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CFT 2017 Season Previews: Heisman Watch List

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While every college football player dreams of being on the last team standing at the end of a season and winning a national title, just about all of them have struck the stiff arm pose and imagined holding up the Heisman Trophy as well. It may be a team sport when all is said and done, but the most prestigious individual award around is the entry ticket to one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet.

Adding to the normal intrigue surrounding the race to be the most outstanding college football player, the 2017 campaign for the Heisman is shaping up to be the most exciting — and wide open — in a long time. To start with, there’s a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson who won the award last December and could be even better after an offseason developing as a passer. Add in veterans with plenty of name recognition like Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett, to go along with an eye-popping group of tailbacks, and the amount of players who have the potential to be holding up the bronze statue is both lengthy and impressive.

Who are the favorites? Here’s CFTalk’s look at all things Heisman and which players will be in the running for the most famous award in all of college football.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
2016 Stats: 3,086 yards passing, 31 TD, 9 INT, 250 yards rushing, 2 TD
The golden boy of Troy is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy this year and it’s hard not to figure out why. Playing the marquee position on the field for a powerhouse like USC helps but make no mistake, Darnold showed everybody what he could do in reeling off nine straight wins with the Trojans and capping it off with a thrilling five-score performance in the Rose Bowl. He’ll put up plenty of numbers through the air and on the ground and should be in thick of the race even if the Trojans take a loss.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
2016 Stats: 3,965 yards, 40 TD, 8 INT, 177 yards rushing, 6 TD
Mayfield has finished in the top five of voting for the Heisman… twice. Could the third time be the charm in 2017? Based only on the numbers, you would think so as the Sooners signal-caller is as efficient as he is insanely productive. The return of the Big 12 title game presents one additional opportunity for Oklahoma’s quarterback to leave a lasting impression on voters and that might just be enough for one of the best in the game to finally be recognized as such.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
2016 Stats: 3,543 yards passing, 30 TD, 9 INT, 1,571 yards rushing, 21 TD
Could Archie Griffin have company? Jackson has a shot to repeat and win the Heisman again but the road will not be easy if history is any indication. That said, few possess  the kind of talent that the Cardinals’ QB does as a true dual threat who can find the end zone on any play. He’s expected to be even sharper throwing the ball going into his junior year and if he can stave off the losing streak like the one at the end of last year, he’ll be right back in New York again.

J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2016 Stats: 2,555 yards passing, 24 TD, 7 INT, 845 yards rushing, 9 TD
Barrett became a household name when he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title but the old man of this year’s Heisman frontrunners is hoping to go out with a bang by returning to that form he showed early on. While the OSU passing game hasn’t quite been explosive the past two years, the addition of offensive innovator Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator should provide a huge boost in terms of playcalling and developing Barrett as a passer. Playing for a marquee team that will once again be in playoff contention is a plus already and all the QB needs to do is follow through and deliver.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
2016 Stats: 1,496 yards rushing, 18 TD, 402 yards receiving, 4 TD
Quarterbacks always have a leg up when it comes to the Heisman but it was just two years ago that running backs were the talk of the town when it came time to vote. That could be the case once again with freaky athletes like Barkley around. He was terrific in helping the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title and has a chance to rack up even more numbers in the team’s explosive offense.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 15 TD, 106 yards receiving, 1 TD
Leonard Fournette received all the Heisman hype for the Tigers but his former backup may prove to be the one who can actually bring home the award to the bayou. Even splitting carries last year he managed to rack up over 1,300 yards and average nearly seven yards a touch. If LSU can threaten to win the SEC West behind Guice, he certainly could run all the way to the Big Apple to capture the trophy.

Chasing the Pack:

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama — Heisman buzz started late in the year after he led the Tide to the national title so it stands to reason the dual-threat QB on one of the top teams in the country will be in the mix as a sophomore.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama — Tide tailbacks have fared well when it comes to the Heisman the past few years and Scarbrough looks to be next in line based on the way he finished 2016 up.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State — He’ll have a big time opportunity to state his case by knocking off Alabama in the opener and put up numbers the rest of the way in ACC play.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State — Defenders are almost an afterthought for the trophy but Jabrill Peppers was a finalist last year and James is just as versatile — and perhaps more dangerous.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn — Gus Malzahn has already turned one transfer QB into a Heisman winner and one-year wonder, what’s another?

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Cowboys signal-caller has the best receiving corps in the country and will be able to pile up numbers every week against Big 12 defenses.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — He drew plenty of attention this offseason for his mouth, now he’ll try to wow voters with his arm by sparking a turnaround in Los Angeles.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF — Group of Five candidates have a steep hill to climb but if anybody can emulate Lamar Jackson and overwhelm through the air and on the ground, it’s a dynamic player like Flowers.

Big Ten revenue distribution hits $51 million

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The Big Ten continues to roll in gigantic piles of money. Details on the Big Ten revenue distribution for the past year were uncovered from a budget spreadsheet from the Michigan Board of Regents, in which it was revealed Michigan received a revenue distribution of $51 million from the Big Ten for the past fiscal year.

