WHO: Northern Illinois (11-2) vs. Marshall (12-1)
WHAT: The inaugural Boca Raton Bowl
WHERE: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
WHEN: 6:00 p.m. ET Dec. 23 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: The brand new Boca Raton Bowl has quite the match-up of non-power conference champions. The champions of Conference USA (Marshall) and the MAC (Northern Illinois) should provide for a good, quality game. For Marshall, it may be one last attempt to prove itself to be the top non-power conference champion after passed over by Boise State for a spot in the New Years Six line-up. Marshall and NIU combined for a record of 23-3 this season.
Marshall’s offense centers around the veteran quarterback Rakeem Cato. Cato should be able to find his targets — Tommy Shuler and Davonte Allen are his top two receivers — against NIU’s secondary, which ranks 64th in the nation in pass defense. Cato may have to extend some plays with his feet though, as NIU should be expected to bring pressure in the backfield. NIU recorded 30 sacks this season, but they go up against a Marshall offensive line that has done well in protecting their quarterback. Cato may have to extend some plays with his feet at times. Fortunately for the Conference USA champions and head coach Doc Holliday, this is something Cato does well. Cato has rushed for 457 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Marshall went 3-0 against the MAC this season with wins against Miami, Ohio and Akron, but NIU will be the biggest test for the Thundering Herd. NIU started the season off a little bit on a slow note as they looked to replace Jordan Lynch, but the Huskies ended the season hitting their stride at a very good time. Drew Hare has come along as a dual-threat player under center, but the running game is powered mostly by Cameron Stingily, a tough and physical back with the ability to wear down Marshall’s defense.
Marshall has won three straight bowl games dating back to 2009. The Huskies of NIU are looking to snap a two-game losing streak in postseason bowl action. Head coach Rod Carey is 0-2 in bowl games, including one Orange Bowl loss to Florida State in an interim role at the end of the 2012 season after Dave Doeren left the Huskies for NC State.
THE PREDICTION: NIU 34, Marshall 31
(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.
A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggart “badly 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.”
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
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.