NCF Nation: Middle Tennessee

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 bowl projections

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

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

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

Here are all of the non-AQ picks:

BCS National Championship Game: Oregon vs. TCU

Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Boise State

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

Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Kentucky

Armed Forces Bowl: SMU vs. Army

Military Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. East Carolina

Independence Bowl: Clemson vs. Air Force

Little Caesars Bowl: Iowa State* vs. Northern Illinois

Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa vs. Hawaii**

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

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

St. Petersburg Bowl: ULM vs. Southern Miss

New Orleans Bowl: Houston vs. Middle Tennessee

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. UTEP*

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. Fresno State

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

**Hawaii already accepted bid to bowl.

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, 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.

Sun Belt bowl picture still muddled

November, 3, 2010
Arkansas State pulled off an impressive 51-24 win over Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night in its first ever nationally televised home game, but both teams are still going to have to scramble if they want to make a bowl game.

The Sun Belt has no team bowl eligible yet but two guaranteed bowl spots. Arkansas State, ULM and Troy each have four wins. The Red Wolves (4-5, 4-2) have to win two of three, and that is entirely plausible with games remaining against Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic. Quarterback Ryan Aplin has proved to be one of the best in the league, and Tuesday night was no different.

He threw for a touchdown and ran for another. But more impressively, the defense forced seven turnovers. The Blue Raiders turned the ball over on five straight possessions in the second half, blowing any chance they had of winning the game. The 27-point margin of victory was Arkansas State's largest ever over Middle Tennessee. The Red Wolves have won three straight conference games.

"The defense had a heck of a night flying around and playing great football," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said.

The misery of the season continued for Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders went into the year coming off a 10-4 season and a bowl victory and were the preseason favorites to win the league. But dual-threat quarterback Dwight Dasher was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the season for improperly accepting a loan. Since his return, he has not shown any of the flashes that last season made him the fourth player in NCAA history to pass for more than 2,500 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

The Blue Raiders (3-5, 2-2) are 1-3 since his return. He tied a career-high with four interceptions against Arkansas State and lost a fumble. He has three passing touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and is averaging a career-low 3.4 yards a carry. It hasn't helped that the Blue Raiders have had major injuries to the offensive line, but what has hurt them most in the last two games is turnovers.

The seven against Arkansas State are the most in the FBS era for the Blue Raiders. Add that to six turnovers against Georgia Tech, and the Blue Raiders have almost handed games to their opponents. Coach Rick Stockstill called the performance "embarrassing and disgusting."

But there is still hope for bowl eligibility. Middle Tennessee needs three wins in its final four games and should be favored in all of them -- North Texas, Western Kentucky, FAU and FIU. The four teams have combined for seven wins this season.

With Troy (4-3) and ULM (4-4) also vying for bowl spots, it is conceivable the Sun Belt could have four teams that have six wins or more. But they are only guaranteed two spots, including one to the league champion. Even though Troy lost last week, if the Trojans win out, they win their fifth straight conference title. Troy also has North Texas, Western Kentucky, FIU and FAU left.

Then the scramble will be on for the second spot.

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 Bowl Projections

October, 31, 2010
Well, nine weeks in and the time has come. I am removing Boise State from the national championship game. The latest BCS rankings make it clear that if the Broncos and TCU finish undefeated, it would be the Horned Frogs who finish as the top non-AQ team. So I am going with Oregon vs. TCU in the BCS national title game for this week.

This is still is a leap of faith on my part, because I have no idea whether the Horned Frogs would be able to hold off a hard-charging one-loss Alabama team, should the Tide win out. I still have TCU beating Utah and project the the Horned Frogs to go undefeated. I also am still projecting Boise State to go undefeated, and am guessing the BCS would take two non-AQs again. There is always the possibility it could go with two Big Ten teams rather than two non-AQ teams. Or even two Big 12 teams, depending on who they are.

Toledo is bowl eligible, but I have not been able to find a home for the Rockets just yet. They would need an at-large selection. UTEP is in the middle of a massive slump, and though I do project the Miners to be bowl eligible, I have them as the No. 7 team in Conference USA. That means they would also need an at-large berth. ULM is back in, but mainly because the Sun Belt serves as a backup to the Big East in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg.

