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17-year-old gets start at QB for Old Dominion vs. Virginia Tech… in Blacksburg

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Talk about being thrown straight into the fire. At least it’s not “Enter Sandman” at night, though, right?

Regardless, Old Dominion will travel to Blacksburg for an afternoon game at Lane Stadium in Week 4 later on today. Thanks to first-half struggles in ODU’s Week 3 loss to North Carolina, Bobby Wilder inserted Steven Williams at quarterback in the second half and he performed admirably in his first collegiate action — 139 yards passing, two passing touchdowns in two quarters of relief work.

Williams, it was confirmed earlier this week, will remain under center this weekend against Tech and will be tackling his first career start against the Bud Foster-led Hokies defense. The true freshman, though, is no ordinary first-time starter as he is just 17 years, 11 months (almost) old.

Based on our research, the 6-4, 196-pound Williams would become just the fourth FBS player in the last four-plus decades to start at quarterback before the age of 18. The others are Khalil Tate (Arizona, 2016), Nick Isham (Arizona, 2012) and David Walker (Texas A&M, 1973).

It’s believed that Walker, at 17 years, nine months, is the youngest ever to start at quarterback at the highest level of college football.

Despite his youth, Williams, a two-star 2017 signee, has the confidence of both his head coach and teammates.

“At 17 years old, he has to become the defined leader of this organization,” Wilder said according to the Virginian-Pilot. “I personally think he has the ability to do it. … He’s very dynamic. There’s a lot of things he does well.”

“I’ve been thinking about it over the past week, and I can’t imagine myself as a starting quarterback at 17,” redshirt junior wide receiver Travis Fulgham said. “But I think he can do it. That’s what’s crazy about it.”

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.

Broyles Award for top assistant narrows field to 15 semifinalists

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The most prestigious award a college football assistant can claim has significantly narrowed its list of potential winners.

Tuesday, the Broyles Award unveiled its 15 semifinalists for the 2018 version of its hardware.  Four of the semifinalists come from the SEC, while two each hail from the Big 12, Pac-12 and football independents.  The ACC has two of the 15 and the Big Ten has one.

Group of Five conferences account for three of the semifinalists as UAB, UCF and Utah State are all represented.  Army also accounts for one of the semifinalists.

Of the 15 semifinalists, seven are defensive coordinators and seven are offensive coordinators.  Just one position coach made the cut — UCF offensive line coach Glen Elarbee.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was the 2017 winner of the Broyles Award; the Tigers’ other offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, is a semifinalist this year.

Alabama – Mike Locksley, Offensive Coordinator
Army – Jay Bateman, Defensive Coordinator
Cal – Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator/Outside Linebackers
Clemson – Jeff Scott, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
Georgia – Sam Pittman, Offensive Line
LSU – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator
Michigan – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator
Mississippi State – Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Notre Dame – Chip Long, Offensive Coordinator
Oklahoma – Bill Bedenbaugh, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
UAB – David Reeves, Defensive Coordinator
UCF – Glen Elarbee, Offensive Line
Utah State – David Yost, Offensive Coordinator/QBs
Washington State – Tracy Claeys, Defensive Coordinator
West Virginia – Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks