South Florida-Western Kentucky should be an early bowl treat

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Two weeks from today, a game that should be among the best bowls of the season will take place. It’s one to mark down on your office calendar to throw on WatchESPN, or if you’re lucky enough to get the week off, make a point to have on TV.

Western Kentucky and South Florida kick off in the W̶i̶l̶l̶i̶e̶ ̶T̶a̶g̶g̶a̶r̶t̶  Miami Beach Bowl at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 21. This is a plea to anyone who likes fun football to find a way to watch this game.

Western Kentucky beat Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA Championship Game last weekend, capping off an 11-2 regular season in which Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers averaged 44.2 points per game (4th among FBS teams). Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty completed 71.8 percent of his passes (1st among FBS QBs) for 4,594 yards (2nd) and 45 touchdowns (1st). Junior running back Anthony Wales averaged 6.99 yards per carry (6th among FBS players with 100+ carries) in this pass-happy offense, which consistently fed junior receiver Taywan Taylor, who racked up 79 receptions (21st), 1,363 yards (4th) and 17 touchdowns (2nd).

And this isn’t necessarily a team that only looks good thanks to a weak C-USA schedule — SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ numbers rate WKU as the 11th-best team in FBS. The Hilltoppers’ offense ranks 1st in efficiency, seventh in finishing drives and 11th in explosiveness. This is a top-five passing offense and a top-30 rushing offense, one which scored fewer than 35 points only twice this year (against Vanderbilt and LSU).

On the other sideline is a South Florida team coached by Taggart — who quickly built a solid foundation at WKU from 2010-2012 — who steered his team to a massive turnaround this fall. The Bulls lost three games in a row in the first quarter of the season, and while the opponents were Florida State, Maryland and Memphis, becoming bowl-eligible looked like a difficult task.

After that losing streak, though, the Bulls ripped off wins in seven of their final eight games, with the only loss in there to a very good Navy team. A 44-23 win over Temple nearly upended Matt Rhule’s bid for an conference title game appearance, and a 65-27 stomping of Cincinnati asserted South Florida as one of the better teams in the AAC.

South Florida is very much geared toward running the ball with sophomore running back Marlon Mack (193 carries, 1,273 yards, eight TDs) and quarterback Quinton Flowers (157 carries, 969 yards, 10 TDs). But Flowers has a penchant for throwing for big plays, too, throwing a dozen passes for 40 or more yards with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Both WKU and USF have decent-to-mediocre defenses — WKU’s ranks 53rd in S&P+, while USF’s is 39th — that may not provide a whole lot of resistance against the powerful offenses in this game. It’ll be played at Marlins Park during the afternoon on a Monday — insert your baseball joke here, mine is that the poor Marlins, with Giancarlo Stanton only playing half a season, hit the second-fewest home runs in the majors this summer — but from afar looks like one of the most entertaining games of bowl season.

 

Eastern Kentucky WR shot in bar dispute

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Eastern Kentucky wide receiver Cameron Catron was shot in the early morning hours of Sunday following a dispute outside a bar.

According to WKYT-TV, Catron and an unidentified man were fighting outside the Two Keys Tavern in Lexington, Ky., when the other man ran to his vehicle, returned with a gun and shot Catron. It is not known where he was shot.

The suspect, described as wearing a blue shirt with dreadlocked hair culminating in frosted tips, is still at large.

“He’s one of the biggest hearted guys I know. Whoever done that to him was just really in a bad place right now,” teammate Gunner Slone told the station.

A Belfry, Ky., native, Catron was a redshirt freshman in 2018; he appeared in two games on special teams.

Catron has already undergone two surgeries to remove the bullet and repair internal damage. A social media post by his mother indicated he is out of ICU and able to walk a short distance.

Former Ole Miss DB, Nebraska LB Breon Dixon headed to JuCo

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Breon Dixon has yet to really make a mark in college football, but his closet has become well stocked. A 4-star prospect out of Suwanee, Ga., Dixon signed with Ole Miss and enrolled in January of 2017, but left quickly thereafter.

Given a waiver to play immediately as part of the Hugh Freeze explosion, Dixon was enrolled at Nebraska within 365 days of originally enrolling at Ole Miss. He appeared in four games on special teams for the Huskers this season, but by this spring he was no longer a Cornhusker, either.

In May, the Omaha World-Herald contacted Iowa Western Community College head coach Scott Strohmeier, who said Dixon would become a Reiver. Now, Dixon has confirmed that himself.

He is expected to enroll in classes in July and compete for IWCC this fall, with the expectation he’ll look for another four-year university in the winter. Strohmeier told the World-Herald he didn’t expect Dixon to re-enroll at Nebraska, meaning the player could be looking for a fourth school in as many years come 2020.

Ex-Arizona State, Ohio State DE Darius Slade now enrolled at USF

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It appears Darius Slade has found himself yet another college football home.

In early February, it was confirmed that Slade had taken the first step in moving on from Arizona State by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database. A little over four months later, it’s now being reported that the defensive end is enrolled at South Florida.

For what it’s worth, a USF official declined to confirm Slade’s addition to the roster and the lineman isn’t yet listed on the football program’s online roster.

Slade, who originally began his collegiate career at Ohio State before transferring and landing at ASU prior to the start of the 2017 season, played in 10 games in 2018 after sitting out the previous year to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

As a graduate transfer, Slade would be eligible to play for the Bulls immediately in 2019.

Louisville adds Marshall’s leading sacker as grad transfer

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On the same day we noted an addition to Marshall’s roster, there’s been a development regarding one of the football program’s personnel subtractions earlier this offseason.

Utilizing his personal Twitter account, Ty Tyler (pictured, No. 1) announced that he is “honored and overwhelmed to announce I am committed to [the] University of Louisville.” Earlier this offseason, the defensive lineman opted to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database after four years with the Thundering Herd.

As Tyler will be coming to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately for the school in 2019. The upcoming season will serve as the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

This past season, Tyler led the Thundering Herd with eight sacks and tied for second on the team with nine tackles for loss. He leaves Huntington having been credited with 15.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 35 career games, 20 of which were starts.