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Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

Biletnikoff, Mackey Award semifinalists announced

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The semifinalists for the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards, given annually to college football’s best pass-catcher (regardless of position, though only receivers have won it) and tight end, respectfully, were announced Monday morning as awards season (sort of) gears up in earnest.

Your Biletnikoff Award semifinalists:

Austin Carr, Northwestern (75 REC, 1,102 yards, 12 TDs)
Corey Davis, Western Michigan (62 REC, 1,029 yards, 14 TDs)
Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse (79 REC, 1,246 yards, 8 TDs)
Carlos Henderson, La. Tech (61 REC, 1,179 yards, 16 TDs*)
Zay Jones, East Carolina (139 REC*, 1,473 yards*, 6 TDs)
John Ross, Washington (52 REC, 896 yards, 15 TDs)
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky (77 REC, 1,340 yards, 13 TDs)
Trent Taylor, La. Tech (103 REC, 1,343 yards, 10 TDs)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (56 REC, 1,132 yards, 9 TDs)
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma (68 REC, 1,254 yards, 14 TDs)

*= leads FBS

And for the Mackey Award:

Adam Breneman, UMass (58 REC, 699 yards, 7 TDs)
Jake Butt, Michigan (38 REC, 460 yards, 4 TDs)
Evan Engram, Ole Miss (59 REC, 824 yards, 7 TDs)
Gerald Everett, South Alabama (41 REC, 637 yards, 4 TDs)
Cole Hikutini, Louisville (38 REC, 526 yards, 6 TDs)
Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech (36 REC, 514 yards, 5 TDs)
O.J. Howard, Alabama (29 REC, 352 yards, 2 TDs)
Jordan Leggett, Clemson (28 REC, 480 yards, 4 TDs)

The Biletnikoff will announce its three finalists Nov. 21, while Mackey Award finalists will be announced Nov. 22. Winners of both the awards will be announcedDec. 8 on ESPNU.

 

Overhaul of Alabama coaching staff is ‘complete speculation’

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As the coaching carousel continues to spin, most coaches want to become a part of the Alabama Crimson Tide staff, not leave it.

However, three different assistant coaches have left Nick Saban‘s purview since the team’s 42-35 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.

Tyler Siskey, who served as Alabama’s director of player personnel this past year, was the latest departure.

After linebackers coaches Kevin Steele and Lance Thompson also left for other positions with the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers, respectively, questions began to surface whether or not a mass exodus was starting among Alabama’s coaching staff.

Siskey was asked about the possibility after accepting a position as South Alabama’s wide receivers coach under Joey Jones.

“There’s absolutely zero truth to whatever speculation about something like that,” Siskey told Al.com’s Mike Herndon. “It happens every year in this business and in this league. It’s just part of it.

“I’ve been hit with that question about five times today. It’s the first I’ve heard it. You can’t control what people put out there. … You hear stories and it’s just complete speculation because they don’t know the truth.”

Siskey was merely looking for an opportunity to become a position coach, which he found with the Jaguars.

Otherwise, Alabama has yet to lose one of its key coordinators. Kirby Smart returns for his eighth season as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Despite overtures from the NFL, Saban said that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is “committed” to Alabama “right now.”

If either of those two coaches decide to leave, legitimate concern can set in. Until then, Saban will put together the best possible staff to keep Alabama near the top of college football.

(Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletic department)