NCF Nation: Bobby Rainey

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
1:00
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Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 13:

Houston one step away. The Cougars faced a tough task on the road at Tulsa, with a spot in the Conference USA championship game on the line. Tulsa jumped out to a 10-6 lead early in the game, and some had to wonder whether we were seeing the old Houston come back to life. But these are not the Cougars of 2009 or 2010. The Cougars reeled off 28 straight points in the second half to blow open the game and win 48-16. Case Keenum threw for 457 yards and five touchdown passes, and Patrick Edwards had 181 yards and four touchdowns as Houston won a school-record 12th game. Two of their touchdown connections came on fourth down. Edwards went over 100 yards for the 16th time in his career and also broke the conference record for career receiving yards. Houston now hosts Southern Miss on Saturday with a chance to make its first BCS appearance.

Coaching carousel starts. Akron, Memphis and UAB all are in the market for new head coaches. The Zips fired Rob Ianello after he went 2-22 in his two seasons at the helm. The Tigers fired Larry Porter after he went 3-21 in two seasons. UAB fired Neil Callaway after he went 18-42 in five seasons with the Blazers. Athletic directors at all three schools essentially said they did not see improvement in their programs and decided to go in different directions. Callaway is the third Conference USA coach who has been fired this season, joining Bob Toledo of Tulane. New Mexico also fired coach Mike Locksley earlier this season, but already hired former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. Meanwhile, Ianello was reportedly fired as he drove to his mother's funeral in Long Island, N.Y.

Going bowling. Marshall became bowl eligible for the first time under coach Doc Holliday, after a 34-27 win over East Carolina in overtime. The Pirates sent the game into the extra period when Dominique Davis threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jones with 14 seconds left in regulation. But Davis threw an interception in overtime, after Tron Martinez scored on a 1-yard run for the Herd. East Carolina will not be in a bowl game for the first time in six years. As for the Herd, they are one of several non-AQ teams to become bowl eligible after losing seasons in 2010:
  • Ball State improved from 4-8 to 6-6.
  • Western Kentucky improved from 2-10 to 7-5.
  • Wyoming improved from 3-9 to 7-4, with one game remaining at Colorado State.
  • Louisiana Tech improved from 5-7 to 8-4 and WAC champs.
  • Utah State improved from 4-8 to 6-5 with one game remaining at New Mexico State.
  • Arkansas State improved from 4-8 to 9-2.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette improved from 3-9 to 8-4.

As you can see, three Sun Belt teams made five-game improvements, and the league has four bowl-eligible teams this season.

Game of the week. FAU 38, UAB 35.

Howard Schnellenberger announced his retirement before the season, began but his final season was not exactly going according to plan. The Owls were the only winless team in FBS heading into Week 13. But alas, the football gods conspired to make sure the legendary program builder would not go out without a win. The Owls played inspired football Saturday against UAB, beating the Blazers 38-35 as Schnellenberger avoided his first winless season. Alfred Morris had a career-high four touchdowns, with a career-high 198 yards on 38 carries to notch his fifth straight 100-yard game. "I got the biggest and best kiss from [wife] Beverlee in a long time on the sideline," Schnellenberger said afterward. "And I'm expecting more when I get home."

WAC-ky WAC. Nevada was in control of the WAC heading into last week's game against Louisiana Tech. But the Wolf Pack have now dropped two straight games, losing to Utah State 21-17 on Saturday. The Bulldogs had no such problems after their big win over Nevada last week and beat New Mexico State 44-0 to win their first WAC title since 2001. Louisiana Tech has won seven straight after starting the year 1-4. The team also accepted a bowl spot in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the fifth bowl bid in school history. This will be first bowl appearance since an Independence Bowl victory over Northern Illinois in 2008.

Helmet Stickers

Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall. Cato went 23-of-29 for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 overtime win over East Carolina to get the Thundering Herd to a bowl game.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce had a season-high 189 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in a 34-16 win over Kent State. Pierce went over the 100-yard mark in rushing for the 17th time in his career and eighth time this season. Pierce has had three or more touchdowns in six games this year.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey had a season-high 227-yards and three touchdowns in a 41-18 win over Troy. Rainey also broke the school's single-season rushing record, ending the regular season with 1,695 yards. He now leads the nation for the second straight season in carries and broke his own school record with 369 attempts on the season.

Travis Stanaway, S, Boise State. Stanaway, making just the second start of his career for Boise State, had a career-high nine tackles, forced a fumble and had his first career interception as a Bronco in a 36-14 win over Wyoming.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State. Wagner had a game-high 15 tackles in a 21-17 win over Nevada, and also had a critical fumble recovery on a fourth-and-1 in the final minutes of the game to preserve the victory.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
4:58
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Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

C-USA

Offense: G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. Kinne went 21-of-27 for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another in a 57-28 win over UTEP.

Defense: Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and three sacks in a 37-7 win over SMU.

Special teams: Chris Boswell, K, Rice. Boswell made a pair of field goals that went over 50 yards in a 19-7 win over Tulane. His first field goal was a career-best 54-yarder, and he added a 51-yarder in the third quarter.

Independent

Offense: Jake Heaps, QB, BYU. Heaps returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 30 and led BYU to a 42-7 home win over New Mexico State, going 21-of-36 for 238 yards and a career high-tying four touchdowns.

Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a team-high 12 tackles in a 16-14 win over Boston College. He added three quarterback hurries.

Special teams: David Ruffer, K, Notre Dame. Ruffer kicked field goals of 40, 41 and 27 yards against Boston College. He has made eight consecutive field goals dating back to a win over Purdue on Oct. 1, and has made 47 straight extra points.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo. Oliver set the school FBS record with a career-high 235 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns in a 51-10 win over Akron. His performance broke the record set by James Starks (231 against Toledo in 2007).

Defense: Stephen Johnson, LB, Temple. Johnson had a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best eight solo stops, in a 42-14 win over Army.

