NCF Nation: Ryan Aplin

Arkansas State won the Bowl with a 17-13 win over Kent State on Sunday night in Mobile, Ala. The Red Wolves finished with a 10-3 record after winning the surprisingly low-scoring affair. Here’s how Arkansas State earned the 10th bowl victory in program history:

How the game was won: Physical defense from Arkansas State. The Red Wolves were able to corral Kent State’s dynamic duo of Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, who each rushed for at least 1,200 yards this season. Archer was hampered by a knee injury for much of the game, losing his explosiveness after scoring an early touchdown and Durham was generally bottled up by the Arkansas State defense.

It was over when: Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith was stopped short on a fourth-down run as he tried to lead the Golden Flashes to a game-winning touchdown. It was yet another example of the strong defensive effort from Arkansas State on Sunday night.

Stat of the game: 3.4. That’s the yards-per-carry average for Durham, who entered the game averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 96 rushing yards per game. He finished the Bowl with 20 carries for 68 yards.

Game ball goes to: Qushaun Lee. The Arkansas State linebacker was all over the field, finishing with 13 tackles including the final fourth down stop on Keith. He was a key playmaker as the Red Wolves slowed a Kent State offense that entered the game averaging 34.6 points per game.

Unsung hero of the game: J.D. McKissic. Playing in his first bowl game, the redshirt freshman receiver was outstanding with 11 receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown for Arkansas State. He provided a dynamic target for senior quarterback Ryan Aplin throughout the night.

What it means: Arkansas State will enter the Bryan Harsin era with momentum. The former Texas offensive coordinator takes over as head coach after Gus Malzahn left for Auburn. The Wolves lose Aplin but running back David Oku, their leading rusher with more than 1,000 yards and McKissic, their leading receiver, return to form a solid foundation for 2013. Bowl keys

January, 6, 2013
Three keys for today's Bowl between Kent State and Arkansas State:

1. Who will stop the run?: Each team ranked in the top 21 in the country in rushing this season. Kent State is 10-0 when outgaining its opponents on the ground and has rushed for at least 300 yards as a team three times. The Golden Flashes didn't just do it against MAC opponents, either, as they ran for more than 240 yards against an outstanding Rutgers defense. They have two 1,000-yard backs in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. Arkansas State ran for more than 217 yards per game and has a 1,000-yard runner in Tennessee transfer David Oku. Kent State's rush defense numbers are a little better, but Arkansas State had to play both Oregon and Nebraska this year. Will either defense be able to slow down these rushing attacks? The Red Wolves have a far better passing game than Kent State with quarterback Ryan Aplin, whereas the Golden Flashes might run out of options if they can't run it.

2. Turnovers: This is always a major factor in any game, but especially one involving Kent State. The Golden Flashes were second in the nation in turnover margin and tied for the most takeaways with 38. They had 23 interceptions this season by 13 different players, including six by defensive linemen. Safety Luke Wollet leads the way with four picks, while two other players have three. Kent State has scored four defensive touchdowns this season. On the flip side, Arkansas State showed good ball security this season, turning it over only 14 times. Still, Aplin -- who threw only four interceptions in 376 pass attempts -- will have to be very wary of the aggressive ball-hawks on the other side.

3. The kicking game: Both teams run the ball well, play good defense and take care of the ball. That's why Arkansas State won the Sun Belt and Kent State came within a double-overtime loss in the MAC title game of making a BCS bowl. The difference, then, may come down to special teams. And the Golden Flashes appear to have an edge there. Archer is one of the nation's most dangerous return men, and the Red Wolves would be wise to kick it away from him. Arkansas State was last in the nation in punting and was also bad in the return game. Those extra yards of field position could mean a lot in a game that figures to be close.

Pregame: Bowl

January, 6, 2013
Kent State (11-2, 8-1 Mid-American Conference) vs. Arkansas State (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt)

WHO TO WATCH: Kent State's Dri Archer. He became the school's first ever consensus All-American, earning a spot as the returner/all-purpose player after leading the nation in kickoff returns at 38.2 yards per attempt. He has returned three of his 15 kicks for touchdowns. But Archer, who stands just 5-foot-8, is more than just a special-teams ace. He ran for 1,352 yards while averaging 9 yards per carry and piled up 15 rushing touchdowns. He's also caught 35 passes for 539 yards and four scores. Quite simply, Archer is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch.

WHAT TO WATCH: The offenses. Both teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in rushing. Trayion Durham joined Archer as a 1,000-yard rusher for Kent State, which averaged more than 228 yards per game on the ground. Arkansas State piled up more than 217 rushing yards per game and has its own 1,000-yard back in David Oku. But the Red Wolves also have a strong passing game with Ryan Aplin, who threw for more than 3,000 yards with 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions this season. While the Kent State passing defense is vulnerable, the Golden Flashes were second in the nation with 23 interceptions.

WHY TO WATCH: These might not be name-brand programs, but this game features two good teams. Kent State won 10 games in a row before losing to Northern Illinois in double overtime at the MAC title game. Had the Golden Flashes pulled that game out, they likely would have made a BCS game instead of NIU. Arkansas State brings a seven-game winning streak into the game and won the Sun Belt title. In fact, both teams were so good that their head coaches got hired by bigger schools -- Kent State's Darrell Hazell by Purdue, Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn by Auburn. Hazell will still coach in this game, while defensive coordinator John Thompson will serve as interim coach for the Red Wolves, who also lost head coach Hugh Freeze before last year's Bowl. Kent State is playing in its first bowl game in 40 years. Both teams have exciting offenses. Purdue fans will want to get a look at their future coach. And this is the second-to-last college football game we'll see until next August. Enjoy it.

