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Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

Duke rolls past Northern Illinois in Quick Lane Bowl

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Duke used a big day from quarterback Thomas Jones and a baffling fake punt attempt to roll past Northern Illinois for a 36-14 win in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.

Trailing 7-0 with 4:32 to play in the first quarter, Northern Illinois punter Matt Ference trotted onto the field for what everyone thought would be a boot from his own end zone. Everyone but him, that is.

Instead, Ference decided to pass. It was fourth and 18.

Duke (7-6) took over at the NIU 11-yard line and needed three plays to score, a 1-yard Shaun Wilson run that gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game.

Northern Illinois (8-5) struck back with two quick scoring drives. The first was a 2-play, 68-yard drive that saw Marcus Childers hit Spencer Tears for a 43-yard gain and then Tre Harbison score on a 25-yard rush. After forcing a three-and-out, the Huskies tied the game on a 67-yard strike from Childers to Jauan Wesley, knotting the score at 14-14 with 12:22 left in the first half.

Duke re-gained the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to T.J. Rahming, but William Holmquist‘s PAT missed. The Blue Devils pushed their lead back to two scores with an 11-yard swing pass from Jones to Wilson with 1:33 left before the break, but Jones’s 2-point pass was intercepted in the end zone.

 

Jones fumbled at the NIU 31-yard line to open the second half, but atoned for the mistake by leading an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 7-yard Brittain Brown run that put the Blue Devils up 33-14 at the 6:58 mark of the third quarter. Duke ended any chance of a Hail Mary comeback with a 16-play drive that consumed the entire first half of the fourth quarter, ending in a 24-yard Holmquist field goal to push the lead to 22. Derrick Tangelo all but ended the game with a sack of Childers on 4th-and-5 from midfield with six and a half minutes remaining.

Jones finished the game hitting 27-of-40 throws for 252 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 16 times for a game-high 86 yards and a touchdown. Wilson and Brown combined to carry 29 times for 116 yards and two additional scores. Childers completed 15-of-26 passes for 234 yards with a touchdown and no picks, and Harbison rushed 13 times for 59 yards and a touchdown.

The win handed Duke its fifth bowl victory ever, and just its second since 1962. Northern Illinois dropped to 0-5 in bowl games under head coach Rod Carey. Not surprisingly, this was the first all-time meeting between the Blue Devils and the Huskies.

Fake punt gaffe helps Duke take halftime lead over NIU in Quick Lane Bowl

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A fake punt gaffe the likes of which you’ll probably never see again has pushed Duke to a 26-14 halftime lead over Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Trailing 7-0 with 4:32 to play in the first quarter, Northern Illinois punter Matt Ference trotted onto the field for what everyone thought would be a boot from his own end zone. Everyone but him, that is.

Instead, Ference decided to pass. It was fourth and 18.

Duke took over at the NIU 11-yard line and needed three plays to score, a 1-yard Shaun Wilson run that gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game.

Northern Illinois struck back with two quick scoring drives. The first was a 2-play, 68-yard drive that saw Marcus Childers hit Spencer Tears for a 43-yard gain and then Tre Harbison score on a 25-yard rush. After forcing a three-and-out, the Huskies tied the game on a 67-yard strike from Childers to Jauan Wesley, knotting the score at 14-14 with 12:22 left in the first half.

Duke re-gained the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to T.J. Rahming, but William Holmquist‘s PAT missed. The Blue Devils pushed their lead back to two scores with an 11-yard swing pass from Jones to Wilson with 1:33 left before the break, but Jones’s 2-point pass was intercepted in the end zone.

Jones hit 16-of-23 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing six times for a team-high 28 yards and another score. Wilson added 10 carries for 23 yards and a touchdown.

For Northern Illinois, Childers connected on 6-of-10 passes for 141 yards with a touchdown with eight carries for 20 yards, while Harbison led all runners with 53 yards on nine carries with one touchdown.

Duke will receive to open the second half.

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Alabama, Duke to open 2019 season in Atlanta

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Alabama will kick off its quest to win five consecutive College Football Playoff titles against Duke in 2019 in Atlanta, the Crimson Tide and Blue Devils announced Monday morning.

(Mostly kidding about that five-peat. Mostly.)

It will be Alabama’s sixth appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff, which included the first Atlanta-based neutral site game in 2008 (against Clemson) and will include 2017’s curtain-lifter against Florida State. The Tide have also played Virginia Tech (2009, 2013) and West Virginia (2014) in Atlanta to begin various seasons, and opened the 2016 season against USC at AT&T Stadium.

There is, of course, a ton of money to be made off these neutral-site games. And that’s fine, but how much more fun would it have been to see Alabama travel to Lane Stadium and face a raucous, Enter Sandman-energized crowd at Virginia Tech instead of doing one of these games? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

But alas, we’ll just have to settle for these big neutral-site games, though Alabama-Duke might not exactly qualify as one of those. It’s not a bad consolation, of course.