NCF Nation: Trevor Vittatoe

Spring QB competition: C-USA

February, 8, 2011
We continue our look at spring quarterback competitions with a look at Conference USA. This league is actually pretty solid when it comes to its top quarterbacks, with Case Keenum coming back and joining G.J. Kinne of Tulsa, Austin Davis of Southern Miss and Dominique Davis of East Carolina among others. But a few others have some question marks:


[+] EnlargeTrevor Vittatoe
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinUTEP is replacing school record-holder Trevor Vittatoe and has to find a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2006.
Who’s out: Trevor Vittatoe, the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (12,439), passing touchdowns (97) and total offense (12,291).

Who’s competing: The Miners will also have a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2006 after Vittatoe started every game since 2007 (49 total). Redshirt freshman Javia Hall, sophomore Carson Meger, senior Tate Smith and junior college transfer Nick Lamaison are the candidates. Meger and Smith saw limited action last season, but Lamaison is the most intriguing candidate. Lamaison was the Offensive Player of the Year for both the All-California and All-American teams after leading Mt. San Antonio College to a 13-0 record. He went 300-of-499 for 3,993 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season and has two years of eligibility remaining.


Who’s out: Brian Anderson.

Who’s in: A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan return. Graham was a redshirt freshman last season and Sullivan a true freshman and both played. But the most intriguing candidate could be Conelius Jones, a January enrollee who will be eligible to play in the spring. Jones signed with Michigan out of high school last season but did not qualify academically. He sat out this last year but was able to get his test score and should be in the mix to compete for the starting job.


Who’s competing: Nobody is really out, but the job will be open again. Ryan Williams started the last 10 games last season as a true freshman but struggled with consistency. Coach Larry Porter will want to take another look at Cannon Smith, who went into the season as a starter before sustaining a concussion and then playing sporadically. There also Andy Summerlin, a junior college transfer who signed in 2010 but injured his shoulder last spring and was out for the fall. Memphis is considering moving back to the spread, but there's nothing definitive on that just yet.

Instant Analysis: BYU 52, UTEP 24

December, 18, 2010
BYU dominated UTEP 52-24 in the New Mexico Bowl in the first bowl game of the season Saturday. Here is a quick analysis:

How the game was won: The BYU offense dominated. The Miners had no answer for freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, who has improved dramatically in the second half of the season. Heaps threw a New Mexico Bowl-record four touchdown passes, and BYU set a New Mexico Bowl record for points scored. UTEP also had no answer for the power run game, as JJ Di Luigi and Joshua Quezada dominated. Plenty of freshman Cougars showed bigtime promise in their last game as members of the Mountain West before going independent in 2011. BYU ended the season with wins in five of its final six games after a 2-5 start.

Turning point: Hard to pick one considering the game got out of hand early. But UTEP had a chance to cut the deficit to 14 points before the half and take momentum into the break. UTEP had the ball at the BYU 15 with 21 seconds to go. Kris Adams dropped a pass on the goal line. The Miners inched closer on their next two plays, and had the ball at the 3 with 4 seconds left. But Trevor Vittatoe overthrew Adams on a jump ball in the end zone, and UTEP trailed 31-10. BYU took the opening possession of the second half and drove 75 yards in 14 plays. Di Luigi scored from 1 yard out, and all of a sudden UTEP trailed by 28.

Stat of the game: Minus-5. First-quarter yards for UTEP.

Player of the game: Heaps, who else? Heaps went 25-of-34 for 264 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. In addition, he broke Ty Detmer's school record for touchdown passes in season by a freshman with 15. James Lark came on in relief of Heaps in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.

Second guessing: The first quarter was a nightmare for UTEP. It seemed as if the Miners were totally unprepared for the BYU blitz, and it cost them dearly. With Vittatoe hobbled because of an ankle injury, you figured BYU would bring pressure because of his immobility. UTEP had negative yards in the first quarter, while BYU racked up 143 yards and a 17-3 lead that UTEP could never overcome.

What BYU learned: The Cougars have a lot of young talent that matured and grew in the second half of the season. Heaps, Quezada, Cody Hoffman, Di Luigi and McKay Jacobson all return on offense. That sets them up very well going into 2011. Now they wait to see whether offensive tackle Matt Reynolds decides to come back to school or leave for the NFL draft.

What UTEP learned: The Miners played in their first bowl game since 2005 but could not snap out of the downward trend that plagued them in the second half of the season. You have to give Vittatoe credit for gutting out this year with torn ligaments in his ankle. He will have surgery Monday. UTEP loses many of its top players on offense, including Vittatoe, Donald Buckram and Adams so a rebuilding year could be in store.


New Mexico Bowl Keys

December, 17, 2010
You saw the preview and prediction, now here are three keys for BYU and UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday:

BYU (6-6)

1. Establish the run. JJ Di Luigi, Josh Quezada and Bryan Kariya have done a good job all season. The trio has combined for 16 of the team’s 20 rushing touchdowns. Now they have an opportunity to go out with a big game against a team ranked No. 90 against the run. Getting the running game going will help open up the play-action pass and get Jake Heaps into more manageable situations.

