NCF Nation: Hawaii

Non-AQ bowl look

November, 9, 2010
You saw my bowl projections from Sunday. Now here is a breakdown of the teams that have a shot at becoming bowl eligible this weekend.

Conference USA

Already eligible: UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss, UTEP.

Vying for a spot: East Carolina, SMU and Houston each have five wins. The Pirates are hoping to bounce back after an embarrassing 76-45 loss to Navy at UAB. Houston hosts Tulsa in an important West division game, while SMU is off. SMU, Houston and Tulsa each have two league losses. SMU already beat Tulsa but lost to Houston. If there is a three-way tie atop the division when the season ends, the first tiebreaker is overall record to determine who plays in the Conference USA title game.

On the other end of the spectrum: Tulane (3-6), Marshall (3-6) and UAB (3-6) have to win out. Rice (2-7) and Memphis (1-8) have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Six.


Already eligible: Temple, Toledo, Ohio and Northern Illinois.

Vying for a spot: Miami (Ohio) is 5-4 and has a great shot at becoming bowl eligible in the next two weeks with games at Bowling Green (2-7) on Wednesday and at Akron (0-10) on Nov. 17. Kent State (4-5) needs to win two of its final three against Army (5-4), Western Michigan (3-6) and Ohio (7-3).

On the other end of the spectrum: Western Michigan has to win out. Buffalo, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ball State are out.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Three.

Mountain West

Already eligible: TCU, San Diego State, Air Force, Utah.

Vying for a spot: BYU (4-5) plays at Colorado State in a critical must-win before closing against New Mexico and Utah.

On the other end of the spectrum: Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Five.

Sun Belt

Already eligible: No one.

Vying for a spot: Troy (5-3) is the only team with five wins. A home win against FIU on Saturday gets the Trojans bowl eligible. ULM (4-5) and Arkansas State (4-5) have to win two of three. The Warhawks have LSU, North Texas and Louisiana. Arkansas State has Western Kentucky, Navy and FIU.

On the other end of the spectrum: FIU, Middle Tennessee and FAU are each 3-5. The Blue Raiders may have the easiest road with games against North Texas, Western Kentucky, FAU and FIU remaining. FAU has Troy and Texas on its schedule. FIU also has tough games against Troy, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee. North Texas, Louisiana and Western Kentucky have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Two.


Already eligible: Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno State. Hawaii has accepted an invite to the Hawaii Bowl.

Vying for a spot: Idaho (4-5) has to win three of four against Boise State, Utah State, Fresno State and San Jose State. Since the Vandals have a 13-game schedule, they have to get to seven wins. Louisiana Tech and Utah State are both 3-6 and have to win out. The Bulldogs have New Mexico State, San Jose State and Nevada. Utah State has San Jose State, Idaho and Boise State.

On the other end of the spectrum: New Mexico State and San Jose State (1-8) have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Four.


Navy (6-3) became eligible for the Poinsettia Bowl. Army (5-4) needs one more win with games left against Kent State, Notre Dame and Navy. Army does not have an automatic bowl tie-in this year, but has backup agreements with the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Notre Dame (4-5) needs two more wins with games remaining against Utah, Army and USC.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

November, 8, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 10.

The good: Boise State and TCU remained in the national title hunt with big wins this weekend. Though their offenses made headlines -- the Broncos racked up a school-record 737 yards and TCU had more than 500 yards -- both defenses played something fierce. They both held their opponents to fewer than 200 yards of total offense. Now they are the top two teams in the country in total defense and scoring defense. TCU is No. 1 in both categories. … Meanwhile, New Mexico won its first game of the season, 34-31 over Wyoming. Quarterback Stump Godfrey made his first career start as B.R. Holbrook sat out because of an injury and went 16-of-20 for 211 yards with two touchdowns. The Lobos, which had been giving the ball away as if it was a Christmas present, forced four turnovers. It was just the second time all season they won the turnover battle in a game. … How about Nevada racking up 844 yards of total offense? Not only did Colin Kaepernick have 300 yards passing, the Wolf Pack had three 100-yard rushers: Mark Lampford, Mike Ball and Vai Taua.

The bad: Western Michigan controlled its own bowl destiny heading into its game against Central Michigan. None of the four opponents left on its schedule had a winning record, so finishing up 7-5 or 6-6 seemed realistic. But the Broncos lost for the fifth straight time to their in-state rivals -- even though the Chippewas went into the game with just two wins. Backup RB Brian Fields fumbled 2 yards from the end zone with 1:37 remaining, the fourth lost fumble of the game for Western Michigan and the Chippewas held on 26-22.

