Jordan Lynch is feeling confident about NIU’s chances against FSU

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Outside of our yearly predictions, this is probably the most exposure we’re going to give the Orange Bowl.

It’s not that we don’t love the underdog — we do quite a bit — but we’re also realists here at CFT. Florida State and Northern Illinois just doesn’t elicit a lot of excitement. So, we need some help. A quote for some bulletin-board material. Luckily, NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch provided some on Wednesday.

Lynch was not lacking confidence when he spoke with the Sporting News about Florida State’s top-10 defense.

“They’re fast, they’re physical, but they haven’t seen anything like our offense,” Lynch said. “We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees—and then just keep pounding away.”

Lynch didn’t back off his comments when asked about them later in the day. He wasn’t alone, either. NIU defensive end Sean Progar said FSU would be “surprised” by the Huskies’ team speed and new coach Rod Carey added “What’s he [Lynch] supposed to say? ‘Hey, we’re just hoping we get a first down, a yard or two?‘”

Now, to suggest in hyperbolic fashion that Florida State has never, at any point, seen anything like NIU’s offense is just plain wrong. And, besides, talk means zilch when everyone still has to strap on the pads and go out on the field and hit someone.

Of course, FSU could come out and effortlessly send NIU back home with a loss somewhere in the neighborhood of a 50-point margin. Or, as the Seminoles have been known to do from time to time, they could come out flat and Lynch, college football’s third-leading rusher, could make it a game and possibly lead the upset.

That’s the best part: Lynch and NIU will have a chance to back up their words on the field in five days. But by then, words won’t mean anything.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.