PREDICTION: Kent State 31, Arkansas State 28. The Red Wolves have a more balanced offense, but the Golden Flashes faced better competition in a terrific year for the MAC. They also have had more stability during bowl preparation as Hazell admirably stayed aboard to finish off this historic season for the program. Kent State has been great at coming up with turnovers all year and will do the same in Mobile, Ala. That and some big plays from Archer will be just enough.

Non-AQ spring previews

February, 16, 2012
Let's take a look at some spring storylines for selected non-AQ teams.


Spring practice start date: March 12

Spring game: April 14

End date: April 16

What to watch:
  • Gus Malzahn era begins. Hugh Freeze took Arkansas State to the Sun Belt title in his only year on the job. Now the Gus Malzahn era begins, with promises to continue the high-flying attack that dominated the league last year. Malzahn obviously has made his name as one of the top offensive minds in the game, so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year Ryan Aplin.
  • Michael Dyer's eligibility? The former Auburn running back has transferred to Arkansas State, but his eligibility for 2012 is unclear. The school has considered filing a hardship waiver to the NCAA because of an ailing family member. If approved, he would be eligible immediately.
  • Big defensive losses. The Red Wolves are losing some of their best players on defense -- Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner as well as first-team selections Demario Davis, Darryl Feemster and Kelcie McCray. In fact, only 10 starters return to the team, so there will be plenty of position battles this spring.

Spring practice start date: March 12

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Replacing Kellen Moore. This is not just a local story. It is a national story. Trying to replace the winningest quarterback in NCAA history is going to overshadow anything Boise State does during practice in the spring or fall. There are several contenders: junior Joe Southwick, sophomore Grant Hedrick, redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea and true freshman Nick Patti, already enrolled. Southwick has served as the backup to Moore the past two seasons, while Patti is a highly heralded recruit out of Florida with similarities to Moore. You can bet this will not be settled in the spring.
  • Youth. Moore is not the only starter who has to be replaced. This will be a relatively inexperienced team when it comes to starts. Several big-time contributors are gone, including running back Doug Martin, left tackle Nate Potter and defensive linemen Shea McClellin, Billy Winn, Tyrone Crawford, Chase Baker, linebacker Byron Hout and safety George Iloka. By some counts, Boise State has only six returning starters for 2012.
  • Big East early? This has nothing to do with on-the-field matters, but there remains the possibility that Boise State could jump to the Big East a year early to fill the hole left by West Virginia.

Spring practice start date: March 5

Spring end date: March 30 (spring game TBA)

What to watch:
  • QB depth. Riley Nelson goes into the season as the unquestioned starter after replacing Jake Heaps nearly midway through last season. Nelson's energy and enthusiasm helped the Cougars end with a 10-win season in Year 1 as an independent. This team is now officially his from the start of the season. Now, can he stay healthy? He has gotten injured in 2010 and 2011, and there is not much experience behind him with Heaps having gone to Kansas. Depth must be developed.
  • Replacing Matt Reynolds. Reynolds was a rock for the Cougars at left tackle the past several seasons, so his shoes are big ones to fill on the offensive line. It helps that three starters are returning on the line, but Reynolds tied a school record with 52 starts in his BYU career. High school All-American Ryker Mathews would seem to be the favorite to win this spot. He missed last season with a foot injury.
  • Eason gone. Perhaps one of the most underrated players on the defense was Corby Eason, who was tied for the team lead with 14 pass breakups. He is gone, and Jordan Johnson will get his chance at cornerback.

Spring practice start date: March 21

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  • Bye-bye, Case. Just like Boise State, the Cougars must replace record-setting quarterback Case Keenum, who got a sixth year of eligibility and proceeded to smash a number of NCAA passing marks. Unlike Boise, the Cougars have a quarterback with starting experience. That would be David Piland, who took over in 2010 when Keenum and backup Cotton Turner got hurt. Piland got the luxury of redshirting last season, and he goes into spring as the heir apparent. How much has he improved?
  • Tony Levine takes over. Kevin Sumlin is gone, and Levine was promoted to head coach. That should certainly ease the transition, but Levine is going to want to put his own stamp on the program. What changes will we see with the way he runs practice and schemes? This will be a perfect time for Levine to learn with trial and error before spring practice begins.
  • Sammy Brown gone. Brown was just as important to the defense as Keenum was to the offense, and his departure is a major hole. The entire linebacker corps has questions, with Marcus McGraw and Phillip Steward also gone. Those three players ranked among the top four in tackles for the season.

Spring practice start date: March 19

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Miller time. Trey Miller goes into the spring as the starter at quarterback. He did play in several games last season and was pretty inconsistent. But now that he has some playing time under his belt and the full-time starting quarterback job, he can start to take some ownership of this team.
  • Get tougher. Coach Ken Niumatalolo wants his players to get tougher, both physically and mentally. Last season was not what anybody at Navy anticipated, and the heartbreaking losses are simply tough to accept. But Niumatalolo is not going with scheme changes in the spring to get his team back to a bowl game. It is all about making sure his players are tough-minded and fighting for one another.
  • Discipline. That means playing with much more discipline, and paying attention to detail. When you lose five games by three points or fewer, you start to understand you have to do everything right, even the little things.

