NCF Nation: Miami (Ohio)

Lunchtime Links

November, 11, 2010
Almost nailed the Miami (Ohio)-Bowling Green score right yesterday. More mid-week non-AQ football coming up tonight: East Carolina at UAB. My pick: East Carolina 41, UAB 35.

Now on to some links:

Rose Bowl officials have discussed the possibility of choosing between Boise State and Stanford as an at-large selection.

The Alford brothers will be on opposite sidelines once again Saturday when Utah plays Notre Dame.

How does anyone know who the best team in the country is on eyeballs alone, asks Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Nevada offensive lineman John Bender plays on the edge.

San Diego State coach Brady Hoke says he's not looking to bail out after two years with the Aztecs. His name has surfaced on the Minnesota wish list.

Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan has given coach Dave Bailiff a vote of confidence.

Marshall's Donald Brown won't live down "The Slide."

Arkansas State is ready for Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey.

Louisiana Tech's Phillip Livas is back to making big plays.

Northern Illinois stays grounded after its win against Toledo.

Miami (Ohio) becomes bowl eligible

November, 11, 2010
Miami (Ohio) has made one of the best turnarounds in college football this season, and it continued on a foggy Wednesday night in Bowling Green.

The RedHawks became bowl eligible for the first time since 2005 after winning the game on the final play. Kicker Trevor Cook returned from a knee injury to boot a 33-yard field goal with no time left, lifting Miami to the 24-21 victory. Miami is in a three-way tie atop the MAC East with Temple and Ohio. Those two teams play next Tuesday. Miami (6-4, 5-1) already lost to Ohio, but plays Temple to close out the season on Nov. 23.

[+] EnlargeThomas Merriweather
Andrew Weber/US PresswireThomas Merriweather rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Miami went 1-11 last season and was picked to finish fifth in the MAC preseason poll. The RedHawks have not played in a bowl game since 2003. Going into the game, they were tied with Maryland for the most improved team in the country. Both had a four-game improvement over last season. Maryland was 2-10 in 2009.

After jumping out to a 21-7 lead against Bowling Green, Miami saw the Falcons tie the game. The RedHawks set up their final scoring drive when D.J. Brown got his first interception. Cook had missed the last two games with a knee injury, and missed a 41-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. But he redeemed himself in a big way with the final kick.

As for the other Miami playmakers, receiver Nick Harwell has come on strong in the last few games. He had 10 catches for 125 yards against Bowling Green and now has 43 catches for 600 yards in the last five games. In his first five games, he had just two grabs for 15 yards.

As for Bowling Green (2-8, 1-5), this has been a season to forget. A year removed from going to the Humanitarian Bowl, the Falcons have struggled through youth and inexperience. They have lost four games this season on the final play of the game.

Lunchtime Links

November, 10, 2010
More midweek MAC football coming up. Tonight: Miami (Ohio) at Bowling Green. I will take Miami, 24-20.

Now on to some links:

Boise State's defensive line has been key this season.

Gary Patterson is in demand, and that's good for TCU.

Utah linebacker J.J. Williams finally makes his return from a lingering foot injury.

Nevada wide receiver Rishard Matthews is hitting his stride.

There is a chance Southern Miss wide receiver DeAndre Brown could play against UCF.

Is running the football the best option for UAB against East Carolina?

Houston linebacker Matt Nicholson suffered another knee injury, ending his season and career.

The WAC could add Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and Denver as early as today.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun deflected talk about the Colorado opening.

FAU is not proud of its poor offensive production.

Injuries have hit Middle Tennessee -- both starting cornerbacks could be out Saturday.

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 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.

Lunchtime Links

November, 2, 2010
Who is ready for some football? Middle Tennessee travels to Arkansas State tonight in the first nationally televised home game for the Red Wolves.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen is granting the wish of a 12-year-old boy with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Stephen Kinsey wants to be a coach for a day.

There is more at stake this week for TCU and Utah than just the Mountain West title.

Utah says it is a different team than the one that lost 55-28 last year in TCU.

One thing that has become obvious -- Navy doesn't know how to handle success, Bill Wagner of The Annapolis Capital writes.

Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin could be out for the rest of the regular season with a separated left shoulder.

The turnaround at Miami (Ohio) continues to raise eyebrows.

San Jose State is happy for its bye week.

Ties bind Air Force LB Jordan Waiwaiole and Army FB Jared Hassin.

UAB will study having an on-campus stadium.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 1, 2010
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: UAB running back Pat Shed, UCF running back Ronnie Weaver. Shed ran for a career-best 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 50-49 double overtime win against Southern Miss. He finished with 235 all-purpose yards as the Blazers posted their first win in Roberts Stadium. Weaver ran for a career-high 180 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns in a 49-35 win against East Carolina.

Defense: Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson. His interception with 37 second left in the first half gave Tulsa the momentum in its 28-27 win against Notre Dame. He also had six tackles, a sack and two quarterback hurries.

Special teams: Tulsa punt returner Damaris Johnson. Had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown, the second of his career in the win. He is 25 yards shy of tying the Conference USA all-time kickoff return record.


East Division

Offense: Miami receiver Nick Harwell. Had eight receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-9 win at Buffalo.

Defense: Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones. Had six tackles, five tackles for loss, three and a half sacks and recovered a fumble in a 17-14 win at Central Michigan.

Special Teams: Kent State punter Matt Rinehart. Averaged 52 yards on four punts as the Flashes posted a 43-yard net in a 33-14 win against Ball State.

West Division

Offense: Western Michigan receiver Jordan White. Had a career-high 14 receptions for a career-high 180 yards and one touchdown in a 28-21 loss to Northern Illinois.

Defense: Northern Illinois defensive end Jake Coffman. He had four tackles and the game-saving interception on Western Michigan’s final offensive play to seal the win.

Special Teams: Toledo punter Vince Penza. Averaged 40.6 yards on five punts in the Rockets' 42-7 win at Eastern Michigan.

Mountain West

Offense: San Diego State receiver DeMarco Sampson. Had seven receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-38 win against Wyoming. He has three straight 100-yard games.

Defense: Utah safety Brian Blechen. Had a career-high nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 28-23 win at Air Force.

Special teams: San Diego State punter Brian Stahovich. Kicked the longest punt in San Diego State history at 89 yards in the second half against Wyoming. It was his only punt of the day.

Sun Belt

Offense: North Texas running back Lance Dunbar. Ran for a season-high 215 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-6 win at Western Kentucky. The 215 yards was the most by any player in the Sun Belt this season and the third-highest rushing total in the nation this week.

Defense: ULM Darius Prelow. Had six tackles and an interception in a 28-14 upset win against Troy. The defense held Troy to its lowest point total in a Sun Belt game since 2006.

Co-Special Teams: Louisiana kicker Brett Baer, North Texas kicker Zach Olen. Baer made a field goal and four extra-point attempts, and had two perfectly placed onside kicks in a loss at Ohio. Olen made two field goals, including a 48-yarder, the longest by a North Texas kicker since 2005.


Offense: Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz. Went 27-of-38 for 326 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-10 win against Idaho. He also rushed seven times for 43 yards and another score. Moniz is the first quarterback in the nation to reach 3,000 yards this season (3,247).

Defense: Hawaii S Mana Silva. Had nine tackles (six solo), including one for a loss of 13 yards, and intercepted a pass in the win against Idaho.

Special teams: New Mexico State kicker Tyler Stampler. Went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts in a 29-27 win against San Jose State. He made a 42-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and then added a 25- and a career-long 43-yarder in the fourth quarter of a tight game.
Let us dip into the Friday mailbag for some more question and answer fun. Thanks to everyone for writing in, and please understand I can only pick and choose a few to answer. So do not be offended if I skip your e-mail. I do read all of them, and appreciate all your feedback. Please keep 'em coming.

Howard in Broadlands, Va., writes: Watching the BCS show, I must have heard three times that Week 8 Pitt is better than Week 1 Pitt. Perhaps, but Week 8 Utah is also better than Week 1 Utah and Week 8 Utah still beats Week 8 Pitt. Also, can anyone seriously tell me that they don't believe that either Boise St., TCU or Utah would have dropped 60 points against Northwestern and not "found a way to win"?