2. Heaps record watch. It has been an up-and-down year for the true freshman, who came in as one of the most highly touted quarterback prospects in the country. But he is the first freshman ever to start a bowl game for the Cougars in program history and is three touchdown passes away from breaking Ty Detmer’s school freshman record of 13. He has thrown for two or more touchdowns just three times this season.

3. Keep up the defensive pressure. BYU is a totally different unit with Bronco Mendenhall in charge of the defense. All of a sudden, teams are having a hard time scoring on the Cougars. They are playing more aggressive and more disciplined, and that is going to have to continue against the Miners.

UTEP (6-6)

1. Establish Kris Adams. He is the go-to guy for Trevor Vittatoe, and like a lot of players on the team, he has fought through injury. If UTEP can establish him as a deep threat, the Miners will be able to stretch the field and come up with the big plays they really need. Of course, much of this is predicated on how healthy Vittatoe is in this game.

2. Don’t make silly mistakes. UTEP has a negative turnover margin, and cannot afford to make many mistakes against a team that rarely makes them. If the Miners are going to have any chance at pulling the upset, they are going to have to play a near perfect game.

3. Get after Heaps. Easier said than done. The Miners are one of the worst teams in FBS when it comes to sacks, with only 14 this season. But they are going to have to get pressure on Heaps to get him off his rhythm and potentially force him into mistakes. Heaps has been much better at protecting the football in the second half of the season, but he still has some problems adjusting when teams blitz. If UTEP can disguise its fronts and coverages with a healthy mix of blitzes, the Miners have a chance.

BYU and UTEP are former WAC rivals who are meeting for the first time since 1998. But you could say both teams probably have different feelings about being here. The Cougars struggled to a 6-6 record after four straight seasons of 10 or more wins. UTEP is in its first bowl game since losing to Toledo in the GMAC Bowl in 2005. One interesting side note: UTEP coach Mike Price recruited BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall out of Snow College in the 1980s. Price coached his brother, Marty, but was unable to land Bronco, who went to Oregon State instead.

WHO TO WATCH: BYU RB J.J. DiLuigi. Thanks to struggles in the passing game, BYU is more of a power rushing team than it has been in a very long time. The reason the Cougars were able to switch gears is because of DiLuigi, who has 819 yards rushing and seven touchdowns this season. He also emerged as a threat in the passing game, leading the team with 422 yards receiving and a touchdown. UTEP will try to key in on him to put the game on the shoulders of freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, but the Miners have had problems slowing down the run all season.

WHAT TO WATCH: The health of UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe. Even though he owns just about every major career record in school history, Vittatoe has been a vastly different quarterback this season because he has struggled through various injuries. His ankle has been the biggest problem, and will require offseason surgery. But Vittatoe will keep his starting streak alive against BYU even though he is nowhere near 100 percent. Still, a gimpy Vittatoe gives UTEP a chance to win. Just how badly his ankle affects his mobility and ability to set his feet will be crucial.

WHY TO WATCH: BYU is going independent next season, so this is your first chance to catch a glimpse of the Cougars on ESPN, their future network home. Heaps looks like the quarterback of the future. BYU also has a potential first-round NFL draft pick on the offensive line in left tackle Matt Reynolds, who must decide whether to leave school early to enter the draft or return for his senior season. Reynolds has said he will mull that decision after the bowl game.

PREDICTION: BYU 30, UTEP 13. The Cougars are better defensively, and enter on a bit of a hot streak, having won four of their final five games. They nearly upset Utah in the season finale. UTEP has lost five of its last six, and a hobbled Vittatoe is going to hurt the Miners. Another fun fact to remember: UTEP has not won a bowl game since 1967.

Lunchtime Links

December, 14, 2010
Here are some links to get you through lunch.

Utah QB Jordan Wynn had successful shoulder surgery on Monday.

Southern Miss' seniors keep their postseason tradition alive.

Nevada returned to practice after a week off, but still has a long wait until playing Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Jan. 9.

Former Fresno State players recall a 73-18 loss to Northern Illinois in 1990 as the two teams prepare to meet in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl.

San Diego State coach Brady Hoke denied having contact with Pittsburgh.

Credit Northern Illinois AD Jeff Compher for the way he handled the hiring of Dave Doeren.

New Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth has to hit the ground running.

Terrance Owens will start at quarterback for Toledo against FIU in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, but injured starter Austin Dantin (shoulder/collarbone) could play.

Alabama receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Curt Cignetti has emerged as a leading candidate to be named head coach at Kent State, reports.

California recruit Will Gregory hopes to fill the shoes of Alex Green at Hawaii next season.

UTEP is healthier going into the New Mexico Bowl against BYU everywhere except QB, where Trevor Vittatoe is still hampered by an ankle injury.Vittatoe will get "an extensive operation" on Monday, coach Mike Price said.