Spring practice start date: March 28

Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Lynch time. All-everything quarterback Chandler Harnish is gone, leaving the job to his backup for the past two seasons, Jordan Lynch. He is a former safety and, according to the folks who know, plays like one. He also is apparently a better runner than Harnish. Lynch has seen his share of playing time, but how will he fare now that he is in command of the entire offense?
  • Offensive line. How do the Huskies replace four seniors with a combined 151 career starts? With Trevor Olson, Joe Pawlak, Scott Wedige and Keith Otis gone, Logan Pegram is the lone returner. The line had much to do with the success of Harnish and the offense last season. They gave up just 12 sacks and ranked No. 12 in the country in rushing offense and No. 11 in total offense.
  • Defensive strength. Northern Illinois returns eight starters on defense but also should get a boost from two more players -- 2010 starters Devon Butler at middle linebacker and Tyrone Clark at weakside linebacker. Butler sat out after he was injured in a shooting last April; Clark sat out for undisclosed personal reasons but practiced with the team throughout the year. Butler dressed out for bowl practices, although he didn't do any contact.

Spring practice start date: March 5

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • No Austin Davis. Terrific dual-threat quarterback Austin Davis is gone, leaving a big question mark at the position. Backup Arsenio Favor is expected to get the first-string reps during spring practice, but there definitely will be those watching for incoming freshman Anthony Alford come the fall. New coach Ellis Johnson tried to recruit Alford to South Carolina. Alford also was a baseball player, like Davis.
  • Ellis Johnson takes over. Southern Miss has built a winning tradition, and Johnson is taking over the surprise Conference USA champs. But he faces some rebuilding questions both on offense and defense. How does he handle these in his first head-coaching opportunity? Johnson has been a lifelong assistant, and worked under many good head coaches. How he adapts now that he is in charge is definitely something to watch.
  • Defense rebuilding. Six key players from the front seven are gone, including Cordarro Law and Ronnie Thornton. There also is a new coaching staff in place for these players to get used to. Remember, some are going on their third defensive coordinator in three years. Bowl: Three Keys

January, 7, 2012
You saw the preview and prediction, now here are three keys for Northern Illinois and Arkansas State in the Bowl on Sunday.

Northern Illinois (10-3)

Experience counts: Northern Illinois is in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season -- the longest streak in school history. The Huskies knocked off Fresno State in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl 40-17 behind quarterback Chandler Harnish, who threw a touchdown, ran for two more and had 300 yards in the air and 72 on the ground. Arkansas State, meanwhile, is playing in just its second major bowl and first since 2005.

Step up, D: The Huskies have put up some impressive numbers this season, but their defensive performance seems to dictate the results. Consider: In the Huskies' 10 victories, they allowed 26.2 points and 371.4 yards per game, and forced 18 turnovers. Now, consider the three losses, in which they allowed 47.3 points and 572.7 yards per game, and forced only two turnovers. The offense drives the ship, but it looks like the defense is what makes the motor run. As it goes, so go the Huskies.

Key in on Frampton: Arkansas State's Dwayne Frampton might be one of the best wide receivers you've never heard of. Quarterback Ryan Aplin sets the tone for the hurry-up offense and more often than not, he finds Frampton, who caught 90 balls for 1,125 yards and six touchdowns. In five games this season he went for more than 90 yards. NIU might want to find a way to minimize his impact.

Arkansas State (10-2)

Finish the job: If/when Arkansas State gets a lead (and like most people, I'm anticipating a few lead changes during the game), the Red Wolves would be wise to keep going for the jugular because the Huskies won't go away. In the MAC title game, they erased a 20-0 halftime deficit en route to a 23-20 victory over Ohio, meaning they can score fast (16 points in the fourth quarter) and their defense, despite giving up a lot of points, can make plays when its back is against the wall.

Ignore the coaching shuffle: Hugh Freeze is gone -- off to Ole Miss more than a month ago. Interim coach David Gunn, who has been with the program for 10 seasons, has nurtured the team through this transitional period while former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn waits on the other side to take over his new squad. That's a lot for college kids to soak in. But Gunn has already said there won't be any changes to what the Red Wolves are going to do. Continuity is key, and all of the external distractions are exactly that: distractions.

Accept the inevitable, but not too much: Harnish is going to get his yards -- be they through the air or on the ground. Probably both. The Northern Illinois quarterback is eighth nationally in total offense, 12th nationally in passing efficiency and is Northern Illinois' leading rusher at 106.3 yards per game. Trying to eradicate his production completely is futile. But they can't let him go off for 229 on the ground like he did against Western Michigan, or 181 like he did against Ball State, or else it's going to spell trouble.
In a bowl season that has already had an insane amount of offense, why not one more before the expected defensive slugfest in the national championship game? Northern Illinois and Arkansas State are two of the hottest teams in the country and both know how to score. Expect mayhem in Mobile, Ala.

Who to watch: Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish is a true, dual-threat, having contributed to 37 touchdowns this season -- 26 in the air and 11 on the ground. The MAC offensive player of the year owns 20 different school records and has six games this season with 100 or more rushing yards this season. He completed 62.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,942 yards and rushing for 1,382. For perspective -- that's more rushing yards in the regular season than Denard Robinson -- and he leads all quarterbacks in rushing.

What to watch: The fireworks, what else? NIU, the MAC champs, ranks 13th nationally in scoring, at 38.3 points per game. The Red Wolves, champions of the Sun Belt, aren't far behind, at 33.5 points per game. But here's the kicker -- Arkansas State has a defense to match, allowing less than 20 points per game on the season. And the Red Wolves don't exactly have a slouch at quarterback. Ryan Aplin, the Sun Belt player of the year, completed 65.6 percent of his passes, and over his past four games, he has eight touchdowns to three interceptions.

