NCF Nation: Tulane

Non-AQ bowl look

November, 9, 2010
11/09/10
5:03
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You saw my bowl projections from Sunday. Now here is a breakdown of the teams that have a shot at becoming bowl eligible this weekend.

Conference USA

Already eligible: UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss, UTEP.

Vying for a spot: East Carolina, SMU and Houston each have five wins. The Pirates are hoping to bounce back after an embarrassing 76-45 loss to Navy at UAB. Houston hosts Tulsa in an important West division game, while SMU is off. SMU, Houston and Tulsa each have two league losses. SMU already beat Tulsa but lost to Houston. If there is a three-way tie atop the division when the season ends, the first tiebreaker is overall record to determine who plays in the Conference USA title game.

On the other end of the spectrum: Tulane (3-6), Marshall (3-6) and UAB (3-6) have to win out. Rice (2-7) and Memphis (1-8) have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Six.

MAC

Already eligible: Temple, Toledo, Ohio and Northern Illinois.

Vying for a spot: Miami (Ohio) is 5-4 and has a great shot at becoming bowl eligible in the next two weeks with games at Bowling Green (2-7) on Wednesday and at Akron (0-10) on Nov. 17. Kent State (4-5) needs to win two of its final three against Army (5-4), Western Michigan (3-6) and Ohio (7-3).

On the other end of the spectrum: Western Michigan has to win out. Buffalo, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ball State are out.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Three.

Mountain West

Already eligible: TCU, San Diego State, Air Force, Utah.

Vying for a spot: BYU (4-5) plays at Colorado State in a critical must-win before closing against New Mexico and Utah.

On the other end of the spectrum: Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Five.

Sun Belt

Already eligible: No one.

Vying for a spot: Troy (5-3) is the only team with five wins. A home win against FIU on Saturday gets the Trojans bowl eligible. ULM (4-5) and Arkansas State (4-5) have to win two of three. The Warhawks have LSU, North Texas and Louisiana. Arkansas State has Western Kentucky, Navy and FIU.

On the other end of the spectrum: FIU, Middle Tennessee and FAU are each 3-5. The Blue Raiders may have the easiest road with games against North Texas, Western Kentucky, FAU and FIU remaining. FAU has Troy and Texas on its schedule. FIU also has tough games against Troy, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee. North Texas, Louisiana and Western Kentucky have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Two.

WAC

Already eligible: Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno State. Hawaii has accepted an invite to the Hawaii Bowl.

Vying for a spot: Idaho (4-5) has to win three of four against Boise State, Utah State, Fresno State and San Jose State. Since the Vandals have a 13-game schedule, they have to get to seven wins. Louisiana Tech and Utah State are both 3-6 and have to win out. The Bulldogs have New Mexico State, San Jose State and Nevada. Utah State has San Jose State, Idaho and Boise State.

On the other end of the spectrum: New Mexico State and San Jose State (1-8) have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Four.

Independents

Navy (6-3) became eligible for the Poinsettia Bowl. Army (5-4) needs one more win with games left against Kent State, Notre Dame and Navy. Army does not have an automatic bowl tie-in this year, but has backup agreements with the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Notre Dame (4-5) needs two more wins with games remaining against Utah, Army and USC.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

November, 8, 2010
11/08/10
2:00
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Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunchtime Links

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
12:00
PM ET
Let's get ready for Week 9. Somebody pass the candy corns. ...

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

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn is developing a winning attitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ Did You Know? Week 9

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
9:00
AM ET
It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for a little non-AQ Did You Know?. Thanks to the conference and team sports information departments for these nuggets of information.

Tulsa and Notre Dame are playing for the first time on Saturday, but the school dug up an interesting factoid. A postseason game between the two at the end of the 1916 almost materialized. Tulsa, known as Kendall College back then, went 10-0 that season and a few local businessmen tried to get Notre Dame to play in Tulsa.

According to the book, “The Golden Hurricane: Fifty Years of Football at The University of Tulsa” published in 1952, the deal fell through because of the large guarantee Notre Dame wanted to play there. Nearly 100 years later, some things never change, right?

The 1960 Navy football team will be honored at halftime in recognition of the 50th anniversary of its berth in the Orange Bowl. The Midshipmen went 9-2 that year, losing 21-14 to Missouri in the big bowl game. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino led the team.

Troy quarterback Jamie Hampton has been nominated for the 2010 Discover Orange Bowl Courage Award. Hampton originally committed to Purdue but instead went to Troy in 2007 in order to stay closer to his mother after his father went to prison. As a sophomore, he won a three-player battle at quarterback and was off to a good start before seriously injuring his knee. He missed the rest of the 2008 season and 2009 as well.

He returned to action this fall as a short-yardage and change-of-pace quarterback. But in the fifth game against Middle Tennessee -- almost two years since his initial injury -- he broke his leg. A team captain, Hampton participated in the pregame coin toss the following week, heading to midfield on crutches. He plans to try another comeback in 2011.

