Dallas Colleges: Unlv Rebels
UNLV Rebels (7-5) vs. North Texas Mean Green (8-4)
Jan. 1, noon ET, Dallas (ESPNU)
Getting bowl eligible earned Bobby Hauck a three-year contract extension through the 2016 season.
A 7-5 finish now has UNLV playing in the postseason for the first time in 13 years. The Runnin' Rebels will ring in the new year against North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the Cotton Bowl. There they will try to extend the program's postseason unbeaten streak to four.
They can do that thanks to a five-win improvement from last year's 2-11 squad, which has done a good job of containing some of the Mountain West Conference's potent aerial attacks. UNLV ranks first in the MWC in pass defense and fifth in scoring defense, as they finished tied for third in the West Division with a 5-3 record in conference play. -- Matt Fortuna
NORTH TEXAS MEAN GREEN BREAKDOWN
The Mean Green are one of the better defensive teams in the country, allowing only 18.1 points per game, which ranks No. 9 nationally.
They're also No. 6 nationally in preventing touchdowns once teams enter the red zone, allowing them on just 45.5 percent of opponent's red zone trips.
Special teams is also an area of strength for North Texas.
The Mean Green have blocked eight kicks in 2013, and they have one of the country's best return men in Brelan Chancellor. The senior has a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown and ranks 11th in yards per kick return (28.14) and fifth in yards per punt return (16.82).
-- Sam Khan Jr.
They remain at No. 19 in the AP poll and moved up one spot to No. 18 in the coaches poll. The latest BCS rankings will be revealed this evening on ESPN.
To earn an automatic BCS berth, TCU must finish in the top 16 in the BCS rankings, and it still must have Houston, which controls its destiny, lose its final regular-season game at Tulsa next Friday or in the Conference USA title game. Even if the Cougars lose, rising to No. 16 will require plenty of help from the teams ahead of TCU.
Whether at No. 18 or 19 in the BCS standings, the Frogs will have a tough time moving up on their own merit considering their season finale in two weeks is against UNLV. Still, getting to No. 16 is not impossible.
Consider that (rankings are current coaches poll) No. 17 Clemson plays at No. 13 South Carolina, No. 16 Michigan plays host to Ohio State and No. 15 Kansas State plays host to upset-minded Iowa State.
"Followed up on various media reports regarding a potential Mountain West Conference-Conference USA merger, and confirmed that representatives of both leagues did indeed meet yesterday in Colorado Springs. Included were Commissioner Craig Thompson, Commissioner Britton Banowsky (who have a long-standing personal and professional relationship), and a couple MWC Athletics Directors. The informal gathering, which was previously scheduled, covered a wide range of topics, including concepts regarding television, scheduling and the BCS. Yet another example of the Mountain West's ongoing strategic thinking on a number of fronts, as the league continues to position itself in the national landscape."
So the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have apparently put their two brains together and are talking a one-game showdown -- champion vs. champion -- with the winner being granted an automatic BCS berth.
First question: On the surface, it seems ludicrous, so why would the BCS agree to give an automatic bid to a non-automatic-qualifying conference team every year?
Answer: They won't (in my opinion, but let's continue...). Conference USA hasn't sniffed a BCS berth since long-departed Louisville in 2004 and Tulane a dozen years ago. Last season, unranked East Carolina knocked off No. 18 Houston in the C-USA championship game. East Carolina went to the Liberty Bowl and lost to unranked Arkansas, 20-17, and finished with a 9-5 record. Houston came to Fort Worth and got shellacked by unranked Air Force, 47-20, in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish 10-4. Since the 2006 season, no C-USA team has finished with fewer than three losses. In three of those four seasons, the league's best team had four losses. Can you imagine the national outrage had 9-4 East Carolina actually played its way into the BCS by upsetting TCU in a one-game bonanza?
That's reason enough to end this conversation right here, right now ... but, having said that, the one reason the BCS might bend and agree to such a scenario would be to avoid the embarrassment of last season when it had to deal with two BCS-busters and threw TCU and Boise State into the Fiesta Bowl to eat their own. A MWC vs. C-USA playoff would lump 23 teams (assuming today's count for the 2011 season of 11 teams in the MWC and 12 in C-USA -- things can change quickly, like, say Houston switching sides, but the numbers would stay the same) together and immediately lop off 22. No longer would the BCS have to worry about two teams messing things up.
