NCF Nation: Army

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Toward the end of his weekly news conference, Brian Kelly was asked questions on his opponent's offense: Is Air Force even really an option team? How much option do the Falcons actually run?

"That might be true in Troy's eyes," Kelly responded to the first question, speaking about Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. "But let me tell you what, if you fall asleep for one second on his offensive scheme, and that being the triple option and veer option, you're gonna be in big trouble. So I think what he does very, very well offensively is he forces you defensively to be ready for triple option, and when you are so committed to triple option, he's running the zone play at you. And his ability to morph back into either one of those, if the defense is overplaying one scheme or the other."

[+] EnlargeTim Jefferson
Evan Habeeb/US PresswireTim Jefferson has close to 500 yards passing and more then 200 yards rushing through four games.
In layman's terms, Notre Dame's opponent Saturday is not an option team as much as it is a team that likes to run the option.

But just how complex is Air Force's offense? If public discourse is an accurate measurement, then plenty.

Kelly fielded 51 questions on Tuesday, and 15 centered around Air Force's offense, including the first six.

The difference in Air Force's offense and schemes jump out when comparing it to Navy, a traditional option team that the Falcons beat Saturday in a 35-34 overtime contest. The Midshipmen ran for 367 yards in a 35-17 rout of the Fighting Irish last season in East Rutherford, N.J.

"There's many more pieces in the Air Force offense," Kelly said when asked to compare and contrast the offenses of the two military academies. "They're gonna run some traditional zone, inside/outside zone, they're gonna run some power, some gap. You're not gonna get any of that from Navy, whereas you're gonna get a balance in terms of what you'll have to defend.

"[Air Force quarterback Tim] Jefferson is obviously a guy that can throw the ball very well, and so the receiving corps, it's not off of play-action or crack-and-go, it's a comprehensive passing game. So this incorporates a lot of principles, so quite different in that respect."

The Falcons offense lines up in a variety of different formations, including the shotgun and spread, giving Jefferson more time to read defenses.

The senior quarterback has completed 70 percent of his passes (33-of-47) for 493 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, and he has been sacked just once. Air Force ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency.

Kelly called facing Jefferson "a nightmare," thanks in large part to all of the different looks Calhoun can throw at defenses.

"You have to look at how the defense is playing," Kelly said. "If the defense is all out set for triple option, he's not gonna run much of it. He's gonna run zone, he's gonna run lead, he's gonna throw the football. So if you're running a middle-of-the-field alley player who's set for option, you're not gonna see much of it. They're gonna throw the football and they're gonna run the zone.

"So that's really where he has a great scheme here, is that he sets what he does based upon what the defense shows."

Oddly enough, Air Force ranks 116th in the nation in time of possession, at 24 minutes, 55 seconds per game, though that likely speaks more to its offensive efficiency.

"They're running the ball effectively, getting tons of yardage, and then getting the opportunity to throw the ball over your head," Kelly said. "So consequently the time of possession's down a little bit. I would say that it's not attributed to their inability to put points on the board. I think that's the most important stat."

Kelly said Tuesday the Irish got away from who they were last season against Navy before re-gaining their physical edge four weeks later in a 27-3 rout of Army, another option team.

Maintaining that nature, specifically in the trenches, is something Kelly hopes to see from his team this Saturday.

"I think what I'm trying to say is that I don't want to get away from who we're becoming, and that is a team that's playing really physical," Kelly said. "I don't think you jump into the sixth week and all of a sudden now you stand up and you take a step back.

"I think we keep charging. I think we keep doing what we've been doing. Certainly we have to be aware of option and the responsibilities. It's an extremely multifaceted offense. But we've gotta be who we are, and that is being physical on both sides of the ball."

Non-AQ Picks, Week 10

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 9 were decent, and I got my upset special right. Tulsa beat Notre Dame to help me get to 7-3. Should have known Western Kentucky might have a letdown after its first win since 2008.

With a 57-37 overall record, bring on Week 10.

Drumroll please: No. 3 TCU 24, No. 5 Utah 21. Yes, I know Utah has a 21-game home winning streak. Yes, I know TCU is 0-3 in Utah. But I am picking the Horned Frogs for two reasons: 1. I think the defense is better. 2. I think Andy Dalton and his experience will be a big key. These teams are so evenly matched, turnovers could make a difference. Utah has struggled until recently in creating them. TCU is at plus-5. Utah is at minus-1 in turnover margin. For more on my pick, check out my prediction video on this game later today.

No. 4 Boise State 38, Hawaii 23. The Warriors will give the Broncos a test with their passing offense. The Boise State secondary has to step up and prove it is not a weak link on this defense. In the end, Boise State will get enough pressure on Bryant Moniz to throw him off rhythm, and Kellen Moore will be able to make enough plays to help the Broncos win.

No. 23 Nevada 35, Idaho 17. Nevada got back on track last week on offense in a win over Utah State. But coach Chris Ault had some choice words for his defense, which gave up 42 second-half points after shutting the Aggies out in the first two periods. “We stunk up the field and played with absolutely no sense of urgency,” Ault said. That should be corrected against the Vandals, who had 14 penalties for 152 yards and four turnovers in a loss to Hawaii last week.

