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Gary Pinkel to step down as Mizzou’s HC over health concerns

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In a week of tumult that included the school’s president and chancellor stepping down, Missouri’s football team has now seen its leader step down as well.

In a stunning turn of events, Mizzou confirmed in a press release Friday evening that Gary Pinkel has decided to step down from his post as the Tigers head football coach.  According to the school, and unbeknownst to the public, Pinkel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer of the blood in May of 2015.

Pinkel received multiple treatments in May and June, with doctors indicating that the treatments wouldn’t interfere with his coaching duties.  At that point, Pinkel decided to coach the Tigers in 2015; however, Pinkel reassessed his situation during Mizzou’s bye week and opted to step down following the 2015 season.

“I made the decision in May, after visiting with my family, that I wanted to keep coaching, as long as I felt good and had the energy I needed,” said Pinkel, who informed his staff and players this evening, in a statement. “I felt great going into the season, but also knew that I would need to re-assess things at some point, and I set our bye week as the time when I would take stock of the future. After we played Vanderbilt (Oct. 24), I had a scheduled PET scan on Oct. 26th for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on October 27th that this would be my last year coaching.

“I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that.”

The 63-year-old Pinkel will remain on as the Tigers’ head coach through December of 2015 or until a new head coach is in place. The two sides will look for a role that will keep him connected to Mizzou athletics.

“It’s been an honor working with Gary since I joined the Mizzou family,” said athletic director Mack Rhoades. “Gary is truly a coaching legend as the winningest coach at two Division I institutions while leaving a profound impact on a countless number of young men. We are extremely appreciative of all that he has done for Mizzou. It’s tough emotionally knowing that his fight with cancer is bringing his run to an end sooner than any of us thought. I want to commend Gary with how open he’s been with me the whole time, from the first day he came to my office in May and told me about his diagnosis, all the way to now and when he met with me personally on October 28th to tell me he’d made up his mind. He’s been nothing but first class in how he’s handled the situation the whole way.”

Pinkel is in his 15th season as Mizzou’s head coach, posting a 117-71 mark at the school.  The Tigers are 4-5 this season.

Where Pinkel really made his mark, though, was in Mizzou’s move to the SEC.  After a rough 5-7 mark in the Tigers’ inaugural SEC campaign, Pinkel led Mizzou to back-to-back East division titles.

All told, Pinkel’s squads won five division titles across the SEC and Big 12.   In the 17 years prior to Pinkel’s arrival, Mizzou posting just two winning seasons; in the his first 14 seasons, the Tigers were above .500 10 times.

Including his time at Toledo, Pinkel has a career record of 190-108-3.  He’s also one of a handful of coaches who are the all-time winningest head coaches at two FBS programs.

“I want to make very clear that I’m not doing poorly, and that this is a manageable disease, but it’s one that will never go away,” Pinkel said in continuing his statement. “So many people have bigger struggles with other forms of cancer and other serious diseases, and I feel blessed that I’ve got something I can fight and still enjoy a good quality of life. I don’t know how many years I have left, but I want to turn my focus to life outside of the daily grind of football,” he said.

“Words can’t express how grateful I am to the University of Missouri and all of the amazing people who make it up, from the administration to the students and our fans. Obviously, I’m so appreciative to all of my coaches and athletes. Leaving them makes this decision so tough, but I do so feeling good that the Mizzou Football program is in a better place than it was when we came in 15 years ago. I feel that Mizzou is a great job at a great school and has so much going for it that they’ll find an outstanding coach to move the program forward.”

When it comes to a replacement for Pinkel, one name to keep in mind is Tom Herman. Herman is in his first year as Houston’s head coach, and was hired by… you guessed it, current Mizzou AD Mack Rhoads.

Herman will be in high demand, though, as, with Pinkel’s resignation, there are 10 FBS head-coaching openings.  Including Mizzou, seven of those are Power Five jobs: Illinois, Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, USC, Virginia Tech.  The other three openings are Hawaii, North Texas and UCF of Group of Five conferences.

How much does Tua Tagovailoa’s injury actually impact Alabama and the College Football Playoff? Not as much as you’d think

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Since the moment Tua Tagovailoa went down with a season-ending injury on Saturday, the focus of the bigger College Football Playoff picture has been hotly debated. Should Alabama be given the benefit of the doubt? Would Alabama with one loss and no SEC title and no Tua be more deserving of a playoff shot over a one-loss Pac-12 champion? How does a potential 1-loss Alabama compare to some other 1-loss teams in the country right now, including Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, Penn State and, of course, Georgia?

We are in the time of the season when hypothetical scenarios are the most fun to rationally discuss debate with great intensity explore for the fun of it, and this new Alabama situation is a wrinkle we haven’t exactly seen since the inaugural College Football Playoff with Ohio State. As it turns out, Ohio State is the prime example Alabama fans and defenders will point to as one of their top arguments. Of course, 2014 Ohio State and 2019 Alabama are still very different situations.

In 2014, Ohio State lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller to an early season-ending injury but managed to get through the regular season with just one early loss with J.T. Barrett stepping in to guide the Buckeyes offense. But Barrett was injured in the regular-season finale and Cardale Jones had to keep things rolling. Ohio State demolished Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game and convinced the College Football Playoff selection committee they were still worthy of a playoff bid over a pair of 1-loss Big 12 champions (Baylor and TCU) even with their injury concerns at quarterback. This precedent would seem to favor Alabama. Although the Tide may not be as deep at quarterback as Ohio State certainly was, there is an embarrassing amount of riches around the rest of the roster thanks to top recruiting class after top recruiting class being signed by Nick Saban.

