NCF Nation: Matt Schilz

Other non-AQ bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
4:55
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Earlier today, I had a breakdown on why Houston missed a bowl game this season. Now here is a breakdown of several other 2009 bowl teams that missed out in 2010.

Bowling Green

What happened: The Falcons had one of the youngest teams in the country going into the season and they had big shoes to fill with the departure of quarterback Tyler Sheehan and receiver Freddie Barnes. The offense struggled all season, especially the run game, which ranked last in the nation. The Falcons also lost four games by three points or fewer.

Bowling in 2011? Plenty of players return, so they should have the experience, but a big question is whether Matt Schilz can take the next step at quarterback. He already has his go-to target in Kamar Jorden.

Central Michigan

What happened: It's never easy to replace one of the best players in school history in Dan LeFevour, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. Ryan Radcliff held his own at quarterback, but threw way too many interceptions (17 TDs and 17 INTs). The Chippewas struggled to find consistency with their offensive line, failing to protect the quarterback (33 sacks allowed) or establish a decent run game. They also had problems taking care of the football, ranking as one of the worst in the country in turnover margin.

Bowling in 2011? It all depends on the development of Radcliff, and a big-time replacement for linebacker Nick Bellore.

Idaho

What happened: Quarterback Nathan Enderle may have thrown for more yards this season than last, but that is because he had way more attempts. The reason? Idaho could never get its running game going, averaging 88.5 yards a game. The offensive line was a problem because it also failed to protect Enderle -- Idaho gave up 45 sacks this season, third worst in the country. Enderle also saw his completion percentage and yards per attempt drop, and his interceptions go up (from nine to 16). The Vandals were also one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

Bowling in 2011? Leaning no. Idaho is losing Enderle and a lot of senior leadership in defensive end Aaron Lavarias, linebacker JoJo Dickson, safety Shiloh Keoh, tight end Daniel Hardy and receiver Eric Greenwood.

Marshall

What happened: Inconsistency at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the kicking game. Marshall struggled to run the ball, ranking No. 113 in the country and averaging 97.2 yards a game. Much of that was because of a young offensive line. The scoring suffered, too, as the Herd only averaged 20.8 points a game.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on what happens with the quarterback and offensive line. Brian Anderson is gone, leaving A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan as the lone returners with experience.

Temple

What happened: The Owls were bowl eligible at 8-4, but were not chosen to go bowling, thanks in part to two straight losses to close the year to Ohio and Miami (Ohio). Turnovers hurt in the loss to the Bobcats, and the offense just never showed up against the RedHawks. Leading rusher Bernard Pierce was banged up all season, though Matt Brown did a nice job filling in. The Owls also made a quarterback change midway through the season, finishing up with Mike Gerardi because Chester Stewart was too inconsistent.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on who Temple hires to replace Al Golden. There is talent here. Can the new coach continue to build on what Golden did the last two seasons?

Wyoming

What happened:A brutal schedule is what happened. After opening against Southern Utah, Wyoming played eight straight bowl teams, including nonconference games at Texas and home to Boise State. The offense took a step back, ranking No. 116 in total offense and 107 in scoring offense. Despite speculation that he may transfer, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will return. The Cowboys also dealt with tragedy early in the year when freshman Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident Sept. 6.

Bowling in 2011? It is going to be close. Wyoming has an easier out of conference schedule, but it does play two FCS schools. That means the Cowboys have to get to seven wins. They get Nebraska and TCU at home, but Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State on the road.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:00
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Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 4.

The good: Air Force is ranked for the first time under coach Troy Calhoun, joining the AP poll at No. 25 after its big 14-6 win against Navy. There are now five non-AQ teams ranked and three in the Top 10, with Boise State at No. 4, TCU at No. 5 and Utah at No. 10.

Miami of Ohio (3-2) is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007. The Red Hawks are one of the youngest teams in the country. Coach Mike Haywood estimates he had between 45 and 48 true freshmen, redshirt freshman and sophomores on his 65-man roster in its 27-21 win against Kent State last Saturday. “When you have a young team you don’t take anything,” Haywood said.

