NCF Nation: Idaho

Return of the non-AQ mailbag

April, 12, 2011
During my two months away, the Adelson mailbag overflowed with plenty of queries. For those wondering, no, I could never forget about the "little sisters of the poor." I was just trying to ward off sleep deprivation while taking care of a newborn and 2-year-old. I had middling success. Hopefully, I will fare much better in this edition of the mailbag. Since I got so much mail, stay tuned for several mailbag posts this week.

Kevin Clifton of Hattiesburg, Miss., writes: How long does the WAC have? Is it on life support? How long before the MWC poaches Utah State away? Then what? I see Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio going to Conference USA after Houston and Central Florida leave for greener pastures in the Big East. Then UTEP goes to the MWC, New Mexico State and Texas State go to the Sun Belt. All you would have left is Idaho and San Jose State. San Jose State is thinking of dropping their status as a FBS school and Idaho, who needs them? If you have Boise State, you have the Boise market. I also see Army keeping its home television rights and joining the MAC and I see Navy doing the same and joining Conference-USA.

Andrea Adelson writes: Kevin is the grand Nostradamus of college football expansion! This plan sounds good, but there are a few problems. First, the WAC might actually survive, depending on what happens with everyone else. That does seem hard to believe, but let us say it implodes. The Sun Belt really wants to keep its geographic footprint and I do not see the league going into New Mexico. It does the Sun Belt no good. A recent report in the Miami Herald explained as much, and also theorizes that Louisiana Tech could find a landing spot here. Of course, a lot of that is dependent of what happens with the Big East, which could choose Memphis or East Carolina ahead of Houston. Much of that depends on whether the league wants a travel partner for TCU. If Houston is not chosen, it would have to decide whether it wants to stay in C-USA or maybe even go to the Mountain West should that league want to expand to 12. Utah State is not a part of those expansion plans right now. Even though it would theoretically bring the Salt Lake City market, the school really does not have a fan base as big as BYU or Utah to meaningfully replace that market. Army was in a league before and that did not work so well for the service academy so I would bet on the Black Knights staying independent.

Brad in Dallas writes: What do you think TCU's record will be this upcoming season? What are your thoughts on the TCU-Boise St. match up? Do you think TCU has a chance to win on the blue turf?

Adelson writes: Never too early for way too early predictions, right? My best-case scenario has TCU at 10-2 this season, with losses to Baylor and Boise State. I have Baylor down as a loss right now for a few reasons. First, Casey Pachall will be making his first start at quarterback and it is on the road. It is very tough for first-year starters to win on the road, especially right out of the gate. Second, first games are usually tough because you do not have the identity of your team yet, and there are generally a lot of mistakes. I also have the game at Boise State as a loss. The Broncos get the edge because of Kellen Moore, and because of the blue turf. But TCU definitely has a chance -- especially if its defensive line is going to be as good as Gary Patterson anticipates. That is the key to slowing down Boise State, being able to put adequate pressure on Moore to force him to make mistakes and hurry throws. I reserve the right to change my mind between now and the start of the season, so stay tuned!

Joe Mimnaugh in Las Vegas writes: With both Boise and TCU in a semi-rebuilding year and TCU leaving, do you think that TCU might tank a few games to 1, get revenge on the MWC for their schedule and 2, to make sure that any chance the MWC of becoming a BCS conference is not realized? Do you think that the MWC will be better in a few years after the changes are done, or would the WAC in 2011 be better than a MWC in 2014?

Adelson writes: No shot that TCU tanks anything. If anything, the Horned Frogs want to stick it to the Mountain West for moving the Boise State game to Boise. You will not find a competitor out there who would rather tank games than win championships. TCU will do everything it can to leave the Mountain West with yet another conference title. As for the future of the MWC, the league has dim prospects of becoming an automatic qualifier even if the Horned Frogs go 12-0 again. I think it would have to take winning an appeal to the Presidential Oversight Committee to become AQ. As for the WAC in 2011 vs. the Mountain West in 2014, the essential difference is Boise State -- and that would make the Mountain West stronger.

Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 11

November, 11, 2010
Come one, come all for your top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 10:

1. Let the jockeying continue. Now that TCU has passed Boise State in the human polls, the race is on to see whether the Horned Frogs can stay there -- and grow their lead. Both need to happen for TCU to solidify its spot ahead of the Broncos in the BCS standings. TCU plays San Diego State (7-2) while Boise State plays Idaho (4-5) so it is unlikely Boise State will move ahead after this week. But looking ahead, TCU has one game left against New Mexico (1-8), while Boise State has games remaining against Fresno State (6-2), Nevada (8-1) and Utah State (3-6).

2. Is a letdown in store for TCU? The Horned Frogs are coming off an emotional 47-7 win over Utah, but this is not a team that loses focus easily. They have given up a total of 23 points in six league games, and have given up one touchdown at home in three league games. This is Senior Day, where TCU will say goodbye to a group of players who have not lost in the regular season since 2008. San Diego State is much improved, so we will see how the Horned Frogs handle their emotions.

3. How does the Boise State-Idaho rivalry end? Boise State and Idaho have no future games set as the Broncos depart the WAC for the Mountain West. But this game has not proved to be much of a rivalry over the last several years. The Broncos have won 11 straight over the Vandals, and have won those game by an average score of 51-18.

[+] EnlargeUtah
Andrew Weber/US PresswireComing off a disappointing loss to TCU, the Utes have to go on the road to face Notre Dame.
4. Can Utah bounce back? The Utes are coming off an embarrassing loss at home to TCU and travel to play a beaten down Notre Dame team. As badly as the Irish need to win, so does Utah, which wants to avoid having its season go down the drain due to one loss. After losing 55-28 to TCU last year, Utah rebounded with a 38-7 win over San Diego State. But that one was at home. This is going to be a tough challenge.

5. Will we get clarity in Conference USA? There are several big games for the league this weekend as UCF hosts Southern Miss, and Tulsa travels to Houston. UCF is the lone team that is undefeated in league play in Conference USA and can clinch the East Division with a win over Southern Miss and an East Carolina loss to UAB tonight. Meanwhile, Tulsa, Houston and SMU each have two losses in the West. Whoever wins would remain in the hunt.

6. Will we get clarity in the Sun Belt? Who would have thought when the season started we would be saying Troy and FIU would be meeting with Sun Belt title chances on the line? Both teams have one loss in conference play and the winner here would be in the driver’s seat. Whoever wins out, wins the league. It’s as simple as that.

7. Bowl eligibility time. Here are your teams that have a shot to become bowl eligible this week: Army, East Carolina, Houston and Troy. Army plays at Kent State, while East Carolina is at UAB, Houston hosts Tulsa and Troy hosts FIU. SMU (5-5) is off.

8. What does Navy do for an encore? The Midshipmen racked up 76 points and 521 yards on the ground against East Carolina last week. So what happens against Central Michigan (3-7)? Quarterback Ricky Dobbs reportedly missed a few days of practice with a slight concussion. If he cannot go, Kriss Proctor would get the start. But even without Dobbs, Alexander Teich has played well since replacing Vince Murray in the starting lineup. He averaged 11.2 yards a carry last week against the Pirates, and had a 200-yard game against Notre Dame.

9. What does Nevada do for an encore? The Wolf Pack may not have scored as many points as Navy, but they had more yards -- 844 in a 63-17 win over Idaho. Nevada sits at No. 21, behind several two-loss teams from power conferences. The question is whether voters see Nevada as a great team or merely a good team from a bad conference. How it does against a good Fresno State team on Saturday is important for perception.

10. The future is now. True freshman quarterbacks Pete Thomas and Jake Heaps face each other when BYU travels to Colorado State. Thomas has thrown for 2,273 yards for the Rams and is second in the league in passing, mostly because he has been put in situations where his team has fallen behind. But still, he is progressing well and coach Steve Fairchild believes Thomas' future is bright. Heaps has not been as successful, struggling as much as the rest of the BYU offense. He had his first good game against UNLV last week, throwing for 294 yards and a touchdown. The play of the quarterbacks is the key to the game.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 11

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

Three straight weeks of going 7-3 is not that bad considering the alternative. I did get one of my upset specials right, though I didn’t expect Navy to hang 76 on East Carolina. Props to New Mexico. Does it count that I said there was a “slim chance” of an upset? Hey at least I said there was a chance!

