NCF Nation: Ricky Dobbs

There are a number of good non-AQ players who have to replaced headed into 2011, so we pose the question to you: Who is going to be the most difficult to replace?

I narrowed the field down to five candidates. There are many, many more who are worthy of being on this list, from Greg Salas at Hawaii to Chad Spann at Northern Illinois to Dontay Moch at Nevada. But I felt these were the five biggest names, and five biggest impact players on their respective teams.

For me, the vote comes down to TCU quarterback Andy Dalton and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Dalton won a school-record 42 games at TCU, led two straight undefeated regular seasons and won a Rose Bowl. He helped TCU become one of the top non-AQ teams in the nation, and that led to an invitation from the Big East. So he has had an impact both on and off the field. His leadership was unquestioned.

But Kaepernick led the type of magical season never seen before at Nevada. He, too, has his name all over the school record books, and he too was the unquestioned leader of his team. The key difference for me is this -- TCU has become a national program and will continue to be a national program even without Dalton. We cannot definitively say the same of Nevada without Kaepernick. Just look at the preseason rankings. TCU is there. Nevada is not.

So ultimately, I think it will be more difficult to replace Kaepernick because the players that follow are going to have to maintain what he started. That might be possible in the Mountain West, but it is hard to know at this point.
Navy could not have planned the transition from record-setting quarterback Ricky Dobbs any better. Well, there is one thing coach Ken Niumatalolo wishes he could have back.

Tape of Kriss Proctor running the offense last season.

That is how confident Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper are in Proctor and what he will bring to the Midshipmen in 2011.

[+] EnlargeKriss Proctor
AP Photo/Rob CarrNavy is confident Kriss Proctor will be able to replace Ricky Dobbs at quarterback.
“Coach Jasper and I have always said this: ‘We are so excited about Kriss. He had the misfortune I guess you could say of playing behind Ricky,” Niumatalolo said in a phone interview. “Part of me wished he didn't play last year so we could spring him on teams who might think, ‘Oh poor Navy they lost Ricky’ and not knowing we had Kriss Proctor behind. We know from an athletic standpoint he's as athletic as any quarterback we’ve ever had here.”

Proctor has not given his coaches any reason for concern as Navy heads into its spring game Friday. He is the ideal quarterback to play the triple option because of his athleticism and ability to run the ball. He has game experience, having started games in 2009 and 2010 when Dobbs was injured.

He has got a backfield as deep and talented as any Niumatalolo has had with Alexander Teich, Gee Gee Greene, Aaron Santiago, Bo Snelson and John Howell to name a few. Plus, Proctor is one of the hardest working players in the weight room, and his example has been an easy one for his teammates to follow.

That should help ease any pressure Proctor might feel in replacing Dobbs, one of the best players in Naval Academy history.

“There's always pressure when a guy comes in when the guy before him has been so successful, but I don't let that bother me. I don't let that get to me,” Proctor said in a phone interview. “I do what I'm told and do what I have to get done, and I let everybody else sort that out.”

While Proctor is a better runner than Dobbs, he is also a weaker passer. That has been a point of emphasis during the spring. But since Navy relies so heavily on running the ball, Proctor is an ideal fit. In his start against Central Michigan last season, Proctor ran for 201 yards and a touchdown in the 38-37 win. He came to Navy from a triple-option style offense, so that certainly has helped him understand what to do.

But even still, Proctor gives Navy more options in the triple option because he is such a dynamic runner. Expect to see some new wrinkles.

“I just think my speed and my option influence in the offense is really going to spark some big things,” Proctor said. "It will still look like the option, but maybe a little faster with a few different quirks."

Proctor is also different in the way he leads the team. Where Dobbs was a quiet leader, Proctor is way more vocal, a cheerleader who has already screamed plenty during practice. He isn’t afraid of head butting linemen, either.

How he responds as the full-time starter will be a story line to watch for Navy this season as the Midshipmen try to regain the Commander-in-Chief Trophy -- a huge source of motivation for the entire team.