Air Force 28, Army 21. The Falcons have hit a bit of a rough stretch, losing three straight. All three were to bowl-eligible teams, including No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Utah. Army is putting together its best season since 1996, but the Falcons have the edge in this game because their triple option offense is better. They gave Utah all it could handle last week, but had five turnovers. If Air Force wins, it gets the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the first time since 2002.

UCF 27, Houston 17 (Friday night). This is going to be a grind-it-out game between two teams that are relying on running the ball. But the difference here is UCF will be able to run on Houston, which ranks No. 98 in the country in run defense. Ronnie Weaver has emerged, and is coming off a career night. Bryce Beall, Houston’s leading rusher, is banged up and his status is in question for the game. UCF has the best defense in Conference USA and will be able to slow Houston down.

UPSET SPECIAL: Kent State 21, Temple 20. The Golden Flashes are undefeated at home, and have the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense. That is going to pose a problem for Temple, which relies on Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown to set the tone. Temple has won three straight against MAC bottom feeders, including back-to-back shutouts of Akron and Buffalo (combined two wins). This will be the Owls’ biggest challenge since losing to Northern Illinois on Oct. 9.

UPSET SPECIAL II: Navy 35, East Carolina 27. If you can figure Navy out this year, please raise your hand. The Midshipmen have been on more highs and lows than a yo-yo. But East Carolina is going to have a hard time stopping the run game, and the Navy defense should return to form to get it to six wins and bowl eligibility. Last week was a very uncharacteristic performance from a Navy defense that has generally played well all season.

Troy 35, North Texas 23. Troy has won six of the last seven meetings between the schools, and no longer has any margin for error if it wants to win the Sun Belt. That is because the Trojans lost to ULM last week, their first conference loss in two years. North Texas won last week under interim coach Mike Canales, but Troy has more talent and depth and will be even more motivated to win.

SMU 30, UTEP 20. The Miners are in a tailspin, losing three straight games. Trevor Vittatoe hasn’t been healthy, and he has played erratically because of it. SMU is the stronger team on offense and defense. One more point: Since 2006, the Miners are just 4-15 in November.

Wyoming 33, New Mexico 17. Slim chance for an upset here -- the Lobos are the worst team in America for a reason. Now add in the fact that they could be without starting quarterback B.R. Holbrook and well, this one is looking like another loss. Wyoming has been eliminated from bowl contention, but I’m sure the players don’t want to be the ones to end the New Mexico losing streak.

Lunchtime Links

November, 1, 2010
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The week begins with TCU ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. Will the Horned Frogs stay there after Saturday? We have a week full of previews lined up for you, starting with a look at the TCU D vs. the Utah D.

Now on to some links:

If you have not had a chance to see the Army camo unis from this past weekend, check 'em out.

With a bowl invite in hand, Hawaii has turned its attention to winning the WAC championship. Next up: Boise State.

TCU coach Gary Patterson isn't interested in the latest BCS soap opera that has his team ranked No. 3.

The big week is finally here for Utah.

San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley sprained his ankle against Wyoming but is expected to start against Colorado State this weekend.

Air Force has turned its attention to Army.

Mike Canales might be a good fit at North Texas.

Northern Illinois gets ready for its game against the surging Toledo Rockets next Tuesday.

Tulsa coach Todd Graham said Sunday afternoon that he wanted his players to savor their win against Notre Dame: "I want to keep them on Cloud 9."

Non-AQ Bowl Look

October, 17, 2010
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My bowl projections have been a weekly ritual since before the season began. But now that we are midway through the season, we have a better idea of where teams might end up. Not the right idea, just a better idea.

Given the increasing unpredictability of the landscape from week to week, I am not budging from my choice of Boise State in the BCS national championship game just yet. I still think this year is shaping up to be one in which there will be either one or no undefeated teams from power conferences. I have no idea whether an undefeated Boise State would make it in over a one-loss team from a power conference, but because Boise State is ranked so high in the polls this season it could be groundbreaking.

Boise State is as close as it has ever been. I am projecting the Broncos to finish the season undefeated. At best, they are in the national championship game. At worst, they are in a BCS bowl game. I also am projecting TCU to beat Utah and finish undefeated, which I am sure is going to earn me more love notes from Utes fans. Here is where I have everyone else going:

BCS national championship game: Oklahoma vs. Boise State

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. TCU

Liberty Bowl: SMU vs. Kentucky

Armed Forces Bowl: UCF vs. Army

Eagle Bank: Maryland vs. Southern Miss

Hawaii Bowl: UTEP vs. Hawaii

Beef O’Bradys: Cincinnati vs. East Carolina

New Orleans Bowl: Tulsa vs. Middle Tennessee

Little Caesars: ULM* vs. Northern Illinois (*=not enough Big Ten teams eligible)

GMAC Bowl: Temple vs. Troy

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. Idaho

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Washington

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. NC State

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. Fresno State

Kraft Fight Hunger: Arizona State vs. Nevada

Non-AQ Did You Know, Week 6

October, 8, 2010
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Time for a little non-AQ Did you Know, Week 6 style. Thank you to the school and conference public relations departments for these wonderful nuggets.

Arkansas State has scored at least 24 points in each of its first five games, marking the first time since 1995 it has scored 20 or more points in five straight games. The Red Wolves play at North Texas on Saturday.

