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No. 13 UCF extends nation’s longest winning streak to 17 after thumping Pitt

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Earlier this week, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock sent a jolt of excitement through the hearts of fans in Central Florida by confirming there is a path for No. 13 UCF to make the playoff at the end of the year. Essentially it came down to one thing: keep winning.

So far so good for the Knights as they extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 by beating Pitt 45-14, capturing the program’s third win over a Power Five program in the past two seasons in the process.

As the score line indicated, the game was quite lopsided and the only sign of life from the Panthers most of the afternoon came on an 86-yard punt return for a score by Rafael Araujo-Lopes in the first quarter. Outside of that mistake on special teams, UCF lived up to their top 15 ranking and clearly were the better side in all three phases.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton continued to float around in the fringes of the Heisman Trophy conversation by throwing for 328 yards during a somewhat uneven outing with four touchdowns through the air and another two more scores on the ground to go with his 51 yards rushing. The electric dual-threat from Hawaii didn’t have his best of days against Pitt’s defense but the Knights still averaged over seven yards per play and punted just twice.

It wasn’t a bad day for his teammates on the other side of the ball either. Despite being on the field quite a bit due to all those quick scoring drives, UCF racked up three sacks and had a constant presence in the backfield. Panthers QB Kenny Pickett threw for only 163 yards (1 TD, 1 INT) and Qadree Ollison managed just 49 yards rushing to pace his team in that category.

The loss dropped Pat Narduzzi’s group to 2-3 on the season and it could be awhile before they find the win column again with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Duke on the docket next month.

As for UCF, the flip side might ring true for that program as the win streak looks like it will be awhile before it ends. Given how the AAC has looked relatively lackluster through the first month of the season, it could well be November before this team is truly tested after making things look easy once again in their only test against a Power Five opponent. With former coach Scott Frost struggling to even muster a single victory at Nebraska this year, his old team seems to have not lost a beat down in Orlando as they look again like the Group of Five’s best.

Indiana transfer Taysir Mack granted immediate eligibility at Pitt

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Indiana at Illinois
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Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt football program had been holding out hope for months that they would have a new offensive toy at their disposal sooner than expected.  Friday, that hope morphed into reality.

In a tweet posted to its Twitter account just a short time ago, the Panthers confirmed that Taysir Mack will be immediately eligible to play in 2018 after being granted a waiver from the NCAA.  It’s unclear on what grounds the wide receiver was granted a waiver.

Mack came to Pitt in December of last year as a transfer after playing two seasons at Indiana, and it was thought he’d have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Instead, he’ll be able to provide an instant boost to the Panthers’ offense.

Mack was a three-star 2016 recruit who was rated as the No. 7 player at any position in the state of New York. After redshirting as a true freshman, he caught 23 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Those numbers were good for fifth, fifth and tied for third, respectively, on the team.

Including the 2018 season, Mack has three years of eleigibility he can use.

Pitt announces addition of Arkansas transfer Will Gragg

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A little less than two months after leaving the SEC, Will Gragg has landed in the ACC.

Pitt announced in a press release Wednesday that Gragg has been added to Pat Narduzzi‘s football roster.  As Gragg, who transferred from Arkansas in mid-April, comes in as a graduate transfer, he is eligible to play for Pitt in 2018.

Not only that, but he’ll have another year of eligibility that he can use in 2019 as well.

“Our tight end room just got an immediate infusion of veteran talent with the addition of Will Gragg,” the head coach said in a statement. “He is a tremendously smart and tough competitor who will help us in the run and pass games. Will had a number of options following his graduation from Arkansas and we’re thrilled he picked Pitt to continue his academic and athletic careers.”

Pitt had been on the hunt for an experienced player at the tight end position since Chris Clark abruptly left the program in late March.

In his only action during his time with the Razorbacks, Gragg caught five passes for 61 yards in the 10 games in which he played last season.  Gragg took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2015 and did not see the field at all in 2016.

The 6-4, 231-pound Gragg was a four-star member of UA’s 2015 recruiting class who was rated as the No. 7 tight end in the country and the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Arkansas.  Only two signees in the Hogs’ class that year were rated higher than Gragg.

Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

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If it seemed to you like there were an inordinate number of early cannonballers jumping into the draft pool, you were correct.

Four days after the Jan. 15 deadline, the NFL Friday announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the April draft.  That sets a new record for early entrants, breaking the mark of 98 set in 2014.  The past two seasons, there were 95 and 96 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In 2015, there were just 74.

