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Big weekend for the AAC and Mountain West Conference

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For a conference trying to sell itself as the nation’s sixth power conference, Week 3 looks to be a pretty big one to do its best to prove it. The American Athletic Conference, which is going all in on its belief it is the sixth power conference and not one of the Group of Five conferences, will play games against the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 this weekend. And that includes games against four ranked opponents, two of which will be played in an AAC stadium.

It all gets started tonight with preseason favorite South Florida hosting Illinois from the Big Ten. The Bulls are a prohibitive favorite, which comes as no surprise. Quarterback Quinton Flowers could go off against the Illini, who have a record of 2-0 thanks to wins against Ball State and Western Kentucky. With Charlie Strong as head coach, the Bulls have not looked quite as automatic through the first two weeks as many predicted, but this could be their opportunity to put it all together on a national stage.

On Saturday, Memphis will look to score a significant upset at home against No. 25 UCLA. The Bruins are off to a 2-0 start but cross-country trip for a noon eastern kickoff has been known to give a west coast team trouble in the past. If the Tigers can catch the Bruins off to a slumbering start, Memphis may have to hope Josh Rosen and company don’t wake up in the fourth quarter the way they did against Texas A&M. A Memphis win would be key to the AAC as a whole too, as a win against a ranked opponent from a power conference gives the AAC a strength of schedule argument to boost itself up in the long run.

The AAC will have a few other cracks at ranked opponents. The team with the best chance, most likely, to score a win against a ranked team may be SMU. The Mustangs visit rival TCU, ranked 20th in the AP poll and coming off a win on the road against Arkansas. East Carolina hosts No. 16 Virginia Tech, and Tulane visits No. 2 Oklahoma. Either AAC team picking up a win in those games would be a shocker.

One other game against an ACC school was scratched due to Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. UCF, who looked really good in their opener, was to host Georgia Tech. Instead, the Knights will get a week off before returning to action next week on the road against Maryland.

The one game that should probably be the most interesting to watch, however, may take place in Ohio. MAC favorite Toledo is hosting Tulsa in a key Group of 5 vs. Group of 5 matchup. The Rockets have looked good and are a solid favorite, but Tulsa is a team to keep an eye on in the AAC. A year after an undefeated MAC champion grabbed the New Years Six spot in the bowl lineup, the AAC delivering a blow to the preseason MAC favorites could knock the MAC out of contention entirely before even getting to October.

AAC vs. Power 5 In Week 3

  • No. 22 USF vs. Illinois (FRI)
  • Memphis vs. No. 25 UCLA
  • Virginia vs. UConn
  • East Carolina vs. No. 16 Virginia Tech
  • No. 20 TCU vs. SMU
  • No. 2 Oklahoma vs. Tulane

Not to be outdone, the Mountain West Conference has a healthy diet of games against power conference competition this weekend as well. Air Force travels to No. 7 Michigan, Utah State visits Wake Forest, Colorado State is in Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama, Wyoming is hosting Oregon, Fresno State visits No. 6 Washington, San Jose State visits Utah, and San Diego State hosts No. 19 Stanford. That is seven games against power conference teams, including games against three top 10 teams. Most of those matchups do not appear to give the MWC many favors, although San Diego State hosting Stanford could be interesting.

Before conference play begins in these conferences, this will be the last major opportunities for the AAC and MWC to showcase their stuff in non-conference play. These games could make or break the conference’s chances of getting in the lucrative New Years Six lineup at the end of the year, so neither conference will want to squander their opportunities this weekend.

Ex-Western Michigan WR reportedly holding up payouts in $208 million lawsuit with NCAA

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It’s been well over a year since the NCAA reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over grant-in-aid/cost of attendance and yet the $208 million the organization is still just sitting in a bank account waiting to be doled out. While you might first think that this is the result of the usual dragging of their feet from those in Indianapolis, it turns out that is not the case at all.

USA Today is reporting that it’s actually former Western Michigan wide receiver Darrin Duncan who is the one holding things up. He withdrew from the class-action case but his attorney, Caroline Tucker, “attempted to obtain $200,000 from the plaintiffs’ lawyers in exchange for dropping the objection.” The lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side have naturally responded in force, asking either of the two to post a five-figure bond to cover their own legal fees resulting from this delay. The judge in the case, Claudia Wilken, knocked that down to $5,000 last Friday by calling Tucker/Duncan’s objection to the case “meritless and thus his appeal is unlikely to succeed.”

