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ACC leads Bednarik Award watch list with 18 out of 85 players

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If you needed one more sign that summer is transitioning to college football season on top of the start of SEC media days, the Maxwell Football Club is here for you. Today, the Maxwell Football Club unveiled the watch lists for their two highest individual player awards; the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. The Bednarik Award is presented to the nation’s top defensive player in the country and has been awarded annually since the 1995 season when current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald won the inaugural award.

This year’s preseason watch list is certainly not lacking for players to keep an eye on. A total of 85 players landed on the watch list, with the ACC leading the way with 18 players. The Big Ten followed in the order with 15, and the SEC had 14 players named to the watch list. The Pac-12 had 13 and the Big 12 had 10. The American Athletic Conference led the Group of Five with six players named to the watch list.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the 2016 Bednarik Award, becoming the first player in school history to win the defensive award. Penn State has the most Bednarik Awards in the history of the award, with three players (LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor) winning four awards.

This year’s watch list for the Bednarik Award is below.

CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
S Marcus Allen, Penn State
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
S Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia
LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
S Quin Blanding, Virginia
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
LB Jason Cabinda, Penn State
LB Jermaine Carter, Maryland
S Sean Chandler, Temple
DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
LB Koron Crump, Arizona State
CB Duke Dawson, Florida
LB Troy Dye, Oregon
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
DE Kylie Fitts, Utah
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
DE Marcell Frazier, Missouri
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF
LB Porter Gustin, USC
CB Heath Harding CB Miami (Ohio)
DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
LB Travin Howard, TCU
LB Ben Humphreys, Duke
DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
S Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
S Derwin James, Florida State
DE Cece Jefferson, Florida
LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB Josey Jewell, Iowa
LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky
DE Arden Key, LSU
LB Micah Kiser, Virginia
DE Harold Landry, Boston College
DE Justin Lawler, SMU
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
DT Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
CB Iman Marshall, USC
DE Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
S Tray Matthews, Auburn
CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
NT David Moa, Boise State
LB Skai Moore, South Carolina
LB Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
CB Deatrick Nichols, USF
DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
DT Kendrick Norton, Miami
LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
NG Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
LB Shaq Quarterman, Miami
CB D.J. Reed, Kansas State
DE Malik Reed, Nevada
S Justin Reid, Stanford
DT Steve Richardson, Minnesota
DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State
LB Tegray Scales, Indiana
DT Conor Sheehy, Wisconsin
DE KJ Smith, Baylor
LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
LB Cameron Smith, USC
CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
LB Ty Summers, TCU
LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
LB Matthew Thomas, Florida State
LB Micah Thomas, Navy
CB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia
CB Kevin Toliver, LSU
DT Vita Vea, Washington
LB Azeem Victor, Washington
CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
LB Fred Warner, BYU
S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
S Kyzir White, West Virginia
S Jordan Whitehead, Pitt
DE Christian Wilkins, Clemson
S Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
LB Kenny Young, UCLA

Oregon, Oklahoma State line up home-and-home

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Oregon and Oklahoma State will conduct a home-and-home series in 2025-26, the schools jointly announced on Tuesday.

Oregon will host the Cowboys on Sept. 6, 2025, while Oklahoma State will return the favor on Sept. 12, 2026.

The schools have met once prior, a 42-31 upset Oregon win in the 2008 Holiday Bowl.

The Ducks also have a home-and-home with Boise State lined up for 2025-26, with hosting duties swapped from its Oklahoma State series. The Oklahoma State series also comes amid a phase of Big 12 non-conference games for the Ducks; they’ll play Texas Tech in 2023-24 and Baylor in 2027-28. Oregon also has future home-and-homes with Ohio State (2020-21) and Michigan State (2029-30), plus neutral site games with Auburn in Dallas to open 2019 and against Georgia in Atlanta to begin the 2022 campaign.

For Oklahoma State, the Oregon series are the only games on the books for 2025-26 at this point and also comes amid a run of home-and-homes against teams from out west. The Pokes, who hosted Boise State in September, begin a home-and-home with Oregon State next season, will pay a return visit to Boise State in 2021, and will play a home-and-home with Arizona State in 2022-23. The Oregon series is sandwiched between a home-and-home with Arkansas in 2024 and ’27.

Top eight remains unchanged in latest College Football Playoff rankings

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The fourth College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and, for the third straight week, they remained largely the same as the top eight teams remain unchanged.

Since the first set of CFP rankings were revealed on Oct. 30, only one team in the committee’s original top eight teams has dropped a game — and that team (LSU) fell only from No. 3 to No. 7 — meaning the same eight teams have occupied the top eight spots for the entire 2018 CFP ranking season to date.

There was some question whether Washington State, who led Arizona 51-14 at halftime on Saturday night, would jump No. 7 LSU (who played Rice) and perhaps No. 6 Oklahoma (who allowed 40 points to Kansas at home) but the committee’s opinion held firm.