The heartache: The Akron Zips are now the only winless team in the country, but missed out on a great opportunity in a 37-30 double-overtime loss to Ball State. After tying the score late to send the game into overtime, the Zips and Cardinals traded touchdowns in the first overtime. Ball State went ahead in overtime No. 2. But all hopes were lost for Akron when Patrick Nicely was intercepted on third down by Joshua Howard to end the game. Akron had more first downs and more rushing yards than Ball State and won the turnover battle as well. … Tulane had Southern Miss on the ropes heading into the fourth quarter. The two teams were tied at 30, but the Golden Eagles scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win 46-30. Tulane (402) outgained Southern Miss (358) and had 11 more first downs.

[+] EnlargeTCU defense
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireTCU shut down the high-powered Utah offense.
The off-balance: Utah and Hawaii went into their respective games as some of the highest-scoring teams in the country. But each were held to just a touchdown. Utah had been averaging 45.2 points a game, tied for No. 3 in the nation. Hawaii had been averaging 39. 2 points a game. … Meanwhile, BYU exploded offensively for the first time all season, posting more than 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing and a season-high 55 points against UNLV. The Cougars are 39-0 since 1972 and 5-0 under current head coach Bronco Mendenhall when passing for 300 and running for 200.

A few more helmet stickers: FIU WR T.Y. Hilton had 291 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in a 42-35 double-overtime win over ULM. He became the first Panther to score a touchdown three different ways in the same game, as he caught two touchdowns, ran for one and returned a kick for a score. … Central Michigan LB Armond Staten had 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three forced fumbles in an upset win over Western Michigan. … San Diego State LB Miles Burris had a career-high 10 tackles, four tackles for loss (minus-39 yards), two sacks and two forced fumbles in a 24-19 victory over Colorado State.

A few injury items to note: Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson is questionable for the Nov. 16 game against Temple after reportedly getting into a fight outside a bar and sustaining serious injuries to his face. Coach Frank Solich would only say that Jackson is questionable for the game. Backup Phil Bates has been slowed by a shoulder injury, leaving the possibility that Ohio could burn the redshirt of true freshman Kyle Snyder. “We’re going to have to talk about it some more and look at it from different angles and make a decision about a player being brought out of redshirt if he needs to be,” Solich said. … Kent State star LB Cobrani Mixon is doubtful for Saturday’s game against Army with a shoulder injury, and starting quarterback Spencer Keith injured his thumb and is day-to-day. … BYU TE Marcus Mathews is out for the season with a lacerated spleen.

Week 11 look ahead: TCU plays San Diego State (7-2) in a classic letdown game. Will the Horned Frogs suffer an emotional low after an emotional high over Utah? Boise State has a big rivalry game against Idaho, perhaps made even bigger after comments during the offseason where school president Bob Kustra slammed Vandal culture as “nasty” and “inebriated.” Southern Miss travels to UCF in a big East Division game. The Knights, ranked for the first time in school history, control their destiny. We can’t forget about the big Tuesday night game between MAC West Division leaders Toledo and Northern Illinois.

Non-AQ Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 8, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Not much has changed in this week’s power rankings. Here they are for Week 11:

1. Boise State (8-0). The Broncos easily beat Hawaii 42-7 in a game I thought would be much closer. Forget about Kellen Moore throwing for over 500 yards for just a second. This defense played outstanding, racking up a season-high seven sacks and holding the high-powered Hawaii offense to 196 TOTAL yards. I just can’t drop them after such a big win. Plus, they have won 22 straight, the longest streak in the nation.

2. TCU (10-0). The Horned Frogs impressed with a big 47-7 win over Utah. They had another dominating performance, but the offense had a dominating day, too. Andy Dalton was on from the very start, and TCU had its way. Why are they still No. 2? Both defenses are outstanding, but Moore is more consistent than Dalton. I will say I think this TCU team is better than last season.

3. Utah (8-1). The Utes remain in the top 3 despite such an embarrassing loss at home. But they did lose to the No. 3 team in the country, and they are better than every other school on this list. Utah was totally outcoached and outplayed, but still has a chance to finish the season at 11-1.

4. Nevada (8-1). The Wolf Pack had a school-record 844 yards of offense in a 63-17 win over Idaho. Colin Kaepernick had 320 yards and five touchdowns, and now the Wolf Pack are up to No. 21 in the BCS standings.