At least two Mountain West teams have been ranked in the USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll for 41 consecutive weeks, dating back to Sept. 7, 2008. The MWC joins the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC as the only four conferences that have had at least two teams ranked for 41 consecutive weeks.

If you compare the win percentage of the top four teams in each of the 11 FBS conferences, the Mountain West Conference currently ranks fourth behind the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten. The top four teams in the Big 12 are a combined 25-3 (.893), followed by the SEC at 28-4 (.875) and Big Ten at 27-4 (.871). The top four teams in the MWC boast a .833 win percentage with their collective 25-5 mark.

TCU did not punt in last week’s 38-7 victory over Air Force. It was the first game in which the Horned Frogs did not record a punt since the Horned Frogs’ 45-14 win at Colorado State on Nov. 25, 2006.

Tulane wide receiver Casey Robottom has four touchdowns on the season -- more than he had his previous three seasons combined (three).

San Jose State plays New Mexico State on Saturday, its first FBS opponent of the season with a losing record. The Spartans scored a season-high 18 points last week against Fresno State, but they have lost 11 straight road games and five straight overall.

Nevada RB Vai Taua needs 72 yards for his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz needs 79 passing yards to reach 3,000 on the season.

Northern Illinois has won five straight, its longest winning streak since the 2004 season, when the Huskies won six consecutive games between Sept. 24 and Oct. 30. Northern Illinois’ 6-2 start this year matches the team’s record through eight games in 2004.

Since joining the MAC in 2007, Temple owns the league’s best home record for MAC games at 12-2.

Central Michigan is 18-1 in its last 19 games against MAC opponents from the state of Ohio. The Chippewas had won 18 straight against Ohio MAC opponents before a 27-20 loss to Miami on Oct. 16. The streak began after a 27-22 loss at Ohio on Oct. 23, 2004. Central Michigan plays Bowling Green on Saturday.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 25, 2010
10/25/10
3:00
PM ET
Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each league.

Conference USA

Offense: Tulane WR Casey Robottom. Had a career-high 10 receptions for a career-best 151 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a 34-24 win over UTEP. His 43-yard touchdown catch gave the Green Wave the lead for good with 5:30 remaining in the game.

Defense: Houston LB Sammy Brown and UCF DE Darius Nall. Brown led the Cougars with eight tackles, two sacks and a forced a fumble in a 45-20 win over SMU. In the past two games, Brown has recorded nine tackles for loss and four sacks. Nall had 2.5 sacks, forced a fumble, had a pass pressure and tied for the team lead with six total tackles as UCF defeated Rice 41-14.

Special Teams: Houston KR Tyron Carrier. Scored on a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a win over SMU. It was the sixth of his career. Clemson's C.J. Spiller holds the NCAA career record with seven kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Mid-American

East Division

Offense: Kent State WR Tyshon Goode. Had a career-high 12 catches for a season-high 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-6 win at Bowling Green. He also extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 15.

Defense: Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson. Led the Owls with six tackles and a career-high 2.5 sacks in a 42-0 win at Buffalo. Temple had its first shutout since 1992 and first shutout of a BCS opponent since 1984.

Special teams: Kent State K Freddy Cortez. Scored 12 points in a 30-6 victory at Bowling Green. Cortez tied his career-high with three field goals (29, 32, 30), while making all three extra points. He missed a 51-yarder.

West Division

Offense: Western Michigan WR Juan Nunez. Had six receptions for a career-high 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-10 win over Akron.

Defense: Northern Illinois LB Tyrone Clark. Had two interceptions in a 33-7 win over Central Michigan. Both came in the second quarter to stop Chippewa drives and ensure that the Huskies would have a halftime lead.

Special Teams: Toledo KR Isaiah Ballard. Returned three kickoffs for 103 yards, including a 56-yard return, in a 31-24 win over Ball State.

Mountain West

Offense: TCU RB Ed Wesley and Utah QB Jordan Wynn. Wesley had a career-high 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 28 carries to help the Horned Frogs beat Air Force 38-7. Wynn completed 23 of 29 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of action in a 59-6 win over Colorado State.

Defense: BYU LB Brandon Ogletree. Had career highs of five solo tackles and three tackles for loss in a 25-20 win over Wyoming. Four of the tackles came on Wyoming’s final drive of the game, and two were for a loss.

Special Teams: BYU KR Cody Hoffman. Had 104 kick return yards in the victory over Wyoming. In all, Hoffman averaged 26.0 yards on four kick returns.

Sun Belt

Offense: Western Kentucky QB Kawaun Jakes. Went 18-of-22 for a season-high 262 yards and one touchdown in a 54-21 win over Louisiana, snapping a 26-game losing streak. He also picked up 28 rushing yards and scored two rushing touchdowns. He led the Hilltoppers to scores on nine straight offense possessions.