Special Teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Weller kicked he game-winning field goal from 23 yards, giving Ohio a 29-28 victory over Bowling Green and the MAC East title. The game-winning field goal was his school record fifth in the game.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense in a game with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State. His 519 yards of total offense is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season.

Defense: Drew Nowak, DL, Western Michigan. Nowak had a career-high 2.5 sacks and as many tackles for loss in a 24-21 win at Miami. Nowak leads the team with 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the season.

Special Teams: Demarius Reed, KR, Eastern Michigan. Reed returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown at Kent State for the first time in his career. It was the longest return by an Eastern Michigan player since 2002. Additionally, Reed’s return surpassed the entire season punt return yards total for any player during the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 season.

Mountain West

Offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team’s 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. He had a career-high 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and threw for 212 yards and a touchdown.

Defense: Tank Carder, LB, TCU. Carder returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and tied a season-high with nine tackles (one for loss) in a 34-10 win over Colorado State.

Special teams: Ross Evans, K, TCU. Evans accounted for 10 points (four extra points, two field goals) in a 34-10 victory against Colorado State. His two field goals of 21 and 46 yards gave him 55 for his career, moving him past BYU’s Matt Payne (54, 2001-04) into second place on the conference career chart.

Sun Belt

Offense: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception to finish with 262 all-purpose yards.

Defense: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU. Cyprien had nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception return for a touchdown in a 28-17 win over ULM.

Special teams: Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose had a 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown against FIU, moving into second place in Sun Belt history with his third career kickoff return for a touchdown.

WAC

Offense: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State. Turbin ran for a career-high 208 yards and three touchdowns in Utah State’s 49-42 double overtime win at Idaho. Two of his touchdown runs came in the overtime periods and the other was on an 80-yard run in the second quarter.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Recorded a career-high 17 tackles (15 solo) in a 24-20 win at Nevada, ending the Wolf Pack’s 16-game home winning streak.

Special teams: Jens Alvernik, K, San Jose State. Alvernik hit two field goals from 44 and 23 yards to help San Jose State beat Navy, 27-24. He now has 16 field goals on the season, tying the school record.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
1:00
PM ET
Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 12.

[+] EnlargeKellen Moore
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireThanks to a stellar game from Kellen Moore against San Diego State, Boise State remains in play for an at-large berth into the BCS.
Boise rebounds. It may not have been pretty, but the Broncos rebounded from their loss to TCU with a 52-35 win over San Diego State. Kellen Moore went 28-of-40 with four touchdown passes and an interception as Boise State jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead and then held on. The defense, with its top three cornerbacks out, has not looked like the dominated unit we are used to seeing. The Broncos have now given up at least 35 points in back-to-back games for the first time since losing to Hawaii (39-27) and East Carolina (41-38) to close out the 2007 season. It also was the third time in four games Boise State has allowed over 400 yards in total offense. Still, Boise State remains in play for an at-large berth into the BCS. The Broncos are No. 7 in the latest standings, and could be chosen considering the SEC has five teams in the Top 14 and the Big 12 has three. You must be in the Top 14 to be considered for an at-large berth and there is a limit of two teams per conference. If Houston gets the automatic berth into the BCS, that would leave three at-large spots open.

Conference race update. Here is how the conference races are shaking out.

Conference USA: The winner between Houston and Tulsa on Friday wins the West and clinches a spot in the C-USA title game. Southern Miss lost to UAB 34-31 but can still clinch the East Division with a win over Memphis on Saturday or a Marshall loss.

MAC: Ohio won the East and is in the MAC title game. In the West, Northern Illinois clinches a return trip with a win over Eastern Michigan or a Toledo loss at Ball State.

Mountain West: TCU wins the outright league title with a victory over UNLV on Dec. 3.

Sun Belt: Arkansas State can win the league title outright with a win over Troy on Dec. 3 or a Western Kentucky loss to Troy this Saturday. The Red Wolves have already accepted an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. ULL also has been invited to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. FIU and Western Kentucky are also bowl eligible, but the Sun Belt only has two tie-ins. There are backup agreements with the Little Caesars Pizza and BBVA Compass Bowls, but it appears as if there will not be open slots in either of those games.

WAC: If Louisiana Tech and Nevada win out, both would get a share of a conference title.

Game of the week. Louisiana Tech 24, Nevada 20. The Wolf Pack built a comfortable 20-3 lead on the Bulldogs, and appeared set to cruise to a win in their quest to win an outright WAC title. Nevada was the only undefeated team in the league going into the game; Louisiana Tech had one loss. But Colby Cameron engineered an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to lift the Bulldogs to a 24-20 win. Now they have a chance to clinch a share of the WAC title Saturday against New Mexico State. Cameron threw three touchdown passes in the span of nine minutes, hitting Taulib Ikharo with 51 seconds to play to complete the rally. Nevada had two first downs on its final three possessions. Adrien Cole finished with 17 tackles, and Cameron finished 25-of-45 for 355 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs have now won six straight -- the longest winning streak since 1999.

Bowl streak ends. After Navy beat SMU last week, hopes brightened for the Midshipmen to keep its bowl streak alive. Navy had games left with San Jose State and Army -- two teams with losing records. Win out, and go to a bowl game. But the Midshipmen blew several opportunities on offense and could not stop San Jose State running back Brandon Rutley, losing 27-24 to the Spartans. The loss breaks a streak of eight straight bowl appearances. If you were to encapsulate this season for Navy, it would be about an uncharacteristic lack of discipline and missed chances to win. Four of its seven losses have been by three points or less.

"My worst nightmare came true. We were sleepwalking to start the game. We left a ton of points out on the field offensively. We had some uncharacteristic mental lapses that really hurt us," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said after the game. "We didn't deserve to win. We played horribly, and it starts with me. Obviously, I didn't do a good job of getting us ready."

Helmet stickers

Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, included 4.5 for a loss and three sacks, in a 37-7 win over SMU. He was selected Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State on Tuesday night. His 519 total yards is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season. Harnish passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception. Rainey needs 82 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher.

