Georgia Southern runs past Bowling Green to take GoDaddy Bowl

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The first half of the GoDaddy Bowl was a back-and-forth shootout. The second half was anything but.

Georgia Southern scored 35 unanswered second half points to race by Bowling Green, claiming a 58-27 victory Wednesday night in Mobile, Ala.

Bowling Green led at the half by a score of 27-23 after Matt Johnson fired three touchdown passes and Travis Greene rushed in from five yards out with 36 ticks left before the break. But the Eagles broke the game open by scoring touchdowns on their first four second half drives, the first two traveling 75 and 80 yards and the third just 14 after a Johnson fumble deep in his own territory.

Favian Upshaw notched the first two scores on a three-yard plunge that culminated a 14-play drive, and the second an 80-yard bolt immediately after the Georgia Southern defense forced a turnover on downs at its own 20. After the fumble, Upshaw’s 13-yard run set Matt Breida up for a one-yard dash that gave the Eagles a 45-27 lead with 1:51 to play in the third quarter.

Johnson fumbled again deep in his own territory on the ensuing possession, and Upshaw again capitalized on an eight-yard sprint that pushed the advantage to 51-27 just five seconds into the fourth quarter. Upshaw provided the capper with a 42-yard voyage to the end zone with 5:25 left to play in the game.

Upshaw closed the day with 12 rushes for 199 yards and four touchdowns; he also completed one of three pass attempts for 17 yards. Kevin Ellison started the game at quarterback and completed 3-of-5 passes for 65 yards and the team’s fourth passing touchdown of the season, a 31-yarder to Montay Crockett that gave Georgia Southern a 23-20 lead with 1:27 left in the first half.

For the day, Georgia Southern — who entered bowl season with the nation’s top rushing offense at nearly 356 yards per game — pounded out 68 carries for 452 yards and seven touchdowns. Unbelievably, neither were season highs. The Eagles rushed for 507 yards and seven scores in a 56-26 destruction of New Mexico State on Oct. 17.

Johnson completed a pedestrian 15-of-34 passes for 246 yards with three touchdowns and two costly fumbles. He entered Wednesday night as FBS’s second-leading passer, averaging 361.5 yards per game and 68.8 percent completions. Georgia Southern held All-American wide receiver Roger Lewis to just three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, close to half his season averages for catches and yards.

Georgia Southern also held Bowling Green to 116 rushing yards, nearly 80 below its yearly average.

The win closes Georgia Southern’s second FBS season with a 9-4 mark and a bowl victory in its first season eligible for postseason competition. The Eagles went 9-3 a year ago and claimed the Sun Belt championship, but were not eligible for a bowl game due to their transitional status. Bowling Green closed its MAC championship season at 10-4.

Both teams lost their head coaches earlier this month: Bowling Green’s Dino Babers departed for Syracuse while Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz left for Tulane. Each program will now move forward under their new head coaches — Mike Jinks for Bowling Green, Tyson Summers for Georgia Southern — with their 2015 seasons officially behind them.

Florida, USF schedule three-game series, including one in Tampa

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When it comes to scheduling arrangements involving a Power Five and Group of Five program, this is certainly an interesting one.

Both Florida and USF announced Tuesday a future series between the two schools.  As part of the three-game series, the Bulls will travel to Gainesville’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for two of the matchups — Sept. 17, 2022, and Sept. 6, 2025.  In between is the interesting aspect as the Gators will make the trek south to play at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023.

That latter game will mark the first time ever the two teams will square off in Tampa.

“We are very excited for our program and our fans to add three games against the University of Florida to our schedule,” a statement from USF athletic director Mark Harlan began. “I would like to thank Coach Strong for his desire to play a challenging non-conference schedule and the leadership at Florida for their partnership in making this happen. We are committed to scheduling opponents that our fans are excited to see the Bulls compete against and Florida certainly ranks very high on that list.”