BCS national championship game:Oregon versus TCU

Sugar Bowl: Alabama versus Boise State

Little Caesars: Michigan versus Northern Illinois

Military Bowl: North Carolina versus Tulsa

Liberty Bowl: UCF versus Kentucky

Hawaii Bowl: East Carolina versus Hawaii**

Armed Forces Bowl:SMU versus Army*

New Orleans Bowl: Houston versus Middle Tennessee Bowl: Temple versus Troy

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio versus Iowa State*

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah versus Texas A&M*

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State versus Navy

Independence Bowl: Air Force versus Clemson

New Mexico Bowl:BYU versus Fresno State

Kraft Fight Hunger: Boston College* versus Nevada

Beef O’Bradys:ULM* versus Southern Miss

*=at large selection because conference doesn’t have enough teams to
fill tie-in.

**= accepted bid.

Lunchtime Links

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

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

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn is developing a winning attitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunchtime Links

October, 28, 2010
Anybody else fired up for Florida State vs. N.C. State? Join me and ACC blogger Heather Dinich tonight as we live chat the game.

Now on to some links:

The Boise State secondary is in for some tough challenges in the weeks ahead.

The Utah defensive line is eager to face Air Force.

If you have yet to see the rant from the FAU announcer over a hit in last week's game against Arkansas State, you MUST.

The Army-Navy game won't play into the final BCS standings.

TCU nose tackle Kelly Griffin is out for the rest of the regular season with a broken ankle, testing the Horned Frogs' depth on the defensive line.

Air Force has another option on fourth down thanks to Tim Jefferson's punting abilities.

Houston safety Jacky Candy hits hard.

Back-to-back losses have SMU searching for answers.

Two punters are better than one at Middle Tennessee.

UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey and East Carolina's Dominique Davis are trying not to put too much pressure on their upcoming game.

Buffalo defensive back Domonic Cook is making a big impact.

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 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.

Non-AQ Bowl Look

October, 17, 2010
My bowl projections have been a weekly ritual since before the season began. But now that we are midway through the season, we have a better idea of where teams might end up. Not the right idea, just a better idea.

Given the increasing unpredictability of the landscape from week to week, I am not budging from my choice of Boise State in the BCS national championship game just yet. I still think this year is shaping up to be one in which there will be either one or no undefeated teams from power conferences. I have no idea whether an undefeated Boise State would make it in over a one-loss team from a power conference, but because Boise State is ranked so high in the polls this season it could be groundbreaking.

Boise State is as close as it has ever been. I am projecting the Broncos to finish the season undefeated. At best, they are in the national championship game. At worst, they are in a BCS bowl game. I also am projecting TCU to beat Utah and finish undefeated, which I am sure is going to earn me more love notes from Utes fans. Here is where I have everyone else going:

BCS national championship game: Oklahoma vs. Boise State

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. TCU

Liberty Bowl: SMU vs. Kentucky

Armed Forces Bowl: UCF vs. Army

Eagle Bank: Maryland vs. Southern Miss

Hawaii Bowl: UTEP vs. Hawaii

Beef O’Bradys: Cincinnati vs. East Carolina

New Orleans Bowl: Tulsa vs. Middle Tennessee

Little Caesars: ULM* vs. Northern Illinois (*=not enough Big Ten teams eligible)

GMAC 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

Kraft Fight Hunger: Arizona State vs. Nevada

Non-AQ What to Watch: Week 7

October, 14, 2010
Come one, come all for your Top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 7:

1. What will the first BCS standings reveal? The first rankings come out on Sunday, but they were a big topic of discussion this week, when ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards projected that No. 3 Boise State would be ranked No. 1. Nobody expects that to last should everybody else remain undefeated, but it serves as a validation for the schedule the Broncos have played thus far. They have San Jose State this Saturday, but keep in mind their future opponents have a combined record of 21-19. Virginia Tech and Oregon State are also looking pretty strong.

