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Thread: Cnotes preview of 2019 college football conference outlook

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    Fine at UNT: Mean Green, Marshall preseason picks in C-USA
    July 17, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    FRISCO, Texas (AP) North Texas senior quarterback Mason Fine has been tabbed as the preseason Conference USA offensive player of the year, and the Mean Green have been picked as the overwhelming favorite to win the West Division this season.

    Marshall was the East Division favorite in the preseason poll among C-USA media members before the league's football media days began Wednesday.

    The preseason players of the year and all-conference teams were chosen by a vote of the league's 14 coaches.

    FIU senior linebacker Sage Lewis, who had a school-record 132 tackles to lead the league last season, got the defensive honor.

    Fine, whose 9,417 career yards passing are the most among active FBS players, was the C-USA top offensive player each of the past two seasons. He is one of nine returning offensive starters for UNT, which led the league with 34.6 points a game last season.
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    FSU coach Taggart tunes out talk in Year 2
    July 17, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) No one has to tell Willie Taggart that he faces pressure to fix turn things around at Florida State after the Seminoles failed to reach a bowl game for the first time since 1981.

    It was an inauspicious beginning for Taggart.

    In his first year as the head coach, the Seminoles finished with a 5-7 record. The season included a humbling home loss to eventual national champion Clemson along with lopsided margins in losses to Virginia Tech, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Florida. But Taggart said his perception of the program remains the same, even after last year's stumble.

    ''I expect Florida State to win and that hadn't changed,'' Taggart said Wednesday during the Atlantic Coast Conference's preseason media days. ''And I expect we'll do those things.''

    That rough first season has led to at least some question about Taggart's long-term future at FSU. Taggart was asked what his reaction is when he sees is name on the ''hot seat.''

    ''I don't see that, and I'm sure nobody will come tell me that,'' he said. ''But I hear it when I talk to you all or you ask that question. That's part of the business. We all know what we were signing up for when we decided to become coaches. That's part of the whole landscape of it, where you talk about guys' jobs and whether they're on the hot seat or not. But you can't focus on that, you've got to stay locked in to what you're doing.''

    ONLINE FAME

    The Clemson Tigers decided not to send quarterback Trevor Lawrence to Charlotte. The national champs sent a ''stunt double'' instead: offensive guard John Simpson.

    Simpson decided to sport a blonde wig to resemble the popular quarterback's signature long-haired look, knowing everyone would probably rather talk to Lawrence. The Tigers posted a video of Simpson trying on the wig on their football Twitter site.

    ''I'm kind of glad people don't know my name,'' Simpson said with a laugh. ''I mean, I'm an offensive lineman. You're not supposed to know my name. ... I'm going to have fun with it.''

    Sure, the 330-pound Simpson doesn't look a whole lot like Lawrence, but he had the hair flip down.

    ''Yeah, I've got some clout now, I've got a lot of clout,'' Simpson said. ''A lot of people have put me all over social media. I thought it was cool.''

    REPLACING RYAN

    North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren has had the security in recent years of knowing he had an experienced quarterback in Ryan Finley. Now Finley is gone to the NFL, and Doeren will have to figure out who is his new starter after consecutive nine-win seasons.

    Doeren said he is waiting to see which QB improves the most over the summer, gains the command of the offense and the trust of his teammates before making any type of a decision. He said he has no timetable for naming a starter.

    While Matt McKay would seem to have the inside track given he's been in the system for the last two seasons, Doeren says he doesn't want to sell the other competitors short and said with a shrug: ''We have options.''

    JUMPING RIGHT IN

    Scott Satterfield should have no problem getting his team's attention this summer. That's because Louisville will be opening the season with a tough game at home against national power Notre Dame in Satterfield's debut with the Cardinals.

    ''It's awesome,'' Satterfield said. ''To be able to play a team like Notre Dame the first game, to be on Monday night, national TV, it's going to be pretty cool. But you got to stay in the moment. You got to do your job. ... Obviously one day when you look back, you're going to say, `Man, that was an awesome moment.' Obviously that's one that I'll cherish.''
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    Dillon, Etienne among top runners in ACC
    July 17, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Boston College's AJ Dillon was so good last year that he ranked among the nation's best rushers despite hobbling through an injury that sidelined him during stretches of multiple games.

    Travis Etienne was right with him near the top of the rankings, providing the ground-game balance in Clemson's unbeaten run to another national championship.

    They're both back, top rushers in an Atlantic Coast Conference division featuring multiple running backs capable of slipping through the slimmest of openings, pushing through (or past) would-be tacklers on the way to the end zone. It adds up to some potentially big rushing totals this fall in the league's Atlantic Division, even in today's world of pass-friendly offenses.

    ''If you're just a one-trick pony, people will load up on that,'' Boston College coach Steve Addazio said Wednesday during the league's media days. ''But when you have the ability to have a dynamic run game, I believe it starts there.''

    Clearly that is part of Dabo Swinney's four-time reigning league champion Tigers' playbook, especially with Etienne back after running for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns - good for 15th in the Bowl Subdivision ranks at 110.5 yards per game. Same goes for Addazio's Eagles, who saw Dillon rank 13th (110.8) despite the injury that sidelined him for two full games and parts of others.

