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  1. Peach pursuit: How the Group of Five's best fared in Week 8

    Bulls

    Each week henceforth, we'll take a look at how USF fared in comparison to the other serious Group of Five contenders for the New Year's Six bowl berth. The Group of Five conference champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff committee earns the New Year's Six nod. Presuming that berth will be in the Peach Bowl (though it could be the Fiesta), we've devised a gauge of sorts measuring each team's Peach Bowl chances at this moment in time.Peachy: In the driver's seat for a Peach Bowl berthRipening: A team to watch. Peach Bowl outlook getting strongerBruised: Peach Bowl chances took a recent hitThe Pits: Not a serious contender at this timeBoise State (5-2)This week: defeated Wyoming 24-14Next week: at Utah StateDon't discount the Broncos' New Year's Six odds, which have improved considerably after consecutive wins against San Diego State and Wyoming. Granted, some dominoes still have to tumble for Boise to get back into this thing, including USF and UCF both losing at least once. But if the Broncos can win out in a deep Mountain West, would the College Football Playoff committee rank them higher than a one-loss Bulls or Knights team? It's a pretty far-fetched hypothetical, mainly because we don't see both UCF and USF losing a game.Outlook: RipeningToledo (6-1)This week: defeated Akron 48-21Next week: at Ball State (Thursday)Poor Toledo. Because the MAC appears so feeble this season, the Rockets could win out and still not make a dent in the CFP rankings (Last week they didn't receive a single vote in the AP poll). Had they upset Miami in south Florida in September, maybe the Rockets would be a serious player in this discussion. But no quality wins remain on their schedule. Not their fault.Outlook: BruisedHouston (4-3)This week: lost to Memphis 42-38Next week: at USFForget the Peach, the Cougars will be fortunate to make the Cure Bowl at this point. They might still be a force in the American Athletic Conference's West Division if their defense knew how to finish, but they've allowed 80 second-half points over their last two contests. This is a team at a crossroads as it prepares for USF.Outlook: The pitsMarshall (6-1)This week: defeated Middle Tennessee 38-10Next week: vs. FIUThe Thundering Herd, behind junior QB (and Wharton High alumnus) Chase Litton, have won five in a row since their 37-20 loss to N.C. State. Again, chaos would have to occur in a couple of other conferences for Marshall to enter the New Year's Six conversation, but as long as it keeps winning we're keeping the Herd on this list. Outlook: BruisedMemphis (6-1)This week: defeated Houston 42-38Next week: vs. TulaneSince being embarrassed by UCF, the Tigers have won three in a row, including triumphs against Navy and Houston in a six-day span. Tulane, Tulsa, SMU and East Carolina remain on Memphis' schedule, putting it squarely in the West Division driver's seat. If the Tigers can win out, then topple UCF or USF in the league title game, they could -- could -- find themselves as the highest-ranked Group of Five champ.Outlook: RipeningNavy (5-2)This week: lost to UCF 31-21Next week: ByeThe  Midshipmen have totaled eight turnovers -- a season's worth in a typical Midshipmen year -- in their losses to Memphis and UCF, nearly bumbling themselves right out of the West Division race. Technically, Navy still has a New Year's Six shot (Notre Dame, Houston and Army remain on the slate). Realistically, the Midshipmen are looking at the Military Bowl.  Outlook: The pitsSan Diego State (6-2)This week: lost to Fresno State 27-3Next week: at HawaiiOnly eight days ago, the Aztecs appeared destined to emerge as the top-ranked Group of Five team in the initial CFP rankings. Today, they're a longshot to even win the West Division of the Mountain West Conference. Consecutive losses to Boise State and Fresno State have, for all practical intents, dashed SDSU's New Year's Six aspirations. In Saturday's embarrassing home loss to Fresno, the Aztecs crossed midfield only three times on their final nine possessions. Outlook: The pitsUCF (6-0)This week: defeated Navy 31-21 Next week: vs. Austin PeayBy dispatching of Navy, the Knights cleared their last serious hurdle before their Black Friday showdown with USF. Like the Bulls, the Knights learned Saturday they can prevail in a tight game. But it appears their next potentially tight one won't arrive until that ballyhooed regular season finale. UCF's upcoming four foes: Division I-AA Austin Peay, SMU, UConn and Temple. Outlook: PeachyUSF (7-0)This week: defeated Tulane 34-28Next week: vs. HoustonDespite their woeful fourth quarter Saturday night in New Orleans, the Bulls' New Year's Six outlook appears brighter today. San Diego State (56 points in last week's AP poll) no longer is a threat to leapfrog the Bulls in the CFP rankings, nor is Navy. The Peach is USF's for the plucking if it keeps winning. Outlook: Peachy  

    UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton passed for 233 yards in the Knights' 31-21 victory Saturday at Navy.
  2. District volleyball: Mitchell survives Sunlake; Land O'Lakes dispatches Springstead

    Home Team

    SPRING HILL – Sunlake had played plenty of good matches this season, taking its Class 7A, District 8 opponents to the brink on a few occasions.   None of those hard-fought matches amounted to anything like the Seahawks did against top-seeded Mitchell in Tuesday night’s district semifinal. The Mustangs won a battle of attrition in five sets (25-22, 15-25, 23-25, 29-27, 15-10) to clinch their eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs.   The Seahawks (5-10) came in winless this season in district play but stunned the short-handed Mustangs (19-8) by jumping in front two sets to one. Mitchell was missing two of their best players, with seniors Morgin Tew and Mariella Haimes both sidelined with severe leg injuries. Add to that the loss of junior Mya Jones to illness, and the Mustangs were backed into a corner.   “You really have to feel for those girls,” coach Heidi Michaels said. “Both of them are among the best in the area. We had some big holes to fill.”   Sunlake sophomore Caroline Schoonover, who came into the match with a team-high 123 kills this season, made her presence known in the fourth set, pacing the Seahawks with seven kills. She and junior Kamea Nash had Mitchell a point from postseason elimination with a 24-22 lead.   “That is the best 5-10 team you’ll see,” Michaels said. “Our district is so strong, and their record was not a good indication of just how good (Sunlake) is.”   The Mustangs would not roll over. With junior Kennedy DeLuca (13 kills, one ace) and senior Jessie Mooney (10 kills, one ace) dominating at the net, Mitchell not only roared back to win the fourth set in dramatic fashion but took that momentum into the fifth set. The first seed never again relinquished the lead.   In the match that was supposed to be close, Land O’Lakes and Springstead did not disappoint.   After splitting the season series, the Gators dispatched the Eagles in four sets (24-26, 25-22, 28-26, 25-18) to earn a ticket to the postseason and a date on Thursday against Mitchell.   Land O’Lakes (17-8), headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the eighth time in school history, was led by junior Rachel Michner (16 kills, one ace) in the front row.   Although Springstead (16-6) controlled the match statistically in both kills (47-44) and aces (16-6), the inability of the Eagles to limit their miscues seemed to be their undoing. The host team led early in every set, burning through leads of 9-0 in the second set, 12-5 in the third set, and 5-1 in the fourth set.   Among the standouts for Springstead were junior Jennifer Aten (nine kills, 10 aces), senior Sami McLeod (15 kills, three aces), and senior Alexis Thompson (11 kills, one ace). The trio was a force at the net all night long with Aten nearing a rare double double.

  3. Stunning photos from Caribbean give sense of Hurricane Irma's destructive power

    Alleyes

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — French, British and Dutch military authorities rushed aid to a devastated string of Caribbean islands Thursday after Hurricane Irma left at least 11 people dead and thousands homeless as it spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend. …

    A pleasure boat stands next to a destroyed home after the passing of Hurricane Irma in Culebra, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. About a million people were without power in the U.S. territory after Irma passed just to the north, lashing the island with heavy wind and rain. Nearly 50,000 also were without water.
  4. Fennelly: Irma left NFL little choice

    Martin-chronicles

    It was the right move. It was the only move. The NFL took the long way home, but it will make the Bucs and Dolphins play in Week 11, in what was once their bye week. Sixteen straight games without a break isn’t easy. I’m sure the Bucs didn’t want this. None of us wants Irma. …

    The Bucs take the field before their preseason game against the Redskins.
  5. Fennelly: Irma making the rules as it approaches

    Martin-chronicles

    ST. PETERSBURG The announced crowd at Tuesday night’s Rays game against the Minnesota Twins was 6,509 – the smallest crowd for a Rays game in their 20 years at Tropicana Field. …

    Evan Longoria scores in front of Twins catcher Jason Castro and pitcher Bartolo Colon Tuesday night.
  6. Region baseball: Indian Rocks Christian 6, Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 0

    Home Team

    LARGO – Indian Rocks Christian had a simple, effective game plan to advance in the Class 3A tournament: expansive but efficient pitching combined with relentless offense. Everything clicked for the Golden Eagles as they easily dispatched of Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 6-0 Wednesday night. …

  7. HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for April 29-May 5

    Home Team

    Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, April 29 through Friday, May 5. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday. Female nominees …

  8. Texas police officer faces murder charge in 15-year-old Jordan Edwards' death

    Times News

    DALLAS — A white Texas police officer has been charged with murder in the shooting of a black teenager for which the officer was fired, according to an arrest warrant issued Friday. …

    This undated family photo provided by the Edwards' family attorney shows Jordan Edwards, left, posing for a photo with his father Odell Edwards.
  9. Region softball: Academy at the Lakes 15, Naples Seacrest Country Day 0

