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Memphis tops Houston to book AAC Championship rematch with UCF

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The American Athletic Conference championship game is now set, and it’s going to be a rematch. Memphis (8-4, 5-3 AAC) clinched a return trip to the conference championship game on Friday afternoon with a 52-31 victory over Houston (8-4, 5-3 AAC) in a game that determined the AAC West Division crown. Darrell Henderson‘s big day on the ground fueled the Memphis clincher for the division, with his 60-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter giving the Tigers a two-score lead.

What was a back-and-forth type of game with momentum swings at every turn became a game in which Memphis took control in the fourth quarter. The Tigers scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which started with the game tied at 31-31. Houston’s offense struggled to find the plays that had been available earlier and the defense was leaving hole son the ground with Ed Oliver out of action for much of the afternoon. Oliver did return and started the game for the Cougars after missing some playing time in recent weeks, but he was limited to the sideline for much of the afternoon in what could be a disappointing end to his time in a Houston uniform. When Oliver was in the game in the first half, Memphis struggled to get much offense running, especially on the ground.

Henderson rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown and Patrick Taylor accompanied that with 111 rushing yards and two scores as Memphis combined for 353 rushing yards against a reeling Houston defense. Memphis will hope to carry over that momentum on the ground in the AAC Championship Game next week when they face UCF for a second-straight year. Henderson broke the single-season rushing record in the AAC by passing James Flanders of Tulsa by ending his day with 1,699 yards for the regular season, exceeding Flanders’ 2016 total of 1,629 yards.

Houston attempted to make plays happen through the air with backup quarterback Clayton Tune taking over for an injured D’Eriq King, but the consistency through the air never materialized as the game went on. Tune did throw three touchdowns but he completed just 18 of 43 pass attempts and was intercepted in the end zone late in the game on Houston’s last scoring chance of the afternoon. Memphis quarterback Brady White had a rough end to the first half with two interceptions thrown, both by Houston’s Gleson Sprewell who returned one for a long touchdown, but White had the luzury of falling back and letting the running game take control.

UCF will host Memphis for the second straight year in the AAC Championship Game, and once again UCF is looking to book a trip to a New Years Six bowl game. Memphis, who lost in overtime to the Knights in last year’s AAC title game and came up just shy of edging UCF earlier this season, could play the ultimate spoiler and open the door up for a spot in the New Years Six for a team from the Mountain West Conference, which would be the conference most likely to capitalize on any sudden shortcomings by UCF. However, UCF has won each of the last three meetings between the two programs.

UCF will host Memphis on December 1 for the AAC Championship Game. Houston, after losing three of their final four games as key injuries piled up, will wait to learn their bowl destination.

Former four-star Clemson DB enters transfer portal

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A couple of weeks or so before kicking off summer camp, the defending national champion’s depth in the secondary has taken a bit of a hit.

Exiting spring practice, Kyler McMichael was listed as A.J. Terrell‘s back up at one of Clemson’s cornerback slots. However, as first reported by 247Sports.com, McMichael’s name is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.

It’s at this point in the program where we’re compelled to remind readers that McMichael can pull his name from the portal and remain with the Tigers, although entering is, more times than not, the first step toward a transfer. Taking a seat in the portal also affords other programs the opportunity to contact the defensive back without receiving permission from Clemson.

Should McMichael ultimately opt to leave the Tigers, it’s highly likely that he’d have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules if he lands at another FBS program.

A four-star member of Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class, McMichael was rated as the No. 8 corner in the country; the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 56 prospect overall on 247Sports.com’s composite board. He was the highest-rated defensive back in the Tigers’ class that year.

McMichael picked Clemson over offers from, among others, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

As a true freshman, McMichael played in 12 games. During that action, he was credited with a pair of tackles in just over 100 snaps.

Oh, SHI? Cue Clay Davis because Rutgers announces new football naming rights deal for what will now be known as SHI Stadium

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Cue Clay Davis because the birthplace of college football has a new name and fans probably can’t wait to make fun of it.

Rutgers announced on Friday that they have agreed to a new stadium naming rights deal with SHI International Corp. that will see the Scarlet Knights’ home rebranded over the next seven years into SHI Stadium. The venue was officially known as HighPoint.com Stadium last year but the naming rights deal with what most know as High Point Solutions expired this offseason.

“As the State University of New Jersey, we are thrilled to partner with SHI,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “Headquartered right here in Somerset, SHI proudly embraces its strong Rutgers ties. As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of college football here at the Birthplace, we are delighted to partner with a company that shares in our Relentless Pursuit of Excellence. This partnership will positively impact athletics, the university and the New Jersey community.”

Terms were not announced by the school but “a person familiar with the contract told NJ Advance Media it’s a 7-year deal starting at $1.25 million and increasing by $100,000 annually to $1.85 million in 2025-26.” At a total of nearly $10 million over the lifetime of the contract, that isn’t quite what other Power Five programs have fetched but a still significant bump over the previous $600,000 a year the school got.

The Scarlet Knights previously played at Rutgers Stadium up until 2011. The first football game at the newly renamed stadium will happen on Aug. 30 against UMass.

Rimington Trophy watch list is out for 2019 and it includes 80 FBS centers

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Are you a starting center for 2019? Good, because chances are high you made the Rimington Trophy watch list.

The Rimington Trophy Committee released their annual pre-season watch list for the award given to the nation’s best center and remarkably, 80 of the 130 FBS teams were represented on the list. While watch lists are always notable for their length and being sometimes too broad, it kind of feels like everybody who is in line to start was granted a place on this year’s edition.

Among the notable names were Clemson’s Sean Pollard, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, Michigan State’s Matt Allen, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson, Stanford’s Drew Dalman, Washington’s Nick Harris and LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry III.

You can find the full list of centers nominated here.

The winner of the award will be announced in early December along with a host of other college football honors. The winner will then be recognized at the Rimington Trophy Presentation in Lincoln, Nebraska on January 18, 2020.

Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Oklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra lead off 2019 watch list for the Mackey Award

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Being a tight end in today’s version of college football means you’re a player wearing many hats.

While blocking is emphasized less than ever before, players at the position still need to do it in addition to splitting out wide, running reverses and lining up all over the field in a variety of offensive sets. This year’s annual watch list for the 2019 Mackey Award includes a host of players who can do it all and leave an impact between the lines that can make them a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.

While the entire list includes just about every starter at the position in the country, some of the headliners for the upcoming season include Washington’s Hunter BryantOklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra, Alabama’s Miller Forristall, Memphis’ Joey Magnifico, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and Vandy’s Jared Pinkney.

The full list of players on the Mackey Award watch list can be found here.

Last year’s winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, who later became a top 10 draft pick for the Detroit Lions the following spring.