Second question: This is a no-brainer for C-USA, which has never sent a team to a BCS game, but why would the superior MWC want any part of this?
Answer: Last year, TCU and Boise State both crashed the BCS, but two years ago, undefeated Boise State was left to play one-loss TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Would Boise have taken a one-game playoff against the C-USA champ for a shot to play on the big-money stage? Of course. What if TCU and Boise both go undefeated this season? One scenario: Boise gets the BCS bid and unbeaten TCU is invited to the Las Vegas Bowl. Gary Patterson has worked too hard to elevate TCU to a national platform to just give unproven C-USA a ticket to the BCS gates, but in the current system, Patterson might figure he has a better shot each year to win his conference and then win one more against the C-USA champ to ensure getting into the BCS rather than depend on BCS calculations to determine his team's fate.
Also, this would eliminate the undefeated-or-forget-it situation that now exists in the non-automatic-qualifer conferences, easing pressure on TCU and Boise State and the others to sweep their non-conference schedules, typically highlighted by two to three tough matchups against major-conference schools (TCU plays Oregon State and Baylor this season; Boise plays Virginia Tech and Oregon State). A loss in September wouldn't end all BCS hope as it does now.
The MWC and C-USA are also looking toward the future. Although the superconference model didn't come to fruition this summer, nobody is shortsighted enough to believe the Big 12 is stable and the Big Ten and SEC won't seek to expand. When and if superconferences emerge, schools in the MWC and C-USA won't hold their breath for an invite, and that includes TCU. Arranging this championship game would possibly ensure a spot in the BCS when the landscape again changes.
Third question: Would such a championship game generate more money for the two conferences?
Answer: How much is debatable. Surely, ESPN would pay for an elimination game, but it certainly wouldn't rank up there with, say, the attractiveness and popularity of the SEC championship game. And, revenue generated from a championship game would seemingly have to be split among the 23 teams, further watering down the profit margin.
Alternate solution: Merge. Let's say the Mountain West bids farewell to New Mexico, Wyoming and San Diego State (WAC, anyone?) and moves forward with eight -- TCU, BYU, Boise, Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada and UNLV -- and invites four from C-USA -- Houston, Memphis, Tulsa and maybe Southern Miss for a 12-team conference with a championship game. That's not bad football to take to ESPN and other networks to hammer out a more lucrative TV deal than either conference has now. It's also a stonger product than either can currently take to the BCS for eventual automatic inclusion.
The source said that even though it appears 95 percent certain that an exodus to the Pac-10 is just days away, an internal debate at Texas continues regarding the merits of sticking with a 10-team Big 12.
The Big 12 has been told that a new TV deal, while it wouldn't be as lucrative as if Nebraska remained, would still be considerable, enough to pay out substantially more than the current deal in part because there would be 10 teams instead of 12 to divide revenue. Also, by staying in the Big 12, Texas would remain as the ultimate power broker and could continue with a plan to create its own TV network, something it won't pursue as a member of the Pac-10, which figures to establish a conference network like the Big Ten.
This outcome is obviously favored by the Big 12 North schools and Baylor.
But, if Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State break away, the source said the remaining five schools -- Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor -- could attempt to reconstitute the Big 12 by adding the top teams from the Mountain West -- TCU, BYU, Utah, Air Force and perhaps newly acquired Boise State --plus schools from Conference-USA and even a school such as Louisville out of the Big East, a conference that could soon be facing an uncertain future of its own.
The source said "several teams" have already initiated contact with the Big 12 about such a scenario if the league splits as expected.
The idea behind a rebuilt Big 12 assumes that the league would retain its status as a BCS conference, which grants an automatic bid to lucrative BCS bowl games. That would be an enticing scenario for the Mountain West teams. The MWC is in position to become a BCS conference, but not for another two years once a four-year evaluation period expires.
In the ever-changing college landscape and with the potential for four super-conferences on the horizon, schools are looking out for their best interests. For those four MWC schools, aligning with Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor presents a stronger long-term viability than the current MWC makeup with Wyoming, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State. It could also be possible that the Big 12 simply absorbs the entire MWC.
