Dallas Colleges: Louisiana-monroe Warhawks
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.
I'll be here for all of it, so feel free to follow along on Twitter. I'll have some thoughts on the Big 12 Blog after it's all over with.
The last time the Big 12 played a regular-season game on a Friday night? Iowa State stormed the field at Jack Trice Stadium after knocking previously undefeated Oklahoma State out of the national-championship race.
The two other Friday-night games last season were fantastic, too. On Sept. 2, Baylor lost a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead to TCU before regaining it and kicking a game-winning field goal in the final minutes as RG3 kicked off his Heisman campaign with five touchdown passes and went up the road for an appearance on "College GameDay" the next morning.
A week later, Missouri rallied on the road against Arizona State before losing in overtime. A week later in the next Big 12 Friday-nighter, Iowa State went on the road and beat Connecticut thanks for a fourth-quarter comeback led by Steele Jantz.
The stage is set.
A couple quick notes before the game:
- Baylor flew in to Monroe, La., for tonight's game only a few hours ago. It's an unorthodox approach. You don't see teams travel to game sites on the day of the game very often. Ultimately, I think this is a non-story, but if the Bears lose as seven-point favorites, expect it to suddenly be a hot topic in Waco next week. And yes, I think that's stupid, but it's going to happen. That said, I think Baylor takes care of business tonight and does so in somewhat convincing fashion. I picked the Bears to win, 41-28.
- Baylor will be wearing its all-black uniforms for the second time in three games this season. The Bears debuted them in the Sunday night, season-opening win vs. SMU, and they're back this week. I had heard rumors of a matte-black helmet, but BU will be wearing its traditional gold helmets with its untraditional jerseys.
Coverage starts at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Tune in. I'll be tweeting along all night, so follow me if you dare.
Well, 7-1 is not a bad week. Kudos to the SMU Mustangs, who proved me wrong and beat Tulsa on the road. That was a big win that puts them just two victories away from a bowl game, their first since 1984.
Shoutout to Ponyup53, who did have SMU winning. Also, GMoose816 and iruletheskool questioned how I could predict three TDs for Baylor. Well, I just decided to take a chance and thought maybe special teams would play a part in that one. I was wrong. They scored 10 points, as GMoose816 predicted. Nice job there. Oh, and yes, bradlane6, I did get on the field as a member of the marching band. That's nothing to be ashamed about
Onto this week's picks:
Central Florida at Texas: After moving the Texas Tech game to earlier in the year, this comes at a great time for the Longhorns. They are through that tough four-game stretch and remain in position to play for the national title. All they have to do is win. That shouldn't be a problem against George O'Leary's Central Florida team. I can't see Texas looking past this game. Prediction: Texas 48, UCF 6
Texas A&M at Colorado: After losing by the stunning score of 62-14 to Kansas State, Texas A&M has managed to turn things around. They crushed Texas Tech in Lubbock and beat Iowa State. They head to Colorado with plenty of momentum and are improving on both sides of the ball. I think Jerrod Johnson has a big day and the Aggies get to six wins. They remain the biggest hurdle left on Texas' schedule between now and the national championship game. Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Colorado 24
Baylor at Missouri: Baylor played better in the second half of last week's 20-10 loss to Nebraska and the Bears talked this week about putting two halves together and playing better from the start. That's not easy to do on the road. I do think the Bears hang in here, but Missouri will have enough at home to get the job done. Prediction: Missouri 21, Baylor 13
Oklahoma State at Iowa State: The Cowboys made plenty of mistakes and couldn't figure out the Texas defense. But the Longhorns defense has done that to a lot of folks this season. I expect a big bounce-back from OSU on Saturday. Mike Gundy will have his team ready and I imagine we'll see a better performance from Zac Robinson, who must forget about last week. Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Iowa State 14
Oklahoma at Nebraska: This should be a fun matchup of good defenses. And it's always fun to watch Nebraka's Ndamukong Suh. But I still think Oklahoma will pull away enough to win this game by 10 or more. I know that they had a big lead and watched Kansas State close that gap considerably last week. I think this one stays close and then the Sooners get a few big plays late. Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Nebraska 13
Rice at SMU: The Mustangs are heavy favorites and they should be. Rice is 0-8 and has been outscored by 245. SMU has a bunch riding on these last four games. If the Mustangs win two of them, they are going bowling. They'll be fired up and should take care of business. I'll be blogging from that game on Saturday, by the way, to see if SMU can get within one win of bowl eligibility. Prediction: SMU 45, Rice 17
Louisiana-Monroe at North Texas: The Mean Green managed to pull out a high-scoring affair with Western Kentucky (we mean really high, as in 68-49) last week and are looking for a third win this season. Louisiana-Monroe is good against the run, sitting at No. 16 in the country. So it will be interesting to see if UNT can gain yards on the ground with Lance Dunbar. La.-Monroe is not as good at defending the pass, so the Mean Green may have to get this done in the air. This is a tough one to pick, but I'll go with the home team. Barely. Prediction: North Texas 27, Louisiana-Monroe 24
TCU at San Diego State: The Frogs better not look past the Aztecs toward next week's home game with Utah. San Diego State is 4-4, but they hung around with BYU before losing by 10 and have won two straight, including a victory at Colorado State. TCU has struggled on the road against the Aztecs the last two trips to San Diego (won by 3 in 2005 and needed to rally from 17 down in the first quarter in 2007). But as has been the case with this TCU team this season, they manage to not get ahead of themselves. I think they get this done, but it won't be any kind of UNLV score from last week. Look for TCU to have success running the ball. That includes plenty of Andy Dalton zone reads too. Prediction: TCU 28, San Diego State 13