[+] EnlargeGary Anderson
AP Photo/Jim UrquhartCoach Gary Andersen and Utah State have reason to be excited after beating BYU.
Utah State beat BYU for the first time since 1993, and even though BYU is down, coach Gary Andersen will take it. Fans stormed the field afterward, and he said the victory is a huge boost for recruiting and fan support for the Aggies. “For us to get a win over BYU is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz keeps putting up video game numbers for the Warriors. Hawaii is No. 1 in the country in passing offense, averaging 431 yards per game. Moniz had a career-high 532 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. He has over 300 yards passing in all his games but the opener against USC. That is because he left the game in the third quarter with a head injury.

The bad: Meanwhile, the Cougars dropped to 1-4 for the first time since 1973, and fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill over the weekend. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will resume his coaching duties. BYU has been unable to do anything on offense and defense this season. BYU ranks No. 96 in total offense and No. 101 in total defense. The Cougars are also last in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 259 yards a game. Hill told the Deseret News he was surprised the decision came in the middle of the season, but one former player said Hill had some personality conflicts with players.

None of the six non-AQ winless teams won this past weekend. Western Kentucky was idle, but Eastern Michigan, Akron, FIU, New Mexico State and New Mexico all lost.

The heartache: You have got to feel for North Texas, which played Louisiana a day after freshman walk-on wide receiver Josh Rake died from injuries sustained in a car accident. This had already been a tough season, losing 10 starters to injury. Before Rake died, receiver Tyler Stradford got hurt when he tried to run from a pit bull at his apartment complex. Stradford leaped over a fence but landed on a lawn chair and had a bar stuck four inches into his chest, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

North Texas came back from a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring with 31 seconds left to make it 28-27. But the extra point attempt was blocked, and Louisiana won. The Mean Green have now lost eight games by seven points or less in the last two seasons. Now comes word that starting quarterback Riley Dodge has a fractured wrist and may require surgery, the third starting quarterback to get hurt for North Texas this season. Coach Todd Dodge is now preparing Chase Blaine to start.

A few more helmet stickers: Hawaii WR Kealoha Pilares set a new school record with 18 catches against Louisiana Tech, passing the previous mark of 16 set by Greg Salas last year against New Mexico State. Pilares also finished with a career-high 217 receiving yards, the seventh best performance in school history. … Arkansas State LB Javon McKinnon recorded a career-high 16 tackles against Louisville. … Ball State DE Robert Eddins had a career-high 4.5 sacks and seven total tackles in Ball State's 31-17 win at Central Michigan.

A few injury items to note: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury, and coach Dave Clawson sounded unsure whether his player would be able to go at Ohio on Saturday. Schilz hasn’t thrown since last Wednesday. If he can’t go this week, Clawson said he would open up the quarterback competition. Aaron Pankratz went 12-of-37 for 167 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in a loss to Buffalo. … Ohio WR LaVonn Brazill has a broken hand and is out. … Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore (ankle) is day to day. ... Utah State RB Michael Smith (turf toe) is out indefinitely and Andersen said he would see whether Smith is eligible for a medical redshirt.

Week 6 look ahead: Plenty of big conference games this week. It starts Tuesday night with Troy at Middle Tennessee in the return of Blue Raiders quarterback Dwight Dasher. On Wednesday, UAB travels to UCF. The Blazers have had three of their games come down to the final play, losing two. Big MAC showdown between Temple and Northern Illinois. San Diego State travels to BYU, and there also is the winless bowl: New Mexico against New Mexico State. Someone has to win. Right?

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
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Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 4.

The good: Toledo is off to a 3-1 start after winning three straight road games for the first time since 2002. Its 31-20 win over Purdue Saturday gives the Rockets wins over teams from automatic qualifying in five straight seasons. Quarterback Austin Dantin is putting together a nice season in his sophomore year, and went 24-of-31 passing for 209 yards and two scores. He also ran the ball a game-high 17 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns -- including a career-long 58-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter. … Temple kept it closer against Penn State than it had in a really long time, falling to the Nittany Lions 22-13. That was the closest it came to a win since losing 27-25 team in 1985. …

Five winless teams picked up Victory No. 1 on the season: Colorado State, North Texas, ULM, Marshall and UNLV. The Rams had the longest losing streak among that group, breaking a 12-game skid with their last-second win over Idaho. Marshall beat Ohio after coach Frank Solich elected to go for two points with no time left to try to win the game. But Boo Jackson’s pass went incomplete. Solich said he elected to go for two because he didn’t have faith that his defense could stop the Herd.

