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UCF, Lane Kiffin, Neal Brown among college football underdogs celebrating NCAA Tournament madness

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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a joy to watch over the course of the first few days. Highlighted by some significant upsets and some thrilling finishes, this year’s tournament has everybody talking, including college football coaches. This is especially true for college football’s non-power conference programs, who seem to be celebrating the upsets performed early on by schools like Marshall, Loyola-Chicago and, of course, UMBC.

UCF took to Twitter to extend congratulations to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after the 16-seed Retrievers became the first team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 seed, in which UMBC throttled No. 1 Virginia by 20 after an unbelievable second-half performance that left Virginia clueless how to respond.

UMBC has been the story of the first round for the historic upset of the Cavaliers, but FAU head coach Lane Kiffin claims he picked UMBC to win the game. In fact, Kiffin showed off a bracket in which he picked UMBC to win it all. Of course, such a bracket cannot be taken too seriously, especially after closer inspection reveals Kiffin went heavy with the underdog mentality throughout his bracket. Perhaps such a bracket strategy plays into the kind of mentality Kiffin is attempting to build at FAU.

Troy coach Neal Brown also used the UMBC upset to make a case for the Group of Five representation in college football to get more of a fair shake in the sport of college football.

Brown is not the only person to have this thought, although the idea has just as many on the other side of the fence as well. The College Football Playoff is a much smaller system to determine a college football champion and expansion is a hot-button topic of conversation for a variety of reasons. The current format allows for one guaranteed spot in a major bowl game for the highest-ranked conference champion from the non-power conferences, but undefeated UCF was still left out of the College Football Playoff last season and it may be a long time before a non-power conference champion gets a shot at the playoff.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach has proposed a 64-team college football playoff, but the most likely step for expansion of the playoff system will double the field to eight teams. That would still likely leave out some top non-power conference options, but it would leave the door open just a little wider for a team like UCF last year.

Lane Kiffin adds assistant coach from Alabama staff

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FAU head coach Lane Kiffin has kept close tabs on everything Alabama was doing in his first year since leaving the program to become the head coach of the Owls, and now he is plucking away a coach from the Alabama coaching staff to add to his own.

According to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Kiffin will add Alabama defensive analyst Wes Neighbors to the FAU coaching staff. Per Feldman, Neighbors will be assigned the role of defensive backs coach, a move up from being an off-field defensive analyst in Tuscaloosa.

This will be the second staff member Kiffin will have added from Alabama since leaving the program himself. Kiffin hired Alabama strength coach Wilson Love to be the head strength and conditioning coach at FAU.

Kiffin may have a knack for importing football people out of Alabama. Earlier today it was reported FAU is expected to be the landing spot for former Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis.

Lane Kiffin’s biggest recruit to FAU may be Snoop Dogg

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There is no denying the allegiance Snoop Dogg has for his beloved USC Trojans, but Lane Kiffin has managed to find some room in Snoop’s rooting interests to bring him aboard the Lane Train. With Kiffin preparing FAU for their upcoming bowl game in the Boa Raton Bowl this week, Kiffin managed to bring Snoop Dogg and Luther Campbell out to a practice.

Campbell, of course, is a Miami fan, but FAU has become a bit of a popular secondary team with Kiffin to lead the charge. Getting Uncle Luke to suit up in FAU gear and pose for a picture with Snoop Dogg deserves an automatic retweet of Kiffin’s account on Twitter.

Kiffin coached FAU to the Conference USA championship in his first season as the head coach of the Owls. With a good blend of JUCO transfers and new offensive mindset, FAU soared under Kiffin as he rebuilt his coaching pedigree. Kiffin remains one of the names to watch in the coaching carousel, although this year’s cycle may have gone through the motions without Kiffin getting a chance somewhere else. But if Kiffin is successful in Year 2, the Lane Train may be leaving the Boca Raton station for another destination soon enough.

Lane Kiffin pledging Heisman support for Alabama QB Jalen Hurts

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Lane Kiffin may have been shown the door from the Alabama football program after accepting the job of head coach at FAU, but that has not stopped Kiffin from attaching himself to the Jalen Hurts bandwagon.

After Hurts and Alabama improved to 4-0 in dominating fashion with another blowout over a SEC opponent, Kiffin went online to share his support for Hurts as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

This is hardly surprising, as Kiffin stands to benefit from any success Hurts has even at a different school. Kiffin was a key recruiter in Alabama’s pursuit of signing Hurts out of Texas (Bo Davis was reportedly influential in the recruiting process as well). If Hurts thrives, Kiffin is able to ell the idea he landed a top-tier player when he is on the recruiting trail looking for his next recruit. Of course, to be fair, Alabama was already a powerhouse before Kiffin’s arrival in Tuscaloosa under Nick Saban and they remain a dominant force without him so far. But for a coach looking to make some noise at FAU, you look for every edge you can get, and playing a role in luring Hurts to Alabama is an easy sales pitch to make.

Hurts is the SEC’s third-leading rusher with 461 yards and four touchdowns. He is also the only quarterback in the SEC without an interception thrown this season. Although his passing numbers have not been overly impressive at a glance, it should be recognized Alabama has not needed much out of the passing game. Alabama’s rushing offense is the top running game in the nation that doesn’t run an option-based offense (Navy, Georgia Tech, and Army lead the nation in rushing offense) with an average of 315.6 rushing yards per game.

Meanwhile, FAU is off to a 2-3 start and 1-0 in Conference USA with the conference’s second highest-scoring offense.

Chad Morris, Derek Dooley among betting favorites to be next Ole Miss head coach

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It did not take long for people to start talking about who the next head coach at Ole Miss will be following the Thursday night resignation of Hugh Freeze. And somehow, one of the betting favorites has quickly become former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.

As noted by Rocky Top Talk, the Tennessee blog on SB Nation, the former Vols coach and current assistant with the Dallas Cowboys is listed as the second most-favored coach to take over at Ole Miss, listed at +500 according to BetOnline. SMU head coach Chad Morris is the current betting favorite on the betting website, with Morris listed at +300 to be the next coach of the Rebels.

Other names on the board include former LSU head coach Les Miles (+800), and former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly (+1400). FAU head coach Lane Kiffin has been having fun trolling about the Ole Miss fallout on Twitter, yet he is also on the board at +1600.

For what it is worth, interim head coach Matt Luke has also been given odds to keep the job, and he is listed at +1200.

Here are the latest odds as listed by BetOnline;

  • Chad Morris +300
  • Derek Dooley +500
  • Blake Anderson +700
  • Les Miles +800
  • Mike Norvell +1000
  • Brent Venables +1200
  • Scott Frost +1400
  • Chip Kelly +1400
  • Neal Brown +1600
  • Lane Kiffin +1600
  • Mike MacIntyre +1600
  • Charlie Strong +1600
  • Willie Fritz +2000
  • Bryan Harsin +2000
  • Bobby Petrino +2500

So place your bets wisely. But if you choose to place your money on Dooley, you might as well just send me your money instead.