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

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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.

Starting Tulsa safety Cristian Williams popped for DUI, suspended

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If the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker was still a thing, it’d be a Tulsa football player responsible for setting it back to double zeroes.

According to Tulsa World, Cristian Williams was arrested this past weekend on one count of driving under the influence.  Details of what led up to the arrest and charge have not yet been released.

As a result of the arrest, the Tulsa football program has indefinitely suspended the safety.

The off-field incident has cast somewhat of a shadow on what was a feel-good story for the 2019 season.

Williams returned to the playing field last August after missing most of the 2018 season with what was thought to be a career-ending health issue. The defensive back had been diagnosed with an “Arnold Chiari Type 1 malformation (a fluid-filled cyst commonly known as a syrinx)” in September and moved over to become a student assistant as he dealt with the issue.

In his return to the field, Williams started all 12 games for the Golden Hurricane in 2019.  He has been awarded a sixth season of eligibility, which he’ll be permitted to use in 2020.  Provided there is a season, of course.

During his time with Tulsa football, Williams has started 16 of the 39 games in which he played.

Tulsa is coming off a 4-8 football campaign.  That marked the third straight losing season for the Golden Hurricane since they won 10 games in 2016.  In bringing back Montgomery for a sixth season, though, the program made it clear that it’s a bowl game or bust in 2020.  Whether the pandemic alters that mindset remains to be seen.

Utah QB Jason Shelley transfers to Utah State

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Jason Shelley may have left Utah but, thanks to Utah State, he won’t be leaving the Beehive State to continue his football career.

Way back in early February, Shelley took the first step in leaving the Utes by entering the NCAA transfer database.  More than five months later, Utah State has officially confirmed the quarterback’s addition to the football roster.

As a graduate transfer, Shelley is eligible to play immediately for the Aggies in 2020.  Additionally, the school noted, Shelley will have another year of eligibility to use in 2021 as well.

Shelley was a three-star member of the Utes’ 2017 recruiting class.  The 247Sports.com competitive had the Texas product rated as the No. 17 dual-threat quarterback in the country.

In 19 career games with the Pac-12 program, Shelley started five of those contests.  In that action, Shelley completed 104-of-179 passes for 1,205 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.  He also ran for 223 yards and another four scores.

The Aggies are coming off a 7-6 record in their second first season under Gary Andersen.  Anderson also served as the USU head coach from 2009-12.  In his final season in Logan, Andersen led Utah State to a school-record 11 wins. That mark was matched six years later by Matt Wells.  That season helped Wells land the Texas Tech job.  And led Andersen back to USU.

Hawaii adds another grad transfer WR, this one from Rice

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Hawaii football has been busy on the portal front.  Especially when it comes to the receiving corps.

In mid-June, Hawaii confirmed the addition of North Texas wide receiver transfer Rico Bussey Jr. to its football roster.  Roughly a month later, Aaron Cephus made his commitment to Hawaii football over the weekend.  The receiver, who began his collegiate career at Rice, made the announcement on his personal Twitter account.

As will be the case with Bussey, Cephus is coming to the Rainbow Warriors as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will serve as his final year of eligibility.

Coming out of high school in Texas, Cephus was a two-star member of the Class of 2016 for the Owls. His first season at the Conference USA school, Cephus took a redshirt.  The next two, though, the receiver put up impressive numbers.

In 2017, Cephus earned third-team All-Conference USA honors after setting a school record for freshmen with 622 yards.   The following season he led the Owls with five touchdown receptions.  He was also second on the team with 565 yards and third with 40 receptions despite missing the final two games with an injury.

A suspension, however, cost Cephus the entire 2019 season.

All told, Cephus has totaled 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns on 65 receptions.  The 6-4, 200-pound also averaged 18.3 yards per catch.

Hawaii football is coming off its best season since 2010. Included in a 10-win season was the program’s first appearance in the Mountain West Conference championship game.  Of course, that appearance ended in a loss to Boise State.

Ohio State announces resumption of voluntary workouts after COVID-19-related suspension last week

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After a brief hiccup, Ohio State is back to prepping for whatever the 2020 college football season will hold.

July 8, Ohio State announced that it was putting a halt to all voluntary on-campus workouts that had commenced the month before.  The pause was due to “the results of its most recent COVID-19 testing of student-athletes.”

Tuesday, however, Ohio State announced that its student-athletes, including football players, are now permitted to resume the workouts.  The school noted in its release that “[a]ll student-athletes from the seven sports that returned last month to voluntary workouts were tested Monday, and the results were received today.  The last round of testing was July 7 resulting in the suspension July 8.”

The school did not give the specifics of the tests that were most recently taken, citing the individual medical privacy of the athletes.

“Our Buckeyes are excited to be headed into a new school year and were disappointed last week when we had to temporarily suspend training,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “These young people come from across the nation and the world to be part of our Ohio State family, and we do everything we can to create a safe, healthy environment so that they have a chance to study and compete.  Our medical team will continue to evaluate, and we will share our decisions as we move forward.”

Ohio State had been scheduled to open the 2020 season at home against Bowling Green Sept. 5.  However, the Big Ten announced this month that its league members will be going to a conference-only schedule for fall sports.