NCF Nation: WAC

Power rankings: Fresno State has BCS edge

November, 18, 2013
The BCS Selection Process is clear:

The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt Conference (the "non-AQ group") will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

However, no more than one such team from the non-AQ group will earn an automatic berth in any year, unless non-AQ teams finish both No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings. If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS Standings will receive the automatic berth.

This season, No. 15 Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference and No. 16 Northern Illinois of the Mid-American Conference are in prime positions to earn an automatic berth to a BCS Bowl game. Both teams rank in the top 16 of the BCS Standings and are ranked higher than No. 18 UCF, the highest-ranked team in the American Athletic Conference.

Only one non-AQ team will earn an automatic berth, so when evaluating the résumés of these two schools, conference strength is an important factor.

ESPN Stats & Information’s Conference Power Rankings can provide an objective measure of conference depth. According to these rankings, the Mountain West Conference is the strongest non-AQ conference from top to bottom.

The Mountain West has seven teams (out of 12) that are .500 or better, and is 18-8 against non-AQ opponents (including independent and FCS). Unlike other non-AQ conferences, the Mountain West does not have many weak teams.

The lowest ranked team in ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) from the Mountain Conference is No. 106 Air Force. In comparison the MAC and Conference USA each has at least six teams ranked below 106 in the FPI.

However, when looking at the top teams of each conference, the MAC has the most teams (5) and highest percentage of team (38 percent) with at least seven wins. Northern Illinois, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Toledo are all bowl eligible and have at least seven wins.

When comparing Fresno State and Northern Illinois, voters will have to account for the strength of each team’s conference, their out-of-conference schedules and their dominance in their wins. Using ESPN’s new ratings systems, one can see that Northern Illinois has played a tougher schedule, but Fresno State has been more dominant in its games. It is up to the voters to decide which conference they believe is stronger and how much that affects their thinking.

This week, the MAC will be on display on Tuesday and Wednesday with three games on the ESPN family of networks -- Buffalo heads to Miami (OH) on Tuesday (8 ET, ESPNU), Kent State travels to Ohio on Tuesday (8 ET, ESPN2) and Northern Illinois will look to remain unbeaten at Toledo on Wednesday (8 ET, ESPN2). On Thursday and Friday, the Mountain West and Conference USA will have their time in the spotlight as Rice, UAB, UNLV, Air Force and San Jose State are all in action.

Big 12 rises in conference power rankings

October, 28, 2013
A quick refresher: ESPN Stats & Information’s 2013 conference power rankings are based off of a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP poll and ESPN’s new Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, which will be released later this season, click here or here.

The SEC took its largest lead of the season in the ESPN Stats & Information conference power rankings after five of its top six teams won on Saturday, including three wins over non-conference opponents by a combined 112 points.

The SEC is now 38-7 in out-of-conference games (.844 win percentage), which is the best nonconference win percentage of any conference.

Despite two of its top four teams losing on Saturday, the Pac-12 remains the No. 1 conference in the Football Power Index. The Pac-12 has four of the top 10 teams in the FPI, a ratings system that measures overall team efficiency.

However, the SEC has a major edge in the portion of the conference power rankings that measures the AP poll. Six of the top-15 teams in the AP Poll reside in the SEC, three more than in any other conference.

Elsewhere in the rankings, the Big 12 jumped ahead of the ACC for third place this week. Four of the Big 12’s ten teams have one or fewer losses, most of any conference. Baylor and Texas are both unbeaten in conference play, which could result in a de facto Big 12 championship game in the final week of the season.

The top teams in the ACC Coastal division had a rough Saturday. No. 7 Miami needed a last-second touchdown in its win against Wake Forest, then-No. 14 Virginia Tech committed four turnovers and was held scoreless for the first 44:49 in its loss to Duke and Pittsburgh was outscored 17-8 in the fourth quarter in its loss to Navy. These struggles were reflected in the ACC’s rating in the conference power rankings.

Fresno State survived a 35-28 overtime thriller against San Diego State to remain unbeaten. The Bulldogs are carrying the Mountain West Conference in the rankings and have a chance to earn an automatic BCS bowl bid if they remain unbeaten. Similarly, the MAC’s eighth place spot in the rankings is a result of strong starts by Northern Illinois (8-0) and Ball State (8-1).

Next week there are only three matchups between ranked opponents, so look for upsets to have a major impact on rankings.

Video: Schools change conferences

July, 1, 2013

Brett McMurphy discusses the various schools changing conferences Monday.

