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Conference USA releases 2020 football schedule

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The calendar reads 2020 and now Conference USA is ready to start filling in dates this fall for the upcoming football campaign.

In a release issued on Wednesday, the league announced dates and opponents for their 2020 football schedule. You can find team-by-team schedules here or the overall composite week-by-week schedule here.

CUSA will once again play eight conference games and will essentially see the league slate from last season flip venues from home to road. The divisional alignment is set to remain the same, with 14 teams split evenly across an East and West Division.

There will be plenty of new faces for the upcoming campaign in the conference, including at reigning champion Florida Atlantic after Lane Kiffin’s departure to Ole Miss and the hiring of former Florida State head coach Willie TaggartJeff Traylor also takes over at UTSA and Ricky Rahne will be the new head coach at Old Dominion.

The Conference USA title game is also scheduled for Saturday, December 5 and will mark the quite the anniversary as the league begins its 25th season of play on the gridiron.

Skip Holtz reportedly interested in Mississippi State job

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Could Skip Holtz be the next Holtz on an SEC sideline? If it’s up to him he will be.  Reportedly.

In the days since Joe Moorhead was summarily dismissed as the head football coach at Mississippi State, Billy Napier has turned down overtures from the university. Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik interviewed for the job, but pulled his name from consideration the next day.

On top of that, former MSU football player Joe Judge was considered a (the?) leading candidate to return home. Instead, the New England Patriots special teams coordinator was named as the New York Giants head coach.

If MSU is looking for someone actually interested in the job, perhaps they should give Skip Holtz a call. At least, that’s the case according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Skip Holtz, the son of former South Carolina (and Notre Dame and others) head coach Lou Holtz, just completed his seventh season at Louisiana Tech. At 10-3 this year, the Bulldogs reached double-digit wins for the first time in school history. The program also has six straight bowl wins, all under the 55-year-old Holtz. Prior to Holtz, they had two bowl wins (in six appearances).

Since a 4-8 initial campaign, Tech has won no fewer than seven games. Tech has won eight or more games 14 times as an FBS school; Holtz is responsible for five of those seasons.

Despite the series of events that have led to some dropping out, there are a handful of candidates outside of Holtz who remain a part of the search in Starkville:

  • Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun
  • UAB head coach Bill Clark
  • Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham
  • Army head coach Jeff Monken
  • Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian

Purdue officially adds Bob Diaco as DC

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Thanks to Purdue, Bob Diaco is back in the Big Ten.

Late last year, it was reported that Purdue will hire Bob Diaco.  Three days later, the Boilermakers confirmed Diaco’s addition to Jeff Brohm‘s coaching staff.  Diaco will serve as Brohm’s defensive coordinator.

The 46-year-old will also coach Purdue’s linebackers.

“We’re very excited to bring Bob to Purdue,” Brohm said in a statement. “He is one of the most well-respected defensive coaches in the country and has proven throughout his career to be an innovator on that side of the ball.”

Diaco spent the 2019 season as the coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  He also served in that capacity at Nebraska (2017), Notre Dame (2010-13) and Central Michigan (2005).  In addition to those, Diaco, who played his college football at Iowa, has also spent time on staffs at Oklahoma (2018), Cincinnati (2014-16) and Virginia (2006-08).  He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater.

From 2014-16, Diaco was the head coach at UConn.  In those three seasons, he went 11-26 overall and 6-18 in AAC play.

Diaco will replace Nick Holt, who was fired after three seasons last month.  While he was co-coordinator, Holt was Purdue’s primary playcaller on the defensive side of the ball.

The Boilermakers were 12th in the Big Ten and 88th nationally in scoring defense at 30.6 points per game this past season.  Their 436.3 yards per game were 13th in the conference and 100th in the country as well. They were one of three Big Ten teams to allow at least 30 points per game (Maryland allowed 34.7 ppg, Rutgers allowed 36.7 ppg).

