NCF Nation: Donald Buckram

New Mexico bowl

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
8:52
PM ET
BYU Cougars (6-6) vs. UTEP Miners (6-6)

Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

This is an intriguing matchup between former WAC rivals to kick off bowl season. While this season has been largely disappointing for the Cougars, UTEP is making its first bowl appearance since 2005. The game, which generally pits Mountain West vs. WAC, was able to work out a switch with several other conferences and games to get a more regional matchup -- El Paso, is about a four-hour drive from Albuquerque. BYU ran its bowl streak to six straight despite a 1-4 start, and nearly pulled off a major upset in its regular-season finale against Utah. The Cougars finished 6-6, their worst season since also going 6-6 in 2005, their first under coach Bronco Mendenhall. The big reason was a moribund offense, something that you rarely hear about in Provo. The Cougars started the season with two quarterbacks, but after Riley Nelson was sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury, true freshman Jake Heaps took over. He has made significant strides, and JJ Di Luigi has helped at running back. But there still is no true go-to playmaker on offense.

Mendenhall has taken over as defensive coordinator, and the unit has shown vast improvements. As for UTEP, the Miners are bowl eligible because they were able to beat up the bad teams on their schedule.

The Miners closed the season with five losses in their last six games, but they have been beaten up all season. Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has been hampered with ankle injuries. Running back Donald Buckram, who ran for 1,594 yards last season, also struggled with a knee injury and only had 325 yards this season.

Lunchtime Links

September, 17, 2010
9/17/10
12:00
PM ET
Nevada and California will use tonight's game as a measuring stick.

Southern Miss gets another opportunity on a national stage, this time against Kansas.

No matter who starts at quarterback for Utah against New Mexico, the offensive game plan won't change.

Bronco Mendenhall has blundered his handling of quarterbacks this season, writes Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune.

San Diego State will start Davon Brown at running back, and freshman Ronnie Hillman will continue to rotate with Walter Kazee.

Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher said he didn't take a $1,500 loan to gamble. Instead, he says he needed it for "family problems." Dasher has been suspended four games for improperly accepting the loan.

UTEP will make a game-time decison on whether running back Donald Buckram can play against New Mexico State.

Acrimony aside, Tulsa and Oklahoma State need each other, writes Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.

Akron receiver Jeremy LaFrance survived Hurricane Katrina.

Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis won't play against Penn State on Saturday because of a groin injury.

Lunchtime Links

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
12:35
PM ET
Houston offensive coordinator Jason Phillips said the team is preparing as if Case Keenum (concussion) will be able to play. If not, Cotton Turner would get the nod.

The TCU-Baylor game should be an emotional one for the former SWC rivals.

BYU hasn't forgotten about its debacle against Florida State last year.

Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has cowboy charisma.

Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan will be a load for Ball State to handle.

Louisiana Tech is still searching for the right situation at quarterback.

Injuries are a growing concern for Navy. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs hasn't practiced full this week with a sprained ankle, and starting cornerback Emmett Merchant could be out against Louisiana Tech.

UTEP running back Donald Buckram says he will play Saturday. "The way the knee feels today, it's a lot better than it was Saturday," he told the El Paso Times.

Injuries are piling up at North Texas, too.

Other conference links:

ACC

Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

Late afternoon-time Links

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
4:02
PM ET
Who's hungry for some links as your late afternoon snack?

Houston quarterback Case Keenum is day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms.

Virginia Tech's loss makes Boise State look like small potatoes.

Middle Tennessee has a quarterback conundrum.

BYU hopes to learn from its loss to Air Force.

Despite being 2-0, Utah has some work to do, especially on special teams. No word yet on whether Jordan Wynn will be able to play.

TCU faces emotional tests in its next two games against in-state teams Baylor and SMU.

San Diego State coach Brady Hoke is making confidence management a priority after his team's 2-0 start.

Fresno State receiver Devon Wylie is out indefinitely with a foot injury and could miss the season. Wylie, the fastest player in school history, has been injured all four years at Fresno State.

UTEP is still uncertain about the status of running back Donald Buckram, who injured his knee in practice two weeks ago. The problem is now that fluid is draining from his knee to his calf and ankle.

Other conference links:

ACC

Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

Pac-10

SEC

Lunchtime Links

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
12:49
PM ET
Nick Saban takes a shot at Boise State.