5. UCF (7-2). The Knights are now ranked for the first time in school history, and have an opportunity to run the table and finish the season undefeated in league play. As it stands now they are the only unbeaten team in Conference USA play, and have a big East Division game against Southern Miss on Saturday.

6. Northern Illinois (7-2). The Huskies have won six straight, and face a big game against Toledo on Tuesday. Their only two losses this season are to Iowa State and Illinois. Both teams are one win away from bowl eligibility.

7. San Diego State (7-2). The Aztecs struggled to put away a bottom-tier opponent for the third straight week, this time beating Colorado State 24-19. Freshman Ronnie Hillman went over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. They face a huge test against TCU on Saturday, but for now they are the third-best team in the Mountain West.

8. Temple (8-2). The Owls have hit a nice stride with new starting quarterback Mike Gerardi, who had his best game of the season in a 28-10 win over Kent State. Two tough games are left -- against Ohio and Miami (Ohio). All three teams have one loss in the East Division.

9. Hawaii (7-3). The Warriors had their worst offensive performance in 12 years in a loss to Boise State. Yes, the loss came to the No. 4 team in the country, but a lot more was expected of the No. 1 passing team in the country.

10. Fresno State (6-2). We’ll know how good the Bulldogs are after Saturday, when they host Nevada.

Dropped out: East Carolina.

Non-AQ bowl projections

November, 7, 2010
Not much has changed in my non-AQ bowl projections for this week. I still have a non-AQ team in the BCS national championship game. I have TCU in there for the second straight week, based on my projection that the Horned Frogs will finish ranked ahead of Boise State at the end of the season. Moving in front in the human polls is a huge plus for TCU as it jockeys with the Broncos for that top spot among the non-AQs.

I still have Boise State in as an at-large BCS team, now playing Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. As for my conference champions, I am still projecting UCF to win Conference USA, Northern Illinois to win the MAC and Troy to win the Sun Belt.

I am still looking for a place to put Toledo. I know Rockets fans must think I am crazy for not having them in here. The problem is there are not that many at-large spots open because so many of the power conferences are going to have teams that end up being bowl eligible at 7-5 or 6-6. Lots of parity this year. I am still going with Ohio to get the No. 3 MAC nod ahead of Toledo.

Here are all of the non-AQ picks:

BCS National Championship Game: Oregon vs. TCU

Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Boise State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Boston College* vs. Nevada Bowl: Temple vs. Troy

Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Kentucky

Armed Forces Bowl: SMU vs. Army

Military Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. East Carolina

Independence Bowl: Clemson vs. Air Force

Little Caesars Bowl: Iowa State* vs. Northern Illinois

Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa vs. Hawaii**

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Texas A&M*

St. Petersburg Bowl: ULM vs. Southern Miss

New Orleans Bowl: Houston vs. Middle Tennessee

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. UTEP*

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. Fresno State

*at large selection because conference couldn't fill allotment.

**Hawaii already accepted bid to bowl.
Friday mailbag time! Thanks to everyone who has written in. I read all your comments and do my best to answer as many questions as possible, trying not to go over the same topics we have already covered in previous mailbags.

First, the TCU-Utah game is on CBS College Sports. Second, I know I messed up on the live chat earlier this week. Ohio State lost at Wisconsin. So please accept my apologies. Third, I just found out the Big Ten has decided the bowl order for the Gator and Insight bowls, which are going to alternate No. 4 and No. 5. Gator picks No. 4 this year. This will be reflected in the bowl projections on Sunday. I try to make every attempt to fix my errors, and I know my credibility is on the line. So thanks to all for letting me know when I mess up.

Scotty in Boise, Idaho, writes: Why do Boise State, TCU, Utah even have Division I status? They can play Oregon, Texas, Alabama, they can beat these teams but they still can't play for a national championship. Talk about back of the bus.

Andrea Adelson writes: Great question, Scotty, and one I have often wondered myself. If half of the teams in college football are automatically eliminated from championship contention before the season even starts, how do we have a fair system? Why should teams like Boise State play? For wonderful consolation prizes? The system is unfair and completely broken. It is the only one in the NCAA that does not give every team in its division a fair shot to play for a championship. That is the way the powers-that-be want it because they want to keep the glory (and the money) for themselves.

Tim in Boise writes: In a recent BCS chat, BCS Guru Brad Edwards makes it sound like Boise St. may now get left out of a BCS game all together. He predicted that TCU gets the automatic non-AQ nod and then the Big 12 and Big 10 both get the at-large bids. From a financial standpoint and recruiting stand point, that is brutal. Who wants to play for a team that starts No. 3 in the polls, wins all their games, and can't get into a BCS bowl game? Ouch!

