Gators grab 21-7 halftime lead on Pirates in Birmingham Bowl

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In the second-to-last non-playoff bowl game remaining, it’s a Power Five team getting the best of a Group of Five squad.

After two quarters of play, Florida overcame a sluggish start to grab a 21-7 halftime lead on East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.  This is just the second meeting between the two programs, with the first coming in 1983.

And while UF grabbed what for the moment is a comfortable lead, it was ECU that actually took an early 7-0 on a Justin Hardy touchdown reception, after which the all-time FBS leader in career receptions busted out the Gator Chomp.  After that, though, it was all Gators.

Appropriately enough, a defensive touchdown — a Brian Poole pick-six — opened the scoring for UF late in the first quarter.

Adam Lane, a 5-7, 222-pound redshirt freshman who could very well double as a beer keg in the offseason, led the Gators with 68 yards rushing on just four carries; entering this game, Lane had rushed for 72 yards the entire 2014 season.  Lane scored the first offensive touchdown for the Gators, a two-yard run early in the second quarter that gave UF its first lead of the game.

(Writer’s note: no, I don’t know if Lane “had an accident in his pants,”)

A Treon Harris 16-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Powell eight minutes later capped the Gators’ 21-0 run.

One of the few lowpoints for UF was a rather horrific one as Antonio Morrison, the team’s leading tackler, went down with what appeared to be a significant leg injury.  During the telecast, you could actually, very clearly, hear Morrison screaming out in pain, a disturbing sound that most could likely do without hearing.

Morrison was subsequently taken off the field on a cart for further evaluation by the football program’s medical personnel.

The Gators were outgained 282-161 in total offense, but only allowed the seven points.

ECU’s Shane Carden, the nation’s No. 2 passer in yards, passed for 203 in the first two quarters.  He also had a touchdown and interception, one of two Pirate turnovers.  The second one, a fumble by Kurt Benkert, came at the UF one-yard line late in the half as ECU was looking to cut the score to 21-14.

The Pirates did have a chance to cut the lead to 21-10 on the drive after that, but missed wide-right on a 42-yard field goal attempt with :42 remaining.

MWC, Sun Belt commissioners join AAC in starting to stump for Group of Five bid

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Most of the political world may be focused on the upcoming Democratic debates this month but for a slice of the college football world, no debate looms larger than the one concerning who gets the automatic Group of Five bid to the New Year’s Six.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been on a media blitz recently to sump for his league the past two weeks, appearing on a variety of outlets as diverse as Bloomberg to the regular national radio and talk shows that dot the landscape. His message is a pretty simple one that he backs up with plenty of strength of schedule arguments but is essentially: the winner of Saturday’s Memphis-Cincinnati game should get the invite regardless what happens elsewhere.

The Tigers have been the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s top-ranked Group of Five team recently and likely sit with a win-and-in scenario. The question is though, what happens if the two-loss Bearcats emerge victorious?

That’s what fans of Boise State and Appalachian State are hoping for as both, if they win their respective conference title games, will be positioned to grab the bit in a close race with the AAC winner.

Now it appears that both the MWC and Sun Belt commissioners are joining Aresco in getting their talking points out in hopes that they somehow make their way to the committee’s ears.

“I am disappointed that Appalachian State is not ranked higher,” Sun Belt commish Keith Gill told The Athletic this week. “They are 11-1, 6-0 on the road, the only Group of 5 team to beat two Autonomy 5 teams on the road, and I believe that their body of work deserves more respect.”

“We just let the results kind of speak for themselves,” MWC counterpart Craig Thompson added. “I think we’ve done enough. When it really gets down to it, it’s the people in the room at the Gaylord in Texas (the CFP committee) that’ll make the determination. So as long as we’re stating our case, everything else is kind of superfluous. It really doesn’t matter what others think. It’s those people that are raising their hand”

While neither are quite beating the drum like their AAC counterpart, it’s clear there’s going to be plenty of campaigning for the elusive spot — and the hefty revenue bump that comes with it — from now until Sunday.

NCAA committee chair hints at changes coming to four-game redshirt rule

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This college football season has been a bit different from most thanks to a combination of two factors that have very little to do with the play on the field: a new rule allowing players to redshirt despite playing in four games and the NCAA transfer portal.

Amid a flurry of player movement as a result of those two, on top of unique situations like Houston’s D’Eriq King deciding to take a redshirt in what amounts to a lost year for the Cougars, it seems the powers at be are already eyeing tweaking the current status quo. West Virgnia AD Shane Lyons chairs the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and remarked on a local radio show that adjustments to the current set of rules are likely to be discussed during meetings at the NCAA convention in January.

“I don’t think it’s a good optic for college sports,” Lyons said, according to the West Virginia MetroNews. “The way it looks, a student-athlete is potentially quitting on his team.

“It’s something the committee will look at in their January meeting to make any adjustments as necessary.”

Despite the redshirt rule originating from coaches themselves, in practice it has proven to be problematic for many because players have either removed themselves from action in order to save up a season and play elsewhere or simply entered the transfer portal. Such roster management concerns have led to plenty of criticism about the unintended consequences of the changes and now it appears the adults in the room are getting together to come up with a few changes to defeat the reasoning behind both rules.

We’ll see what happens between now and the January meetings but the days of going four-and-out for some might be coming to an end with the 2019 season.

Nearly half of Saturday’s conference championship games feature double-digit odds

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At least based on the sportsbooks, you shouldn’t expect much drama on championship weekend — which means we should all brace for absolute and utter hell breaking loose, of course.

Friday night and on into Saturday, the 10 FBS conferences will hold their respective league championship games, the results of which will not only shape the College Football Playoff but the New Year’s Six Bowls and all the way down to the lower-tier bowls. As of this posting, and by way of the BetMGM Sportsbook, nearly half of those 10 title games feature double-digit odds:

A fifth, the Big 12 championship game, is nearly double-digits as No. 6 Oklahoma is a 9½-point favorite over No. 7 Baylor.

Editor’s note: Need tickets to this weekend’s games? Click here

The other five matchups have hovered around seven points or so, including the SEC title game featuring 6½-point favorite and second-ranked LSU clashing with No. 4 Georgia, since the matchups were decided last weekend:

Ohio State first school to score Top-10 wins in football, hoops in four days since… Michigan three decades ago

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Some history was made overnight that involves both sides of The Game.

Wednesday night, sixth-ranked Ohio State took seventh-ranked North Carolina to the woodshed in a 74-49 win, handing the Tar Heels the basketball program’s worst-ever home loss at the Dean Dome under Roy Williams.  Four days earlier, second-ranked Ohio State took 10th-ranked Michigan to the woodshed in a 56-27 win, handing the Wolverines their eighth straight loss — and 15th in 16 meetings — in the rivalry.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, this marks the first time in nearly three decades and just the second time ever that one school had scored wins in Associated Press Top-10 matchups in football and basketball in a span of four days or fewer.  The only other school to pull off that feat?  Michigan, in 1992-93.

I have no clue what it actually all means, but it sounds pretty impressive.  And fairly hilarious that it involves both sides of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.