Pitt becomes ACC Coastal contenders with victory over Boston College

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A weird thing happened as the Pitt Panthers dominated the Boston College Eagles Friday night at Alumni Stadium. The Panthers looked capable of winning the ACC Coastal Division during their 30-20 victory.

Three areas of the Panthers’ squad stood out during the impressive performance

First, the team established an identity on offense and his name is James Conner. The sophomore is also establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the nation. Conner ran for 214 yards on 36 carries Friday night. He now has 367 yards through two games. The identity is a reflection of head coach Paul Chryst‘s preference to be a hard-nosed, run-first football program. It’s taken the coach three seasons to mold the roster to his liking, but he now has a 250-pound freight train at running back and a talented offensive line to dominate at the point of attack.

Second, everything may start with the Panthers’ ground game, but they’re not limited to simply running the football. Tyler Boyd is one of college football’s most talented wide receivers. Boyd caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns. The wide receiver also ran the ball twice for 23 yards. Boyd’s presence on the outside helps Pitt stretch the field and provide more space underneath to run the football. When a crucial third-down conversion is required, quarterback Chad Voytik can rely on his top target to make a play.

Finally, the Panthers are talented on special teams. It’s an often overlooked aspect of the game, but the team has complete confidence in sophomore kicker Chris Blewitt, who was 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards against the Eagles. Redshirt freshman Ryan Winslow punted five times during the contest. The Eagles didn’t return a single punt.

The Panthers are also fortunate to have a favorable schedule. Pitt could easily be 5-0 before they reenter ACC play Oct. 4 against the Virginia Cavaliers.

There is a flipside to the Panthers’ success. For the team to live up to raised expectations, it must overcome three areas of concern.

First, Voytik must continue to mature as a passer. Second, the offensive line must remain healthy, which it didn’t do against Boston College. Starting center Artie Rowell injured his leg during the game and was seen wearing a massive knee brace during the second half. And the defense must continue to play at a high level against better competition. The unit has given up 333 yards through two games.

CFT chose Pitt to finish fourth in the ACC’s Coastal Division. We may have underestimated the talent on the Panthers’ roster this season.

Concussions force Baylor’s Bralen Taylor to retire

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Concern over his long-term health has prompted one Baylor football player to step away from the sport.  Permanently.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday, Bralen Taylor announced in a statement that he is “medically retiring from the game I love.” The wide receiver-turned-tight-end-turned-defensive end stated that he has “suffered from a number of concussions while playing” football.  Taylor didn’t specify when and at what level those concussions occurred.

“This is the game that I grew up playing and loving. [T]his game has [given] me everything I have ever asked for and more,” Taylor wrote. “The brain is nothing to mess around with. [W]hile some won’t understand, [God] has already made a plan.”

Taylor was a three-star member of the Baylor football Class of 2018.  He was rated as the No. 90 player regardless of position in the state of Texas.

During his brief time in Waco, Taylor played in six games.  Four of those appearances came this past season.  In that limited action, he was credited with three tackles and one-half of a sack.

Baylor football has gone from 1-11 in Matt Rhule‘s first season with the Bears in 2017 to 11-3 this past season.  The 2019 campaign included a berth in both the Big 12 championship game and the Sugar Bowl.

Unfortunately for BU, Rhule left to take the head job with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

USC makes hiring of Virginia’s Vic So’oto official

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The massive renovation of Clay Helton’s USC football coaching staff has taken another official step.

Last week, it was reported that USC was expected to poach Vic So’oto from Virginia.  As Clint Sintim‘s hiring as So’oto’s replacement was announced a few days later, the latter’s move to the Trojans was a mere formality.

Tuesday, USC football confirmed So’oto’s addition to Clay Helton’s staff.  As he did with the ‘Hoos, So’oto will serve as the Trojans’ defensive line coach.

The 32-year-old So’oto was the line coach at Virginia for the past three seasons.  Prior to that, he was a defensive graduate assistant at the ACC program.

So’oto played his college football at BYU, ending his four-year career in 2010.  After his NFL career ended, So’oto began his collegiate coaching career as a football intern at his alma mater.

For those unaware, So’oto is the second cousin of USC football legend Junior Seau.

LSU confirms hiring of Scott Linehan as new passing-game coordinator

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LSU football has officially replaced one of the hottest young coaches in the sport.

Not long after LSU football claimed the 2019 national championship, Joe Brady left to take over as the offensive coordinator for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Earlier this month, it was reported that Scott Linehan was expected to be hired as Brady’s successor.

Tuesday, LSU confirmed that Linehan has indeed been named by Ed Orgeron as the Tigers’ new passing-game coordinator. The 56-year-old Linehan has spent the past 17 seasons he’s been a coach at the NFL level.

Linehan was out of coaching this past season.

“Scott brings a wealth of knowledge to our offense,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “We wanted to bring in someone who will expand our passing game and with Scott’s experience as an NFL head coach and offensive coordinator we feel this is the best move for our offense. After talking to numerous people with NFL experience and interviewing Scott we knew he was the right fit for the LSU Tigers.”

In 13 of those seasons in the NFL, Linehan served as an offensive coordinator.

  • Dallas Cowboys, 2015-18
  • Detroit Lions, 2009-13
  • Miami Dolphins, 2005
  • Minnesota Vikings, 2002-04

In the other four NFL seasons in which he wasn’t a coordinator, Linehan was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams (2006-08) and passing-game coordinator for the Cowboys (2014).

Linehan’s last job at the collegiate level came as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Louisville (1999-2001). From 1996-98, he was the coordinator at Washington.

American announces 2020 schedule

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The American Athletic Conference will again play football in 2020, the conference confirmed on Tuesday.

The American revealed its 2020 conference schedule, a 44-game slate that completes the 88 total games AAC teams will play in 2020. As a reminder, UConn is no longer an American member, meaning the conference will have 11 football-playing members for the foreseeable future. All 11 teams will still play an 8-game league schedule, and the conference will still hold a title game.

The 2020 season will also be the conference’s first under the new rights agreement it struck with ESPN in March. As such, at least 40 American home games will be shown on the ESPN family of networks, and at least half of those will be on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. The conference will play a total of 12 games on Thursday or Friday nights.

“We are excited to announce our 2020 schedule as we enter the next phase of our longstanding relationship with ESPN,” said commissioner Mike Aresco. “With the continued success our schools have had, I have no doubt that we will once again provide our fans, and ESPN, with compelling matchups throughout the season in both conference and nonconference play. We look forward to another outstanding season of American Athletic Conference football.”

The season will begin on Saturday, Aug. 29 when Navy “hosts” Notre Dame at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. That game will be shown on ESPN with College GameDay in tow as part of the network’s season kick-off effort. While the full schedule can be viewed here, highlights include:

  • North Carolina at UCF, Sept. 4 (Friday)
  • South Florida at Texas, Sept. 5
  • Temple at Miami, Sept. 5
  • Houston at Washington State, Sept. 12
  • Cincinnati at Nebraska, Sept. 26
  • TCU at SMU, Sept. 26
  • Memphis at SMU, Oct. 1 (Thursday)
  • UCF at Memphis, Oct. 16 (Friday)
  • Memphis at Cincinnati, Oct. 31
  • Memphis at Navy, Nov. 14
  • Cincinnati at UCF, Nov. 21
  • UCF at South Florida, Nov. 27 (Friday)

The 2020 American season will conclude with the sixth annual American Championship on Saturday, Dec. 5.