QBs the story in college football this fall

May, 20, 2013
The 2013 college football season could showcase one of the best college quarterback classes ever. Here are five reasons why:

Each of the top six teams in last season’s final AP poll returns its leading passer. The last time that happened was entering the 1982 season. That 1982 group led to the famed 1983 NFL draft class that boasted six quarterbacks chosen in the first round -- including Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

Each of the top five and 10 of the top 11 quarterbacks in terms of passing efficiency return to school. In all, seven players with a passing efficiency of at least 160 last season are coming back, more than in the previous three seasons combined.

This class is expected to produce a number of NFL starting quarterbacks. Four of Todd McShay’s top 15 prospects in the 2014 draft are quarterbacks (Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Alabama’s AJ McCarron).

Yet, showing how deep this class is, Brock Huard ranks Georgia's Aaron Murray, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Ohio State's Braxton Miller ahead of either McCarron or Manziel on his quarterback draft board.

The SEC is in prime shape to win its eighth straight national title with 11 of 14 starting quarterbacks from last season returning to school. Among the 11 are the starters of the top three teams in each division including Manziel, Murray and McCarron.

Last season, Manziel set the SEC record for total offense with 5,116 yards. Murray is on pace to set conference records for most career passing yards and total offense, and McCarron is the two-time BCS national champion.

The SEC isn’t the only conference returning elite quarterbacks. The Big Ten, Mountain West and MAC each return their first- and second-team quarterbacks from last season. So would Conference USA and the WAC if realignment hadn’t altered those conferences. The Big 12 is the only conference that doesn’t return either its first- or second-team quarterback.

Among the returnees, Boyd could challenge the ACC record for total offense in a career, Troy’s Corey Robinson is on pace to shatter the Sun Belt’s career record for total offense, and Jordan Lynch returns after leading Northern Illinois to its first ever BCS bowl game last season.

Instant Analysis: SJSU 29, BGSU 20

December, 27, 2012

San Jose State capped one of the best seasons in school history with a 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Here’s a closer look at how the Spartans improved to 11-2:

It was over when: SJSU running back De'Leon Eskridge scored on a 1-yard run with 2:34 left in the game. The senior’s touchdown run made it a two-possession game, essentially cementing the win for the Spartans.

How the game was won: As Bowling Green tried to mount a game-winning drive, SJSU defensive end Travis Johnson, the 2012 WAC Defensive Player of the Year, used a terrific speed rush to force a fumble, which Keith Smith recovered. Eskridge scored four plays later to put the game away.

Turning point: After Bowling Green scored to take the 20-19 lead early in the fourth quarter, SJSU quarterback David Fales led his squad right down the field with an 11-play, 68-yard drive to regain the lead with a 27-yard field goal from Austin Lopez. The Spartans never trailed again.

Game ball goes to: Fales. SJSU’s junior quarterback was 33-of-43 for 395 yards with two touchdowns as the Spartans offense came up with key plays when it needed them. Three different Spartan receivers caught six passes or more as Fales spread the ball around to attack BGU’s defense. The Spartans, who finished with minus-17 rushing yards, put the game on Fales' shoulders. And he delivered.

Unsung hero: Noel Grigsby. The Spartans junior receiver was tough to cover throughout the game, finishing with nine receptions for 134 yards. He’ll join Fales to give SJSU a terrific quarterback-receiver duo to build its offense around in 2013.

Stat of the game: 3.4. While Fales will get plenty of praise for his performance, the Spartans defense was outstanding. They allowed just 3.4 yards per play to Bowling Green, who finished with 238 total yards on 71 plays.

What both teams learned: Maybe they should have spent more time working on special teams during their Military Bowl preparation. Each team blocked a punt, Bowling Green punter Brian Schmiedebusch had two punts of fewer than 20 yards and San Jose State punter Harrison Waid ended up in the hospital before the game was over after taking a hit on his first punt attempt. "Special" is not a word that should be used to describe either squad’s punt team.

What it means: San Jose State secures a Top 25 ranking and its first 11-win season since 1940 and heads into the offseason with plenty of momentum. The Spartans will join the Mountain West Conference in 2013 and play their first season under new head coach Ron Caragher, who replaces Mike MacIntyre after the former SJSU coach left for Colorado earlier this month.

No. 22 Utah State capped off a terrific season with a 41-15 victory over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho on Saturday. The Aggies finished the season 11-2 with their lone losses, to BYU and Wisconsin, by a combined five points. Here’s how the WAC champion Aggies knocked off Toledo, who finished 9-4 overall, 6-2 in the MAC.

