Biletnikoff, Mackey Award semifinalists announced

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Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro headline the semifinalists for the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards, both of which were unveiled Monday.

Amaro, in fact, is a semifinalist for both awards — the Texas Tech tight end, who was injured Saturday against Baylor (and received a classy note from Bill Snyder), has 92 catches for 1,157 yards and six touchdowns this year.

The Biletnikoff semifinalists:

Davante Adams (Fresno State, SO): 91 REC, 967 YDS, 15 TD
Jace Amaro (Texas Tech, JR): 92 REC, 1,157 YDS, 6 TD
Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU, JR): 51 REC, 1,051 YDS, 8 TD
Brandin Cooks (Oregon State, JR): 100 REC, 1,443 YDS, 14 TD
Mike Evans (Texas A&M, SO): 57 REC, 1,263 YDS, 12 TD
Antwan Goodley (Baylor, JR): 48 REC, 1,075 YDS, 11 TD
Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt, SR): 83 REC, 1,076 YDS, 5 TD
Allen Robinson (Penn State, JR): 81 REC, 1,204 YDS, 6 TD
Willie Snead (Ball State, JR): 86 REC, 1,296 YDS, 13 TD
Sammy Watkins (Clemson, JR): 71 REC, 1,086 YDS, 9 TD

It depends on which side you’re on in handicapping the award — Evans and Goodley are the most explosive of the bunch, each averaging about 22 yards per reception. Adams, Amaro and Cooks are the only players with over 90 receptions as of now. Guys like Matthews, Robinson and Amaro haven’t caught a ton of touchdowns like Adams, Cooks and Snead.

It’s worth noting, too, that preseason frontrunner Marqise Lee isn’t a semifinalist. The star USC receiver has been banged up and hasn’t been targeted as much as expected for an elite wideout this year, only amassing 44 catches for 604 yards and two touchdowns.

As for the Mackey Award semifinalists:

Jace Amaro  (Texas Tech, JR): 92 REC, 1,157 YDS, 6 TD
Ted Bolser (Indiana, SR): 30 REC, 296 YDS, 5 TD
Eric Ebron (North Carolina, JR): 49 REC, 763 YDS, 3 TD
Devin Funchess (Michigan, SO): 42 REC, 684 YDS, 5 TD
Gator Hoskins (Marshall, SR): 28 REC, 455 YDS, 9 TD
Troy Niklas (Notre Dame, JR): 25 REC, 390 YDS, 5 TD
Nick O’Leary (Florida State, JR): 26 REC, 444 YDS, 7 TD
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington, JR): 27 REC, 328 YDS, 6 TD

Basically, it’d be stunning if Amaro didn’t win this. The award does take being a complete tight end into account — i.e. run/pass blocking — but Amaro’s numbers are so above and beyond those of the other semifinalists that he looks like the clear favorite.

No. 5 LSU can’t get anything going, still leads No. 22 Mississippi State

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Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has been responsible for almost all the points scored thus far at Tiger Stadium. Problem for the No. 22 Bulldogs is, most of them have been for the other team.

Fitzgerald’s second pass of the game, on the opening possession of the game, was intercepted by LSU’s Michael Divinity, Jr., who returned it 31 yards to the Mississippi State 3. Nick Brossette punched in a 1-yard score on 3rd-and-goal to put LSU up 7-0 two and a half minutes into the game.

Fitzgerald responded by leading the Bulldogs on a 7-play, 73-yard drive, but his 3rd-and-goal run from the 2 was stuffed and Mississippi State settled for a 19-yard Jace Christmann field goal.

LSU’s next seven possessions went three-and-out, with one exception: a 4-play drive that ended in a Joe Burrow interception inside the Mississippi State end zone, which Cameron Dantzler mistakenly brought out, only to step out at his own 1.

LSU’s first seven drives, including the 3-yard touchdown march, covered 22 yards over 15 plays. Their final possession was more successful, a 13-play, 62-yard drive that ended in a 25-yard Cole Tracy field goal as time expired, sending the No. 5 Tigers to the locker room with a 10-3 lead.

Fitzgerald dominated the ball for the Bulldogs. His legs have been effective, carrying 15 times for 102 yards, but his arm has not. He’s completed 3-of-9 passes for 14 yards with two interceptions.