With a 64-40 overall record, bring on Week 11.

East Carolina 41, UAB 35. (Tonight) The Pirates have to get past the 76 points they allowed to Navy last week. UAB is going to have to get running back Pat Shed going, because Dominique Davis will be able to pass for the Pirates. The East Carolina defense has been bad, but somehow the Pirates will find a way to bounce back with bowl eligibility on the line. They have got to hold on to the football, though. Four turnovers on five possessions in the third quarter against Navy let the game get out of hand.

No. 4 Boise State 45, Idaho 13. (Friday). You know the atmosphere is going to be rowdy, what with offseason comments from Boise State president Bob Kustra stirring the pot. This is the final scheduled game in the rivalry now that the Broncos are leaving for the Mountain West. The Vandals would love nothing more than to end their undefeated season, but they are one of the most penalized teams in the country. Idaho hasn’t beaten Boise State since 1998. The Vandals’ last win at home over the Broncos? 1995.

No. 3 TCU 38, San Diego State 10. Sure this is the classic “trap” game for the Horned Frogs, who will be coming down off an emotional 47-7 win at Utah. San Diego State is much improved this season, and bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. Ronnie Hillman already has 1,000 yards rushing and will be the No. 1 target to stop. The Aztecs have won four straight but haven’t looked good doing it. They have won their past three games by an average of eight points. Their opponents in those three games have a combined six wins.

No. 14 Utah 35, at Notre Dame 20. The Utes have to bounce back and fast to put the embarrassment of last weekend behind them. This certainly will be a big test for coach Kyle Whittingham to get his team to stay focused for the remainder of the season. The Irish have a handful of starters out because of injuries. Bank on Jordan Wynn putting the mistakes of last week behind him to have a big game.

No. 21 Nevada 45, Fresno State 40. This one is not going to be easy for the Wolf Pack, but they come into the game riding a major 844-yard output on offense, with three 100-yard runners and a 300-yard passer in a win over Idaho. Chris Carter and Logan Harrell each have nine sacks for Fresno State, but the first key is to stop the run. The same can be said for Nevada -- Fresno State has gotten good production from Robbie Rouse in the last three games. He is coming off a 286-yard day against Louisiana Tech.

UCF 35, Southern Miss 21. The Knights are the only undefeated team left in Conference USA and are the favorites to win the entire conference. They survived a scare on the road against Houston last week and now face an East Division rival that has been inconsistent. But the Golden Eagles have lost their two league games by a combined two points. Still, their defense has been somewhat disappointing and is going to have a hard time slowing down Jeff Godfrey.

BYU 30, Colorado State 27. I am trying not to read too much into the Cougars’ offensive explosion last week because it came against UNLV. But still, it has to be encouraging to see Jake Heaps throw for more than 100 yards in a game. This one features the two top freshman quarterbacks in the league, and the Rams are much improved with Pete Thomas leading the way. But BYU has an improving defense -- and has to win to keep bowl hopes alive.

Army 30, Kent State 27. The Black Knights have to win either against Kent State or next week against Notre Dame to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1996. This one is an intriguing matchup -- Army has the No. 8 rushing attack in the country, averaging 277 yards a game. Kent State has the best run defense, giving up just 69 yards a game. But the Golden Flashes have to major injuries on defense: linebacker Cobrani Mixon and safety Brian Lainhart. Mixon is second on the team in tackles, while Lainhart is third. Quarterback Spencer Keith also has a sprained thumb and is listed as day-to-day.

Troy 28, FIU 17. Though FIU is 3-5, the Panthers are 3-1 in conference play, half a game behind Troy (4-1). So essentially the Sun Belt title is on the line. Troy has never lost to FIU, so bank on the Trojans to win this one and eventually win their fifth straight league title. Great special-teams matchup to watch between T.Y. Hilton of FIU and Jerrel Jernigan of Troy.

UPSET SPECIAL: Tulsa 45, Houston 44. The top two scoring offenses in Conference USA battle it out with the West division title at stake. The Golden Hurricane have loads of confidence after winning three straight, and plenty of weapons for Houston to try and handle. Tulsa has a more high-powered attack than UCF, which scored 40 in a win last week, so the Golden Hurricane get the edge.