Boise State wanted $1 million to play at Nebraska.

TCU was rooting for Boise State to beat Virginia Tech.

Temple is 2-0 for the first time since 1981 after a 13-10 overtime win against Central Michigan on Thursday night.

Marshall has gotten off to good starts against West Virginia, but the result is usually a bad finish.

A move from quarterback to wide receiver has paid off for Utah's DeVonte Christopher.

After a dismal end to 2009, Houston quarterback Case Keenum vowed to his teammates he wouldn't let them lose again.

UTEP running back Donald Buckram remains a game-time decision for tonight's contest against Houston.

Other conference links:

ACC

Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

SEC

Houston gears up to stop UTEP run

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
10:00
AM ET
Houston has a pretty simple game plan going into its game against UTEP.

Someone, anyone, stop the run.

[+] EnlargeDonald Buckram
AP Photo/Victor CalzadaUTEP's Donald Buckram scored four touchdowns against Houston last season.
The Miners gashed the Cougars on the ground last season, rushing for 305 yards in the upset 58-41 win. Donald Buckram did most of the damage, with 262 yards and four touchdowns – and averaged a whopping 8.4 yards a carry.

Buckram is questionable for this game after bruising his knee at practice last week, but coach Kevin Sumlin understands it won’t matter who is in the backfield. His team has got to shut the Miners down tonight (ESPN, 10: 15 p.m. ET).

“Physically, they got after us in both fronts,” Sumlin said. “This game will be pretty simple -- the team that’s able to be physical and win up front is going to win the football game.”

The Cougars have changed their defensive alignment since last season, and now play the 3-4. They allowed Texas State to gain 180 yards on the ground in a win last week, but only allowed 3.2 yards per rush. Last season, Houston allowed 5.1 yards a carry.

Sumlin said he was pleased with the overall effort from his new defense.

“In the first half, our starters on defense gave up one touchdown and 175 yards,” he said. “For the first crew, I thought they came out and did what we asked them to do.”

Of course, one might think the Cougars are out for revenge after what happened last year. They were riding high after consecutive upsets, first over No. 5 Oklahoma State and then against Texas Tech. Houston became a non-AQ darling, jumping up into the polls to No. 12. Meanwhile, UTEP was coming off a 64-7 loss to Texas. Nobody gave the Miners a chance.

Perhaps the attention got to the Cougars. Sumlin refuses to talk the R-word, but UTEP coach Mike Price realizes what’s coming.

“I’m sure our game is going to be circled on their schedule,” Price said. “They were riding high when they came in here last year, and we won the game and we knocked them off the tremendous start they were having.”

The schools seem to always play offensive shootouts. In 2005, UTEP won 44-41 in double overtime. In 2007, Houston rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to win 34-31. In 2008, Houston again rallied from a 28-9 third-quarter deficit. Case Keenum threw the winning touchdown pass in a 42-37 victory.

The teams have totaled over 1,000 yards of offense in their past two meetings. Last year, Keenum completed 51 of 76 passes for 536 yards and five touchdowns, but it was a wasted effort in the loss. Does UTEP have the offensive firepower to stay with Houston if Buckram cannot play?

Price said the offensive game plan would change a little, simply because none of the other running backs have the long-strike ability of Buckram. Vernon Frazier is more of an outside runner, Joe Banyard more of an inside runner, and both would play if Buckram is out. They both played in the opener and gained 183 combined yards.

“But alone, Buckram ran for (262) against these guys last year,” Price said. “He was really a vital part of us keeping ahead of Houston. Very seldom does anybody get ahead of Houston much.”

When asked whether his team was physically prepared for the task of stopping the run, Sumlin said, “I would hope so.”

What to Watch among non-AQs: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
10:15
AM ET
Week 2 is almost here! With that, here are 10 storylines to watch among the non-AQ teams:

1. Can Air Force put pressure on BYU’s two quarterbacks? Part of the reason Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps were so successful last week against Washington was because their offensive line protected them so well, giving up no sacks. Air Force has experience up front, led by defensive end Rick Ricketts. If they can get to the young quarterbacks, the Falcons have a shot of breaking their six-game losing streak to BYU.

2. How does Wyoming handle the tragedy of this week against Texas? The Cowboys were facing a hard enough game as it was, but now they go into Austin after the tragic death of a teammate. Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident and three players were injured. The team has tried to maintain its normal routine, but coach Dave Christensen has no idea what to expect at kickoff. They will wear decals on their helmets with Narcisse’s initials.

