NCF Nation: New Mexico

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 Players of the Week

November, 8, 2010
Here are the non-AQ Players of the Week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey. Went 15-of-19 for 294 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown, giving him 399 yards of total offense in a 40-33 win against Houston. It was just the second 100-yard rushing game by a UCF quarterback in school history.

Defense: UCF linebacker Josh Linam. Had 17 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a pass breakup against Houston. It more than doubled his previous career-high of seven.

Special Teams: Tulsa kick returner Damaris Johnson. Totaled 322 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in a 57-27 victory against Rice. Johnson became the Conference USA record-holder for career kickoff return yards with 3,054 yards and needs only 64 yards to become the NCAA’s all-time kick-off return leader.


East Division

Offense: Temple quarterback Mike Gerardi. Threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-10 win at Kent State. In four games, Gerardi has three starts and is 54-of-81 for 871 yards and eight touchdowns.

Defense: Ohio defensive lineman Stafford Gatling. Recorded six tackles, including 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss with a forced fumble in a 34-17 win against Buffalo.

Special teams: Kent State punter Matt Rinehart. Averaged 48.4 yards on seven punts in a 28-10 loss to Temple. Rinehart had a pair of punts downed inside the 5-yard line as the Flashes averaged an impressive 48.1 net average.

West Division

Offense: Ball State receiver Jack Tomlinson. Had a career day with seven catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-30 double overtime win against Akron.

Defense: Central Michigan linebacer Armond Staten. Recorded 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three forced fumbles in a 26-22 win against Western Michigan.

Special teams: Ball State kicker Ian McGarvey. Made three field goals and four extra points against Akron.

Mountain West

Offense: TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Went 21-of-26 for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-7 win at No. 5 Utah. His 93-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce marked the second-longest play in MWC history.

Co-Defensive Players: TCU linebacker Tanner Brock and San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris. Brock had a career-high 12 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup in the win against Utah. Burris had a career-high 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a 24-19 victory against Colorado State.

Special teams: New Mexico kicker James Aho. Kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to help New Mexico stop a nine-game losing streak with a 34-31 win against Wyoming. He also made a career-best 51-yard attempt.

Sun Belt

Offense: FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton. Had 291 all-purpose yards, scoring four touchdowns in a 42-35 win in double overtime against ULM. He had two receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one kickoff return for a touchdown.

Defense: Arkansas State linebacker Demario Davis. Had seven tackles and a career-high two interceptions in a 51-24 victory against Middle Tennessee.

Special teams: Hilton. Had 168 kick return yards, including 95 on a touchdown return. The return was his fourth-career return for touchdown, tying him for first all-time at FIU.


Offense: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Went 30-of-37 for a career-high 507 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-7 win against Hawaii. The 507 yards are the second most by any player in the nation this year.

Defense: Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner. Tied a career-high with 17 tackles in a 27-22 win against New Mexico State.

Special teams: Louisiana Tech return specialist Phillip Livas. Returned seven kickoffs for 225 yards, including a 95-yarder for a touchdown, and a punt for another 29 yards in a loss to Fresno State.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 10

November, 7, 2010
Time for a few non-AQ helmet stickers for Week 10:

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. The senior threw for a career-high 355 yards in a 47-7 win over Utah, breaking his previous career high of 344 set in 2007 at Stanford. He also had a career-high 93-yard touchdown pass, the third-longest play in TCU history. Dalton also moved into second place on the Mountain West Conference list with 11,320 yards of total offense. He is within striking distance of the record Max Hall set with 11,569 between 2007-09.

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore threw for a career-high 507 yards in a 42-7 win over Hawaii, which came into the game with the nation’s most prolific passing attack. But it was Moore who dominated, helping the offense rack up a school-record 737 yards of total offense. He had three touchdown passes to give him 85 for his career, setting the school record.

New Mexico coach Mike Locksley. Give this man a helmet sticker already. The Lobos won for the first time all season, beating Wyoming 34-31. That brings his career total to two. But still, this one was one to savor, leaving Akron as the only winless team in America. James Aho kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired, and New Mexico forced four turnovers in the win.

Navy offense. What can you say about a team that rolls up a modern day school-record 76 points in a win over East Carolina? This is the same team that lost to Duke last week. But Alexander Teich ran for 157 yards and Ricky Dobbs had 100 as Navy ran up 521 yards rushing.

Tulsa kickoff returner Damaris Johnson. He had 322 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in a 64-27 victory over Rice. He became the Conference USA record-holder for career kickoff return yards with 3,054 yards. He now needs only 64 yards to become the NCAA’s all-time kickoff return leader. Johnson is now 10th place on the NCAA list with 6,824 career all-purpose yards.

Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey. He ran for 152 yards in a 17-16 loss to FAU. His game allowed him to become the 14th back in school history with more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Temple quarterback Mike Gerardi. He threw for a career-high 368 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 28-10 win over Kent State. Girardi completed 72 percent of his passes and has steadily improved since becoming the starting quarterback four games ago.

Non-AQ storylines to watch: Week 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ Picks, Week 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winless Watch, Week 10

November, 3, 2010
Welcome to the Winless Watch, where we take a look at the teams still waiting on that first victory of the year, and their odds of getting it this week.

We are still left with two:

Akron (0-9). Streak: L 9. This week: at Ball State. Chances: 50 percent. The Zips have some hope going into this game, because Ball State has been struggling. The Cardinals have lost four straight, and already got beaten by a winless team this season -- Eastern Michigan broke its long losing streak with a 41-38 win last month. They only have one win against an FBS opponent -- and that came against two-win Central Michigan. Ball State H-back MiQuale Lewis could pose a problem for the Zips, who are giving up 174 yards on the ground. But the Cardinals have one of the worst defenses in the nation, ranking 110 out of 120 teams.

New Mexico (0-8). Streak: L 9. This week: Wyoming. Chances: 25 percent. This could be one of New Mexico’s last chances at a victory this season with games upcoming against Air Force, BYU and TCU. Coach Mike Locksley said he didn’t know whether starting quarterback B.R. Holbrook would be able to play. Holbrook hurt his shoulder against Colorado State last week, just the latest in a series of injures he’s suffered this season. Stump Godfrey played last week and could get the nod again. New Mexico hasn’t scored over 20 points in a game this season. Wyoming has been eliminated from bowl contention, but the Cowboys have the unquestioned edge at quarterback with Austyn Carta-Samuels
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.

Non-AQ Tricks and Treats

October, 29, 2010
Halloween time means we get to take a look at some of the tricks and treats the non-AQs have delivered so far this season. Have fun with this, and come up with some of your own in the comments section.

[+] EnlargeB.R. Holbrook
AP Photo/Rick BowmerNew Mexico did little right when it suffered a horrifying 72-0 loss against Oregon this season.
Scary movie: The worst loss of the season has to go to New Mexico, falling 72-0 to Oregon. The Lobos had eight first downs, 108 yards of total offense and trailed 59-0 at halftime. Did we mention that Oregon racked up 720 yards of total offense? The 72-point win for Oregon stands as the largest in school history over an FBS school. Not even FCS Portland State gave up that many points or yards to Oregon this year (though it did come close in the 69-0 loss).

Nightmare in Bronco Stadium: Yes, Boise State never loses at home, but watch out for Hawaii next week as a game that poses a threat to a contender. The Warriors are playing lights out football, and the Broncos have been less than impressive in the secondary this season. This one could impact the race for the national championship. On the other hand, the last time Boise State lost at home was to Washington State 42-20 on Sept. 8, 2001.

Boo (Boo): San Jose State and North Texas have been hit with major injuries, each losing at least 10 significant contributors for the season. But there is no bigger injury than the one Houston has had to overcome. Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum tore his ACL in the third game of the season and is out for the year. Backup Cotton Turner went out for the season in the same game. Houston has gone 2-2 without them and still stands atop the West Division of Conference USA. But it has been trying to deal with the huge loss of Keenum, who was poised to break the NCAA career passing record.

Night of the living dead: BYU is so not playing like BYU this season. The Cougars are 3-5 and are on the brink of failing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2004. The offense has looked like the living dead, ranking No. 106 in the nation. Spooky stuff in Provo.

Jigsaw team: San Diego State has put the pieces of the puzzle together in the second season under coach Brady Hoke and is one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. The running game is working with Ronnie Hillman, and that has allowed the play-action to work with Ryan Lindley, DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. The defense has played well, too. The Aztecs (5-2) have matched their best start in the past 14 seasons. To think they are two blown calls from being undefeated. Enough to make you scream, right Aztecs fans?

Halloween costumes: Time to play dress up. What would some of these guys go dressed up as on Halloween?

TCU coach Gary Patterson as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Because seriously, those guys look so much alike with their visors on, they could have been switched at birth.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen as a scarecrow. You know, because he scares off teams from power conferences.

Utah punt returner Shaky Smithson as Zorro. You have to love the way he slices and dices through punt return units.

Temple coach Al Golden as a zombie. Nothing like bringing a program back from the dead.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger as Colonel Sanders. Anybody else see the resemblance?

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English and Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart as conquering heroes. Hey, they both ended long losing streaks this year.

Twilight Zone: You know Bowling Green would love a do-over. A year after going bowling, the Falcons are 1-7. Three of their losses are by three points or less. Quarterback Matt Schilz has been banged up, and the young team has not been able to come together. Of course, Akron (0-8) and New Mexico (0-7) probably wish this nightmare of a season would end. Now.