Adelson writes: Well, again, this is all about slapping down the non-AQ teams and finding ways to avoid giving them credit for wins they rightfully deserve. Do you know how many times I have heard that Virginia Tech would beat Boise State if the two played today? As for all the other undefeated teams out there, we can nitpick their schedule and margin of victory, too. Michigan State needed two trick plays to win and has beaten one ranked team all season.

Matt Farren in Buffalo writes: Any comment on "Upset Special II: Miami (Ohio) 28, Ohio 21" (final score Ohio 34, Miami 13)? I'm an Ohio alum, in case it wasn't obvious.

Adelson writes: An alien got a hold of my hard drive and changed my picks! Not buying it? OK. I was wrong, oh so wrong. Please forgive me!

John McDaniel of St. Louis writes: If Missouri finishes the season undefeated, do they have a shot at the national championship? If not the title game, what BCS game would they most likely play in?

Adelson writes: It all depends on who loses in front of Mizzou. If Auburn and Oregon go undefeated, then the Tigers get left out and head to the Fiesta Bowl, home of the Big 12 champion. But if there continues to be one upset after another, then the chances increase.

Preston in Mendota Heights, Minn., writes: I'm excited for Western Kentucky. Do you think they can get another win this year?

Adelson writes: I have got Western Kentucky winning this weekend over North Texas. There is also a winnable game next week against FAU. Bobby Rainey is quite the underrated running back. The key is going to be how coach Willie Taggart handles the success, and makes sure his players stay focused.

Winston in Guatemala writes: You wrote: TCU is set to get a bump when it plays No. 8 Utah on Nov. 6. Yes Andrea, since it is just a given that TCU will win at Utah. Answer me this, has TCU ever won at Utah? No. I can't wait for that game so you will finally calm your overzealous love for TCU. Will you eat crow when this happens? Just wondering.

Adelson writes: What if I eat bugs or worms or something, like those people on Fear Factor? Would that be OK? If any Utah fans have something creative for me to do should Utah win, send it into the mailbag and I will publish the best responses.

Jed in Idaho Falls, Idaho writes: Boise State is the inspiration in all of football these days. Have you noticed the resurgence of gimmick plays in both college and NFL games ever since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl? Did you notice how No. 1 fell 3 weeks in a row? That hasn't happened since the 60's, but now Boise has reminded the lower ranked teams that those upper echelon teams can be beaten.

Adelson writes: Funny thing about those gimmick plays. Coaches of those power teams that use them to win are praised for thinking outside the box to win. Boise State uses them, and the Broncos are scolded for needing trickery and not talent to win. Love the double standard.

Chris in Concord, Calif., writes: Do you know what would happen if Army gets to six wins, yet the Armed Forces Bowl is able to fill both of its contracted slots? Would Army then move to the "at-large pool" and just have to hope for the best? I know I am getting ahead of myself because their schedule down the stretch isn't exactly easy, but I think it would be a real shame if the Black Knights finally get to six wins and wind up staying home for the holidays anyway.

Adelson writes: Yes, Army would need an at-large berth this year because there is no contracted bowl game. All it has slated is as a backup to both Conference USA and Mountain West teams in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Clifton Hamilton in Philadelphia writes: Is it fair to rate Kellen Moore so high on the Heisman list? Everyone keeps excusing his low overall yardage due to the minimal game time he plays, but his backup quarterbacks playing with other backup players are amassing statistics that easily compare to Kellen Moore's statistics. To me, that clearly states something about the Boise State team overall, their opponents, or both, but says very little about Kellen Moore. I think Boise State has a good shot at the BCS championship bowl this year, and if Kellen Moore puts up stats like this in the bowl game, I'll eat my words.