[+] EnlargeTarean Austin
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonTarean Austin and the New Mexico Lobos have had an abysmal start to the season.
The bad: New Mexico has lost by an average of 46 points this season, and has shown no competitiveness. The Lobos had to start true freshman Tarean Austin because of an injury to B.R. Holbrook (knee). Austin became the first true freshman to start there since 1988, and went 17-of-40 for 177 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the 45-10 loss to UNLV. Perhaps most painful about that lopsided score –- UNLV came into the game winless as well. It is unknown how long Holbrook will be out.

Fresno State gave up 55 points to an Ole Miss team that struggled to score this season against FBS opponents, averaging 13.5 points in those games. But the Bulldogs defense seemed to revert to form against the Rebels, giving up 425 yards on the ground and 578 total yards.

The heartache: You have to feel for UAB and coach Neil Callaway. Two of its three losses have come on the final play of the game. In both, UAB outgained its opponent. Start with the season opener against FAU. The Blazers blew a 16-point third-quarter lead but had a chance to win on the last play of the game. Instead, their 28-yard field goal was blocked. Then against Tennessee this past week, UAB outgained the Vols 544-287 in the game and held them to only 147 yards after the first quarter. But four missed field goals spelled doom, and the Blazers lost 32-29 in overtime.

A few more helmet stickers: Colorado State freshman quarterback Pete Thomas went 29-of-37 for 386 yards and three touchdowns, both of which are career highs. … Middle Tennessee defensive end Jamari Lattimore had four sacks to go with a career-high eight tackles, a forced fumble, and two quarterback hurries against Louisiana. The four sacks also tied the Sun Belt Conference single-game record and goes down as the most in the FBS this season. … TCU punt returner Jeremy Kerley had a career-high 234 all-purpose yards against SMU, averaging 34.4 yards per kickoff return. That includes a career-long 83 yarder.

A few injury items to note: BYU junior defensive tackle Romney Fuga is out for the season after tearing his ACL and LCL against Nevada on Sunday. Fuga was apparently hurt by what BYU said was a cheap shot from Nevada offensive linemen John Bender. Coach Bronco Mendenhall called it “not a positive football play.” Fuga has started all four BYU games this season, with 15 tackles and a sack this season. … Kent State anticipates having running back Eugene Jarvis (groin) available this week against Miami (Ohio). …

Ohio linebacker Noah Keller is most likely gone for the season with a partially torn ligament in his toe, wide receiver Riley Dunlop is out two to four weeks, and wide receiver/punt returner LaVon Brazill (leg) is questionable after missing the game against Marshall. … The Bowling Green quarterback situation is up on the air. Matt Schilz (shoulder) sat out against Michigan, and it’s a matter of whether he can throw during practice this week. … Temple running back Bernard Pierce (ankle) is a game-time decision against Army. … Louisiana quarterback Chris Masson (knee, chest) should be available against North Texas on Saturday.

Week 4 look ahead: A few big games this week on the schedule. The biggest: Navy at Air Force. Navy has won seven straight over the Falcons and seven straight Commander-in-Chief trophies. This could be the best shot yet for Air Force to win with the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. Navy has been banged up, including quarterback Ricky Dobbs, but the Midshipmen had a bye week to try and get healthy. … BYU is at Utah State on Friday night in a game that has lost some of its luster. Both teams are 1-3 and looking for some much needed momentum.

Big Ten Week 3 rewind/Week 4 preview

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
2:03
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Let's look back at Week 3 before gearing up for a riveting slate of games Saturday in the Big Ten (sarcasm, people).