Video: Navy QB Ricky Dobbs

January, 18, 2011

Andrea Adelson talks with Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs.
The Senior Bowl has been announcing the players to be featured in its game over the last several weeks, with plenty more to come. Some of the top non-AQ players in the country will be represented in Mobile, Ala., for the showcase game on Jan. 29.

Here is a partial list:

Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Jerrel Jernigan, WR/AP, Troy

Jeremy Kerley, WR/AP, TCU

Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State

Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii

Titus Young, WR, Boise State

Dalton joins a South roster that already features Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Dalton's draft status is one to watch, in my opinion. He may not be Andrew Luck but he has got the intangibles covered. It's hard to argue against a player who has won a school-record 42 games and definitely has the size at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds to play in the NFL.

Mel Kiper ranks him as the No. 5 senior quarterback going into the draft in his current rankings. Others project him as a fourth- to fifth-round pick.

"I’m just going to go out and show [scouts] how I play, show them that I can play with a lot of these players," Dalton said in a statement announcing his participation. "Hopefully people will see my leadership abilities and all the different intangibles that I can bring to the game."

Kiper has Jernigan listed as his No. 4 senior wide receiver.

Several other top non-AQ players have committed to play in another all-star game, the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando on Jan. 22. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been invited to play in both games. Here is a partial list of the East-West participants:

Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State

Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy

Lester Jean, WR, FAU

Jeron Johnson, S, Boise State

Shiloh Keo, S, Idaho

Brian Lainhart, S, Kent State

Josh McNary, DE, Army

Dontay Moch, DE/LB, Nevada

Justin Taplin-Ross, S, Utah
San Diego State beat Navy 35-14 in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night. Here is a quick instant analysis:

How the game was won:The San Diego State offensive balance hurt Navy big time. The Aztecs came out throwing, with Ryan Lindley finding a wide-open Vincent Brown over and over. Then it was time for Ronnie Hillman to do his damage in the run game. Each player had more than 100 yards in the first half alone. Navy was able to lock down much better on Brown after the first quarter and did a better job limiting big plays in the pass game, but they had a difficult time containing Hillman, particularly up the middle. Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs had a good game, but also missed several opportunities that would have kept the Midshipmen in the contest.

Turning point: Navy had a chance to tie the score at 21 in the third quarter. After a 30-yard completion from Dobbs to Gee Gee Greene on fourth down gave the Midshipmen a first-and-goal at the 9. After three unsuccessful plays to get into the end zone, Navy went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3. Dobbs had a wide open Bo Snelson in the end zone, but the ball just glanced off his fingertips and the Midshipmen came away with nothing.

Player of the game: Hillman continued where he left off during the regular season as the Mountain West Freshman of the Year. He had his sixth 100-yard game of the season with a Poinsettia Bowl record 228 yards and contributed four touchdowns -- including his first touchdown reception. And oh by the way, Hillman broke Marshall Faulk's school record for rushing yards by a freshman. Faulk had 1,429 yards in 1991. Hillman ends the season with 1,532 yards rushing.

Unsung hero: The Qualcomm Stadium grounds crew gets the big nod here. On Wednesday night, the stadium was totally flooded thanks to torrential rains. The crew worked around the clock, pumping 1.5 million gallons of water out of the stadium to get the field ready for the game. They did a terrific job, as the field held up beautifully. No slop, no mud. Players did lose their footing from time to time, but the grass was not torn to shreds and that is a credit to those who worked all night to get the job done.

Best call: You had to love the San Diego State play call on third-and-1 from the Navy 15 to start the fourth quarter. Up 21-14, the Aztecs went with a play-action fake to Brandon Sullivan. He faked going over the top of the pile. Lindley calmly waited for Hillman to get open in the corner of the end zone, then threw him the ball. The 15-yard touchdown pass put the Aztecs up 28-14 and sealed the game.

