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FAU favored to repeat at C-USA champ after change under Lane

Lane Kiffin knew very little about Conference USA before he became Florida Atlantic's head coach. Same for Butch Davis at Florida International.

The high-profile coaches made immediate impacts in their new league, and at their new schools not all that far apart.

FAU is the preseason favorite to repeat as league champs after a school-record 11 wins and its first C-USA title. The Owls, coming off three consecutive 3-9 seasons, overcame a 1-3 start last season and now and carry a 10-game winning streak into their 2018 opener at Oklahoma.

FIU went 8-5, doubling its win total from the previous season for the team's first winning record since joining the conference in 2013.

"Way better than people think that it is," Davis said about C-USA. "The level of the coaches in this conference, there's some damn good football coaches in just about every place. ... There's a lot more talent, there's a lot of really good athletes in this conference."

Kiffin, who spent the previous three seasons with Nick Saban at Alabama, had a similar impression about a league that had 10 bowl-eligible teams and sent nine to postseason games (only the SEC and ACC has more).

"Especially (when) you've got some games where they're basically assuming that you're going to lose early in the year, to be able to still have that many teams bowl-eligible again speaks to the players, but to the coaches, too," Kiffin said.

Rick Stockstill is the longest-tenured C-USA coach, going into his 13th season at Middle Tennessee. This is Doc Holliday's ninth season at Marshall.

Louisiana Tech has won bowl games each of the past four seasons under coach Skip Holtz, while North Texas has played in bowls both seasons since former North Carolina assistant Seth Littrell became its coach. Mike Sanford Jr. was Notre Dame's offensive coordinator before going to Western Kentucky last year.

The whole league will be watching when FAU opens at Oklahoma, the preseason favorite to win its fourth consecutive Big 12 title after being in the College Football Playoff last season. So what if the Owls could pull off an upset Sept. 1?

"That would do a ton for the program, and for the conference, and Group of Five," Kiffin said. "We've got a very tough schedule, we're not putting everything into that game. Then all of a sudden you don't win that game and ... you start losing games that you should win."

FATHER-SON FINALE

Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill remembers being a little standoffish with the head coach when he first got to school there "just to try to prove that I was there was a football player and not because of (being) his son." Stockstill goes into his senior season already as the Blue Raiders career leader in touchdown passes (77) and 300-yard passing games (14).

"It's everything that I wanted it to be, and more," said the younger Stockstill, who plans to be a coach like his dad. "We've grown closer and closer and really tried to just do it the right way and show people that it's a special opportunity."

Rick Stockstill said it's hard to put into words how much he's enjoyed the time coaching his son.

THE FAVORITES

East Division: Florida Atlantic returns 15 starters, including running back Devin Singletary and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, the preseason C-USA offense and defensive players of the year. Singletary led the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns while running for 1,920 yards, and Al-Shaair had 147 tackles. The Owls will have a new starting quarterback - former Oklahoma player Chris Robison or DeAndre Johnson, by way of Florida State and East Mississippi Community College.

West Division: Two of the losses by North Texas last season were to FAU, and both were lopsided - first in the regular season and then in the C-USA championship game. But the Mean Green were 7-0 against other C-USA opponents. Quarterback Mason Fine (school records of 4,052 yards passing and 31 TDs), last year's C-USA offensive player of the year, is among 17 returning starters. Top tackler E.J. Ejiya is also back. FAU visits Denton on Nov. 15, about two weeks before the league championship game.

NEW COACHES

Mike Bloomgren takes over at Rice as a first-time head coach after the past seven seasons as a Stanford assistant. The 41-year-old Bloomgren replaced two-time C-USA coach of the year David Baliff, fired after Rice finished 1-11 in his 11th season.

New UTEP coach Dana Dimel was previously head coach at Wyoming (1997-99) and Houston (2000-02), and was an assistant at Kansas State, his alma mater, the past nine years. The Miners were the only Division I team that didn't win a game last season.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

FL Lottery

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ These Florida lotteries were drawn Friday:

Estimated jackpot: $88 million

2-7

(two, seven)

2-0-2

(two, zero, two)

9-9-7-2

(nine, nine, seven, two)

4-0-7-2-4

(four, zero, seven, two, four)

Estimated jackpot: $50 million

Pick 2 Midday

Pick 3 Midday

Pick 4 Midday

Pick 5 Midday

Powerball

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 5 Midday' game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday afternoon's drawing of the Florida Lottery's "Pick 5 Midday" game were:

4-0-7-2-4

(four, zero, seven, two, four)

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 2 Midday' game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday afternoon's drawing of the Florida Lottery's "Pick 2 Midday" game were:

2-7

(two, seven)

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 4 Midday' game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday afternoon's drawing of the Florida Lottery's "Pick 4 Midday" game were:

9-9-7-2

(nine, nine, seven, two)

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 3 Midday' game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The winning numbers in Friday afternoon's drawing of the Florida Lottery's "Pick 3 Midday" game were:

2-0-2

(two, zero, two)

Former NFL linebacker credits yoga for saving his life

NEW YORK (AP) - Keith Mitchell only ever considered himself a football player. It was a label he willingly claimed for so long. When that was ripped away, he was lost.