“This is a unique scheduling opportunity that allows us to get three games against a quality FBS opponent, with two at home and one in a great venue in Tampa,” Harlan’s UF counterpart, Scott Stricklin, said in his statement. “A lot of Gator fans will have the opportunity to attend that game and we are looking forward to being able to play a regular-season game in central Florida.”

The two teams have met just once previously. In Week 2 of the 2010 season, the Gators dropped the Bulls 38-14 in The Swamp in what turned out to be Urban Meyer‘s final season with the program.

Charlie Strong, the current USF head coach, was in his first season in the same job at Louisville that year after spending the previous seven seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Gators.  UF’s current head coach, Dan Mullen, spent four years as Meyer’s offensive coordinator before taking over at Mississippi State in 2009.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host South Florida twice in The Swamp and also play them in Raymond James Stadium,” Mullen said. “The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium.”

Alabama continues to block grad transfer Brandon Kennedy

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Continued kudos, Alabama.

Earlier this month, Brandon Kennedy opted to leave Alabama as a graduate transfer.  The offensive lineman, as it turns out, is interested in a transfer to Alabama rivals Auburn and Tennessee; as has been the case in the pastor not — Kennedy has been barred by UA from transferring to any other school in the conference despite the fact that he’s a graduate transfer.

Kennedy, a graduate transfer, appealed the initial decision that blocked him from an intra-conference move.  In a stunning turn of events, that initial appeal has been denied by the university.

Al.com writes that “[t]he next step for Kennedy, who graduated in December, is an in-person hearing with Alabama’s appeal board.” As noted by the website, Kennedy graduated from the university in December, which makes him a graduate transfer.

When that in-person hearing in front of Alabama’s appeals board will take place for the student-athlete who has already graduated is unclear.

Kennedy, prior to becoming a graduate transfer, served as the Crimson’s Tide backup center in 2017, his redshirt sophomore season.  After graduating in December, Kennedy exited spring practice this year as the defending national champion’s likely No. 2 center.

As a graduate transfer, Kennedy would have a two-year eligibility clock that begins immediately with the 2018 season even if he stays in the FBS.

On a completely related note…

Since last summer, at least two players have transferred within the SEC. In June of 2017, running back David Williams moved from South Carolina to Arkansas. Earlier this month, defensive back Nick Harvey left Texas A&M and chose South Carolina over, among others, Auburn and Tennessee.

Both Williams and Harvey left their former schools as graduate transfers.

Kudos, Alabama.  Still.

Former four-star Miami signee transferring from Rutgers to FIU

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Kiy Hester‘s winding college football journey is set to take him to yet another destination.

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Hester announced that he will be transferring to Florida International and spending his final season of collegiate eligibility playing for Butch Davis‘ squad. The defensive back will be leaving Rutgers as a graduate transfer.

Hester had also considered Pitt before opting for the Conference USA school.

Hester, once committed to RU as a high school prospect, was originally a four-star member of Miami’s 2014 recruiting class. In September of that year, he received a release from his UM scholarship and transferred to Rutgers that same month.

The past three seasons, Hester started 19 of the 29 games in which he played. Eight of those starts and 11 of the appearances came during a 2017 regular season that saw him earn honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after finishing fourth in the conference with 1.2 passes defensed per game.

In December of last year, Hester opted to transfer from the Scarlet Knights.

Vanderbilt transfer originally committed to Tulane reverses course, heads to UCF instead

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Welp, so much for that.

In mid-December, Bailey Granier (pictured, No. 75) announced on Twitter that he would be transferring from Vanderbilt to Tulane after graduating. However, on the same social media site this month, Granier revealed that, instead of Tulane, he would instead be transferring to UCF to finish out his collegiate playing career.

The offensive lineman, who attended the Green Wave’s spring game this year, gave no specific reason for the about-face.

Granier played in 27 games during his time with the Commodores, starting five of those contest during that time. All of those starts came at right tackle — two this past season, three in 2015.