Why to watch: Who has the nation's second-longest win streak behind LSU? That's right, Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have won nine in a row. Not far behind are the Huskies, winners of eight straight. This is just one of three non-BCS games that features two 10-win teams. A couple of 10-win teams -- both getting votes in the top 25? The question should be, why not watch?

Prediction: Northern Illinois 38, Arkansas State 31. For the record, this is not a pick I feel great about. These are two very evenly matched teams. But the fact that NIU is playing in its fourth consecutive bowl game and Arkansas State's coaching situations is all over the map makes me lean toward the Huskies in what should be a fantastically entertaining ball game.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 7, 2011
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference.


Offense: Nick Fanuzzi, QB, Rice. Fanuzzi had career highs with 405 yards passing, 30 completions and 439 yards of total offense, while throwing three touchdowns and leading Rice to a 41-37 win over UTEP. Fanuzzi helped lead the Owls to the third-highest offensive output in school history with 671 yards.

Defense: Curnelius Arnick, LB, Tulsa. Arnick had a career-best 19 tackles, including 12 solos and one tackle for loss, as well as one pass breakup in a 24-17 road victory over UCF.

Special teams: Tracey Lampley, PR, Southern Miss. Lampley returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in a win at East Carolina. It was his first punt return for a touchdown since his freshman year in 2009.


East Division

Offense: Donte’ Harden, RB, Ohio. Harden had a school-record 322 all-purpose yards (184 rushing, 75 receiving and 63 return yards) and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 35-31 win over Temple.

Defense: Jerrell Wedge, LB, Miami (Ohio). Wedge had nine tackles and a fumble recovery in a 35-3 victory over Akron.

Special teams: Rob Hollomon, KR, Kent State. Hollomon averaged 35.7 yards on three kick returns in a 24-21 win over Central Michigan.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish threw six touchdown passes, the second-most in MAC history, to lead Northern Illinois to a 63-60 shootout victory at Toledo. Harnish also rushed 16 times for 133 yards to account for 398 yards of total offense.

Defense: Dan Molls, LB, Toledo. Molls had 17 tackles and one tackle for loss in a 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois

Special teams: Tommylee Lewis, KR, Northern Illinois. Lewis became only the 13th player in NCAA FBS history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game when he scored on back-to-back kickoff returns for Northern Illinois in a 63-60 win at Toledo. Lewis brought the opening kickoff back 100 yards. After Toledo scored, he returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for the score.

Mountain West

Offense: Waymon James, RB, TCU. Rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 12 carries in a 31-20 win at Wyoming. James, who had a career-long 74-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, had 117 yards on five carries in the final period.

Defense: Jon Davis, DB, Air Force. Davis tied a career-high with 12 tackles as Air Force captured the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the second consecutive year with a 24-14 victory over Army.

Special teams: Parker Herrington, PK, Air Force. Kicked a career-high three field goals in a 24-14 win over Army. Herrington improved to 10-of-10 on the season inside 40 yards.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Aplin accounted for five touchdowns in leading Arkansas State to a 39-21 victory at FAU. Aplin rushed for 49 yards and four touchdowns and completed 24 of 37 passes for 244 yards and another score.

Defense: Devon Lewis-Buchanan, LB, ULL. Lewis-Buchanan had a career-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo, in a 36-35 win over Louisiana-Monroe. He also had three tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win.

Special teams: Brett Baer, K, ULL. Baer perfectly executed an onside kick late in the game against ULM, allowing Ladarius Green to recover the kick at the ULM 39 to set up the game-winning score.


Offense: Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech. Cameron completed 19 of 33 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in Louisiana Tech’s 41-21 win at Fresno State.

Defense: Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State. Johnson tied a school record with four sacks in a loss to Idaho. One of his sacks resulted in San Jose State’s first safety in seven years. He had a total of 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Special teams: Stanley Morrison, WR, Utah State. Executed two successful fake punts in a 35-31 comeback win at Hawaii. In the second quarter, he rushed for 8 yards on fourth-and 4 and then in the second half, he threw a 23-yard pass on fourth-and-5 to Joe Hill for a first down.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 7, 2011
Let's take a look back at Week 10 in the non-AQs.

Records fall. As expected, Kellen Moore and Case Keenum set major NCAA records in victories this weekend. Moore helped the Broncos beat UNLV 48-21 for his 46th career win, breaking the record set by Colt McCoy for most career wins. Meanwhile, Keenum threw for 407 yards in a 56-13 win against UAB to become the most prolific passer in NCAA history. Keenum passed the mark held by Timmy Chang and now has 17,212 career passing yards. He is averaging 402.9 yards a game, putting him on pace to potentially get another 2,000 yards this season should the Cougars play in the Conference USA championship game.

[+] EnlargePete Limbo
Michael Hickey/US PresswireCoach Pete Lembo has Ball State eligible for a bowl for the first time since 2008.
Bowl eligibility. Ohio, Northern Illinois, Tulsa, SMU and Ball State all became bowl eligible this weekend. It has been a nice turnaround season for Ball State under first-year coach Pete Lembo, getting the Cardinals to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008. Teams that have a chance to become bowl eligible this week:

FIU (5-4) vs. FAU

Western Kentucky (5-4) at LSU

Louisiana Tech (5-4) at Ole Miss

Nevada (5-3) vs. Hawaii

Game of the week. Louisiana-Lafayette 36, Louisiana-Monroe 35. The Ragin' Cajuns overcame an 11-point deficit with 3:08 left, scoring two touchdowns in the span of two minutes to complete the incredible comeback. Blaine Gautier threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Darryl Surgent with 2:05 left to close the gap to 35-30. They failed to make the 2-point conversion but did recover the onside kick. Alonzo Harris scored on a run from 3 yards with 1:06 remaining.