How the game was won: Toledo made three trips to the red zone in the second half but scored just three points. Utah State got an interception, forced a turnover on downs and forced Toledo to settle for a field goal while protecting a 13-6 lead in the second half.

It was over when: USU running back Kerwynn Williams galloped 63 yards for a game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. After fumbling on the Aggies’ previous possession, Williams made up for his mistake, using a combination of patient running, vision, strength and speed on his long touchdown run. Williams’ touchdown gave Utah State its first double digit lead, 20-9, with 6:57 left in the game.

Game ball goes to: Williams. The senior finished with 18 carries for 229 yards and three touchdowns. Williams’ dynamic day included two fourth-quarter runs of 50 yards or more. His combination of speed and strength proved too much for the Rockets defense in the final 15 minutes. He had seven carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: 11.2. That’s the average yard per rush for Utah State. The Aggies offensive line did a terrific job controlling the trenches, allowing Aggie ball carriers to break game-altering runs. In addition to William’s long runs, quarterback Chuckie Keeton scored the first touchdown of the game on a 62-yard run in the first quarter. USU finished with 31 carries for 347 yards and five touchdowns.

Turning point: Toledo lost running back David Fluellen and linebacker Dan Molls, two of their top players, to injuries during the game. Molls entered the game with 166 tackles but left the game after taking a blow to the head on the opening kickoff and Fluellen, who rushed for 1,460 yards this season, left with a ankle injury in the first half. Those losses handcuffed the Rockets on both sides of the ball throughout the contest as Toledo was forced to move standout receiver Bernard Reedy to the backfield at various times with Fluellen out of the game and the Aggies ran all over the Rocket defense with Molls sidelined.

Unsung hero: Keeton. Williams’ terrific fourth quarter overshadowed the Aggies quarterback, who passed for 227 yards and rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown. He managed the game terrifically through three quarters, protecting the ball and the lead to allow USU’s offensive line to wear down the Rockets in the final quarter.

Potato Bowl keys

December, 15, 2012
Three things to watch in today’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl between Toledo and Utah State:

1. Offense vs. defense: Which is better -- an explosive offense or a stifling defense? Toledo comes in averaging 456.1 yards and 32.9 points per game. The Rockets have playmakers at running back and receiver, and their offensive line was one of the best in the Mid-American Conference this season. That matchup with Utah’s front seven on defense will be one to watch. The Aggies rank 15th nationally in total defense, allowing 322.7 yards per game, and were especially stingy in the red zone. They’re fourth nationally in red zone defense and allowed just 13 touchdowns in 39 trips by opponents inside their 20-yard line.

2. Ball hawking: Utah State cornerback Will Davis is one of the best stories in college football. He enters the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl having intercepted a pass in five straight games and will be critical in helping to shut down Toledo’s big-play receiver, Bernard Reedy. Davis started his career at Division II Western Washington and played only one year of high school football. He’s been invited to play in the Senior Bowl. His ability to lock down one side of the field and play man coverage provides the Aggies with a lot of flexibility on defense. Davis leads the country with 21 passes defended.

3. Running to glory: Both teams have running backs capable of dictating the flow of the game, so it might be a race to see who can get their guy going the quickest. Toledo’s David Fluellen is the centerpiece of the Rockets’ offense. He has rushed for 1,460 yards this season and hit the 200-yard mark in three games. He missed the last game, against Akron, with an ankle injury, but should be rested and healthy for this game. His Utah State counterpart, Kerwynn Williams, is 11th nationally in all-purpose yardage (163 yards per game). He has rushed for 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns and leads the team with 43 catches for 663 yards and five touchdowns. Williams has five touchdowns of 50 yards or longer this season.

Pregame: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

December, 15, 2012
Toledo (9-3, 6-2 MAC) vs. Utah State (10-2, 6-0 WAC)

WHO TO WATCH: Toledo receiver Bernard Reedy. The speedy junior stepped in for record-setting Eric Page this season as the Rockets’ go-to receiver and carved out a mighty impressive season of his own. Five-foot-9, 175-pound Reedy has 82 catches for 1,051 yards and six touchdown receptions. When he’s not catching touchdowns, he’s returning them. Reedy has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 91-yarder in the 29-23 win against Cincinnati, and he also has returned a punt for a touchdown.

