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More than five dozen tight ends land on Mackey Award watch list

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If you’re a college football fan, there’s nearly a 50-50 chance that you’ll find one of your team’s players on this latest watch list installment.

The Mackey Award is next up to do the preseason deed, with the hardware going to the nation’s top tight end announcing a 64-player watch list Friday morning.  Unlike most other awards, not a single semifinalist from a year ago are up for the award won by Arkansas’ Mark Andrews in 2017.

A total of five teams placed two players on the list, with three of those coming from — surprise!!! — the Big Ten.  Iowa (Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson), Michigan (Zach Gentry, Sean McKeon) and Wisconsin (Zander Neuville, Kyle Penniston) represent that Midwest conference, while Louisville (Kemari Averett, Micky Crum) and South Carolina (KC Crosby, account for the other.

The Big Ten led all conferences with 12 players on the initial watch list, followed by the SEC (nine), ACC (seven), Pac-12 (seven), Mountain West (six) and Sun Belt (five).  There are four watch listers each hailing from the AAC, Big 12 and MAC, while Conference USA placed three.  There are also three tight ends from football independents.

Below is the complete 2018 John Mackey Award preseason watch list:



Lane Kiffin slaps FAU QB Chris Robison with ‘day-to-day suspension’

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Chris Robison‘s time in Norman ended in controversy. As he gets set to begin his quest to become Florida Atlantic’s starting quarterback, Robison is again mired in a bit of a kerfuffle.

As FAU kicked off spring practice Tuesday, Lane Kiffin confirmed that Robison has been indefinitely suspended from his football program.  The only reason given was the standard unspecified violation of team rules.

One sliver of light amongst the latest off-field cloud for Robison is that the suspension trigger seems to be relatively minor in nature as the head coach said it could be lifted at any time.

“[He’s] not doing things right off the field and not just that he hurt himself, but he hurt his team,” Kiffin said by way of the Palm Beach Post. “Like we just told our players, you got choices; we can’t make the choices for you. If you don’t want to make the right choices, [there are] punishments for them.

“I think our punishments are a bit more severe than most people would be, but we want to teach our guys they gotta do everything right.”

A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Robison was arrested in April of that year for public intoxication; four months later, OU announced that Robison had been dismissed from the football program.  In August of last year, Robison announced his decision to transfer to FAU and ended up taking a redshirt for the 2017 season.

Robison and De'Andre Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job vacated by Jason Driskel, who announced earlier this offseason that he was retiring from the sport.  Johnson missed most of the 2017 season after blood clots were discovered in one of his arms.

FAU QB Jason Driskel announces he is retiring from football

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This one seemingly comes from out of nowhere.

The starting quarterback for Lane Kiffin‘s resurgent FAU program for most of 2017, Jason Driskel was hoping again to trigger one of the most potent offenses in the country in 2018.  Instead, Driskel announced on his personal Twitter account that he is retiring from the sport.

“After a lot of thinking, talking with friends and family, and prayer, I have made the decision to end my college football career,” Driskel, who has one year of eligibility remaining, wrote in the social media missive. “I undoubtedly will miss my teammates and the game with all of its trials and tribulations; but I will not regret the decision to move into the next chapter of my life.”

After going 1-2 the first three games of the 2017 season, Lane Kiffin benched starter Daniel Parr and inserted Driskel.  After losing his first start at Buffalo, Driskel proceeded to help lead the Owls to 10 straight wins to close out the regular season with a school-record 11 wins.  FAU won the Conference USA championship and also claimed the program’s first bowl win since 2008 for good measure.

Driskel passed for 2,247 yards, five touchdowns and just four interceptions in what turned out to be his last season at the school.  He was also third on the Owls with 427 yards rushing, while his eight rushing touchdowns were second on the team.

With Driskel out, a pair of transfers, Florida State’s De'Andre Johnson and Oklahoma’s Chris Robinson, will likely battle for the starting job beginning in the spring.  Even if he hadn’t retired, Driskel would’ve had to beat out that duo for the starting job, his head coach confirmed after the Boca Raton Bowl rout of Akron.

Iowa snaps bowl losing streak with Pinstripe Bowl victory over Boston College

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Iowa had not won a bowl game since 2010, but that drought is now over. The Hawkeyes (8-5) scored a go-ahead touchdown moments after a costly Boston College (7-6) fumble and the defense held on for a 27-20 victory in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium Wednesday evening.

Drake Kulick powered his way in from inside the one-yard line for a go-ahead touchdown after an instant replay overturned a touchdown reception for Nate Wieting. Wieting hauled in a pass for a 17-yard gain from Nate Stanley immediately after a 27-yard run from Akrum Wadley as Iowa made quick work off a Boston College fumble. Boston College quarterback Darius Wade had the ball knocked out of his hands by Anthony Nelson at midfield with 4:22 to play. Iowa outscored Boston College 10-3 in the fourth quarter after shutting out Boston College in the third quarter.

Iowa’s standout defensive star, Joshua Jackson, had the ball thrown away from him most of the night, but he picked off a pass from wade in the final 90 seconds of the game to help Iowa put the game on ice. It’s also worth noting the game was played in below-freezing temperatures since kickoff, making for a tough playing surface to gain much traction on for both teams. It took Iowa a while to get warmed up on offense against a stingy defense, but it clicked when it mattered the most.

Boston College out-gained Iowa 387-200 in the game but three turnovers to Iowa’s none was too much to overcome. Iowa scored 10 points off those three turnovers, including a field goal in the opening minutes of the game despite getting the ball at the Boston College six-yard line. Boston College running back AJ Dillon rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

The win moves Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz into a tie for the most wins in program history with Hayden Fry. Iowa also gets the Big Ten off to a 1-0 mark in the postseason, while the ACC takes its first hit and is now 2-1.

Boston College will open the 2018 season at home on Sep. 1, 2018 against in-state opponent UMass. Boston College will face one of Iowa’s division foes, Purdue, on the road next season (Sep. 22). Iowa’s 2018 season will also begin on Sep. 1 with a home game against Northern Illinois, followed by a home game against Iowa State of the Big 12.

AJ Dillon powering Boston College to halftime lead on Iowa in frigid Pinstripe Bowl

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With the temperature below freezing level, Boston College players have resorted to wearing shoes without cleats to try and keep their footing. Maybe it’s working, with the Eagles leading Iowa at halftime of the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium, 17-10 at halftime.

Boston College’s defense made some big plays early in the game after an early turnover gave Iowa the ball at the BC six-yard line. But after three plays without yielding a single yard, Boston College escaped having just allowed a field goal. The Eagles took the lead later in the first quarter with A.J. Dillon running four yards for a score.

A controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Boston College’s Noa Merritt gave Iowa a chance to capitalize on a questionable penalty. After sacking Nathan Stanley for a loss of 12 yards on 2nd and 6, Merritt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard penalty that came with an automatic first down. Two plays later, Stanley completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant to take the lead. Video replay of the penalty in question sure looked like a flag that never should have really been called in a bowl game, or any game, unless there were some choice words that came with the celebration.

Boston College responded with 10 points in the second quarter to take the 17-10 lead into the halftime break. Boston College scored a touchdown on a tipped pass deflection that landed right into the hands of Tommy Sweeney.

Boston College tacked on a late field goal on a drive that started on their four-yard line following a quick kick by Iowa.

A game expected to be a big one for the star running backs has been one-sided in favor of BC’s Dillon. Dillon has already rushed for 126 yards while Iowa’s Akrum Wadley has rushed for just 22 yards on six carries (Wadley did have a long kickoff return in the first half).