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.

Lunchtime Links

November, 9, 2010
Ready for some MAC football tonight? The MAC West is on the line when Toledo travels to Northern Illinois.

Now on to some links:

Boos show how the standards at Utah have been raised, writes Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Idaho running back Deonte Jackson stirred the pot going into the Boise State game on Friday. When asked about comments Boise State president Bob Kustra made that were critical of Idaho fans, Jackson said, "I wouldn't expect anything different coming from the blue and orange snot."

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte isn't interested in a football-only invite to the Big East.

Utah wants TCU to get a title shot.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is all business as he returns close to home when the Wolf Pack play Fresno State.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo's son is a budding high school football player and has drawn some interest from college programs.

A lack of playmaking has continued to hurt SMU.

More details emerge from "Replaygate" involving San Diego State and BYU.

Is a change coming at quarterback for Rice?

ULM receiver Brent Leonard is second nationally in fourth-down conversion receptions.

The Colorado State-BYU series is ending.

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 What we learned: Week 10

November, 7, 2010
What we learned from the non-AQs in Week 10:

TCU is for real. Say whatever you want about how good Utah is, but you cannot deny the Horned Frogs' defense is fierce. They held yet another opponent to under 200 yards of offense in the 47-7 win over Utah, and have allowed 23 points in six league games. That includes two shutouts. TCU is also the only team in the nation to not allow an opponent to reach 200 yards passing this season. The defense lost its two best players, but is playing better than the team that went undefeated last season in the regular season. TCU came into the game with the No. 1 total defense and No. 1 scoring defense in the country. It showed exactly why in a game against a Top 5 team.

Gary Patterson
Jim Urquhart/AP PhotoGary Patteron's Horned Frogs showed why they have the No. 1 total defense and No. 1 scoring defense in the country.
Boise State is for real. Many (including myself) thought Hawaii would give Boise State a real test. Not so much. Kellen Moore had a monster game with 507 yards passing, and the Boise State defense proved it is just as fierce as that group down in Fort Worth. The Broncos had seven sacks, and held Hawaii to 196 total yards, their lowest total in 12 years. Boise State went into the weekend with the No. 3 ranked total defense in the country. The beauty pageant between the Broncos and Horned Frogs is set to continue through the closing weeks of the season, as both try to jockey for a spot in the BCS national championship game.

Offense everywhere. If you like offense, then Saturday was the day for you. Boise State had a school-record 737 yards of offense. Nevada had a school-record 844 yards of total offense in a 63-17 win over Idaho, including 320 yards passing and five touchdowns from Colin Kaepernick. That was the highest offensive total of any FBS school since 2004. Navy scored a modern school-record 76 points in a win over East Carolina. Tulsa had 612 yards in a 64-27 win over Rice. BYU even got into the act with a season-high 516 yards and 55 points in a win over UNLV. TCU had over 500 yards of total offense, too. So did Fresno State.

Air Force reigns supreme. We have a new top dog for the service academies. Air Force captured the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the first time since 2002 after beating Army 42-22 on Saturday. None of the Air Force players had ever seen the trophy before, because it had belonged to Navy for the past seven years. But Air Force beat Navy earlier this year, making the Falcons 2-0 against the academies this year. Tim Jefferson ran for two touchdowns and threw for two touchdowns in the win. The Falcons are now bowl eligible, while Army still needs one more win to reach six.

More bowl eligibility. Several other teams became bowl eligible on Saturday -- Navy punched its ticket to the Poinsettia Bowl. Southern Miss, Tulsa, UTEP and Fresno State all reached the six-win mark. Southern Miss beat Tulane, while UTEP had a strong win over SMU. Fresno State got 286 yards rushing from Robbie Rouse to beat Louisiana Tech.

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.

Lunchtime Links

November, 3, 2010
Just three days until the big showdown between Utah and TCU. Who's pumped?

Now on to some links:

The big news yesterday came out of the Big East, which wants to expand. TCU and UCF are at the top of the list, but the invites might be football only.

What about Houston?

Arkansas State routed Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Utah cornerback Lamar Chapman has overcome life's challenges to star for the Utes.

