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Bob Davie expects to return to sidelines for New Mexico-Liberty game

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He’s not there quite yet, but Bob Davie is nearing a return to the sidelines.

Tuesday, New Mexico confirmed that offensive line coach/running-game coordinator Saga Tuitele will once again serve as acting head coach and be in charge of game management for this weekend’s matchup with in-state rival New Mexico State. Separately, head coach Bob Davie revealed that, barring an unexpected setback, he should resume coaching duties for the Sept. 28 game against Liberty, whose head football coach went through his own health issues over the past month as well.

Shortly after New Mexico beat Sam Houston State in its season opener, it was reported that Davie had experienced some type of “heart trouble” and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.  Shortly thereafter, UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez released a statement in which he confirmed that Davie “was taken to the hospital as a result of what appeared to be a serious medical incident” and asked “that you keep the Davie family in your prayers.”

Subsequent updates from the school indicated that Davie was doing well and is expected to make a full recovery, although not well enough to make the trip back to South Bend for the Week 3 game against Notre Dame.

Earlier this month, Davie stated that he was “not being too dramatic by saying [medical personnel] saved my life and my family will forever be appreciative.”

The 64-year-old Davie is in his eighth season as the head coach at New Mexico. He was also the head coach at Notre Dame from 1997-2001 before taking what turned out to be a decade-long sabbatical from the coaching profession. The Fighting Irish went 35-25 during Davie’s tenure, including losses in all three bowl appearances.

Davie served as the Irish’s defensive coordinator from 1994-96 before taking over for the retiring Lou Holtz.

At UNM, Davie has gone 34-55 in seven-plus seasons.

One report has Hugh Freeze coaching Liberty’s next game from a dental chair; school calling it a medical chair

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College football, y’all.

Because of ongoing medical concerns, Hugh Freeze coached last Saturday’s opener at home against Syracuse from the coaches box while laying in a hospital bed.  With a road trip to Louisiana up next for the football independent, it had been unclear whether Freeze would travel to Lafayette and coach the Flames against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Friday, Liberty officials confirmed to Yahoo! SportsPat Forde that Freeze will travel to Louisiana for the game, although he’ll travel separately from the rest of the team.  The best part?  He’ll be coaching from what one person described to Forde as “a dental chair” set up in the press box.

A Liberty spokesman told Yahoo Sports on Friday that bedridden football coach Hugh Freeze does plan to make the trip to Louisiana for the Flames’ game Saturday, and that the school has purchased what it calls a “medical chair” for him to use in the press box. A source with knowledge of the situation had previously characterized the chair as a dental chair.

“We’re not calling it a dental chair,” Todd Whetmore said. “It’s a medical chair that allows him to be elevated.

The fact that the football program is parsing words, that it’s medical instead of dental?  College football, y’all!

Liberty University announced Aug. 22 that Freeze was released from the hospital the day before after a nearly one-week stay.  The school had announced Aug. 13 that its head football coach was dealing with severe back spasms and had been unable to participate in practices since the previous Sunday.  As it turns out, there was a significantly more serious underlying issue than simple back spasms as Freeze subsequently revealed that he underwent emergency surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center Aug. 16 because a potentially life-threatening strand of staph infection entered his bloodstream.

Hired by the Flames in December of last year, Freeze is set to enter his first season as the head coach at the football independent.  Freeze had been out of coaching for two full seasons following his unceremonious ouster as the head coach at Ole Miss in July of 2017.

First-year head coaches (barely) finished above .500 in 2019 debuts

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For those FBS schools that made changes at the top of its program last year and on into early 2019, the results, at least for the opening weekends of the college football season, were decidedly mixed.

Entering Weeks 0/1, a total of 26 head coaches were in their first games (two coaching a second first game) with their respective schools. Of those 26, 15 won their opening matchups while *uses fingers to do the math, takes off shoes when fingers run out* 11 dropped their openers.

