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Nearly two dozen teams sit at five wins as 2019 bowl pool stands at 23

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Entering Week 8, there were 12 teams — SMU, Clemson, Baylor, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Boise State, Alabama, Florida, LSU — that had reached the requisite six wins to become bowl-eligible. Another 19 sat at five wins coming into last weekend, with the opportunity to join the even dozen as bowl-eligible as well.

Exiting last Saturday’s action, a total of 11 teams — Appalachian State, Auburn, Cincinnati, Georgia, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Oregon, San Diego State, UAB, Utah, Wake Forest — were officially added to a bowl pool population that is now up to 23.

With Week 9 upon us, there are 23 teams that currently sit one win below the bowl-eligibility threshold. Those nearly two dozen schools who can join those listed above are:

  • Air Force
  • Arizona State
  • Central Michigan
  • Georgia State
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Iowa State
  • Liberty
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Navy
  • Notre Dame
  • Pitt
  • Temple
  • Texas
  • Tulane
  • UCF
  • Virginia
  • Virginia Tech
  • Washington
  • Western Kentucky
  • Wyoming

Two of those listed, Louisiana and Virginia Tech, can’t hit six wins as they are on a bye this weekend. There are also three games involving six others — Michigan at Notre Dame; Tulane at Navy; and UCF at Temple.

On the upper end, up to 18 schools could become bowl-eligible with a win this weekend.  That means, technically, a little more than half of the postseason openings could be filled with five weeks left in the regular season.

This year, there are 40 bowl games, including the two College Football Playoff semifinal matchups (Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl). That means, of course, that the bowl pool will require 80 of the 130 FBS schools to reach six wins — or five if the bowls have to dredge the below-.500 teams — to fill all of the postseason slots.

Mountain West commish says new TV deal could be done in next month

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TV revenues have skyrocketed for those schools in the Power Five and now it’s time for a few leagues in the Group of Five to get their turn at the table. Following large deals from the MAC and AAC in recent years, the Mountain West is the next man up and it appears as though a deal could be wrapped up soon.

Speaking to reporters at the conference’s basketball media day on Tuesday, commissioner Craig Thompson said he expects something to be announced at some point in the next 30 days or so on the media rights front. One sticking point for both the league and member schools? The number of late night kickoffs (often pushing past 7 or 8 p.m. local) involved in the deal, which is expected to carry a higher price-tag precisely because MWC schools can kickoff that late to fill such time slots on the TV schedule.

“Let me just say this, there will be 8 o’clock tipoffs and kickoffs,” Thompson said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I know that’s a concern for everybody – for fans, administrators. If we can possibly get the number 7 in there it would be a real bonus.”

Late night kickoffs have been an issue for Pac-12 schools as well in recent years and their Group of Five neighbor understands just as much the tough calculus to make between a game starting at a reasonable hour and the bigger paycheck that awaits when filling a time slot too late for most.

Thompson declined to get into much in terms of what kind of dollars the conference is expecting but it would be a surprise if it’s not a hefty raise over their current deals with ESPN and CBS Sports. Interestingly the commissioner noted that for as successful as the MWC has been this year, the kind of on-field performance that comes with knocking off several of their Power Five brethren isn’t really a factor in negotiations. 

While there are a lot of unknowns as a result with the upcoming TV deal in terms of years, money and partners, it was already revealed earlier this year that Boise State’s sweetheart carve-out that pays the Broncos extra money will remain once the new contracts are signed. That carve-out dates back to when the school briefly left for the Big East but decided to remain in the MWC during one of the many rounds of conference realignment.

Industry observers and conference fans are anxiously awaiting details given how long the process has played out but it seems everybody won’t have to wait much longer before things become official out West. 

Troy Calhoun questions Air Force’s placement in the Mountain West: “I don’t know if it’s really a match”

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What’s that? Is that the sound of the conference realignment sirens going off?

Well, maybe, thanks to an unlikely source.

On Saturday, Air Force cobbled together a pretty impressive 43-24 win over defending Mountain West champions Fresno State. Despite a convincing final score, Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun didn’t seem all that happy with the game against the Bulldogs and decided to take the opportunity in his post-game press conference to question his school’s placement in the conference for both the short and long term.