Team of the Week: Michigan State. After suffering a series of close losses in the past three years, Michigan State finally turned the tables -- against one of its top rivals, no less. A seesaw game featured some offensive fireworks on both sides, and for certain stretches, Michigan State achieved the type of offensive balance that could make it very dangerous when Big Ten play rolls around. But the Spartans once again seemed to wilt in the clutch as quarterback Kirk Cousins took some costly sacks. Notre Dame regained the momentum late in regulation and in overtime, but Michigan State changed everything with a gutsy fake field goal call that resulted in the game-winning 29-yard touchdown pass. Although coach Mark Dantonio's health setback put the celebration on pause, Michigan State has an opportunity to build off this win.

[+] EnlargeBates
Matt Cashore/US PresswireAaron Bates' touchdown pass in overtime lifted the Spartans to a victory.
Best game: Notre Dame at Michigan State. The game featured four lead changes, 938 yards, 65 points and the most memorable play of the young college football season, as punter/holder Aaron Bates found tight end Charlie Gantt for a 29-yard touchdown on the fake field goal try in overtime. Quarterbacks Cousins and Dayne Crist both had their moments, as did receivers Michael Floyd and B.J. Cunningham. Just a very entertaining game between rivals. Honorable mentions go to Wisconsin-Arizona State, which featured several wild special-teams plays, and Iowa-Arizona, which featured a furious Hawkeyes rally from a 27-7 halftime deficit and an Arizona counterpunch in the clutch.

Biggest play: Isn't it obvious by now? No one expected the fake field goal, especially from a typically conservative coach like Dantonio. It was the right call at the right time and Bates, a former high school quarterback, deserves credit for going to his second read after Le'Veon Bell was covered. If Michigan State goes on to have a big season, we'll all point to this play. Wisconsin also received two huge special-teams plays from safeties Shelton Johnson and Jay Valai. Johnson tripped up Arizona State kick returner Kyle Middlebrooks at the 1-yard line as the second quarter clock expired, saving six points and a huge momentum swing going into halftime. The 5-foot-9 Valai showed off his hops by blocking the potential game-tying PAT attempt with 4:09 left as Wisconsin won 20-19.

Specialist spotlight: Bates had a huge night against Notre Dame, and his game-winning pass to Gantt overshadowed his prowess as a punter, as he averaged 45.4 yards on eight punts. Illinois punter Anthony Santella leads the nation in punting average (48.9 ypg) after averaging 48.7 yards per boot on Saturday against Northern Illinois. Northwestern kicker Stefan Demos went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts against Rice, and Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman averaged 43 yards on four punts and had one downed inside the 5-yard line against Arizona State.

Game balls (given to players from winning teams not selected for helmet stickers):

  • Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks: Kendricks knew he'd have to step up Saturday as Wisconsin played without two of its top receivers (Nick Toon and David Gilreath). The senior tight end looked like a wide receiver again as he hauled in seven receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown, even though he was interfered with in the end zone. He shares the game ball with quarterback Scott Tolzien (19-25 passing, 246 yards, 1 TD).
  • Michigan RB Michael Shaw: Denard Robinson didn't have to do it all against UMass as Shaw racked up career highs in both rushing yards (126) and touchdowns (3) on only 12 carries. He shares the game ball with Robinson, who had another big day, and receiver Darryl Stonum (3 receptions, 121 yards, 2 TDs).
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan: Homan has carried over his stellar play from 2009 and continues to become one of the league's top defensive playmakers. The senior had seven solo tackles, a forced fumble and an interception against Ohio. Kudos also go to fellow Buckeyes defender Tyler Moeller, who recorded his first career interception, a forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for loss.
  • Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell: Bell is the early leader for Big Ten Freshman of the Year after recording his second 100-yard rushing performance in his first three collegiate games. The big man rumbled for 114 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Notre Dame. He shares the game ball with receiver B.J. Cunningham (7 receptions, 101 yards, TD) and fellow back Edwin Baker (14 carries, 90 rush yards, TD).
  • Northwestern LB Quentin Davie: The senior leads the Big Ten in interceptions after recording his third -- a pick-six, no less -- in Saturday night's blowout win at Rice. Davie recorded a game-high 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a pass breakup. He shares the game ball with defensive linemen Vince Browne, Corbin Bryant and Jack DiNardo, who combined for 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
  • Purdue WR Cortez Smith: The Boilers need a No. 1 receiver to emerge after losing Keith Smith, and Cortez Smith looks reads to fill the void. He recorded five receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Ball State. He'll share the game ball with defenders Gerald Gooden (5 tackles, forced fumble, pass breakup), Kawann Short (two pass breakups, blocked PAT) and Jason Werner (INT, 1 TFL).
How bizarre: The league-wide special teams struggles as well as a few odd highlights stood out in Week 3. Who can remember the last time the Big Ten had so many meltdowns with punting, kicking, kickoff coverage and punt coverage? Then again, the three biggest plays on Saturday came in the kicking game: Michigan State's game-winning fake field goal, Johnson's touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff return and Valai's PAT block to preserve a 20-19 lead.

