Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which features two teams from Conference USA and one each from the MAC and Mountain West.
WHO: Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT: The inaugural Popeyes Bahama Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This game serves as a rematch of the 2012 Little Caesars, won by Central Michigan 24-21. That’s of little import to this game, however, as the head coaches are different, the quarterbacks are different, etc. What is of import is that Western Kentucky comes into this game with a ton of confidence, riding a four-game winning streak that includes a win over Conference USA champ Marshall in the regular-season finale that knocked the Herd from the ranks of the unbeaten and out of a potential New Year’s Eve/Day bowl appearance. Even better for WKU? Central Michigan is a middling 45th in passing yards allowed and T-69th in touchdown passes given up, while Brandon Doughty leads the nation in yards passing (4,544) and touchdown passes (44). The Chips gave up more than 17 points in their seven wins just once (27, Miami of Ohio) and only gave up more than 27 points in four games total; conversely, the Hilltoppers scored fewer than 34 points in a game this season one time (59-10 loss to Louisiana Tech). When it comes to WKU’s scoring offense and CMU’s scoring defense, something has to give.
THE LINE: Central Michigan, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 51, Central Michigan 34
WHO: Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)
WHAT: The 13th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Much to the dismay of some, I’m sure, this bowl game has the distinction of being the only one of the 38 postseason games on the 2014-15 slate to feature a team with a losing record (Fresno State, courtesy of a 14-point loss to Boise State in the Mountain West championship game earlier this month). Rice actually had a very real shot at earning a 13th game in Week 14, but a humiliating 76-31 loss to Louisiana Tech kept the Owls out of the Conference USA championship game. Not only are the Bulldogs looking to avoid the ignominy of an eighth loss in a bowl season (last accomplished: UCLA, 2011), but they are looking to snap a five-game bowl losing streak that stretches back to a loss in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl. In their last nine games, the Owls’ only losses were to the two teams that played for the league title (Marshall, LaTech). Two of their other losses came on the road to Notre Dame and Texas A&M the first two weeks of the season. Then again, three of the Bulldogs’ losses came against Power Five schools USC, Utah and Nebraska, with two others coming at the hands of MWC champion Boise State. A bad omen for Fresno? They are 113th in stopping the run (206.9 ypg) while Rice has rushed for 150-plus yards in seven of the last eight games. If the game is close, keep it out of the hands — or feet — of the kickers as both the Owls (63.1%) and Bulldogs (63.6%) struggled on field goal attempts this season.
THE LINE: Fresno State, +2
THE PREDICTION: Rice 34, Fresno State 31
An LSU football legend officially has an on-field role at his alma mater.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Kevin Faulk would be promoted from his current position as LSU football director of player development. Thursday, the Tigers confirmed that Faulk has been promoted by Ed Orgeron to running backs coach.
Faulk replaces Tommie Robinson, who left to take the same job at SEC West rival Texas A&M.
“We would like to thank Tommie (Robinson) for being a part of our national championship program and wish him the best in his future,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “Kevin is a great teacher and mentor and someone that has earned the respect and love of our players. We are honored to have one of the greatest players in LSU history as part of our coaching staff. This is a home run hire.”
Faulk played collegiately for LSU football from 1995-98. He is still the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,557) and rushing TDs (46).
Faulk was then a second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1999. He spent 13 years in the NFL, joining his high school alma mater’s football coaching staff upon his retirement following the 2011 season.
In 2018, Faulk rejoined the LSU football program in an off-field role. This will be his field on-field role at any level of college football.
“The day I graduated high school I knew I wanted to be a coach,” the 43-year-old Faulk said. “The coaches I had growing up meant so much to me and the community, and I knew I wanted to be that guy. To coach at my alma mater is the best thing I could ever hope for. I wear the purple and gold with pride every day, and I am ready to get going to help win another national championship.”
The MAC title game isn’t the only bit of #MACtion that Ford Field will see in 2020.
The conference recently released their annual football schedule on Wednesday and among the notable league games is the rivalry contest between Central Michigan and Western Michigan. While this one figures to have division implications on Oct. 17, things are going to be slightly different this year.