[+] EnlargeJordan Wynn
Paul Jasienski/US PresswireJordan Wynn's status for Saturday's remains uncertain.
3. Does Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn play against UNLV? Wynn is listed as day to day with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand and could be a game-time decision for the Utes. He got hurt early in the opener last week against Pittsburgh but still threw for 283 yards. Backup Terrance Cain is capable, having started the first eight games of last season. Cain had a good day against UNLV last season, going 17-of-24 for 174 yards with two touchdown passes.

4. Can Tulane pull a Jacksonville State? Ole Miss is going to go into its game against Tulane looking to make up for an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville State last week. Tulane was one of the worst teams in Conference USA last season and was not overly impressive in its opener. Southeastern Louisiana had more total yards (266-252) and more first downs (17-15) and Tulane had three turnovers but still won. Chances for an upset are unlikely, but hey, there is always Jacksonville State for inspiration.

5. How is New Mexico going to respond after losing 72-0 to Oregon last week? Coach Mike Locksley said his team isn’t dwelling on the terrible loss in which New Mexico gave up 720 yards of total offense and had five turnovers. But it’s not as if the Lobos get a break this week with a high-powered passing offense in Texas Tech coming to town.

6. Hawaii has a mighty looooong road trip. Hawaii is playing in the Eastern time zone for just the sixth time when it faces Army on Saturday. How will the Warriors respond when the game kicks off at 6 a.m. Hawaii time? The Warriors have been on the mainland since Wednesday to get used to the time change. Though they gave USC fits last week, Army can run the ball, and Hawaii had a hard time slowing down the ground game against the Trojans. But will Army slow down a passing attack that will have Bryant Moniz behind center?

7. Will UTEP RB Donald Buckram play against Houston? Buckram missed the season opener against Arkansas Pine-Bluff after bruising his knee in practice, and coach Mike Price doesn’t know whether his starting running back will be available this week. Without him last week, UTEP used Joe Banyard and Vernon Frazier, who combined for 183 yards rushing. Buckram gashed Houston for 262 yards rushing last year in the upset win.

8. Can Colorado State beat Nevada for the second straight year? The last time the Rams won a game was nearly a year ago, against Nevada last Sept. 19. They were able to slow down Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, holding him to 24 yards on the ground, and forcing him into three turnovers. But this year, they go to Reno with freshman starting quarterback Pete Thomas. The Wolf Pack are improved, but it’s unclear whether the Rams are after losing to Colorado last week.

9. Can Eastern Michigan win a road game? The Eagles go to Miami (Ohio) this week looking for their first road win since Oct. 4, 2008, a 24-21 win at Bowling Green. They played a good game against Army, losing with 38 seconds to play. Running back Dwayne Priest and quarterback Alex Gillett both ran for more than 100 yards, the first time two Eagles backs went over 100 yards since 2005. Miami played it very close to the Gators last week and presents a more balanced attack than Army.

10. Are we in store for another close game between Arkansas State and Louisiana? This is the first conference matchup in the Sun Belt between teams that have played it pretty close the past few years. Eight of the last 10 meetings have been decided by six points or fewer, including the last two. Last year, Arkansas State rallied to within three after trailing 21-3, but ended up losing in the final minutes. The Red Wolves haven’t won at Louisiana in 18 years, but their new offense put up 26 points last week against Auburn, their second-highest point total against a Top-25 opponent since 2002.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

September, 6, 2010
9/06/10
2:00
PM ET
Let's take a look at the good, the bad and the incredible in a nearly complete Week 1.

The good: The Mountain West and WAC were the only two conferences to win games against AQ opponents. The Mountain West had the best record against teams from those automatic qualifying conferences, going 3-3 with big wins from TCU, BYU and Utah. Fresno State had the lone WAC win, over Cincinnati. Of course, there is still one WAC team yet to play. The other conference records against other AQ schools:

[+] EnlargeUtah Celebration
AP Photo/Steve C. WilsonUtah's upset of No. 15 Pitt was just one reason for Non AQs to celebrate in Week 1.
Conference USA: 0-5; 0-6 against all FBS opponents.

MAC: 0-5; 0-7 against all FBS opponents.