    Home Team

    NEW TAMPA — Academy at the Lakes ended a record season for Naples Seacrest Country Day with a dominant  performance in Thursday’s Class 2A region semifinals. The Wildcats shut out the Stingrays 15-0 to set up a rematch with Canterbury in next Tuesday’s region final. …

  10. Region softball: East Lake 5, Sarasota 2

    Home Team

    TARPON SPRINGS – Ana Holt's bat got East Lake the lead and the Eagles' defense made it stick. …

  11. Fire at Clearwater storage facility causes nearly $1 million in damage

    Times News

    A fire at a Clearwater storage facility Wednesday night damaged 18 units and caused an estimated $1 million in damage, according to law enforcement officials. …

  12. Scott's bond director weighs in on Visit Florida cuts

    The Buzz

    Out of sight and out of the country, Gov. Rick Scott appeared to be on the losing end of budget negotiations Tuesday as House and Senate negotiators scaled down Enterprise Florida to a shell and reduced Visit Florida funding from $75 million to $25 million. …

    There were polite smiles for Gov. Rick Scott flanked by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, left, and Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, on the first day of the 2016 session
  13. St. Louis MLS bid gets whacked, improving Rowdies' chances

    Bay Buzz

    The odds on the competition for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in St. Petersburg just tilted a bit in the Tampa Bay Rowdies' favor after St. Louis residents voted down a proposal to provide public money for a new soccer stadium in a city still reeling from losing its pro football Rams. …

    Rowdies owner Bill Edwards has to be smiling after St. Louis' MLS bid appears to have imploded
  14. David Richardson's crusade finds more prison woes, this time private women's facility

    The Buzz

    The 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste. …

  15. District boys basketball: Mitchell, Land O'Lakes rematch on tap

    Home Team

    TRINITY – For the past two seasons, Mitchell and Land O’Lakes have been the top teams in Class 7A, District 8. The pair faced off in the district finals of 2016, 2013 and 2012. …

  16. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 31, 2016

    The Gradebook

    With elections near, Florida education news became rather hushed, particularly on the policy front. That didn't stop all the activity, though, as teachers continued to negotiate contracts, students protested their new dress code and districts began adopting new open enrollment rules to meet the latest state requirements. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest Florida education news. …

  17. 7A-8: Sunlake goes on late scoring 'Spree' to top Land O'Lakes

    Home Team

    TRINITY — Top-seeded Mitchell, the defending state runnerup, dispatched Springstead 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 in the Class 7A, District 8 semifinals Tuesday and will play No. 3 seed Sunlake in Thursday's final.   …

  18. University of Tampa gets its own wave of creepy clown sightings

    The Gradebook

    TAMPA — Perhaps it was inevitable. The scourge of creepy clowns — very few of whom actually seem to exist in the flesh — afflicted another school earlier this week, this time the University of Tampa. A message from the Office of the Dean of Students on Oct. 4 sought to nip the issue in the bud. …