Brandon Rutley, RB, San Jose State. Rutley ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a career-high eight passes for 101 yards in a 27-24 win over Navy. Rutley is the first San Jose State player to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game. The Spartans now have four wins -- one more than 2009 and 2010 combined.

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team's 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. In addition to rushing for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns, Smith completed 23-of-38 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Wyoming is now bowl eligible.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
5:07
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Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players are selected by a national media panel.

C-USA

Offense: Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina. Davis set an NCAA single-game record with 26 straight completions to open the game in a 38-34 win at Navy. He finished the game 40-of-45 for 372 yards with two touchdowns. His completion percentage of 88.9 was a school record.

Defense: Marques Wheaton, DB, Southern Miss. Wheaton recorded five tackles (four solos), a pass breakup and two fourth-quarter interceptions in Southern Miss’ 27-3 win over SMU. He returned one of his interceptions 41 yards for a score.

Special teams: Ty Long, K, UAB. Long, a true freshman, made the game-winning 40-yarder with 21 seconds remaining in a 26-24 win over UCF.

Independent

Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson led six touchdown drives in seven series before leaving the game early in the third quarter in a 56-3 win over Idaho State. Nelson completed 11 of 17 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and added 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Co-defense: Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU. Bacon returned his first career interception 70 yards for a touchdown in a 44-21 loss at Vanderbilt. Making his first career start, Bacon added a pass break-up, and he matched his season tally with a career-high 13 tackles, including a half tackle for loss. Van Noy had two sacks, three quarterback hurries and a blocked punt.

Special teams: George Atkinson III, KR, Notre Dame. Atkinson had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 31-17 loss to USC. He tallied 178 yards on five kickoff returns.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Chazz Anderson, QB, Buffalo. Accounted for 460 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 31-30 loss to Northern Illinois. Anderson completed a school record 35 passes on 53 attempts for 406 yards and three touchdowns, including one with just 14 seconds left in regulation that pulled Buffalo to within one before a missed extra point made the difference.

Defense: Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green. Jones had six tackles, three sacks and one quarterback hurry in a 13-10 win over Temple.

Special teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Went 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts, connecting from 24, 27 and 23 yards in a 37-20 win at Akron.

West Division

Offense: Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. Greene caught a 50-yard pass from Alex Gillett in the first quarter and scored on a 50-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for the two Eastern Michigan touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Marrow led Toledo with six tackles and tied his career high with two interceptions in a 49-28 win over Miami.

Special Teams:Jamill Smith, KR, Ball State. Returned the opening kickoff for a career-high 48 yards in the Cardinals' 17-point second half comeback victory, a 31-27 win over Central Michigan. Smith led all returners for both teams with four kickoff returns for a total of 135 yards.

Mountain West

Offense: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Moore completed 23-of-29 passes for 281 yards in a 37-26 win over Air Force. Moore tied former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy for the most career wins (45) in NCAA history.

Defense:Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Hout had a career-high 18 tackles against Air Force, including eight unassisted stops and a half tackle for loss.

Special teams:Antonio Graves, WR, TCU. Graves scored his first collegiate touchdown when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in a 69-0 win over New Mexico. He also forced a fumble on a kickoff return.

Sun Belt

Offense:Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for 206 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won their first home game since 2008 with a 42-23 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Defense:Eric Russell, DB, Middle Tennessee. Russell had six tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in a win over FAU.

Special Teams:Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose became ULM's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and he did it in style, returning the opening kickoff 100 yards at North Texas. He finished with 148 yards on three returns.

WAC

Offense: Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball rushed for a career-high 198 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and added two catches for 18 yards and another score in a 45-38 win over Fresno State.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Cole had 14 tackles (9 solo), including two for a loss, and broke up a pass in a 24-17 win at Utah State.

Special teams: Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech. Allen averaged 52.2 yards on eight punts in the win at Utah State. Seven of them were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Weekend rewind: Non-AQs

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
1:00
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Time to take a look back at Week 8 for the non-AQs:

Quarterbacks rule. In case you missed it, three quarterbacks had pretty awesome days on Saturday. Dominique Davis of East Carolina completed 26 straight passes. Kellen Moore of Boise State tied the NCAA record for career wins with 45. Case Keenum of Houston became the NCAA career leader for total offense, with the NCAA career passing mark and NCAA career touchdown passing mark in his sights. You can read more about their days here.

[+] EnlargeDominique Davis
AP Photo/Gail BurtonDominique Davis misfired on only five of his 45 pass attempts in East Carolina's win over Navy.
Southern Miss streaking. The Golden Eagles are off to their best start since 2000 after an impressive 27-3 win over SMU. They are ranked No. 25 in the coaches' poll, their first ranking since 2004, and have won five straight. Austin Davis has been impressive but so has the defense, which has made big-time improvements this season and has been a major reason this team is now the favorite to win the East Division in Conference USA. SMU came into the game with its high-powered passing offense, but Southern Miss totally shut down the Mustangs, who had season lows for points and passing yards (173). Southern Miss had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. After it plays UTEP (4-3) Saturday, Southern Miss does not have a team left on the schedule with a winning record, making it conceivable the Golden Eagles could win out. Who would they face in the C-USA title game? The West is still wide open between Houston (7-0, 3-0), Tulsa (4-3, 3-0) and SMU (5-2, 3-1), but the No. 17 Cougars would have to be the favorite if they keep rolling. They get Rice this Thursday, but close the season with back-to-back games against the Mustangs at home, then at Tulsa on Nov. 26.

Bowl bound: Southern Miss and Houston are two of five non-AQs already bowl eligible (Boise State, ULL, BYU).

Next up on deck, with games this weekend:

Arkansas State (5-2) vs. North Texas
Toledo (5-3) vs. Northern Illinois (Nov. 1)
Ball State (5-3) at Western Michigan
Northern Illinois (5-3) at Toledo (Nov. 1)
Temple (5-3) vs. Ohio (Nov. 2)
Ohio (5-3) vs. Temple (Nov. 2)
TCU (5-2) vs. BYU (Arlington, Friday)
SMU (5-2) at Tulsa
* Eastern Michigan is 5-3 but the Golden Eagles need to get to seven wins because they have two wins over FCS opponents.