Wyoming plays at No. 5 TCU, marking the third time in six weeks the Cowboys will be facing a Top-5 team. Wyoming is the only team in the country that will face three Top 5 teams through the first six weeks of the season. The Cowboys played at Texas, then ranked No. 4 on Sept. 11, and faced then-No. 3 Boise State in Laramie on Sept. 18.

Air Force has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter this season. The Falcons have outscored their opponents 54-0 in the fourth quarter through the first five games. Air Force and Oregon are the only teams in the nation that have held their opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter this season.

Quarterback Andy Dalton broke two more TCU passing records in a 27-0 win at Colorado State. Dalton became the Frogs’ career leader in both touchdown passes (50) and pass attempts (1,122). He already holds TCU marks for completions (681) and passing yards (8,364). Dalton broke Max Knake’s former school record of 49 touchdowns, set from 1992-95, with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Young in the fourth quarter.

Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas has thrown for 1,197 yards through five games and is 8 yards shy of the school freshman record for passing yards. Caleb Hanie holds the record with 1,204, set in 2004.

Big home test for Houston this weekend. The Cougars have won a league-record 18 straight home games, the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the NCAA. In 10 of those 18 wins the Cougars have scored 50 or more points. Houston hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.

Marshall senior DE Vinny Curry continues to lead the nation in sacks with eight. He posted two more at Southern Miss last week. Teammate Mario Harvey leads the nation in tackles, averaging 13.0 per game.

Boise State senior kicker Kyle Brotzman is about to become the WAC’s all-time scoring leader. Brotzman has 377 points in 44 games, 18 shy of Hawaii’s Jason Elam, who scored 395 points from 1989-92. Brotzman has made 60-79 field goals and 197-of-199 PATs in his career. He is also second in WAC history in field goals made, 19 shy of Elam’s record.

Winless New Mexico State has not recorded a sack, recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass this season.

Ohio earned its 500th victory in program history last week, improving to 500-519-48 overall, with a 30-17 victory at Eastern Michigan.

In addition to Kent State ranking first in the nation in run defense, the MAC also features three of the top 25 teams in the country in that category. Toledo (95.4 avg.) ranks 13th and Miami (106.8 avg.) ranks 24th.

Army has already reached the end zone more than it did in 12 games in 2009. Army scored 18 offensive touchdowns (13 rush, 5 pass) last season. In the first five games of 2010, the Black Knights have 21 touchdowns, including 18 rushing scores.

Since Kyle Whittingham became head coach at Utah, the Utes are 5-0 coming off regular-season bye weeks.
Navy has a 15-game winning streak over Air Force and Army going into the season, but there is more talk than ever that the record streak could be jeopardy.

Just look at what the service academies are doing as a whole through four weeks of the season. They are a combined 8-3 and off to the best start since 1996. It is no coincidence that was the last time Army was good.

Air Force has been good, but has lost to Navy seven straight times. It is not for a lack of trying. The average margin of victory in those games is 5.7 points a game. Last season, Navy won on a field goal in overtime.

[+] EnlargeTrent Steelman
AP Photo/Matt SlocumQuarterback Trent Steelman has led Army to 3-1 start to the season.
Many believe the Falcons (3-1) are playing better than Navy (2-1) heading into their big game Saturday in Colorado. Perhaps that is why they are nine-point favorites. Air Force was the last service academy to beat Navy, back in 2002. Since then, Navy has won a service-academy record seven straight Commander-In-Chief Trophies and has been utterly dominant.

Air Force and Army are both eager to challenge that dominance this season.

“Even the years we lost we wanted that trophy extremely bad,” said Air Force safety Jon Davis. “Every year, the Commander-In-Chief is always No. 1 on the seniors' priority [list]. That’s a big trophy to get and we look to these games, no matter what the record, no matter who’s doing good. We both have winning records. We both have really good teams.”

For the first time in 14 years, Army (3-1) also has a winning record at this point in the season. In their second year under coach Rich Ellerson, the Black Knights have shown vast improvement after years and years of struggles.

Trent Steelman looks comfortable running the offense, and the defense has been opportunistic, with a plus-9 turnover margin. Army plays Temple this weekend at West Point. Its game against Air Force is not until Nov. 6, and, of course, the finale against Navy is Dec. 11 in Philadelphia.

For the Black Knights, they have two sources of motivation this year -- coming just short of bowl eligibility in 2009 after losing to Navy in the finale to finish 5-7, and winning the trophy, of course.

“Being born into this losing culture from the outside looking in, you might not expect the players in the losing program to care or be real passionate about the game, but believe it or not we’ve been even hungrier than the other teams because we’ve wanted a winning season so bad,” said Army defensive end Josh McNary.

[+] EnlargeTim Jefferson
Russell Lansford/Icon SMIAir Force's Tim Jefferson has proved to be a threat through the air and on the ground.
“The fact that we felt this school’s been misrepresented by our losing seasons in the past, we just have that urge to turn that around and allow people to see Army perceived as it was in the ‘50s. We can restore that prestige of the team.”

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has been there to see the Midshipmen’s success first hand. They have a 63-30 overall record in the past eight years, while Air Force is 48-40 and Army is 22-64. He, for one, is not surprised with the results from all three service academies so far this season.