WHAT TO WATCH: Toledo coach Matt Campbell has indicated he plans to use both of his quarterbacks in this game. Junior Terrance Owens missed the regular-season finale against Akron with an ankle injury, and senior Austin Dantin stepped in and passed for 327 yards and five touchdowns. Owens had been the starter for 10 games this season until his injury. Both guys will get their chances, and Campbell likely will go with whoever has the hot hand. Either way, the Rockets have responded to both quarterbacks.

WHY TO WATCH: Utah State could easily be unbeaten right now. The Aggies lost 16-14 to Wisconsin on a missed field goal as time expired and dropped a 6-3 decision at BYU. They’ve won 15 of their past 18 dating to last season and are riding a six-game winning streak. They don’t have much of a track record in bowl games, though, and have won only one bowl game in their history -- and that was back in 1993 against Ball State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Utah State enters this game ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press poll. A win against Toledo would assure the Aggies of their first Top 25 ranking in the final polls in 40 years.

PREDICTION: Utah State 34, Toledo 20. Campbell is no stranger to this stage. He stepped in at the last minute a year ago when Tim Beckman left for the Illinois job and led Toledo to a 42-41 win against Air Force in the Military Bowl. Utah State would like to forget the disappointment of last season in this same bowl, when the Aggies fell 24-23 to Ohio. Thanks to the Aggies' rock-solid defense, they’ll be able to do so, and reward coach Gary Andersen for his loyalty with only the second bowl victory in Utah State history.

3-point stance: Shaw talks Alavarez

December, 11, 2012
1. Stanford coach David Shaw said on the recruiting trail this weekend that he doesn’t foresee Wisconsin being much different with head coach Barry Alvarez in charge instead of the departed Bret Bielema. He has no plans to dig up Alvarez’s coaching tendencies from a decade ago. “He actually spoke at a couple of events I went to early in my career,” Shaw said. “I just know he’s going to make sure they make smart, sound decisions. He’s a veteran coach. He knows what he’s doing.”

2. Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Monday that the best benefit of practicing at a fast pace is the mental acuity his defense develops. “Football is such a communication sport now,” O’Brien said. “Guys have to communicate quickly. They have to communicate under pressure and in loud stadiums, with either verbal communication or hand signals or eye contact. Practicing that way really helps your football team.”

3. The miracles that Mike MacIntyre performed in taking San Jose State from 1-12 in 2010, his first season, to 10-2 this year, pale before the task he agreed to undertake at Colorado. The Buffs haven’t had a winning record in since 2005. But MacIntyre will have resources (read: money) in Boulder that he never had in San Jose. He also can recruit to the Pac-12 Conference. Another big selling point for Colorado: The Spartans had an Academic Progress Rate of 981. MacIntyre, who came to San Jose State from Duke, coaches academics, too.

Military Bowl

December, 2, 2012
San Jose State Spartans (10-2) vs. Bowling Green Falcons (8-4)

Dec. 27, 3 p.m., Washington, D.C. (ESPN)

San Jose State take by SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: SJSU has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, going 10-2 with losses at Stanford and Utah State. The Spartans opened eyes with their 20-17 season-opening loss to the Cardinal and won six straight games to end the season.

The Spartans bring a lethal passing attack to Washington, D.C., led by receiver Noel Grigsby, who finished with 73 receptions for 1,173 yards and nine touchdowns. He had back-to-back 100-yard games in wins over BYU and Louisiana Tech to end the regular season.

Worried about SJSU on the East Coast? The Spartans have a road win in all four time zones this season, including a 12-0 shutout of Navy in Annapolis, Md., on Sept. 29. It’s been a record-setting season for SJSU, which finished the regular season ranked No. 24 in the coaches and AP polls.

Bowling Green take by WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings: Bowling Green wasn’t the most effective offensive team in the MAC this season. The Falcons finished 10th in scoring offense and 11th in total offense and were led by a quarterback that somehow accounted for nearly 2,500 yards in the air despite a 56 percent completion mark and 12 interceptions.

But the Falcons got it done on defense.

They finished seventh in the FBS in total defense (289.7 yards per game) and ninth in the FBS in scoring defense (15.8 points per game). The mid-major quietly worked its way through the MAC, finishing second in the East Division.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones led the way for BGSU, recording 19 tackles for a loss and he accounted for a conference-high 12.5 sacks. The senior was named the MAC’s defensive player of the year, the fourth player in program history to be given the award.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Toledo Rockets (9-3) vs. Utah State Aggies (10-2)

Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. ET, Boise, Idaho (ESPN)

Toledo take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Toledo made its first-ever appearance in the BCS standings at No. 25 on Nov. 4. That followed eight straight wins by the Rockets, including a 29-23 upset over then-No. 21 Cincinnati on Oct. 20.