Disappointments: This has been a popular question during my weekly chats: Which team(s) have been the biggest disappointment. There are three on my list today: Fresno State, UCF and Colorado State. The Bulldogs had WAC nemesis Boise State out of the way this season, the perfect opportunity to win a league championship before moving on to the Mountain West. Instead, they have sputtered to a 3-5 start and just lost to Nevada. Fresno State needs to win three games to become bowl eligible. It should be able to get there, but nothing is a given with the improved play of Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and San Jose State. Meanwhile, there were those who thought Colorado State had everything it needed to get back to a bowl game, with a young quarterback in Pete Thomas and 14 starters returning. But injuries have completed decimated this team, and the Rams are 3-4 and are going to need to pull an upset or two to get to six wins with UNLV, San Diego State, TCU, Air Force and Wyoming left.

Perhaps most disappointing of all, though, has been UCF. Here you have a program coming off the first Top 25 season in school history and a win over Georgia in the bowl game. Many thought that would give this program much-needed momentum and a building block for the future. Instead, the Knights dropped to 3-4 and 1-2 in conference last week after a loss to previously winless UAB, losing to a team that played its backup quarterback and backup running back. Starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey was benched in favor of Blake Bortles, who nearly led the Knights to a win. Now UCF might have a quarterback controversy on its hands, as coach George O'Leary has declined to say who would start Saturday against Memphis. The Knights have some tough games left and are going to need help to make it back to the C-USA title game.

The heartbreak: You have got to feel for Navy, one of the most snake-bitten teams in college football. Navy has lost four games this year by a total of eight points. The Midshipmen, Utah State and Indiana are the only three teams in the country to lose four games by eight points or fewer. The heartbreak continued Saturday in a 38-35 loss to East Carolina. The Midshipmen hung tough after losing starting quarterback Kriss Proctor (elbow) and had a chance to win in the closing minute. An apparent touchdown pass from Trey Miller to Matt Aiken was ruled incomplete, and then Navy missed yet another field goal. Aiken appeared to cross the plane after catching the ball at the 2, but the ball came loose as he hit the ground. Replay officials ruled Aiken did not maintain control as the reason for the ruling of an incomplete pass. Navy dropped to 2-5 and is in danger of breaking its eight-year bowl streak.

Helmet stickers

Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball had a career-high 198 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries in a 45-38 win over Fresno State. He had rushes of 35 and 41 yards, the two longest runs by any Nevada player this year.

Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Had a career-high 18 tackles in a 37-26 win over Air Force. His tackle total is the most by a Broncos player since Korey Hall had 15 against New Mexico State in 2006.

Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. Caught a 50-yard pass from Alex Gillett in the first quarter and scored on a 50-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for both touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Bobby McCain, DB, Memphis. McCain had a 79-yard interception for a touchdown in a 33-17 win over Tulane. The interception gave the Tigers the lead for good in their first conference win since beating UTEP 35-20 Oct. 10, 2009.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey ran for 206 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won their first home game since 2008 with a 42-23 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Rainey moved into fourth place on the WKU career rushing list with his performance -- the second 200-yard rushing game of his career.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 1

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
10:21
AM ET
Can you hear that?

It’s the sound of jerseys being carefully hung and neatly placed in lockers. It’s the sound of last-minute helmet shines and play card lamination.

More importantly, it’s the sound of the return to college football. Maybe, just maybe, these silly shenanigans that have taken our minds off the actually game will cease for a while.

[+] EnlargeJarrett Lee
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireLSU will turn to Jarrett Lee as the starting quarterback in the season opener against Oregon.
That sound is now transforming into the horns blaring and snares chopping. Soon, these sounds will be overwhelmed by that sticky, sweet smell of game day barbecue with a hint of fine fried snacks.

Let’s get to what you should watch for in the SEC this week before I drool on my keyboard:

1. LSU’s passing game: Jordan Jefferson's suspension for his involvement in a bar fight and Russell Shepard being ruled ineligible for discussing an NCAA inquiry with a teammate have the Tigers in a bit of an offensive bind to start the season. Veteran Jarrett Lee takes over for Jefferson, and while coach Les Miles believes Lee has what it takes to lead the Tigers against No. 3 Oregon, Lee has had a very rocky five years at LSU. Expect junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger, who has all the skill to be a special player, to get snaps as well. As far as receivers go, Rueben Randle will be the primary target and DeAngelo Peterson is a playmaking tight end. Miles said this week that freshman Odell Beckham could start, so expect the Tigers to use plenty of options.

2. McCarron vs. Sims: This is one of the most exciting quarterback battles to keep an eye on this season. AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims are young and neither has separated himself from the other. However, teammates have said they wouldn’t mind either one starting and trust both to lead the offense. But this isn’t just any offense; it’s the offense of a team that is a true national championship contender. Taking the reigns of this machine is a big deal, and the winner should be prepared for a load of pressure dumped into his lap. This is the first step toward someone pushing past the other, but this battle could bleed deeper into the season.

3. Fresh new faces: There are two new head coaches making their SEC debuts this weekend. Will Muschamp takes over at Florida, after leaving Texas as its defensive coordinator, and James Franklin is in charge at Vanderbilt after being Maryland’s offensive coordinator. Fortunately for both, their teams are favored this weekend, with Florida taking on Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt squaring off against Elon. Muschamp has the tough task of replacing two-time national champion Urban Meyer, while Franklin has brought some much-needed excitement and confidence to a slumping program. Both programs are in need of some early excitement and both should provide plenty of that this weekend.