TCU would love to avenge its loss in Salt Lake City in 2008. Utah would love to avenge its loss to TCU last season.

Idaho coach Robb Akey downplays his team's penalty issues.

No word on whether Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown and CB C.J. Bailey will be able to play on Saturday at Tulane.

SMU DL Szymon Czerniak has put family problems behind him to make an impact this season.

The Mountain West had determined a botched call against San Diego State in a loss to BYU was the result of "combined human error."

Kent State has confidence headed into its game against Temple.

Non-AQ Picks: Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 8 were back to being decent, and I got one of my two upset specials right. Navy beat Notre Dame to help me get to 7-3, but did anyone expect the Midshipmen to win that decisively? Not I said the cat.

With a 50-34 overall record, I am ready for what Week 9 has to bring. I think.

On to the picks!

No. 4 TCU 41, UNLV 3. The Horned Frogs keep on rolling in their first road game since Oct. 2 against Colorado State. Keep in mind they won that game 27-0 after some struggles on offense. Andy Dalton is going to have to play well on the road for TCU to have any shot at staying undefeated. TCU has outscored its Mountain West opponents 141-10.

No. 8 Utah 31, Air Force 13. This game is usually really tight, but not this year. After a good first quarter, Air Force struggled to move the ball against TCU last week and had its lowest rushing output of the season. Utah has one of the more unheralded defenses in the nation, and ranks in the Top 10 in the nation in scoring D, total D and rush D.

No. 24 Nevada 35, Utah State 13. The Wolf Pack return to the field after a week off, hoping to erase the sting of their first loss of the season. Colin Kaepernick had four turnovers in that loss to Hawaii, and is going to have to be mistake-free for Nevada to have a shot at winning the rest of its games. Coach Chris Ault said his team had physical practices leading up to this game, and is eager to see how it responds. Utah State has scored 13 points in its past two games.

UCF 27, East Carolina 24. The Pirates own this series, having won four straight and eight of nine. But UCF gets the edge here because it’s at home and has the best defense in Conference USA. The Knights haven’t faced an offense quite as potent as this one, but the defensive line is playing outstanding and should be able to pressure Dominique Davis into making mistakes.

Hawaii 45, Idaho 17. Hawaii is playing lights out football, and should clinch a bowl berth into the Hawaii Bowl with a win over the hard-to-read Vandals, who have alternated wins and losses this season. They won last week, so a loss must be in the stars. The Warriors have scored 40-plus points in four of their past five games, and present a big challenge to Boise State on Nov. 6.

UPSET SPECIAL Tulsa 33, Notre Dame 30. Yup, two weeks in a row I am going to pick Notre Dame to lose in my upset special. No, Tulsa doesn’t run the triple option, but the Golden Hurricane have an offense capable of racking up yards and points. Notre Dame is going to have to find an answer for the trio of Damaris Johnson, Trae Johnson and Charles Clay.

Central Michigan 33, Bowling Green 17. Talk about disappointment. Both teams made bowl games last season and are now floundering. The Falcons have already been eliminated from bowl contention. Meanwhile, the Chippewas have lost five straight, but get the edge behind Ryan Radcliff, Kito Poblah and Nick Bellore.

Western Kentucky 30, North Texas 28. Can it be true? Two in a row for the Hilltoppers? After breaking their 26-game losing streak last week, Western Kentucky returns home to play a team that just fired its head coach and is on its fourth-string quarterback (though there is hope Riley Dodge can play). They came awfully close to a win earlier this month, so the improvement is there for the Hilltoppers.

FIU 24, FAU 20. One thing you have come to expect from the “Shula Bowl” -- an FAU win. The Owls lead the series between the rivals 7-0, although the lone FIU win in 2005 was vacated due to NCAA sanctions. FIU is flat out better this season. FAU has lost five straight, and its lone win came in the opener on the final play of the game.

Colorado State 44, New Mexico 20. The Rams have shown glimpses of an offense this season behind true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas, although he has been on his back more often than he probably likes. The Rams have given up 29 sacks this season, but should be able to do enough to protect Thomas against one of the worst teams in the country.