New Mexico bowl

December, 5, 2010
BYU Cougars (6-6) vs. UTEP Miners (6-6)

Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

This is an intriguing matchup between former WAC rivals to kick off bowl season. While this season has been largely disappointing for the Cougars, UTEP is making its first bowl appearance since 2005. The game, which generally pits Mountain West vs. WAC, was able to work out a switch with several other conferences and games to get a more regional matchup -- El Paso, is about a four-hour drive from Albuquerque. BYU ran its bowl streak to six straight despite a 1-4 start, and nearly pulled off a major upset in its regular-season finale against Utah. The Cougars finished 6-6, their worst season since also going 6-6 in 2005, their first under coach Bronco Mendenhall. The big reason was a moribund offense, something that you rarely hear about in Provo. The Cougars started the season with two quarterbacks, but after Riley Nelson was sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury, true freshman Jake Heaps took over. He has made significant strides, and JJ Di Luigi has helped at running back. But there still is no true go-to playmaker on offense.

Mendenhall has taken over as defensive coordinator, and the unit has shown vast improvements. As for UTEP, the Miners are bowl eligible because they were able to beat up the bad teams on their schedule.

The Miners closed the season with five losses in their last six games, but they have been beaten up all season. Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has been hampered with ankle injuries. Running back Donald Buckram, who ran for 1,594 yards last season, also struggled with a knee injury and only had 325 yards this season.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 12

November, 18, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Four straight weeks of going 7-3 -- is this as good as it gets? I did my upset special right, though I did not expect Utah to continue its implosion, or FIU to beat Troy for the first time ever.

With a 71-43 overall record and several tough games to call this week, bring on Week 12.

No. 4 Boise State 45, Fresno State 17. The Broncos have won four straight in the series, and a few of those wins have been “close” at least in Boise State terms. Last season, Boise State won 51-34, and in 2007 the Broncos on 34-21. Scores that “close” may make voters think twice about where the Broncos stand in the rankings, especially since they have the Friday night spotlight to themselves. The Bulldogs have good balance on offense, but the Boise State defense will be able to shut down Robbie Rouse, who has posted back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.

No. 18 Nevada 55, New Mexico State 10. The Wolf Pack have rebounded nicely from a loss to Hawaii, and relied on Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua to pull out a close game against Fresno State last week. With a combined five touchdowns in that game, Taua and Kaepernick set the NCAA record for the most touchdowns and most points scored by two players on the same team in a career. Taua and Kaepernick have combined for 103 touchdowns and 616 points.

No. 23 Utah 28, San Diego State 27. I have gone back and forth on this one this entire week, and was leaning Aztecs up until this morning. I love what Brady Hoke has done with the program, and think Ronnie Hillman is a future star. But Jordan Wynn usually comes up big at Qualcomm, and a return home should do him some good and help the offense get out of its doldrums. He is on notice, and he has got to respond.

Tulsa 35, UTEP 17. The Golden Hurricane are streaking now, having won four straight games, and find themselves in a tie atop the West. They need to win out and hope for SMU to lose at least once to get the division crown. Meanwhile, UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has been hampered by injuries the last several weeks and won’t be 100 percent. Going with the hot team.

Western Michigan 35, Kent State 28. This one is for the battle to keep bowl hopes alive. Both teams are 4-6, and both have had disappointing seasons. But the Broncos have a good thing going with Alex Carder, Jordan White and Juan Nunez on offense. Kent State has some uncertainty at quarterback -- Spencer Keith played last week with a sprained thumb but was benched after throwing an interception. Backup Giorgio Morgan threw two.

Wyoming 33, Colorado State 30. Anything can happen in “The Border War” season finale between the two teams. The last two seasons, the road team has won this game. Wyoming is winless in the Mountain West and in desperate need of a positive note to close out the season. The Rams have not won a road game yet, and have scored just 29 points in their past two games.

UPSET SPECIAL: Army 28, Notre Dame 20. Sorry, I am not on the Irish bus despite the win over Utah. The Utes were totally deflated going into that game and imploded. I still have visions of Navy dancing for 367 rushing yards against the Irish in my head. While the Black Knights aren’t as proficient as the Midshipmen in the triple option yet, they are much improved will give them fits. No doubt Notre Dame will make adjustments, but I still think Army will be able to run.

FIU 30, Louisiana 20. I have a big fear the Panthers may suffer from a letdown in this game following their first ever win over Troy, a victory that has them in the driver’s seat for the Sun Belt. FIU has never been in that position. But they are streaking offensively, having scored a combined 94 points in the past two games. T.Y. Hilton is a big reason why. Louisiana, meanwhile, has lost six straight.

UPSET SPECIAL, PART II: Houston 28, Southern Miss 24. Houston has got to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. The Cougars are no strangers to pulling the road upset, with a win at SMU last month. If the Cougars limit the mistakes, they win. The Golden Eagles have had a terrible week after three players were shot following a fight at a club. You have to wonder whether they will be motivated to play for them, or distracted because of the events of the week. Southern Miss has lost its two league games by a combined two points.

