NIU sets pace in MAC West, Akron inches closer to bowl game

1 Comment

Needing a win in order to stay atop the MAC West, and put the pressure on Toledo and Western Michigan to keep winning, Northern Illinois (9-2, 6-1 MAC) won a defensive battle at Ohio Tuesday night. A 21-14 victory against the Ohio Bobcats (5-6, 3-4 MAC) moves Northern Illinois into sole possession of first place for now.

NIU quarterback Drew Hare was your star of the night for the Huskies. Hare passed for 178 yards and two touchdowns and led the team running the football with 65 yards. NIU running back Cameron Stingily has carried the load for NIU in recent weeks, but he was relegated to just 43 yards and a touchdown Tuesday night. Ohio was unable to capitalize on a good evening from running back A.J. Ouellette, who rushed for a game-high 127 yards and a touchdown. Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick passed for 141 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 80 yards to contribute to the Ohio offense on a cold night in Athens.

Toledo gets a chance to keep pace Wednesday night at home against MAC East champion Bowling Green. Western Michigan will play at Central Michigan on Saturday. Northern Illinois plays at Western Michigan in the final week of the season. If Northern Illinois wins at Western Michigan, the Huskies will win the MAC West and head to Detroit for  rematch with Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game. If Western Michigan wins its final two games and Toledo loses once, the Broncos will play in Detroit. Toledo advances to the MAC Championship Game with two Western Michigan wins if the Rockets win out.

NIU is likely on the outside of the Group of Five conversations unless a series of crazy events unfold in the final few weeks. It is not impossible to get enough help out of the Mountain West Conference (Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State… Air Force?) and perhaps Conference USA (Marshall), but even if NIU finishes on a roll it may not be enough to crack the NEw Years bowl games this season.

Ohio is not in any division race but hopes to play in the postseason. The Bobcats must win its season finale next Tuesday night at Miami Ohio in order to become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season.

Akron 30, UMass 7

With the win, Akron (5-6, 3-4 MAC) remains in the running to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005. Kyle Pohl passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns and the Zips defense forced four turnovers in a 30-7 win against UMass (3-8, 3-4 MAC). John Mackey Award semifinalist Jean Sifrin had a pair of catches for 23 yards and recorded the only touchdown of the night for UMass.

Akron now needs to win its final game of the year in order to clinch bowl eligibility. They will have to do so on the road, against a woeful Kent State team next Tuesday night.

UMass will play its final game in the MAC next week, at home against Buffalo. The Minutemen will be leaving the MAC after this season, and it looks as though the football program will move forward as an independent in 2015 unless anything changes in a relatively short amount of time.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

Getty Images
1 Comment

A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

Getty Images
1 Comment

With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.