“We know they have great coaches,” Niumatalolo said. “We know a lot of the players on both of those teams. It’s no surprise to me that Army’s doing better with Coach Ellerson. I know him very well. He’s one of the best coaches in the country. [Air Force] Coach [Troy] Calhoun is a great coach; we knew coming into the season they’d be very good, but we also feel like we’ve got a pretty good team.”

Right, as Niumatalolo likes to remind everyone his team is a foot away from being 3-0, after quarterback Ricky Dobbs was stopped at the goal line in a 17-14 loss to Maryland. But Navy did not play well against Georgia Southern and trailed at halftime to Louisiana Tech before winning.

Air Force came close to an upset over Oklahoma, and came from behind to beat Wyoming last week. Quarterback Tim Jefferson is averaging a career-high 6.4 yards a carry and already has a career-high five rushing touchdowns. The Falcons certainly have Navy’s attention. For all the motivation Army and Air Force may have to knock off Navy, the Midshipmen are just as motivated to keep the trophy.

“The anticipation and the desire to keep it and the desire to want to take it increases each year,” Dobbs said. “This year is the best as far as being up for grabs, and next year I assume it’s going to be the same.”

Non-AQ predictions: Week 5

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 4 were not too bad. Took a risk with the upset special and lost it, but what is life without risk? Still hoping to improve on 7-3 this week. With a 28-16 overall record, I am ready for what Week 5 has to offer -- even though it is not much in the way of marquee games.

Also, several readers have emailed me asking about why I leave certain teams out of the picks. My assignment is to make picks for 10 to 12 games featuring non-AQ teams, at least one from each conference. I try to look for the best games on the schedule. I could pick the easy ones, but what fun is that? So for that reason, Utah has not been in the picks for a few weeks. The competition has not warranted a spot, and I wanted to give myself something other than a guaranteed win.

On to the picks!

BYU 24, Utah State 20. Can BYU really lose four in a row? The Cougars have never lost three in a row under Bronco Mendenhall until last week, so anything is possible with the way the season is going for BYU. They lost their best defensive player, Romney Fuga, last week after a low hit against Nevada. Jake Heaps gets his first career start on the road. Neither unit has been overly impressive. Both teams are actually desperate for a win at 1-3. But the Cougars have won 10 straight in the lopsided “rivalry” and have more talent.

Air Force 21, Navy 20. I went back and forth on this one. I know Navy has won seven straight. I know Navy always finds a way to win these games. But there is a reason Air Force is the favorite. The Falcons have simply played better than Navy this season.

Upset Special: Army 24, Temple 23. Giving out a little service academy love here. Running back Bernard Pierce is a game-time decision. Without him, Temple could be hurting. Yes, Army has not beaten a tough opponent yet, but I like the way the Black Knights are playing. They are creating turnovers and Trent Steelman has found his groove.

Miami (Ohio) 28, Kent State 21. The Golden Flashes have had a tough schedule to open the season, with back-to-back games at Boston College and Penn State before the bye. They might be without RB Eugene Jarvis once again. Miami has played well at home, and the battle to watch here is Thomas Merriweather against the No. 1 rushing defense in the country. Miami gets the edge at home.

North Carolina 33, East Carolina 30. This game is going to be closer than a lot of people think because the Pirates can score and the Tar Heels are still undermanned. Still, East Carolina has problems on defense, and that is going to be the deciding factor in the end.

Pittsburgh 20, FIU 10. The Pittsburgh Panthers looked pretty awful in a loss last week at Miami. Now they face another team from Miami. Luckily for them, the FIU Panthers don’t pose the same type of threat. Nonetheless, FIU has played its nonconference opponents tough, almost beating Rutgers and Texas A&M. They will keep this one close.

Toledo 24, Wyoming 20. The Cowboys made a rare trip East to Toledo, where coach Dave Christensen spent nine seasons as an assistant. They are struggling while Toledo has reeled off three straight wins on the road, including one over Purdue. Going with the hot team in this one.

North Texas 27, Louisiana 17. The Mean Green unleashed their run game last week with Lance Dunbar, James Hamilton and quarterback Riley Dodge, rushing 54 times for 257 yards against FAU. Seems like a good strategy, considering the team is down to its third quarterback. Louisiana, meanwhile, struggled to stop Middle Tennessee on the ground. Sensing a possible light at the end of the tunnel for North Texas.

Western Michigan 34, Idaho 30. Idaho is a tough team to figure out, after losing on the road to Colorado State. Given the way the Vandals struggled to stop the pass last week, and how Alex Carder is playing for Western Michigan, the Broncos should have the advantage.

Southern Miss 28, Marshall 13. Southern Miss leads the series 4-1 against Marshall, but the only loss game at home two seasons ago in the conference opener. The same scenario awaits this week, but Marshall has struggled all season to find any semblance of consistency.

What we learned from non-AQs: Week 4

September, 26, 2010
9/26/10
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Another week in the books, so what did we learn from the non-AQs? Boise State and TCU are still tops, but Utah and Nevada are undefeated, too. They could wreak havoc on the race for a potential BCS national championship berth.

