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Butkus Award watch list led by SEC’s 11 players with Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten close behind

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Award watch season in college football continues to be in midseason form with the Butkus Award watch list being revealed on Monday. A total of 11 players from the SEC were included in the preseason watch list for the award for best linebacker.

The Pac-12 had 10 players included on the watch list, and the ACC and Big Ten each landed nine players on the list. The Big 12 managed to get just two linebackers named to the watch list, which was one fewer than the total number of FCS linebackers appearing on the list.

Alabama’s Reuben Foster was named the 2016 Butkus Award winner, making him the third Alabama linebacker to win the award since 2009 (Rolando McClain in 2009, C.J. Mosley in 2013). As it just so happens, the 2016 high school Butkus Award winner was IMG Academy’s Dylan Moses, who is now at Alabama. Alabama has two players on this year’s collegiate watch list (Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion).

This year’s watch list includes one returning finalist from the 2016 award (Iowa’s Josey Jewell) and five additional semi-finalists (Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, Texas’ Malik Jefferson, Virginia’s Micah Kiser, Washington’s Azeem Victor, and Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy).

2017 Butkus Award Watch List

Genard Avery, Memphis
Jerome Baker, Ohio State
Davin Bellamy, Georgia
Keishawn Bierria, Washington
Eric Boggs, Appalachian State
Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Jason Cabinda, Penn State
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Jermaine Carterq, Maryland
Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Koron Crump, Arizona State
Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
Devante Downs, California
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
DeMarquis Gates, Ole Miss
Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Shaquem Griffin, UCF
Porter Gustin, USC
Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
James Hearns, Louisville
Manase Hungalu, Oregon State
Malik Jefferson, Texas
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Jordan Jones, Kentucky
Kendall Joseph, Clemson
Junior Joseph, UConn
Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
Arden Key, LSU
Micah Kiser, Virginia
Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
Mike McCray, Michigan
Skai Moore, South Carolina
Airius Moore, N.C. State
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
D.J. Palmore, Navy
Jacob Pugh, Florida State
Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
Tegray Scales, Indiana
Cameron Smith, USC
Sione Teuhema, Southeastern Lousiana
Matthew Thomas, Florida State
Azeem Victor, Washington
Fred Warner, BYU
Tré Williams, Auburn
Chris Worley, Ohio State
Trevon Young, Louisville
Kenny Young, UCLA

Purdue the new home for transferring Notre Dame WR

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In early December, it was thought that Miami was the front-runner for the services of transferring Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Holmes.  Arizona State, North Carolina and UCLA were also schools that the wide receiver was considering.

In the end, Holmes won’t be leaving the state of Indiana.

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Holmes announced that he would be transferring to Purdue and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Boilermakers.  The football program has yet to address any potential addition of the transfer.

Holmes indicated at the time of his transfer that his plan was to graduate from Notre Dame in August of this year. If Holmes follows through with that plan, he would be eligible to play for Purdue in 2017.  Additionally, he’d be eligible to play during the 2018 season as well.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Holmes was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Florida. After redshirting as a true freshman then not seeing any action in 2015, Holmes caught 11 passes for 96 yards this past season. He had a career-high four receptions in what turned out to be his final game at the school in the regular-season finale against USC.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Is this the year? Army jumps out to two-score halftime lead over No. 25 Navy

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There are few traditions in college football quite like the annual Army-Navy game and the pageantry was in full force once again on Saturday afternoon from Baltimore.

Army kicked off the scoring for the third season in a row in this rivalry game after recovering a Navy fumble and marching right down the field with a 14 play, 66 yard drive that culminated in a touchdown.

While the early score was notable, turnovers dominated first quarter play with three of the first four drives from the teams ending in a giveaway. The quarterbacks combined to complete just a single pass to their own team all half but completed three to the opposing defenses in the form of three ugly interceptions. Army’s Xavier Moss forced the first fumble of the season from Navy fullback Shawn White for the first quarter’s other turnover as well.

Army’s triple option looked to be the superior attack for most of the half, with the Black Knights picking up six of their seven third downs and converting the other on fourth down. Andy Davidson punched it into the end zone both times and finished with 15 carries for 50 yards.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played but the best Army team in nearly a decade certainly is looking primed to end Navy’s long winning streak in convincing fashion based on how the first half went.

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.