College Football All-Decade Team — CFT’s selections

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Hey, look, it’s a College Football All-Decade Football Team, so let the whining commence in earnest as there’s little doubt that we hate (insert name of your favorite player from your favorite team here).

While it might be hard for some to believe, we have come to the end of yet another decade. As such, we — Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, Kevin McGuire and myself — decided to cobble together a list of players who have been the best of the best in college football over the past 10 years. And, yes, we’ve done so fully aware of the verbal slings and written arrows that are sure to follow.

(Writer’s note: Speaking of the esteemed panel and verbal slings/written arrows, their personal Twitter accounts can be found HERE, HERE and HERE. Fire away at will.)

This was truly an impossible task — with a small handful of exceptions. Justin Blackmon as one of the wide receivers? Zero doubt. Luke Kuechly manning one of the linebacker spots? No-brainer. Aaron Donald in the middle of the defensive line? Obviously.

Outside of those three, plus a couple of more? Good luck.

Let’s also be clear: This team is based on what the players did at the collegiate level.  What they did or didn’t do in the NFL has no — zero, none, zip, zilch, nada — bearing whatsoever in this endeavor.

One final note before we get on to the festivities: Players needed to have spent more than half of their collegiate careers in this decade to be included. Thus, players such as Alabama’s Mark Barron, Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles, Alabama’s Julio Jones, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Texas’ Early Thomas were ineligible.

With that all out of the way, let’s get it on.  Or something.

OFFENSE

QB: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
A three-time Heisman finalist, the former two-time walk-on finally claimed the trophy in 2017.  Twice Mayfield helped lead the Sooners into the College Football Playoffs as well as breaking the FBS pass-efficiency rating each of his last two seasons in Norman.  This was arguably the hardest selection as I wouldn’t argue one bit if someone were to put the special mention in this spot.
(Special Mention: Deshaun Watson, Clemson)
(Honorable mention: Lamar Jackson, Louisville; Robert Griffin III, Baylor)

RB: Derrick Henry, Alabama; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin 
The only reason this position was “easier” to select than quarterback is the fact that there are two players instead of one.  Taylor is a two-time Doak Walker Award winner who this season, in breaking Herschel Walker‘s record, became the only player in FBS history with more than 6,000 yards rushing his first three seasons.  As part of the Crimson Tide’s 2015 title team, Henry won the Heisman Trophy after rushing for more than 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns.  He was the only running back to win the Heisman this decade.
(Special mention: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State; Christian McCaffrey, Stanford)
(Honorable mention: Any other Wisconsin running back; Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona)

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State*; Amari Cooper, Alabama*
As noted earlier, Blackmon was one of the no-brainers.  In 2010 and 2011, Blackmon caught 233 passes for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns.  He’s one of just two receivers to win back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards, the other being Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree. Cooper put up two 1,000-yard seasons during his three years in Tuscaloosa, winning the Biletnikoff following the 2014 season.  He was a unanimous All-American that year as well.
(Special mention: Corey Davis, Western Michigan)
(Honorable mention: Justin Hardy, East Carolina; Marquie Lee, USC; James Washington, Oklahoma State)

TE: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Andrews totaled 22 touchdowns during his three seasons with the Sooners, coinciding with Baker Mayfield‘s time in Norman.  He was named the winner of the Mackey Award after catching 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017.
(Honorable mention: Jake Butts, Michigan; Evan Ingram, Ole Miss; Nick O’Leary, Florida State)

OT: Barrett Jones, Alabama*; Brandon Scherff, Iowa*
Jones was a four-year starter at Alabama.  He was a Freshman All-American at guard, won the 2011 Outland Trophy at tackle and claimed the 2012 Rimington Trophy at center.  Those last two seasons, he was a consensus All-American.  Scherff started at both guard and tackle at Iowa, and was a consensus All-American and Outland Trophy winner for the 2014 season.
(Special mention: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M; Cam Robinson, Alabama)
(Honorable mention: Spencer Drango, Baylor; Jake Matthews, Texas A&M; David Yankey, Stanford)