What it means: San Diego State better hope Michigan has no designs on coach Brady Hoke, should the Wolverines decide to fire Rich Rodriguez. Hoke has done an exemplary job in his second season on the job, getting the Aztecs to nine wins for the first time since a 10-1 season in 1977. It also was the first bowl win for the program since 1969. Lindley and Hillman return, along with leading tackler Miles Burris, so expectations are going to be high going into next season. As for Navy, the Midshipmen senior class is one of the best in program history and will sorely miss Ricky Dobbs, Wyatt Middleton, Jeff Battipaglia and so many more seniors who have made such an impact at the Academy.

Record performance: Brown had a Poinsettia Bowl record for receiving yards in the first quarter alone with 143 yards. He was relatively quiet the rest of the game, but his play in that first quarter helped set the tone.

You saw my preview and prediction. Now here are three keys for San Diego State and Navy in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

San Diego State (8-4)

1. Establish Ronnie Hillman. As we mentioned earlier, he has had a dynamic season, winning Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors and drawing comparisons to former Aztecs great Marshall Faulk. Though Ryan Lindley is capable of leading this offense, everything works so much better when the running game is established. In three of four losses this season, Hillman was held to fewer than 100 yards. He is going to take on even greater importance with the soggy state of the field, parts of which were flooded by torrential rains.

2. Remember Air Force. Defensive coordinator Rocky Long had an effective scheme to slow down Air Force, which runs a similar version of the triple option. The safeties came up and crowded the box, and though the Falcons got their yards on the ground, San Diego State played assignment sound and had a good day tackling. One difference here is Dobbs, who has been a better passer than Tim Jefferson. Watch for linebacker Miles Burris, a first-team all-MWC selection. He led the team with 74 total tackles, and the league with 9.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

3. Keep jitters down. This is the first bowl appearance for San Diego State since 1998, so naturally there could be some nerves to start. None of the players have been in a game of this magnitude before, but it should help they will be playing in a familiar spot.

Navy (9-3)

1. Big games from Ricky Dobbs and Alexander Teich. Air Force lost to San Diego State, but was able to rack up 312 yards on the ground in its version of the triple-option. Dobbs can pass the ball, but he and Teich are the primary forces that make this offense go. You figure San Diego State will try to load up the box, but Navy is used to seeing that look and is effective at breaking tackles or making surprises with some downfield passes.

2. No big plays. Navy has been good at limiting big plays through the air this season, and that is going to have to continue against a big-play team in San Diego State. Brown has a 90-yard touchdown reception this season; Sampson has a 71-yarder; Brandon Sullivan has a 57-yarder. On the ground, three running backs have touchdown runs of 44-plus yards: Hillman (93), Walter Kazee (46) and Davon Brown (43). San Diego State has made 71 plays this season that have gone for 20-plus yards. The Midshipmen simply cannot afford to give up the big play consistently.

3. Stay disciplined. Navy is the least-penalized team in the nation, and also is one of the best teams at hanging on to the football. Playing yet another clean game is going to be absolutely key in this one. The defensive backs have to be especially careful to not commit careless pass interference penalties when trying to slow down Sampson and Brown.
Quick: Who will be the home team in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? San Diego State, playing in its home stadium, or Navy, playing in the shadow of a large naval base? Either way, this crowd is going to set a record for the biggest in the game’s history. Unfortunately, the teams are going to be playing on quite a soggy field after heavy rains left parts of Qualcomm Stadium under water. Crews were working furiously to pump the water off the field to get it ready for tonight. Here is a quick preview.

WHO TO WATCH: Navy QB Ricky Dobbs. There are so many great players to watch in this game, but Dobbs is the heart and soul of the Navy offense. As he improved his play and got healthy as the season went on, Navy played better. The Aztecs have had problems stopping the run at times during the season, but they were effective in a win earlier this season over Air Force, which employs a similar-style triple-option offense. Dobbs needs 140 yards rushing to become just the seventh quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in a season twice in a career.