UCF became the first Group of 5 to ever join the CFP’s top 10, leaping Ohio State to check in at No. 9, a reward for the Knights’ convincing win over then-No. 24 Cincinnati. They are the first Group of 5 team since 2015 to jump a Power 5 team that won the prior week. Ohio State, of course, beat Maryland by one in overtime after the Terps misfired on an open 2-point pass.

West Virginia dropped four spots from No. 9 to No. 13, putting the Mountaineers behind 3-loss Florida and Penn State. Unlike the AP poll, WVU is one spot ahead of Texas — which makes sense given the Mountaineers have one fewer loss and won on the Longhorns’ field.

Syracuse fell eight spots to No. 20 following a 36-3 loss to Notre Dame, allowing Northwestern to join the top-20 at No. 19. The Big Ten West champions are not the highest-ranked 4-loss team, checking in one spot below Mississippi State.

Texas A&M rejoined the rankings at No. 22, while Iowa State plummeted from No. 16 to No. 25 after the loss to Texas.

The full rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Washington State
9. UCF
10. Ohio State
11. Florida
12. Penn State
13. West Virginia
14. Texas
15. Kentucky
16. Washington
17. Utah
18. Mississippi State
19. Northwestern
20. Syracuse
21. Utah State
22. Texas A&M
23. Boise State
24. Pittsburgh
25. Iowa State

Iowa State forced to swap Incarnate Word for Drake as make-up opponent

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Most college football schedule is done years, if not decades in advance. Not for Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard. He’s had to line up two separate make-up game opponents within the same season.

The Cyclones were supposed to open this season with South Dakota State but, like Nebraska, the game had to be cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms in the Midwest. Whereas Nebraska was able to line up and play Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 27, Iowa State was not able to schedule a make-up game until Dec. 1, against Incarnate Word. Delaying the game so far into the calendar opened up the possibility it could be cancelled due to either Iowa State making the Big 12 Championship or UIW making the FCS playoffs. Remote as they seemed at the time, those possibilities floated out there in the distance.

Well, Iowa State (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) will not play for the Big 12 title, thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Texas. But Incarnate Word, 2-9 a year ago and playing under first-year head coach Eric Morris, managed to make the FCS playoffs. The 6-4 Cardinals, co-champions of the Southland Conference, snared an at-large bid and will open their first playoff run at Montana State on Saturday.

Given that their make-up opponent may not be available, Iowa State had to line up a make-up to the make-up opponent and found one in another FCS school — Drake.

“We’re most grateful to Drake Athletics Director Brian Hardin, Coach Rick Fox and the Bulldog leadership team for working with us through a very fluid situation,” Pollard said. “Coach (Matt) Campbell wants to play a 12th game and I believe our fans would welcome another chance to see this bowl-bound team play. I know the Bulldogs will enjoy the chance to play at Jack Trice Stadium and compete against a Power 5 opponent.”

Drake is located in Des Moines, just a 40 minute drive directly south on Interstate 35 from Ames, while Incarnate Word is located in San Antonio.

While Drake will not have to make a long trip to play this hastily-scheduled make-up game, it is still a significant undertaking for the Bulldogs. Drake competes in the Pioneer Football League, which does not offer scholarships. The Bulldogs went 7-3 overall and 6-2 in PFL play, completing their scheduled season with 43-6 win over Morehead State last Saturday.

They’ll have one more opponent to face this fall, and it’s a significant step up from their regular competition.

The game will kickoff at noon ET.

South Florida handing out free tickets to rivalry game vs. No. 11 UCF

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The War on I-4 was one of the very best games of 2017. With the AAC East championship on the line, 10-0 UCF hosted 9-1 South Florida before a national television audience and a packed Spectrum Stadium crowd. It was a game the visiting Bulls led 34-28 entering the fourth quarter, UCF rocketed forward to take a 42-34 lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida tied with 1:41 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion, and then UCF immediately wrestled the lead back with game-winning 95-yard kickoff return.

Regardless of classification, conference, what have you, it was one of the most intense and entertaining games of the entire season.

Fast forward a year with the scene shifting to Tampa and it’s safe to say the atmosphere will not be the. UCF is controls its fate to win the American, but South Florida does not. The Bulls are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play.

With their rivals traveling southeast on Interstate 4 (hence the rivalry’s name) South Florida’s powers-that-be were apparently nervous about black-and-gold taking over the green-and-gold in their own stadium, so they decided to give out some free tickets.

It’s not exactly fair to say USF has worse fans than UCF. USF shares its home with a pro team while UCF does not. Thus, USF has to fill a larger stadium (65,890) than UCF (45,031). Knights fans also get to root for a better team than Bulls fans, at least over those past two seasons.

Even given those caveats, it still may be more embarrassing to give out free tickets to your rivalry game rather than just selling them to your rivals.

South Florida hosts No. 11 UCF at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN on Friday.