The Kansas City Star reported Saturday night that the five remaining Big 12 schools communicated via teleconference earlier in the day to discuss their situation, and Big 12 expansion was among the topics.
Of course, as fluid as the situation is, things can change quickly. If the Pac-10 does expand to 16, the Big Ten and SEC could respond by also growing to 16. In that case, Missouri could land in the Big Ten.
The Big East and the ACC could be in store for major changes as both conferences would figure to be raided in the expansion process.
One potential road block for a Big 12/MWC merger is a perceived dislike and distrust between TCU and Baylor dating back to the breakup of the SWC and the creation of the Big 12. Of course, Baylor was granted membership while TCU was left to fend for itself. However, TCU athletic Chris Del Conte Saturday night said TCU and Baylor "absolutely" could co-exist as conference members. The two schools continue a series in football this season at TCU.
Del Conte contradicted a report on Saturday that TCU would seek to block Baylor's inclusion into the MWC, if the MWC sought to expand by adding the remaining Big 12 teams. Del Conte said he spoke to Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw on Saturday.
"That did not come from myself or the chancellor or anyone associated with TCU," Del Conte said of the report.
As realignment continues to swirl, it might not be Baylor looking to join TCU, but rather TCU -- and friends --moving into the Big 12.
However, there are certainly no guarantees.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self saw this coming, the day when Jayhawks hoops, one of the three premiere college basketball programs in America, would compete for conference championships with Utah, BYU, TCU Air Force and San Diego State.
As coach Self knows all too well, basketball is great, but football pays the bills and cold, hard cash (as in fat football TV contracts) is at the heart of impending conference realignment.
If a Pac-10/Big 12 (South) merger were to go down, Kansas (along with Kansas State and Iowa State) would be left out of the major-conference realignment. Kansas could find itself with little choice but to join the Mountain West Conference.
On Feb. 15, as the Big 12 was headed down the stretch run of what was arguably the legaue's most competitive season from top to bottom, and rivaled the Big East for national supremacy, Self was asked about the rumors of realignment, which at that point were being spearheaded by the Big Ten's stated desire to expand.
"I don't understand all the ins and outs. I would think the Big Ten, with the Big Ten Network and the media markets that they have, naturally would be more of a money-generating league [than the Big 12] from the television aspect of it. But, there's more to it than just the money.
"Having to start new rivalries with people, that would take 40 or 50 years to build and I'm sure it wouldn't be a favorite of the fan base and so many things that go along with it that I don't think it would be positive. But, if the Big Ten were to come after us -- I'm not saying they are, the Pac-10 or any league, because they're not, I don't know anything about it -- that would be something I'd strongly try to fight. There's some things that are inbred with fans and throughout your teams over time that it makes it so special to play certain games and to eliminate those games are in very, very poor taste for so many.
"I do think there is a lot of flirting going on and you certainly understand why people listen, but at the end of the day, I think our league is rock solid."
Self is correct on two of four counts. First, Kansas fans would not be happy dropping its roots rivalries from the Big Eight and newer ones with Texas and Baylor and Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the Big 12 for Colorado State and Wyoming and UNLV and New Mexico in the MWC.
Second, Self is correct, surely to his chagrin, that neither the Big Ten nor the Pac-10 is coming after Kansas.
Now, the two counts Self got wrong? For one, clearly the Big 12 is not rock solid. And, obviously, there's not more to it than just the money.
A shutout in today's world of college football is something to get excited about.
Even if TCU made a few more offensive mistakes than normal in its 41-0 homecoming rout over UNLV on Saturday at Amon Carter Stadium, defensively it got its typical suffocating performance from linebackers Tanner Brock, Tank Carder and the boys.
TCU forced 11 punts and limited the Rebels to 160 yards of offense on 52 plays in recording its 12th straight home victory. That's the third time this season TCU has held an opponent to less than 200 yards. UNLV (3-6, 1-4) never really threatened.
TCU's No. 6 national ranking and 8-0 record are products of a defense that is allowing less than 17 points a game.
Rarely is the TCU defense outflanked, either on wide running plays or by a scrambling quarterback. And the Frogs appear to be one of those teams that know how to tackle in an era when many seem to have forgotten.
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