4. Marquee QB battle: When Georgia and Boise State square off inside the Georgia Dome; they’ll do so with two highly touted quarterbacks. Boise’s veteran Kellen Moore, who has a thirst for big games, will look to keep his team in the national championship picture. Moore enters 2011 as the nation’s active career leader in passing efficiency (166.74) and wins (38). He ranks second on the active career list in completion percentage (68.17), passing yards (10,867), passing touchdowns (99) and completions (831). Last season, Murray passed for a Georgia freshman record 3,049 yards (second in SEC history by a freshman) and 24 touchdowns. His 3,216 total offensive yards ranks him first in Georgia freshman history and second in SEC history. He also tied for first in school history for touchdown responsibility in a season with 28. Watching these two compete will be a lot of fun.

5. Wild runners: The SEC brings back a stable of running back talent as five of the top 10 rushers from the 2010 season return. It would have been six, but Arkansas’ Knile Davis suffered a season-ending ankle injury before the season. The SEC is loaded at running back, with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Alabama’s Trent Richardson making early Heisman Trophy lists. The scary thing is that Lattimore is only a sophomore and Richardson was a backup for two years. Auburn brings back the best rushing combo in Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, who both have the potential to reach 1,000 yards. Ole Miss’ Brandon Bolden is very underrated and should finally eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, while Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard is one of the toughest runners around and is looking to pass his touchdown mark of 19 a season ago. Tennessee’s Tauren Poole is another unheralded rusher, but he surpassed 1,000 yards in 2010. Expect others, like LSU’s Spencer Ware and Kentucky’s Raymond Sanders, to step up as well.

6. QBs getting their first shot to be the man: The first week of football will feature a handful of new quarterbacks looking to prove they can lead their respective teams. McCarron and Sims will be battling it out against Kent State, while Barrett Trotter is taking over for Heisman winner Cam Newton at Auburn. Barry Brunetti makes his SEC debut at Ole Miss. Heck, Lee will have to prove he can be a solid short-term option for LSU, as well. There will be some growing pains and struggles around the league with these players, but they’ll all be eager to get out there and show what they can do.

7. Houston Nutt as the underdog: If history is an indicator, Houston Nutt does well when his team is counted out. Look at the 2006 Arkansas Razorbacks, who made it to the SEC championship game and in 2008, Nutt’s Ole Miss Rebels won their last six games, including the Cotton Bowl. Well, Nutt and his Rebels are being overlooked yet again and Ole Miss starts the season against a tough BYU team. Ole Miss isn’t favored and it’s fielding a slew of youngsters, including a new quarterback in Brunetti. A win would generate some valuable momentum for this team.

8. John Brantley’s confidence: The spread offense is gone in Gainesville and quarterback John Brantley couldn’t be happier. He never fit in the spread, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, but Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have rescued Brantley with a pro-style offense. Brantley set all sorts of records in high school -- some even held by former Florida star Tim Tebow -- but he was never able to play with much confidence in 2010. Now, Brantley has a chance to reinvent himself. Word out of Gainesville is that Brantley has more command in the pocket and has won his teammates over again. Saturday won’t be a major test for Brantley, but it is a chance for him to play with confidence and maybe even some moxie, which should benefit him the rest of the season.

9. Kentucky’s run defense: Kentucky coach Joker Phillips made it perfectly clear that stopping the run is of the utmost importance when the Wildcats face Western Kentucky. When these two got together last season, the Wildcats’ rush defense received what Phillips described as a “slap in the face” from Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey, who ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns. For the rest of the season, Kentucky’s rush defense struggled immensely, surrendering 177.1 yards per game and allowing a league-high 30 rushing touchdowns. For the Wildcats to develop some defensive confidence they’ll have to shut down the Hilltoppers’ running game.

10. Black bear sightings!: Those of you who live in Oxford, Miss., or are traveling there for the weekend should be on the look out for black bears in the vicinity. Whether they’re harmful or not is yet to be seen. Ole Miss is breaking in a new mascot in the “Rebel Black Bear” seven years after the university got rid of “Colonel Reb.” The new mascot has received mixed reactions and expect Colonel Reb supporters to be out in full force for the bear’s first home game. A loss to BYU could send this cuddly creature back into hibernation.





Non-AQ Players to Watch

May, 11, 2011
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I featured three non-AQ players to watch in one of my spring wrap videos: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman and BYU quarterback Jake Heaps.

But there are plenty other non-AQ players to watch. Here is a brief list of other players I think could have big seasons in 2011:

Tank Carder, LB, TCU. He should be a first-team All-American this season as one of the top linebackers in the nation.

Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State. Crawford had a good season in 2010 as a reserve, but he is poised for a breakout season, leaving many confident he will step right in for the departed Ryan Winterswyk at defensive end.

Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina. Davis won the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year award in 2010 after setting school single-season records in touchdown passes (36), attempts (552), completions (358) and passing yards (3,699). He loses his top playmaker in Dwayne Harris, but he will be expected to carry the team once again while the defense undergoes a makeover.

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. He can run, and he can throw, and chances are he is going to be the preseason pick for MAC Offensive Player of the Year. How he does in Dave Doeren's system will be fun to watch.

Logan Harrell, DT, Fresno State. Harrell had 10.5 sacks last season as the Bulldogs really improved their pass rush. With Chris Carter gone, can Harrell duplicate the same results in 2011?

Tim Jefferson, QB, Air Force. There are some who think Air Force could be a dark horse in the Mountain West because of Jefferson, perhaps the most improved player in the Mountain West last season.

Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Could another 5,000-yard season be in the works for Keenum? The big question is how he looks one season removed from ACL surgery. Some quarterbacks have a harder time with their mobility. It took two seasons for Tom Brady to get back to his former self.

G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. You have read ad nauseum on here that he has his third offensive coordinator in three seasons with the Golden Hurricane. But 2010 was his best season yet, and coach Bill Blankenship was promoted from assistant to head coach and knows what works well for Kinne.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey led all rushers in the country with 340 carries and ranked No. 4 among running backs with 1,649 yards. Can he do that agian?

Non-AQ Top 25 Players: No. 24

February, 15, 2011
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We continue our look at the top non-AQ players of 2010 today with somebody who has been under the radar, but deserves much praise for the season he just completed.