Namely that it won’t be on either campus and will instead be played at Ford Field.
“Ford Field has been the location of many great experiences for CMU Football, and this is an opportunity to create another iconic experience for our program and our university,” athletic director Michael Alford said in a release. “CMU’s continued success means out-of-the-box thinking. Bringing this game — and the events surrounding it — to Detroit allows our athletics program to help engage thousands of people who are passionate about CMU.”
It’s an interesting move that will push CMU to over a decade without a win over their directional rivals in Mt. Pleasant. Still, the larger venue and the opportunity to make things an even bigger event in the state’s largest city seem to have won out.
The Detroit News reported on Tuesday that the Chips wanted to do a multi-year deal at the home of the NFL’s Lions but that WMU said no thanks.
The Broncos have won seven of the last nine meetings, including last year’s 31-15 win in Kalamazoo. Despite that head-to-head victory though, Jim McElwain’s squad got the last laugh by winning the MAC West in one of the biggest turnaround stories of the 2019 season.
They wound up playing at Ford Field in the conference title game where they eventually lost to Miami (OH) 26-21. The venue has been the home of the MAC championship since 2004 and will have the next edition played on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday Dec. 5.
Georgia Tech is loving itself some #MACtion.
The school announced a pair of future schedule moves against teams from the eponymous league on Wednesday. Among the most immediate actions for the Yellow Jackets is that their 2021 contest against Northern Illinois will be shifted to become the season-opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 4.
GT will then play FCS Kennesaw State at home and conclude the early non-conference slate with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2021. Their annual rivalry contest against Georgia will conclude the regular season the final weekend of November as usual.
Tech also added Bowling Green to their upcoming docket. The Falcons will head to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. A trip to Ole Miss and the in-state rival Bulldogs coming to Atlanta will round out the Jackets’ non-conference schedule with one more opening still to be signed (likely against an FCS opponent).
Head coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 squad will have their attention on a conference opponent to open the upcoming season as they take on ACC opponent Clemson at home on Thursday, Sept. 3. The two programs will also meet again in city for the 2022 season opener at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well.
While those big name opponents will get more attention from fans in the region, don’t discount a bit of that #MACtion heading South either.
Keeping Clay Helton around wasn’t the only decision last year that upset USC fans. Now the school backtracking on a choice it just made has cost the program a pretty penny.
For those not in the know, cardinal and gold supporters up in arms last year when it was announced the program had agreed to a non-conference game with UC Davis for the 2021 season. Such a contest typically doesn’t draw much attention but it did in Los Angeles as it was the first FCS opponent the Trojans were to play in their illustrious history.
That would have left rivals UCLA and Notre Dame as the only two FBS programs not to play an FCS team.
Then things changed. The athletic director responsible for the deal, Lynn Swann, was shown the door. His replacement Mike Bohn has gone about trying to make amends and recently announced that USC had eventually backed out of the game against the Aggies.
In their place on the docket at the Coliseum that season is another Bay Area team, San Jose State. We already recounted how the Spartans made out quite nicely on the balance sheet as a result of this (and subsequent buyout from Georgia) swap. As it turns out though, they weren’t the only Northern California team to do so.
According to the Davis Enterprise, the buyout UCD was owed was only supposed to be $225,000. However terms called for that to jump to $725,000 after the start of the new year. Because the Trojans waited around they then had to pony up that extra half million for doing something they had been considering since the new administration came in.
“It’s pretty funny. We had every intention of playing that game,” Aggies senior associate athletics director Josh Flushman told the paper. “We just wanted to make sure (if there were) buyouts we were going to get the money.
“In December, (AD Kevin Blue) and I joking said, ‘Don’t take any phone calls from L.A. numbers until after the first.’”
The call didn’t come until February and the school is that much richer for it. On top of that they added a $400,000 guarantee game from Tulsa to replace Southern Cal on the schedule to boot.
Waiting may be the hardest part for some but it resulted in a nice seven-figure gain at UC Davis.