Adelson writes: How about going 23-of-38 for 215 yards, three touchdowns no interceptions and executing a two-minute drive to win the game against Virginia Tech? You said you wanted one game to eat your words – there you have it. I had a debate with somebody on Twitter about this (are you him?), who said he would be just as good as Moore if he played in college. But if it was so easy to put up numbers against low-quality opponents, then why is nobody from the MAC or Sun Belt throwing for 3,000 yards and just three interceptions in one season? Moore is not going to win the Heisman. He might not even be invited to New York. But he certainly has a special quality that has allowed him to pass with such accuracy, and to lead his team to 21 straight victories. I don't care how bad the opponent, you still have to be able to get the ball to your receivers to make some plays, all while reading defenses, dealing with pressure and eliminating distractions.

Raul in Albuquerque writes: New Mexico was once average in the MWC, garnering the 5th most wins in the conference for the past 10, 5, and even 3 years under Rocky Long. Obviously, times have changed with Mike Locksley... UNM has never won a MWC title in football. What should UNM do in order to win the MWC asap?

Adelson writes: Well getting rid of Locksley will help, but he has a large buyout and the school is financially strapped, so it is a big question whether he will be back next season. They need a dynamic recruiter to convince kids to come there, and they need to have a disciplined team. It is not an easy spot to be in, but Long showed it is possible to win there. Is it possible to win conference titles with TCU and Boise State around in the coming years? That is going to be much more difficult.

Lunchtime Links

October, 27, 2010
Boise State beat Louisiana Tech 49-20. Is that good enough to silence its critics? Stay tuned for my video on that topic.

Now on to some links:

Boise State still has some issues to correct with a big game against Hawaii looming.

TCU coach Gary Patterson noticed a pep in his team's step this past week.

Making a BCS bowl this year would be financially beneficial for Utah.

Southern Miss receiver Kelvin Bolden is turning heads.

Fresno State and Nevada are still negotiating the details in their departure from the WAC.

Three prominent San Diego State boosters have sent a letter to the BYU president asking him to "stop stonewalling" and find out what happened in the replay booth in the Aztecs' loss to the Cougars.

If Hawaii becomes bowl eligible this weekend, you can bet the Warriors will begin lobbying for its C-USA opponent in the Hawaii Bowl.

Looking ahead cost Miami (Ohio) in its loss to Ohio.

Middle Tennessee OT Mike Williams has been suspended for the first half of next Tuesday's game against Arkansas State by the Sun Belt for allegedly punching an opposing player.

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.

Vote: Capital One Impact Performance

October, 18, 2010
Time once again to vote for your Capital One Impact Performance of the week.

Here are your nominees:
  • USC quarterback Matt Barkley ties a school record with five touchdowns against California.
  • Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline goes 32-of-42 for 348 yards with four touchdown passes in a win over South Carolina.
  • Zac Dysert throws a 71-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Cruse with 19 seconds to go to give Miami (Ohio) a 27-20 win over Central Michigan.
  • Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton tallies 329 yards and four total touchdowns in a win over Arkansas.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 7

October, 17, 2010
I realize there are still a few non-AQ teams playing, but thought you might want an early helmet stickers edition. Will add to it if necessary from Nevada-Hawaii and New Mexico State-Fresno State.

Ron English, Eastern Michigan. Congrats to the Eagles for getting their first win since 2008, beating Ball State 41-38 in overtime. The Eagles snapped an 18-game losing streak with a big-time comeback. Eastern Michigan trailed 28-7 in the second quarter before scoring 28 unanswered points. Ball State tied it up at 35 with 34 seconds left in regulation. But Alex Gillett threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ben Thayer in overtime to win it for the Eagles. They had come close in several games this season, giving English hope his team was coming close. He did more than come close Saturday.

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio). Dysert threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Cruse with 19 seconds left to give the RedHawks a 27-20 win over Central Michigan, their first road victory since 2008. Dysert went 29-of-47 for 399 yards, the second-best day of his career. Cruse had a career-high 179 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns.

Dominique Davis, East Carolina. The quarterback had another outstanding game, throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for another in a huge 33-27 overtime win over N.C. State. Davis scored the touchdown in overtime, to help the Pirates win a game that they led 21-0 in the first quarter. Davis has three 300-yard games this season and has thrown from 1,439 total yards, with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Ross Jenkins, Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have started three different quarterback this season, but it appears they should stick with Jenkins, the starter from last season. He has now led them to two straight wins after a career day in a 48-35 win over Idaho. Jenkins went 31-for-44 for 422 yards -- all career highs -- and tied a career high with three touchdown passes. He also added another score on the ground, as he has looked more and more comfortable running the new spread offense coach Sonny Dykes has installed. He became the first Louisiana Tech quarterback with over 400 yards passing since Luke McCown in 2003.