[+] EnlargeWestern Kentucky's Bobby Rainey
AP Photo/Dave MartinWestern Kentucky's Bobby Rainey scored 15 rushing TDs this season.
No. 24 Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers broke a 26-game losing streak in 2010 and ended up winning two games, a vast improvement over their winless season in 2009. The baby steps are huge for this program, still in its infancy on the FBS level. Bobby Rainey is a huge reason why the Hilltoppers were able to make those strides. Rainey had nine 100-yard rushing games and ran for 1,649 yards on a whopping 340 carries -- the most in the nation and a school record. He and Jordan Todman of Connecticut were the only two players to have more than 300 carries last season. Rainey ranked No. 3 in the nation with an average of 137.4 yards a game and also scored 15 touchdowns on the ground, which all led to his selection as the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year. His total rushing yards rank second on the school single-season list -- falling 19 shy of the record. Rainey actually ended up with 1,879 yards from scrimmage, nearly half of the team’s 3,817 total yards. He returns for his senior season.

No. 25: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State

Top non-AQ players, offense

January, 24, 2011
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Wanted to give you a quick rundown of the top non-AQ players in the final NCAA statistics for offense. Many of these players will be back for 2011, but many will be gone.

First let us take a look at rushing. Four non-AQ players finished in the Top 10 in yards per game:

No. 3 Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky (137.4)

No. 6 Lance Dunbar, North Texas (129.4)

No. 7 Vai Taua, Nevada (123.85)

No. 10 Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State (117.9)

Taua is the only player who does not return next season. Hillman was a true freshman and many expect him to have an even better season. Rainey and Dunbar will both be seniors and vying once again to be the best running back in the Sun Belt. With Dunbar, it will be interesting to see how he fairs under new coach Dan McCarney, though offensive coordinator Mike Canales remains onboard. Rainey carried the ball a nation-leading 340 times last season. Can he handle another strenuous workload in 2011?

At quarterback, seven of the top 11 players in total passing yards were non-AQ players:

No. 1 Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, 5,040 yards

No. 4. Dominique Davis, East Carolina, 3,967

No. 6 Kellen Moore, Boise State, 3,845

No. 7 Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, 3,830

No. 8 Kyle Padron, SMU, 3,828

t. No. 9 Corey Robinson, Troy, 3,726

No. 11. G.J. Kinne, Tulsa, 3,650

I stretched this list all the way to 11 to show the depth of quality quarterbacks among the non-AQs. Although big-name players like Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick are gone, every player on this list returns to school next season, which means non-AQ quarterbacks will definitely be ones to watch again. But what is interesting is their receiver situation. Everybody but Kinne is losing his leading receiver. In the case of Moore, he loses two in Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Moniz loses Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares, and Lindley loses DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown.

At receiver, seven of the top 100 players in total yards also came from non-AQ schools:

No. 1 Salas, 1,889 yards

No. 5 Jordan White, Western Michigan, 1,378

No. 6 Brown, 1,352

No. 7 Pilares, 1,306

No. 8 Aldrick Robinson, SMU, 1,301

10. Sampson, 1,220

11. Young, 1,215

Ssix of these players are definitely done with their college careers. The one up in the air is White, who is petitioning the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver and sixth season of eligibility. White had serious injuries to both his knees and sat out 2006 and 2008, so it seems likely his waiver will be granted. He set the school record for receiving yards in 2010.
FIU all-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton was honored as the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, while Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey was named Offensive Player of the Year, Middle Tennessee defensive end Jamari Lattimore was Defensive Player of the Year and FIU coach Mario Cristobal won Coach of the Year, the league announced Wednesday.

Hilton led the Panthers with 56 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for 291 yards and four scores, and had 785 yards and a score on kickoff and punt returns. He was also selected to the first team at receiver and return specialist, and second team all-purpose player.

Rainey averaged over 130 yards rushing a game and his total of 1,649 rushing yards ranks second in the nation only behind Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James from Oregon.

Lattimore ranks sixth nationally in total sacks with 11.5. Cristobal, in his fourth season as coach, has helped turn around the FIU program into a conference co-champion.

Troy quarterback Corey Robinson was also named Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. Robinson led the league in passing yards this season and is currently ranked 12th nationally in that category.

Here are the first and second teams, and honorable mentions.

(Read full post)

ESPN.com Non-AQ all-conference team

December, 8, 2010
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Coming up with the all non-AQ team is never easy, because there are so many good players across all five conferences, Army and Navy. Unfortunately, many talented players get left off this list because there isn't room for everybody.

I tried to pick the players who had the most outstanding seasons at their respective positions. The toughest positions for me to pick were defensive line, receiver and linebacker, where I had 10 worthy candidates to whittle down.

It was also tough selecting a quarterback, so I went with two: Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore of Boise State and record-setting Colin Kaepernick of Nevada. Both had incredible seasons worthy of recognition. My lone Sun Belt selection had the best player in the conference -- Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey, who ran for 1,649 yards on an astounding 340 carries, with 15 touchdowns.

My lone MAC selection was KR Eric Page, who led the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Here is the complete list. Feel free to debate in the comments section.

OFFENSE

QB – Kellen Moore, Boise State; Colin Kaepernick, Nevada

RB – Bobby Rainey, Jr., Western Kentucky

RB – Vai Taua, Sr., Nevada

AP – Damaris Johnson, Jr., Tulsa

WR – Greg Salas, Sr., Hawaii

WR – Titus Young, Sr., Boise State

TE – Virgil Green, Sr., Nevada

OL -- Matt Reynolds, Jr., BYU

OL – Marcus Cannon, Sr., TCU

OL – Nate Potter, Jr., Boise State

OL – Rob McGill, Sr., Louisiana Tech

C -- Zane Taylor, Sr., Utah

DEFENSE

DL -- Chris Carter, Sr., Fresno State

DL – Vinny Curry, Jr., Marshall

DL – Dontay Moch, Sr., Nevada

DL – Shea McClellin, Jr., Boise State

LB – Tank Carder, Jr., TCU

LB – Corey Paredes, Jr., Hawaii

LB -- Mario Harvey, Sr., Marshall

DB – Reggie Rembert, Sr., Air Force

DB – Mana Silva, Sr., Hawaii

DB – Tejay Johnson, Sr., TCU

DB – George Iloka, Boise State

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Danny Hrapmann, Jr., Southern Miss

P – Kyle Martens, Jr., Rice

KR – Eric Page, So., Toledo

PR – Shaky Smithson, Sr., Utah

Non-AQ did you know, Week 14

December, 3, 2010
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Time for our final regular-season edition of Did You Know? Special thanks to the sports information directors at the conferences and schools for the notes below.