"You don't realize how attached you are to the identity," the former All-Pro linebacker said. "I didn't know myself."

He had to relearn who he was.

On Sept. 14, 2003, playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mitchell made what appeared to be a routine tackle - until he wound up flat on his back, unable to move. He was rushed to the hospital.

There Mitchell learned his playing career was over in only his seventh NFL season - at 31 years old. He had a spinal contusion.

"All my life, I've been told doctors have all the answers," he said. "So what do you do when the doctor doesn't have an answer for you? I mean, do you become the victim? That's where things can get really chaotic with depression and suicidal thoughts - all that kind of stuff you hear about - and that's what showed up for me."

Until he found conscious breathing, which led to meditation and ultimately yoga.

Mitchell latched onto the practice quickly, even though he had never done it before.

"I realized that I had to," he said. "If I didn't, I don't think I would be here.

"It held me together," Mitchell added. "It created a new way of investing in me and creating a new me, not just with the physical ways I sustained and held trauma but also the mental ways I sustained and held trauma."

Yoga gave him a holistic view of himself as he was healing.

Not only does Mitchell still do yoga, he's a certified yoga instructor with more than a decade of experience. He founded the Light It Up Foundation and the KM59 wellness movement that helps children, trauma survivors, first responders and veterans.

He's even pioneering for the NCAA and NFL to further adopt the practice . Mitchell believes some players lose perspective as they latch onto "the concept of a gladiator" as a football player. Instead of listening to their bodies, they just push them.

Mitchell says the meditation aspect of yoga can bring them back to reality, allowing them to focus on themselves and figure out who they are beyond football. The workout part then simply maintains the body.

Post-career physical and mental dips can be prevented.

"Even though the headline intention of most yoga sessions is to lengthen muscles and to work on core stability, the benefits that are reaped from the mindfulness piece are huge," said National Athletic Trainers' Association president Tory Lindley, who's also the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Health, Safety and Performance and Director of Athletic Training Services at Northwestern University. "Yet in some ways, more athletes aren't even aware they're doing it when they're doing it."

Some are, and it's part of the reason why they practice yoga.

"It helps you stay clear, so that you never get down or up and down or up," New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "It helps you just think about your intention every day, saying clear and focused on what you want in life."

Mitchell wishes he had practice yoga while playing football. It would have helped him recover all that he sacrificed to the game on a regular basis, mentally and physically, and find a better balance.

But he knows not to stress the what-ifs in life.

"I used to go around the country hitting people," Mitchell said. "Now I go around the country saying, 'Namaste.'"

Florida man faces life in prison for killing infant

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - A 29-year-old Florida man faces life in prison after jurors found him guilty of abusing and killing an 8-month-old child he was babysitting.

The state attorney's office in southwest Florida said in a news release that jurors deliberated for under two hours following a four-day trial.

Prosecutors say Rafael Antonio Carrion Jr. had been babysitting the baby and two other children in November 2016. On Thanksgiving Day, he called 911 because the baby was unresponsive. The child was taken to a hospital where he later died of blunt force trauma to the skull. He also had significant bruising and had cocaine in his system.

Officials say Carrion gave conflicting accounts of how the child was injured, but didn't admit to harming him.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 1.

Florida's jobless rates drops slightly in July

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida's unemployment rate dipped slightly in July.

State officials announced Friday the unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent last month. That's lower than the national rate of 3.9 percent.

The latest estimates say there are about 383,000 unemployed people out of a workforce of more than 10.2 million.

National data shows Florida added the second highest amount of jobs in the nation last month. California added 46,700 jobs while Florida picked up 27,400 jobs.

Florida has added 210,600 total jobs since July 2017. California added nearly 333,000 jobs while Texas added more than 377,000.

Florida's overall growth rate for the last 12 months was 2.5 percent, which was tied for the nation's 7th highest rate.

Okaloosa and St. Johns counties had the lowest unemployment rate. Hendry County had the highest.

Oceanside Florida hospital to be demolished following storm

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A hospital on Florida's east coast is going to be demolished nearly a year after it was shuttered following Hurricane Irma.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported Thursday that Florida Hospital Oceanside will be torn down although hospital officials don't know yet what will be built in its place.

The hospital sits on a beach highway across from the street from the Atlantic Ocean. During Hurricane Irma, the hospital sustained wind and water damaged and one of the exterior walls was compromised, a hospital official said.

The initial plan was to reopen the hospital after 18 months, but hospital spokeswoman Lindsay Cashio told the newspaper the storm damage was too great. Cashio noted that the hospital had been shuttered for six months following hurricanes in 2004.

___

Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com

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