    Yet there's also Cade Carney, who as a junior became Wake Forest's first 1,000-yard rusher in 13 years last season while sharing work with the departed Matt Colburn II. There's Cam Akers at Florida State, a 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman hoping to bounce back from the Seminoles all-around rough 2018 season.

    ''These running backs are the real deal,'' Clemson safety Tanner Muse said.

    That particular quartet of experienced ball carriers have the potential to take the pressure off their quarterbacks and carry the load, particularly with Dillon's ability to tote it 25 or 30 times a game.

    The 6-foot, 250-pound junior has been a dominant runner since arriving with a 1,589-yard rushing season as a freshman. And after being picked as the preseason ACC player of the year, he ran for 652 yards through the first five games last year before going down with a high left ankle sprain that hindered him through the rest of the schedule.

    He ranked fifth in FBS at 130.4 yards per game at the time of the injury.

    ''I want to reach whatever potential I can, so I don't have a (goal) for however many yards or average yards per carry,'' Dillon said. ''Because the thing is, if my team needs me to run down the clock in the fourth quarter and I'm getting a bunch of 1-yard gains, I'm fine with that and I'm happy with that. I don't really care what it might look like at the very end on the stat line.''

    As for the 5-10, 215-pound Etienne, he had six games with at least 150 yards rushing - including a high of 203 yards and three touchdowns in an overtime win against Syracuse - and ran for nine touchdowns in the Tigers' last five games.

    ''You play BC and if you allow AJ Dillon to run, you have no chance of winning the game,'' Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. ''You play Clemson and Travis Etienne can go off, and you have no choice then of beating them. . If you have a legitimate running back and you don't slow them down, that's what you're going to get.''
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    The Latest: Alabama finds silver lining in title game loss
    July 17, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    HOOVER, Ala. (AP) The Latest on SEC media days (all times local):

    4:30 p.m.

    Will Muschamp believes this will be his best South Carolina team.

    If so, the Gamecocks might be able to reverse a trend of futility against ranked teams. Muschamp is 1-10 against Top 25 opponents with the Gamecocks over the past three seasons.

    Quarterback Jake Bentley, a 32-game starter, said Wednesday at SEC media days they have ''got to find a way to win those games.'' They'll get some chances with a schedule that includes defending Southeastern Conference champion Alabama and Texas A&M from the Western Division, along with division or in-state rivals like Georgia, Florida and national champion Clemson.

    Muschamp says he doesn't worry about having a tough schedule, saying part of being in the SEC is to ''have great opportunities every single Saturday.''

    The Gamecocks coach says reserve safety Jaylin Dickerson is out for the season with a labrum injury. Dickerson, who had 13 tackles last season, had surgery last week but Muschamp says the safety should be back in time for spring practice.

    ---

    3:45 p.m.

    Mississippi State is hoping a graduate transfer quarterback can give a jolt to its struggling offense.

    The Bulldogs added Tommy Stevens during the offseason. The 6-foot-5 senior was the backup at Penn State behind Trace McSorley before moving to Starkville.

    The coach and QB are familiar with each other: Joe Moorhead was the offensive coordinator at Penn State before taking the Mississippi State job and coached Stevens early in his career.

    Moorhead said on Wednesday at SEC media days that ''Tommy is a kid with a lot of physical tools. Strong arm. He can really run. He's accustomed to the system so he's going to understand it for the most part coming in.''

    Stevens will compete with Keytaon Thompson for the starting job. Thompson was Nick Fitzgerald's backup last season and threw for 458 yards, six touchdowns and an interception.

    Mississippi State finished with 8-5 record last season, including a 4-4 mark in the SEC. The Bulldogs scored just 16 total points in its four league losses.

    ---

    12:45 p.m.

    Arkansas coach Chad Morris feels like his program is in a good spot entering his second year at the school.

    He also says recruiting is a priority, even comparing recruiting to shaving at one point on Tuesday at SEC media days: ''If you don't do it every day, you look like a bum.''

    Arkansas has an unorthodox situation at quarterback this fall after recruiting two transfer quarterbacks: SMU's Ben Hicks and Texas A&M's Nick Starkel.

    Hicks played for Morris when he was the coach at SMU. Starkel was Kellen Mond's backup in College Station.

    Morris said the battle for the starting job will linger into preseason camp, though he hopes it will be decided quickly ''because I want our team to rally around that guy.''

    Arkansas finished with a 2-10 record last season, including a 0-8 mark in the conference.

    ---

    11:15 a.m.

    Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa believes Alabama learned ''many lessons'' from the end-of-season drubbing at the hands of Clemson.

    The Heisman Trophy runner-up says the team started to get satisfied and feel invincible after being scarcely challenged in the regular season. Then came the 44-16 loss in the national championship game that made that feeling look like a mirage in easily the most lopsided defeat of coach Nick Saban's tenure.

    Tagovailoa said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days that he knows it sounds bad, ''but I'm glad I had that opportunity to feel a loss like that, because what can you learn from winning? You can't learn as much. But when you lose, you start appreciating things a lot more. Many lessons have been learned from that loss.''

    Saban is counting on it with the Tide again among the national favorites. Even before the Clemson blowout, Alabama had to rally to beat Georgia in the SEC championship game.