Greatest turnarounds. Speaking of the Sun Belt, Louisiana-Lafayette has the best turnaround in the country from last season, winning five more games than 2010. That league has three teams with some of the best turnarounds among the non-AQs.

2010, 2011

ULL 3-9, 8-2

Houston 9-0, 5-7

Ark. St 4-8, 7-2

WKU 2-10, 5-4

E. Mich 2-10, 5-4

Conference race update. Let us check in with all the non-AQ conferences to see who is leading in the race for a championship.

C-USA. Southern Miss is in control of the East Division after a convincing 48-28 win against East Carolina. The Golden Eagles host defending East Division champs Central Florida on Saturday. They have a one-game lead over the Pirates and Marshall, though their only loss this season came to the Thundering Herd. In the West, Houston and Tulsa are undefeated in league play at 5-0, setting up a huge showdown in the season finale Nov. 25 at Tulsa. Houston has Tulane and SMU before then; Tulsa has Marshall and UTEP. Both teams will be favored to be 7-0 in league play headed into their game.

MAC. Ohio dealt a huge blow to Temple's chances of winning the East with a 35-31 win in Week 2. The Bobcats and defending East champ Miami (Ohio) are 3-2 in league play. They end the season against each other Nov. 22 at Ohio. In the West, Northern Illinois and Toledo each are 4-1 but the Huskies have a huge head-to-head win against Toledo, 63-60 in a wild game in Week 10. If they both win out, Northern Illinois goes to get another MAC title game.

Mountain West. As expected, TCU and Boise State are undefeated in league play headed into their huge game Saturday in Boise. The winner will be in the driver's seat to win the conference. Remember, this game was initially set for Forth Worth, but moved to Boise after TCU announced it was leaving the conference.

Sun Belt. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-2, 6-1) has a huge game at Arkansas State (7-2, 5-0). If Louisiana-Lafayette wins, it would create a three-way tie with Western Kentucky (5-4, 5-1) atop the Sun Belt standings. If all three then win out, they would each be considered co-champs. If Arkansas State wins, then the Red Wolves would remain undefeated in the Sun Belt and control their destiny.

WAC. Nevada is the only undefeated team in league play at 3-0 and controls its hopes for a second straight league title. Louisiana Tech at 4-1 is in second place. The teams play in Reno on Nov. 19.

Helmet stickers

Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Aplin had five touchdowns in a 39-21 victory at FAU, rushing for 49 yards and four touchdowns and completing 24-of-37 passes for 244 yards and another score. His four rushing touchdowns are the most for any player in the Sun Belt this season, and his five overall touchdowns are tied for the most.

Kama Bailey, RB, Idaho. Bailey ran for a career-high 163 yards on 19 carries and had two scores as Idaho came back to beat San Jose State 32-29.

Jon Davis, DB, Air Force. Davis had a game-high 12 tackles and recorded one interception as Air Force retained the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy with a 24-21 win against Army. Davis also forced and recovered a fumble.

Nick Fanuzzi, QB, Rice. Fanuzzi completed 30-of-43 for 405 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 41-37 win against UTEP. It was his first start of the season, and he is just the third player in school history to pass for more than 400 yards.

Donte Harden, RB, Ohio. Harden finished with a school-record 322 all-purpose yards (184 rushing, 75 receiving and 63 return yards) and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 35-31 win against Temple.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 3, 2011
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players are selected by a national media panel.

Conference USA

Offense: Darius Johnson, WR, SMU. Had a career-high-tying two receiving touchdowns, along with 12 catches and 152 yards as SMU defeated No. 20 TCU 40-33 in overtime. It was his third straight 100-yard game.

Defense: Tyson Gale, LB, Marshall. Had a team-high seven tackles against Louisville, including a tackle for loss and the biggest play of the game when he intercepted a pass with 4:32 left in a 17-13 win.

Special teams: Kase Whitehead, P, Marshall. Dropped four of his five punts inside the 20 in the 17-13 win at Louisville. On the season, 10 of his 30 have been downed inside the 20.


Co-offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame. Nelson came in in relief of starter Jake Heaps and accounted for 206 yards of total offense in four drives as BYU rallied from a 24-13 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Utah State. Nelson was 10-of-14 for 144 yards and two touchdowns, adding 62 rushing yards on 11 carries. Wood ran 20 times for a career-high 191 yards and a touchdown in a win against Purdue. His 55-yard scoring scamper was also a career-long run.

Defense: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame. Had a team-high eight tackles unassisted, and a sack against Purdue.

Special teams: Alex Carlton, PK, Army. Made his first field goal of the season and made all six extra point attempts as the Black Knights beat Tulane. His six conversions moved him into sixth place on the Army career PAT made list.


East Division

Offense: Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio. Threw for over 250 yards for the third consecutive week as he finished with 276 yards passing and two touchdowns in a 17-10 victory over Kent State.

Defense: C.J. Malauulu, LB, Kent State. Had a game- and career-high 12 tackles in a 17-10 loss to Ohio. He also added three tackles for loss, a sack, a pass break-up and a forced fumble.