2. Can Nevada handle a big test at Hawaii? This is a classic reverse matchup -- a team that loves to run in the Pistol offense versus a team that loves to pass in the run 'n' shoot offense. Which wins? You have to give the edge to the team that runs. Nevada will be able to chew up clock and get pressure on Bryant Moniz, but there is no question this is going to be a tough game. Nevada has not beaten the Warriors in Hawaii since 1948.

3. Can Air Force keep its winning streak going against San Diego State? The Aztecs struggled against the run last week in a loss to BYU, as the Cougars had 62 carries and held the ball for 45 minutes. San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long said his team missed way too many tackles, and that led to way too many yards after contact. That is going to have to be corrected and fast against the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. The triple option is a different run game to handle, and Tim Jefferson had made a huge difference. The Aztecs cannot afford to make many mistakes.

4. Style points this week for TCU? Coach Gary Patterson made headlines for telling BYU to be careful what it wished for when it came to independence. Now the two schools play for the final time as Mountain West conference rivals. There probably is no love lost here, as Patterson said there is no shot TCU would play an independent BYU. But Patterson has been adamant that he will not roll up style points on anyone. Perhaps the better question to ask is whether TCU can get is third straight shutout.

5. More offensive fireworks for Utah in the second quarter? You may not have heard this yet, but Utah is outscoring teams 101-7 in the second quarter this season. Coach Kyle Whittingham has no explanation for the outburst. Can the trend continue Saturday against Wyoming?

6. Tougher start to the season -- Wyoming or San Jose State. The Cowboys are facing Utah, the fourth team to be ranked in the Top 10 at the time they played -- more than any other team in the country. The Utah game follows losses to Texas (No. 5 at the time), No. 3 Boise State and No. 4 TCU. Utah is No. 10 in the coaches’ poll. San Jose State comes close. The Spartans are playing their fifth ranked team in Boise State after having played Nevada, Utah, Wisconsin and Alabama.

7. Can Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher find his rhythm? His season debut last week against Troy was less than spectacular, going 22-of-37 for 172 yards with an interception, and gaining 27 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns. There is not much relief this week as the Blue Raiders go on the road to play Georgia Tech.

8. Can Temple rebound? The Owls lost 31-17 to Northern Illinois last week, and coach Al Golden ripped his team afterward for showing no passion or sense of urgency. He also said he was going to have lineup changes, playing guys who showed the heart and effort he wanted to see out of his starters. He also sounded frustrated with the slow recovery of running back Bernard Pierce, who has been hampered with a sprained ankle. Matt Brown has done well in his place. Temple plays Bowling Green on Saturday in a game it should win.

9. Can Houston quarterback David Piland win his first game as a starter? Coach Kevin Sumlin is sticking with Piland, after initially starting Terrance Broadway when Case Keenum went out for the season with a torn ACL. Piland and Houston lost to Mississippi State last week and face in-city rival Rice on Saturday. Piland is going to need more help from the run game. The Cougars only had 47 yards rushing against the Bulldogs.

10. How much longer can Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore stay atop the Heisman hunt? As long as Boise State keeps winning, Moore will most likely get an invite to New York. He appeared at the top of an straw poll after Denard Robinson slipped last week in a loss to Michigan State. Moore has 14 touchdowns and just one interception this season.

Lunchtime Links

October, 12, 2010
Boise State got one No. 1 vote in the coaches' poll. But it wasn't from Chris Petersen.

Buffalo linebacker Scott Pettigrew was stabbed during a bar fight this past weekend. Pettigrew has already been treated and released, and coach Jeff Quinn said Pettigrew should be fine.

Nevada coach Chris Ault says Vai Taua is running as hard as ever.

BYU is a 29-point underdog to TCU this weekend, and is going to need its run game to provide some help.

Western Michigan defensive backs Doug Wiggins and Damond Smith have been reinstated to the team after serving a suspension for an in-game scuffle. Now the two will have to win their jobs back.

Middle Tennessee has to find more offensive focus as it prepares to play Georgia Tech this weekend.

Injuries have hit Southern Miss hard. Now starting linebacker Martez Smith appears to be out with a knee injury.

Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin bounces back after a hard hit against Boise State, but is questionable for this weekend.