Adelson writes: Edwards is absolutely right. If TCU finishes ahead of Boise State but out of the national championship game, a very real possibility exists that the Horned Frogs would be the only non-AQ team in a BCS bowl game. Two non-AQ teams made it in last year, so there is that hope. But with the big-name, one-loss teams that could be available for an at-large berth, the bowls may opt to go for teams that they know will travel, fill the stadium and be more of a bigger "national name." Although I think everybody in America would tune in to watch Boise State vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, don't you?

Homesick Warrior in Livermore, Calif., writes: Now that the Fresno State and Nevada departure dates are confirmed and the WAC is once again on the verge of survivalist expansion, is Hawaii a viable football independent? Are they better off staying in a watered down WAC? Do you see the dominos falling in their favor within the next few years if they continue to win?

Adelson writes: Being an independent is exceedingly hard, as BYU is set to discover once it goes down this road starting in 2011. First you need national cache and a TV partner that will pay millions to broadcast your games. I don't think Hawaii has either. They need to have set teams that will travel so far away. I am not sure how many teams would do this if Hawaii was on its own. The WAC looks as if it is in tatters right now, but think of this as an opportunity for Hawaii to emerge and dominate the way Boise State has.

Alan in Salt Lake City writes: I'd like someone to please give me a rational explanation as to why the ACC and Big East should even be allowed a spot in a BCS bowl. Pitt (5-3) and Virginia Tech (7-2) are the latest teams projected to reach the BCS bowls from their respective conferences. Can anyone else see how asinine an automatic bid is for them? Unranked Pitt lost to the Utes and to Miami. VT lost to Boise State and FCS James Madison. Please tell me why Boise State and a one loss TCU or Utah squad do not ALL deserve a BCS bid over the Big (L)east and the ACC.

Adelson writes: They all do, and it is a crying shame the loser of the Utah/TCU game is probably going to end up in Vegas. There is only one explanation. Those two are automatic qualifiers, and whether we like it or not, that is the system that is in place. They are not losing that status any time soon.

Jim Grossman in Santa Monica, Calif., writes: Since everyone agrees the BCS is broken and essentially is a "beauty contest," until we get a proper playoff system like every other sport here's a suggestion: Evaluate teams by how efficient they are. In other words, rank the teams on how well they play (win/loss record, strength of schedule and statistics) against how much resources they have (football budget, ranking of incoming recruiting class, maybe even size of fan base.) Ideally this would be the only ranking qualification in both the human and computer polls, but even if it was just a component of either or both sets of polls, I think it would spur what I believe 'amateur' and college sports should ultimately and even exclusively be about; the pursuit of excellence, not necessarily dominance.

Adelson writes: You present an interesting theory, but money makes the world go 'round, right? Unfortunately, people are not much interested in the finances that make these schools and programs function and only care about the results on the field and the schedules they play. You cannot rank a team on recruiting class, either, because those are so hard to predict and most times end up being wrong. Size of fan base is also an abstract number that does not have much to do with the results on the field. But I do appreciate you trying to come up with a different way of looking at the teams that play.

Jim in Rapid City, S.D., writes: Can a college football team get a schedule change during the current season. I read that Bill Curry said his Georgia State team was tired and needed a rest. Georgia State is scheduled to play Alabama on Nov. 18. My question is could Boise State request and be granted permission to play Alabama in Georgia State's placer? The result could answer the BCS question of where Boise State should be.

Adelson writes: I wish this were possible, but alas it is not. Great idea, though!

Donnell in Vancouver, B.C., writes: Would it be an overstatement to say SMU's running back Zach Line is the most improved player in Conference USA?

Adelson writes: Not at all. Line is having a great year, taking over for Shawnbrey McNeal and leading the league in rushing. Bet nobody expected that!

Lunchtime Links

November, 5, 2010
Headed to Salt Lake City for the big game between TCU and Utah. Now on to some links as we get closer to game day!

Boo Jackson did it all for Ohio in a 34-17 win over Buffalo.

Big game tonight between Houston and UCF. Houston is trying to take it one game at a time.

Boise State's only loss of the season could be to the BCS.

Utah has to get TCU quarterback Andy Dalton out of rhythm.

Nevada cornerback Doyle Miller quietly leads the secondary.

Were there spies at the Hawaii practice?