Special Teams: Boo Boo Gates, KR, Bowling Green. Had seven returns for 233 yards, including a career-best 77-yard return in the first quarter in a 55-10 setback at West Virginia. His seven returns are the second-most in school history, while the yards are the most ever in a game.

West Division

Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan. Threw for a career high and school record 479 yards and five touchdowns, including three in the fourth quarter, in a 38-31 upset of UConn. His five touchdowns tied for second most in a game in school history.

Defense: Robert Bell, LB, Toledo. Had a career-high 12 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and one recovered fumble in a 36-13 road win at Temple.

Special Teams: David Harman, K, Central Michigan. Was 6-of-6 on extra-point attempts and 2-of-2 on field goals for 12 total points in a 48-41 win over Northern Illinois.

Mountain West

Offense: Tim Jefferson, QB, Air Force. Went 9-of-10 for 136 yards and a touchdown, and rushed 18 times for 66 yards and two scores in a 35-34 overtime win at Navy. Jefferson, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run, led Air Force to its second-straight win over Navy and the first in Annapolis since 1997.

Defense: Brady Amack, LB, Air Force. Had a career-high 23 tackles (11 solo), a sack and two tackles for loss in a 35-34 overtime victory at Navy. The tackle total ranks as the sixth-highest in school history and tied for the most in Mountain West history. It also tied for the most in a FBS game this season.

Special teams: Alex Means, LB, Air Force. Blocked Navy’s extra-point try in overtime. Means has blocked two kicks this season and also tied a career-high with 12 tackles and intercepted a pass.


Offense: Matt Christian, QB, New Mexico State. Went 16-of-27 for a career-high 296 yards and a career-high four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 42-28 win at New Mexico. Christian also rushed for a career-high 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He had 397 yards of total offense and accounted for five of the six Aggie touchdowns in the game.

Defense: Keith Smith, LB, San Jose State. Had a team-high 10 tackles and forced a fumble in a 38-31 win at Colorado State. The forced fumble occurred in the second quarter and was returned 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Spartans a 17-7 lead.

Special teams: Justin Hernandez, WR, Idaho. Blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown with 3:11 left in Idaho’s game at Virginia. Idaho trailed 14-6 at the time and following the successful two-point conversion, the Vandals forced overtime. They lost 21-20 in the extra period.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Set a new school record for completions in a game when he completed 37 passes on 49 attempts in a 26-22 win at Western Kentucky. Aplin passed for a season-high 396 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and also caught a touchdown pass against the Hilltoppers.

Defense: Lance Kelley, LB, Louisiana. Had eight tackles, a tackle-for-loss and an interception in a win over FAU. He currently leads the Cajuns and ranks fourth in the Sun Belt with 39 total tackles.

Special teams: Brett Baer, K/P, Louisiana. Scored 13 points in a 37-34 victory. He made field goals of 47 yards and 46 yards before hitting the game-winning 26-yard field goal as time expired. It was the first win for the Cajuns in the final 10 seconds of regulation since 2003.

Non-AQ picks: Week 13

November, 24, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

I lost both upset specials last week, but that was it en route to an 8-2 record. Hope this week is not full of turkeys!

With a 79-45 overall record, bring on Week 13.

No. 3 TCU 55, New Mexico 3. The Horned Frogs should have no problem against one of the worst teams in the country, and they are going to have to pour on the points and look impressive to have any shot of holding off Boise State in the BCS standings. A win would give TCU the Mountain West title outright, and the third unbeaten and untied regular season in TCU history.

No. 4 Boise State 41, No. 19 Nevada 20 (Friday). The Broncos are going to have a big challenge, yes, but this is a team that looked absolutely dominant last week in a 51-0 win over Fresno State. Nevada is better than Fresno State, and the Wolf Pack will no doubt be fired up. Colin Kaepernick has had some good games against Boise State, but has been limited in the ground game in the past two contests. The score the past two years may have been closer than the way the games went, but Boise State knows it has got to dominate this game.

No. 20 Utah 28, BYU 20. Anything can happen in rivalry games, and BYU certainly appears to have righted the ship going into the final game between the two as Mountain West members. But Utah has the edge here at quarterback with Jordan Wynn and on defense as well. The Utes needed that win over San Diego State headed into this game, and while BYU has won five of six, the last four wins have come against the worst teams in the league.

SMU 44, East Carolina 31 (Friday). SMU needs this one to clinch the West and a spot in the C-USA title game, and after watching the Pirates play defense this year, it is hard to imagine them stopping an offense that has the ability to have some balance with Kyle Padron and Zach Line. East Carolina ranks last in the country in total defense and scoring defense.

Tulsa 35, Southern Miss 33 (Friday). The Golden Eagles have won four straight road games, the most since winning five away from home during the regular season in 2003 and 2004. But Tulsa is the hotter team, having won five straight. This one features a terrific quarterback matchup between G.J. Kinne of Tulsa and Austin Davis of Southern Miss. These are two of the top scoring offenses and total offenses in C-USA. Tulsa is going to have to slow Davis down on the ground in addition to through the air.

Ohio 31, Kent State 17 (Friday). The Golden Flashes will be inspired to play in this one, the final game for coach Doug Martin, who announced his resignation effective at the end of the game. But the Bobcats have won seven straight and are the much more complete team. They are the more physical team, too. Ohio has to win this game to win the East and get to the MAC title game.

