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Report: Las Vegas Bowl goes big time in 2020 and could land Pac-12 vs. SEC matchup

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The Las Vegas Bowl has been played annually since it was first introduced in 1992. In that time, it has never had a matchup between two teams from power conferences. If the bowl game has its way, beginning in 2020 that may change. That is some unfortunate news for the Mountain West Conference.

According to a report from Brett McMurphy, formerly of ESPN, the Las Vegas Bowl will be looking to go a bit more big time with its game beginning in 2020. A brand new football stadium in Las Vegas is expected to open that year with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders moving to become the Las Vegas Raiders. But the new stadium is also expected to become a more attractive destination for a postseason bowl game, and the Las Vegas Bowl is the obvious game to benefit with a new state-of-the-art facility in its neighborhood. The game has previously been played in Sam Boyd Stadium, home of UNLV football and located away from the main attractions in Las Vegas.

As reported by McMurphy, the Las Vegas Bowl will retain its partnership with the Pac-12 but will end its long-running alliance with the Mountain West Conference. In place of the MWC, the Las Vegas Bowl will look to secure another tie-in contract with another power conference. Given the pending upgrade for the bowl game in the new Las Vegas football stadium, that may not be hard to come by. The SEC has quickly become one of the more intriguing options as the two conferences rarely cross paths in the bowl season.

Regardless of what power conference ends up signing a contract with the Las Vegas Bowl, this leaves the Mountain West Conference in an unsettling spot. The Las Vegas Bowl has long been considered the top bowl destination for the conference outside of landing a team in a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. A chance to go up against the Pac-12 awaited the conference a total of 15 times, including last season’s game between Boise State and Oregon. The Las Vegas Bowl was the top bowl tie-in for the conference last season and additional bowl tie-ins were arranged with the Potato Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Arizona Bowl and the Cactus Bowl.

The Mountain West Conference isn’t the only one that could be harmed by this news. BYU, which has played in the game once since going independent, would also be losing out on a possible bowl partnership in future years. BYU has a strong history with the Las Vegas Bowl, playing in five straight games from 2005 through 2009 as a member of the MWC, and then once again in 2015.

Bowl tie-ins are periodically re-negotiated, so the Mountain West Conference has some time to begin evaluating other options to replace the Las Vegas Bowl.

NC State hires former Duke, Florida OC as QBs coach

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NC State has hired Kurt Roper as its quarterbacks coach, the program announced Monday. He will replace Eli Drinkwitz, who left to become the head coach at Appalachian State.

The program announced Friday that running backs coach Des Kitchings and wide receivers coach George McDonald will replace Drinkwitz as co-offensive coordinators.

“I’m excited that Des and George will have the opportunity to oversee and develop our offense,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said Friday. “They have a great working relationship and respect for each other and their familiarity with our offense will provide us with great continuity for our players and recruits.”

Roper arrives in Raleigh after spending the 2018 season as the quarterbacks coach at Colorado, where he was not retained after Mike MacIntyre‘s firing.

David Cutcliffe disciple, this will mark Roper’s fifth job after leaving Cutcliffe’s Duke staff after the 2013 season — where he had held the same job as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the previous six seasons. Roper left Durham to become Florida’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2014, where Will Muschamp was ultimately fired that fall. He found refuge as an offensive analyst for the Cleveland Browns in 2015, then re-united with Muschamp as South Carolina’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2016. That lasted only two years, when Roper was told to leave and found employment at Colorado, where he again got in for the final year of an outgoing coaching staff.

“My family and I are thrilled about coming to NC State as a part of Coach Doeren’s staff,” said Roper. “Working for a great coach at a great university with an unbelievable fan base is a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”

Here’s hoping Roper’s arrival does not portend a similar fate for Doeren and company.

Brian Kelly named AP Coach of the Year

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Two years after going 4-8, Brian Kelly is the best coach in college football.

The Notre Dame head coach was named the AP Coach of the Year on Monday, the second time he has won such an award. Kelly was named the AP Coach of the Year in 2012 after leading the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 regular season and an appearance in the BCS National Championship, and now has won the honor again after posting another undefeated regular season, putting the Irish into the College Football Playoff against Clemson in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29.

In between those undefeated regular seasons, Kelly went 9-4 in 2013, 8-5 in ’14, 10-3 in ’15, 4-8 in ’16 and 10-3 last season. Now in his ninth season at Notre Dame, Kelly has collected an 81-34 record with four AP top-25 finishes and a fifth on the way.

“I think I’m a better leader of our program,” Kelly told AP of his growth since the 2016 season. “The organization has gotten so much bigger. The ability to create the right energy and day-to-day culture is difficult. I think I’ve gotten a lot better a leading that large group on a day-to-day basis.”