There is just one major problem for Alabama. They aren’t likely to get a shot at playing for the SEC championship and prove their case one final time. LSU would have to lose its final two games in order to open the door to the SEC Championship Game for Alabama, and that assumes Alabama wins at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Alabama (and Ohio State) have made the playoff without winning their divisions before, but this year’s field could be a bit too crowded to allow for that possibility to happen again.

Alabama is in the toughest spot it has been in during the College Football Playoff era. The only team to play in each College Football Playoff, Alabama still has a shot at playing in the playoff once again. At least one team currently ranked ahead of them is going to lose. If it’s Georgia and Alabama stands firm on its ranking, that could see Alabama slide into the fourth spot. But if the season ends with undefeated champions in the ACC (Clemson), Big Ten (Ohio State) and SEC (LSU) and 1-loss champions in the Pac-12 (Oregon or Utah) and Big 12 (Oklahoma or Baylor), how exactly would Alabama compare with no more than one top 25 win? With or without Tua, Alabama should be in some danger of being left out of the playoff for the first time.

And that doesn’t even account for the scenarios that see Penn State beat Ohio State and both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes end the year with one loss. In that case, Ohio State would still be more worthy of a top-four spot than Alabama, and they may not even make it under these conditions. And if Georgia beats LSU in the SEC title game and both teams end the year with one loss, they’d each get in the playoff before Alabama.

Simply put, Alabama’s playoff odds are probably not as drastically impacted by Tagovailoa’s injury as it is being presented. Alabama would still probably need some help no matter if Tagovailoa or Joe Namath was playing quarterback. It may not be too much help that is needed, but some help would absolutely be welcome in Tuscaloosa.

On Tuesday night, however, we’ll get our first taste of just how this injury to Tagovailoa impacts Alabama in the playoff race. The selection committee will release its third set of rankings this season and determine just where Alabama sits in the pack. Alabama fell to No. 5 after their loss to LSU, firmly keeping the Tide in the hunt. They still managed to control their game against Mississippi State this weekend, but other contenders had good performances as well (see: Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma). Alabama is also still lacking a top 25 win the way a few other 1-loss teams now own (see: Oklahoma, Penn State, Minnesota).

How will the committee react? We’re about to find out Tuesday night.

American sticking with 8-game conference schedule, no divisions in 2020-21

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With UConn about to unceremoniously depart the American Athletic Conference to live life as an FBS independent and realign with their old Big East basketball family, the American Athletic Conference was in need of figuring out how to adjust the schedule for football beginning next season. It has done just that.

The AAC announced on Monday how the football schedule will work for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The 11-team conference will stick with an 8-game schedule and rotate the schedule around to every team in the conference will face each other conference member at least once over the next two seasons. Each school will get four home conference games and play four more on the road. On top of that, there will be no divisions in the conference.

“This scheduling model provides balance and competitive equity and will contribute to the exciting seasons to which we have become accustomed in the American Athletic Conference,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a released statement. “It is a fair model that was unanimously supported by our athletic directors.”

The AAC has not shared details on how the two teams to participate in the AAC championship game will be determined, although the simple answer is the top two teams in the standings will get to play. But tiebreakers may have to be re-evaluated with the new scheduling format just to cover all of the bases.

This format is only mapped out for the next two seasons, so it remains to be seen what will happen in 2022 and beyond. This does leave room for the possibility of adding a 12th member to return to a division format if that is desired by the conference. At this point, there has never been a peep that suggested the AAC was interested in adding a 12th member, but that is something that can always change on any given day ending in “Y.” Or perhaps the conference will just reshuffle the conference schedule again for the next two seasons after 2021.

Semi-finalists for Ray Guy Award announced, but missing last year’s winner

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Who is the best punter in the land? According to the Ray Guy Award, there are now 10 players left in the running for that title in the 2019 season.

This year’s semi-finalists for the Ray Guy Award are Oscar Bradburn (Virginia Tech), Joseph Charlton (South Carolina), Max Duffy (Kentucky), Tyson Dyer (New Mexico), Sterling Hofrichter (Syracuse), Adam Korsak (Rutgers), Dane Roy (Houston), Tommy Townsend (Florida), Michael Turk (Arizona State), Owen White (Navy).

Somehow, last year’s winner, Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, didn’t make the cut. Mann is third in the nation in punting average (48.21 yards per punt). Not exactly sure how that happened, but there will be a new Ray Guy Award winner this season as a result of this slip form the award’s committee.

John Mackey Award names eight semi-finalists for top tight end award

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Eight of the nation’s top tight ends were officially named semi-finalists for this season’s John Mackey Award on Monday. The award, named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and former Syracuse player John Mackey, is presented to the nation’s top tight-end as determined by a select voting panel.

This year’s semi-finalists are:

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

A couple of notable omissions from this list stand out. Florida’s Kyle Pitts, who has the second-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards among the nation’s tight ends somehow slipped through the voters here. The sophomore for the Gators has averaged 4.2 receptions per game and has accounted for 566 yards and five touchdowns for the Gators. No other tight end in the SEC has more yards per game than Pitts. Penn State’s Pat Freiemuth being omitted was also slightly surprising. Freiermuth has seven touchdowns, easily more than any other Big Ten tight end this season and tied for third-most in the conference this season.

Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson won the John Mackey Award in 2018. Other past winners of the award include Dallas Clark of Iowa, Tyler Eiffert of Notre Dame, Jake Butt of Michigan, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, and Aaron Hernandez of Florida.

This year’s Mackey Award winner will be announced on Dec. 11th.