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Latest Heisman odds have Stanford’s Bryce Love, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor out front

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Quarterbacks have dominated the conversation when it comes to the Heisman Trophy but 2018 could be a little different when it comes to the nation’s most outstanding player thanks to several running backs elbowing their way to the front of the line.

According to ESPN, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas just posted their first set of odds for the Heisman this season and have installed Stanford tailback Bryce Love as the betting favorite for the award at 5-1 odds. Following closely on his heels is Wisconsin sophomore back Jonathan Taylor at 7-1 odds.

Love followed in the big shoes left behind on the Farm by Christian McCaffrey and was sensational last season, rushing for 2,118 yards (second in FBS) and won the Doak Walker Award as the best running back in the country. Similar to his fellow Stanford teammates though, he finished as the runner-up for the Heisman to eventual winner Baker Mayfield — the fifth time a Cardinal player finished second in the voting since Toby Gerhart narrowly missed out on the trophy in 2009. While being the favorite by no means guarantees a great season, it does give Love a little extra, um, well… love to kick off his 2018 campaign to shed the groomsman label and finally become a groom himself when it comes to the award.

As for Taylor, he had a terrific debut campaign for the Badgers with 1,977 yards as a true freshman and led his team to an undefeated regular season record, a division title and an Orange Bowl victory. After his spot on the board however it’s all the glamour position of quarterbacks according to the Westgate, which lists Alabama signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa at 10-1, followed by Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Arizona’s Khalil Tate all at 14-1.

There’s not been too much movement in the odds following the conclusion of the 2017 season, as Bovada listed Love and Taylor as their two biggest favorites back in January. The full, updated, odds from the Westgate are below:

Love (5-1)

Taylor (7-1)

Tagovailoa (10-1)

Fromm, Herbert, Tate (14-1)

Washington quarterback Jake Browning, Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins, Georgia running back D'Andre Swift, Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (20-1)

XFL names ex-WVU AD, current NCAA official Oliver Luck commissioner

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Yet another strong connection to the game of college football has been lost to the professional ranks.

Tuesday morning, the XFL, which is expected to relaunch in 2020, has named Oliver Luck as its first commissioner.  Luck will also carry the title of Chief Executive Officer.

“Oliver and I share the same vision and passion for reimagining the game of football,” said Vince McMahon, XFL founder and chairman, in a statement. “His experience as both an athlete and executive will ensure the long-term success of the XFL.”

“Football has always been a constant in my life and I’m excited about the unique opportunity to present America’s favorite sport to fans in a new way,” said Oliver Luck. “The XFL will create first-class organizations that local cities across the country will be proud of.

Luck, the father of Stanford quarterback great Andrew Luck, played his college football at West Virginia in the late seventies and on into the eighties, and became the athletic director at his alma mater in 2010.  In December of 2014, Luck was named by the NCAA as its executive vice president of regulatory affairs, a post he had held for more than three years before leaving to become the commissioner of the XFL.

In between his stints at WVU, Luck, among other endeavors, served as a general manager in the World League of American Football and NFL Europe; as an executive in the latter league for a decade; and as president of Houston’s Major League Soccer franchise.

WATCH: West Virginia begins Will Grier’s Heisman campaign

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The Big 12 suffered an unusually high number of quarterback graduations after last season. Reigning Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is of course gone. But so too are Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, TCU’s Kenny Hill, Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek, to graduation, and Baylor’s Zach Smith, to a transfer.

All told, five of the Big 12’s top six passers from 2017 are no longer in the league. The sixth is West Virginia’s Will Grier, who ranked third in the conference with 317.3 yards per game in 11 games last season. The next-highest ranked returning passer is Texas’s Sam Ehlinger, who averaged 212.8 yards in nine games.

So while it seems a shoe-in that Grier will be the 2018 Preseason First Team All-Big 12 quarterback, West Virginia has its eyes much higher than that. Grier has garnered early mention as the consensus First Team All-American signal caller, but WVU wants to make him the school’s first Heisman winner, or at least get him in the conversation.

The school will launch a full-on campaign on July 7, but until then the Mountaineers have produced this hype video.

Grier enters 2018 as the nation’s second-leading returning passer, trailing only Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen, while pairing a 34-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio on a stellar 9.0 yards per attempt to go with his 317 yards per game. Paired with the nation’s leading returning touchdown maker in David Sills V (60 grabs for 980 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2017), West Virginia enters 2018 as a legitimate Big 12 and College Football Playoff contender.

And if Grier is to remain in the Heisman conversation, West Virginia is going to have to remain in the championship hunt.

Big 12 announces record $364.87 million in revenue, distributes $36.5 million per school

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Remember when the Big 12 was all doom and gloom about surviving as a conference? You’d never know that by looking at their balance sheet.

Following league-wide meetings in the Dallas area on Friday, the Big 12 announced a record $364.87 million in total revenue for the 2017-18 fiscal year. That includes an impressive $36.5 million per school distribution that doesn’t include so-called “third tier rights” such as money from the Longhorn Network given to Texas (~$15 million) or regional deals with Fox Sports that several other schools like Oklahoma have.

Those figures are firmly middle of the pack for the Power Five, ranking behind the SEC and Big Ten but the distribution per school is several million more than what the Pac-12 and ACC dole out. It helps there’s only 10 members in the conference, which is one reason why the number is so high per school despite taking in far less total revenue than, for example, the Pac-12’s $509 million last year.

All told though, it’s a 6.4 percent increase from last year and would have been even higher had the Sugar Bowl not been a semifinal game in the College Football Playoff — which, according to commissioner Bob Bowlsby, resulted in a roughly $40 million loss that was partially offset by revenue from the first ever Big 12 Championship Game.

Between getting back that bowl money next season and increases in television money coming their way, it goes without saying that another nice increase will be headed toward the schools during the upcoming year. Life, it appears, isn’t so bad as the smallest Power Five league after all as long as those checks keep coming in.

West Virginia-Tennessee chosen for afternoon time slot on Kickoff Saturday

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Slowly but surely, college football’s opening weekend schedule is starting to come together. CBS announced Wednesday that the Belk College Kickoff pitting West Virginia and Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 1, will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET in Charlotte.

Wednesday’s announcement means the Auburn-Washington game in Atlanta and the Ole Miss-Texas Tech game in Houston will air on ESPN properties at TBD times and networks. Alabama-Louisville in Orlando was previously announced as the 8 p.m. ET kickoff on ABC.

Miami and LSU will play at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on the night of Sunday, Sept. 2. Virginia Tech and Florida State will close the weekend on Labor Day at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN from Tallahassee.

Elsewhere, CBS also selected Georgia’s trip to South Carolina as its Sept. 8 game, and LSU’s visit to Auburn as its Sept. 15 game. Both games will kick at 3:30 p.m. ET. Georgia-South Carolina landing on CBS means Clemson at Texas A&M will air on ESPN, and the selection of LSU-Auburn means Alabama at Ole Miss will also air on ESPN.

West Virginia-Tennessee is the first time in the Belk College Kickoff’s 3-year history the game will be shown on CBS. The inaugural game, a 17-13 South Carolina win over North Carolina, was a Thursday night kickoff to the 2015 season on ESPN, and last year’s 35-28 South Carolina defeat of NC State also aired on ESPN. South Carolina and North Carolina will also meet in the 2019 and 2023 Belk College Kickoff games.

West Virginia and Tennessee have never met previously.