Both Boise State and Nevada have won at least 10 games this year and Hawaii is on the verge of doing so as well. If Hawaii beats UNLV this weekend or wins the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, then the WAC will have three teams with 10 or more wins for the first time since 1994 when BYU, Colorado State and Utah all finished the season with 10 victories.

New Mexico State junior Taveon Rogers finished the season with 1,410 kick return yards, setting a new WAC and NCAA record. The previous WAC record of 1,214 was set by San Jose State’s Deonce Whitaker in 1998, and the NCAA record was 1,382 yards set by Tulsa Damaris Johnson in 2008. Rogers’ 52 returns for the season also broke Whitaker’s WAC record of 51, but were short of the NCAA record of 55 set by Army’s William White in 2002. Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams has a chance to break both records this week as he has 47 returns for 1,287 yards.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs 253 passing yards to reach 10,000, and 65 rushing yards to reach 4,000 for his career ... he also needs two rushing TDs to tie the WAC’s career record of 58 (Ian Johnson-BSU).

SMU and UCF have met just twice with UCF holding a 2-0 series edge, having topped SMU in 2007 and 2008.

SMU receiver Aldrick Robinson is the first player in school history to record two 1,000-yard seasons. He has had TD catches in six straight games entering the Conference-USA title game, and has pulled in a school-record 12 TD catches this season.

Four of SMU’s starting 22 are seniors - Pete Fleps, Sterling Moore, Robinson and Youri Yenga. A staggering 82 percent of SMU’s 2010 starters are slated to be back in 2011.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger will coach his 300th game Saturday, against Troy, a team the Owls have been able to defeat once (2007). Running back Alfred Morris needs 118 yards to become the first FAU player to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

The Sun Belt has two of the top three running backs in the country in terms of yards gained. Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey leads the nation with 1,649 yards rushing, and North Texas' Lance Dunbar is third with 1,553 yards. Rainey had nine 100-yard rushing games this year, tying him with Antwan Floyd (1994) and Jon Frazier (2002) for the most 100-yard games in a season in school history. Dunbar’s 1,553 yards ranks third in North Texas history. Only Jamario Thomas and Patrick Cobbs have rushed for more yards in a single season. Both are juniors and will be back next season.

Several non-AQ players have been nominated for the Rudy Award, honoring student-athletes who demonstrate exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment. The award is named for former Notre Dame walk-on Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, immortalized in the movie "Rudy."

Here are the non-AQ nominees: Chris Banjo of SMU, Austin Contreras of UTEP, Doug Deakin of San Diego State, Kyle Delahooke of Navy, Kevin Fogler of Air Force, Derek Good of Colorado State, Jeremy Kellem of Middle Tennessee, Mitch Krotz of Miami (Ohio), Levi Koskan of Utah State, Dustin Lineback of East Carolina, Phillip Livas of Louisiana Tech, Darius Nall of UCF, Ashlyn Parker of FIU, Andrew Rich of BYU, Kevin Pool of Rice and Bronson Tiwanak of Hawaii.

Fans can review nominations and vote until Dec. 13 for the most deserving player at www.CollegeRudyAwards.com.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind, Week 13

November, 29, 2010
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Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 13.

The good: TCU completed its second straight undefeated regular season and is the flag bearer for non-AQS everywhere as the top team remaining in the BCS standings. Meanwhile, Nevada beat a Top 10 team for the first time in program history with its huge 34-31 overtime win over Boise State. But this weekend rewind would not be complete without a major hand clap for Akron and coach Rob Ianello, waiting until the very last game of the season for its first win, a 22-14 victory over Buffalo last Friday. Alex Allen posted his third straight 100-yard game, and Patrick Nicely threw for three touchdowns. The season will end without a winless team. ... FIU also made history with its first Sun Belt title and first bowl berth.

[+] EnlargePatrick Edwards
AP Photo/Zach LongPatrick Edwards and the Cougars ended the season on a four-game losing streak. The losses mean Houston will miss a bowl game for the first time in six years.
The bad: Houston, a preseason favorite to win Conference USA, ended the season on a four game losing streak and will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2004. The Cougars gave it a valiant effort, but in the end, the loss of Case Keenum was too much to overcome. The running game was never consistent, mainly because teams loaded the box and dared Houston to throw. When they did, true freshman David Piland put up a lot of yards, but also threw too many interceptions. During the four-game skid, he had 13 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. … Ohio (8-4) managed a season-low six points in a loss to Kent State with a berth in the MAC title game on the line. The Bobcats had four turnovers, 11 first downs and just 183 total yards. They had won seven straight going into the game and now await their bowl fate.

The offensive: Nine non-AQ teams scored 40 points or more this weekend, including five that scored 50-plus. Two of the wildest games were Tulsa beating Southern Miss 56-50 and Louisiana Tech beating San Jose State 45-38. In the Tulsa game, G.J. Kinne threw for 406 yards, while Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis had 371. The two teams combined for 1,197 yards and 56 first downs. In San Jose, the two teams combined for 1,001 yards and 50 first downs. San Jose State quarterback Jordan La Secla threw for 496 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions while Louisiana Tech running back Lennon Creer ran for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

The heartache: Boise State may be 10-1, but it’s hard to imagine anybody is more heartbroken than the Broncos today. Their dreams of playing for a national championship have been dashed, and so has any hope of playing in a BCS game. You have to feel for kicker Kyle Brotzman, who missed two field goals, including one that would have won the game.