Air Force wants the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. The game is personal for Army fullback Jared Hassin.

Western Kentucky tackles Wes Jeffries and Preston King have formed a tight bond.

Non-AQ storylines to watch: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
Come one, come all for your Top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 10:

1. Who remains undefeated, TCU or Utah? You have got to love the national spotlight being placed on two teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences on Saturday. Both teams are terrific. It is a shame somebody has to lose and be relegated to the Las Vegas Bowl. Utah has a great home-field advantage, having won a Mountain West record 21 straight at Rice-Eccles Stadium. TCU has worked on silent counts all week and pumped crowd noise into practice in order to prepare for what is sure to be a wild atmosphere. The winner of the TCU-Utah game has earned an automatic bid into a BCS game each of the past two years.

[+] EnlargeTejay Johnson
Dale Zanine/US PresswireTCU has the No. 1 overall defense and the No. 1 scoring defense in the country.
2. TCU D vs. Utah D. OK so the defenses don’t play against each other, but they are the two units to watch in this game. Both are ranked in the Top 10 in total defense and scoring defense, and both are playing better than perhaps many people expected going into the season. TCU is rated No. 1, a spot it held at the end of 2008 and 2009. Both get tremendous play from their front seven to take the pressure off their secondary. Big plays on offense are going to be at a premium in this one.

3. Will Hawaii be able to pass on Boise State? Yes, but pay attention to what happens inside the red zone. In 46 trips inside the 20, the Warriors have scored 37 times. But they have only gotten 25 touchdowns. They are going to need to convert those opportunities into points against an aggressive Boise State defense and a secondary eager to prove its worth.

4. So who ends up ahead in the BCS standings on Sunday? That is asking to predict the unpredictable. If TCU and Boise State win, expect to see the Horned Frogs stay on top. They might even jump Boise State in the human polls, depending on the outcome of the game. If Utah and Boise State win, expect the Broncos to go back into the No. 3 slot. In any of those scenarios, we will all be tuned into the BCS show Sunday night to find out.

5. Which of the service academies becomes bowl eligible? Army, Air Force and Navy all have five wins and are on pace to have winning seasons in the same season for the first time since 1996. Army and Air Force play in West Point with the Commander-In-Chief Trophy on the line. Air Force beat Navy earlier this year and would win it with a victory over Army. Navy, meanwhile, tries to overcome its worst performance of the season at East Carolina. Navy has a bowl tie-in to the Poinsettia Bowl this year. Army has no guaranteed tie-in but is a backup in the Armed Forces Bowl. If they are passed over for that game, the Black Knights are a backup for the Military Bowl.

6. Who else has a chance to become bowl eligible? East Carolina, Houston, Tulsa, Southern Miss , UTEP, SMU, Miami (Ohio) and Fresno State also are one win away from bowl eligibility. UTEP and SMU play each other.

7. Houston offense vs. UCF defense. The Cougars have reinvented themselves with Case Keenum out for the season and have relied more on the run. But they are facing the best defense in Conference USA and one of the best defenses in the country. UCF is allowing right around 100 yards a game on the ground this season, and has confidence. Last season, the Knights upset the Cougars in Orlando for the first win over a ranked opponent in school history.

8. Does anybody want to win the Sun Belt? Troy has won four straight conference titles but opened the door for others to knock it off the perch after losing to ULM last week. If the Trojans win out, they still win the crown, but there is no margin for error anymore. FIU has one conference loss. ULM, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee each have two conference losses, but Troy has already beaten the Red Wolves and Blue Raiders.

9. Will the winless watch for Akron and New Mexico ever stop? Last season ended with two winless teams from the MAC (Eastern Michigan) and Sun Belt (Western Kentucky). This season could end with two winless teams, too. But both squads are playing opponents with losing records this week -- Akron against Ball State (2-7) and New Mexico against Wyoming (2-7).

10. Must win for BYU. The Cougars (3-5) come off their bye week facing a must win every week from here on out if they want to make it to a bowl game. They start against UNLV, a team struggling more than the Cougars are this season. After that, they play Colorado State and New Mexico before closing the season at Utah. So they have to win all three games before the season finale. Colorado State next week will be the biggest test in the upcoming three-game stretch.

Non-AQ Picks, Week 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boise State secondary faces big test

November, 3, 2010
Boise State safety George Iloka knows what people are saying: that the secondary is the weak link of the defense.