ULM 27, North Texas 20. The Mean Green have won two of three under interim head coach Mike Canales, and have largely done it behind Lance Dunbar, who has combined for 677 yards and six touchdowns rushing and receiving. ULM has to win this to keep bowl hopes alive, and is unbeaten at home. Kolton Browning had thrown for 200 yards in eight straight games before that streak ended last week against LSU. He will do enough to win.

Non-AQ Did you know, Week 11

November, 12, 2010
Time for a little non-AQ Did You Know for Week 11. Thanks to the schools and conference sports information departments for the nuggets.

TCU has held seven opponents to single-digit scoring this season, including two shutouts, and is the only team in the country to do so. Iowa is second in that category, holding five opponents to fewer than 10 points through nine contests. Since 1990, the highest number of games a team has held its opponents to less than 10 points in a single season is eight (USC in 2008, Miami Hurricanes in 2002 and Kansas State in 1998).

UTEP coach Mike Price gave Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino his first coaching job as a graduate assistant in 1984 at Weber State. The two worked together again when Price became head coach at Washington State. Now they square off Saturday when the Miners travel to play the Razorbacks.

“I knew after my interview with him, which was probably his first-ever interview for a coaching position, that he was really special,” Price said this week. “My son happened to be a wide receiver that year and played for coach Bobby and he says to this day, ‘He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around.’ He’s a special guy. He was born to be a coach.”

The Mountain West Conference is home to the nation’s two longest rushing plays from scrimmage this season. Wyoming’s Alvester Alexander has the longest -- a 94-yard touchdown run at New Mexico last week, while San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman is second with a 93-yard touchdown run at Missouri on Sept. 18.

UTEP senior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe made his 46th consecutive start behind center for the Miners last week against SMU. Only Minnesota’s Adam Weber (48) has a longer consecutive starting streak than Vittatoe, who has started every game of his UTEP career.

UAB running back Pat Shed has 1,426 all-purpose yards in 2010, the fourth-best single-season mark at the school. He needs just 79 yards to break the Blazer single-season record of 1,504 set by Derrick Ingram in 1994.

Louisiana Tech’s Phillip Livas is one kick/punt return for a touchdown short of tying the NCAA record of eight set by five different players.

New Mexico State has scored just seven total points in the second quarter of games this season.

Utah State running back Derrvin Speight recorded the Aggies’ first 100-yard rushing game of the season last week with 114 yards against New Mexico State.

Fresno State blocked two kicks last week against Louisiana Tech to increase its NCAA-high total since 2002 to 54.

Western Michigan is the only program in the nation that has two receivers with 70 receptions or more this season. Broncos senior wide receivers Jordan White (72 receptions, 1,057 yards, three touchdowns) and Juan Nunez (70 receptions, 768 yards, seven touchdowns) have been favorite targets for sophomore quarterback Alex Carder. The Broncos are ranked 13th in the nation in passing offense.

The MAC has seen a youth movement at quarterback. In Week 11, the MAC will see four freshmen and seven sophomore quarterbacks start. Northern Illinois junior quarterback Chandler Harnish and Ohio senior quarterback Boo Jackson are the only two veteran MAC quarterbacks.

Arkansas State has four conference wins, tied for the most since it had five in the 2005 season. The Red Wolves have scored at least 23 points in every game this season, marking the first time since 1986 that it has scored 20-plus points in nine straight games.

Louisiana has been eliminated from bowl contention, marking just the second time in the last six seasons that the team failed to become bowl eligible.

Troy failed to force a turnover in its win at North Texas last week, marking just the 17th time since 2000 that the Trojans have failed to force one. It was also just the second time Troy has recorded a victory since 2000 when failing to force a turnover. The Trojans entered the game tied for seventh in the nation this year, having forced 22 total turnovers.
Ask UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe about breaking the school records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns, and he deflects the answer back to the team.

The marks are nice, but what he really wants is to play in a bowl game.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Vittatoe
AP Photo/Dave EinselUTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe has 11,429 passing yards, 20th on the NCAA's all-time list.
When Vittatoe arrived at UTEP, the Miners were coming off back-to-back bowl appearances. But that has yet to happen for him and his teammates. Now that he is a senior and UTEP (5-2) is on the verge of becoming bowl eligible, he is close enough to feel what his buddies back home in Texas have felt all along.

“I go home at Christmas time and all my friends talk how much fun they had on their bowl trips,” Vittatoe said in a phone interview. “I’ve had nothing to talk about. It’s going to be great to hopefully walk away with at least a little bit of hardware to be able to brag about.”

UTEP had an opportunity to get to six wins last week, but lost 21-6 at UAB. Now the Miners welcome Tulane with several key players banged up. Chief among them is Vittatoe, whose struggles last week through ankle and shoulder injuries hampered the team.

