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Gators at Arkansas headlines our Saturday College Football Primer

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Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

We’ve reached the month of November and the final four Saturdays of the college football regular season are about to play out. We at FFI have our Tortilla Chips and Guacomole with the extra tablets, phones and T.V. screens ready to go. Let’s preview the Saturday slate for the most prominent teams:

Pitt at Miami 12:30 p.m.

Will our Ari Russell ever see his Canes win again? Four games ago they were 4-0 and now suddenly you are wondering if Miami will finish over .500? Clearly QB Brad Kaaya is struggling with decision making and pocket presence. He’s got to get his act together starting with this match-up. Pitt features RB James Conner, who has battled back from cancer to lead the Panthers offense, and is their best weapon. Will the Hurricanes get their swagger back? Will Pitt send them to an unthinkable 5th straight ACC loss?

Florida at Arkansas 3:30 p.m.

It’s the SEC “co-main event” prior to the prime time Bama at LSU. And, as we laid out earlier this week, the 1-loss Gators are the only state school remaining who has legitimately has a shot at the College Football Playoff, but it is a long shot starting with today in Fayetteville, AR. The Gators handled rival Georgia in Jacksonville last week. Meanwhile, the Hogs, who already have wins over TCU and Ole Miss, are still stinging from being destroyed 56-3 by Auburn two weeks ago. Time to find out what Luke Del Rio and Co. are truly made of in a true road game. The last time the Gators played in one of these (Knoxville in September) they got rocked by the Vols a second half avalanche. Their SEC East hopes are relying on handling it differently.

Tulane at UCF 5 p.m.

This AAC match-up in Orlando is a make-up game from Hurricane Matthew a few weeks ago. The Golden Knights come off a physically and emotionally wild roller coaster game at Houston seven days ago. Scott Frost’s bunch picked Cougar star QB, Greg Ward Jr., three times in the first half and cashed in for a 21-3 lead at the break. That was the good news. The bad news is the played the second half. And Ward played brilliantly leading Houston all the way back to a 31-24 win. UCF QB Mckenzie Milton (shown above) didn’t do much either throwing or running last week, but he’s the top weapon the Knights have. Tulane’s defense is poor and Milton should exploit it. The Green Wave’s lost three straight and best hope is to get some kind of rushing attack behind Dontrell Hilliard going.

and Finally, FSU at NC State 7 p.m.

An ACC showdown for the Noles in Raleigh after their they had their hearts pulled out and stomped on by DeShaun Watson and Clemson in the fourth quarter last Saturday night. The good news for Florida State is NC State is equally reeling and ironically, it started when they missed an easy field goal that would have won them the game at Clemson and lost in OT. Since then, also like the Seminoles, the Pack got “dump trucked” at Louisville and now, last Saturday lost to lowly Boston College who hadn’t won an ACC game likely since Reagan was still in office. (Ok, we wanted to make sure that you were still reading).

With all that written, N.C. State will likely put pressure on Noles QB Deondre Francois and hit him some, etc. (everyone else has) and make this an interesting game. What will likely happen is RB Dalvin Cook will have another explosive game. He’s averaging 168 yards per game over the last five and is FSU’s best weapon.

Four games involving he prominent state schools teams and we’ll be recapping them, as they get done.

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UCF Knights

Groundwork laid for UCF QB McKenzie Milton to be part of AAF Spring league?

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

He has yet to take the practice field to get ready for his junior season with UCF, but an interesting scenario has already come up involving the Knights rising star quarterback McKenzie Milton.

First, it’s understood that if Milton is healthy and plays anything like his stellar 2017 in the upcoming season, he will be under Heisman Trophy consideration. In fact, we wrote about UCF already cranking up the hype for Milton last month.

And, if he and the Knights enjoy great success, then Milton would hope to get opportunity in the winter and eventually the Spring, with the NFL and their draft. However, Milton is listed at 5’11 185lbs., and that’s not likely big enough to get a strong look at signal caller at that next level.

Unless, that “next level” of pro football might be the newly formed Allliance of American Football spring league that begins play in February.

With a franchise in Orlando.

Coached by, Steve Spurrier.

And, playing in Milton’s college venue, Spectrum Stadium, on the UCF campus.

The AAF has already announced all of its eight franchises for year one, the coaches, and the GM’s. And, has now begun to lay out it’s tryouts and how its player allocation will be done. Not surprisingly, the new league will emphasize having regions dictate who likely plays where. This makes sense from a marketing and ticket sales standpoint.

And Milton fits that for Orlando and the AAF perfectly.

Oh, and look at what we have here?

Spurrier and Milton were together at an Orlando radio station event on Wednesday and met for the first time:

Spurrier, who is one of the great offensive play-calling minds in college football history, is in obvious need of a trigger man for his offense.