    The coach says his team didn't play with the kind of discipline or preparation it needed at the end of the season. Saban says there seemed to be ''a lot of distractions,'' and like his quarterback, he's hoping the team learned its lessons.

    ---

    7:30 a.m.

    It's Alabama's turn at Southeastern Conference media days.

    Nick Saban takes the stage Wednesday with his team once again favored to repeat as SEC champion. But the Crimson Tide also wants to atone for how last season ended.

    Alabama took the most lopsided defeat of Saban's tenure after absorbing a 44-16 drubbing from Clemson in the national championship game.

    This team returns plenty of offensive firepower. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, and Jerry Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver.

    Both Tagovailoa and Jeudy will be on hand at media days, along with linebacker Dylan Moses.

    Alabama will be followed by Arkansas coach Chad Morris, Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead and South Carolina's Will Muschamp, along with a few of their top players.
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    Clemson, Atlantic lead off ACC media days
    July 17, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The biggest obstacle standing between Clemson and a fifth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship may be an early season Sept. 14 matchup at Syracuse.

    Clemson has largely breezed through the ACC schedule over the last four seasons, going 34-2 in conference play while winning four straight conference titles and two national championships. The Tigers have defeated conference opponents by an average of 22 points during that four-year span, and few have been able to compete with them.

    That is, except the Orange.

    Coach Dino Babers' squad stunned No. 2 Clemson in 2017 27-24 at home. Last year the Orange gave Clemson another big scare at Death Valley before falling 27-23 after a touchdown run by Travis Etienne with 41 seconds left.

    This year the game moves back to Syracuse, where the Orange didn't lose in 2018.

    ''Dino has created the belief in his team that they can win,'' said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday at ACC media days. ''And I don't see them going away anytime soon.''

    Babers said beating Clemson two years proved to his players they're capable of beating anyone.

    ''You've seen the mountaintop, OK? You've seen what it looks like,'' Babers said. ''You know how difficult it is. I think that gives us a little bit of an edge that we know we can. That doesn't mean you will. I mean, the last time that those young men at Clemson lost, the year was 2017. It's 2019 now.''

    Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito said the Orange view Clemson as a ''faceless opponent.''

    ''We play them like anybody else,'' DeVito said. ''You can't just make them special because they are Clemson and they have that name. It's the same way you approach a lesser opponent.''

    Swinney knows the Tigers will be heavy favorites to repeat as ACC champions with Etienne, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Justyn Ross returning. He said by now having a so-called target on their chest is ''business as usual'' given Clemson has won at least 10 games in eight straight seasons, including a 15-0 campaign last year.

    Swinney said the key is Clemson never looks back on its past success.

    ''We don't carry anything over,'' Swinney said. ''... We redevelop leadership, reinstall our core values. We show up every year with something to improve.''

    Syracuse won 10 games last season for the first time since 2001.

    The Orange figure to be Clemson's toughest test in the Atlantic Division with North Carolina State, Boston College and Wake Forest all facing quarterback questions and Florida State and Louisville in rebuilding mode.

    While being in Clemson's division may not appear to be the ideal situation for everyone, Babers embraces the challenge.

    ''When you go outside the conference and you start playing other teams, I mean, what is there to be fearful of?'' Babers said. ''When you're in the ACC Atlantic, your big brother is as big as anybody on the street, OK? If you can handle him, you're going to have an opportunity to handle anybody else.''
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    It's Alabama's turn at SEC media days
    July 17, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    HOOVER, Ala. (AP) It's easier for Alabama to be humble now.

    The Crimson Tide can thank Clemson for that, at least. There's nothing like a 44-16 drubbing in the national championship game to strip away any feelings of invincibility and self-satisfaction that come from scarcely getting challenged during the regular season on the way to another Southeastern Conference title.

    ''I know it sounds bad, but I'm glad I had that opportunity to feel a loss like that, because what can you learn from winning?'' Tide quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days. ''You can't learn as much. But when you lose, you start appreciating things a lot more. Many lessons have been learned from that loss.''

    It's a silver lining of sorts from a painful performance that rattled Nick Saban's dynasty and made it clear Clemson is a challenger for the label of college football's dominant program.

    The defense was abused by Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers and allowed 300-plus yards passing in each of its last three games. Tagovailoa - who spent most fourth quarters during the season as a spectator - was intercepted twice, including a pick-six on Alabama's opening series.

    It didn't get much better from that point.

    But the end result doesn't change the expectations for a team seeking its sixth national title under Saban and a fifth SEC title in six years.

    Led by Tagovailoa, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Dylan Moses, Alabama approaches this season as one of the national favorites as usual.

    Plus, it's easier to soul-search and improve after such a loss than while celebrating yet another triumph.

    ''Whether or not people were worried about personal outcomes more than team outcomes, it's always hard to judge that,'' Saban said. ''But it seems like we had a lot of distractions at the end of the year. So hopefully we learned from those scenarios, and it will help us do the things that we need to do to be able to play to our full potential throughout this season.''

    This team has a second straight year of huge staff turnover with seven new coaches, including new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and newly elevated defensive coordinator Pete Golding.

    The Tide also lost seven underclassmen to the NFL, including first-round picks Quinnen Williams, Jonah Williams and Josh Jacobs.

