Louisiana Tech wide receiver Trent Taylor (5) runs for a touchdown after a catch past Navy cornerback Jarid Ryan (9) and linebacker Brandon Jones (3) during first half of the Armed Forces Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Louisiana Tech tops Navy in wild Armed Forces Bowl shootout

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Louisiana Tech and Navy have opposite approaches to offense… but they both agreed to score plenty of points on Friday.

The Bulldogs managed to put up just a tad more in the Armed Forces Bowl and won 48-45 in an fun postseason shootout on Friday.

Quarterback Ryan Higgins kicked off the scoring for Tech back in the first quarter with a rushing touchdown but did most of his damage with his arm, passing for 409 yards and four scores. Tailbacks Jarred Craft and Boston Scott both added a combined 96 yards on the ground while the latter also found the end zone.

Receiver Trent Taylor — FBS’s third-leading receiver coming into today — closed his career out in style with yet another remarkable performance for the senior. He finished the bowl game with 12 catches for 233 yards and two touchdown receptions and was a tough cover despite some mucky conditions in Fort Worth, Texas. Fellow wideout Carlos Henderson also chipped in with another 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy quarterback Zach Abey did all he could to deliver a victory but ended up just a little short operating the triple-option and was knocked out of the game with an injury with just four minutes to go in the game. The third-stringer made his second start and threw for 159 yards and a touchdown while topping the century mark on the ground with 114 yards rushing and two more scores.

The Midshipmen wound up with over 450 yards of offense and averaged over seven yards a play for the game but simply couldn’t come up with enough stops on the defensive end to capture the win.

Instead it was the Bulldogs who emerged victorious in a high-scoring affair between the runners-up of the American and Conference USA that was certainly one of the better bowl games so far this year.

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

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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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.

Biletnikoff, Mackey Award semifinalists announced

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 12:  Amba Etta-Tawo #7 of the Syracuse Orange carries the ball during a touchdown reception in the third quarter against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on November 12, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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The semifinalists for the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards, given annually to college football’s best pass-catcher (regardless of position, though only receivers have won it) and tight end, respectfully, were announced Monday morning as awards season (sort of) gears up in earnest.

Your Biletnikoff Award semifinalists:

Austin Carr, Northwestern (75 REC, 1,102 yards, 12 TDs)
Corey Davis, Western Michigan (62 REC, 1,029 yards, 14 TDs)
Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse (79 REC, 1,246 yards, 8 TDs)
Carlos Henderson, La. Tech (61 REC, 1,179 yards, 16 TDs*)
Zay Jones, East Carolina (139 REC*, 1,473 yards*, 6 TDs)
John Ross, Washington (52 REC, 896 yards, 15 TDs)
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky (77 REC, 1,340 yards, 13 TDs)
Trent Taylor, La. Tech (103 REC, 1,343 yards, 10 TDs)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (56 REC, 1,132 yards, 9 TDs)
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma (68 REC, 1,254 yards, 14 TDs)

*= leads FBS

And for the Mackey Award:

Adam Breneman, UMass (58 REC, 699 yards, 7 TDs)
Jake Butt, Michigan (38 REC, 460 yards, 4 TDs)
Evan Engram, Ole Miss (59 REC, 824 yards, 7 TDs)
Gerald Everett, South Alabama (41 REC, 637 yards, 4 TDs)
Cole Hikutini, Louisville (38 REC, 526 yards, 6 TDs)
Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech (36 REC, 514 yards, 5 TDs)
O.J. Howard, Alabama (29 REC, 352 yards, 2 TDs)
Jordan Leggett, Clemson (28 REC, 480 yards, 4 TDs)

The Biletnikoff will announce its three finalists Nov. 21, while Mackey Award finalists will be announced Nov. 22. Winners of both the awards will be announcedDec. 8 on ESPNU.

 

LSU adds RB coach Jabbar Juluke from Texas Tech

LSU running back Leonard Fournette (7) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. LSU won 19-7. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
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If there ends up being college football in the state of Louisiana in 2016, LSU has a running backs coach lined up. LSU announced the hiring of running backs coach Jabbar Juluke Saturday morning. Juluke joins LSU after previously coaching at Texas Tech. He fills the vacancy left on the staff by Frank Wilson, who accepted a position as head coach at UTSA.

“Jabbar is a veteran running backs coach with strong ties to New Orleans,” LSU head coach Les Miles said in a released statement. “He has a proven track record of success at both the college and high school level and he’s going to do a great job of continuing to develop our players both on and off the field. Jabbar is a great fit for us and we are excited to have him join our program.”

Juluke spent three years coaching running backs at Louisiana Tech before heading to Texas Tech. The New Orleans native was  a high school head coach for nine years and graduated from Southern University, so it goes without saying he has a good feel for the landscape in Louisiana, which has clearly been a big recruiting factory for LSU over the years. At Louisiana Tech, Juluke coached Kenneth Dixon, who would go on to set NCAA all-time rushing records for touchdowns (which was then topped by Navy’s Keenan Reynolds), points scored and games with a touchdown scored. Now he will get the opportunity to coach one of the nation’s best running backs, Leonard Fournette.

LSU also announced the departure of wide receivers coach Tony Ball, who is leaving to pursue other coaching opportunities.

Michigan State QB Connor Cook declines Senior Bowl invite

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Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook will not participate in the Senior Bowl, the top college football all-star event on the calendar for NFL Draft hopefuls. Cook has reportedly declined to accept his invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen will fill his spot on the Senior Bowl roster.

Cook is widely expected to be a first-round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and because he is coming back from a shoulder injury it was not a shock to see Cook choose not to participate in the Senior Bowl. He will have a chance to make up for his Senior Bowl absence in a pro day event later as well as the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis later this winter.

Allen will now have a chance to take advantage of the Senior Bowl opportunity. The Senior Bowl is the highest-regarded all-star event that will be attended to by members of every NFL Franchise, including many head coaches in addition to scouts. What happens in Senior Bowl practices can help some prospects show off some positives that may be overlooked otherwise.

Other quarterbacks scheduled to appear at the Senior Bowl are Jacoby Brissett of NC State, Jake Coker of Alabama, Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech, Kevin Hogan of Stanford, Cody Kessler of USC, Dak Prescott of Mississippi State and Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. Remember that only seniors are eligible to attend the Senior Bowl, so many of the quarterbacks in the NFL Draft pool like Cal’s Jared Goff, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg are not allowed to be extended an invitation.