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Prominent state stars on 2020 College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2020 nomination list for the College Football Hall of Fame came out on Monday and it’s once again littered with prominent names from the state of Florida’s historic past.

The National Football Foundation made public the 76 finalists that will be voted on and inducted next year:

Probably the biggest name still on the ballot and not yet in the hall from our state is former Miami All-American linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis (above) was passed over a year ago after making the final ballot and still awaits college football’s ultimate recognition. The former Lakeland star and longtime NFL hero with the Baltimore Ravens went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years ago.

Several other interesting names are either back as finalists or there for the first time. They include the late Jerome Brown All American defensive line star from the 1980s Miami Hurricanes. And, former Oklahoma National Championship winning quarterback Josh Heupel, who is now the head coach of the UCF Knights. Also on the list, is former Florida Gators National Championship defensive lineman Kevin Carter and fellow former Gator defensive lineman Brad Culpepper, who was an All American in 1991.

The NFF’s criteria for the College Hall is provided every year:

  • First and foremost, a player must have received First-Team All-America recognition by a selector organization that is recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise their consensus All-America teams.
  • A player becomes eligible for consideration by the Foundation’s Honors Courts 10 full seasons after his final year of intercollegiate football played.
  • While each nominee’s football achievements in college are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and his fellow man, with love of his country. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether the candidate earned a college degree.
  • Players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years.* For example, to be eligible for the 2020 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1970 or thereafter. In addition, players who are playing professionally and coaches who are coaching on the professional level are not eligible until after they retire.
  • A coach becomes eligible three full seasons after retirement or immediately following retirement provided he is at least 70 years of age. Active coaches become eligible at 75 years of age. He must have been a head football coach for a minimum of 10 years and coached at least 100 games with a .600 winning percentage.

Final ballots must be submitted by June 21st and the National Football Foundation will announce it’s 2020 class of players and coaches in January at the College Football Playoff championship weekend in New Orleans.

A year ago, former Florida State All American star defensive back, Terrell Buckley and former two time Hurricanes National championship-winning coach, Dennis Erickson, were part of the 2019 class.

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CFB

FAU bowl match up with SMU has intrigue

Matt Zemek

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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The Boca Raton Bowl between the FAU Owls and SMU Mustangs is a study in two different dynamics. The two programs involved are both examples of how one’s conference status can improve. These programs also had head coaches this season, who needed to be humbled before they could become better.

Let’s start with the fact that both teams have climbed the ladder in the world of major college football (FBS) conferences. Seven years ago, in 2012, FAU was in the Sun Belt and SMU was in Conference USA. Today, the Owls are in Conference USA and the Mustangs are in the American Athletic Conference. They have both risen in the ranks and have not suffered all the while.

Both teams carry 10 wins into the Boca Raton Bowl game on Saturday, Dec. 21. FAU won its conference title Saturday, while SMU – though not winning the AAC – finished 10-2 despite having to play Memphis and Navy on the road. SMU was able to go 10-0 in its other games. Imagine what could happen for the Ponies next year, when Memphis and Navy both have to come to suburban Dallas.

FAU and SMU were both given a boost a decade ago by veteran coaches who had succeeded in other places.

FAU made bowls in 2007 and 2008 under the legendary Howard Schnellenberger, who created the Miami juggernaut in the early 1980s before handing over the program to Jimmy Johnson. Schnellenberger enabled the Owls to gain national attention. The program lost steam at the end of his tenure, but it established a foothold and was able to move up the conference ladder.

SMU, beginning in 2009, made four straight bowl games under June Jones, who had led the 2007 Hawaii team to the Sugar Bowl, a historic achievement for the Rainbow Warriors. It was Jones, more than anyone else, who truly lifted the cloud of gloom from the SMU program since its NCAA “death penalty” sentence in the 1980s.

SMU’s bowl appearance in 2009 was the Ponies’ first since the death penalty in 1987. Jones’s ability to make four straight bowl games firmly planted the idea that SMU could once again be a consistent winner.

Neither FAU nor SMU have reached the same heights as UCF or Memphis, the two schools which have won the Group of Five championship the past three years, but they are much more prominent than they were seven years ago.

Their head coaches from the 2019 regular season aren’t more prominent than they used to be, but they have certainly benefited from a downward move in the coaching profession.

Lane Kiffin needed this job at FAU. He needed to step out of the Power Five pressure cooker and learn how to handle a program on a smaller scale, removed from the withering spotlight. Kiffin often did things at USC which reflected a childlike, even impish, behavior. He needed to show he could take a job seriously.

At FAU, he did that. Now, as he heads off to Ole Miss, Kiffin is older and wiser, having paid some dues instead of failing upward as he did when he moved from Tennessee to USC a decade ago.

Sonny Dykes coached Jared Goff at California. Cal’s offenses were great, but the Golden Bear program struggled. Dykes was not going to get better in the Pac-12. He needed to move down to a Group of Five program from the Power Five conferences. SMU – with Texas transfer Shane Buechele slinging the ball around the yard as his quarterback – has given Dykes an ideal landing spot.

The coach and the program seem to ideally fit each other at Southern Methodist. Dykes’ late father, Spike, coached quite successfully in the state of Texas. Spike made the 1995 Cotton Bowl at Texas Tech just before the old Southwest Conference was dissolved. Sonny Dykes is very comfortable in the Lone Star State, with a former Texas Longhorn pitching the pigskin around the ballpark.

FAU and SMU have risen in the conference pecking order, under coaches who made downward moves and realized there was a need for them to reset their careers. Upward mobility and downscale success form two of the many stories attached to the 2019 Boca Raton Bowl.

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Ole Miss hires Lane Kiffin after FAU title game win

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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It didn’t take long after FAU’s rout of UAB in the Conference USA Championship Game for the “Lane Train” to depart Boca Raton for Mississippi.

Shortly after the post game festivities were done on the field at FAU Stadium, Ole Miss made official what had been reported Friday night that Kiffin is their new head coach:

First, Kiffin’s Owls had little to no trouble with UAB, as they broke out to a 35 – 6 halftime lead and never looked back. Sophomore quarterback Chris Robison threw three touchdown passes and FAU also blocked a punt, scooped it up and ran it in for another touchdown, as they built the large halftime advantage.

UAB did not muster a hundred yards of offense until the fourth quarter of the game and by then, the issue was settled. It’s the Owls second Conference USA title win in three seasons under Kiffin.

In the Ole Miss statement. athletic director Keith Carter, had this to say about his hire:

“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Coach Kiffin to the Ole Miss family,” Carter said. “As we entered this process, we were looking for energy, innovativeness and a program builder who could excite our student-athletes and fans. Coach Kiffin checked every box and is a home run for our program. I look forward to locking arms with him to take Ole Miss Football to a championship level.”

Kiffin returns to the SEC, where he was formerly the offensive coordinator from 2014 – 16 at Alabama under Nick Saban. He also was the University of Tennessee head coach for the 2009 season going 7 – 6. Kiffin left the Vols controversially after just one year to coach at Southern Cal from 2010 – 13. He was fired in the middle of his fourth season with the Trojans.

As we wrote Friday night, a report in Mississippi surfaced that Ole Miss officials had been in Boca Raton to meet with Kiffin on Thursday night and offered him the job. That obviously turned out to be correct.

Ole Miss is looking to rebuild quickly and an attempt to challenge Alabama, LSU and Auburn. The Rebels went just 4 – 8 this past season firing former player and assistant, Matt Luke at the end of the year.

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