Sun Belt: 0-5; 2-5 against all FBS opponents.

The bad: Nobody could possibly have had a worse weekend than New Mexico, which lost 72-0 to Oregon. This is the perfect example of why many people believe the Mountain West should not get an automatic qualifying bid into the BCS. The league is so top heavy it gets weighed down with the teams at the bottom that simply cannot compete. Show me a team at the bottom of any AQ conferences that could lose as badly as this. Not even Duke, Vanderbilt or Syracuse qualifies.

The incredible: You probably have all seen the highlights, but it bears repeating that East Carolina's last-second win over Tulsa is why fans of the sport love it so much. Time winding down, hopes all but gone, and then a ball dropped from the heavens right into the arms of the 6-foot-8 Justin Jones. "That was the greatest experience of my life," quarterback Dominique Davis said after the game. "There was probably people in the stands -- our fans -- who probably thought the game was over. But I told the team, 'Just trust.' As soon as I let it go, I knew he was going to catch it."

The new: Several new starters at quarterback seemed to do all right for themselves on opening weekend. Jake Heaps of BYU, Corey Robinson of Troy and Logan Kilgore of Middle Tennessee all had decent outings. So did Ryan Radcliff of Central Michigan and Jerry Davis of Buffalo.

A few more helmet stickers: Belated helmet stickers to Davis of East Carolina, who went 27-of-46 for 383 yards with five touchdown passes. He also had a score on the ground. Also, much was made of the way Hawaii was able to hang around USC. The offense looked great, even after starting quarterback Bryant Moniz took a hit to the helmet and was forced to leave the game. Kealoha Pilares had five catches for 176 yards and 3 TDs in the win. Two of his touchdowns went for over 50 yards.

A few injury items to note: UTEP running back Donald Buckram missed the opener against Arkansas Pine-Bluff after bruising his knee in practice. A MRI on his knee was negative, and he clearly was not needed in the win over an FCS team. Hawaii's Moniz didn't practice Saturday but said he expects to play this week against Army. Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert was carted off the field with a neck injury in the opener against Northwestern State, and it's unlikely that he plays this weekend against BYU. Tests on his neck were negative.

Week 2 look ahead: There are several in-conference games scheduled for this week, the biggest being BYU at Air Force. On Thursday night, Central Michigan plays Temple in the MAC; UTEP is at Houston on Friday night in a big divisional game. You can bet the Miners will need Buckram in this game. FIU, New Mexico State and Louisiana-Monroe were the only three idle teams in the country Week 1. They play their first games this weekend.

Non-AQ players on watch lists

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
1:00
PM ET
Several watch lists have come out in the last few days. Here are some of the top non-AQ players to watch.

Maxwell Award, presented to best player in college football:

Houston QB Case Keenum and Boise State QB Kellen Moore are on the watch list again. Both were semifinalists for the award in 2009. The others who join them:

UTEP RB Donald Buckram
TCU QB Andy Dalton
Navy QB Ricky Dobbs
Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick
Temple RB Bernard Pierce

Walter Camp, presented to best player in college football:

Everybody on the Maxwell list, plus Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher.

Bednarik Award, presented to the best defensive player:

TCU LB Tank Carder
Boise State DE Ryan Winterswyk
Southern Miss LB Korey Williams
Temple DE Adrian Robinson
Nevada DE Dontay Moch
UCF DE Bruce Miller
Army DE Josh McNary
No. 13 (A): Donald Buckram, RB, UTEP

2009 numbers: Rushed for 1,594 yards and 18 touchdowns, which led Conference USA and ranked fourth nationally.

Making the case for Buckram: Buckram is the best returning running back from the nonautomatic qualifying schools after a breakout season that is giving the Miners hope that they can make a run for the Conference USA West title. Coach Mike Price was given a vote of confidence because players such as Buckram were returning this year and his dynamic ability makes him one of the most formidable threats in the country. Buckram had eight games with at least 100 yards and had at least 147 yards in five of his final six games. He rushed for more than 200 yards three times a year ago.

No. 13 (B): Titus Young, WR, Boise State


2009 numbers: Had 79 catches for 1,041 yards and 10 touchdowns and had 15 total touchdowns during the season.