WHAT TO WATCH: San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman against the Navy defensive front. Hillman has emerged as a future star in his freshman season, running for 1,304 yards to become the first runner to surpass 1,000 rushing yards at the school since 2003. The Aztecs' offensive line has a size advantage on Navy, and that should open up some running lanes for Hillman. If that happens, play-action will open up for Ryan Lindley to find DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. Tight end Gavin Escobar is a threat as well. Navy’s secondary has been sound because it hasn’t given up many big plays, but the Midshipmen haven’t been challenged this season the way they will be against Sampson and Brown. Hillman could take on greater importance if it rains and the field is sloppy.

WHY WATCH: There are compelling storylines all around. San Diego State is in its first bowl game since 1998. Navy is going for back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history. You have a pro-style offense against a triple-option offense, and two great head coaches in Brady Hoke and Ken Niumatalolo. Hoke has already had his name thrown around for some job openings. Though he got a raise and contract extension, Hoke has been mentioned in connection to Michigan, should that job come open.

PREDICTION: San Diego State 28, Navy 27. I think the Aztecs are going to be able to effectively use the play-action to win, with big games from Hillman, Sampson and Brown.

Dobbs wins Lowe's Senior CLASS Award

December, 22, 2010
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs has been selected as the 2010 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner on the FBS level.

The announcement and trophy presentation were made Wednesday in San Diego. The Midshipmen will play San Diego State on Thursday in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

The award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I head coaches, media and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must have notable achievements in four areas –- community, classroom, character and competition.

"It was a blessing to just be nominated for the award, and to actually win it is beyond belief," Dobbs said in a statement. "This award would not have been possible if not for God, my family and my teammates and coaches at the Naval Academy."

Dobbs will graduate from the Naval Academy this spring with a degree in general science. He is active in his church, speaks to local youth groups and works at football camps in both Annapolis and his hometown of Douglasville, Ga.

As a senior, Dobbs amassed more than 2,000 total yards of offense, scoring 13 rushing touchdowns and passing for 12 more as he led Navy to a 9-3 record. As a junior, Dobbs set an NCAA single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27. He was named an honorable mention all-American for his efforts.

Navy senior class has a shot at history

December, 10, 2010
For Navy players, the objective is simple: Keep the winning streak alive.

For Army players, the objective is simple: Do everything it takes to break the losing streak.

[+] EnlargeRicky Dobbs
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesNavy quarterback Ricky Dobbs is hoping to lead the Midshipmen to their ninth straight win over rival Army.
Nine years have passed since Army beat Navy, a source of stigma for the Black Knights, a source of pride for the Midshipmen. With both academies headed to bowl games in the same year for the first time since 1996, we could see a more competitive game than we have in several years when they square off Saturday in Philadelphia.

But does that mean Army is going to break the eight-game skid, the longest for either team in the series?

“This has been the best season we’ve had in quite some time, so with that, I just believe this is our best shot at beating Navy,” Army defensive end Josh McNary said. “No one is lacking in confidence. There’s nothing more that we want to do than beat Navy.

“All the accolades I’ve had are negligible if we haven’t beaten Navy. If 10 years down the road when the question comes up, and I’m not able to say I beat Navy, I can’t be as proud as I’d like to be.”

Army is playing catch up to what has been an impressive decade of football for Navy, which had won seven straight Commander-In-Chief Trophies until Air Force claimed it this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Navy has 69 wins since 2003, more than traditional powers Nebraska (66), Penn State (65), Miami (64), Michigan (61) and Notre Dame (53). By contrast, Army has won 26 games in the same time span.

What has made Navy incredibly special is its incredibly special senior class. If Navy beats Army and San Diego State in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the Midshipmen will have back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history.

That would also give the seniors 36 wins, which would tie the class of 1909 for the most wins by a class at the Naval Academy.

“We all play for each other,” Navy defensive back Wyatt Middleton said about 2010 senior class. “I can honestly say the guys on the football team are my best friends and I’m pretty sure it goes the same way for them. We’ve all been friends since first day, and when it comes down to football, the important part is communication. It’s a lot easier to talk to a friend than a stranger.”