OK, moving on to Week 4. Do we have to? I know it's my job to get your excited for Big Ten football 24-7-365, but this week provides a major challenge, to say the least.

Northern Colorado (2-1) at Michigan State (3-0): Spartans offensive coordinator Don Treadwell takes over the head-coaching duties from Mark Dantonio, who suffered a mild heart attack following the Notre Dame win. The Spartans look for a more complete defensive performance before Wisconsin visits on Oct. 2.

Central Michigan (2-1) at Northwestern (3-0): Northwestern aims for its second perfect nonconference mark in the past three seasons after going 35 years with at least one non-league loss. Central Michigan should test Davie and the Wildcats' defense, which has forced nine turnovers in the first three games.

Bowling Green (1-2) at Michigan (3-0): The Wolverines' sputtering defense likely won't face Falcons starting quarterback Matt Schilz, who isn't expected to play because of a shoulder injury. Michigan's offense will light up the scoreboard, but the D has to get better before Big Ten play.

Austin Peay (2-1) at Wisconsin (3-0): Yawn. If Wisconsin can't dominate the Governors (ello, guvna!), Badgers fans should get worried. This provides a good chance for the Badgers to assess their depth on both sides of the ball.

Ball State (1-2) at Iowa (2-1): Although the Cardinals hung in there at Purdue, Iowa should have no trouble Saturday. The bigger question is whether the Hawkeyes can clean up their play in the kicking game, on the offensive line and in the secondary after the Arizona loss.

Toledo (2-1) at Purdue (2-1): Quarterback Robert Marve's left knee injury doesn't appear to be serious, and the Boilers need to get No. 9 through this game and into the bye week without further setbacks. Arizona shredded Toledo's defense in the season opener, and Purdue should have opportunities to further develop a receiving corps missing star Keith Smith.

Eastern Michigan (0-3) at Ohio State (3-0): The Buckeyes could score 70 in this one. I'm not kidding. Eastern Michigan has surrendered 111 points in its first three games.

Temple (3-0) at Penn State (2-1): This is the most interesting game in the Big Ten. Temple heads to State College with a ton of confidence as coach Al Golden might be auditioning for the Nittany Lions' faithful. Penn State's running back race now is open as slumping senior Evan Royster tries to hold off junior Stephfon Green and dynamic freshman Silas Redd. Should be a good one in Happy Valley.

Akron (0-3) at Indiana (2-0): Ben Chappell and the Hoosiers' offense likely will carve up another bad team Saturday, as Akron has been blown out by Syracuse and Kentucky and lost at home to Gardner-Webb (ouch). The bigger question is whether the Hoosiers' defense can shut down the Zips.

Northern Illinois (1-2) at Minnesota (1-2): It's must-win time for embattled coach Tim Brewster and his Golden Gophers, who performed a lot better Saturday against USC but still couldn't finish off a good team. Northern Illinois will test Minnesota's new-look defense with quarterback Chandler Harnish, and Minnesota needs to reignite the run game despite Duane Bennett's ankle issues.

Bye: Illinois (2-1)

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
2:00
PM ET
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 3.

[+] EnlargeTCU Celebration
Patrick Green/Icon SMITexas Christian is off to another hot start again this season after rolling past Baylor.
The good: It looks as if Boise State and TCU are going to be in a dogfight for the top non-AQ spot the rest of the way, based on the way both teams played this past weekend. Kellen Moore and Andy Dalton looked terrific, and so did their respective defenses in big wins. Boise State showed no letdown in a 51-6 win against Wyoming, and TCU showed no letup in a 45-10 win against Baylor.

