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First-place Navy is very much alive in the race for the Cotton Bowl

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First-place Navy is very much alive in the race for the Cotton Bowl

Army-Navy may not be the only big game for Navy in the month of December this year. With their blowout win over UConn on Saturday, the Midshipmen improved to 7-1 on the season and entered the AP Poll this week at No. 25. Also of note is that previously undefeated SMU lost to Memphis which now means Navy sits atop the AAC West Division with a 5-1 conference record. No, Navy is not in the running for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but a New Year’s Six Bowl bid is absolutely on the table.

According to the rules of the New Year’s Six Bowls, the highest-ranked champion from the Group of 5 gets an automatic bid. This year’s game for the Group of 5 will be the Cotton Bowl.

The rankings that ultimately matter are the College Football Playoff rankings, the first of which do not come out until Tuesday. For now, however, the AP Poll is our best estimate for where the Group of 5 teams stand in the race for the Cotton Bowl. Entering Week 11, Cincinnati is the highest-ranked Group of 5 team at 17. There’s also Memphis (19), Boise State (21), SMU (23), San Diego State (24) and finally, Navy (25).

With five teams ranked ahead of Navy, is the Cotton Bowl actually realistic? When you look at their schedule, the answer is yes.

Yes, the matchup against Notre Dame on Nov. 16 looms large and losing that game would give the Midshipmen their second loss of the season. That would be a tough blow to their ranking, especially if that game ends up being a one-sided loss. What matters most of all, however, is winning the conference and for Navy that possibility absolutely remains on the table.

While the Midshipmen may be in first place at the moment, Memphis sits right behind them at 4-1. Navy’s lone loss this season was to Memphis meaning the Tigers would win any tie-breaker based on their head-to-head matchup, but Memphis still has to play Cincinnati in the season finale. Cincinnati is poised to win the AAC East with a 7-1 record, 4-0 in conference. The Bearcats have wins over UCLA and UCF this season and their lone loss came at the hand of Ohio State.

Behind Memphis, SMU also has one conference loss, but they travel to Annapolis on Nov. 23 giving Navy a chance to hand them their second loss and cement their position within the division.

To summarize, the path the Cotton Bowl for Navy is to keep things close against Notre Dame even in a loss, win all remaining conference games including SMU, hope Memphis loses a conference game most likely to Cincinnati, win the conference championship game and hope that resume proves to be better than the winner of the Mountain West which is the only other conference in real contention for the Group of 5 bid.

A lot of things still have to go Navy’s way for this to happen, plus it is all moot if they don’t keep winning. But while this will require a bit of luck for the Midshipmen, there is no part of this path that you could label as unrealistic. The fact is, the calendar has turned to November, the end of the season is in sight and Navy is still among the team in contention for the Cotton Bowl.

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Virginia Tech spoils halftime lead, falls to No. 10 Duke

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Virginia Tech spoils halftime lead, falls to No. 10 Duke

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Tre Jones was pleased that when No. 10 Duke fell behind early at Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils showed composure and gradually worked their way back.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski was glad he had Jones to lead the way.

“They follow his lead,” Krzyzewski said after Jones scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half as Duke rallied to beat the Hokies 77-63 Friday night.

On a team with many prominent freshman, the sophomore point guard said seeing his teammates respond in the right way was “huge for us tonight just like on Tuesday" when the Blue Devils won 87-75 at Michigan State. “Another big road game. A big crowd. In past years we've struggled here.”

Freshmen Vernon Carey Jr. and Wendell Moore Jr. added 12 points each for the Blue Devils (9-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who had lost three in a row in Cassell Coliseum. They used runs of 12-2 just after halftime and 12-3 a short time later to take command after trailing for almost the entire first half.

“We played an outstanding 18 minutes in the second half,” Krzyzewski said, “although I'll say this: We played an outstanding 12 minutes in the first half to stay in the game.”

P.J. Horne scored 15 points to lead the Hokies (6-3, 1-1), who lost their third in a row and ended their three-game home winning streak against the Blue Devils. Wabisa Bede and Tyrece Radford added 12 points each.

The Hokies made 10 of their first 14 shots and led by 12 early, but Duke slowly climbed back. The early 12-2 run in the second half gave them their first lead, 50-47, since the opening minute. After Virginia Tech pulled even at 52 on Horne's 3-pointer with 11:10 remaining, the Blue Devils scored 12 of the next 15 points and gradually pulled away.

Jones had four in that latter burst, which ended with the Blue Devils ahead 62-55.

“Tre Jones is so disruptive. He's made great progress with his game offensively but he is a mean dude defensively,” Hokies first-year coach Mike Young said.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils came in averaging seven 3-pointers and had three by the time Carey scored his first point (9:24 into the game) and six by halftime. Virginia Tech had 10 field goals before the game was 10 minutes old, and it took Duke 15 minutes to make 10 shots. Five of them were 3s, though, to keep the score close.

Virginia Tech: Landers Nolley II is the Hokies' leading scorer (20 ppg) and is second on the team in assists. He had three first-half assists, each time feeding a teammate for an easy lay-in when the defense came toward him. But Nolley had an otherwise pedestrian night, finishing with seven points, eight rebounds, four assists and nine of their 14 turnovers. He also was called for a flagrant foul with the Hokies trailing 66-57 with 4:34 to play.

“I think they got up under his chin, and I didn't think he handled it very well,” Young said.

STREAK ENDS

Carey arrived on a streak of seven double-doubles but played just 15 minutes and grabbed only five rebounds as Duke went with a smaller lineup.

UP NEXT

The Blue Devils don't play again until Dec. 19 at home against Wofford.

The Hokies are at home against next Wednesday against Chattanooga.

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Howard football coach Ron Prince resigns amid investigation into verbal abuse allegations

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Howard football coach Ron Prince resigns amid investigation into verbal abuse allegations

Ron Prince resigned from his position as head coach at Howard University on Friday. Prince had been on administrative leave since November after allegations of verbal abuse and mistreatment of players.

“Coach Ron Prince has resigned as head coach of Howard’s football program, effective immediately,” Howard athletics director Kery Davis said in a statement to ESPN. “The university and Coach Prince have agreed to mutually part ways. A national search for a replacement will begin immediately."

The allegations came to light after HBCU Gameday reported that Davis received a letter from a parent with the accusations against Price. The university put Price on administrative leave and launched an investigation into the matter.

Four Howard players joined the transfer portal in October, the most notable being quarterback Caylin Newton, the brother of former NFL MVP Cam Newton. Prince joined Howard after the 2018 season and has had 17 players enter the transfer portal during his tenure.

Price's previous experience includes coaching in the NCAA for Rutgers University and Michigan University, and in the NFL for the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts. He was the head coach at Kansas State from 2006-08. 

Howard assigned interim responsibilities to director of football operations Aaron Kelton, who will continue on in that role until a new coach is hired.

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