Making the case for Young: Young is so high on this list not because of his receiving stats, though they are impressive, but because of all of the things he does for the Broncos. He led the team in receptions per game, receiving yards per game and kick returns. He had two kick return touchdowns and three touchdowns rushing. The Broncos have a lot of offensive weapons, but Young will be one of the players to watch as the Broncos attempt to be the first nonautomatic qualifying team to play for a national title.
I’m a joiner and this morning I saw that the other bloggers were writing about the teams from their conferences that had the best chance of going bowling this year. So, I thought I’d join in.

Obviously, I have more conferences, so I’ll break this down over a few posts throughout the rest of the week. I’ll go in alphabetical order, so let’s start with Conference USA.

C-USA announced last month that it will have six guaranteed bowl spots and an agreement with the new Dallas Football Classic to participate in that game should be the Big Ten or Big 12 be unable to provide a team. The Liberty Bowl takes the conference champion and then teams are dispersed with the help of the league office.

I’m not going to pick the exact bowls but rather the teams I think will be bowling at the end of the year.

COUNT ON IT
  • Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have missed the postseason just once this decade, so there’s no reason to think they’re going to slip now. Yes, there are questions on the offensive line, but this team should be challenging for a conference title by the end of the season.
  • Central Florida: The Knights rebounded from a tough 2008 to nearly play in the conference title game in 2009. This year, the defense looks stout and the offense seems to have found a quarterback in Rob Calabrese that can help expand their game. Running back is a huge question mark with Brynn Harvey out for nonconference play, but several other options seemed to step up during the spring.
  • Houston: The Cougars seemed to hit a wall at the end of last season, but with nearly everyone returning from that team, they’ll be the favorites to win C-USA West in the fall. The question will be whether they learned from last year’s mistakes to put themselves in better bowl position this year.
  • SMU: Dare I say that SMU is back? The Mustangs will be young again, but I think coach June Jones has found something in quarterback Kyle Padron and the Mustangs will once again be in a bowl hunt. I think the ‘Stangs have the best chance to give Houston a run for the West Division.
  • Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane had a down year in 2009, but I think that was an aberration. Coach Todd Graham acknowledged he underestimated the loss of some players heading into last year, but with most of the 2009 squad returning for 2010, he feels confident his team can rebound. Much of Tulsa’s success will depend on the offensive line, which was really shaky a year ago.
MOST LIKELY
  • UTEP: The Miners have the talent to make a bowl game, especially with quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and running back Donald Buckram back, but the consistency is something that needs to come along. The Miners have a new defensive coordinator, which should alleviate the need to get into shootouts with opponents.
  • Marshall: It’s hard to say what a team will look like with a new coach and several of the top offensive weapons gone, but coach Doc Holliday does have some gems on his roster that could get this team to six wins. However, the nonconference schedule is a bear and the Herd has to play at Southern Miss, ECU and SMU.
OUTSIDE SHOT
  • East Carolina: The Pirates lost more starters to graduation than any other team in the country. Combine that with trying to learn a new offensive and defensive system and it seems like a rebuilding year.
  • Rice: Last year was a tough transition for Rice after losing almost all of its offense from 2008. This year should be better with some new quarterback choices, experience and running back Sam McGuffie available to play. The Owls could easily go 2-2 during nonconference play and have SMU and Houston at home, but there’s a tough road stretch during late October and early November that will get them a bowl berth.
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR
  • Memphis: New head coach Larry Porter inherited a lot of potential, but it won’t be easy to put that together in a year. There are a lot of questions for this Memphis team, especially at running back, the position that carried the offense a year ago.
  • UAB: Quarterback Joe Webb was the Blazers’ all-everything player a year ago and now that he’s gone, no one has stepped up to fill that gap. Coach Neil Callaway has been looking for players to help out for the past few years and has had little luck finding someone to emerge. That will continue as the Blazers struggle in 2010.
  • Tulane: I thought the Green Wave would be better in 2009, but that didn’t happen and I don’t have a lot of confidence for 2010. They lose top players Jeremy Williams and Andre Anderson and are still looking for consistent play from both sides of the ball.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Central Florida Knights
Spring practice starts: March 19
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • The Knights will need to develop offensive line talent after allowing 2.54 sacks per game and failing to block for a rushing offense that ranked 82nd in the country. The Knights return all but two offensive linemen and have one coming in the spring.
  • The quarterback battle will heat up with early enrollee Jeffrey Godfrey, who already has impressed coach George O’Leary. Godfrey will compete against Rob Calabrese for the starting role.
  • The Knights will have to find replacements for three key members of the defensive line -- DE Jarvis Geathers, RT Torrell Troup, LT Travis Timmons. The defense was the main reason the Knights finished 8-5 and won their final five games.
East Carolina Pirates
Spring practice starts: March 22
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • With a new coach, a new system, and a crop of new starters, East Carolina will have its work cut out for it this spring. New head coach Ruffin McNeill needs to replace 15 players with starting experience, which won’t be easy with just a month to work.
  • The most underrated positions the Pirates have to fill are punter and kicker. All-American Matt Dodge is gone as is kicker Ben Hartman, who set the school record for career scoring. Finding replacements for those two is a top priority.
  • New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will be implement Texas Tech’s offensive system with just two scholarship quarterbacks and a team that relied on its running game. Riley is confident he can install all of his spread offense this fall, but there’s no telling how quickly the Pirates will pick it up.
Houston Cougars
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • The one thing that really kept Houston from an undefeated season was its defense. Brian Stewart, who was named the defensive coordinator in January, inherits a young team with a lot of talent, but he has some work to do to catch the defense up to the offense by September.
  • Quarterback Case Keenum returns for his senior season, but his center, Carl Barnett, does not. Barnett started 39 games, so Keenum will have to establish a good rapport with his new center this spring. Blake Sargent, who was the backup last year, appears to be the front-runner.
  • Even though the Cougars did not lose many starters on offense, coach Kevin Sumlin will look for more athletic players to rotate into the mix. Last season, 19 players had at least one catch and 12 had double-digit catches.