There are plenty of stud players in this class of 24 seniors. Middleton has started 46 straight games and has made 198 solo tackles in his career, tied for the 11th most in the NCAA among active players. He and quarterback Ricky Dobbs have earned their team captaincies. Dobbs set the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last season with 27, and has 48 in his career, ranking No. 5 in NCAA history.

He needs just two rushing touchdowns to pass Kareem Wilson of Ohio University for fourth. Then there’s center Jeff Battipaglia, who has started 38 straight; and cornerback Kevin Edwards, who has started 25 straight. Safety Emmett Merchant and offensive tackle Mike Molloy made big contributions as well before concussions cut their careers short.

“There are some things from a football standpoint that will be unparalleled, but I’m more gratified for the things they’ve done off the field,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “There’s so much more to being a Navy football player than what happens on the field. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them. When you recruit guys, you hope things will turn out a certain way for them. To have a chance to finish on top in everything we’ve asked them to do is gratifying.”

There is another pretty impressive streak Navy has going over Army as well. The current Navy senior class has not allowed a touchdown to Army in its three previous meetings. The Midshipmen have outscored the Black Knights, 89-6 over the last three years. No Army or Navy team has ever kept the other out of the end zone in four straight years.

Whether that happens or not is immaterial, as long as Navy keeps that win streak alive.

“Since the first day we got to the Academy, they’ve instilled in us beat Army,” Middleton said. “This isn’t only football. From an academic and military standpoint it’s always been beat Army, beat Army, beat Army. It’s all we know. Not to do that would be a huge letdown.”

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia

December, 6, 2010
San Diego State Aztecs (8-4) vs. Navy Midshipmen (9-3)

Dec. 23, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

There is plenty of local interest in this game, and there should be plenty of national interest, too. The Aztecs are making their first bowl appearance since 1998, while Navy is making its eighth straight bowl appearance. San Diego State gets to stay at home in Qualcomm Stadium, while there is a huge Naval base in San Diego that is sure to get plenty of fans in the seats for the Midshipmen.

San Diego State finally has the balance on offense coach Brady Hoke has wanted since he took over last season. Ryan Lindley has thrown for 3,554 yards with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. San Diego State also has one of the best receiving duos in the country in DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. They each have over 1,000 yards and have combined for 17 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mountain West freshman of the year Ronnie Hillman broke the conference record for rushing yards by a freshmen with 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Navy has had struggles against the pass this season, so that is going to be one of the biggest keys going into the game. As for the Midshipmen, their triple option is running much better now than it was at the beginning of the season. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs was pressing early on because of high preseason expectations, and fought through ankle and groin injuries. Alexander Teich has stepped up in the run game with Vince Murray slowed down because of injury. Navy has won three straight with the all-important game against Army this Saturday.

Non-AQ helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 21, 2010
Time for a few helmet stickers for Week 12:

Boise State defense. In a word: stifling. The Broncos shut down Fresno State 51-0 on Friday night, handing the Bulldogs their first shutout since 1998. Fresno State had just nine first downs and 125 total yards. The Bulldogs didn't get their first yards of the second half until the fourth quarter. Boise State also had four sacks and got three turnovers.

Tulsa KR Damaris Johnson. Became the NCAA record-holder for career kickoff return yardage with 87 in a 31-28 win over UTEP. Johnson, a junior, now has 3,202 career kickoff return yards, breaking the old mark of 3,118 yards set by Western Michigan’s Brandon West from 2006-09. His second return of the day went 62 yards and set up the game-winning touchdown. He ended with 280 all-purpose yards. Other C-USA mentions: SMU RB Zach Line had a career-high 202 yards rushing in a 31-17 win over Marshall. ... Southern Miss QB Austin Davis had 396 total yards and six touchdowns in a 59-41 win over Houston. ... Memphis LB Jamon Hughes with 17 tackles in a loss to UAB.

ULM QB Kolton Browning. Tied the school record with five touchdown passes in a 49-37 victory over North Texas. Browning completed 18 of 23 passes for 247 yards, and also ran for 73 yards on 16 carries. Browning moved into third place on the ULM single-season completions list with 217 and needs just one to move into second; he also moved into a tie for sixth place on the ULM single-season touchdown passes list with 17 and ninth on the single-season passing yardage list with 2,388 yards. Other Sun Belt mention: FIU defense had seven sacks and three turnovers in a 38-17 win over Louisiana.