1. Boise State and TCU may not have gotten the style points they wanted this weekend, but the top non-AQ teams did win, keeping their quest for a historic national championship berth alive. Boise State beat Oregon State 37-24 on national television on Saturday night, while TCU beat SMU 41-24 on national television Friday night. Neither looked outstanding. Both had uncharacteristic lapses. Boise State had special teams breakdowns and eight penalties, including several personal fouls. TCU, always known for its defense, gave up 192 yards rushing. But what would style points have gotten them, anyway? Neither is busting into the Top 2 of the human polls with undefeated teams ranked ahead of them. I'm not even sure a 100-0 win would do that. The point is to keep winning, and that is what they are doing.

[+] EnlargeTitus Young
AP Photo/Don RyanTitus Young and Boise State just keep winning.
2. Utah and Nevada are here, too. And then there were four undefeated non-AQ teams left. Watch for Nevada to join the Top 25 today after a 27-13 win over BYU on Saturday. The Wolf Pack are 4-0, their best start since they began playing on the FBS level in 1992. The 4-0 start also marks Nevada’s best start since the 1991 team went 12-0 to start the season. Meanwhile, Utah welcomed the return of starting quarterback Jordan Wynn, who missed the past two games with a sprained thumb. The Utes beat San Jose State 56-3, but their schedule is back-loaded, with a brutal stretch beginning Oct. 30 at Air Force.

3. Heartbreak hotel. Several non-AQ teams suffered heartbreaking losses on Saturday. UAB lost to Tennessee 32-29 in double overtime, but, oh, what could have been. UAB kicker Josh Zahn missed field goals from 30, 35, 41 and 49 yards in regulation. UCF lost with 24 seconds left after Kansas State scored on a 7-yard run to make it 17-13. It was the first time the Knights trailed all day. Ditto for Memphis, which lost to UTEP as time expired. Dakota Warren made an 18-yard field goal as the Miners rallied for the 16-13 win. Ohio lost to Marshall 24-23 when coach Frank Solich decided to go for the win, and the 2-point conversion failed with no time left. Arkansas State lost to Troy in the closing seconds, too.

4. The MAC is all right. The MAC and Big Ten had eight games on Saturday, and the MAC won two of them -- Toledo beat Purdue and Northern Illinois beat Minnesota. The MAC now has eight wins over Big Ten opponents over the past three years -- two this year, two in 2009 and four in 2008. Let us not forget the valiant effort Temple gave in a 22-13 loss to Penn State. Temple led until the 1:38 mark of the third quarter. Before Saturday, Temple had lost its past four games to Penn State 154-9.

5. The service academies are for real. When was the last time Air Force (3-1), Army (3-1) and Navy (2-1) were a combined 8-3 after four weeks of the season? Certainly not recently, and that is mainly due to the struggles the Black Knights have had. After their 35-21 win over Duke, they are two games above .500 for the first time since going 10-2 in 1996.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 4

September, 26, 2010
9/26/10
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Yes, Hawaii is still battling Charleston Southern, but the game may as well be over. Bryant Moniz had six touchdown passes in less than two quarters of work as the Warriors took a 49-7 halftime lead.

Now on to some non-AQ helmet stickers:

Army defense. The Black Knights forced four turnovers that were converted into 28 points in the 35-21 win over Duke. Stephen Anderson, Donnie Dixon and Richard King each had an interception, while Jarrett Mackey forced a fumble that was recovered by Donovan Travis. In addition, Josh McNary recovered another fumble. Army (3-1) is two games above .500 for the first time since ending the 1996 campaign at 10-2.

Vincent Brown, San Diego State. Caught five passes for 177 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season in a 41-7 win over Utah State. His two touchdowns went for 65 and 82 yards. He also went over the 2,000yard mark for his career, becoming just the 12th Aztec player to reach the milestone and the first since Jeff Webb in 2005.

Colorado State. Kudos to the Rams for breaking a 12-game losing streak and beating Idaho 36-34. Ben DeLine kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the Rams the win. A team that had struggled to score, with a combined 19 points in its first three games, exploded for its highest point total since beating Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl 40-35 in 2008. True freshman quarterback Pete Thomas went 29-of-37 for 386 yards and three touchdowns, while Raymond Carter ran for 104 yards, caught four passes for 120 yards and had a total of three touchdowns.

UNLV, you get one, too, for winning your first game of the season, 45-10 over New Mexico.

Corey Robinson, Troy. Robinson went 18-of-38 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and directed a late-game rally to help the Trojans avoid an upset to Arkansas State. Trailing 28-27, Robinson threw for 67 yards on the game-winning drive, connecting on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Southward with 22 seconds left for the 35-28 win.

Chad Spann, Northern Illinois. Spann had not gone over 100 yards against an FBS school this season, but busted out in a big way over Minnesota. Spann ran for a career-high 223 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead the Huskies to a 34-23 win. He had 106 yards rushing in the first half alone, and his 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter essentially sealed the victory. Spann had the first 200-plus yard game by a Huskie running back since Garrett Wolfe ran for 203 against Central Michigan in 2006.

Dakota Warren, UTEP. Warren kicked an 18-yard field goal as time expired to give UTEP a 16-13 win over Memphis. The Miners trailed the entire game until the winning field goal. Warren had two other kicks in the game: a 50-yarder and 57-yarder. They are his first two 50-plus field goals in his UTEP career.