He disagrees, of course, but he realizes the big test that awaits the defensive backs Saturday against pass-happy Hawaii (7-2, 5-0) on Saturday. The Warriors have the No. 1 passing offense in the country behind Bryant Moniz, the only quarterback in the nation with over 3,000 yards.

Receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares are each averaging 100 yards a game, both ranking in the Top 7 nationally.

“We haven’t played a receiving corps like the Hawaii team we’re about to face, so here’s our real challenge as a secondary,” Iloka said in a telephone interview. “As a secondary, you have to want games like this against big-time receivers.”

Louisiana Tech was able to make a few big plays in the passing game last week, and so were Virginia Tech and Oregon State. That has led to some alarm from fans who are concerned about the play of the secondary headed down the stretch.

But this is a unit that has remained largely untested. Hawaii may want to try to take advantage of Jamar Taylor, who has taken over at cornerback for first-round pick Kyle Wilson. But no matter who is back there starting for No. 4 Boise State (7-0, 3-0), Hawaii will keep on passing.

That is just the style the Warriors play, a version of the Run and Shoot that can give teams fits. Moniz has simply followed in the footsteps of Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang before him. He has grown more comfortable in the complicated offense, and has two great receivers to help him out.

“The more games I’ve played, the better I’ve gotten,” Moniz said. “That’s just chemistry and getting on the same page. Strengthening my arm has made me make throws I might not have been able to get into tight spaces last year.”

Running back Alex Green has also emerged for Hawaii. There is no question this is a vastly different team than the one Boise State beat 54-9 last season. Moniz was making his third start in that game, but got knocked out near the end of the first quarter with a concussion.

“He’s just in a really good rhythm and groove,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “He reminds me of all those other guys they’ve had. They work in the pocket well and they throw it all over the field. It’s just not short it’s just not deep. From hash to sideline, you have to cover them all at all times.”

So what is the key to slowing down such a high-powered offense?

“You have to make sure the quarterback doesn’t have time to throw,” Iloka said. “If he can’t throw the ball, the receivers won’t get the ball. But we have to play sound football in the secondary -- keep everything in front of us, make tackles when you’re supposed to. As long as you don’t give up the deep ball, you’re somewhat fine. But if the D-line gets back there, that would be awesome.”

The Boise State front has been called one of the best in the nation. The Broncos are No. 4 in sacks, averaging 3.4 in a game with 24 total on the season. They also rank No. 3 in tackles for loss with 8.4 a game.

Hawaii has given up its fair share of sacks this season, with 21 total. No doubt Boise State will try to bring pressure to slow down Moniz. If the Warriors are going to pull the upset, then they are going to need a big day out of him.

“We all know the stakes,” Moniz said. “It’s a big game for us, and for our program.”
There has always been a feeling of isolation in Hawaii. The islands are so far from the mainland and the time difference is so substantial that fans on the East Coast who want to watch the Warriors play need some NoDoze to keep them awake until the wee hours of the morning.

That is why credit is sometimes so hard to come by, because Hawaii is almost like a forgotten team. Losing 41-10 to Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl after an undefeated regular season got the Warriors into the BCS for the first time did not help, either, because of the magnitude of the game.

Getting there was the high point for the program. Coach June Jones, who resurrected the Warriors and got to that point, left for SMU. Greg McMackin took over with mixed results, losing to Notre Dame in the Hawaii Bowl in 2008 and coming up just short of a bowl last season.

Bryant Moniz
AP Photo/Eugene TannerBryant Moniz has thrown for at least 300 yards in all but two of Hawaii's games this season.
But with Bryant Moniz leading the way in 2010, Hawaii is vastly improved. You may not know it, though, the way the WAC schedule gets denigrated on a daily basis. You may not know it if you look at the polls, which feature Nevada back in the Top 25. Nevada has a loss this season -- to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the Warriors (7-2, 5-0 WAC) have reeled off six straight wins. At around 3:30 a.m. ET Sunday morning, Hawaii accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, the earliest the Warriors have ever secured a bowl invite. They are the first school officially into a bowl game this season.

Now comes the national spotlight, and a chance to show what is happening on the islands with a game at No. 4 Boise State (7-0, 3-0) on Saturday.

“We were supposed to be fifth to eighth in the conference from the people who did know us,” McMackin said on the WAC conference call Monday. “It really isn’t that big a deal. I’ve been on top-ranked teams -- it’s where you end up at the end. A lot of guys out there really don’t know your team and their hearts and what they do and how hard they work and that type of thing. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

You will not need an extra shot of espresso to stay up for this one -- it is an afternoon kickoff. For No. 4 Boise State, perfection is expected each week, but that is going to prove to be a difficult task against a Hawaii team that leads the nation in passing.