Jamon Hughes, Memphis. The senior linebacker has been a bright spot for Memphis this season. In a 41-19 loss to Southern Miss, Hughes notched a career-high 21 tackles (15 solo, 6 assists), plus one sack for a 4-yard loss. He has led the team in tackles in all seven games this season.

Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State. The true freshman had 191 yards on 24 carries, including touchdown runs of 65 and 44 yards to give the Aztecs a 27-25 win over No. 23 Air Force, their first win over a ranked team since 1996. He essentially went untouched on his 44-yarder with 2 minutes left to essentially seal the game. The Aztecs (4-2) had lost 25 straight games to ranked opponents, dating back to a 28-24 win over No. 16 Wyoming on Nov. 7, 1996. Hillman has three 150-yard games this season for 785 yards on the year, trailing only Marshall Faulk for most rushing yards by a San Diego State freshman (1,429).

Jerrel Jernigan, Troy. Jernigan had six receptions to set the school record for catches with 219 in a 31-24 win over Louisiana. He finished with 180 total yards, including one receiving touchdown and a 75-yard punt return for a score, two weeks after undergoing elbow surgery. His 12-yard TD reception with 4:43 left was the game-winning score.

Non-AQ Did You Know, Week 6

October, 8, 2010
Time for a little non-AQ Did you Know, Week 6 style. Thank you to the school and conference public relations departments for these wonderful nuggets.

Arkansas State has scored at least 24 points in each of its first five games, marking the first time since 1995 it has scored 20 or more points in five straight games. The Red Wolves play at North Texas on Saturday.

Wyoming plays at No. 5 TCU, marking the third time in six weeks the Cowboys will be facing a Top-5 team. Wyoming is the only team in the country that will face three Top 5 teams through the first six weeks of the season. The Cowboys played at Texas, then ranked No. 4 on Sept. 11, and faced then-No. 3 Boise State in Laramie on Sept. 18.

Air Force has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter this season. The Falcons have outscored their opponents 54-0 in the fourth quarter through the first five games. Air Force and Oregon are the only teams in the nation that have held their opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter this season.

Quarterback Andy Dalton broke two more TCU passing records in a 27-0 win at Colorado State. Dalton became the Frogs’ career leader in both touchdown passes (50) and pass attempts (1,122). He already holds TCU marks for completions (681) and passing yards (8,364). Dalton broke Max Knake’s former school record of 49 touchdowns, set from 1992-95, with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Young in the fourth quarter.

Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas has thrown for 1,197 yards through five games and is 8 yards shy of the school freshman record for passing yards. Caleb Hanie holds the record with 1,204, set in 2004.

Big home test for Houston this weekend. The Cougars have won a league-record 18 straight home games, the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the NCAA. In 10 of those 18 wins the Cougars have scored 50 or more points. Houston hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.

Marshall senior DE Vinny Curry continues to lead the nation in sacks with eight. He posted two more at Southern Miss last week. Teammate Mario Harvey leads the nation in tackles, averaging 13.0 per game.

Boise State senior kicker Kyle Brotzman is about to become the WAC’s all-time scoring leader. Brotzman has 377 points in 44 games, 18 shy of Hawaii’s Jason Elam, who scored 395 points from 1989-92. Brotzman has made 60-79 field goals and 197-of-199 PATs in his career. He is also second in WAC history in field goals made, 19 shy of Elam’s record.

Winless New Mexico State has not recorded a sack, recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass this season.

Ohio earned its 500th victory in program history last week, improving to 500-519-48 overall, with a 30-17 victory at Eastern Michigan.

In addition to Kent State ranking first in the nation in run defense, the MAC also features three of the top 25 teams in the country in that category. Toledo (95.4 avg.) ranks 13th and Miami (106.8 avg.) ranks 24th.