Lunchtime Links

October, 26, 2010
It's Tuesday, so that means it's game day. Louisiana Tech travels to No. 3 Boise State in a game that will air on ESPN2. Who you got? Give me Boise State 49, Louisiana Tech 17.

Now on to some links:

Idaho senior linebacker JoJo Dickson broke his leg against New Mexico State and is out for the season, ending his college career.

Brandon Burton is a lockdown corner for Utah.

Fresno State is gearing up for a tough stretch.

The race is on for the second guaranteed bowl berth in the Sun Belt.

The numbers don't tell the full story for East Carolina.

A loss to East Carolina would likely knock UCF out of the Conference USA race.

Western Michigan defensive backs Damond Smith and Doug Wiggins say their on-fight disagreement was blown out of proportion.

Bowling Green and Central Michigan are desperate for a win.

Hawaii punt returner Ryan Henry is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Since joining FBS in 1987, Akron has never gone winless. The Zips are 0-8 with four games left.

UNLV has reinstated WR Phillip Payne.

Non-AQ Bowl Projections

October, 24, 2010
Time for the latest bowl projections for the non-AQ teams. I have done these for all of college football from the beginning of the season, but now is when things truly get interesting in the fight for bowl eligibility. It is a huge guessing game, but also keep in mind -- the projections are not necessarily where the teams are going to finish.

Bowls are not required to take teams based on order of finish in the conference if they feel there is a more intriguing team that is available to them. Hawaii, for example, might finish second in the WAC, but would go to the Hawaii Bowl regardless.

One change - I am now projecting UCF as the winner of Conference USA. SMU's loss to Houston on Saturday night had a hand in that. But right now UCF and East Carolina are the two best teams in the conference, with a big showdown looming this week in Orlando. I also have Houston back in the projections after the big win.

I still have Boise State in the national title game. The more No. 1 teams that lose, the more that helps the Broncos.

Here are the latest projections after Week 8:

BCS national championship game: Oregon vs. Boise State

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. TCU

Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa vs. Hawaii

Armed Forces Bowl: East Carolina vs. Army

Eagle Bank: Maryland vs. Southern Miss

Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Kentucky

New Orleans Bowl: UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee Bowl: Temple vs. Troy

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. Idaho

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Washington

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. NC State

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. Fresno State

Little Caesars: Penn State vs. Northern Illinois

Beef O’Bradys: Louisville vs. SMU

Kraft Fight Hunger: Houston* vs. Nevada

* = at large because conference cannot fill bowl allotment.

Lunchtime Links

October, 19, 2010
Chomping on some Goldfish while finding your links fix:

These are the days of the BCS, featuring TCU and Boise State.

Former Boise State running back Ian Johnson has reluctantly returned to Boise after getting released by two NFL teams this season.

Idaho starting cornerback Isaac Butts has been dismissed from the team.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe opens up about the officiating controversy in the San Diego State game, which resulted in a new Mountain West rule that doesn't allow alums or school employees to work in the replay booth.

Nevada receiver Chris Wellington is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Zac Dysert and Andrew Cruse shrugged off adversity for Miami (Ohio).

Hawaii LB Corey Paredes is a natural hunter.

After a loss to Rice, what's next for Houston?

North Texas coach Todd Dodge tries to help his team focus after a 1-6 start. One more loss, and the Mean Green will have their sixth straight losing season.

BYU-Georgia Tech set series

October, 18, 2010
BYU and Georgia Tech have agreed to a four-game series, starting with the 2012 season.

The teams will play in Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2012, and Oct. 11, 2014. Two games are also scheduled for Provo on Oct. 12, 2013, and Oct. 14, 2017.

“This should be a great series for our football program,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “As we fill our schedules for the coming years, we want to play storied football programs like Georgia Tech. It’s a great opportunity for Cougar fans in the Southeast to see our football team play.”

BYU is making progress in scheduling its games as an independent. So far, it has future games set with Oregon State, Texas, Utah, UCF and Boise State, in addition to WAC teams Utah State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State. It has 10 games set for next season, its first as an independent.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 18, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 7.