“We are in a league where, to be blunt, I don’t know if it’s the route maybe (we) should go,” Calhoun said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Yet for our guys, the way they played tonight and the preparation and just the focus all week long was pretty strong, which is a really strong indicator of the quality of the leadership that we have.

“I just don’t know if it’s really a match. I don’t know if it’s best. I don’t know if… Now, we are. And we’re lucky to be, just the quality of the schools of the other member institutions that are a part of it.”

That’s an, uh, interesting way of framing things for Air Force but not something out of the ordinary for Calhoun, who the Gazette notes has said similar things about the MWC earlier this year.

It seems a lot of the unease about the league might be down to the travel schedule they’re putting the Falcons through. The team was in Annapolis last week to take on rival Navy (in a non-conference game) and then returned home to face Fresno State. They’ll head to Hawaii next Saturday and then return home to play Utah State and Army before hitting the road for two more conference games.

Travel is certainly not easy for anybody but you can at least see why Calhoun is a bit ticked that his program is quite literally going from one end of the country to the other and then halfway back in a span of three weeks.

The bigger question is if Air Force brass shares the concerns Calhoun has with their conference affiliation and what, if any, actions will be taken going forward. There is an opening with the AAC thanks to UConn’s departure but travel would be even harder in that league with frequent trips East and life as an independent has proven quite challenging for former MWC member BYU in recent years (the Cougars just made back-to-back trips to Toledo, OH and Tampa, FL for example).

Perhaps this is just a case of a head coach letting out a little steam but it certainly qualifies as a situation worth monitoring in Colorado Springs.

Ex-Air Force RB Joseph Saucier pleads guilty to cocaine use

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And now we know a heck of a lot more to the rest of the story.

In early March of this year, it was confirmed that Joseph Saucier was part of an ongoing, unspecified investigation and was no longer a member of the Air Force football team.  The issues stemmed even further back than the spring as the running back was actually removed from the team in December.

While no specifics were divulged at the time, the Colorado Springs Gazette is now reporting that Saucier pleaded guilty at an academy hearing Thursday to charges of cocaine use and marijuana possession. In exchange for the guilty plea, military prosecutors agreed to drop an intent to distribute drugs charge.

The legal issues were triggered by a December arrest for possession with the purpose to deliver in his native Arkansas.  The month prior to that, Saucier had tested positive for cocaine during what was described as a routine academy drug test.

Saucier told the judge that presided over his hearing that he used cocaine because of academic pressure as well as the pain of a knee injury that prematurely ended his 2018 season.

Per the Gazette, the judge did not immediately sentence the senior cadet.  The potential sentence ranges from fines to jail to expulsion, or some combination of the three.

In his first season on the field for the Falcons in 2018, Saucier ran for 274 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries.  The then-junior’s 6.4 yards per carry were tops on an Air Force team that was third nationally in averaging 283.7 yards per game.

Coming out of the backfield, Saucier also caught six passes for 146 yards, a 24.3 yards per catch average that was the highest on the team for all players.

Saucier didn’t play at all his freshman and sophomore seasons at the academy as he was academically ineligible those years.

Air Force’s live mascot Aurora dies at 23, had served for two decades

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For the second time in as many years, Air Force’s beloved live mascot is in the news.  This time around, though, there’ll be no happy ending.

Wednesday night, Air Force announced that Aurora had passed away earlier in the day at the age of 23.  A cause of death for the rare white phase gyrfalcon wasn’t released.

Aurora was the longest-serving live mascot in the 65-year history of the academy, having spent more than two decades representing Air Force.  She was part of a two-mascot traveling team, the other being 16-year-old Oblio.

“In addition to serving as an ambassador for USAFA, she was an ambassador for all falcons, helping us educate the public on the importance of these majestic birds,” a statement from Air Force began. “Her impact on the nearly 30 class years of cadet falconers and Falconry Team support staff cannot be overstated. She was a feisty, spirited bird who commanded respect. We all feel her loss deeply.”

Last year, Air Force traveled to Army for its annual matchup with the Black Knights.  The Friday before the game, two West Point cadets abducted both falcons, throwing sweaters over the birds and stuffing them into a dog crate.

The two cadets subsequently turned in the mascots, but not before Aurora suffered injuries significant enough that it was thought she might need to be euthanized.  Aurora, however, healed to the point where she was back flying a few days later.

Now, cue a PETA letter in three, two, one…