    The nonconference schedule isn't particularly daunting, with games against Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Western Carolina.

    The challenge will be maintaining focus until the end. Alabama might have coasted at times down the stretch after a 29-0 rout of LSU that secured a spot in the SEC championship game with three games left. It didn't really matter until the competition became elite, starting with Georgia, which jumped ahead by two touchdowns.

    ''I think it comes down to how we prepared the second half of the season as a team,'' Tagovailoa said. ''We were goal-oriented the second half of the season, meaning we played looking at the scoreboard. If the scoreboard was good to us, we kind of eased off and we let the second guys go in and we weren't playing the way we were supposed to be playing.

    ''We'd only play for two or three quarters, and then we'd let off the gas.''

    Alabama survived against Georgia and again in the national semifinals against Oklahoma . Then the engine sputtered from the get-go versus Clemson, which could match Alabama's wealth of talent on both sides of the ball.

    Moses said things like media attention, accolades and worrying about the NFL draft can be distractions.

    ''I do wish I could have it back,'' the linebacker said. ''I really wish I could have the whole month of December back in a sense, so we could look at Oklahoma and Clemson at the same time and try to prepare ourselves for it. Obviously, during the game we weren't prepared for it and Clemson got the best of us that day. Kudos to them. From that point on, we learned from our mistakes and we're trying to get better.''
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    A&M, Fisher embraces difficult schedule
    July 16, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    HOOVER, Ala. (AP) Texas A&M's schedule looks pretty brutal this season. Coach Jimbo Fisher can't wait to get it started.

    If the Aggies are going to be among the best teams in the country this season, they'll have to beat some of the nation's preseason favorites. According to Fisher, he expects to be right there with them by the end of the season.

    ''We don't want to spoil anything. We want to take care of our own,'' Fisher said on Tuesday at SEC media days. ''They're all great teams, but we expect to play with them, compete with them and win those games. That's why we're here.''

    The Aggies play Clemson, Alabama and Georgia this year and all three of those programs will likely be among the preseason top five.

    Texas A&M finished with a 9-4 record last season, including a 5-3 mark in the SEC. The Aggies are expected to be competitive again thanks to an experienced offense that includes junior quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for 3,107 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year.

    Mond says the team is reminded of the tough schedule every day during weightlifting and other workouts and that ''it's a really good opportunity for us.''

    TENNESSEE-BEEFY OFFENSE

    Jeremy Pruitt dryly stated the obvious when describing why he thought Tennessee's offensive line would improve this fall.

    ''It helps to have large men,'' said the second-year coach.

    A bigger offensive line - combined with new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney - is giving the Volunteers hope that the offense will be more productive. Pruitt said his team has 15 offensive linemen that weigh more than 300 pounds after having just two this time last year.

    Pruitt hired Chaney away from Georgia to run a unit that finished next to last in the league in points scored.

    ''He's done it in the SEC a bunch of different ways, whether it was the last few years at Georgia where they ran the ball a lot, or at Tennessee before where they had a lot of balance, or even when he was at Purdue when they threw the ball 50 or 60 times,'' Pruitt said. ''Jim's a guy that figures out who his best players are and he finds a way to get him the ball.

    GEORGIA-CHASING SABAN

    Georgia coach Kirby Smart is among several former Nick Saban assistants who haven't figured out how to beat their former boss.

    They're a combined 0-16 against the Alabama coach, though Georgia and Smart have come close to toppling the Tide in recent seasons. The Bulldogs lost hard-fought games in the national championship and Southeastern Conference title game over the past two years.

    Smart was asked Tuesday if he was confident that one of Saban's former underlings would finally top him. He responded saying, ''Am I confident someone's going to beat him? Depends on how long he coaches.''

    Smart could have a chance this year in the SEC championship game. Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher and South Carolina's Will Muschamp will get a crack at the Tide during the regular season.

    MISSISSIPPI-HELLO FRESHMAN

    Ole Miss is once again eligible for the postseason after finishing a two-year postseason ban as punishment for NCAA rules violations.

    If the Rebels reach the six-win mark to qualify, it'll probably be because some young players matured quickly.

    Ole Miss showed its commitment to the program's current youth movement by bringing freshman quarterback Matt Corral to media days.

    The conference showcase is usually reserved for players with ample experience, but Corral has thrown just 22 passes in his college career. The California native still has four years of eligibility because he played in just four games last season.

    The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Corral was productive in limited action last season. He completed 16 of 22 passes (72.7 percent) for 239 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and also ran for two touchdowns.

    Corral said the early leadership ''doesn't feel forced, I wanted it this way. It's part of the reason I came here - being a leader, doing what you're supposed to do and setting an example.''
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    Texas says 10-win season not enough
    July 16, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Tom Herman knows that Texas is probably a bit ahead of schedule after 10 wins in his second season that included making the Big 12 championship game and a Sugar Bowl victory.

    That doesn't necessarily mean the Longhorns are back just yet.

    ''We weren't here to just have a really good season in Year 2,'' Herman said Tuesday. ''We were here to rebuild a program that's capable of sustaining success, and we feel like we're on the way there.''

    With junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year, the Longhorns are picked to again finish second in the league behind four-time defending champion Oklahoma.

