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No. 13 UCF extends nation’s longest winning streak to 17 after thumping Pitt

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Earlier this week, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock sent a jolt of excitement through the hearts of fans in Central Florida by confirming there is a path for No. 13 UCF to make the playoff at the end of the year. Essentially it came down to one thing: keep winning.

So far so good for the Knights as they extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 by beating Pitt 45-14, capturing the program’s third win over a Power Five program in the past two seasons in the process.

As the score line indicated, the game was quite lopsided and the only sign of life from the Panthers most of the afternoon came on an 86-yard punt return for a score by Rafael Araujo-Lopes in the first quarter. Outside of that mistake on special teams, UCF lived up to their top 15 ranking and clearly were the better side in all three phases.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton continued to float around in the fringes of the Heisman Trophy conversation by throwing for 328 yards during a somewhat uneven outing with four touchdowns through the air and another two more scores on the ground to go with his 51 yards rushing. The electric dual-threat from Hawaii didn’t have his best of days against Pitt’s defense but the Knights still averaged over seven yards per play and punted just twice.

It wasn’t a bad day for his teammates on the other side of the ball either. Despite being on the field quite a bit due to all those quick scoring drives, UCF racked up three sacks and had a constant presence in the backfield. Panthers QB Kenny Pickett threw for only 163 yards (1 TD, 1 INT) and Qadree Ollison managed just 49 yards rushing to pace his team in that category.

The loss dropped Pat Narduzzi’s group to 2-3 on the season and it could be awhile before they find the win column again with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Duke on the docket next month.

As for UCF, the flip side might ring true for that program as the win streak looks like it will be awhile before it ends. Given how the AAC has looked relatively lackluster through the first month of the season, it could well be November before this team is truly tested after making things look easy once again in their only test against a Power Five opponent. With former coach Scott Frost struggling to even muster a single victory at Nebraska this year, his old team seems to have not lost a beat down in Orlando as they look again like the Group of Five’s best.

WATCH: TCU RB Sewo Olonilua squats 705 lbs…. twice

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If you ever have the pleasure of standing in the presence of a high-level college or professional football player, you’ll be struck at just how big those dudes are. Obviously, they’re larger than the average male and especially so the closer you get to the ball — but if your only exposure to this small slice of the population is what you see on television, it’s easy to lose perspective at just how much larger they are than the remainder of the human population.

And any time I happen to be in the presence of a Power 5 or NFL player, one thought comes to my mind: “It’s someone’s job to move him in a direction he very much does not want to go.”

Case in point: TCU running back Sewo Olonilua. At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Olonilua is among the largest running backs in college football. And as the video below shows, he’s also among the strongest.

Now consider the following: Olonilau totaled 135 carries for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. This means that on 133 of his 135 carries — 98.5 percent of his attempts — someone (or someones) brought Olonilau — again, a 231-pound running back who can squat 705 pounds twice — to the ground or pushed him out of bounds.

Iowa lands Division II graduate transfer

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The graduate transfer has become a great vehicle for Group of 5 and FCS players who over-perform at their level to shoot their shot at a Power 5 program. But Iowa this weekend added an extremely rare Division II-to-Power 5 graduate transfer.

Zach VanValkenburg on Saturday pledged his commitment to Iowa after being pursued by multiple Big Ten programs.

“So thankful for all the people who have gotten me to this point; my parents, my coaches in high school, and my coaches at Hillsdale,” VanValkenburg in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Leaving Hillsdale is bittersweet but I have reached the end of the road here educationally and my goals are uncompromising. I will always cherish the experiences I had here and the friendships I have made. With that said, I’m very proud to announce that I will be continuing both my academic and football careers at the University of Iowa this fall! Go Hawkeyes!”

Playing at Hillsdale College, a private college in an eponymous Michigan town, the 6-foot-4, 266-pound defensive end collected 70 tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018.

He will be expected to add depth along Iowa’s defensive line after losing all four starters from last year’s team.

VanValkenburg will have two seasons to compete for the Hawkeyes.

Idaho WR diagnosed with kidney cancer

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Idaho wide receiver Collin Sather is battling advanced renal cancer, the program has announced. Renal cancer attacks the kidneys and most commonly attacks older men.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Sather began experiencing stomach pains on Jan. 17, and by Jan. 21 the pains had progressed to the point where he had to be hospitalized. He is currently undergoing dialysis and chemotherapy at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, and once he is stabilized will be transferred to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

“We are with Collin every day during this fight,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said in a statement. “He is a great young man and the model of a great teammate. Everyone in our program cares a lot about him, and he will always be a valued member of this team.

“We keep Collin and his family in our thoughts and prayers each day. We are here to help him keep fighting, and we will be here to welcome him back when he wins his battle.”

A Spokane, Wash., native, Sather was an all-conference player in football and basketball at West Valley High School before signing with Idaho in 2018. He redshirted last fall.

Mark Dantonio approved for rolling 1-year extension

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Mark Dantonio signed a 6-year contract in 2016 that was essentially an indefinite contract. Under the provisions of the deal, MSU’s Board of Trustees each February have the option to tack another year onto the contract, making it essentially a rolling 6-year contract, and for the second straight year they have done just that, according to the Lansing State Journal‘s R.J. Wolcott.

Though he is 2-for-2 on automatic rollovers (the deal would remain a 5-year contract if MSU’s trustees for some reason did not approve the rollover), both extensions have come amid a fair level of turmoil around the program.

In 2017, Dantonio successfully rebounded from Sparty’s 3-9 2016 campaign to go 10-3 with a No. 15 finish in the AP poll, but he was dogged by accusations that he mishandled sexual assault allegations against a handful of Spartan players — amid a complete mishandling (to put it lightly) of sexual assault allegations elsewhere in the athletics department, against gymnastics trainer Larry Nassar.

In 2018, Dantonio watched Michigan State’s record slink to 7-6 and, instead of making changes on the offensive staff, he opted to retain his entire roster of offensive coaches, though in different spots.

Still, Dantonio secured his extension. The 2025 season would take Dantonio to his 19th season at Michigan State and past his 69th birthday.

He is 107-51 with three Big Ten championships, two AP top-5 finishes and one College Football Playoff appearance in a dozen seasons as the head Spartan.