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AAC latest league to allow walk-ons to transfer without losing a year

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The so-called ‘Baker Mayfield Rule’ continues to spread throughout the country as players’ freedom of movement becomes a hot button issue in the world of the NCAA.

Per a release from the league office, the American Athletic Conference has formally approved a rule change that will allow walk-ons (or, more formally, student-athletes not on scholarship) to transfer to another school in the conference without having to sit a year. 

The move came as part of a broader set of issues that were discussed by AAC presidents and athletic directors during their annual fall meetings this week.

“We had another extremely productive meeting with our presidents and athletic directors this week in Philadelphia,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “There was a great deal of discussion about the future of our league and the momentum that we have created as we prepare for our new television/media agreement with ESPN beginning next year. There is enormous enthusiasm in the wake of the Conference’s increasing football, basketball and Olympic sport success and we will continue to energize and refresh our successful P6 campaign.  We discussed the NCAA Board of Governors’ recent statement on name, image and likeness and we will be forming a conference working group to examine further that issue. We are all in agreement that this is a very complicated matter, and that preserving the amateur experience in a way that is fair to all student-athletes is of the utmost importance.”

The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma first called attention to the issue after he was a walk-on at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to the Sooners and being placed on scholarship. Big 12 rules at the time stated Mayfield had to lose a season of eligibility as a result of the move but that was later amended to allow for such a scenario to happen without a player dropping a season. The Pac-12 and others have followed suit in recent years, with the AAC the latest at the Group of Five level to join the growing chorus.

In January, the NCAA also approved rules changes allowing walk-ons to transfer without penalty but many individual conferences had rules against doing so within their own league. That’s no longer the case in the AAC and others now as walk-ons finally get a measure of freedom that they didn’t have before.

UCF clobbers Temple to remain on Group of 5 NY6 radar

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A close game at the half turned into an old-fashioned whooping at the expense of Temple (5-3, 2-2 AAC). UCF (6-2, 3-1 AAC) used big plays to score five touchdowns outside the red zone in a 63-21 victory Saturday night in Philadelphia. The win helps UCF remain within one game of Cincinnati in the AAC East Division standings and keeps the Knights on the radar for a spot in the New Years Six.

After having their first-half lead cut to 28-21 just before halftime, UCF scored four touchdowns in the third quarter before the Owls could manage to get a first down strung together. Dillon Gabriel tossed a touchdown pass of 73 yards to Marlon Williams, Bentavious Thompson rushed for two touchdowns and Otis Anderson (who rushed for 205 yards) scored a touchdown in on the ground in the big third quarter. As a team, UCF racked up 593 yards of offense against a Temple team that had been playing some decent defense before running ton some tough offenses (Temple lost to SMU last week). And once UCF got rolling, it was impossible for the Owls to keep up the pace; they were shutout in the second half as the game raced away from them.

UCF still needs help to get back to a New Years Six bowl game. Only conference champions form the Group of Five are eligible for the reserved spot in the New Years Six bowl line-up, so UCF must first get back to the conference championship game. Having already lost a head-to-head matchup with Cincinnati, the Knights need some help. Not only must UCF continue to take care of their own schedule, but the Knights will need to see Cincinnati lose twice in the regular season for a chance to move ahead of the Bearcats in the division. Cincinnati owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the two-time defending conference champions.

UCF did clinch bow eligibility by picking up their sixth win of the season, and the Knights will look to pick up a road win next week against Houston. Temple will be back in action after a bye week when they travel down to Tampa to face USF on Nov. 7.

UCF gets off to fast start at Temple, but Owls lurking at halftime

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The Temple Owls opened a big home game with a touchdown drive, but the UCF Knights are the ones smiling at halftime with a 28-21 lead in Philadelphia.

Temple quarterback Anthony Russo tossed the first of his two first-half touchdowns to Randle Jones for a 32-yard score on the opening possession of the game, but UCF answered by scoring the next 21 points on their first four offensive series. That included a 48-yard touchdown run by Adrian Killins on the first snap of one drive and a 99-yard drive that needed just six plays to go end-to-end. UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. passed for and run for a touchdown in the half.

Down 21-7, Temple did get a big offensive play to get back in the end zone when Russo found Branden Mack down the left sideline for a deep pass. After separating himself from his defender, Mack dashed down the sideline for a 75-yard strike.

Temple cut into the UCF leads a little more in the last minute of the half with a Jager Gardner extending the ball over the goal line. But UCF has the touchdown lead and will get the ball to start the second half.

What’s at stake in Philadelphia is sole possession of second place in the AAC East Division. Both teams are one game behind Cincinnati in the division. Cincinnati has already defeated the Knights and won’t face Temple until the next-to-last game of the season. Both teams have one loss in conference play and need to manage to keep pace with the Bearcats. This is especially true for UCF, who needs a little more help from Cincinnati’s opponents if they are to defend their conference championship.

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.

Mike Aresco confirms AAC has received waiver to hold title game with 11 conference members

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Counting in college football is hard but at least the NCAA makes it easy to obtain a waiver to deal with such issues.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed to reporters during a break in SMU’s victory over Temple on Saturday that the league has received the necessary waiver for the 2020 season to hold a conference title game despite having 11 members.

“It’s really a relief that this got done,” Aresco said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The conference championship is so important to the league.”

The reason the AAC is in the position of needing to get a waiver is, of course, the result of UConn’s decision to re-join the Big East in most sports and try their hand at football independence starting next season. The conference has so far declined to pursue a new member to replace the Huskies, resulting in 11 football programs going forward unless they make significant changes this offseason.

NCAA rules dictate that conferences must have either 12 teams in multiple divisions or require a round-robin schedule in order to hold a league title game. The waiver allows the American to bypass the requirements and keep their existing contracts with ESPN in place going forward for such a game, resulting in a nice little windfall in addition to their standard broadcast contract with the world wide leader.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Aresco also confirmed that the league will abandon it’s two division format starting next season and that the top two teams in the conference will meet in the title game in a manner similar to the Big 12 — albeit with 11 teams instead of 10.

Like we said, it can be hard to count in college football but thankfully, there’s always a waiver from the folks in Indianapolis for that.