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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

Toledo WR Cody Thompson announces return to school for 2018

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Toledo won the MAC in 2017, and the Rockets’ 2018 title defense has already received its first boost.Wide receiver Cody Thompson announced Tuesday he will return to school for his senior season.

Thompson made the announcement on his Twitter account. “After much thought and discussion with my family about my future, I have decided I am going to take my 5th year and play one more season at Toledo,” Thompson wrote. “I couldn’t be more excited about this decision, one more season in midnight blue & gold to bring another MAC championship trophy back to Toledo!”

Thompson played in only five games this fall after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 7. He finished the year with 28 grabs for 537 yards and four touchdowns, which still ranked third on the club despite missing nine games.

He led the club as a freshman and a sophomore in catches and receiving yards. As a freshman in 2015, Thompson hauled in 37 grabs for 825 yards and five scores, and upped all of those numbers in ’16, snaring 64 balls for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Toledo will lose starting quarterback Logan Woodside and backup Michael Julian to graduation, so Thompson’s return will help ease the transition to a new quarterback as the Rockets look to repeat as MAC champions.

Appalachian State routs Toledo to win the Dollar General Bowl

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On paper, the Dollar General Bowl between MAC champion Toledo and perennial Sun Belt power Appalachian State shaped up to be one of the best matchups of the postseason. Games are not played on paper and that certainly played out down in Mobile, Ala. as the Mountaineers routed the Rockets 34-0 on Saturday night to cap off another season with at least nine wins for head coach Scott Satterfield.

It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t Toledo’s night early — and often. Despite entering the week with an offense that was in the top in the country in terms of scoring, the team couldn’t do much of anything on that side of the ball and recorded four three-and-outs. Record-setting quarterback Logan Woodside never could find much down the field and was pressure on nearly every drop back, throwing for only 124 yards while also tossing three interceptions. Running back Terry Swanson managed 44 hard-fought yards on the ground but didn’t see many carries down the stretch as the team fell further and further behind.

While not much was working for the visitors from the North, few things could go wrong for AppState. Taking advantage of several short fields, the run game didn’t need much to get going and tailbacks Jalin Moore (125 yards, three TDs) and Daetrich Harrington (72 yards) both made quick work of the MAC title holders. Quarterback Taylor Lamb closed out his career with the Mountaineers with a performance that may not have been statically stellar — eight completions, 131 yards, no touchdowns — but was nevertheless plenty in a game the team controlled from pretty much the opening kickoff.

While all those points were nice to have, they didn’t really need all of them given how well the Sun Belt’s top defense looked to stymie their opponents. Linebacker Anthony Flory was all over the place, hauling in a pick and recording eight tackles on the night as they held the most dangerous #MACtion offense to under 200 yards.

That gave the team yet another finishing kick as they won their fourth in a row to close out 2017 and enter with plenty of momentum heading to next season. The same could not be said for the Rockets, which still captured an elusive conference title this year but simply didn’t show up in the Dollar General Bowl and looked out of sorts from start.

Appalachian State rolls to big lead over Toledo as Dollar General Bowl hits halftime

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When #FunBelt meets #MACtion, you throw out the records. That is especially true on Saturday night at the Dollar General Bowl.

Appalachian State looked like they were the 11-win team and conference champion in the game, rolling to a 20-0 halftime lead over Toledo thanks to some timely turnovers and the hard-nosed running of their star tailback.

Junior Jalin Moore picked up where he left off at the end of the regular season by fighting for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 touches, grinding out carries against a loaded front and finding some rhythm as the game went on. That took the pressure off quarterback Taylor Lamb, who was just 4-of-8 for 61 yards but seemed fairly content to just hand the ball off — especially with backup Daetrich Harrington also running for 80 yards in the half on just seven carries.

The Mountaineers’ defense played their role in the big lead too, forcing a pair of turnovers that gave the team two short fields and generally limiting the high-powered Rockets offense to one of their worst performances of the year. Record-setting quarterback Logan Woodside managed only 76 yards and an interception but did seem to pick things up as the clock wound down in the second quarter. Running back Terry Swanson didn’t have any sort of lane to run through however and actually did well in recording 12 yards on the ground given that he was hit in the backfield or at the line on just about every carry.

While things didn’t quite unfold how many expected early in the game, Toledo is still plenty capable of putting up some points in a hurry so this one is by no means locked up for AppState. This was one of the better matchups of bowl season and that will be put to the test if things get interesting after the two teams emerge from the locker room.

Toledo rockets past Akron, wins first MAC title since 2004

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It’s been a while, but the wait was more than worth it for the Toledo football program.

Prior to the MAC championship game Saturday afternoon, the oddsmakers had installed Toledo (11-2) as a 21-point favorite over Akron (7-6).  That ultimately proved to be relatively accurate as the Rockets had little problem dispatching the Zips in a 45-28 win.  With the victory, Toledo claimed its first MAC crown since 2004 and its third win total in the game.

The Zips were making their second appearance in the game and first since 2005.

Leading the way yet again for the Rockets was Logan Woodside, with the quarterback completing 23 of his 37 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns.  Terry Swanson chipped with 180 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The defense, though, may have been the story of the day for Toledo as they held Akron to just 123 yards of offense — 76 passing, 47 rushing — through almost three quarters of play; as UT’s defense went into prevent mode, Akron finished with 396 yards.  While they forced just two turnovers — the Rockets’ offense had five — UT forced five three-and-outs and seven punts overall.