Back-to-back November losses to Ball State and Northern Illinois by a touchdown apiece prevented Toledo from playing for the MAC title. But it was still a highly successful debut for first-year head coach Matt Campbell, who took over when Tim Beckman left for Illinois. The Rockets are led on offense by Doak Walker Award semifinalist David Fluellen, who is No. 8 nationally in rushing with 1,460 yards. On defense, linebacker Dan Molls leads the FBS with 166 tackles.

Utah State take by WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings:In the 114 years that Utah State has had a football program, it had never won 10 games in a season.

Until now.

With their perfect 6-0 conference record, Utah State secured the WAC title outright behind fourth-year coach Gary Andersen, who has become one of the bigger up-and-coming names in FBS football. Now, with his team full of players he has recruited, the Aggies have put together one of the most successful seasons in program history.

While Utah State had an all-around impressive team, though its defense seems to be where it hung its hat. The Aggies had the eighth-best scoring defense in the FBS.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5) vs. Arizona Wildcats (7-5)

Dec. 15, 1 p.m. ET, Albuquerque, N.M. (ESPN)

Nevada take from RecruitingNation blogger David Helman: Unlike in 2010, Nevada's upset bid against Mountain West rival Boise State fell just short in Reno. The 27-21 loss capped off a 1-4 finish that saw the Wolf Pack drop from 6-1 to 7-5.

The rushing attack that gained so much notoriety under Colin Kaepernick was at full throttle once again in 2012, as the Wolf Pack boasted the nation's No. 7 rushing attack with 260 yards per game. The bulk of that went to junior running back Stefphon Jefferson, who rushed for 1,703 yards and 22 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo added 981 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground to go with an efficient 2,530 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air.

A scoring defense ranked among the worst in the sport is going to be the big regret for this Wolf Pack team. Boise State's 27 points were the lowest output by an opponent in Nevada's losses. The Wolf Pack defense allowed 32, 39, 48 and 52 points in their other four setbacks.

Arizona take by Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: Arizona had an up-and-down season, one that featured some impressive wins.

The first four losses came to ranked teams. That was justifiable. But losing the finale at home to rival Arizona State quashed some of the momentum built up in new coach Rich Rodriguez's first year.

Still, this team, which entered the season with a highly questionable defense found ways to win -- mostly because of its high-powered offense. Senior QB Matt Scott took to Rodriguez's spread-option attack with aplomb, and running back Ka'Deem Carey finished second in the nation in rushing.

First, there was a fast start. The Wildcats started 3-0 with wins over Toledo -- it looked better as the season went on -- and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats went to Oregon with high hopes, but were stomped 49-0. They then lost in overtime at Stanford 54-48, but that was double what any other Cardinal foe would score against the conference's best defense.

Arizona then posted impressive wins over Washington and USC. The Wildcats were in the South Division race, which meant they had Rose Bowl hopes. But those mostly died at UCLA after a shocking 66-10 defeat.

The Wildcats bounced back with consecutive wins over Colorado and Utah, but the home loss to Arizona State in the season-finale leaves Arizona needing a bowl win to head into the offseason feeling good about itself.

Big East season ends with a whimper

November, 26, 2012
Those were the days, my friends.

The heady days of October.

When the Big East was the early talk of the first BCS standings. Three ranked teams -- more than the ACC and Big Ten combined -- showed tangible proof the perception of this league was all wrong. The Big East came to play football. A statement had to be made.

A little over a month later, and, well, those days are now but a distant memory. Rather than finishing the season with a flourish, the Big East is finishing with a whimper.

[+] EnlargeKyle Flood
Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoRutgers coach Kyle Flood says his team is focused on facing Louisville in the Big East championship game on Thursday night (7:35 ET, ESPN).
No teams are ranked in the latest BCS Top 25.

The two best teams in the league -- Louisville and Rutgers -- are going into their de facto championship game with losses. Bad losses. What was supposed to be a defining moment for the Big East has turned into a dud, no matter the spin.

"I don’t concern myself with the luster of the game," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said Monday. "When you get to the end of the season and you have two teams that are playing each other and the winner of the game has an opportunity to go to a BCS game, what you have is the closest thing to a conference championship game you can have. I can’t speak to any outside perception, but on our campus they’re excited about the game and in the Hale Center we’re really excited about the game Thursday night."