Non-AQ Picks: Week 9

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

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

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

On to the picks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winless Watch: Week 9

October, 27, 2010
Welcome to the Winless Watch, where we take a look at the teams still waiting on that first victory of the year, and their odds of getting it this week.

And then there were two.

Congrats to Western Kentucky for ending its 26-game slide. Now there are just two teams left winless in all of college football. No guarantees that either will win a game. Last year, Western Kentucky and Eastern Michigan finished without a victory.

Akron (0-8). Streak: L 8. This week: at Temple. Chances: 5 percent. Your chances of winning go down when you play on the road. They go down dramatically when you play one of the best teams in your conference on the road. Such is the plight of Akron this week. Last week, the Zips lost 56-10 to Western Michigan, giving up 50 points for the second straight home game -- that first time that has happened in the Division I era. There will be better opportunities to win, though. Games against Ball State and Buffalo loom. Those two teams have two wins apiece. But if Akron continues to regress, the Zips face the very real possibility that they could go winless for the first time since the school joined the FBS level in 1987.

New Mexico (0-7). Streak: L 8. This week: at Colorado State. Chances: 35 percent. The Lobos played San Diego State tough last week, losing 30-20, but were awful once again with penalties, committing 10 for 88 yards and converting just one of 12 third-down attempts. Colorado State (2-6) has had its own share of problems and is coming off a 59-6 loss to Utah. But the Rams have a better quarterback with Pete Garcia and are playing at home, so give them the nod.

MWC, MAC, New Mexico

What we learned from non-AQs: Week 8

October, 24, 2010
What did we learn after Week 8?

[+] EnlargeTCU
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Ed Wesley had more than 200 rushing yards as TCU beat Air Force 38-7 to remain undefeated.

1. The non-AQs are still very much in contention for a BCS national championship. We may say this every week, but this is a continuing story and one that is history in the making. Every week that another No. 1 team loses is another week that Boise State, TCU and Utah can keep its hopes up that this could be the year that a team from outside the power conferences makes it into the title game for the first time. The No. 1 team in the country has lost for three straight weeks -- the first time that has happened since 1960. That ought to tell you about the season going on right now in college football. Argue about strength of schedule all you want. But with the way no dominant team has emerged, it is becoming more realistic to think anything can happen. These schools need help to make it in, but this is not pie in the sky. I know some people are already dreaming of TCU versus Boise State in the BCS title game just to bust the system.

2. Only two winless teams remain. Kudos to Western Kentucky for breaking the nation’s longest losing streak at 26 games and beating Louisiana 54-21. That leaves Akron and New Mexico as the only winless teams in the country, vying for the title of “Worst Team in America.” The vote here still goes with the Lobos, though they showed some fight in a 30-20 loss to San Diego State. Akron got totally dominated in a 56-10 loss to Western Michigan.

3. Can anyone figure out Houston? There are a lot of Jekyll and Hyde teams out there, and Houston has to fall into that category. The Cougars have been perplexing since Case Keenum got hurt. They handed SMU its first conference loss of the season, 45-20, on Saturday night to remain atop the West Division at 3-1. But this is the same team that lost the week before to Rice, 34-31. Said Rice team just got embarrassed 41-14 at UCF on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Knights and East Carolina have been the two most consistent teams in C-USA play with a showdown looming in Week 9.

4. Hawaii might be the biggest threat to Boise State. Maybe that should have been clear after the win last week over Nevada, but the Warriors throttled Utah State 45-7 and are 4-0 in WAC play for just the third time in school history. Hawaii has won its past seven WAC games dating back to last season, and the defense has 12 interceptions in its last five games. Hawaii plays at Boise State on Nov. 6, the same day TCU travels to play Utah.

5. Northern Illinois and Temple officially became bowl eligible. Both teams are at 6-2 after big wins Saturday. Northern Illinois beat Central Michigan 33-7 while Temple beat Buffalo 42-0. The MAC only has three bowl tie-ins, so if they want to make it into one of the bowls, their best shot is to play for the conference title. Meanwhile, Hawaii is one win away from becoming bowl eligible. UTEP blew its second straight chance to become bowl eligible and is 5-3. UCF, East Carolina, Southern Miss, San Diego State, Air Force and Navy are all one win away from clinching bowl eligibility.

Lunchtime Links

October, 20, 2010
Another coach has joined Tim Brewster on the unemployment line. North Texas said good bye to Todd Dodge today. You kinda knew it was only a matter of time.

Now on to some more headlines of the day:

TCU coach Gary Patterson wants a special effort from his defense against Air Force.

The possibility lurks that UCF could play the Gators in the Liberty Bowl.

Utah kicker Joe Phillips is in the middle of a history-making run, overcoming personal tragedy along the way.

