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.

 

Troy specialist transfer Tyler Sumpter commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia and Neal Brown continue to make hay in the football transfer portal.

In mid-May, safety Scottie Young tweeted his move from Arizona to West Virginia football.  A day later, Maryland defensive end Bryce Brand did the same.

As the calendar has flipped from May to June, Tyler Sumpter announced that he is headed to the West Virginia football team as well.  Sumpter made the announcement via Ye Olde Twitter Machine.  And with a very well-done video.

The kicking specialist had entered the transfer database earlier this offseason.

As a graduate transfer, Sumpter will be eligible to play immediately in 2020.  It will serve as his final season of eligibility as well.

Neal Brown is entering his second season as the West Virginia head football coach.  Prior to that?  He was the head coach at Troy.  And recruited Sumpter to the Trojans.

In talking to 247Sports.com, Sumpter revealed that familiarity with God’s Country also played a role in his decision.

“Both of my parents are from West Virginia,” he said. “My dad’s dad was a coal miner for years. My mom’s brother and her friends still live up there and are season ticket holders. I grew up a WVU fan, watching Pat White and Owen Schmitt. To me, it’s like going back home.”

The past three seasons, Sumpter has been both the punter and placekicker for Troy.  In 2018, he earned second-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors as a kicker.  And third-team honors as a punter.  The same season.

In that stretch, Sumpter connected on 39-of-51 field-goal attempts.  He was also perfect on all 125 point-afters.  Punting-wise, the Alabama native averaged 42.2 yards 156 career attempts.

At WVU, Sumpter stated that he Will Likely focus on punting.  He could, though, be part of any kicking competition.

Arizona State TE transfer Jared Bubak is headed home to Nebraska

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After a series of losses this offseason, Nebraska is on the positive side of a football roster move.  And it involves a local boy for good measure.

Jared Bubak began exploring the possibility of leaving Arizona State earlier this offseason.  Over the weekend, the tight end revealed on Twitter that he will be transferring into the Nebraska football team.  Interestingly, he’ll be joining the Cornhuskers as a walk-on.

Because of that, and the fact that he is an ASU graduate, he’ll be eligible to play for the Big Ten school this coming season.

Bubak is a native of Lincoln, Neb.  He actually committed to Nebraska before flipping to Arizona State football.

“After speaking with the coaching staff, I have decided to finish my last year of eligibility with the University of Nebraska as a walk-on,” Bubak wrote. “This transfer portal process has solidified how important the state of Nebraska is to me and my family.  The chance to come back home and play for Coach [Scott] Frost was an easy decision for me and I’m excited to represent the people of Nebraska.

“I just didn’t want to be living with that what-if,” said Bubak in explaining his decision to the Lincoln Journal Star. “What if I had gone to Nebraska? So I always knew for my last year I wanted to come back home and see what happens.

Bubak was a three-star 2016 signee for the Sun Devils.  He was the No. 2 player in the state of Nebraska regardless of position.

The 6-5, 242-pound Bubak appeared in 17 games during his time at ASU.  Seven of those appearances came a season ago.  He didn’t catch a pass during his time in Tempe, although he did return one kick.  For minus-four yards.

At least 13 scholarship Cornhuskers who have left the program for one reason or another this offseason.  Included in those are:

Additionally, three walk-on offensive linemen have left as well.

Hawaii adds North Texas transfer WR Rico Bussey

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North Texas’ loss is a win for the Hawaii football program.  Unofficially, of course.

In February, North Texas’ Rico Bussey Jr. made his way into the NCAA transfer database.  Three months later, the wide receiver used his Twitter machine to announce he is headed to the Hawaii football team.

Thus far, the Rainbow Warriors have not confirmed Bussey’s addition to the team.

Bussey will be eligible to play for the Hawaii football team in 2020.  This will be the receiver’s final season of eligibility.

A torn ACL prematurely ended Bussey’s 2019 campaign in mid-September last year.  Because he played in four or fewer games, he was able to take a redshirt.  That saves a year of eligibility that he’ll now use at the Mountain West Conference school.

Two seasons ago, Bussey led the Mean Green in receptions (68), receiving yards (1,017) and receiving touchdowns (12).  Prior to the serious knee injury in 2019, Bussey had 150 yards and a touchdown on five catches this year.

All told, Bussey accounted for 1,941 yard and 21 touchdowns on 128 receptions during his time in Denton.  He also returned a pair of kickoffs for a combined 78 yards.

Bussey was a two-star member of the Class of 2016 for UNT.  The Oklahoma native was rated as the No. 32 player regardless of position in the Sooner State.

Bussey will be coming to a Hawaii football team that will be under new management. In mid-January, Nick Rolovich left to take over for Mike Leach at Washington State. A week later, Todd Graham was named as Rolovich’s replacement.

Hawaii football is coming off its best season since 2010. Included in a 10-win season was the program’s first appearance in the Mountain West Conference championship game.  Of course, that appearance ended in a loss to Boise State.

Auburn releases statements addressing death of Pat Dye

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Auburn is, as expected, mourning the death of Pat Dye.

Last month, Dye was hospitalized for kidney-related issues.  During that hospital stay, Dye tested positive for COVID-19.  At the time, his son, NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., stated that “[w]e fully anticipate his release from the hospital in the next few days once his kidney function is stable.

Monday afternoon, it was confirmed that former Auburn head coach Pat Dye died at 80. A cause of death has not been released.

Pat Dye spent a dozen seasons as the coach at Auburn.  From 1981-92, Dye went 99-39-4 with the Tigers.  Included in that was a 6-6 record in the Iron Bowl.  And a national championship in 1983.  In 2005, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

In statements, Auburn mourned the beloved coach’s death.

Allen Greene, Auburn Athletic Director
“For four decades, Coach Dye showed all of us what it looks like to be an Auburn person. His coaching exploits are well known, securing his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. His skills as an administrator were equally formidable, resulting most notably in bringing the Iron Bowl to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Just like his football teams, Pat Dye the athletic director was tenacious, never backing down from a fight when he believed Auburn’s good name and best interests demanded it. Thanks to his tenacity, I’ll always treasure my first home Iron Bowl, celebrating victory on the field that bears his name.

It’s been a blessing to get to know Coach Dye in his retirement years in his role as a passionate supporter of all of Auburn Athletics. Ever the coach, I’ve witnessed him on countless occasions pouring into our student-athletes. In that sense, he never stopped being Coach Dye. On behalf of the Auburn Family, we extend our deepest condolences to the family of Patrick Fain Dye, whose love and loyalty for Auburn rendered a contribution we can never fully measure or repay.”

Gus Malzahn, Auburn Head Football Coach
“Coach Dye was much more than a hall of fame coach and administrator at Auburn. He was an Auburn leader and visionary. He not only returned the football program back to national prominence during his tenure, but was a key figure in bringing the Iron Bowl to Auburn and made an impact on the university and in the community. He embodied what Auburn is about: hard work, toughness and a blue collar mentality.

Coach Dye’s impact on Auburn is endless and will stand the test of time. He had a great and deep love for Auburn and he displayed that affinity daily. I’m very appreciative of his support and friendship through the years. It’s a sad day. Coach Dye was a treasure and will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, his former players and coaches and the entire Auburn family.”