While it is true the winner will end up in the BCS game, the way the Big East has fallen the last two weeks could very well be a preview of what is to come.

There are a whopping five teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences ranked ahead of the Big East in the latest BCS standings: two each from the MAC and WAC.

Kent State, at No. 17, has a shot to make it to a BCS game -- thanks to the lackluster Big East. With a win Friday over Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, the Golden Flashes would more than likely finish in the top 16, triggering an automatic bid because they would be ranked higher than the Big East champion.

Remember, the Big East only has an automatic berth this season and next. In the future playoff system, the highest ranked team among the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and MAC would get into one of the elite-level bowl games automatically. So if the same scenario plays out in 2014, the Big East would be on the outside looking in.

Not even incoming member Boise State would save the Big East -- the Broncos are ranked below Kent State this week.

Now look at the latest conference power rankings from ESPN Stats & Information. The Big East -- once ranked ahead of the ACC and barely behind the Big Ten -- is No. 8 this week, behind the WAC and MAC.

The hard truth is, nobody in the Big East can really talk trash about the MAC, given the head-to-head results this year. Kent State beat Rutgers; Toledo beat Cincinnati; Ball State beat USF and Western Michigan beat UConn. In fact, Kent State and Toledo ended up handing their Big East opponents their first losses on the season in consecutive weeks toward the end of October, beginning the slow unraveling that has brought us to today.

So what to make of the season now? A year that started with a bold statement has ended with a thud. Most everybody agreed for the Big East to make 2012 different from all the rest, there had to be a clear separation between top and bottom. Now, the very real possibility exists that instead of having one conference champion, the Big East could have four.

There is no question Thursday night is still a big day for the Big East. A BCS berth is on the line. The winner will more than likely finish ranked in the final BCS Top 25.

But it could have been so much bigger, and so much more captivating had Rutgers and Louisville not fallen flat Saturday.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said a couple of weeks back that another round of conference realignment could be coming, as schools try to get in position for a proposed four-team college football playoff.

The goal of a move, of course, would be for schools to capitalize financially and academically. Yet an examination of prior moves shows financial gain is not necessarily a given (see table below).

The last time college football saw a major shift in conference alignment was when 16 schools moved from one FBS conference to another in 2004 and 2005. The majority of schools joined their new conferences in 2005, with only Miami and Virginia Tech making the move in 2004. The shifts:

Big East to ACC: Boston College, University of Miami, Virginia Tech

Conference USA to Big East: Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida

Mid-American Conference to Conference USA: Central Florida, Marshall

Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA: Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP

Conference USA to Mountain West: TCU

Sun Belt to Western Athletic Conference: Idaho, Utah State, New Mexico State

Comparing NCAA financial disclosures filed the year before each public school shifted conferences to the same disclosures for the 2010-11 school year shows a majority of schools had revenue growth that outpaced FBS schools on average. From 2004-05 to 2010-11, public FBS schools overall on average saw operating revenue increase by 58 percent. For the 10 public universities that changed conferences in 2004-05, that number was 81 percent.

Mission accomplished with the moves, right? Not so fast.

(Read full post)

Scott Thomas was a star safety at the Air Force Academy, helping lead the Falcons to one of their best seasons in 1985.

Six years later, Thomas was trying to stay alive as a pilot during Desert Storm, after his F-16 jet developed engine problems over Iraq. Thomas safely ejected and was rescued by Army special forces as they took on enemy fire.

A star safety and kick returner for the Falcons, Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot on Tuesday.

In 1985, Thomas helped guide the Falcons to a 12-1 record and No. 5 ranking in the final coaches' poll. Thomas intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown, and also returned a punt and kickoff for scores in 1985. He became the first player in NCAA history to return an interception, punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns in the same season and also had 89 tackles.

Thomas, a native of San Antonio, Texas, capped off his football career by helping the Falcons defeat Texas 24-16 in the Bluebonnet Bowl. He wanted to play football for the Longhorns coming out of John Jay High School. When the Longhorns failed to offer him a scholarship, he accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy.

Thomas was named All-America in 1985 and also was named MVP of the 1984 Independence Bowl, helping lead Air Force to a 23-7 victory over Virginia Tech. He helped guide the Falcons to a 38-12 record from 1982-85, the best four-year mark in the program's history.

Thomas retired from the Air Force in 2000.