  19. AAC Power Rankings, Week 5

    Bulls

    A little more than one month into the season, the American Athletic Conference remains as jumbled as ever. Houston has shown no signs of slowing down, and USF is firmly entrenched as the league's No. 2 team so far. But beyond that, there's a ton of parity.Here's how the conference is shaping out through five weeks, as compiled by a league-wide panel of beat reporters.1. Houston (5-0, 2-0 AAC): The Greg Ward Jr. Show hit prime time for the Cougars’ game against Connecticut and did not disappoint viewers. The senior quarterback accounted for 454 yards and five touchdowns in the 42-14 win. While Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is considered the early Heisman Trophy frontrunner, this national TV game was a chance for Ward to make an early case. Mission accomplished: Most Heisman tracking sites have Ward among the top 3 this week. "We're petitioning the NCAA to let us use 15 players on defense," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about facing Ward on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. -- Joseph Duarte, The Houston Chronicle2. USF (4-1, 1-0): Marlon Mack became USF’s all-time leading rusher as the Bulls easily dispatched Cincinnati, 45-20, on the road in their AAC opener. Mack, a junior who now has 2,755 yards in 28 career games, rushed for 118 and two TDs on 20 carries. USF’s defense, meantime, bounced back in the second half after yielding 272 yards in the first 30 minutes. It forced three turnovers, including a pick-six that Johnny Ward returned 11 yards for a score. -- Jeff Odom, Tampa Bay Times3. Memphis (3-1): Though the Tigers' first road trip of the season resulted in a 48-28 loss to nationally-ranked Ole Miss, Coach Mike Norvell was encouraged by the team's resolve early in the second half. Down by three possessions at halftime, Memphis rallied to cut the Rebels' lead to 27-21 in the third quarter before letting the game slip away once again. There were mistakes across the board for the Tigers, from penalties (seven for 52 yards) to turnovers (four) to a string of missed tackles and a few key special teams miscues in the second half.  -- Tom Schad, The Commercial Appeal4. Navy (3-1, 2-0): The Midshipmen saw one of their primary goals essentially  fall by the wayside Saturday as they lost hope of re-claiming the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Air Force dominated defensively from start to finish in handing Navy a 28-14 defeat. The Midshipmen were held to 57 rushing yards, their lowest output in 14 years. Navy can only hope to retain the CIC Trophy by having Army beat Air Force, then winning the season-ending showdown with its arch-rival. -- Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group5. Cincinnati (3-2, 0-2): The Bearcats are having issues at quarterback. UC lost, 45-20, at home to South Florida last Saturday, with regular starting QB Hayden Moore (ankle) out again. Redshirt freshman Ross Trail started for a second straight week, going 20-of-30 for 216 yards and a TD with three interceptions, including his second pick-six of the season. Fifth-year senior and former starting QB Gunner Kiel entered the USF game late, going 3-of-11 for 47 yards in his first substantial action this year. Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said he doesn’t think Moore will be able to play this week against UConn, and it is unclear whether Trail or Kiel will get the start. -- Tom Groeschen, Cincinnati Enquirer6. Temple (3-2, 1-0): The Owls spotted SMU a TD on an interception return in the first minute, then scored the next 35 points in a 45-20 win. After two strong games, QB Phillip Walker had what was, in his words, "one of my worst games" (7-of-18, 124 yards, one TD, two INTs). The Owls were boosted by the running game, rushing for 244 yards and four TDs. Sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who spells starter and returning All-AAC running back Jahad Thomas, rushed for a career high 159 yards and two scores on 15 carries. One of Temple's best players, junior S Sean Chandler, missed the game with a knee injury and will be out for Thursday's game at Memphis and likely longer. LB Stephaun Marshall, who leads the team with 28 tackles, also likely won't play this week due to injury.  -- Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer7. UCF (3-2, 1-0): UCF opened conference play by avenging a 2015 loss to East Carolina, 47-29, on the road. The Knights’ defense allowed the Pirates to get their usual 500-plus total yards of offense, but were able to force five turnovers, including a safety from defensive back T.J. Mutcherson and a pick-six from freshman DL Brendan Hayes. RB Adrian Killins scored on a 100-yard kickoff return, earning AAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. -- Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel8. Tulsa (3-1): After concluding non-conference play the previous week, the Golden Hurricane used its open date to get healthy and prepare for SMU, which comes to town Friday night in what will be the return of former offensive coordinator Chad Morris to Tulsa. With a difficult league schedule that includes road games against the three teams picked to finish above it in the West Division, Tulsa needs to prevail at home especially when favored by more than two TDs, as it will be against the Mustangs -- Kelly Hines, Tulsa World9. East Carolina (2-3, 0-1): The Pirates' 47-29 loss to UCF was their third in a row, and starting QB Philip Nelson remained a question mark early this week after being knocked out on a high hit and not returning to the game against the Knights. This week, it gets even tougher for ECU with a Saturday trip to East Division front-runner South Florida. The Pirates committed five turnovers against the Knights and continued to struggle in the red zone. -- Nathan Summers, The Daily Reflector10. Connecticut (2-3, 0-2): The Huskies added a blowout loss to their resume last week, 42-14, at Houston. UConn allowed 28 points in the second quarter alone, more than it has scored in an entire game this season. The UConn running game got next to nowhere on the nation's top rushing defense and Noel Thomas, now sixth in the nation with 46 receptions, was the lone offensive bright spot. Defensively, UConn continues to have problems defending the pass. One has to start wondering what positive can become of this season without a victory Saturday at home against Cincinnati, which has defeated UConn five games in a row and leads the series 10-2. -- Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant11. Tulane (3-2, 0-1): Tulane notched its first road win of the season in Saturday’s 31-24 victory at UMass after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. The Green Wave has won three of its last four games, but nature has halted its momentum. Its game at UCF, initially slated for Friday, has been moved to Nov. 5 due to Hurricane Matthew. -- Will Guillory, The Times-Picayune12. SMU (2-3, 0-1): SMU's offensive woes continued in its 45-20 loss to Temple on Saturday. The Mustangs failed to run the football, gave up multiple sacks, turned the ball over four times, and watched redshirt freshman QB Ben Hicks made a number of costly mistakes. Hicks now has thrown nine interceptions in four starts. If Hicks does not improve, SMU's ship will continue to sink. In fact, the only thing keeping it afloat is the defense. The Mustangs are tied with Troy for the Division I lead in interceptions with 12. -- EJ Holland, Dallas Morning News

  20. Democrats fret over Hillary Clinton ground game in Florida

    The Buzz

    It’s time for Hillary Clinton to start worrying about her Florida campaign.  …

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Thursday.

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