This might fall on deaf ears – OK it probably will fall on deaf ears – but the WAC is showing some fight this season. Nevada had a huge win against California. Fresno State has a win gainst Cincinnati. Utah State looks much improved as well. There is no question both the Broncos and Horned Frogs face serious challenges the rest of the way – Oregon State comes to town this weekend in Boise. But if both teams keep playing the way they have early on, they could be right back where they were last season.

The bad: Tough to decide whether Houston or North Texas had the worst day on Saturday. Both teams qualify, though, now that they have lost their top two quarterbacks for the season. Houston saw Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner go down within a quarter of each other, and will now turn to a true freshman to take over the high-powered offense for the rest of the season. Watch for Terrance Broadway to take over.

North Texas has some serious quarterback issues, too. Last week, starter Nathan Tune was lost for the year with a dislocated hip. This past weekend against Army, backup Derek Thompson broke his leg and is out for the year. The Mean Green are now going back to Riley Dodge, who was the starter last year but moved to slot receiver in the spring because of elbow troubles. North Texas lost 24-0 to the Black Knights, their first shutout since 2006. The injury bug has gone beyond quarterback, though. The team has lost nine starters to injury this season.

The bad, Part II: Colorado State has scored 19 points in three games, and is clearly feeling the pain of having a true freshman starting at quarterback. Pete Thomas has thrown one touchdown to six interceptions, and is averaging 6.4 yards a completion. The Rams have now lost 12 in a row.

The bad, Part III? Ohio apologized Monday for the behavior of its mascot before the game against Ohio State this past weekend. The Bobcat mascot tackled Brutus the Buckeye after jumping on his back and wrestling him down to the ground while fans booed. Ohio has barred the student dressed in the costume from any future affiliation with Ohio athletics.

A few more helmet stickers: Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin had another good game this past Saturday against ULM on his way to Sun Belt co-offensive player of the week honors. In three games, Aplin has gone 73-of-119 for 959 yards and four touchdowns. … Toledo defensive back Desmond Marrow had 10 tackles and two interceptions, including one he returned 15 yards for a touchdown in a 37-24 win at Western Michigan. … Utah punt returner Shaky Smithson had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown against New Mexico. He topped the 100-yard mark and returned a punt for a touchdown for the second straight game.

A few injury items to note: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz (shoulder sprain) is most likely out for Saturday’s game against Michigan. Coach Dave Clawson said the team would go with either Aaron Pankratz or Kellen Pagel. If Schilz is out for an extended period, he also said the team would consider playing freshman Trent Hurley, who the team planned to redshirt. Kent State hopes to have running back Eugene Jarvis (groin) when it plays against Miami (Ohio).

Week 4 look ahead: Lots of big games ahead for the non-AQ teams, headlined by No. 3 Boise State against Oregon State, the first home game of the year for the Broncos. All eyes will be on them once again as they have another national spotlight game. Other big games to watch: Nevada at BYU, Fresno State at Mississippi and TCU at SMU.

Meet the new QB faces of the MAC

August, 31, 2010
8/31/10
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The MAC has traditionally turned out pretty good quarterbacks, but now there are many new faces set to start at the all-important spot. The two biggest names who are gone: Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan and Tim Hiller of Western Michigan.

Don’t know what to expect from their replacements? Here is a quick primer:

Central Michigan. Ryan Radcliff replaces LeFevour, the MAC’s all-time leader in passing yards (12,905) and TD passes (102). The sophomore has a totally different style from LeFevour, who could run nearly as well as he could pass. Radcliff is more of a classic drop-back passer with a strong arm.

“He’s got good feet, great arm strength, great touch, very smart,” coach Dan Enos said. “I wouldn’t say he’s going to impress anybody running the ball down the field, but he can create with his legs and move the chains if need be.”

On replacing someone as successful as LeFevour, Enos said: “We’ve discussed that with Ryan since we’ve arrived. We said don’t be him, don’t try to be him. [Radcliff’s] a good enough player and has enough skills that we think he can be a very good player here. We’ve tried to explain to him he doesn’t have to win the game on his own.”