Seven of the head coaches new to their current schools — Akron (Illinois), East Carolina (NC State), Houston (Oklahoma), Liberty (Syracuse), Texas State (Texas A&M), UMass (Rutgers) and Utah State (Wake Forest) — led off with Power Five opponents; not surprisingly, all seven of those ended up exiting Week 1 with a loss.  Exactly half of the 26 kicked off against FCS schools, and just one, Western Kentucky to Central Arkansas, failed to come away with a win.

At the other end was Louisville and North Carolina leading off with matchups against Power Five foes, Notre Dame for the former and South Carolina the latter.  The Cardinals extended their nation’s-worst losing streak to 10 in a row while the Tar Heels got past the Gamecocks in Mack Brown‘s return to Chapel Hill.

Oh, and there was Hugh Freeze‘s official return to coaching from a hospital bed up in the coaches’ box in Liberty’s loss to Syracuse.

WIN (15)
Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State (beat East Tennessee State, 42-7)
Scot Loeffler, Bowling Green (Morgan State, 46-3)
Jim McElwain, Central Michigan (Albany, 38-21)
Brad Lambert, Charlotte (Gardner-Webb, 49-28)
Mel Tucker, Colorado (Colorado State, 52-31)
Les Miles, Kansas (Indiana State, 24-17)
Chris Klieman, Kansas State (Nicholls, 49-14)
Mike Locksley, Maryland (Howard, 79-0)
Mack Brown, North Carolina (South Carolina, 24-20)
Thomas Hammock, Northern Illinois (Illinois State, 24-10)
Ryan Day, Ohio State (FAU, 45-21)
Rod Carey, Temple (Bucknell, 56-12)
Chip Lindsey, Troy (Campbell, 43-14)
Matt Wells, Texas Tech (Montana State, 45-10)
Neal Brown, West Virginia (James Madison, 20-13)

LOSS (11)
Tom Arth, Akron (lost to Illinois, 42-3)
Mike Houston, East Carolina (NC State, 34-6)
Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech (Clemson, 52-14)
Dana Holgorsen, Houston (Oklahoma, 49-31)
Hugh Freeze, Liberty (Syracuse, 24-0)
Scott Satterfield, Louisville (Notre Dame, 35-17)
Manny Diaz, Miami (Florida, 24-20)
Jake Spavital, Texas State (Texas A&M, 41-7)
Walt Bell, UMass (Rutgers 48-21)
Gary Andersen, Utah State (Wake Forest, 38-35)
Tyson Helton, Western Kentucky (Central Arkansas, 35-28)

Hugh Freeze to coach first game at Liberty from hospital bed in coach’s booth

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Now that is some dedication.

Liberty University announced Aug. 22 that Hugh Freeze was released from the hospital the day before after a nearly one-week stay.  The school had announced Aug. 13 that its head football coach was dealing with severe back spasms and had been unable to participate in practices since the previous Sunday.  As it turns out, there was a significantly more serious underlying issue than simple back spasms as Freeze subsequently revealed that he underwent emergency surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center Aug. 16 because a potentially life-threatening strand of staph infection entered his bloodstream.

Following his release from the hospital a little over a week ago, it was expected that Freeze would not be on the sidelines for the football independent’s opener against Syracuse this evening and would instead direct his Flames from the coach’s booth.  That will indeed be the case, albeit with a twist as Freeze, who was taken into his home stadium via a wheelchair, will be in a hospital bed as he performs his game-day duties.

Hired by the Flames in December of last year, Freeze is entering his first season as the head coach at the football independent.  Freeze had been out of coaching for two full seasons following his unceremonious ouster as the head coach at Ole Miss in July of 2017.

CFT Cheat Sheet: What to know for Week 1

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A quick primer on who, what and where to look for/at as college football kicks off its first full weekend of the 2019 season.