Air Force fullback Nathan Walker is ready for his opportunitywith Jared Tew out.

Can Hawaii be a giant killer in three weeks?

San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long is staying mum leading up to the Aztecs' game against his former team, New Mexico.

FAU's inexperienced offensive line has been a problem all season.

Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith has been inconsistent, but coach Doug Martin gave him a vote of confidence this week.

Winless Watch, Week 8

October, 20, 2010
Welcome to the Winless Watch, where we take a look at the teams still waiting on that first victory of the year, and their odds of getting it this week.

Eastern Michigan ended its 18-game slide with a big win over Ball State, leaving three teams:

Western Kentucky (0-6). Streak: L 26. This week: at Louisiana. Chances: 35 percent. Wow, did the Hilltoppers come close last week. But alas, luck is hardly ever on your side when you lose 26 straight games. They allowed 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to lose to ULM 35-30. Chris Masson is playing better for Louisiana. If it doesn’t happen this week, next week could be it for Western Kentucky, with a home game against North Texas.

New Mexico (0-6). Streak: L 7. This week: San Diego State. Chances: 5 percent. The Lobos had a week off to rest and get their act together, but somehow I think they are going to need more than a week to start playing better. An infusion of talent would help, along with a new coaching staff. It’s going to be hard for one of the worst offenses and defenses in the country to stop one of the more balanced teams in the Mountain West. Ronnie Hillman had 191 yards on the ground last week against a decent Air Force defense. Wonder how many he will get this week.

Akron (0-7). Streak: L 7. This week: Western Michigan. Chances: 15 percent. Patrick Nicely continues to struggle, but coach Rob Ianello says he is going to stick with his quarterback. You have to wonder where the Zips are going to find some offensive production, though. They are averaging just 15.9 points a game.

What we learned from non-AQs: Week 7

October, 17, 2010
What did we learn from the non-AQs in Week 7? Read on to find out.

1. And then there were three. Boise State, TCU and Utah are the only non-AQ teams that have a shot at a BCS bowl this season, now that Nevada has been knocked from the ranks of the undefeated. The Broncos took a hit to their strength of schedule after the Wolf Pack and Oregon State lost, and it appears they could be No. 3 when the BCS standings are released later today. What Boise State needs is for the major conference teams to continue to lose, which is exactly what happened on Saturday. Of course, it remains to be seen whether an undefeated Boise State or TCU/Utah would finish ahead of a one-loss power conference team at the end of the season for a spot in the BCS national title game. That has never happened.

2. Winless no more. Kudos to Eastern Michigan for getting its first win since November 2008. The Eagles beat Ball State 41-38 in overtime, after trailing 28-7 late in the second quarter. Quarterback Alex Gillett accounted for 414 yards of total offense and five touchdowns -- he ran for 189 yards and two scores and threw for 225 yards and three scores in the win. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky came oh so close to ending its 25-game losing streak, but ULM scored 28 fourth-quarter points to win 35-30. Three winless teams remain -- Western Kentucky, Akron and New Mexico. The Lobos were off Saturday, but the Zips lost 38-10 to Ohio.

3. This could be a long season for Houston. We knew the Cougars were going to be hurting without Case Keenum and Cotton Turner. But surely, they would be able to beat Rice without them. Nope. Houston fell behind 28-7 early before a late rally came up short in a 34-31 loss. On fourth-and-inches from the Rice 42 with a chance to come back for the win, quarterback David Piland fumbled the snap and that sealed the game. As it stands now, it is going to be hard for Houston to become bowl eligible. The Cougars are at SMU next week and still have to play UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss and Texas Tech. In all, five of their final six opponents are .500 or better.

4. Hawaii is for real. Start paying attention to the team on the islands, because it is starting to resemble some of those high-flying Warriors teams we have come to know. Hawaii upset No. 19 Nevada 27-21 late Saturday night in a game that ended past 2:30 a.m. EDT, but it was well worth it if you stayed up and watched. Nevada was able to slow down Hawaii in the second half, but Bryant Moniz came up with the big plays when he needed to and outplayed Colin Kaepernick. The outcome may have been different had Kaepernick not fumbled the ball out of the end zone in the third quarter down 17-0. But now the Warriors have won four straight and have emerged as the top challenger to the Broncos in the WAC.

5. Nov. 6 is shaping up to be a really big day. We already knew the TCU-Utah game would be huge, but this one is even bigger now that Air Force lost. No question the game in Salt Lake City should determine the Mountain West champion -- if TCU beats the Falcons next Saturday and Utah beats them Oct. 30. Meanwhile, Hawaii is at Boise State on the same day in another game that could impact the national championship race. Hawaii is the last team to beat Boise State in the regular season -- 39-27 on Nov. 23, 2007 in Honolulu.