Akron 21, Buffalo 17 (Friday). You heard it here first. The Zips will get their first win of the season in the final game of the season. They have come really close the last several weeks, and coach Rob Ianello has seen vast improvement. Alex Allen is playing well, with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in close losses to Ball State and Miami (Ohio). The Bulls, meanwhile, have lost six straight. They have scored a total of 20 points in the last two weeks -- against two of the worst teams in the MAC in Ball State and Eastern Michigan. The time is now for the Zips.

FIU 35, Arkansas State 28. The most unlikely league championship will be won in Miami. Nobody pegged FIU as the Sun Belt champion, but the Panthers have steadily improved throughout the season, and now have a pretty powerful offense to go with the best defense in the Sun Belt. That defense will face a challenge in Ryan Aplin, who leads the league in total offense. But FIU is too strong. This is a unit that had seven sacks and three interceptions in a win over Louisiana last week.

Texas Tech 34, Houston 28. The Cougars have lost three straight in their attempt to become bowl eligible and now have to rely on a victory over the Red Raiders to get to six wins. Their running game has abandoned them, and so has their defense. Houston has given up 137 points in its past three games. The final stretch of the season has simply been brutal -- they had to close against four teams that have six or more wins.

ULM 30, Louisiana 17. Louisiana has won two straight over its rivals, but ULM needs a win to become bowl eligible. The Warhawks have never made a bowl game, despite being bowl eligible twice in their history, including last season. But this could be the year that changes. Kolton Browning makes the difference in this one. He threw for a school-record five touchdowns last week, and needs 199 yards of total offense to set the ULM single-season record with 2,966 yards.

Non-AQ Did you Know, Week 12

November, 19, 2010
Time for a little trivia and your weekly installment of non-AQ Did you know? Thanks to the school and league sports information departments for these notes, along with ESPN Stats & Information.
  • San Diego State hosts Utah on Saturday. The Aztecs are 4-0 at home this season, marking the first time they have won their first four home games of a season since 1996. That season, the Aztecs posted a perfect 6-0 home record. The last time the Aztecs won four consecutive home games was during a five-game stretch from Oct. 9, 1998 to Sept. 4, 1999.
  • TCU has scored 454 points this season, ranking second in school history. The TCU record, set last year, is 498. The top-three point totals in TCU history have been accomplished in the past three seasons.
  • Colorado State's Mychal Sisson has forced six fumbles this season, and all have come in the past three games. His six forced fumbles tie the MWC single-season record and are the most by a Ram in a season since 1998 (Joey Porter, eight; Clark Haggans, seven;
  • Southern Miss tied a school record by clinching its 17th consecutive winning season with its victory over UCF last week, matching the mark set from 1951-67. That is the fourth-longest active streak among FBS schools behind Florida State (29), Florida (20) and Virginia Tech (18).
  • Tulsa has a four-game winning streak, and the Golden Hurricane have averaged 43 points and 490.5 yards of total offense during that span.
  • Kent State defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix is tied for seventh in the nation in forced fumbles (4), sixth in tackles for loss (17.5) and tied for 14th in sacks (8.5).
  • Utah State running back Derrvin Speight did not have a 100-yard rushing game in his first 31 contests, but has reached that mark in each of the past two games. The Aggies are looking for their first three-game winning streak since winning four in a row in 2001.
  • Nevada has won 10 straight home games. A win over New Mexico State would give the Wolf Pack their first 10-win season since it was an FCS member in 1991 (12-1). It would also be the 500th victory in program history.
  • Meanwhile, quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs 51 rushing yards to record his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and become the first player in NCAA history with three seasons of 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards.
  • Hawaii wide receiver Greg Salas needs 218 yards receiving to break Jason Rivers’ career school record of 3,919. Fellow wide receiver Kealoha Pilares needs 55 receiving yards to reach 1,000 on the season.
  • Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin broke the school records for passing touchdowns (18) and total offense (3,036) in a loss to Western Kentucky last week. He became just the fifth player in Sun Belt history to record more than 3,000 yards of total offense in a single season.
  • North Texas has shown improvement under interim coach Mike Canales. The Mean Green have won two of three and had more than 400 yards of total offense in all three games. They accomplished that just three times in the first seven games this season. North Texas is also plus-5 in turnover margin in those three games. In the seven games under Todd Dodge, the Mean Green was minus-6 in the turnover margin. The Mean Green have also increased their scoring average from 16.9 points a game to 30.3 points a game.
  • Northern Illinois has won seven straight, but the Huskies have not had a winning streak of longer than that since becoming an FBS program in 1969. The last time a Northern Illinois team won more than seven games in a row was in 1965, when Coach Howard Fletcher’s Huskies put together an undefeated (9-0) regular season before losing to North Dakota in the Mineral Water Bowl.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 18, 2010
Time once again for the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: East Carolina QB Dominique Davis. Scored three touchdowns and set career-highs in passing attempts (53) and completions (37) on the way to a 376-yard, interception-free performance in a 33-27 overtime win over NC State.

Defense: Memphis LB Jamon Hughes. Had the most tackles for a Memphis player in 31 years with 21 stops against Southern Miss. The total ranks tied for second in school history and is the most since Pete Scatamacchia had a school record 25 against Louisville in 1979.

Special teams: Rice P Kyle Martens. Averaged 49.8 yards on four punts, none of which were returned, in the Owls' 34-31 win over Houston. He placed his fifth punt of the season inside the 10 this season.


East Division

Offense: Ohio QB Boo Jackson. Went 14-of-21 for 161 yards, one passing touchdown and two rushing scores in a 38-10 win over Akron. He also caught a 42-yard pass in the win.