BYU also had its hearts broken on a missed kick in the Holy War against Utah. It was a wild game in Salt Lake City, featuring seven combined turnovers. The most costly for BYU came late in the game. Leading 16-10, Brandon Bradley intercepted Jordan Wynn with about five minutes to play. But he fumbled during the return and Utah recovered. Though TV replays showed his knee was down, the ruling on the field stood. Matt Asiata ended up scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Utes ahead 17-16. BYU had a chance to win it, but Mitch Payne’s 42-yard attempt was blocked by Brandon Burton. Interestingly, BYU was involved in a highly publicized instant replay error against San Diego State earlier this season. After finding a BYU employee and alumni were working the booth in that game, the Mountain West changed its rules and no longer allows alums or school employees to work instant replay during games involving their teams.

A few more helmet stickers: UNLV freshman kick returner Marcus Sullivan set a new UNLV single-game record for kick return yards with 224 yards in a loss to San Diego State. That ranks second in conference history. … North Texas running back Lance Dunbar set a career-high and had the sixth-best rushing performance in the nation this season with 270 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Kansas State. He scored a fourth touchdown on a 17-yard pass reception. Also in the Sun Belt, Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey now leads the nation in rushing with 1,649 total yards rushing.

Week 14 look ahead: Two conference championship games to look forward to: Miami (Ohio) versus Northern Illinois on Friday in the MAC and SMU versus UCF on Saturday in Conference USA. No. 17 Nevada plays Louisiana Tech, No. 11 Boise State plays Utah State and Hawaii plays UNLV. If all three win out, they share the WAC championship.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November, 25, 2010
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Happy Thanksgiving to all! Hope you get to spend today with lots of food, family and football -- it will be a great treat to see whether Texas can pull the upset and become bowl-eligible tonight against Texas A&M.

What are you thankful for today? Here is my list:

Passionate college football fans, who are all to eager to tell you that you are either 1) The smartest person alive or 2) The dumbest person who ever lived and should be scrubbing toilets rather than talking college football. I love you all!

Boise State and TCU. Haters can hate all they want, but we are seeing something this season that may never happen again. This is history in the making, the possibility that a non-AQ makes it into the national championship game. With Boise State and TCU set to be in the same conference in 2011, Utah leaving for the Pac-12 and the implosion of the WAC, this could very well be the last time we see two undefeated non-AQ teams jockeying for position in a national championship race.

The Pistol offense. It's nice to see Nevada coach Chris Ault get all the pub he has gotten for his innovative offense this season. Not only have countless stories been done on him, but several teams throughout college football are now running some version of it, from UCLA to Alabama to Stanford.

Great coaching jobs. Look across the non-AQs and you will find plenty -- TCU coach Gary Patterson and Boise State coach Chris Petersen go without saying. Here are a few others:
  • Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood -- Took a 1-11 team to an 8-4 record and a share of the East Division title.
  • Ohio coach Frank Solich -- Overcame the loss of three star players to lead his team to a share of the MAC East.
  • Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill -- On the verge of a 10-win season for the Huskies.
  • FIU coach Mario Cristobal -- Has his never-been-bowling Panthers one win away from a Sun Belt title.
  • UCF coach George O'Leary -- Has his team one win from the C-USA title game with a freshman quarterback and an outstanding defense.
  • BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall -- His team is bowl-eligible after starting the season 1-4.
Great players. You know the headliners. Here are some of the most unheralded from the non-AQs: Western Kentucky RB Bobby Rainey, who has carried the ball a whopping 313 times this season and ranks No. 4 in the country in rushing, averaging 135 yards a game. North Texas back Lance Dunbar is right behind him in the Sun Belt. Dominique Davis of East Carolina, Bryant Moniz of Hawaii, Alex Carder of Western Michigan and Corey Robinson of Troy all rank in the top 10 in the nation in passing.

Great WR duos, too: Titus Young and Austin Pettis at Boise State; Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares at Hawaii; Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson at San Diego State; Juan Nunez and Jordan White at Western Michigan.

Defensively, it's hard not to like Jamon Hughes of Memphis, Bobby Wagner of Utah State, Dwayne Woods of Bowling Green, Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey of Marshall, Archie Donald and Danny Molls of Toledo, the entire TCU and Boise State defenses, Josh McNary of Army and Wyatt Middleton of Navy. Three of the best special-teamers in the nation are from non-AQs too: Shaky Smithson of Utah, Jeremy Kerley of TCU and Darius Johnson of Tulsa.

Happy eating, everyone!

3-point stance: Gundy got out of the way

November, 24, 2010
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1. No. 9 Oklahoma State is guaranteed a share of its first Big 12 South title and plays No. 13 Oklahoma on Saturday to reach the league championship game. It’s no coincidence, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy told the Daily Oklahoman, that the Cowboys improved when he stopped being his own offensive coordinator. He’s a better head coach now that he has the time to be one. It doesn’t hurt that the replacement Gundy hired to run the offense, Dana Holgorsen, is better than his boss.

2. Texas needs to upset No. 17 Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night to avoid its first last-place finish in the Big 12 South and keep alive Mack Brown’s streak of 12 seasons, 12 bowls. All of which should serve as a reminder to Oklahoma fans that when the Sooners have a down year, they still win eight games. If Oklahoma wins in Stillwater, Bob Stoops will coach in his eighth Big 12 Championship Game in 12 seasons. His record: 6-1.

3. No one outside of the Sun Belt Conference knows Western Kentucky junior Bobby Rainey. Time to meet him: he’s fourth in rushing average (135.4 yards per game), second with 1,492 yards, and first with 313 rushing attempts. Rainey has gained nearly half (48.4 percent) of the Hilltoppers’ offense. Before you do your non-AQ mocking, consider that Rainey rushed for 159 yards in the opener at Nebraska and had enough left in the tank to carry it 45 times for 248 yards last Saturday against Middle Tennessee.

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