NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 17: Xavier Thigpen #32 of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and Ja'Boree Poole #85 pressure Anthony Jennings #11 of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 17, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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NCAA denies appeal for extra year for Louisiana-Lafayette QB Anthony Jennings

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The football-playing career for Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Anthony Jennings has officially come to a close. An appeal for an extra year of eligibility was denied by the NCAA, according to coach Mark Hudspeth.

I’m very disappointed for Anthony,” Hudspeth told The Daily Advertiser. “I would’ve loved to have seen what he could’ve done with a year under his belt in our system.”

Getting an extra year for Jennings was believed to be a long shot, but there is no harm in trying. According to The Daily Advertiser, the case for Jennings was focused on Jennings being used sparingly during the 2015 season as a junior at LSU. Jennings appeared in two games for the Tigers in 2015 and recorded no stats. He transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette at the end of the 2015 season and was given a chance to play a significant role with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Louisiana-Lafayette now has a bit of a concern at quarterback for the upcoming season. The program returns reserve options Jordan Davis, Dion Ray and Jake Arceneaux, who redshirted last season. All three will be expected to be given a chance to compete starting this spring for the starting job this fall.

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.

Greg Ward Jr.’s shoulder is banged up again ahead of Houston-Louisville Thursday night clash

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars ran 7-yards to score a touchdown in the second quarter against the Florida State Seminoles during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Two months ago, this was supposed to be one of the games of the season: Houston, the group of five’s best shot at reaching the playoff, hosting a Louisville side quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson.

One of those things is still true: Lamar Jackson remains the Heisman Trophy front-runner and can probably wrap up his candidacy in primetime Thursday night. But Houston has slumped since its 5-0 start, with losses to Navy (which wasn’t bad) and SMU (which was) and narrow-ish wins over Tulsa (by seven), UCF (by seven) and Tulane (by 12).

But if Tom Herman is going to shock the world again on Thursday night in Houston, he’ll have to do it with his star quarterback again dealing with a banged-up right shoulder.

Ward injured his shoulder diving for a spiked ball late in the first half of Houston’s win over Tulane:

Kyle Postma replaced Ward in the second half, but then broke his left arm. Ward was forced back into the game for the fourth quarter, during which Houston only gained nine yards (not counting two end-of-game kneel-downs).

Ward dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the season and was held out of Houston’s win over FCS-level Lamar in September due to it. While Houston certainly could take down Louisville with an inspired defensive performance, its chances of a season-shattering upset certainly appear lower if Ward’s shoulder remains a problem on Thursday.

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.

 

Lamar Jackson turns in another Heisman-worthy performance as Louisville drubs NC State

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 22:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Send Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to New York now. Maybe get the nameplate for the Heisman Trophy ready too. Jackson continued to pad his Heisman profile with another stellar performance, this time against NC State (4-3, 1-1 ACC). Jackson and No. 7 Louisville (6-1, 4-1 ACC) blew out the Wolfpack, 54-13 Saturday afternoon.

Jackson wasted little time in having an impact on the game. On the fourth play of the game, Jackson ripped off a 36-yard touchdown to give Louisville a quick 7-0 lead. The Heisman frontrunner ended his day having completed 20-of-34 pass attempts for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also rushed for a score and 76 yards before getting an early rest in the second half. Jackson completed touchdown passes to Jaylen Smith, Jamari Staples and Cole Hikutini.

Louisville jumped all over NC State in the first half with a dominating start. The Cardinals led at halftime 44-0. The Cardinals had a little more than a 300-yard advantage in total offense over NC State at the half and that continued in the second half. Louisville was so dominant that even 12 penalties for 94 yards didn’t seem to bother them (although it surely is not to be overlooked). Louisville also had a pair of turnovers, but they also recovered three turnovers.

The Jackson Heisman Tour will take to the road the next couple of weeks. Louisville plays at Virginia next week and at Boston College the following week before returning home to wrap up its conference schedule against Wake Forest. It’s hard not to look ahead to the mid-November game at Houston, but Louisville will remain in the playoff hunt as long as Jackson keeps playing the way he has.

NC State will look to bounce back from back-to-back ACC losses next week when they host Boston College.