Western Michigan. Sophomore Alex Carder takes over for Hiller, who left as the school’s career passing and total offense leader. Carder also is a different quarterback, especially in his demeanor.

“He’s an excitable guy -- he wears it all on his sleeve,” coach Bill Cubit said. “We have to hope he is an even-keel guy.”

On how he is different from Hiller, Cubit said: “Tim is more of a drop-back guy, very cerebral. You never knew if he was upset or thrilled to death. Alex, his emotions are a little bit different. He’s more outgoing in terms of talking on the field. That’s a little bit different for the kids. He’s inexperienced, but at this stage in his career and Tim’s stage, they’re very comparable in terms of production.”

Four other teams have new starters at quarterback, too.

Buffalo. Jerry Davis replaces Zach Maynard in the new spread offense coach Jeff Quinn has installed.

“[Jerry’s] played games, he’s been in the fights and I think it’s really important that we keep that theme that guys that earn the spot should be rewarded for that position,” Quinn said. “He’s really picked up the offense and been able to make the plays in practice.”

Bowling Green. Redshirt freshman Matt Schilz takes over for Tyler Sheehan, a three-year starter. “It’s a little bit easier when guys around you have played,” said coach Dave Clausen, whose running back and receivers are all seniors. “I’m hopeful that transition will help us.”

Toledo. Austin Dantin officially replaces Aaron Opelt, although Dantin played as a true freshman last season when Opelt got hurt. “He’s a leader, done a great job for us and we look forward to seeing what he does with our offense,” coach Tim Beckman says.

Ohio. Boo Jackson has started for the Bobcats, but he goes into the season sharing the job with Phil Bates, a transfer from Iowa State. Coach Frank Solich said: “Phil’s by far the best rusher we’ve got. Boo, when he’s scrambling, has a unique way of finding guys in the open field. They bring something a little different to the table, so it probably makes sense for us not to announce that to allow preparation for a specific type of quarterback.”

Also of note: Chester Stewart becomes the full-time starter at Temple, having started several games last season. Eastern Michigan plans on playing both Devontae Payne and Alex Gillett.
We told you about quarterback battles still going on among the non-AQ schools in a two part series yesterday: Part I and Part II.

Here is a look at the quarterback battles that have already been decided as we close in on the start of the season:

Akron

Winner: Patrick Nicely.

Buzz: Nicely and Matt Rodgers played pretty evenly throughout fall camp and split the reps evenly. But Nicely emerged thanks to his play throughout the spring and camp. He started seven games as a true freshman in 2009, completing 120 of 222 passes for 1,349 yards and six touchdowns.

Bowling Green

Winner: Matt Schilz.

Buzz: With Tyler Sheehan gone, Bowling Green turns to the redshirt freshman, who has never thrown a pass in a collegiate game. The Falcons have had much stability at the quarterback position, so it will be interesting to see how Schilz does this season.

Colorado State

Winner: Pete Thomas.

Buzz: The highly touted true freshman enrolled in school early and beat out redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri. The last time a freshman started at quarterback for Colorado State was Caleb Hanie in 2004.

[+] EnlargeStewart
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesTemple's Chester Stewart needs to improve his completion percentage for the Owls to succeed this season.
Louisiana Tech

Winner: Steven Ensminger.

Buzz: The Auburn transfer found new life under new coach Sonny Dykes’ spread offense. After playing tight end last spring under former coach Derek Dooley, Ensminger was able to beat out Ross Jenkins, who started parts of the past two seasons.

Marshall

Winner: Brian Anderson.

Buzz: The incumbent survived a challenge from A.J. Graham, Eddie Sullivan and former Clemson player Willie Korn to emerge as the starter once again. Korn ended up transferring. Important to note: Anderson is learning his third different offense, now that new coach Doc Holliday is there.

New Mexico

Winner: B.R. Holbrook.

Buzz: Holbrook won the job over freshman Tarean Austin and Brad Gruner, and coach Mike Locksley cited his knowledge of the offense, the way he moved the team during scrimmages and his mostly error-free play.

New Mexico State

Winner: Matt Christian.

