Idaho, NMSU out as Sun Belt members after 2017

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Apparently, Idaho’s sales pitch wasn’t as compelling as they’d like.

Two weeks ago, Idaho unveiled a 19-slide presentation aimed at continuing their football membership in the Sun Belt Conference, membership that was initially granted to both themselves and New Mexico State on four-year terms that are set to expire following the 2017 season.  Looking for an extension, both football programs will instead be looking for new homes in a couple of seasons.

What does the denial of extension do to the two football programs impacted by the decision? For the Vandals, it likely means dropping down to the FCS level and joining the Big Sky conference, where there other varsity sports are currently housed. For the Aggies, whose other sports play in the WAC, which doesn’t offer football, another go as an FBS independent will likely be in the offing.

With the impending departures of Idaho and New Mexico State after the 2017 season and the addition of Coastal Carolina for that season, the SBC will settle in with 10 members two years from now.  That 10-member lineup would feature teams from Texas (Texas State), Arkansas (Arkansas State), Louisiana (Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe), Alabama (South Alabama, Troy), Georgia (Georgia Southern, Georgia State), North Carolina (Appalachian State) and South Carolina (Coastal Carolina).

With the recent decision by the NCAA to deregulate conference championship games, the SBC will still be able to conduct such games with just 10 members instead of the previously-mandated 12.

UPDATED 2:51 p.m. ET: Idaho confirmed in a press release that the Sun Belt Conference has opted to go with a 10-team league following the 2017 season, putting them and New Mexico State on the outside of the conference looking in two seasons from now.  The release also stated that the university will now decide whether to accept an invitation to join the Big Sky of the FCS or compete as an independent at the FBS level.

WATCH: Nick Saban appears in campaign ad endorsing U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

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Involved in a hotly-contested U.S. Senate race, Joe Manchin is bringing out the big guns in the form of one West Virginia’s favorite football sons.

In a political ad that debuted Wednesday, Alabama head coach — and Fairmont, WV native — Nick Saban, along with other God’s Country hoops favorites Bob Huggins and Jerry West, gave an unflinching endorsement of the 71-year-old Manchin, the incumbent U.S. Senator who is running for re-election against Republican Patrick Morrisey.

“Joe and I grew up together in West Virginia and he never forgets where he came from,” Saban said in the ad. “I don’t have a better friend or know a better person than Joe Manchin.”

Other than not even realizing it was Election Day two years ago and some of his statements from the past — “I don’t really make political comments. So, if I say I like one person that means everybody who voted for the other person doesn’t like me. So, why would I do that?” — it’s not surprising that Saban has endorsed Manchin.

Manchin, who is five years older than Saban, was coached in Little League baseball by the Alabama head coach’s late father. “They used to take family vacations to Myrtle Beach together,” al.com wrote four years ago in profiling the relationship between the two that extended into adulthood. “Manchin laughs telling stories about going horseback riding with Saban.”

Manchin, who went to West Virginia University on a football scholarship before an injury ended his playing career, also wholeheartedly endorsed the high school-aged Saban, who ended up playing at Kent State, while at the same time lamenting his alma mater letting one get away.

“His size was always a challenge playing these tough sports,” Manchin said. “But Nick was as tough as anyone could be. My god, if he had a little more size, he would have killed everybody. I think the biggest mistake WVU ever made was not giving Nick Saban a scholarship.”

Alabama WR Devonta Smith questionable for Tennessee game

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Alabama could be down its second-leading receiver when it takes the field for one of its two annual rivalry games.

Devonta Smith suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter of the Week 7 win over Missouri, and was then labeled as questionable as ‘Bama began prep work for this year’s Third Saturday in October clash with Tennessee in Knoxville. As preparations hit the midway point Wednesday, Nick Saban indicated there hasn’t been much if any change in the wide receiver’s status.

A final decision on Smith’s availability likely won’t be made until closer to Saturday’s mid-afternoon kickoff.

Smith is second on the team in receiving yards with 409 and tied for second in receptions with 21. The sophomore’s 19.5 yards per catch are second on the Crimson Tide as well, while he’s fourth in receiving touchdowns with three.

Western Michigan’s starting free safety questionable for Week 8 game vs. rival Central Michigan

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Western Michigan could head into a rivalry game this weekend at less than full strength in the secondary. Fortunately for them, the rival’s passing game isn’t exactly a strength — or is much of the rest of the offense, for that matter.

A.J. Thomas suffered a knee injury in practice last week and didn’t play in Western Michigan’s win over Bowling Green last weekend. With Central Michigan on the docket this weekend, the free safety is officially labeled as questionable by his head coach.

“He got a twisted knee last Wednesday, and we didn’t actually know (the extent),” Tim Lester said by way of mlive.com. “We thought it was going to be bad. We had the MRI, nothing’s wrong with him.

“He got shaken up a little bit, but no surgery is required.”

After playing in nine games as a true freshman in 2017, Thomas emerged as the Broncos’ starting free safety this season. In six games in 2018, he’s fourth on the team in tackles with 32. WMU has three interceptions as a team, and Thomas is responsible for one of them (Anton Curtis has the other two).

This Saturday’s opponent, CMU, is 117th nationally in passing at 147.9 yards per game. That, though, is part of an overall anemic offense in Mount Pleasant that’s 126th in total offense (286.7 ypg) and 124th in scoring offense (18.1 points per game).

The 1-6 Chippewas haven’t scored more than 24 points in any game this year.

Findings from Maryland football culture investigation to be revealed within next two weeks

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The University of Maryland’s Board of Regents will review the information gathered from an investigation into the football culture of the Maryland football program on Friday behind a closed session. The information from that report will then be made public within the next two weeks, according to a statement from the University System of Maryland on Wednesday.

The Board of Regents is scheduled for a regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, October 19. Part of the agenda for that meeting will be the closed session to review the independent investigation’s report on the state of the football culture allegations made against the Maryland football program under head coach D.J. Durkin. Durkin remains on an administrative leave with the program despite the football season continuing on under interim head coach Matt Canada. The board will meet again on Tuesday, October 23 in a special session to discuss the investigation and its findings. At that time, the board will begin making decisions on how to address the report, which may include determining the fate of Durkin as head coach of the Terrapins. However, no media availability or statements will be made following the special session on Tuesday.

However, according to the released statement with the updated timeline from the board of regents, the findings of the investigation are expected to be released to the public within one week of the special session scheduled for Oct. 23.

“We have said from the beginning that, if true, the allegations related to the culture of the football program at the University of Maryland, College Park are unacceptable,” said USM Board of Regents Chair James T. Brady.  “We have also said we are determined to get all the facts possible before acting.”

This investigation is separate from the previously revealed investigation that took a closer examination into the death of football player Jordan McNair, although it would not be shocking to learn the McNair situation was a key focus of this investigation. Allegations of coaches verbally abusing players and forcing players to work through grueling conditions have painted a negative image for the Maryland football program, and Durkin in particular. For now, Durkin remains Maryland’s head coach, but we should know whether or not that will remain to be true as early as next week.