Army has already reached the end zone more than it did in 12 games in 2009. Army scored 18 offensive touchdowns (13 rush, 5 pass) last season. In the first five games of 2010, the Black Knights have 21 touchdowns, including 18 rushing scores.

Since Kyle Whittingham became head coach at Utah, the Utes are 5-0 coming off regular-season bye weeks.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 6

October, 7, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 5 were pretty bad. If Army had not blown a lead, if North Texas had not had an extra point blocked, if only … Sigh. The tally came out to 5-5, an embarrassing day to be sure. With a 33-21 overall record, I am ready for Week 6. I think.

On to the picks!

No. 10 Utah 31, Iowa State 28. This will be the biggest test of the season for the Utes, who played three of the worst teams in college football after struggling to beat Pittsburgh. They should be prepared for Austen Arnaud after getting a bye week. Utah has a powerful run game with Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata, and the Cyclones have one of the worst run defenses in the country. That will make the difference.

Northern Illinois 34, Temple 30. Both teams are evenly matched going into what many believe to be the MAC championship game preview. But the edge goes to the Huskies because they have been able to run the ball more consistently with Chad Spann and Chandler Harnish.

New Mexico State 21, New Mexico 17. Bowl of Disenchantment, Take 1. Where do we begin? There are issues everywhere for both teams, which rank near the bottom of nearly every NCAA statistical category. They can’t score, but they can’t stop anyone from scoring, either. Both also have issues at quarterback, with injuries to their starters. Neither team knows who will start. Good luck to anyone attempting to watch. The Aggies get the nod because they are at home. Not because they are good.

FIU 28, Western Kentucky 10. FIU has been able to hang with its nonconference opponents, at least in the first two games anyway. The Golden Panthers need to find some consistency from their offense, and they should be able to against Western Kentucky. But the key could be how the FIU defense handles RB Bobby Rainey, one of the top-ranked rushers in the country.

San Diego State 30, BYU 17. I have wanted to believe in a BYU turnaround, hence all my upset picks the last few weeks. But the Cougars have let me down, big time. They have given nobody any reason to believe they can turn things around in a matter of a week. The Aztecs have a balanced offense, and a great runner in Ronnie Hillman. The defense is vastly improved, too, and already has nine sacks. BYU, meanwhile, has struggled everywhere. Not sure more involvement from Bronco Mendenhall is the answer.

Southern Miss 35, East Carolina 20. The Golden Eagles are on a roll, having won four straight, including a blowout win over Marshall. The Pirates, meanwhile, suffered a big blow when they lost defensive end Justin Dixon for the season. That leaves them very thin along the line. If last week is any indication, expect Southern Miss to run. A lot. The Golden Eagles had 205 yards on the ground against Marshall. East Carolina gave up 263 yards rushing in a loss to North Carolina.

Navy 17, Wake Forest 13. The Midshipmen are facing a must-win game on the road after their loss to Air Force last week. They have struggled to get their triple option going, partly because quarterback Ricky Dobbs has struggled through injuries, and partly because defenses are keying in on him. Dobbs says the injuries are not a problem headed into the Wake Forest game. Maybe he will be rejuvenated going against a defense that is giving up 182 yards a game on the ground.

Mississippi State 30, Houston 20. Houston won this game last season behind Case Keenum. But Keenum is out and coach Kevin Sumlin has yet to announce whether Terrance Broadway or David Piland will start the game. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have been impressive so far this season behind Chris Relf and Tyler Russell, and Vick Ballard in the run game.

UPSET SPECIAL: Hawaii 48, Fresno State 41. The Warriors are hot on offense right now behind Bryant Moniz, who threw for 532 yards last week against Louisiana Tech. They have won three of the last four games in Fresno. The Bulldogs are so banged up, injuries start to take a toll in this one despite a good game from Ryan Colburn.

Cincinnati 24, Miami (Ohio) 20. This one is going to be closer than expected. The RedHawks are much improved on offense and defense, while the Bearcats are struggling for any momentum. Good matchup here between Zach Collaros and Zac Dysert in the “Battle for the Victory Bell.”

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 4, 2010
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?