Buzz: Coach DeWayne Walker went with the junior college transfer over Jeff Fleming, who was 1-7 as a starter last season. Christian had been nursing a sore elbow during camp. Watch for Andrew Manley, a freshman from Hawaii, in case Walker decides not to redshirt him.

North Texas

Winner: Nathan Tune.

Buzz: Tune got the opportunity to compete for the starting job with Derek Thompson after last season’s starter, Riley Dodge, moved to wide receiver because of the accumulation of injuries to his arm. Tune, a former walk-on, has served as the backup the past two seasons.

Temple

Winner: Chester Stewart.

Buzz: Stewart emerged as the leader for the job during the spring when Vaughn Charlton moved from quarterback to tight end. Stewart played last season but had his struggles, completing 40 percent of his passes, throwing for three touchdowns and three interceptions.

UAB

Winner: David Isabelle.

Buzz: Isabelle won the job over Bryan Ellis to replace Joe Webb. Coach Neil Callaway cited Isabelle’s athleticism, but also said Ellis would play this season. Isabelle has played in spot duty behind Webb.

Western Kentucky

Winner: Kawaun Jakes.

Buzz: The sophomore started eight games last season, and coach Willie Taggart says Jakes has shown potential to be a very good quarterback in the new West Coast offense that is being installed. Jakes missed nearly all of spring after injuring his ankle during a pickup basketball game and had to work his way back into Taggart’s good graces.

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
11:00
AM ET
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each team in the MAC heading into the spring:

Akron Zips

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" New head coach Rob Ianello takes over an Akron squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. The Zips struggled last year averaging 19.25 points per game on offense and gave up 28.75 points per game on defense. This spring's goal will be to find playmakers to bring both sides of the ball on par with the rest of the league.

" The Zips had a running back by committee system last year, but none of their backs had more than 250 yards. Two of the team’s top three rushers are gone and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. Ianello signed five tailbacks in his first class.

" The defense struggled to put pressure on the quarterback as the Zips finished with 11 sacks. Opponents scored touchdowns on 66 percent of opportunities inside the red zone. Shoring up the defensive line and the linebackers will be an emphasis this spring.

Ball State Cardinals

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" Sophomore quarterback Kelly Page tries to regain the starting role after missing the second half of the season with thumb surgery. The Cardinals were winless with him in the lineup, but he improved as the season progressed. Redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman will vie for the role in the spring before highly-touted recruit Keith Wenning joins the competition in the fall.

" Running back MiQuale Lewis and tight end Madaris Grant are both awaiting word from the NCAA about a possible sixth season. Both are team leaders and are the top players at their respective positions.

" Losing defensive coordinator Doug Graber is a blow to the Cardinals. Although he was only with the team for a season, the defense was one of the team's bright spots and got better as the season progressed. The Cardinals have yet to name a replacement.

Bowling Green Falcons

Spring practice starts: March 19

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Replacing quarterback Tyler Sheehan will be one of the biggest chores since he took 95 percent of the snaps for the past three seasons. Aaron Pankratz was the backup last year and the leader heading into spring. But redshirt Matt Schiltz, walk-on Kellen Pagel and December enrollee Caleb Watkins will all be in the mix.

" Freddie Barnes was the Falcons best offensive weapon and it will be hard to find a replacement. Overall, the Falcons lose three of their top five receivers, and one of those returning is running back Wille Geter.

" Rebuilding the defense will be a priority after losing seven players, including the entire line backers corps and three-fourths of the secondary. There is a lot of young talent waiting, it is just a matter of gelling during spring ball.

Buffalo Bulls

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" Losing quarterback Zach Maynard, who decided to transfer last month, hurt their offense. He would have been the starter heading into the season, but now sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will duke it out this spring before two freshmen arrive in August.

" The Bulls have to replace top receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin and have several candidates to do so. Juniors Terrell Jackson, Marcus Rivers and Ed Young, and redshirt freshmen Fred Lee and Alex Neutz will compete for playing time.

" New head coach Jeff Quinn is going to install a more wide-open offensive system at Buffalo, however finding the right guys to play it will be a challenge. There are athletes remaining at Buffalo, but the loss of players such as Maynard and Roosevelt will make the transition slower.

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