    The Longhorns won the Red River rivalry game at the State Fair of Texas last October. But the Sooners won the conference title game at the home stadium of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, where the two-day Big 12 media days wrapped up Tuesday and where the championship game will be played again in December.

    ''When you take over a program that hadn't won 10 or more games in a decade, and had gone through three straight losing seasons, there's some work to be done, in terms of being able to sustain a level of success that everybody associated with Texas football expects,'' Herman said. ''I was really proud of our players for their buy-in level last season, and the results on the field showed that. It's still a work in progress.''

    With four new coaches in the Big 12 this season, the biggest turnover in league history, only Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, TCU's Gary Patterson and Iowa State's Matt Campbell (going into his fourth season) have been in the league longer than Herman.

    After success outside the Power Five, two of the coaches featured on the final day are just getting started - Kansas State's Chris Klieman and West Virginia's Neal Brown.

    Brown, who took over the Mountaineers after Dana Holgorsen left for Houston, is coming off three consecutive 10-win seasons with bowl victories at Troy. He is returning to the Big 12, where he was Texas Tech's offensive coordinator from 2010-12.

    Klieman was part of seven FCS championships the past eight seasons, including four in his five years as head coach. He replaced the retired Bill Snyder, who won 215 games in his 27 seasons.

    ''What coach did at Kansas State was nothing short of remarkable and I'm going to feed off that,'' Klieman said. ''We have a great culture because of what coach did. I know I'm not going to fill his shoes. I'm just trying to continue in his legacy, but doing it our own way.''

    Herman said he looks at Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose Tigers have won two of the past three national championships. It was in Swinney's eighth season when the Tigers finally won a championship, in 2016, before beating Alabama again last season. The last national championship for Texas - the last for a Big 12 team - was the 2005 season, Mack Brown's eighth in Austin, though the Longhorns did get to another title game in 2009.

    ''I'm not saying we're setting the bar for seven years, but what I'm saying is we want win championships, and we want to win them now,'' Herman said. ''But we were brought here to rebuild a program and that takes time.''

    Ehlinger threw for 3,292 yards with 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions last season. He also ran for 16 scores.

    Criticism of Ehlinger from former Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield is one thing; it was different when NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw recently told a group at Louisiana Tech, his alma mater, that Ehlinger ''ain't that good.''

    Herman and Ehlinger both downplayed the Bradshaw comment, though Herman said his quarterback loves to play with a chip on his shoulder.

    ''I'm sure he'll use this to crank it up a notch,'' Herman said.

    Ehlinger was asked if it was something like out of a dream to be answering questions about Bradshaw.

    ''I don't know if this is a dream, to tell you the truth,'' he told a crowd of reporters. ''Regardless of what happens, to be in this situation at the University of Texas is what I dreamed of. It's a blessing within itself.''
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    'Horns down' on deck at Big 12 media
    July 16, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) So when is flashing ''horns down'' considered a penalty and should it always draw a flag?

    Greg Burks, the Big 12 coordinator official, said it depends on when and where an opposing player flashes the hand signal that is the exact opposite of the Texas Longhorns' ''Hook `em horns'' gesture.

    Burks said Tuesday officials are likely to let it go if someone scores and then turns to their own fans and ''it's real quick.''

    An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty comes into play if the gesture if directed at the other crowd or bench - the Longhorns in this case - or it is directed toward another player.

    ''By rule, anything prolonged and designed to bring attention to the individual rather than the team is a foul,'' Burks said.

    His advice to those wanting to do ''horns down'': do it in the back of their own bench area.

    STAY HOME CYCLONE


    Matt Campbell has never put much thought into being an NFL coach, even though several pro teams expressed interest in the 39-year-old Iowa State coach in the past year.

    ''Well, my goal initially wasn't even to be a college head football coach,'' Campbell said Tuesday at Big 12 media days. ''My goal and dream was to be like my father who was a high school head football coach.''

    Campbell is going into his fourth season at Iowa State. The Cyclones, coming off consecutive 8-5 seasons, were picked third in the preseason Big 12 poll - behind only four-time defending champion Oklahoma and Texas, the two teams who played in the league championship game last season.

    ''My greatest passion is to develop and help 18-22 year-old men go from a young man to a chance to leave as a 22-year-old man,'' said Campbell, who was Toledo's head coach for five seasons before going to Iowa State.

    Iowa State is coming off consecutive 8-5 seasons and is the Big 12 preseason pick to finish behind Oklahoma and Texas. The Cyclones have quarterback Brock Purdy, who in 10 games as a true freshman last season threw for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns.

    The lofty outside expectations are a big change from when Campbell first got to Ames before the 2016 season.

    ''If we worried about what the expectations of our football program were outside of our walls, the first three years, I think we would have crumbled really fast,'' said Campbell, who drew interest from several NFL teams this past offseason. ''So what we've been able to do is handle our own expectations and making our own expectations way loftier than anything that could be said outside of our walls.''

    UPWARD BEARS

    Baylor went from a 1-11 record in coach Matt Rhule's first season to 7-6 with a bowl victory in Year 2.

    Now the question is can the Bears make a similar jump as Rhule's teams at Temple. The Owls went from 2-10 in his debut season to 6-6 in the second year, and followed that with consecutive 10-win seasons before he got the Baylor job.