Defense: Miami LB Evan Harris. Had a career and team-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one passed defensed in a 27-20 win at Central Michigan. Harris’ two interceptions were the first for the RedHawks by a single player since 2006.

Special teams: Temple DE Adrian Robinson. Blocked a PAT attempt in Temple’s 28-27 win over Bowling Green. The play forced the Falcons to opt for a 2-point conversion on the game’s final play.

West Division

Offense: Eastern Michigan QB Alex Gillett. Accounted for 414 yards of total offense, ninth-best in school history, and set school quarterback records for most rushes (35) and net rushing yards (189) in a single-game. He had five total touchdowns.

Defense: Toledo DE T.J. Fatinikun. Had five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a key 10-yard sack in the Rockets' 34-21 win over Kent State.

Special teams: Northern Illinois S Jimmie Ward. Blocked his second punt of the season in a 45-14 win over Buffalo. Ward also forced a fumble late in the game and contributed two tackles, one on special teams.

Mountain West

Co-Offense: San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman, TCU QB Andy Dalton. Hillman had 191 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 27-24 win over No. 23 Air Force, the team's first win over a ranked team in 14 years. Dalton accounted for 289 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 31-3 win over BYU.

Defense: Colorado State DT Guy Miller. Had eight tackles, 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss to in a 43-10 win over UNLV. Miller set new school and MWC records with his 4.5 sacks.

Special teams: TCU PR Jeremy Kerley. Had 137 total return yards in a 31-3 victory over BYU. Kerley helped the Horned Frogs establish field position throughout the contest, returning two kickoffs for 81 yards and four punts for 56 yards.

Sun Belt

Offense: Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin. Had a career-high four touchdowns, the most of any Sun Belt player this season, in a loss to Indiana. Aplin completed a school-record 33 passes on 44 attempts for 275 yards and added 23 rushing yards.

Defense: ULM DB Robert Nelson. Returned an interception 55 yards for the game-sealing touchdown in a win over Western Kentucky. It was the first interception return for a touchdown by a Warhawk since 2008.

Special teams: Troy KR Jerrel Jernigan. Had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the win over Louisiana, the first of his career and the first for the Trojans since 2007. He also scored the winning touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Corey Robinson in the fourth quarter.


Offense: Louisiana Tech QB Ross Jenkins. Threw for a career-high 422 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-35 win over Idaho on Saturday. It was the most yards thrown by any quarterback in the nation over the weekend.

Defense: Hawaii LB Corey Paredes. Had nine tackles and forced two fumbles in the 27-21 win over No. 19 Nevada. His first forced fumble led to Hawaii’s first touchdown. On the second, he stripped Colin Kaepernick just before he crossed the goal line.

Special teams: Boise State PR Chris Potter. Returned four punts for 76 yards in a 48-0 win over San Jose State. The 76 return yards are the most by a WAC player this year.
If you enjoy points and passing offense, you'll like watching the Indiana Hoosiers in 2010.

Indiana swept its cushy nonconference slate with another high-scoring shootout win, rallying in the second half to beat Arkansas State 36-34 in Bloomington. Bill Lynch's squad now only needs two Big Ten wins to become bowl eligible.

Where would Indiana be without Ben Chappell? The senior quarterback rebounded from a rough day at Ohio State to pass for 382 yards and four touchdowns today.

He got a ton of help from talented receivers Damarlo Belcher and Tandon Doss, both of whom eclipsed 100 receiving yards. And perhaps the most encouraging sign for Indiana's offense was the play of running back Trea Burgess, who rushed for 96 yards on 19 carries in place of the injured Darius Willis. The big question is whether Burgess can be the answer against Big Ten defenses, and he faces a good one next week at Illinois.

Speaking of defense, Indiana's still worries me. Aside from two first-half interceptions, Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin threw the ball very well (33-for-44, 275 pass yards) against the Hoosiers. IU stopped the run well, but it's still too easy for teams to pass against its secondary.

I really think Indiana needs to win one of its next two contests, at Illinois and against Northwestern in Bloomington, to get to six wins. It likely needs to play a lot better on defense to do so.

We'll learn a lot about the Hoosiers before the end of the

Indiana passes its way into lead

October, 16, 2010
Although Indiana is getting a nice lift from running back Trea Burgess today, the Hoosiers remain a pass-first, pass-second offense.

Senior quarterback Ben Chappell appears headed for another 300-yard passing performance, as he has completed 22 of 36 passes for 267 yards and two scores. Senior wideout Terrance Turner has a touchdown grab, and Tandon Doss is having another big day.

The problem: Indiana's defense continues to struggle. Arkansas State just drove for a touchdown and trails by only two points with plenty of time left.

Ryan Aplin and the Red Wolves aren't going away.
If Indiana plans to make its second bowl in four years, it had better take care of business in the second half against Arkansas State.

The Hoosiers trailed the Red Wolves 14-12 at halftime, and the deficit would have been worse if not for an impressive 80-yard scoring drive at the end of the second quarter. After a slow start, IU quarterback Ben Chappell is picking up his play, completing 16 of 26 passes for 208 yards and a score.

Arkansas State's Ryan Aplin is the latest quarterback to take aim on Indiana's secondary. Aplin has completed 17 of 24 passes, but twice was picked off in the first half. The Red Wolves easily could have been up more than two points.

Some good news for Indiana as Trea Burgess has 44 rushing yards on eight carries. Indiana needs to spark his rushing attack in the wake of Darius Willis' season-ending injury.