At this point, Duncan/Tucker can either put up the money and risk losing it to continue their objection or drop things and let the payments — which could go as high as $6,000 per athlete — begin. While this is naturally focused on money, there’s a bit more to what the former Broncos receiver is going through:

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of Duncan dealing with personal hardship.

Now 28, he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his mother and a GoFundMe page established on his behalf about a year ago. He has received death threats because of his objection to the settlement, his mother, Arleen Pollard, said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports.

It does appear as though a solution to this long-running saga is in the cards somewhat soon but until then, the wait continues before the checks can start hitting the mail.

Pitt reportedly poaches Mississippi State staffer to be new director of recruiting

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Could we have the start of a budding rivalry between Pitt and Mississippi State? No, but the two programs did see one poach a staffer from the other.

A source told FootballScoop that Mississippi State assistant director of football operations Reed Case has taken the director of recruiting position at Pitt. Both positions are off-the-field roles but as anybody who has worked in a football office will tell you, each is crucial to the day-to-day success of a program.

Per the folks over at FootballScoop, this is one of the first big jobs that Case has had at an ACC program in the Northeast but he’s got a diverse background from stops at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and East Carolina among others.

The move by Pat Narduzzi fills the vacancy left behind by long-time staffer Mark Diethorn, who previously served as the Panthers’ director of recruiting for six years before heading to a new job at his alma mater of Virginia Tech last week.

Recruit who reportedly didn’t have offer still commits to Virginia, Hoos pick up actual pledge from Danish recruit instead

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Ahh ‘crootin.

The lifeblood of every college football program, recruiting can sometimes give us some awkward moments and it appears we have another courtesy of Virginia. Let us first bring up this tweet from Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep Class of 2019 wide receiver Anthony Gordon, who seemingly committed to the Cavaliers last Thursday.

Great for the kid, right? Well, there’s just one problem, 247Sports says that Gordon is not actually a commitment for the program for a rather big reason:

There was an issue though, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound wide receiver never had the scholarship offer from UVA he reported in March. According to multiple sources, Virginia had not been in contact since March and no call was made to the Virginia staff before the post on social media.

So… yeah. This immediately brings Kevin Hart (no, not that one) to mind after the former offensive lineman staged a ceremony to commit to Cal even though the Golden Bears never recruited him nearly a decade ago. It does seem like there is at least some contact between Virginia and Gordon in this case though, as that report makes clear, it has been a while since the two have talked.

All is not lost for Cavs fans though, as the program did add a commitment from Emil Bo Andersen at their summer camp. Why would we mention this? Well, Anderson is not only a 6-foot-5, 280-pount defensive tackle that comes at a position of need, but he’s actually Danish and is apparently ticketed to a full-ride across the pond thanks to what he showcased at the UVA camp. Very cool and not the first ACC player to come from overseas either should his pledge hold up.

It’s never dull in the ‘crootin world.

Syracuse QB Rex Culpepper on beating cancer: It felt like beating Clemson

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There’s been a lot of cool moments across college football this past spring but one of the best came in one of the most unlikely of places: Syracuse. At the Orange’s spring game in mid-April, backup quarterback Rex Culpepper suited up in between chemotherapy treatments and managed to throw a (tear-jerking) touchdown pass in the final drive of the afternoon.

Fast forward a few months and Culpepper, after undergoing over 100 hours of treatment, was declared cancer-free in early June. Fully healthy and finally cleared to return to regular football activities, the signal-caller recently went through an offseason workout with his teammates and later spoke to the media about everything that has happened throughout the process.

And how did he describe beating cancer? Well, naturally he brought an a very special on-the-field victory from last season.

“The closest thing I can say is it felt like beating Clemson,” Culpepper said, according to Syracuse.com. “You just feel so incredibly ecstatic that nothing in your life could ever go wrong.”

We’re pretty confident that even Tigers fans won’t mind hearing that given what the quarterback has been through and what a joyful moment that it was for the program back in October.

Next up for Culpepper and the team? Fall camp later this year as he competes with senior Eric Dungey in one of the more impressive quarterback rooms in the ACC for a variety of reasons.