Coach Mike Price has declined to comment on the injuries and status of his players, but Vittatoe was seen Wednesday with the walking boot off his right leg. Vittatoe has played through injuries at several points in his career, so it would probably take a lot to keep him out of a game that could clinch bowl eligibility.

The Miners have not been to a bowl game since 2005. If they do win, the Miners would have six wins for just the seventh time in the past 40 years.

Vittatoe and his fellow seniors were so tired of losing, they came up with a plan over the summer to help their teammates stay focused and get back to winning. The Senior Council came up with the 14 Commandments, one for every game the Miners hoped to play in this season, including the Conference USA title game and a bowl game.

Among them:

A true Miner will be mature.

A true Miner will focus on academics.

A true Miner will come to work every day with the intent of getting better.

A true Miner will show up to work even when coaches aren’t paying attention.

A true Miner will be his brother’s keeper.

The 14 Commandments are posted on a white board in the middle of the locker room for everyone to see every day before practice.

“We came in and a lot of guys in my class came from winning programs in high school. It was a total shock to us to not be successful and not be winning games,” Vittatoe said. “Since it’s our last year, it’s our turn to be the head of the team. We’re going to take a stand and not accept anything but the best.

“We’re tired of people not looking upon as being anyone worth worrying about on their schedule. We wanted to change that, and I think that really helped the attitude of the team, the guidance toward knowing we could do it.”

Vittatoe has overcome his own heart-breaking past. His mom, Kari, died in 2005 in a car accident, one day after Trevor turned 17. His parents had been divorced, so following her death, he went to live with his father, Vern.

Their relationship was rocky at first, but has grown tremendously since Trevor left for UTEP. When he was in the midst of a quarterback competition during the spring of his redshirt freshman season in 2007, Trevor made a bet with his father. If Trevor won the starting job, Vern would have to go to every home and away game.

He has yet to miss a game.

So Vern Vittatoe has seen every pass, every yard in his son’s career. Now Trevor Vittatoe has 11,429 career passing yards, moving into 20th place on the all-time NCAA list, and is within reach this week of Cincinnati’s Gino Guidugli (19th, 11,453 yards), Georgia’s David Greene (18th, 11,528 yards) and Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn (17th, 11,762 yards).

Vern was there the night Vittatoe passed Jordan Palmer for the UTEP career passing yards, touchdowns and attempts records against Rice on Oct. 10. Trevor went up into the stands to give his father a game ball.

“I told him that I dedicated the game to my mom but I dedicated the ball to him,” Trevor Vittatoe said. “He really appreciated that and he said, ‘I’ve always been really proud of you. You’ve always pushed yourself to be the best at everything you can be, but your road isn’t over, you still have a lot of work to do.

“Back to work.”

That work continues Saturday.

Lunchtime Links

October, 21, 2010
Here are a few links to help you make it through another day. But hey! There is football on tonight. Join me and Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller for a live chat during the UCLA-Oregon game, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

TCU coach Gary Patterson reportedly berated a team doctor for concluding RB Ed Wesley had suffered a concussion against SMU. Dr. Sam Haraldson told he was "verbally accosted by the coach." Patterson said he was never contacted for the story, and couldn't go into details because of privacy laws.

The Utah starting offensive line gave up its first and only sack of the year last week against Wyoming, and it's not happy about it.

Kyle Whittingham appears to have made the right choice when he decided to coach Utah over BYU, writes Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Nevada RB Courtney Randall is a student of the game, and last May became the first person in his family to graduate from college. He is in graduate classes and wants to become a sports psychologist.

Bowling Green is going to be thin at cornerback Saturday against Kent State. Starter Robert Lorenzi was dismissed from the team and Cameron Truss is out with injury.

Rice will also be missing several players for its game at UCF.

Former Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower is considered a leading candidate to replace Todd Dodge at North Texas.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe had the walking boot off his ankle, but the Miners aren't saying whether he will play Saturday against Tulane.

Western Michigan is trying to avoid what happened the last time it played Akron -- a wild finish that ended with a Zips win.

UAB backup quarterback David Isabelle has an injured hand, and that might force Joe Bento into action if anything happens to Bryan Ellis.

Purdue is not pleased that Kent State dumped its game in favor of one against Alabama to open 2011.

What to watch from non-AQs, Week 8

October, 21, 2010
Come one, come all for your Top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 8:

1. Can Navy win three of its four over Notre Dame? The Navy senior class is trying to join the Class of 1937 and the Class of 1964 as the only classes to beat Notre Dame three times in their career. The Midshipmen ended a 43-game losing streak to the Irish in 2007 and won in South Bend last year. Navy has not defeated Notre Dame at a neutral site since 1960.

[+] EnlargeTCU Defense
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIThe TCU defense faces a stiff test Saturday in Air Force.
2. Does the TCU defense have another stellar performance in it? The Horned Frogs have given up one field goal in their last three games, but face a much tougher test Saturday against the Air Force triple-option offense. Gary Patterson has prepared his team for this offense throughout the spring and fall, and there is no question the defensive guru wants to see how it responds.