Again, it’s far fetched, but Milton, or someone like him, would be perfect as a dual threat QB to run the “Head Ball Coach’s” plays. Milton, who was the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, and had 46 combined throwing and running TDs in 13 games last year.

Spurrier made it no secret last month that the Orlando franchise would entertain trying to sign fellow Gators legend QB Tim Tebow, too. However, Tebow is still progressing for the Mets in Double-A and went one for four in the Eastern League All-Star game Wednesday night. He will likely get a chance to play for New York in September. He also has his well paying television job with the SEC Network, too.

And, there are other quarterbacks that Spurrier could go to and several may have immediate interest in their training camps this fall.

Yet, a McKenzie Milton-Steve Spurrier marriage would very intriguing.

And, very sellable for the AAF, too.

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UCF Knights

Former UCF kicker De la Haye scored victory in Federal Court Tuesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t the final outcome. However, former UCF kicker Donald De la Haye and his lawyers got a large victory in their First Amendment lawsuit against UCF, when the judge denied the school’s motion to dismiss in a ruling released Tuesday.

Siding with De la Haye, who had his scholarship revoked last August when he refused to stop accepting Youtube money for his UCF football related content, Senior District Judge Anne Conway ruled that De la Haye can proceed with his claim against the school.

Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel had more on the ruling:

Conway heard arguments 29 days ago in Orlando, including UCF trying to get the lawsuit stopped on the grounds that it’s not a First Amendment issue.

One of De la Haye’s lawyers, John Riches commented to the Sentinel after the ruling,

“We hope that today’s decision denying UCF’s attempt to dismiss this case will be a step toward protecting Donald’s rights and ensuring all college student-athletes’ free speech rights are protected.”

As we wrote at the time of the arguments, De la Haye is not seeking monetary damages at this time. Rather, he wants his scholarship re-instated and to kick for the Knights this season. He was unable to afford walking on to the team last year.

As Green reported Tuesday, UCF had not commented on losing this significant phase and whether they intend to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

The judge did grant the school’s dismissal of the claim that De la Haye’s 14th Amendment “Due Process” rights had been violated. De la Haye had been given able warning about taking down the Youtube channel, if he would not stop posting video content that included UCF footabll related activities for his own financial gain.

The school also spent time negotiating options with the NCAA that included him being allowed to stay on scholarship and keep the channel, as long as the school football related content stopped. They obviously successfully argued their opposition to the due process claim to the court.

Most importantly, this is not final victory for De la Haye, he will either have to get a settlement from the school to get re-instated or win a judgement on the merits of his case from the court later.

The problem is, with fall practice beginning later this month, the clock is ticking on him winning outright and settlement is likely De la Haye’s best hope.

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UCF Knights

American Athletic Conference wants fan vote for “Fifth Anniversary” team

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

Granted, the American Athletic Conference has not been around that long, but still, there have been some memorable teams, players and moments.

And now, the AAC wants the fans to get involved in balloting for a “Fifth Anniversary Team.” On Monday the conference laid out the voting parameters and the nominees on their official website:

From a portion of the AAC release:

“The American will name its Fifth Anniversary Team July 24 at the conference’s annual Summer Kickoff and Media Days in Newport, Rhode Island.

The fan balloting will be one of three components that will determine the team, along with votes from the 12 football-playing schools and the local and national media that covers The American.”

The release then spelled out some interesting names for the voting and we’ll focus mainly on the Bulls and Knights.

This includes a tough call at quarterback, where only two names can be chosen from the likes of UCF’s Blake Bortles and McKenzie Milton, plus USF’s Quinton Flowers, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Kennan Reynolds of Navy, Greg Ward of Houston and Paxton Lynch of Memphis.

In the cases of Bortles, Milton, Bridgewater and Ward, they all won the conference title and then, a “New Year’s Six” bowl game upset. Flowers and Reynolds are two tremendous statistical dual threat QB’s and Lynch had two tremendous seasons for the Tigers, as well.

Not an easy call.

At running back, USF’s all time leading running back rusher, Marlon Mack and UCF’s Storm Johnson, who ran for 1,300 yards in their magical Fiesta Bowl season of 2013 headline the AAC’s list.

Interesting that UCF’s Breshard Perriman is the only Knight or Bull on the receiver ballot.

Meanwhile, the defensive line has names like USF’s Aaron Lynch, and UCF’s Jamiyus Pittman make the nominees, and at linebacker, the Bulls Auggie Sanchez, a three time all AAC performer, is on the list. Also there is the “feel good” story in the history of the conference in Shaquem Griffin, who was AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and helped lead the Knights to their unbeaten Peach Bowl wining season last year.

(No. They aren’t “National Champions.)

Players like UCF DB Mike Hughes, USF’s Deatrick Nichols, and Knights safety Clayton Geathers, a two time all conference selection are par of the secondary balloting.

And finally, USF’s Emilo Nadelman is battling for the top place kicker honors, too.

The fan portion of the voting will continue through July 13th.

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