Moniz has improved dramatically since taking over the starting quarterback job last season, and with good reason. He started off as a walk-on buried on the depth chart, but injuries forced him into a starting role. Now that he has much more experience and a better grasp of a complicated offense, he is flourishing. Moniz is the only quarterback this season over 3,000 yards passing.

The defense has played well, too. Hawaii has given up 30-plus points twice this season, and just 17 points in its past two games. Of their two losses, the first was a valiant effort against USC, in which Moniz had to sit out the fourth quarter because of a hit to the head. The second was at Colorado at the end of a 12-day road trip that also featured a win at Army -- the furthest East the program had ever traveled.

That last loss -- Sept. 18.

“Hawaii’s playing as good as anybody out there,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “They’re on quite a roll.”

One last note to remember: Hawaii is the last team to beat Boise State in the regular season, 39-27 on Nov. 23, 2007, in Honolulu.

Lunchtime Links

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

Now on to some links:

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

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

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

The big week is finally here for Utah.

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

Air Force has turned its attention to Army.

Mike Canales might be a good fit at North Texas.

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

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

Non-AQ Power Rankings, Week 10

November, 1, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Not much has changed in this week’s power rankings. Here they are for Week 10:

1. Boise State (7-0). The Broncos dropped a spot in the BCS standings despite beating Louisiana Tech 49-20, but they have not done much to dissuade me from putting them right here in the top spot. They have won all of their games, beaten both teams from the power conferences they played and have terrific talent.

2. TCU (9-0). The Horned Frogs easily beat UNLV to set up a showdown at Utah on Saturday. They are now No. 3 in the BCS standings, but I am going to keep them here for now. I still think Boise State would win again in a head-to-head game.

3. Utah (8-0). The Utes struggled to put away Air Force, but they usually have problems with the Falcons. The important thing is they are undefeated going into their game against TCU. Utah has been slammed for having a weak strength of schedule to date. The Utes can’t help who they play, but Boise State and TCU have beaten ranked teams. Utah has not done so yet.

4. Hawaii (7-2). The Warriors are officially in the Hawaii Bowl after beating Idaho, the earliest they have ever secured a bowl invitation. They are still leading the nation in passing, and have a big game at Boise State on Saturday.

5. Nevada (7-1). The Wolf Pack survived a late rally from Utah State to become bowl eligible. After jumping out to a 35-0 halftime lead, Utah State crept back into the game, but Nevada came up with one answer after another. They are back in the human polls this week and ranked No. 23 in the BCS standings.

6. Northern Illinois (7-2). The Huskies have won six straight after surviving a 28-21 win over Western Michigan. That is their longest winning streak since 2004. Chad Spann reached 1,000 yards for the season in the victory.

7. UCF (6-2). About time I give some love to the Knights, right? Their two losses were heartbreakers. They fumbled away a chance to beat NC State, and lost in the closing minute to Kansas State. After feasting on the likes of Buffalo, Rice, UAB and Marshall, UCF finally recorded a quality win this past weekend, beating East Carolina 49-35.

8. San Diego State (6-2). The Aztecs are bowl eligible for the first time since 1998, but survived a serious threat from Wyoming on the road. They are usually a much more balanced team than what they showed, but the Cowboys took away the run and had several leads in the first half before coming up short.

9. Temple (7-2). The Owls posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since blanking Connecticut and Xavier during the 1971 season after blanking winless Akron 30-0. They beat Buffalo last week 42-0.

10. East Carolina (5-3). The Pirates lost to UCF, but look at the losses and the wins. They lost to two teams from the ACC, but beat NC State. They also have wins over Southern Miss and Tulsa, two teams that are likely to end up bowl eligible.

Dropped out: Navy

Non-AQ What we learned: Week 9

October, 31, 2010
Time to see what we learned from the non-AQs in Week 9:

1. Bring on TCU vs. Utah. The huge game we have waited all season for is finally here, and the teams involved did not disappoint in Week 9, staying undefeated to set up a colossal matchup between the two teams. Utah had a tough time against Air Force, but that was not entirely unexpected. The defense forced five turnovers and had several crucial fourth down stops to preserve the win. TCU cruised over UNLV. Now attention can focus on the matchup between the two. Will Utah pull off the win in its final season in the Mountain West? Or will TCU win for the first time at Utah? The Utes have won a Mountain West record 21 straight games at home. After the Air Force game, Utah players talked about getting their shot at TCU. “Can't wait,” safety Greg Bird said. “I’m excited. We’re going to bring it to them.”