Non-AQ: What to watch, Week 4

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
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Another big game for Boise State this Saturday. Can the Broncos prove they are worthy again? That leads our top 10 non-AQ storylines to watch:

1. What does Boise State have to do to get a little respect -- aside from beating Oregon State? At this point, it seems as though winning is not going to be enough for the Broncos. They are the No. 3 team in the country, but many pundits believe they have hit their peak. Do they have to blow teams out? Do they need everybody else to implode? First order of business is to win, of course, but with all eyes on Boise State for the second time in a month, you can bet many folks around the country are going to want to see more than a close win.

[+] EnlargeJake Heaps
AP Photo/George FreyJake Heaps is set for his first start Saturday against Nevada.
2. How does Jake Heaps handle his first start at BYU? The quarterback decision was made for Bronco Mendenhall this week when Riley Nelson went out for the season with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. That leaves the true freshman Heaps in charge of what has been a very weak offense so far. Will one quarterback make a huge difference for the Cougars? They face a difficult task against Nevada on Saturday. Heaps has to be ready.

3. How does Terrance Broadway handle his first start at Houston? Broadway was thrown into the mix last week against UCLA when Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner were lost for the season with separate injuries. The true freshman played well, but now he will actually get the reps in practice and show what he can do leading this offense. Broadway was a four-star recruit once offered a scholarship to Alabama before an injury in high school. He chose Houston because the Cougars run a similar spread offense to what he ran in high school. First order of business is Tulane. Well, at least it’s not Mississippi State. That comes in two weeks.

4. How does SMU handle the TCU defensive front? The SMU offensive line has struggled in the first three games of the year, giving up 10 sacks. Wayne Daniels is off to a good start for the Horned Frogs, with 3.5 sacks, and the TCU defense is always good at applying pressure. You can bet that will be the game plan to rattle Kyle Padron and get him off rhythm.

5. Can Fresno State contain Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli? Heck, everybody else has seemed to contain him, why not the Bulldogs? Much credit goes to coach Pat Hill for his improved defensive unit this year. Chris Carter and Logan Harrell have combined for 6.5 sacks, but they have not quite played an opponent the caliber of Ole Miss just yet. Yes, Mississippi is better than Cincinnati.

6. Can the MAC pull off an upset against the Big Ten? There are eight MAC vs. Big Ten matchups this weekend. Two to watch: Northern Illinois at Minnesota and Bowling Green at Michigan. I would like Bowling Green’s chances a lot better if Matt Schilz was playing, but it seems you can throw any 11 players on the field and they will have an opportunity to gain some yards on a pretty poor Michigan defense. Minnesota has struggled this season, and that gives Northern Illinois the perfect opportunity.

7. Any chance FIU pulls the upset over Maryland? The Panthers have been oh-so-close against Rutgers and Texas A&M, taking fourth-quarter leads into both games. Their defense has set the tone early, but they simply fell short during crunch time. The Panthers just don’t have a good enough offense to be able to win these games.

8. UCF defense vs. Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas. Thomas ranks second in the nation in rushing, and UCF has the best defense in Conference USA. So what is going to give? No doubt the Knights will try to stack the box, and they have said this week the key is sure tackling. That is easier said than done. Though the Knights do have a good unit, they have struggled at times against the run and are giving up an average of 128.7 yards a game.

9. Will Dwight Dasher be able to play for Middle Tennessee against Louisiana? The NCAA has ruled Dasher must sit out four games for improperly accepting a $1,500 loan. The school has filed an appeal, and that ruling is expected to come either late tonight or tomorrow. The Blue Raiders are preparing as if he won’t be able to play, so Logan Kilgore and Jeff Murphy have gotten the majority of reps in practice. This is the conference opener for Middle Tennessee before a huge game Oct. 5 against Troy. Dasher will be eligible to return for that game against the Trojans.

10. How does Duke slow down Army DE Josh McNary? The Black Knights are hoping to win their third straight game away from home for the first time since 1966-67. They have a chance if Josh McNary continues to play well. The defensive end has five sacks in Army’s last two games. As a team, Army has seven sacks in those two games. Army could be 3-0 if not for a last-second field goal in a loss to Hawaii.

Non-AQ Did You Know: Week 3

September, 17, 2010
9/17/10
9:00
AM ET
Time for a little Did You Know? heading into Week 3:

Conference USA has two of the best quarterbacks in the country, at least in the NCAA statistics. Tulsa junior QB G.J. Kinne leads all quarterbacks with 755 yards passing in the first two games of the season. Meanwhile, East Carolina junior Dominique Davis tops all quarterbacks with eight touchdown passes through two games. Kinne is tied for second with seven passing touchdowns. Both quarterbacks face tough opponents this week as Tulsa plays at Oklahoma State and East Carolina visits Virginia Tech.

[+] EnlargeDominique Davis
AP Photo/The Daily Reflector/Rhett ButlerThrough two weeks of the season, East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis led the NCAA with eight touchdown passes.
Army has eight rushing touchdowns through the first two games of 2010. The Black Knights ran for 13 scores all of last season. Sophomore FB Jared Hassin has scored four of those eight touchdowns and is one shy of matching quarterback Trent Steelman’s team-leading total from a year ago. Army also has scored at least 28 points in each of its first two games, the first time the Black Knights have reached that mark in consecutive games since a three-game run in 2004.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has 43 career rushing touchdowns, the most of any active player in the nation. He leads the WAC in rushing with 110.5 yards a game and is third in the nation in total offense with 384 yards a game. He faces the biggest test yet against California tonight.