The award is Kelly’s 10th different national coach of the year honor. He was named the Division II Coach of the Year in 2002 and ’03 at Grand Valley State, won the Home Depot Coach of the Year award at Cincinnati in 2009 and has now collected seven different national honors in his nine seasons in South Bend.

Like with the Heisman Trophy, AP Coach of the Year voters select three choices, ranked in descending order. Twelve different coaches garnered at least one first-place vote and 19 different coaches earned at least one total vote. Kelly received 81 total points and 16 first-place votes, tied with Alabama’s Nick Saban, who came in second with 66 total points. UCF’s Josh Heupel placed third with 33 total points and five first-place votes.

Emails show Florida AD Scott Stricklin, UCF AD Danny White hashing out a possible football series

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At some point in the Great UCF Debate of 2017-18, the burden switched from the exclusioners to the excluded. Actually, saying “at some point” doesn’t accurately tell the story, because we all know what the point was that made the worm turn.

When UCF (smartly) declared itself the 2017 national champion, feathers were ruffled across the country, but mostly in the SEC — home of the actual 2017 national champions. Most seemed to recognize it as something of a publicity stunt, but those in the South reacted to the move somewhere on the scale from annoyed to offended.

(There’s a sociology study to be had here about how fans across every sport root for Cinderella except college football fans, who seem to resent their sport’s underdogs, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

Florida head coach Dan Mullen told reporters earlier this month that Florida would be open to a 2-for-1 with UCF, prompting UCF AD Andy Seeley to tweet that no concrete offer was ever made.

However, on Monday the Orlando Sentinel published emails between UCF AD Danny White and Florida AD Scott Stricklin, where the two hash out the prospect of future games between the Knights and Gators.

In the emails, White requests a home-and-home or a neutral site game with Florida, but Stricklin says any games would have to be a 2-for-1 series.

“UF isn’t in the market for home-and-home or a neutral site games against non-Autonomy 5 opponents,” Stricklin wrote. “However, we would be open to a series similar to what we’ve agreed to with USF … two games in Gainesville and one in Orlando. We are in need of a home opener for the 2022 season, so the 9/3/2022 date you mention would be a perfect date to begin the series, and we can fill in the remaining games from there.”

White, who seemed to be writing for an audience other than Stricklin, replied in part:

… Requiring non-autonomy 5 schools to have to settle for inequitable scheduling seems like an unfair business practice and something we should all address at a high level,” White wrote. “If this type of scheduling is what is required for teams like UCF to make the final 4 of the CFP (College Football Playoff), we must consider expansion of the playoff to include non-autonomy 5 schools so we avoid the system operating like a monopoly. I am open to playing anyone in the country, but shouldn’t have to put my team at a severe disadvantage by being forced to play two for ones or guarantee games.

“The system should be such that we can schedule home and homes. As someone who sits on the CFP Committee, I am asking for your help in fixing a broken model by expanding the playoff and putting an end to unfair scheduling practices.”

Much like Batman, White has instituted a blanket “No 2-for-1s” policy in the face of common sense. Perhaps it wouldn’t make sense for UCF to play a 2-for-1 with, say, Iowa, but a 2-for-1 with their state’s flagship school would be beneficial for the Knights. Their fans would see their team play in an SEC stadium twice and then drive home afterward, while also getting Florida in Orlando.

It may not be strictly fair, but as a wise man once said: “It’s called, ‘The way it is.'”

UCF has played Florida twice all-time, not since 2006 and never in Orlando.

If the ultimate goal is to make the Playoff, getting Florida on their schedule three times would unquestionably help toward that end.

And yeah, it’s not a written offer and it’s not a level playing field, but it’s still a good offer for UCF. White and company should hop on it or hear any future complaints fall on deaf ears.

Mike Weber to leave Ohio State early for NFL, but will play in Rose Bowl

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Mike Weber has officially decided to ply his football wares at the next level, but not until his last season at this level has played out.

After going back and forth on the subject for the past couple of months, Weber announced on Twitter Sunday that he has decided to leave Ohio State early “and will live the dream I’ve had since 5 years old. I will be declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft.” Additionally, the running back confirmed that he will play in the Rose Bowl against Washington New Year’s Day.

A highly-touted 2015 signee whose OSU career got off to a bit of a bumpy start off the field, Weber has rushed for 2,580 yards (15th all-time at the school) and 24 touchdowns the past three seasons.  The Detroit, Michigan, native’s 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman led the Buckeyes, while his nine rushing touchdowns tied for the team lead that same season.

Weber’s 858 yards and five touchdowns in 2018 are currently second on the team.