G: Quinton Nelson, Notre Dame*; David DeCastro, Stanford
Nelson was a three-year starter for the Fighting Irish.  He earned unanimous All-American honors in 2017.  A two-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection, DeCastro was a unanimous All-American in 2011.
(Honorable mention: Chance Warmack, Alabama)

C: Pat Elflein, Ohio State
Elflein began his career as a guard, where he was twice named All-Big Ten.  After moving to center, he was named as the 2016 winner of the Rimington Trophy.
(Special mention: Ryan Kelly, Alabama; Billy Price, Ohio State)

DEFENSE

DE: Joey Bosa, Ohio State*; Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
On the defensive side of the ball, this might’ve been the toughest group to select.  His last two seasons in Columbus, Bosa was a unanimous All-American one year and a consensus All-American the other.  In three seasons, he totaled 51 tackles for loss and 26 sacks. Garrett was a two-time All-American who had 31 sacks his last two seasons with the Aggies.
(Special mention: Derek Barnett, Tennessee; Chase Young, Ohio State)
(Honorable mention: Vic Beasley, Clemson, Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois)

DT: Ed Oliver, Houston; Aaron Donald, Pitt*
I think people tend to forget just how dominating Donald was at the collegiate level.  His last three seasons, Donald was credited with 63 tackles for loss (63!!!).  A two-time unanimous All-American, Donald won Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards in the same season.  In just 32 career games, Oliver accumulated 53 tackles for loss.  In 2017, he became the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy.
(Special mention: Christian Wilkins, Clemson)

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College*; Jarvis Jones, Georgia; C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Kuechly, who finished his three seasons at BC with more than 530 tackles, was a two-time consensus All-American and the winner of the 2011 Butkus, Lombardi, Lott IMPACT and Nagurski Awards.  Like Kuechly, Mosley was a two-time consensus All-American and a Butkus Award winner.  Jones, who began his collegiate career at USC, was a two-time consensus All-American as well.
(Special mention: Khalil Mack, Buffalo)
(Honorable mention: Dont’a Hightower, Alabama; Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame; Roquan Smith, Georgia; Manti Te’o, Notre Dame)

CB: Morris Claiborne, LSU; Desmond King, Iowa*; Jalen Ramsey, Florida State*
Ramsey played multiple positions in the secondary during his time with the Seminoles, earning All-American accolades his last two seasons.  King was a two-time All-American as well who started all four seasons for the Hawkeyes.  His junior season, he was named winner of the Jim Thorpe Award.  Claiborne won the Thorpe Award in 2011.
(Special mention: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida)
(Honorable mention: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State; Adoree’ Jackson, USC)

S: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU*; Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama*
One of the most exciting players in the sport this past decade, Mathieu was a finalist for the 2011 Heisman after a season in which, among other things, he returned two fumbles and two punts for touchdowns.  The Honey Badger won the Bednarik Award that season as well.  A two-time consensus All-American and winner of both the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards in 2017, Fitzpatrick was the greatest defensive back produced by a Tide program known for cranking out quality secondary personnel.
(Honorable mention: Landon Collins, Alabama; Grant Delpit, LSU)

SPECIALISTS

K: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State*
Twice a first-team All-American, Aguayo is the third-most accurate kicker in college football history on field goals and never missed an extra point.  Following the 2013 regular season,  he was named as the winner of the Lou Groza Award.
(Honorable mention: Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State)

P: Tom Hackett, Utah
Hackett was the second punter to win back-to-back Ray Guy Awards.  As a senior, he averages exactly 48 yards per punt. For his career, he placed nearly 44 percent of his 242 punts inside the 20-yard line.
(Special mention: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech; Michael Dickson, Texas)

