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Biletnikoff Award whittles hunt for nation’s top receiver down to 12

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The Biletnikoff Award on Monday announced its list of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 award. The award specifies that any player who catches a pass is eligible to win — not just wideouts — but only wideouts have won the award through its 25-year history.

And for what has to be the first time in Biletnikoff history, both LSU and Alabama have two semifinalists, including 2018 winner Jerry Jeudy.

The semifinalists are:

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota: 44 catches for 945 yards (21.5 yards per) and seven touchdowns
Omar Bayless, Arkansas State: 73 catches for 1,262 yards (17.3 yards per) and 14 touchdowns
Ja'Marr Chase, LSU: 57 catches for 1,116 yards (19.6 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty: 64 catches for 1,244 yards (19.4 yards per) and eight touchdowns
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State: 73 catches for 1,021 yards (14 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Justin Jefferson, LSU: 71 catches for 1,010 yards (14.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: 64 catches for 867 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: 44 catches for 983 yards (22.3 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Michael Pittman, Jr., USC: 82 catches for 1,118 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
James Proche, SMU: 88 catches for 1,008 yards (11.5 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Devonta Smith, Alabama: 56 catches for 1,026 yards (18.3 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest: 66 catches for 1,001 yards (15.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns

The notable snub here is Devin Duvernay of Texas, who is one off the lead for catches (87) but could not crack the voters’ top 12. (Full disclosure: I am a Biletnikoff voter and had Duvernay on my semifinalist list.)

The 12 semifinalists will be chopped down to three next Monday, with the winner announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12.

Liberty’s Stephen Calvert throws for 441 yards… in the first half

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Liberty entered its Week 10 game 30th in the country in passing offense.  The football independent’s opponent, fellow independent UMass, came in 119th nationally.

Even without the headline, you knew where this was headed, right?

Through a mere two quarters of play, Flames quarterback Stephen Calvert has thrown for a whopping 441 yards.  Calvert, whose nickname is, appropriately enough, Buckshot, has also thrown four touchdown passes as the Flames (5-3) hold a lopsided 49-14 halftime lead on the woebegone Minutemen (1-7).

The 441 yards already marks a career-high for the senior.  His previous high-water mark was 417 yards against New Mexico in late September of last year.

All told, Calvert has 10 career 300- or 400-yard passing games, with five of those coming in Hugh Freeze‘s first season at the school.

B1G line: Rutgers an eight-point HOME underdog to Liberty

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“I’ve got plenty of confidence in the Board, the President and the AD that they’ll get things going in a good way.”

That was soon-to-be-former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in October of 2015, speaking to reporters about a beleaguered Rutgers football program battling off-the-field issues that stained the reputation of the university and, by association, the conference. Since then, the Scarlet Knights have done nothing but dredge rock bottom even further on it.

The story that included Delany’s quote was posted on nj.com on Oct. 9, 2015; in the four-plus years since, Rutgers football has posted a 10-41 record overall and a Kansas-esque 4-35 mark in conference play. Two of the 10 wins have come at the expense of FCS schools. They’ve lost a pair of games to MAC schools, including one by 29 points to Buffalo last season.

Kyle Flood was fired in November of 2015 amidst scandal; Chris Ash was fired in September of this year amidst a 1-3 start to the season that included three straight losses by a combined score of 112-16, with two of those losses being whitewashings at the hands of conference foes. The firing hasn’t made the on-field problem much better, with just 14 points scored in the three games, all losses, since the dismissal.

RU FAN: “We’ve hit rock bottom, right?”
RU FOOTBALL: “Hold my beer…”

In Week 9, Rutgers will play host to Liberty. RU is in the midst of celebrating its role in the first-ever college football game played 150 years ago next month. Liberty, meanwhile, announced its transition from the FCS to the FBS in 2017, playing as a provisional FBS member for the first time in 2018.

All of which brings us to…

That’s right. A Big Ten team is upwards of an eight-point underdog. At home. To a school that, this time two years ago, was still a member of the Football Championship Series.

Here’s to hoping that New York/New Jersey television market was worth the ongoing embarrassment RU’s addition has wrought on the conference, Mr. Delany.

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.

UConn announces three-quarters of first schedule as football independent in 2020

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With its second first season as an FBS independent on the horizon, UConn is getting closer to wrapping up its slate for that next step for the program.

Thursday morning, UConn officially announced that it has secured agreements for nine games as part of its 12-game 2020 regular season.  The announcement comes four months after UConn decided to leave the AAC following the 2019-20 academic year, moving its sports programs, with the exception of football, to the Big East.

The athletic department still has three games to fill in to complete its 2020 schedule.  Additionally, the specific dates for two games, home against Maine and at Virginia, are still to be determined.

In at least one case, a school had to adjust its schedule to accommodate UConn’s fledgling independence voyage.

In a separate press release, Ole Miss announced that its game against Middle Tennessee State had been moved to Sept. 7, 2024.  That game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 26 of next year.

“I would like to thank the many Universities that collaborated with us as we continue to work through the complicated process of constructing our schedule for the 2020 season,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said in a statement. “I feel that the schedule will be one that our football program and our fans can be excited about and I look forward to finalizing the 2020 schedule shortly.”