LSU will receive to open the second half.

UCF started game at East Carolina without McKenzie Milton

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UCF starting quarterback McKenzie Milton did not start Saturday night’s road game at East Carolina, but the reason why is anybody’s guess at this point.

Milton did have a banged-up ankle after last week’s win at Memphis, but Milton has been shown on the sideline with his helmet, seemingly ready to go in at any moment. As of this point, with East Carolina and the Knights 3-3 in the second quarter, UCF head coach Josh Heupel has not sent in one of the top players in the AAC.

Darriel Mack Jr. started the game at quarterback for UCF, and he has looked shaky at times. He completed five of his first 10 passes for 26 yards and had trouble making a handoff on one play.

We’ll see if Milton gets a chance to come on the field and lead UCF to a win, which would be UCF’s 20th straight win. Maybe Heupel is trying to get a win without putting his MVP in harm’s way?

Nebraska finally wins first game under Scott Frost with blowout of Minnesota

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Well, it took a while, but Scott Frost has his first win as head coach of Nebraska. The Huskers (1-6, 1-4 Big Ten) picked up their long-awaited first win of the season in a 53-28 victory over Minnesota (3-4, 0-4 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Nebraska jumped out to a 28-0 lead on the Gophers in the first half, but a late touchdown by Minnesota at the end of the first half and two scores in the third quarter brought about some concern form the Husker faithful as the lead was trimmed to 28-22.  Fortunately for Nebraska, that was as close as Minnesota would get as the Huskers went on a 25-6 run to close out the game.

Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez completed 25 of 29 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns and he rushed for 125 yards and another touchdown for his finest start yet at Nebraska. Devine Ozigbo (152 yards, 2 TD) and Maurice Washington (109 yards, 1 TD) also had big days on the ground in the win as Nebraska rolled up 382 rushing yards as a team.

After the game, it was time to celebrate the win that took longer than expected to celebrate in the Frost Era in Lincoln.

After the game, Frost was awarded the game ball in honor of his first win with the program.

Nebraska was the last program form a power conference to record a win this season. UCLA picked up their first win last week.

Nebraska will now be in great shape to make it two straight wins for Frost as the Huskers will host Bethune-Cookman next week in Lincoln. The game against the FCS program was thrown together as a way to makeup a game against Akron wiped out due to inclement weather in Week 1.

Minnesota, one of two teams without a win in Big Ten play (Rutgers), will look for their first win in the conference next week when they host Indiana. Indiana comes to town after losing a close game to Penn State.

Houston keeps NY6 hopes going as Navy sinking toward losing season

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While UCF may get the majority of the national spotlight when discussing the American Athletic Conference, the Houston Cougars (6-1, 3-0 AAC) made certain the path to the AAC Championship Game out of the West Division will continue to go through them. A 49-36 victory on the road at Navy moved AAC to being the only undefeated team in conference play in the West Division.

Houston quarterback D’Eriq King passed for 413 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and he led the Cougars in the running game with 56 rushing yards and a touchdown in the road win against the Midshipmen. Navy rushed for 344 yards as a team, typical for their offense against most opponents, but Houston was able to avoid being worn down on defense.

The loss sinks Navy to 2-5 this season and the chance to go to a seventh straight bowl game is beginning to fade. Ken Niumatalolo has only had one losing season in his time at Navy, going 5-7 in 2011, but it is beginning to look as though he will have his second losing season this fall. Navy will play Notre Dame in San Diego next week, and that is followed by road games in conference play against Cincinnati and UCF.

Of course, Navy also ends the season in the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia against an Army program well on their way to a winning season and a bowl berth regardless of what happens in the rivalry game.

Meanwhile, Houston is hoping to be able to play their way into the New Years Six conversation, one this program should be capable of doing on a regular basis. At 6-1, Houston is every bit as worthy of being in the New Years Six discussion among Group of Five programs. Even if Houston loses a second game, it may not be impossible to pull off given the rest of the Group of Five landscape either. Houston will host South Florida next week, and the Cougars will also host Temple and Tulane and visit SMU and Memphis in the second half of the season.