(Read full post)

Big 12 predictions

September, 24, 2009
9/24/09
9:13
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


I had my best week of the season last week by picking nine out of 11 games correctly, but assuredly I can do better. Hopefully this week's picks will continue my hot streak.

Missouri 38, Nevada 24: The Wolf Pack likely will stack the box and dare Missouri sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert to beat them by throwing the ball without much benefit of a running game. If the Tigers can do a good job of containing Nevada defensive ends Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped, they should be able to dominate the offensive part of the game. Nevada has lost disappointing road games to Notre Dame and Colorado State, and Chris Ault’s team will be charged about its home debut in a rare national television game. And bet the Wolf Pack will be itching for revenge after last year’s 69-17 loss to the Tigers at Columbia. But Missouri still has too many weapons.

Kansas 31, Southern Mississippi 20: It’s been a trying week for the Fighting Manginos around Lawrence after some players were involved in a nasty brawl with the Kansas basketball team that splashed both programs on the front pages. They will be challenged to stop the Golden Eagles, who come into the game with an eight-game winning streak -- tied with Mississippi behind only Florida on the national list. The streak continued last week when the Golden Eagles rallied from an early 17-point deficit to claim a 37-34 victory over Virginia. The improving Kansas defense will be challenged to contain running backs Damion Fletcher and Tory Harrison, who both gashed the Cavaliers for more than 100 yards. Both teams should be able to score points in bunches, but I’m thinking that Kansas has too much firepower with Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe, even with the status of leading rusher Jake Sharp likely to be a game-time decision.

Kansas State 31, Tennessee Tech 7: The Wildcats have started out slowly on offense, scoring the fewest points since Bill Snyder’s first season coaching them in 1989. And they will be playing an underrated Tennessee Tech team coached by Watson Brown, older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown. The Golden Eagles were competitive against preseason Ohio Valley Conference favorite Eastern Kentucky last week before falling 17-7. But they’ll be stepping up in class against a Kansas State team hopeful of stopping a recent two-game losing streak. Look for Snyder to try to get tailback Daniel Thomas involved early and try to build some confidence for quarterback Carson Coffman to take into Big 12 play.

Texas 52, UTEP 10: Texas still hasn’t strung together a complete game this season. This might be the Longhorns’ opportunity. Colt McCoy struggled again last week in the first half, battling the vestiges of a flu attack. But he again rebounded in the second half, taking advantage of new offensive weapons in running back Tre’ Newton and flex receiver Dan Buckner. UTEP has been effective running the ball with Donald Buckram, who is averaging almost 7 yards a play. The Miners scored five rushing touchdowns in last week’s victory over New Mexico State -- their first victory of the season -- but will be supremely challenged against Texas’ massive defensive front.