    ''That's what I would like to do,'' Rhule said. ''That's the expectation for me, but it's way easier said than done.''

    Rhule said he judges his teams on how hard they are working. He said these Bears are ''the hardest, most industrious groups'' he has been around, and work like other Big 12 teams.

    KANSAS GROUND GAME


    New Kansas coach Les Miles says preseason All-Big 12 running back Pooka Williams has been reinstated to the team, seven months after he was arrested and charged with domestic battery in a case involving an 18-year-old woman.

    Williams later reached a domestic violence diversion agreement with the local district attorney's office.

    ''I did not make this decision, but I stand by it and see it as a right one,'' Miles said Monday at Big 12 football media days.

    Williams, who will be suspended for the season opener Aug. 31 against Indiana State, went through a legal investigation, and code of conduct proceedings with the university.

    ''He basically understood very much that if he did not meet the criteria that the board asked that this would not last long,'' Miles said. ''He's taken responsibility, he's been remorseful. He's learned from this experience, as has our team.''

    Williams ran for 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman last season.
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    Virginia looking for playmakers to help QB
    July 16, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    Ending last season on a high note gave Virginia plenty of momentum heading into the offseason, and coach Bronco Mendenhall has said the positive energy continued during spring practice and summer workouts.

    But Virginia has some holes to fill around quarterback Bryce Perkins to build on its success.

    As the start of fall practice approaches, the Cavaliers need to identify the playmakers most likely to fill the voids left by the graduations of Olamide Zaccheaus and Jordan Ellis.

    Zaccheaus finished last season with 93 receptions for 1,058 yards and caught three touchdown passes in Virginia's 28-0 victory against South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. Ellis ran for 1,026 yards - including 106 and the Cavaliers' other touchdown in the bowl game.

    For the season, Ellis scored 10 touchdowns and Zaccheaus finished with nine.

    The return of Perkins gives the Cavaliers one constant on offense, but for him to match his production of a year ago (25 touchdown passes, 923 rushing yards and nine more TDs running), Virginia needs new threats lining up inside and out that prevent defenses from zeroing in on Perkins.

    Enter Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed, the top returning receivers from a year ago.

    ''I am really excited to see what Joe does. Hasise as well,'' wide receivers coach Marques Hagans said Monday. ''Joe will be healthy and I think that's something he played through last season, which is a testament to who he is, but ... he shows up every day. You know exactly what you're going to get. He works hard. He doesn't complain. I think those two guys will bring a lot to the table, especially leadership-wise. We're going to lean on those guys heavily.''

    Dubois caught 52 passes for 578 yards and five touchdowns last season, doing a lot of his work over the middle.

    Reed caught just 25 passes, but for 465 yards and seven touchdowns. He also scored on a kickoff return.

    At running back, Virginia will be inexperienced. Returnees combined for just 33 carries for 123 yards last year, and Mendenhall said sophomore Wayne Taulapapa was the top performer in the spring and would head into fall practice No. 1 on the depth chart. Taulapapa's lone statistical contribution last season was one tackle on special teams.

    Dubois is eager to show he can be more than a possession receiver.

    ''It's actually a great opportunity because basically it allows me and Joe to just take over all what (Ellis) and Olamide did and everyone's watching to see if we can own up to it,'' he said Tuesday.

    Mendenhall called junior Terrell Jana ''one of the bright spots of the spring,'' both for his productivity and leadership. Dubois believes Jana's presence working as a slot receiver only makes Virginia more dangerous.

    ''He's due for a breakout,'' Dubois said, adding Tavares Kelly to the list of players he expects to produce more. ''It feels like with all of us in the receiving corps, we have a really good team to take the top off of defenses.''

    And once they can do that, defenses won't be able to key as much on Perkins' running ability.

    ''You just have to beat one-on-one coverage and be able to make plays down the field and, once you do that, teams won't know who to stop, what coverage to play,'' Dubois said. ''We have to do our job and excel on the outside.''

    Hagans, himself a dual-threat quarterback for the Cavaliers from 2002-05, said Virginia has enough talent on offense to prevent Perkins from having to do too much, but added that part of that falls on the quarterback, too.

    ''I think a big part of what he has to do now is - he's proven that he can do it - what he's got to do now is prove that he can get other people to do it,'' Hagans said. ''I think that's the next step he's starting to take.

    ''He's bringing other people along to match his work ethic and where he wants the team to go.''

    If Perkins succeeds, and the playmakers do, expectations will only get higher.
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    OU, Kansas help start Big 12 media days
    July 15, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Oklahoma is again favored in the Big 12 after winning the last four conference titles. Kansas is expected to still be on the other end of the standings, even with a new coach that has a national title to his credit.

    New Jayhawks coach Les Miles, the 65-year-old former Oklahoma State coach who later won a national championship at LSU, will be the first coach to take the podium at Big 12 football media days Monday. That will be after Commissioner Bob Bowlsby kicks off the two-day talkfest with his annual address.

    Players and coaches from Oklahoma and Kansas will take part Monday, along with Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech. The second day, Tuesday, will feature Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas and West Virginia - and the only two quarterbacks scheduled to appear this week.