RS: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Penny finished his collegiate career tied for the most career kick return-touchdowns (7) and combined kick-/punt-return touchdowns (8) in FBS history.  Four of those seven kick returns went for 100 yards, one shy of the FBS record.
(Special mention: Adoree’ Jackson, USC)

AP: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford*
In 2015, McCaffrey shattered Barry Sanderssingle-season all-purpose yardage record, finishing that season with 3,864 yards (Sanders’ old record was 3,250).  McCaffrey finished his time with the Cardinal with (take a deep breath) 3,922 yards rushing and 21 rushing touchdowns; 1,206 yards and 10 touchdowns on 99 receptions; a 26.4-yard average and one touchdown on 56 kick returns; an 11.2-yard average and a touchdown on 34 punt returns; two passing touchdowns; and seven tackles.
(Special mention: Saquon Barkley, Penn State; Jabrill Peppers, Michigan)

(*Denotes unanimous selection)

College Football Bowl Preview: Your Dec. 26 Viewer’s Guide

College Football Bowl Preview
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Your trusty and semi-daily college football bowl preview that today takes a quick-hit look at the Dec. 26 bowl menu, one that features a pair of ACC schools as well as one each from Conference USA and the MAC.

WHO: Louisiana Tech (9-3) vs. Miami (6-6)
WHAT: The 44th Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
WHEN: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If Miami wasn’t the most disappointing team in college football (again), it wouldn’t take long to call the roll.  In Manny Diaz‘s first season as head coach, the Hurricanes went 6-6 in the regular season, the program’s worst since 2014.  A loss would equal that season’s mark, which was Al Golden‘s second-to-last with the program. … If The U is to break its two-game bowl losing streak — and reverse a trend that has them 1-8 in their last nine bowl games — they’ll have to do so against a school that treats the postseason as its own personal playground.  Heading into Shreveport, Louisiana Tech has won five-straight bowl games and six of their last seven. … Another win would also give the Bulldogs their 10th on the season, marking the first time in program history they hit double digits. … Miami lost its last two games of the regular season, one to a Florida International team that had never beaten them before and the other to a Duke team that came into the game with just four wins. … That same FIU team that beat Miami 30-24in November?  Louisiana Tech beat them 43-31 in September. …  Miami scored more than 27 points in just one of its five wins against FBS teams.  Louisiana Tech scored at least 41 points in seven of their eight FBS wins. … Independence Bowl fun fact: The ACC has won its last four appearances in this game.  The conference’s last loss in this game?  South Carolina’s 24-21 win in 2014 over, you guessed it, Miami. … Oh, and Miami still doesn’t have a clue as to who will be its quarterback.
THE LINE: Louisiana Tech, +6
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana Tech 41, Miami 27

__________

WHO: Pitt (7-5) vs. Eastern Michigan (6-6)
WHAT: The 6th Quick Lane Bowl
WHERE: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If for nothing else, watch this game for one of the most reliable set of hands — and statistical anomalies — you’ve probably never heard of in Maurice Ffrench (pictured).  The Pitt wide receiver is first in the ACC and third nationally in receptions per game at 8.4. Despite that, the senior has yet to crack 700 yards receiving (685). Additionally, he has just three touchdown receptions on his 84 catches. … Eastern Michigan is playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in its history, and is looking for its first postseason win since 1987.  The MAC school is just 1-2 all-time in bowl games. … Pitt will be seeking its first bowl win since 2013, which would snap a four-game losing streak. … EMU and Pitt have played twice previously, with the Panthers winning both games (1995, 2007). … Both teams have stumbled a bit heading into this game.  The Panthers have lost three of their last five, including the last two.  The Eagles have lost three of their last five as well. … Quick Lane Bowl fun fact: A Power Five team has won each of the first five games played.  Granted, three of those games were P5 vs. P5 matchups, but still.  Three of the five have also been decided by 19 or more points as well.
THE LINE: Eastern Michigan, +10½
THE PREDICTION: Pitt 20, Eastern Michigan 10