Hawaii receiver Greg Salas has 2,643 career receiving yards, the most of any active player in the nation. His 181 receptions are the second most among active players.

Utah State is 1-1 for the first time since 2005, and hasn’t started a season 2-1 since 1997. The Aggies play Fresno State on Saturday.

Bowling Green mayor John Quinn issued a “Mayoral Challenge” to mayor Kim Wolfe of Huntington, W. Va. If the Falcons win, Wolfe will have to display a Bowling Green flag at Huntington’s City Hall for the duration of the week after the game. If Marshall wins, Quinn will fly a Marshall flag at Bowling Green’s City Hall for the following week. The “losing Mayor” will also send a photo featuring them with the flag on display.

With Utah and TCU in the latest Top 25, at least two Mountain West Conference teams have been ranked in the coaches' Top 25 for 35 straight weeks, dating back to Sept. 7, 2008. The MWC joins the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC as the only four conferences that have had at least two teams ranked for 35 consecutive weeks.

San Diego State snapped a 14-game non-conference road losing streak with its victory at New Mexico State last week. It was the Aztecs’ first non-conference road win since Sept. 13, 2003, when they won at UTEP 34-0.

BYU, San Diego State and Utah have not allowed a sack. The Cougars, Aztecs and Utes are three of nine teams in FBS that haven’t given up a sack this season (Indiana, Michigan, Middle Tennessee, Penn State, Texas and Wake Forest).

When Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan play this weekend, it’s a safe bet there will be plenty of scoring. The winning team in the matchup has scored 45 points or more five times in the last eight meetings, including each of the last three years.

FIU might have only played one game, but the Panthers have already seen results from new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. The defense allowed just 172 total yards of offense in a close loss to Rutgers last week, and now rank second in the country in total defense. The Scarlet Knights only managed 76 yards on the ground and averaged just 2 yards a carry.

Lunchtime Links

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
12:41
PM ET
Can you smell what the Rock is cookin' up for tomorrow in Hattiesburg?

Southern Miss expects to get three players back on offense for Friday night's game against Kansas.

Since the SWC broke up, Baylor has scuffled and TCU has blossomed. The two meet this Saturday.

Chaz Walker goes from walk-on to top tackler at Utah.

Just who is Houston backup quarterback Cotton Turner?

Members of Nevada's 1945 team recall a memorable loss to California.

Bowling Green is making changes to its offensive line.

Navy RT Matt Molloy is out indefinitely after sustaining the fifth concussion of his football career. He is deciding whether or not to risk playing again.

Army quarterback Trent Steelman will be able to play against North Texas after injuring his shoulder last week.

Tulsa running back Trey Watts, son of former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts, is succeeding for the Golden Hurricane.

There is no bye week for homework for the Hawaii football team, as it nears the end of a 13-day road trip.

UNLV continues to honor linebacker Bryce Saldi, who suffered a serious brain injury in a skateboarding accident last year.

Other conference links:

ACC

Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

SEC

Non-AQ predictions: Week 3

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
9:00
AM ET
My picks in Week 2 were … slightly better than awful. With a 12-10 overall record, I need somebody to give me a pep talk. Is Frank Beamer available? Oh wait. He is probably busy giving his team one of those.

On to the picks!

Virginia Tech 35, East Carolina 27. No way Virginia Tech loses a third straight, right? Well, the Hokies have a recent history of losing to the Pirates -- dropping the opener in 2008. Dominique Davis has played lights out for the Pirates, but the defense -- not so much. The Hokies are going to be fighting mad, and should be able to slow down the East Carolina offensive attack just enough to escape.

Oklahoma 24, Air Force 20. The Falcons present a unique offense to defend, and Oklahoma has looked helter-skelter in its first two games. Air Force did a fantastic job slowing down the BYU offense, limiting the Cougars to 88 yards through the air. Oklahoma struggled against Diondre Borel. But give the Sooners the win here based on the play in the trenches.

Florida State 30, BYU 20. Don’t think the BYU quarterback problems are going to be solved against the Seminoles, who dismantled a far better Cougars team last year on the road. Unfortunately for BYU, the passing game is not in tip-top shape right now and that is where the Sooners did most of their damage last week.

TCU 24, Baylor 20. The Bears are one of three teams that have yet to allow their opponent into the end zone this season, but they haven’t played anybody as good as TCU. Don’t think that streak will continue against veteran Andy Dalton and an experienced offense.

Houston 35, UCLA 17. Are the Bruins that bad? I am calling this game for Houston, regardless of who starts at quarterback. Case Keenum (concussion) might be day to day, but his backup has proven capable and so has the running game through two games this season. UCLA, meanwhile, has been able to muster nothing on offense or defense.

Southern Miss 20, Kansas 17. The Golden Eagles dropped a close one to the Jayhawks last season, and though they looked pretty unspectacular against South Carolina in the opener, Austin Davis and DeAndre Brown could be in line for big games. This is a huge test for a defense that has played inconsistently. But, hey, so has Kansas.

