Report: Utah State may be near deal to join Mountain West

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Talk about kicking a brother when he’s down.

As if losing Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii to the Mountain West wasn’t already enough to pull the WAC off life support, it now appears the MWC is bypassing torture altogether and going straight for the throat.

As you may, or may not, recall, the Mountain West was meeting yesterday and today to discuss TV deals, scheduling and, of course, conference expansion.

According to the Deseret News, sources close to the situation are saying that Mountain West members are expected to vote “yes” on conference expansion and “yes” on inviting Utah State. And, in the spirit of twisting the proverbial knife, Utah State is expected to accept the invitation.

For the Mountain West, the addition of USU would provide access to the Salt Lake media market lost with the departures of BYU and Utah. For Utah State? Well, they would probably just be happy to be part of a conference that’s not imploding.

If the sources turn out to be correct, it would be another devastating blow to a conference already down to a handful of  really sub-par programs — and that’s not even to mention San Jose State, who was apparently on the MWC’s radar last week. No word has been given (yet) about SJSU’s involvement in the conference expansion negotiations.

Funny, I think I hear “Taps” being played …

Iowa State forced to swap Incarnate Word for Drake as make-up opponent

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Most college football schedule is done years, if not decades in advance. Not for Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard. He’s had to line up two separate make-up game opponents within the same season.

The Cyclones were supposed to open this season with South Dakota State but, like Nebraska, the game had to be cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms in the Midwest. Whereas Nebraska was able to line up and play Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 27, Iowa State was not able to schedule a make-up game until Dec. 1, against Incarnate Word. Delaying the game so far into the calendar opened up the possibility it could be cancelled due to either Iowa State making the Big 12 Championship or UIW making the FCS playoffs. Remote as they seemed at the time, those possibilities floated out there in the distance.

Well, Iowa State (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) will not play for the Big 12 title, thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Texas. But Incarnate Word, 2-9 a year ago and playing under first-year head coach Eric Morris, managed to make the FCS playoffs. The 6-4 Cardinals, co-champions of the Southland Conference, snared an at-large bid and will open their first playoff run at Montana State on Saturday.

Given that their make-up opponent may not be available, Iowa State had to line up a make-up to the make-up opponent and found one in another FCS school — Drake.

“We’re most grateful to Drake Athletics Director Brian Hardin, Coach Rick Fox and the Bulldog leadership team for working with us through a very fluid situation,” Pollard said. “Coach (Matt) Campbell wants to play a 12th game and I believe our fans would welcome another chance to see this bowl-bound team play. I know the Bulldogs will enjoy the chance to play at Jack Trice Stadium and compete against a Power 5 opponent.”

Drake is located in Des Moines, just a 40 minute drive directly south on Interstate 35 from Ames, while Incarnate Word is located in San Antonio.

While Drake will not have to make a long trip to play this hastily-scheduled make-up game, it is still a significant undertaking for the Bulldogs. Drake competes in the Pioneer Football League, which does not offer scholarships. The Bulldogs went 7-3 overall and 6-2 in PFL play, completing their scheduled season with 43-6 win over Morehead State last Saturday.

They’ll have one more opponent to face this fall, and it’s a significant step up from their regular competition.

The game will kickoff at noon ET.

South Florida handing out free tickets to rivalry game vs. No. 11 UCF

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The War on I-4 was one of the very best games of 2017. With the AAC East championship on the line, 10-0 UCF hosted 9-1 South Florida before a national television audience and a packed Spectrum Stadium crowd. It was a game the visiting Bulls led 34-28 entering the fourth quarter, UCF rocketed forward to take a 42-34 lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida tied with 1:41 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion, and then UCF immediately wrestled the lead back with game-winning 95-yard kickoff return.

Regardless of classification, conference, what have you, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games of the entire season.

Fast forward a year with the scene shifting to Tampa and it’s safe to say the atmosphere will not be the. UCF is controls its fate to win the American, but South Florida does not. The Bulls are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play.

With their rivals traveling southeast on Interstate 4 (hence the rivalry’s name) South Florida’s powers-that-be were apparently nervous about black-and-gold taking over the green-and-old in their own stadium, so they decided to give out some free tickets.

It’s not exactly fair to say USF has worse fans than UCF. USF shares its home with a pro team while UCF does not. Thus, USF has to fill a larger stadium (65,890) than UCF (45,031). Knights fans also get to root for a better team than Bulls fans, at least over those past two seasons.

Even given those caveats, it still may be more embarrassing to give out free tickets to your rivalry game rather than just selling them to your rivals.

South Florida hosts No. 11 UCF at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Friday.

Broyles Award for top assistant narrows field to 15 semifinalists

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The most prestigious award a college football assistant can claim has significantly narrowed its list of potential winners.

Tuesday, the Broyles Award unveiled its 15 semifinalists for the 2018 version of its hardware.  Four of the semifinalists come from the SEC, while two each hail from the Big 12, Pac-12 and football independents.  The ACC has two of the 15 and the Big Ten has one.

Group of Five conferences account for three of the semifinalists as UAB, UCF and Utah State are all represented.  Army also accounts for one of the semifinalists.

Of the 15 semifinalists, seven are defensive coordinators and seven are offensive coordinators.  Just one position coach made the cut — UCF offensive line coach Glen Elarbee.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was the 2017 winner of the Broyles Award; the Tigers’ other offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, is a semifinalist this year.

Alabama – Mike Locksley, Offensive Coordinator
Army – Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator
Cal – Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
Clemson – Jeff Scott, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Georgia – Sam Pittman, Offensive Line
LSU – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Notre Dame – Chip Long, Offensive Coordinator
Oklahoma – Bill Bedenbaugh, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
UAB – David Reeves, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Glen Elarbee, Offensive Line
Utah State – David Yost, Offensive Coordinator/QBs
Washington State – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia – Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

Miami Hurricanes down to one healthy tight end, a walk-on

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To say that injuries at the tight end position have been an issue for Miami this season would be a significant understatement.

In early August, Michael Irvin II suffered an MCL injury in his right knee and will be out for up to four months.  In mid-September, the Hurricanes were down to two healthy scholarship tight ends when Brian Polendey suffered a season-ending injury.

Unbelievably, both of the remaining scholarship tight ends, Brevin Jordan (pictured) and Will Mallory, who are both true freshmen, were injured in last Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech.  Both Jordan, who is second on the team in receptions with 30, and Mallory will be sidelined for the regular-season finale against Pitt this weekend.

The good news is that, per head coach Mark Richt, the two tight ends should be healthy enough to return for a bowl game.  The bad news?  According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Hurricanes are now down to just one healthy tight end, and he’s a walk-on — Nicholas Ducheine.

The redshirt freshman Ducheine has appeared in two games this season — Week 2 vs. Savannah State, Week 12 vs. Tech — and is still looking for his first career reception.