    The Big 12 is holding its media days for the first time at the home stadium of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, where the league plays its championship game.

    The 65-year-old Miles, after more than 2 + seasons out of coaching, is one of four new Big 12 coaches. The others are Texas Tech's Matt Wells, West Virginia's Neal Brown and Kansas State's Chris Klieman, who won four FCS national titles the past five years as head coach at North Dakota State.
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    Big 12's 2nd day features 2 new coaches
    July 16, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) The second day of Big 12 football media days will feature two new coaches and the only two quarterbacks who are appearing at the conference's two-day kickoff event.

    While new Kansas coach Les Miles is the only Big 12 head coach with a national championship at college football's highest level, new Kansas State coach Chris Klieman is coming off his fourth FCS championship in his five seasons as North Dakota State's head coach. Klieman was also part of three other titles as defensive coordinator for the Bison.

    Neal Brown took over at West Virginia after three consecutive 10-win seasons with bowl wins at Troy. He was Texas Tech's offensive coordinator from 2010-12.

    The quarterbacks talking Tuesday are Texas junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year, and Kansas State junior Skylar Thompson.
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    UCF picked to win American title again
    July 16, 2019
    By The Associated Press


    NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) Central Florida has been picked to win the American Athletic Conference and face Memphis in the championship game for a third straight season.

    UCF was the top choice among media members to win the East Division and the league when the American released its preseason poll Tuesday at conference media day. The Knights received 19 of 30 first-place votes to win the East and 12 of 30 to win the conference.

    Memphis is favored to win the West Division over Houston. The Tigers received 15 first-place votes and 165 points. Houston, in its first season under coach Dana Holgorsen, had 14 and 162.

    USF was picked third in the East, followed by Temple, ECU and UConn. Tulane was picked behind third in the West followed by SMU, Navy and Tulsa.

    The American also announced its bowl lineup for the 2020-25 seasons. The conference is guaranteed seven bowl slots each year, including one in a new game to be played at Fenway Park in Boston against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    The American will annually send a team to the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, and alternate sending a team to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Hawaii Bowl.

    The conference also has agreements with a pool of eight bowl games that will host as many as four AAC teams annually.

    Those games are: Birmingham Bowl; Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Florida; First Responder Bowl in Dallas; Boca Raton (Florida) Bowl; Frisco (Texas) Bowl; Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida; Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Bowl; and New Mexico Bowl.
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    Saturday’s List of 13: College football knowledge…..

    13) College football teams with all five starters back on the offensive line:

    Auburn, Ball State, Boise St, Hawai’i, Iowa St.
    Michigan St, Oregon, Southern Miss, Texas St
    UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, Western Kentucky

    12) Over last five years, Utah is 11-2 vs spread as a road underdog; Whittingham is 11-2 SU in bowl games.

    11) Last two years, USC is 2-9 vs spread a a home favorite; since 2012, they’re 1-9 vs spread in neutral field games.

    10) Cincinnati allowed 35.8 ppg in their last five bowl games (2-3 SU); once 2014, Bearcats are 8-15 vs spread in non-conference games.

    9) Central Florida is 25-1 SU the last two years, with a +31 turnover margin; they’re 12-6-1 vs spread in last 19 games as a home favorite.

    8) Last four years, South Florida has a +28 turnover ratio; under Charlie Strong, Bulls are 5-12 vs spread as a home favorite.

    7) Since 2015, Temple is 25-8-1 vs spread in conference games; they’re 13-3 vs spread in last 16 games coming off a loss.

    6) Marshall is 12-2 all-time in bowl games, 5-0 since 2013; since 2016, Thundering Herd is 4-9 vs spread as a home favorite.

    5) Under Butch Davis, FIU is 2-6 vs spread as a home favorite, 6-0 as a home underdog.

    4) Last three years, Middle Tennessee State is 11-4 vs spread coming off a loss.

    3) Western Kentucky has its fifth head coach in eight years; last two years, Hilltoppers are 0-5 vs spread as a road favorite.

    2) From 2012-16, Southern Mississippi had a minus-63 turnover margin in 62 games; last two years, Golden Eagles were minus-2, and went 8-5/6-5.

    1) Since bringing their program back two years ago, UAB is 10-1-1 vs spread at home. [/SIZE]
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    2019 Independents Preview
    July 21, 2019

    2019 INDEPENDENTS PREVIEW

    Sitake’s Ups And Downs

    During its first six years as an independent team, BYU won 52 games, with never fewer than 8 victories in any one season. In 2017, however, the Cougars’ fortunes suffered a major plummet, winning just 4 games behind an offense that ranked No. 118 in the nation – worse than Kansas, Rice and Ball State. It was BYU’s first losing season since 2004, making them a true “mission team” - in more ways than one – in 2018.

    The Mormons rebounded, as expected, in its mission season last year, when the routed Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It marked the first time the team actually improved both is offensive and defensive numbers from one year to the next under Kalani Sitake.

    Status Quo

    The ranks of football independents have increased and decreased with each passing season since 2011 when BYU left the Mountain West Conference.