Northern Illinois special teams. The Huskies blocked a school record three punts in a 59-21 win over Ball State that clinched the MAC West. Jordan Delegal had two blocks -- one was returned for a touchdown by Jimmie Ward. The other set up a touchdown by Chad Spann, who had three on the day. Ricky Crider had the other blocked punt. Another MAC mention: Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest had a career-high 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-17 win over Buffalo. ... Brian Fields and Tevin Drake each had 100 yards rushing for Western Michigan.

Navy QB Ricky Dobbs. Had 308 total yards with four touchdowns in a 35-19 win over Arkansas State. He also set an NCAA record for running touchdowns by a quarterback in consecutive seasons with 40.

Wyoming RB Alvester Alexander. Ran for a school-record five touchdowns and 147 yards in a 44-0 win over Colorado State, the first time the Cowboys won consecutive Border War games since 1991-92. His 14 rushing touchdowns this season also sets a new single-season school record, breaking the old mark of 13, held by Gerald Abraham in 1987 and Jim Crawford in 1956.

Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. The future is now. True freshman quarterbacks Pete Thomas and Jake Heaps face each other when BYU travels to Colorado State. Thomas has thrown for 2,273 yards for the Rams and is second in the league in passing, mostly because he has been put in situations where his team has fallen behind. But still, he is progressing well and coach Steve Fairchild believes Thomas' future is bright. Heaps has not been as successful, struggling as much as the rest of the BYU offense. He had his first good game against UNLV last week, throwing for 294 yards and a touchdown. The play of the quarterbacks is the key to the game.
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs has been nominated for the 2010 Discover Orange Bowl Courage Award.

Dobbs overcame a difficult family situation to thrive at the Academy. He came to Annapolis after being raised by an uncle. His mother battled addictions to drugs and alcohol, and nearly died during open-heart surgery. Dobbs credits faith and family for his success.

Last season, Dobbs broke Tim Tebow's NCAA record for touchdowns by a quarterback with 27. He had surgery last January to repair a cracked kneecap, but returned this season to lead the Midshipmen to a 5-3 record, including their third win against Notre Dame in four seasons. Dobbs scored three touchdowns in the win.

Though he has struggled though various injuries this season, has has recently shown flashes of his old self. Last week in a loss to Duke, Dobbs became the school’s career scoring leader (266 points) and all-time rushing touchdowns leader (44).

He also is vice president of the senior class and has a goal of becoming President of the United States.

The recipient of the Courage Award will be announced in December and presented with the trophy in conjunction with this year's Discover Orange Bowl.

Here are the other 2010 nominees that have already been announced:

Sept. 29: Zac Etheridge, Auburn, and Rodney Scott, Ole Miss
Oct. 6: Jon Hoese, Minnesota
Oct. 13: Marquez Herrod, Colorado
Oct. 20: Matt Anderson, North Dakota State
Oct. 27: Jamie Hampton, Troy

Non-AQ weekend rewind: Week 9

November, 1, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 9.

[+] EnlargeTulsa
Matt Cashore/US PresswireTulsa barely edged out Notre Dame in a historic win for the school.
The good: The BCS standings feature three non-AQ teams ranked in the Top 5 for the first time ever -- No. 3 TCU, No. 4 Boise State and No. 5 Utah. TCU or Utah will be out after their game this weekend. But they preserved their big matchup with wins this past weekend. … Tulsa won at Notre Dame 28-27. Though the Irish are struggling and Dayne Crist got hurt, the Golden Hurricane still posted one of the biggest wins in program history. Even coach Todd Graham said he wanted his players to remember the feeling to carry on the rest of the way. They need one more win to become bowl eligible. “This was such a team win, and it's really pulled our team together,” Graham told The Tulsa World. “We needed that.”