[+] EnlargeEddie Wide
AP Photo/Chris SchneiderUtah celebrated a win over Air Force on Saturday and can now focus squarely on TCU.
2. Non-AQs get more good news, but Boise State is going to have to be more impressive. Even a 49-20 win over Louisiana Tech was not enough to silence its critics. The Broncos had the spotlight to themselves on Tuesday night, but looked sloppy and led many to wonder why against such inferior competition. Boise State and TCU/Utah got help when Michigan State and Missouri lost, leaving only two undefeated teams from the automatic-qualifying conferences. That is obviously good news. But now they have to start sweating the one-loss teams (ahem, Alabama) and that means impressing human voters, who have to keep Boise State in the top 2 of the polls for the Broncos to have any legitimate shot at playing for a championship.

3. Six more non-AQ teams became bowl eligible. We went into the weekend with 11 who had the chance. We end with six getting to the magical mark: San Diego State, UCF, Toledo, Ohio, Nevada and Hawaii. UCF becomes the first team eligible from Conference USA -- Southern Miss and UTEP fell short of six wins on Saturday. The MAC has four teams eligible, including Northern Illinois and Temple, but only three guaranteed bowl spots. So that means somebody needs an at-large berth or could be left home. San Diego State is eligible for the first time since 1998, while Toledo is eligible for the first time since 2005.

4. UCF is the favorite in the East in Conference USA. The Knights won a critical game over East Carolina 49-35 to take command of the East. If UCF wins out, it plays in the conference championship game. Ronnie Weaver had a career-high 180 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The lead is actually pretty commanding. UCF is the only remaining team in the entire league that is undefeated in conference play. It has the head-to-head tiebreaker over East Carolina, and a two-game lead on UAB (which it already beat) and Southern Miss. The Knights have a critical game at West Division leader Houston on Friday night before hosting the Golden Eagles on Nov. 13.

5. Navy suffers a letdown. Just when you think the Midshipmen have turned a corner, they have a complete meltdown. A week after handily beating Notre Dame 35-17, the Midshipmen lost to Duke 34-31. The defense, which had carried this team all season, gave up a season-high 34 points and inexplicably allowed quarterback Sean Renfree to pass for 314 yards. He set a school record with a 93.3 completion percentage and completed his first 16 passes. Navy trailed 24-0 at halftime, its largest deficit at the break since 2002. Though Navy had won several games thanks to fourth-quarter comebacks this season, it was not meant to be Saturday.

Hawaii accepts bid to Hawaii Bowl

October, 31, 2010
Hawaii accepted a bid to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl early Sunday morning after a 45-10 win over Idaho. This is the earliest the program has ever secured a bowl win.

Hawaii is 7-2, and bowl eligible for the seventh time in nine years. The Warriors will play a yet to be determined team from Conference USA.

“One of our goals each year is to make a bowl game and we’ve accomplished that," Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said. "Another of our goals is to win the WAC and we have put ourselves in position with the final month of the season left to try to make that happen.”

Bryant Moniz became the fifth player in school history to pass for more than 3,000 yards, joining Colt Brennan, Timmy Chang, Dan Robinson and Nick Rolovich. He threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another in the win over the Vandals. Moniz has thrown for at least one touchdown pass in every game this season.

Hawaii won its eighth straight WAC game dating to last season, and set up a huge showdown with Boise State this Saturday. Both teams are undefeated going into the game, and Hawaii has scored 40-plus points in five of its last six games -- all wins.

Lunchtime Links

October, 29, 2010
Let's get ready for Week 9. Somebody pass the candy corns. ...

Utah true freshman Brian Blechen is thriving after switching from quarterback to safety.

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn is developing a winning attitude.

Fresno State's game against Colorado has been rescheduled for a date to be determined.

One loyal San Diego State fan will attend his 700th Aztecs game this weekend in Laramie, Wyo.

Here is a breakdown of Army's game against VMI.

Tulane receiver Casey Robottom is not even the most famous member of his family. That would be his mother, Natalie, the first female and African-American to take the St. John Parish president post in Louisiana.

The Middle Tennessee secondary is hoping to keep up its momentum.

Rice is looking for ways to get backup quarterback Taylor Cook on the field.

Hawaii receiver Greg Salas has been invited to the Senior Bowl.

Western Michigan receiver Juan Nunez lets his game talk for him.