Oklahoma State 48, Grambling 17: The Cowboys will be looking to build some momentum in their final nonconference game. Zac Robinson looked closer to his 2008 form last week against Rice, although the Cowboys’ struggling pass defense continues to be a concern. And Oklahoma State might have to play without top playmakers Dez Bryant (calf) and Perrish Cox (shoulder) in this game. Grambling has been plagued with 12 turnovers in its first three games and will be facing an opportunistic Oklahoma State defense intent to boost that total.

Iowa State 33, Army 21: This should be an intriguing battle as two 2-1 teams coming off impressive victories over Mid-American Conference teams will meet. Iowa State will be gunning to beat its 2008 season win total with a victory Saturday night. The Cyclones rebounded from a struggling performance against Iowa with an impressive victory at Kent State that snapped a nation-worst 17-game road losing streak. Austen Arnaud orchestrated a strong performance as Alexander Robinson rushed for 143 yards for his second straight 100-yard game. The key for the Cyclones will be to contain Army’s option-based attack and force quarterback Trent Steelman into long-yardage passing situations. This one will be won in the trenches, and I like Iowa State’s chances because the Cyclones are more multi-faceted.

Nebraska 45, Louisiana-Lafayette 10: All things about Nebraska football will be celebrated in this game as the Cornhuskers toast their 300th straight home sellout. This game will be similar to many of the previous ones during the streak. Look for the Cornhuskers to mash the Ragin’ Cajuns at the point of attack with a potent running attack keyed by Big 12 rushing leader Roy Helu Jr. Quarterback Zac Lee sustained a splinter fracture on his left (non-throwing) thumb last week against Virginia Tech, but should play. More worrisome, the Cornhuskers' defense collapsed in last week’s disappointing loss, but won’t be tested that much by Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Chris Masson. Look for the Cornhuskers to empty the benches early, using youngsters like Cody Green and Rex Burkhead throughout much of the second half.

Texas A&M 38, UAB 24: The surprisingly potent Texas A&M offense will get its toughest challenge to date against UAB. A key for the Aggies will be to continue their explosive passing game that has helped quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who ranks third nationally in total offense and 20th in passing efficiency. Johnson should have a ready target in the UAB pass defense, which ranks 118th nationally and was blistered for 413 yards last week by Troy. The Aggies will have to play without leading receiver Jeff Fuller, but precocious freshman Uzoma Nwachukwu produced four touchdowns on four “touches” last week against Utah State. Texas A&M’s defense needs some improvement after struggling against Utah State’s option-based attack and UAB quarterback Joe Webb will test it. A&M should win this game if it can give Johnson enough time to hit his downfield receivers.

Baylor 48, Northwestern State 7: The Bears will be attempting to rebuild their confidence after a disappointing loss to Connecticut snuffed out much of the momentum after their season-opening triumph over Wake Forest. Quarterback Robert Griffin struggled through a miserable game with a career-low 139 yards of total offense. He needs to get his confidence back, hopefully by throwing the ball downfield to get David Gettis and Kendall White involved early. The Bears’ rush defense has to be a big concern after allowing 235 yards and two touchdowns to Connecticut last week. And they’ll be facing a competent Northwestern State rushing attack that dented Houston for 155 rushing yards in their first game of the season. But I’m expecting the Bears to rebound with a strong performance after last week.

Texas Tech 45, Houston 44: Get out your calculators and prepare to stay up late to watch the end of this one. It should be an entertaining contest between two of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts and Houston’s Case Keenum. The Red Raiders stuck with Texas last week until deep in the fourth quarter when turnovers and penalties finally caught up with them. But Potts passed for 430 yards in an impressive road debut. He’ll be facing another challenge against Houston, which stunned then-No. 5 Oklahoma State two weeks ago before taking last week off. It will be the first matchup between the two old Southwest Conference rivals since the conference dissolved in 1995. The No. 18 Cougars will be playing as a ranked team for the first time since 1991 -- when David Klingler was their quarterback. The Red Raiders have a better defense than Oklahoma State and are familiar with Houston because they face a variation of the Cougars’ spread offense every day in practice. That should provide them with just enough of an edge to boost them to win a wild victory.

Last week: 9-2 (81.8 percent)

Season: 25-8 (75.8 percent)

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