WEEK 1 STORYLINES

  • On Nov. 6, 1869, with a young Bill Snyder in attendance, Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 in what is considered the first “modern” game of college football.  A century and a half later, the sport is one of the most popular in the country and this 150th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the 2019 season.  The sesquicentennial of a sport that generated quotes such as “this college is a failure; the trouble is we’re neglecting football for education” and “I would like to build a university of which the football team could be proud” will be feted over the next few months, with ESPN, of course, leading the way with myriad specials highlighting the colorful, ofttimes controversial but never, ever boring history of college football.
  • Several new rules will be in effect for the 2019 season, from targeting (replay officials required to either confirm or deny all targeting fouls; any targeting foul that cannot be confirmed by video review will now be overturned) to blindside blocks called as personal fouls to two-man wedge formations on all kickoffs.  Another aspect of the targeting rule that’s been changed could have a sizable impact as well, with a player who is penalized for targeting three times in a season being suspended for one full game after the first offense, and an additional game for every offense thereafter.  Additionally, new overtime rules are in play thanks to last year’s LSU-Texas A&M marathon. If a game reaches four overtimes and remains tied, the outcome will be decided by alternating two-point conversions that are snapped from the three-yard line.
  • Because of injuries, Alabama will very likely open the 2019 season with a pair of true freshmen starting in its linebacking corps.  Starting weakside linebacker Josh McMillon suffered a knee injury two weeks ago that will sideline him indefinitely, perhaps even the entire season; he’ll be replaced by four-star 2019 signee Christian Harris.  Preseason All-American Dylan Moses sustained a torn ACL this week and is expected to miss all of 2019; four-star 2019 signee Shane Lee will take his place at middle linebacker not only position-wise but calling the defensive signals as well.  Add in three other starters suspended for the first half of the opener, and Alabama’s matchup with Duke — the Crimson Tide are around a five-touchdown favorite for the neutral-site matchup — at least becomes mildly interesting.  Or it’ll prove yet again that, Nick Saban‘s protestations notwithstanding, ‘Bama can indeed s**t another player and everything will be perfect.
  • There are 26 head coaches who are entering their first seasons at their new schools, with two of them (Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech and Manny Diaz at Miami) already losing their debuts.  This Saturday, more than half of the 24 remaining first-year coaches (13) will lift the lid on the 2019 season against FCS opponents; at the opposite end of the spectrum is seven Group of Seven Group of Five coaches lead off with a Power Five school — Akron (Illinois), East Carolina (NC State), Houston (Oklahoma), Liberty (Syracuse), Texas State (Texas A&M), UMass (Rutgers) and Utah State (Wake Forest). Colorado and Ohio State will kick the campaign off against Group of Five schools Colorado State and Florida Atlantic, respectively, with Louisville opening against Notre Dame and North Carolina tangling with South Carolina in P5 vs. P5 matchups.

SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES

  • No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn in Arlington, Tex. — No offense to either school, but you know the Week 1 slate is on the lighter side if this is the first of the must-see matchups.  This game, coincidentally enough, is also the only one this weekend pitting ranked teams against each other.  As of this writing, the Ducks are a 3½-point favorite in a neutral-field affair that will see the Tigers start a true freshman, Bo Nix, under center for the first time in more than 70 years.  Oregon, meanwhile, has seen its receiving corps hit hard by injury.  This game will, though, feature one of the best positional matchups of the first full weekend of football, with the Ducks’ stout offensive line going up against the Tigers’ talented defensive line.
  • Houston at No. 4 Oklahoma — If you like offense, you should love this non-conference matchup.  Prior to going down with a knee injury in the Cougars’ 11th game of the season, a now-healthy D’Eriq King had put up 50 total touchdowns (36 passing, 14 rushing) and nearly 3,700 yards of offense as he passed for 2,982 and ran for another 674.  The Sooners, of course, have produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners and will see their offense triggered this season by Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts.
  • Boise State vs. Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. — This game was originally scheduled to be played on a “neutral field” in Jacksonville, but the looming threat of Hurricane Dorian forced the contest to be moved about 170 miles west to Doak Campbell Stadium.  This will mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs, with the Seminoles coming off a year in which its bowl streak was snapped at 36 straight thanks to a 5-7 record and the Broncos coming off a season in which its bowl game was ruled a no-contest because of, oddly enough, weather.
  • North Carolina vs. South Carolina in Charlotte, NC Mack Brown is back for his second stint at North Carolina.  South Carolina’s head coach, Will Muschamp, served as Brown’s defensive coordinator at Texas from 2008-10. And thus ends the most intriguing aspect of this matchup as the Tar Heels won two games for the first time since 2003 and the Gamecocks were a pedestrian 7-6 in the third season under Muschamp.  This is also the third of three neutral-site games on this list, so it’s got that going for it.  Which is nice.
  • No. 9 Notre Dame at Louisville — This game is the only one being played Labor Day night, so by definition it’s a must-see affair for any avid fan of the sport.  Those expecting must-see action on the field will likely be disappointed, though, as Notre Dame is anywhere from an 18- to 19-point road favorite. The Fighting Irish were one of the four playoff teams a year ago, with the Cardinals stumbling and/or bumbling through a two-win season (their worst since 1997) that saw Bobby Petrino fired and Scott Satterfield hired.
  • Ole Miss at Memphis — Fun fact for the wagering degenerates in the audience: Memphis is 8-0 in the regular season under Mike Norvell in games that kick off at noon ET, including a pair of wins over Power Five schools (then-No. 25 UCLA in 2017, laugh-if-you-want-but-they’re-still-technically-a-P5-team Kansas in 2016).  Both of those wins, incidentally, came at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.  Right now, the Tigers are roughly a 5½-point favorite.

BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 1

  • BEST: It’s gotta be Memphis -5½ over Ole Miss, right?  Given that unbeaten noon trend under Norvell, you have to roll with what’s been a mortal lock the past three seasons.
  • WORST: Alabama at -33½ over Duke. The line had gotten all the way to 36 points at one point until Dylan Mosesseason-ending injury.  The Crimson Tide should still win very comfortably, but not nearly five touchdowns comfortable — although Nick Saban‘s PG-13 radio diatribe has me second-guessing this selection.
  • COVER SPECIAL:  Houston’s getting three touchdowns and a field goal, and I’m taking it.  The AAC school (likely) won’t beat Oklahoma outright, but they’ll cover.

HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH

  1.  Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson — The “It” player in college football ended the 2018 season with a national championship as a true freshman, and begins the 2019 season as the Heisman frontrunner until proven otherwise.
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama — There is one overwhelming question when it comes to the 2018 Heisman runner-up: can he stay upright and healthy for a full season?
  3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma — Back-to-back transfer quarterbacks from Oklahoma have won the Heisman, so this transfer quarterback from Alabama is going to start this season a little higher than he probably should.
  4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State — The second straight transfer on the list, the true sophomore is entering his first season as the starter at the collegiate level after coming to OSU from Georgia.
  5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin — The positive: Taylor is just 2,235 yards away from becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher in just three seasons. The negative: A running back has claimed the Heisman just twice in 13 years.
  6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas — Speaking of droughts, a player from the University of Texas hasn’t won the Heisman since Ricky Williams in 1998.
  7. Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska — When it’s all said and done, and if he stays injury-free, I truly believe this electrifying quarterback who can beat you with his arm and/or legs will end the season a lot higher on this list.
  8. Justin Hebert, QB, Oregon — Arguably the top player on the West Coast, Hebert eschewed the opportunity to enter the 2019 NFL Draft as a likely Top-10 selection and return to Oregon for one more season.
  9. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia — The seventh-year junior (OK, it just seems like he’s been in Athens forever), has quietly put up nearly 5,400 yards and 54 touchdowns in two seasons; a huge performance in the high-profile matchup with Notre Dame in Week 4 would boost his stiff-armed chances.
  10. JK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State — With Fields in his first season as a starter, Dobbins should see his carry rate rise (he averaged just under 12 a game his first two seasons)  especially early on as the new starter gets further acclimated to the offense.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that Oregon’s offensive line going up against Auburn’s defensive line will be one of the best positional matchups of Week 1.  As fortune would have it, our buddies over at Rotoworld have Auburn DT Derrick Brown vs Oregon OL Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson leading off its “NFL Draft Prospect Showdown” feature for the first week of the college football season.  For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.