Army is also one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1996, but what most people talked about afterward -- the camouflaged uniforms they wore.

FAU snapped a five-game losing streak with a 21-9 win over FIU in the “Shula Bowl.” The Owls held the Panthers without a touchdown for the first time all season.

The bad: Plenty of letdowns on Saturday. Western Kentucky went from scoring 54 points in its first win of the season to just six in a loss to North Texas. “It was a total embarrassment out there,” coach Willie Taggart said.

Navy went from a win over Notre Dame to a loss to Duke.

Sun Belt leader Troy had its 13-game Sun Belt winning streak snapped in a 28-14 loss at ULM. It was Troy’s third consecutive loss at Malone Stadium, which accounts for almost half of the Trojans’ eight league losses since the start of the 2005 season. Troy is 3-1 in conference and still atop the standings, but the door has been opened for somebody else to try and break its stranglehold on the league title.

UTEP lost its third in a row, dropping another road game to Marshall. Central Michigan lost its sixth straight, officially eliminating it from bowl contention.

The heartache: San Jose State has had its share of injury problems, losing one starter after another for the season. But the Spartans have not thrown in the towel, and nearly pulled off a come-from-behind win over New Mexico State on Saturday. Though both teams entered the game with one win, this was one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. San Jose State trailed 17-3 but came on strong in the second half. The Spartans took the lead with 3:47 to go when Jordan La Secla threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jalal Beauchman. But New Mexico State had the last say. Taveon Rogers caught an 8-yard touchdown pass as time expired to win 29-27. Perhaps the difference in the game: New Mexico State kicker Tyler Stampler made three field goals; San Jose State kicker Harrison Waid missed three.

The off balance: Talk about a dramatic turn of events for Navy. Coach Ken Niumatalolo worried about a letdown after a big win over Notre Dame, but he could not have envisioned his defense folding. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 314 yards and had only two incomplete passes. The Navy defense came into the game tied for 15th in the country in pass defense (174 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense (18 pg). It was the first time all year the Midshipmen gave up more than 27 points. Four of their previous seven opponents had scored fewer than 20 points.

A few more helmet stickers for career marks: Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs became the school’s career scoring leader (266 points) and all-time rushing touchdowns leader (44) in a 34-31 loss to Duke. … With 326 passing yards against Idaho, Bryant Moniz became the fifth quarterback in school history to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, joining Colt Brennan, Timmy Chang, Dan Robinson and Nick Rolovich. … Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson set the school record for touchdown passes (32) in a 38-31 win over Louisiana.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is out three to four weeks with a shoulder/collarbone injury, leaving the starting quarterback job to Terrance Owens. The backup did a mighty fine job against Eastern Michigan after Dantin got hurt, throwing four touchdown passes in the 42-7 win. But we’ll see how he does against tougher competition next Tuesday, when the Rockets play Northern Illinois in a critical West Division game. Both teams are 5-0 in league play. … San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley sprained his ankle against Wyoming but should be able to play this week. … Nevada running back Vai Taua sat out the game against Utah State with a sprained ankle, but coach Chris Ault said he could have played.

Week 10 look ahead: Do we need to even go here? No. 3 TCU at No. 5 Utah takes center stage not just for the non-AQs but for the entire nation as well. We all wait and see whether this can be the year a team from outside the power conferences can make it into the BCS national title game. No. 4 Boise State has a big home game against surging Hawaii (7-2), the first team in the nation to accept a bowl bid. Air Force (5-4) travels to Army (5-3). A win here would clinch the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy has won the past seven. Another big Conference USA game between division leaders: UCF at Houston.

Duke D taking care of Navy

October, 30, 2010
Somehow, Duke's defense is stifling Navy and quarterback Ricky Dobbs as the Blue Devils lead 17-0 in the second quarter.

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree has completed all 11 of his passes for 128 yards and no interceptions. The Blue Devils are controlling the clock, winning the turnover battle, and playing disciplined defense -- on the road. It's the perfect formula for beating Navy. We'll see if they can keep it up.