Dallas Colleges: Florida Atlantic Owls
Before getting to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Sun Belt, read Dana O'Neil's profile of new Florida International coach Richard Pitino, Myron Medcalf's look at North Texas' nonconference schedule and Western Kentucky's place in ESPN.com's 50 in 50 series.
Blue Ribbon's in-depth previews of all 11 Sun Belt teams:
As for an added bonus, ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan picked the top 10 national rebounders heading into the season, and North Texas' Tony Mitchell made the list. His take:
7. Tony Mitchell, North Texas: The former Missouri signee is the kind of talent you don't often see in the Sun Belt, and his rebounding numbers back it up. He averaged 10.3 rebounds per game, and notched the fourth-highest defensive rebounding rate in the country (28.8 percent). He wasn't quite as effective on the offensive end -- he barely missed the 10 percent mark in offensive rebound rate, at 9.6 -- but that is also a byproduct of being the primary focus of the Mean Green offense. Mitchell has already proven his bona fides; the next step is a truly dominant season.
The Big 12 announced its men's and women's basketball players of the week Monday.
Baylor junior guard LaceDarius Dunn was named men's player of the week, while Texas Tech junior guard David Tairu was rookie of the yweek. Dunn averaged 30.5 points in Baylor's first two games, including a 32-point effort in Baylor's 86-58 win over Norfolk State. Dunn has shot 48.8 percent from the field in the first two games. Tairu was the MVP of the Duel in the Desert Tournament for the Red Raiders. Tairu led his team in scoring in two of the three games, averaging 14 points.
Oklahoma State guard Andrea Riley (from Dallas) won the women's player of the week award. She averaged 25.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists in the first two games for the Cowgirls. Iowa State center Anna Prins was the freshman of the week for her 20-point effort against Florida Atlantic. Prins also had five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 21 minutes on the court.
North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge is still listed as day-to-day with a high right ankle sprain suffered in last Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic. X-rays were negative.
If Dodge can't go Saturday against Troy, junior Nathan Tune will again be on the field. Tune was 13-for-17 for 129 yards and a TD as he played nearly three quarters in North Texas' loss last Saturday. He also stepped in when Dodge separated his shoulder against Ohio earlier in the season.
No matter who is the quarterback, one goal on offense will be to continue the Mean Green's improved play on third down. UNT converted 50 percent (8-of-16) of its third downs two weeks ago against Louisiana-Lafayette and converted 60 percent (6-of-10) against Florida Atlantic.
We had a shocking development last week: I went 7-0. Correctly picking SMU to pull off the upset over East Carolina was the difference. We've got plenty of games this week, including a handful right here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Please make your selections in the comment section:
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Cotton Bowl, Dallas): Don't let Oklahoma's record trick you into think this is going to be some kind of stomping by the Longhorns. I don't think so. Sam Bradford looked perfectly fine last week, and the Sooners will be desperate after two losses early in the season. As for the Longhorns, they haven't really been tested other than Texas Tech. But Oklahoma is still dealing with injuries, and Texas' defense will do enough to get this win. It'll be closer than the score indicates. Prediction: Texas 28, Oklahoma 21
Texas Tech at Nebraska: Maybe it doesn't matter who's at quarterback for the Red Raiders. Coach Mike Leach has said it will be a gametime decision on Taylor Potts (concussion) or Steven Sheffield. Either way, this shapes up to be a very good game. For Nebraska, it's a great chance to show that the program continues to improve. And if you haven't seen Nebraska's outstanding defensive tackle Ndamukung Suh, set your DVR. He's fun to watch. Prediction: Nebraska: 35, Texas Tech 31
Missouri at Oklahoma State: The Cowboys won on the road at Texas A&M last week despite all the distractions. Dez Bryant is still waiting on word from the NCAA about his application for reinstatement. But a night game at home against Missouri should help the Cowboys' focus. I'll be curious to see how Missouri responds after blowing a 12-0 lead after three quarters. Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, Missouri 24
Texas A&M at Kansas State: This is the start of a stretch where A&M plays four of its next five on the road. The Aggies lost a close one to Oklahoma State last week. But my bet is they rebound here. Kansas State is struggling, and the Aggies need this win (and a few others) to get to a bowl game. That's plenty of motivation here. Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Kansas State 13
Baylor at Iowa State: We'll see which quarterback (Blake Szymanski or Nick Florence) gets the start for Baylor. But the Bears face a tough foursome after Saturday -- Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas -- so this is one they really need. The Bears are three-point underdogs, but I'm going to take Baylor in the upset. Even in losing to Oklahoma, Baylor did enough things right to feel good about themselves heading into this game. Prediction: Baylor 17, Iowa State 14
Navy at SMU: The Mustangs will actually have real Mustangs on the field as part of the gameday scene. And both teams will play for the Frank Gansz trophy, honoring the special teams coach that had ties to both schools. But Navy's triple-option is very difficult to defend (ask Rice, which gave up 471 yards), and the Midshipmen just have too much. Prediction: Navy 38, SMU 24
Florida Atlantic at North Texas: The Mean Green are an improved team, but they are learning how to win and finish games. Turnovers and penalties were costly in blowing a 10-point lead to Louisiana-Lafayette last week. Look for North Texas to bounce back. Penalties and turnovers are correctable mistakes. You can bet coach Todd Dodge and his staff spent time on that this week. Prediction: North Texas 31, Florida Atlantic 28
Colorado State at TCU: For those worried about the Horned Frogs looking ahead to next week's game at BYU, a quick refresher: TCU barely escaped against Colorado State last year. Few coaches are better at using that kind of result as motivation than Gary Patterson. And while TCU hasn't blown too many teams out, they'll be ready for the Rams. Prediction: TCU 35, Colorado State 14