California 28, Nevada 17. The Wolf Pack haven’t had much success against AQ opponents, losing eight straight games. Though the defense has looked much better, and defensive coordinator Andy Buh spent the last three seasons as a Stanford assistant, California simply has too much talent on offense. The Bears will find a way to slow down Colin Kaepernick enough to win.

Hawaii 37, Colorado 30. Going with the upset in this one. I know Hawaii has been away from home for a really long time, increasing its chances of losing this game, but Bryant Moniz and the offense have looked good in the first two games. The Buffaloes? Not so good, especially last week.

SMU 44, Washington State 10. The Cougars nearly lost to FCS Montana State last week, so that should tell you how the rebuilding effort is going in Pullman. SMU has had some injuries to deal with, but as long as Kyle Padron is behind center, the Mustangs should easily win this one.

Missouri 33, San Diego State 27. The Aztecs are vastly improved, thanks to a better run game and more experience from Ryan Lindley. But Blaine Gabbert is playing well for the Tigers, with a completion percentage over 70 percent. The Tigers defense also has six interceptions on the year and makes the difference in this one.

Miami (Ohio) 30, Colorado State 10. The Rams have scored a total of nine points in two games, and true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas has been sacked eight times. The defense hasn’t played much better, either. The RedHawks haven’t exactly torn up the field but have shown much more improvement this season than the Rams.

Army 24, North Texas 17. Things went from bad to worse for the Mean Green this week when they found out starting quarterback Nathan Tune would be out for the season with a dislocated hip. Five starters have gone down with season-ending injuries now, and coach Todd Dodge is trying to cope. It’s going to be tough against a much-improved Army team.

Non-AQ Did You Know: Week 2

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
9:00
AM ET
Now for a bit of Did You Know? going into Week 2:
  • When Memphis visits East Carolina on Saturday, it will mark the first time since 2003 that two first-year coaches are facing each other in Conference USA play. Larry Porter dropped his opener last week when Memphis lost to Mississippi State, while Ruffin McNeill saw his cardiac Pirates pull off a 51-49 win over Tulsa on a Hail Mary.
  • TCU coach Gary Patterson had the quote of the week when discussing his team’s upcoming game against Tennessee Tech: “We don’t want to be the Ole Miss of this week,” he said. Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State, which upset the Rebels last week, play in the same conference. Incidentally, Patterson got his first paying job as a coach at Tennessee Tech in 1983.
  • The Western Michigan football team stepped up in a big way to help a student-run organization that provides free rides home for members of the community Thursday-Saturday late nights. Drive Safe Kalamazoo realized it had no funding for this weekend because of a clerical error. Each member of the football team decided to donate $1 from per diem they received during a day of training camp to help close the gap. The organization ended up getting enough money to be funded for this weekend, and the football team’s donation paid for one car in the seven-car fleet.
  • When Arkansas State plays Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, it begins a three-game stretch against conference opponents. The last time Arkansas State opened its season against conference opponents in three of its first four games was in 1995 as a member of the Big West.
  • Army plays Hawaii Saturday and several of its coaches have ties to the Warriors. Head coach Rich Ellerson lettered four years at Hawaii as a center and linebacker and graduated in 1977. He served as a graduate assistant there in 1977 and later as a defensive assistant from 1981-83 and defensive coordinator from 1987-91. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Smeland coached at Hawaii from 1991-94.
  • Things don’t get much easier for San Jose State this week. After losing to No. 1 Alabama, the Spartans play at No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday. This is the second straight year the team is opening the season against two ranked opponents. San Jose State hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since defeating No. 9 TCU 27-24 in 2000.
  • Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel needs 69 passing yards against Idaho State to reach 5,000 for his career.
  • Four FBS quarterbacks threw five touchdown passes in Week 1 -- three are from Conference USA: Houston's Case Keenum had five in the first half against Texas State before sitting out the second half; East Carolina’s Dominique Davis threw five in his first start for the Pirates against Tulsa; in the same game, Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne also had five.
  • Utah has a chance to set the Mountain West record for consecutive home wins. The Utes have won 18 straight, tied with BYU, which set the mark from Sept. 9, 2006, to Nov. 8, 2008. Utah hosts UNLV this weekend. The current home winning streak began Sept. 15, 2007 with a 44-6 victory over UCLA. The 18-game streak is the third-longest active home winning streak in the country behind Oklahoma (31) and Boise State (26).

Lunchtime Links

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
12:32
PM ET
Central Michigan and Temple play tonight to open MAC play. ...

Temple wants to make a statement against the defending MAC champs.

The Owls have a lot of big games in September, but none bigger than this MAC matchup.

Hey, Boise State, Monday night was fun. Planning any other big games?

TCU coach Gary Patterson didn't run up the score on Oregon State, but will that cost him style points?

Cousins square off against each other when Marshall plays West Virginia in the Coal Bowl.

A group of no-name Utah linebackers proved themselves against Pittsburgh.

Rice defensive tackle Michael Smith makes an emotional return to North Texas. His brother, Andrew, played quarterback there but was killed in a car accident before the start of football practice in 2004.

After landing in New Jersey for its game against Army, Hawaii took to the parking lot for a brief practice.

Other conference links:

ACC

Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

SEC

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