC’s third red-zone turnover of the game.

Flowers finished the game with five touchdowns — three rushing, two passing — and 366 yards of offense.  He led the team in rushing with 105 yards.

Despite the loss, the future, especially at the quarterback position, certainly looks bright for Will Muschamp & Company.

Bentley finished the game 32-of-43 passing for 390 yards and three touchdowns.  He did, though, throw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.  Sophomore wide receiver Deebo Samuel was on the receiving end of 14 of those completions and 190 of the yards.

The loss drops the SEC to 1-3 this bowl season, one year after going 9-2.