The SEC was hit hardest by attrition with 26 players leaving early, although the ACC wasn’t far behind at 24.  The Pac-12 was next among the Power Five conferences with 17, followed by the Big 12’s 13 and the Big Ten’s 11.

Among Group of Five leagues, Conference USA lost the most with four.  The Mountain West saw three go early, with the AAC (two), MAC (one) and Sun Belt (one) coming next in line.  There were also two non-FBS players who left early, as well as two from Notre Dame.

As far as individual schools go, there were three that lost six apiece — Florida State, LSU and Texas.  Alabama lost five, while Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC all lost four apiece.  Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Stanford and Tennessee were on the losing end of three players each.

In addition to the 106 granted special eligibility — they’ll be listed at the end — the NFL also granted eligibility to 13 players who the league writes “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements.” Those players are listed below:

» Jordan Akins, TE, UCF
» Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
» Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
» Will Clapp, C, LSU
» Terrell Edmunds, DB, Virginia Tech
» Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
» Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
» Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
» Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
» Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
» Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
» Tre'Quan Smith, WR, UCF
» Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Courtesy of the NFL, below is the complete list of 106 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft:

» Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
» Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE, Toledo
» Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
» Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
» Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas
» Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
» Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
» Jessie Bates, DB, Wake Forest
» Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
» Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
» Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
» Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
» Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
» Geron Christian, T, Louisville
» Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
» Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
» Vosean Crumbie, DB, Nevada
» J.J. Dallas, DB, Louisiana-Monroe
» James Daniels, C, Iowa
» Sam Darnold, QB, USC
» Carlton Davis, DB, Auburn
» Michael Dickson, P, Texas
» Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
» DeShon Elliott, DB, Texas
» Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
» Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine
» Nick Gates, T, Nebraska
» Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
» Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State
» Rasheem Green, DT, USC
» Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
» Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama
» Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
» Holton Hill, DB, Texas
» Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
» Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
» Mike Hughes, DB UCF
» Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
» Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky
» Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU
» Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
» J.C. Jackson, DB, Maryland
» Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
» Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
» Derwin James, DB, FSU
» Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
» Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
» Courtel Jenkins, DT, Miami
» Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
» Ronald Jones, RB, USC
» John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
» Arden Key, LB, LSU
» Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
» Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
» Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
» Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
» Tavares Martin, WR, Washington State
» Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State
» Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
» Tarvarus McFadden, DB, Florida State
» R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
» Reginald McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
» Quenton Meeks, DB, Stanford
» Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
» D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
» Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
» Nick Nelson, DB, Wisconsin
» Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
» Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
» Dwayne Orso-Bacchus, T, Oklahoma
» Da’Ron Payne, NT, Alabama
» Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
» Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
» Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
» D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State
» Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
» Will Richardson, T, NC State
» Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
» Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
» Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Miss
» Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
» Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
» Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
» Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
» Andre Smith, LB, UNC
» Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
» Van Smith, DB, Clemson
» Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
» Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
» Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
» Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
» Maea Teuhema, T, Southeastern Louisiana
» Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
» Kevin Toliver, DB, LSU
» Travonte Valentine, NT, LSU
» Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
» Vita Vea, NT, Washington
» Mark Walton, RB, Miami
» Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
» Chris Warren, RB, Texas
» Toby Weathersby, T, LSU
» Jordan Whitehead, DB, Pittsburgh
» JoJo Wicker, DT, Arizona State
» Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
» Connor Williams, T, Texas
» Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue

Wisconsin safety D’Cota Dixon wins FWAA Courage Award

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Wisconsin safety D’Cota Dixon has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America with the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.

The award is given to the player that best satisfies the criteria for the award form the FWAA, including displays of courage on or of the field, overcoming injury or physical handicap, or living through hardship. Dixon’s background story is a testament to how much he has prevailed through.

“I’ve always had to face trials and tribulations in some form or matter,” Dixon said in a video feature in October. “Though I had relatives and family that were close, and I knew they loved me – I know they always meant the best and loved me — but I felt like nothing was ever stable. I felt like it was always somebody leaving.”

Dixon had a brother who was convicted of attempted murder and the Badgers safety spent his younger years in foster care while his mother struggled to provide for the family. Dixon’s father battled drug addiction. Dixon was recently reunited with his mother after 15 years on Christmas.

I feel like my hardships and trials have built me to who I am today and I’m proud of them,” Dixon said, per the FWAA. “I wouldn’t take nothing back. I wouldn’t change one thing, not one single event that ever happened in my life. I’m grateful for them, in all honesty.”

Previous winners of the FWAA Courage Award include James Conner (Pitt, 2016), Eric LeGrand (Rutgers, 2010), and the entire Tulane football team (2005).