[+] EnlargeTCU
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonTCU (No. 5) is one of three non-AQ teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings.
The good: The non-AQ teams made history in the BCS standings with three teams ranked in the Top 10. Boise State is No. 3, TCU is No. 5 and Utah is No. 9, but the big unknown is whether any of them will have a shot at the BCS national championship game. Boise State has scored 48-plus points in three straight games. Meanwhile, TCU has allowed just one field goal in its past three games. The last team to score a touchdown on the Horned Frogs was SMU in Week 4, when Zach Line ran in from 29 yards out at the 11:24 mark. … Miami (Ohio) is en route to one of the best turnarounds from the non-AQs. The RedHawks had a thrilling 27-20 comeback win against Central Michigan and are now 4-3 after going 1-11 last season. They have a critical game at home against Ohio this Saturday, then winnable games against Buffalo, Bowling Green and Akron before closing the season at home against Temple. At 3-0, Miami is on top of the East in the MAC. … Eastern Michigan won its first game of the season. … Rice won its first conference game with a 34-31 win against rival Houston to not only grab a hold of the Bayou Bucket, but to avenge a 73-14 loss to the Cougars last season – one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.

The bad: A week after picking up its first win of the season, New Mexico State lost to Fresno State 33-10 in part because it went 1-of-13 on third downs. … Akron dropped to 0-7 after a 38-10 loss to Ohio. The Zips had six penalties, two interceptions and failed to get their run game going once again. The Zips are averaging just 15.9 points a game, ranked No. 114 in the nation. … Idaho gave up 683 yards of total offense in a loss to Louisiana Tech in yet another inconsistent performance for the Vandals. In three losses, Idaho has given up 450-plus yards of total offense. In two wins against FBS teams, Idaho is allowing 145.5 total yards a game.

The heartache, Part I: Bowling Green has lost three games this season on the final possession. The latest heartbreaker happened Saturday in a 28-27 loss to Temple. Coach Dave Clawson decided to go for the 2-point conversion and the win with no time remaining. But Matt Schilz’s pass for Calvin Wiley was broken up on the goal line. The Falcons also lost the season opener 30-27 to Troy when the Trojans kicked a field goal to win with 4 seconds left. In a 28-26 loss to Buffalo, Bryan Wright missed a 40-yard field-goal try on the final play of the game.

“There’s really two ways of looking at it,” Clawson said Monday morning on the MAC coaches call. “We’ve lost three games this year on the last play of the game. From a positive -- with as young a football team as we are and with all the new starters, we’re not that far away. On the other hand, there’s certainly a frustration level when you get in that many close games you need to find a way to win your share. A year ago we did.” Last season, the Falcons won two games by one point.

The heartache, Part II: Western Kentucky took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter at home against ULM. What could go wrong? Well, when you have lost 25 straight games, plenty. The Hilltoppers allowed 28 unanswered points and lost 35-30 to extend the nation’s longest losing streak to 26 games. They had a similar chance to win in the 2009 finale, but blew a 20-3 lead late in the third quarter and lost 24-20 to Arkansas State.

One more helmet stickers: Colorado State nose tackle Guy Miller had a truly dominating performance in a 43-10 win against UNLV. Miller set a school record with 4 sacks, breaking the mark of four shared by 1995 WAC Defensive Player of the Year Brady Smith and Mike Bell, a consensus All-American and the No. 2 overall selection in the 1979 NFL Draft. He also broke the Mountain West record of four. Miller has started 20 straight games for the Rams and has 6 sacks on the season the most at the school since Bryan Save had seven in 2003.

A few injury items to note: Air Force has lost running back Jared Tew for six weeks with a broken fibula, putting a serious hurting on the team. Tew had been a huge part of the success of the triple-option, with 540 yards and three touchdowns this season. ... San Jose State has now lost 12 starters for the season after several more injuries in a 48-0 loss to Boise State. Leading rusher Lamon Muldrow is out after tearing his ACL, and linebacker Ryno Gonzalez (foot) is also out. LB Wade O’Neill suffered a concussion, but won’t be out for the season.

Week 8 look ahead: Plenty of good matchups this weekend from the non-AQ teams. Air Force continues its tough four-game stretch with a game at No. 5 TCU. Houston travels to SMU in a game that could shift the balance of power in the Conference USA West Division. Meanwhile, Notre Dame plays Navy. The Midshipmen have won two of the past three games against the Irish.