It is currently projected the Big Ten distributions will rise to $52 million for the next year, according to Detroit News reporter Angelique Chengelis (via Twitter).

That’s a nice payday for all parties involved and was to be expected given the recent changes to the Big Ten media partnerships. Last year, the Big Ten began making regular season games available to FOX in addition to its current partnership with ESPN and, of course, the Big Ten Network. That expansion of the media deal appears to have paid off for the Big Ten and should continue to fuel the revenue allotment for the next year as the deals with FOX and ESPN continue. The Big Ten’s revenue distribution the previous year was $36.3 million.

The Big Ten revenue distribution of $51.1 million eclipses the average $41 million distributions received by SEC members. It also continues to pace well ahead of the other power conferences; Big 12 members received $36.5 million, ACC members received between $25.3 million and $30.7 million, and Pac-12 schools received $30.9 million. For the sake of comparison, the American Athletic Conference recorded a total conference revenue of $74.47 million for the past year.

It’s good to be in a power conference. It’s even better to be in the Big Ten and the SEC, apparently.

UPDATE: As a reminder, Maryland and Rutgers will not receive a full revenue distribution until the 2020-2021 year. Nebraska was eligible for a full distribution for the first time as a Big Ten member, however.

Bowlsby suggests we may not actually be getting “more” bowls in 2020

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The college football bowl schedule may see some new bowl games beginning with the 2020 season, but Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more bowl games on the schedule. In a podcast interview with the Associated Press, Bowlsby noted the bowl structure is being worked on in order to raise the standards for a bowl game to exist and reflected on how recent changes to the bowl system could impact the current or future bowl line-up.

“We want ti to be an open marketplace. We want the market to dictate how many bowl games there are,” Bowlsby said to AP college football writer and AP Top 25 College Football Podcast host Ralph Russo. “We think it will arrive at a place of equilibrium. I think it a local organizing committee of a bowl would be very poorly advised to go into a season with one side of their game or both sides of their game open, but there are some circumstances under which that could exist.

It was recently reported three new bowl games could be added to the 2020 bowl calendar, including potential bowl games in Chicago and Myrtle Beach. As Bowlsby explains, just because a bowl game or two (or three) could be added, that won’t necessarily mean the number of bowl games will increase. Some bowl games currently in existence could cease to operate in the future due to the NCAA’s modified bowl certification process.

Bowlsby stressed the changes being made to ensure a bowl game is able to operate without digging any holes for the bowl committee and local community. Bowlsby also emphasized the recent limits on how many bowl tie-ins a conference can lock down and how that may impact how a bowl game manages itself.

The ACC and SEC are limited to 10 bowl tie-ins, the Big Ten limited to eight, and Pac-12 gets seven and the Big 12 is restricted to six bowl tie-ins. Limits for the non-power conferences have also been established. On top of that, the Pac-12 recently made a conference rule that will prohibit 5-7 teams from participating in a postseason bowl game even if a school would be invited due to APR scores to fill any vacancies.

“We think we are going to be less likely to go into the 5-7 pool than we’ve been in the past.”

Basically, if you see a bowl game struggling to draw ratings and sell tickets, it could be in some danger.

You can listen to the full interview to hear Bowlsby discuss the bowl future as well as the new transfer rule HERE.

Former Michigan, Notre Dame WR Freddy Canteen lands at Tulane

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Maybe the third time will be the charm for Freddy Canteen?

Canteen spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons at Michigan before transferring to Notre Dame.  After spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons at Notre Dame, the wide receiver announced on Twitter last month that he would be transferring from the Fighting Irish as well.

Wednesday, Tulane confirmed in a press release that Canteen has been added to its 2018 football roster.  As a graduate transfer, Canteen will be eligible to play for the Green Wave immediately in 2018.  In fact, the upcoming season could be the first of the receiver’s two years of eligibility he’ll have available, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Canteen was a four-star member of U-M’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 45 receiver in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Maryland.

In the span of 15 games and three starts in two seasons with the Wolverines, Canteen caught six passes for 22 yards.  After sitting out the 2016 season, Canteen played in just three games for the Fighting Irish this past year — one catch for seven yards — before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending shoulder injury.

Oregon State officially loses Mike Riley to spring football league

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With summer camp set to kickoff in less than two months, Jonathan Smith officially has a hole to fill on his Oregon State coaching staff.

Wednesday, it was reported that Mike Riley was expected to be named as the first head coach of the Alliance of American Football’s San Antonio franchise.  Thursday afternoon, it was confirmed by the spring pro football league that Riley had indeed been hired to guide the fledgling team.

“There already is tremendous interest from coaches around the country to join our team,” the Beavers head coach said in a statement. “We will hire the right coach who will help us build on the significant momentum we have underway in recruiting and student-athlete development.

“I want to thank Coach Riley for his contribution to our program and wish him best in his new challenge.”

Riley, who spent two stints totaling 14 years as OSU’s head coach, returned to Corvallis in December of last year, two weeks after he was fired as the head coach at Nebraska.  He was hired to serve as the Beavers’ assistant head coach and tight ends coach, for which he would be paid the princely sum of $50,000.