Getty Images

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

1 Comment

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

Tulsa hands Central Michigan historic Miami Beach beatdown

Associated Press
5 Comments

Playing before a typically empty Marlins Park on Monday afternoon, Tulsa was Giancarlo Stanton and Central Michigan was a hanging slider. The Golden Hurricane handed Central Michigan a 55-10 spanking, the second-largest margin of victory in Tulsa’s 21-game bowl history and by far the biggest blowout in the 3-year history of the Miami Beach Bowl.

Tulsa scored on its first eight possessions of the day, starting with a 5-yard Josh Atkinson reception from Dane Evans to cap a 17-play, 93-yard march on the Hurricane’s first possession of the game. After consecutive Redford Jones field goals, Tulsa found the end zone again on another Evans scoring strike, this one a 13-yarder to Keevan Lucas.

After forcing a three-and-out, Evans closed the half with his third touchdown toss of the half, a 4-yard connection to Chris Minter to secure a 27-3 lead at the break.

Running back James Flanders got on the board on Tulsa’s first drive of the second half, racing in from 17 yards out on a 4th-and-2 carry. After yet another three-and-out, the Evans-to-Lucas combination notched its second touchdown of the day, this one a 28-yard connection.

They weren’t done, though, as Tulsa’s next drive culminated in Lucas’s third touchdown reception of the afternoon to push the score to 48-3 with 2:16 to play in the third quarter. The defense got in on the action in the next possession when Jesse Brubaker raced an interception 66 yards for a touchdown with 12:49 to play in the game.

Central Michigan finally scored its lone touchdown when Jahray Hayes carried in a 13-yard touchdown rush with 9:21 to play. Quarterback Cooper Rush finished the day hitting only 24-of-49 throws for 241 yards with three interceptions, while the Chips (6-7) averaged only 3.8 yards per carry on 22 rushes.

Evans closed a distinguished career with one of his most efficient games ever, hitting 28-of-38 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. The Golden Hurricane posted two 100-yard rushers as Flanders carried 17 times for 100 yards and a touchdown and D'Angelo Brewer rushed 17 times for 105 yards. Atkinson collected 12 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown, while Lucas finished with seven grabs for 72 yards and a trio of scores.

For head coach Philip Montgomery, Tulsa’s 581-yard, 34-first down performance (including converting 10-of-15 third down tries) was an example of what the Art Briles offense can do when clicking on each and every cylinder. It was a domination so thorough Montgomery had to look for creative ways to get his punter in the game.

The win pushes the Golden Hurricane to 10-3 on the season, a significant upgrade from the club’s 6-7 mark in Montgomery’s debut season of 2015 and a complete transformation from the 2-10 team Montgomery inherited.

Beyond that, a win like this establishes Tulsa as a team to watch in next year’s American race and Montgomery as a name to watch for open Power 5 jobs in 2017.

Tulsa having a Miami Beach Bowl blast against CMU

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After getting off to a rough start to the bowl season, the American Athletic Conference looks to be in good form this afternoon thanks to Tulsa. Tulsa is leading Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl at halftime, 27-3.

A pair of Central Michigan turnovers have led to 10 points for the Golden Hurricane. CMU quarterback Cooper Rush had a first-down pass inside the red zone picked off by Kerwin Thomas in the second quarter. Tulsa turned that interception into a touchdown eight plays later with Keevan Lucas pulling down a 13-yard pass from Dane Evans to push the Tulsa lead to 17. An earlier interception led to a 46-yard field goal by Redford Jones, his second of the game.

Tulsa has accumulated 18 first downs already and looks to be by far the superior team so far in the Miami Beach Bowl. If they can finish this one off in the second half, they will put the AAC in the win column this bowl season. The MAC is also looking for its first win of the bowl season.

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

Getty Images
7 Comments

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.

Hokies send Frank Beamer into retirement a winner

Getty Images
9 Comments

Frank Beamer began his postseason Virginia Tech tenure with a win in Shreveport, La.  More than two decades later, as a Hall of Fame career comes to a close, the beloved Hokie head coach has literally come full circle.

In a wild affair that will serve as one of the most entertaining in what right now is a week-old bowl season, Tech used a record-setting first half to pave the way for a record-setting 55-52 win over Tulsa in the 40th Independence Bowl.  This was the 23rd straight season, all under Beamer, that Tech has played in a bowl, the second-longest streak in the country behind Florida State’s 34.  The first of those 23 bowl appearances?  Against Indiana… in the 18th Independence Bowl.

Beamer, who announced his retirement earlier this year in his 29th season as his alma mater’s head coach, finishes his stellar career with 280 wins, fourth all-time behind a trio of FBS coaching legends — Penn State’s Joe Paterno (409), Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (377) and Alabama’s Bear Bryant (323).  With the twin retirements of Beamer and Steve Spurrier (228), there is no active head coach with 200 or more wins; Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, with 193, is the closest to hitting that plateau.

In those 23 straight bowl games mentioned earlier, Beamer’s Hokies went 11-12.  This year marked the second consecutive bowl win for Tech, just the second time Beamer’s gone back-to-back with victories in the postseason (2008 Orange Bowl, 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl).  And, unlike most of his other wins in both the regular and postseasons, this one wasn’t predicated on defense and special teams — even as the famed Beamerball made a brief first-half appearance in two quarters of play that were the absolute antithesis of the vast majority of Beamer’s time in Blacksburg.

In those first two quarters, the Hokies and Golden Hurricane combined for more than 700 yards of offense and 76 points as Tech took a 45-31 lead into the halftime locker room.  Those 45 points for Tech tied the Independence Bowl record for a half… first set by Tech in Beamer’s 1993 appearance in the game.  It was also a historic one-half performance regardless of the bowl venue:

In the second half, things calmed down, relatively speaking and ever so briefly, as the Hokies held a 52-31 lead with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.  However, three Dane Evans touchdowns — two passing, one rushing — offset by just a single VT field goal pulled the Golden Hurricane to within three with 3:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Golden Hurricane, following a Hokies punt with two minutes remaining, had one more opportunity for at least a game-tying field goal, and got to the their own 46-yard line with 1:27 remaining before Beamer’s lunch-pail defense…

… produced sacks on second and fourth down to officially seal that 280th and final win for their head coach.

The two teams ended up combining for 1,161 yards of offense — 598 for Tech, 563 for Tulsa.  Evans passed for a game-high 374 yards, while Tech’s Michael Brewer passed for 344; that marked Brewer’s second career 300-yard game, with the first (345 yards) coming last November against Boston College.

227 of Brewer’s yards were caught by Isaiah Ford, setting an Independence Bowl record for receiving yards in a game.  A pair of Golden Hurricane receivers went for 100-plus — Joshua Atkinson (139) and Keyarris Garrett (137).

Tech finishes the 2015 season at 7-6, the second straight year the Hokies have finished with that record.  The 14 wins are the fewest in back-to-back seasons since Tech won 11 games in 1992 (2-8-1) and 1993 (9-3) in Beamer’s second and third seasons with the football program.

Tulsa, meanwhile, ended 2015 at 6-7, marking their third straight year with a sub-.500 record.  This is the first time since a stretch from 1992-2002 that the Golden Hurricane had finished below .500 in three or more consecutive seasons.