3. Boise State is off as it prepares to play Tuesday night against Louisiana Tech. How will this affect its standing in the polls and BCS rankings when they come out on Sunday? This is going to be a continuing story line, even when the Broncos are off. It all depends on what happens to everyone else. Oklahoma has a tough game against Missouri, and Auburn and LSU are playing in a matchup of Top 6 teams. Many have wondered whether a big Auburn win would vault it ahead of the Broncos. That remains to be seen. Remember, last week at this time we thought Boise State would be No. 1. Instead, the Broncos are No. 3.

4. Will BYU or Wyoming be bowl eligible this season? I still have the Cougars going to a bowl game, but they have got to win this one. If Wyoming is going to be bowl eligible, it has to win this one, too. Neither team has been prolific on offense, and both have faced difficult schedules to this point. But with this game followed by contests against UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico, I can still see BYU finishing 6-6.

5. Does SMU take control of the West Division in Conference USA? It might be too early to say that, but certainly the Mustangs have a chance to distance themselves with a win. That would give them a two-game lead over Houston and Tulsa, two teams they have already beaten. UTEP, Rice and Tulane would also be at least two games back, depending on results from the weekend.

6. Which Utah State team shows up against Hawaii? It is the team that barely lost to Oklahoma and looked dominant against BYU? Or is it the team that scored a combined 13 points against San Diego State and Louisiana Tech? Coach Gary Andersen has said his team does not know how to handle success. The Aggies had a week to prepare for Hawaii, which has scored 49 or more points in four of its five wins over them in WAC play.

7. Rocky Long returns to New Mexico. The San Diego State defensive coordinator has declined interview requests this week as his team gets ready to play the Lobos, where he was head coach for 11 seasons before stepping down following 2008. He had success there, guiding the team a school-record 65 wins. Since he left, Mike Locksley has gone 1-17 and the program is the worst in the country.

8. Does UTEP become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005? The Miners had a chance last week but had a disappointing loss to UAB. They play Tulane on Saturday in a game they are favored to win. UTEP stands at 5-2 following a 4-8 season last year, and the seniors on this team made it a point to bring everyone closer together to set higher goals, because they were so tired of losing. UTEP has several players banged up going into the game, including quarterback Trevor Vittatoe (ankle, shoulder), but he expects to play.

9. Can the Utes start creating turnovers this week against Colorado State? About the only thing coach Kyle Whittingham has had to complain about his team is its lack of turnovers. Utah only has gained six turnovers in six games -- four interceptions and two fumbles. Last season, Utah was able to force 25 turnovers and had a plus-5 turnover margin.

10. Can Akron break its winless streak against Western Michigan? Pretty unlikely the way this season has gone for a team that has taken on its Zips nickname. Quarterback Patrick Nicely is 2-11 as a starter, and coach Rob Ianello says he is sticking with him. But Nicely has done little to help the cause, completing less than 50 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns to seven interceptions. But the poor guy has been sacked 23 times.

Non-AQ Did you know, Week 7

October, 15, 2010
Time for a little trivia in our weekly edition of non-AQ Did You Know?

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton became only the third player in Mountain West Conference history to top the 10,000-yard mark for total offense in a career. He joins former BYU quarterbacks Max Hall (11,569) and John Beck (11,060). Dalton has 10,075 yards through the games of Oct. 9.

More notes on the TCU defense: The Horned Frogs are one of two FBS teams with two shutouts this season (Oregon), and the only team to record back-to-back shutouts. TCU has held opponents scoreless for eight straight quarters. The league record for most consecutive quarters without allowing an opponent to score is 11, shared by BYU (Sept. 13 to Oct. 4, 2008) and Utah (Nov. 15, 2003 to Sept. 2, 2004). Through the first six weeks of the season, TCU has yet to allow an opponent to pass for 200 yards.

Utah and Boise State are the only two teams in the country that have allowed just one sack entering Week 7.

Western Michigan is the first MAC team to play Notre Dame since the league was formed in 1947. The Broncos have played Notre Dame twice in program history, 1919 and 1920, losing both. Notre Dame is one of two all-time opponents that Western Michigan has never scored against. Virginia Tech is the other.

This will be the third different team Brian Kelly has coached against a Bill Cubit-led Western Michigan team (Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Notre Dame). Here is what Cubit had to say about the matchup:

“We’re not going to match up physically or talent wise,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out. We know that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the tough challenge we’ve got against them, talent-wise and home-field advantage. But my kids are going to go out there and play hard, play smart and go and execute.”

Kent State will retire the No. 9 jersey worn by Joshua Cribbs in a halftime ceremony against Ball State on Oct. 30. Cribbs joins Jim Corrigall (No. 79, 1967-69), Jack Lambert (No. 99, 1971-73) and Eric Wilkerson (No. 40, 1985-88) as the only players in the 88-year history of the program to have their number retired.