    It increased by two teams in 2013 when the Western Athletic Conference dropped football, paving the way for the inclusion of New Mexico and Idaho. Then in 2014, it lost two teams when Idaho and New Mexico State became football only members of the Sun Belt Conference. In 2015 Navy bolted for the American Athletic Conference as a football-only entrant. 2016 saw the addition of UMass, with New Mexico State returning in 2017. Liberty joined the Independents in 2018 as the revolving door continued to swing like a turnstile. Now, however, for the first time in seven years, the same 6 teams comprise the Independents this season that did in 2018.

    The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

    ARMY (Offense - *7/3, Defense - 4/0, RPR: 47/16/102)

    TEAM THEME: THIS IS THE NEW ARMY

    How does a team that won 11 games last season for the first time, took Oklahoma to the wire before falling in overtime and hammered Houston, 70-14, in the Armed Forces Bowl, tying the FBS record for the most lopsided result in a bowl game, improve on those kinds of numbers? We’re not sure it’s possible but we do know the Black Knights are one of only two teams that will face only three opponents that owned a winning record last year (UAB the other). Then consider this: Army has defeated Navy and won a bowl game the same year four times. They’ve gone 9-3, 10-3 and 11-2 the following seasons. Stay tuned.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: After bowling just two times in 27 years, the Cadets have now done so three years in a row.

    PASS


    BYU (Offense - *9/4, Defense - 8/3, RPR: 65/48/85)

    TEAM THEME: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

    To his credit, Kalani Sitake went with a youth-infusion during last year’s “mission season” and it looks as if it’s going to pay off in spades in 2019. That’s because the Cougars’ freshmen started the 4th most amount of games in 2018 (22.1%). Defensively, BYU returns 8 starters from a unit that ranked No. 18 in total defense. In addition, the special teams unit was 4th best in the nation last year according to ESPN. QB Zach Wilson returns after starting the final seven games in 2018. Wilson was a perfect 18 for 18 for 317 yards and 4 TDs in last year’s bowl win over Western Michigan.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: For the first time in their history, BYU and Utah meet to open the season. The Cougars blew a 20-0 halftime lead in an 8-point loss to the Utes last year.

    PLAY ON: vs. Utah (8/29)


    LIBERTY (Offense - *9/4, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 25/19/52)


    TEAM THEME: BOYS TO MEN

    After successfully debuting as the “New Kids On The Block’ last season, the Flames suddenly welcome an experienced unit back in 2019 as they evolve from ”Boys to Men.” They enter Year Two in FBS waters having gone 94-55 the past thirteen seasons – all six-plus win years – and would be bowl eligible should they continue the skein in 2019. A nasty 4 game road trek starting in late October will be the real test as to whether or not they are, indeed, bowl worthy. Meanwhile, new head coach Hugh Freeze has risen from the ashes to take over the program knowing it will be hard to top last year’s 52-10 over Old Dominion in their FBS debut.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Head coach Hugh Freeze is 17-5 ATS versus non-conference foes, including 10-1 ATS versus foes coming off a loss.

    PLAY ON: at UMass (11/2)


    NEW MEXICO STATE (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 58/20/109)

    TEAM THEME: THE CLIMB

    After playing in and winning its first bowl game-ever in 2017, it appeared that the Aggies had finally broke on through to the other side. After all, 57 years is a long, long time between drinks of water. The defense improved over 100 yards per game and nine of those starters were back. And then just as injuries, death, and taxes will do, the grim reaper rolled in and reminded Frank Martin that success is never a given. Now after a dreadful return to the mean in 2018, NMSU is tasked with getting things back to where they were two years ago. A deeply experienced offense becomes the starting point as the ascent begins.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Martin is 1-10 ATS in his career in conference games when coming off a SU favorite loss.

    PLAY ON: at New Mexico (9/21)


    NOTRE DAME (Offense - *7/4, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 97/86/95)

    TEAM THEME: CORRECTED VISION

    Notre Dame had visions of a perfect season last year until they crossed paths with Clemson in a CFP semifinal game in the Cotton Bowl. Nonetheless, the Fighting Irish holds the college football record with 42 straight winning seasons from 1889-1932. A quick check of the calendar reminds us it will be at least 2059 should they tie that record, provided they put 40 more winning seasons in a row together between now and then. Before we get ahead of ourselves, QB Ian Book returns this year along with four starting OL and two of their top three wide receivers. With no back-to-back away games, they’ll be as popular as ever in 2019.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since 2011, Kelly has won only 14 of 29 games played from Halloween on out.

    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Michigan (10/26) - *KEY as a favorite


    UMASS (Offense - 5/2, Defense - 5/3, RPR: 128/121/114)

    TEAM THEME: SOUND THE BELL

    When Mark Whipple stepped down as head coach at the conclusion of last season, the Minutemen hired promising young coach Walt Bell. A former assistant at Maryland, Florida State, Southern Miss, and Arkansas State, Bell inherits a bare-bones roster that was gutted by graduation losses. Gone is star WR Andy Isabella, drafted in the 2nd round of the draft by Arizona, along with both starting QBs, their leading rusher and five of its top six defenders. It’s one thing to take over a program familiar with winning. It’s another to seize one that is allergic to winning. Remember, they were loaded with returning starters last season and lost twice as many games as they won.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since entering the FBS, the Minutemen are 5-1 ATS as underdogs of 29 or more points.

    PASS
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