During his four-year career with the Golden Flashes from 2001-04, Cribbs became just the second player in NCAA history with two “double-1,000 seasons” (1,000 yards passing and rushing). He set the school career passing mark with 7,169 yards, while his career rushing total of 3,670 yards ranks third.

In addition, Cribbs still holds the career records for rushing touchdowns (38), completions (616), attempts (1,123), total plays (1,755), total yards (10,839), points (246) and total touchdowns (41). The first three-time captain in school history, he was an honorable mention All-American as a senior in 2004.

Boise State receiver Austin Pettis has caught four touchdown passes this year and has 33 in his career, the most of any active player. He is nine shy of tying the WAC’s all-time record of 33, set by Wyoming’s Ryan Yarborough from 1990-93.

Idaho has done some nice things defensively this season. The Vandals have the WAC’s best red-zone defense, allowing teams to score 64.7 percent of the time. They have allowed a total of three points in the first quarter of games this year, the fewest by any WAC team in a quarter this season. And they lead the WAC and rank fourth in the nation in sacks with 3.4 a game.

Through five games, East Carolina has already matched its 14-game total from a season ago in passing touchdowns with 15. The Pirates are averaging nearly 80 more yards per game in passing offense with a league-leading 297.2 per game. That figure is up from 227.4 yards per game through the air in 2009.

UTEP’s Trevor Vittatoe is the seventh player in Conference USA history to throw for 10,000 yards. Last week against Rice, he became the Miners’ all-time leader in touchdown passes (89), passing yards (11,260) and total offense (11,117).

Kolton Browning’s 1,075 yards passing through five games are the most by a ULM quarterback since it joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2001. He is also the first ULM quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards in four straight games since Steven Jyles did it five times in 2004.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 11, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 6.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonTCU quarterback Andy Dalton has been outstanding at home this season.
The good: The elite non-AQ teams have done their jobs midway through the season. TCU put together an impressive 45-0 win. Quarterback Andy Dalton, who has been up and down this season, was 14-of-17 for 270 yards with three touchdowns. In three home games this season, Dalton is 50-of-61 (82 percent) for 719 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. … Utah trailed Iowa State 14-10, but then the second quarter started. The Utes outscored the Cyclones 31-0 and have now outscored opponents an eye-popping 101-7 in the second quarter this season. … Bryant Moniz continues his incredible rise. He came to Hawaii as a walk-on last season, and now is leading the country with 2,245 passing yards – the only quarterback with more than 2,000 yards so far this season. Hawaii has the top ranked passing offense in the country. Greg Salas leads the country in receiving yards, and teammate Kealoha Pilares ranks third. … UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe set new school career records for touchdown throws (89), passing yards (11,260) and total offensive yards (11,117).

The bad: Ball State coach Stan Parrish said his team played one of the worst games since he became head coach, in a 45-16 loss to Western Michigan. His team fumbled the opening kickoff, then had an interception returned for a touchdown on the second series. It was downhill from there, with three more turnovers erasing any chance to win. … Utah State had one of its best wins a week ago against BYU, beating its in-state rival 31-16. But the Aggies had their worst game of the season on Saturday in a 24-6 loss to Louisiana Tech. They had just 73 yards passing and 195 total yards of offense, a week after racking up 434 yards of total offense against the Cougars. Coach Gary Andersen said his team is much better at handling adversity than success.

The heartache: FAU fought back from a 12-0 deficit to take a 20-17 lead against ULM. But a fumbled snap gave ULM the ball at its own 45 with 4:51 remaining. Kolton Browning led the team down the field, and Jyruss Edwards ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 2:43 remaining, handing the Owls their fourth straight loss. … New Mexico clung to a 14-13 lead over in-state rival New Mexico State, but Stump Godfrey fumbled late, setting up Tyler Stamper’s 22-yard field goal to win it for the Aggies. New Mexico turned the ball over four times, and leads the nation with 20 turnovers this season. … San Jose State might have lost 35-13 to Nevada, but it was the first game all season where the Spartans didn’t lose a player to a season-ending injury. Those injuries have taken a toll, but so has the brutal start to the season, with games at Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah and Nevada.

A few more helmet stickers: Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch and running back Vai Taua have had excellent back-to-back games. Moch has a combined 18 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in the past two games, and Taua has 35 carries for 382 yards and eight total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving). … Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert had a season-high seven tackles, an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 49-27 win against Colorado State. … In his first college game, North Texas kicker Zach Olen was perfect on all five of his kicks against Arkansas State, making 4-0f-4 field goals and his only extra-point attempt.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is questionable after being carted off the field in a loss to Boise State last week. Dantin took a hard hit following a run in the fourth quarter and was motionless on the field, but coach Tim Beckman said his quarterback was coherent and he was put on a stretcher as a precautionary measure. Terrance Owens would get the nod if Dantin can’t play. … Temple offensive lineman Steve Caputo (leg) is out for the season. Ohio has lost its two best players -- receiver LaVon Brazill (leg) is out for the season, and linebacker Noah Keller (foot) is doubtful to return this season. North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge (wrist) will have a pin inserted in his broken wrist, and the team is hoping he can return as early as Oct. 30 against Western Kentucky.

Week 7 look ahead: There are some really interesting games in the Mountain West and WAC. Nevada is at Hawaii in a matchup of contrasting offenses. The Wolf Pack love to run, the Warriors love to pass. This is going to be a very big test for Nevada, no question. Air Force plays at San Diego State to start a brutal four-game stretch. Following that game, the Falcons are at TCU, home to Utah then at Army. BYU is at TCU, and there might not be any love lost here. TCU coach Gary Patterson was critical of the Cougars’ move to go independent before the season started.

Lunchtime Links

October, 7, 2010
UCF beat down UABon Wednesday night. More mid-week football ahead with Nebraska-Kansas State Thursday night. Big 12 blogger David Ubben and I will be live chatting so come on by.

Now on to some links:

UAB takes a backward step in the loss.

Is this George O'Leary's best team at UCF?

TCU is Texas' lone star in college football.

SMU running back Zach Line has been a huge boost for the Mustangs.

Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher is expected to play against Georgia Tech despite a dislocated left pinkie. Further testing showed no breaks in his hand.

Nevada has stayed healthy this season thanks to a commitment on the practice field and in the weight room. Its opponent this weekend has not been as fortunate.

Western Michigan starting right tackle Dann O'Neill is out for Saturday's game against Ball State with a sprained ankle.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe could become the school's all-time leading passer Saturday against Rice.

Other conference links:


Big 12

Big East

Big Ten


Non-AQ Did you know, Week 5

October, 1, 2010
Now it is time for a little bit of non-AQ Did You Know?

You probably know that Air Force leads the nation in rushing with an average of 394 yards per game. But did you know the Falcons have finished the season with the NCAA rushing title just once since 1980? It happened in 2002, when they averaged 307.8 yards a game. They have been awfully close, though, finishing second 11 times in the same span.

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen and offensive line coach Jim Harding return to a very familiar place when the Cowboys play Toledo on Saturday. Christensen spent nine seasons at Toledo as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator from 1992-2000. During his nine seasons, Toledo won outright or tied for three MAC West titles (1997, ‘98 and 2000) and won the MAC title in 1995, advancing to the Las Vegas Bowl where it defeated Nevada 40-37. Harding was a former offensive tackle for the Rockets from 1997-2000, starting a school record 46 consecutive games. In his senior season, he helped lead Toledo to a road win against Penn State, a 10-1 record and a No. 25 national ranking.

Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel needs 393 yards of total offense to reach 7,000 career yards, becoming just the second quarterback in school history to reach the milestone. He also needs 220 passing yards to crack the top five on the school’s career passing list.

Western Michigan receiver Jordan White is second in the nation in receiving yards with 127.3 a game. He averages nine catches.

Boise State receiver Titus Young has caught a pass in 33 straight games, the third longest active streak in the nation. He leads the country in all-purpose yards with 208 a game.

Nevada is 19-for-19 in the red zone with 14 touchdowns and five field goals this season. The Wolf Pack also have converted 6-of-7 fourth-down attempts.

TCU (27-3) and Utah (27-3) are two of six teams (Alabama 30-2, Florida 30-2, Boise State 29-1, Texas 28-3) with 27 or more wins since the beginning of the 2008 season. The Mountain West is one of two conferences (SEC) to have two teams with 27-plus wins during that span.

San Diego State and Utah are two of 12 teams in the country that have allowed just one sack this season. Both are off this week.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe passed Tulsa's Paul Smith (2005-07) to move into fifth place on the all-time Conference USA passing list in last week’s game against Memphis (10,669). Vittatoe is also fifth on the conference list in touchdown passes (83).

North Texas defeated Florida Atlantic for the first time in school history last week. The Mean Green were 0-6 all-time versus the Owls coming into this game. North Texas starts the Sun Belt season 1-0 for the first time since 2005 when it won a road game at Middle Tennessee 14-7 to begin the conference season.

Five Northern Illinois starters -- running back Chad Spann, guard Joe Pawlak, tight end Jason Schepler, defensive end Jake Coffman and defensive end Sean Progar -- and 11 players on the current depth chart originally arrived to the school as walk-ons.

It appears Saints quarterback Drew Brees lost a bet with receiver Lance Moore when Toledo beat Purdue last week. Moore, who went to Toledo, sent out a Twitter message and picture of Brees wearing a Rockets shirt. Brees played at Purdue. The twitter message said, “Ok so I wasn't gonna do it but I couldn't help myself. Thanks Rockets for beating Purdue! @drewbrees u look good in that bro.”

Terrific note from ESPN Stats & Information: This year marks the first since 1947 that both New Mexico (0-4) and New Mexico State (0-3) have entered the month of October winless. Football seasons started later back then, and New Mexico was 0-1 while New Mexico State was 0-2 entering October. If neither team wins this week, something will have to give next week since they play each other in Las Cruces.