Defense: Arkansas State DB Adrian Hills. Recorded a career-high two interceptions, including one returned 37 yards for a touchdown, over the final 10 minutes of a 37-16 fourth-quarter comeback victory against Florida Atlantic.

Special Teams: Western Kentucky K Casey Tinius. Score 12 points in the Hilltoppers’ victory over Louisiana. His 47-yard kick as time expired in the first half tied a career long.

WAC

Offense: Hawaii running back Alex Green. Ran for a career-high 172 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries in a 45-7 win at Utah State. He had a career-long rush of 60 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Defense: Hawaii linebacker Corey Paredes. Had a game-high 10 tackles and two interceptions at Utah State. Paredes helped anchor a defense that held its opponent to 181 yards of total offense, the fewest in a game for the Warriors since 2005.

Special Teams: Fresno State K Kevin Goessling. Made all four of his field goal attempts in a 33-18 win at San Jose State. Goessling was also 3-for-3 on extra point attempts to run his consecutive streak to 116 -- 12 shy of the all-time WAC record.

Lunchtime Links

October, 25, 2010
10/25/10
12:30
PM ET
Hard to believe we are already headed into Week 9.

Byron Hout has made the move to middle linebacker worth it for Boise State.

Navy outplayed, outfought, outcoached and outworked Notre Dame.

TCU coach Gary Patterson had his relentless work ethic instilled in him at a young age.

Utah might be playing its best football of the season, just in time for the tough stretch of its schedule.

BYU is going to use its bye week to try to improve its offense.

San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman has a hip pointer, but coach Brady Hoke doesn't expect that to keep him out of action.

Tulane answered the challenge coach Bob Toledo gave them with a win over UTEP.

Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes on his team snapping a 26-game losing streak, "I feel like a million bucks."

The secret to Northern Illinois' success? Depth.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 8

October, 24, 2010
10/24/10
1:14
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Time to give out a few helmet stickers for the non-AQs after another wild Week 8:

Alex Green, RB, Hawaii. Green ran for a career-high 172 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries in a 45-7 win over Utah State. The last time a Hawaii player scored four rushing touchdowns in a game was Glenn Freitas at UNLV in 1995. His 172 yards was the most since Calvin Melvin gained the same yardage against BYU on Sept. 11, 1993.

Ohio defense. The Bobcats had four interceptions, recovered two fumbles and had five sacks in a 34-13 win over Miami (Ohio). Miami had just 11 yards rushing.

Juan Nunez, WR, Western Michigan. Nunes had six catches for a career-high 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-10 win over Akron. The 192 yards are the fifth-highest single-game total in school history. Teammate Jordan White added 168 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Casey Robottom, WR, Tulane. Robottom had a career-high 151 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a 34-24 win over UTEP. That makes back-to-back 100-yard games in a row -- the only two of his career.

Willie Taggart, coach, Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers snapped their 26-game losing streak with a 54-21 win at Louisiana. They came oh-so-close to breaking the skid last week but gave up 28 fourth-quarter points and lost. Now the wait is finally over, giving Taggart his first win as a head coach. They racked up a season-high 409 yards of total offense, and Kawaun Jakes went 18-of-22 for 262 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 28 yards and two more scores. Don't look now, but Western Kentucky could put together a winning streak. North Texas comes to town next week.

TCU defense. The Horned Frogs have been stifling in Mountain West play, and they passed their big test against Air Force in a 38-7 win. TCU held Air Force to a season-low 184 yards rushing and 231 yards of total offense after coming into the game as the No. 1 rush offense in the country. The Falcons also scored a season-low seven points. Though it was the first touchdown TCU has allowed since Sept. 24, the Horned Frogs have only given up 10 points in four conference games. TCU is 68-2 under Gary Patterson when allowing 17 points or less. Meanwhile, TCU running back Ed Wesley had a career-high 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Alexander Teich, FB, Navy. Teich became the first Navy fullback to rush for more than 200 yards, racking up 210 on 26 carries in a 35-17 win over Notre Dame. Teich added a 31-yard touchdown reception to his day. Teich has returned to the starting lineup with an injury to Vince Murray (knee) and has not disappointed. Navy beat Notre Dame for the third time in four seasons.

Jordan Wynn, QB, Utah. Wynn threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a little more than two quarters of work in a 59-6 win over Colorado State. Utah racked up 648 yards of total offense, and Wynn had the third 300-yard game of his career.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
10/21/10
9:00
AM ET
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 7 were so hideous, I should be disqualified from making any more of them for the rest of the season. I mean not even a dog guesses and finishes 2-8. Wow, that hurts my fingers. Also because of all the e-mails and mailbag comments I have received, I will begin picking all games involving ranked non-AQ teams. See, I do hear you!

With a 43-31 overall record, I am ready to avenge my poor performance from Week 7. Or am I?

On to the picks!

No. 5 TCU 24, Air Force 10. Gary Patterson takes the Falcons seriously because of their dangerous triple-option. But there might be a little less danger this week with top fullback Jared Tew out (broken leg). Air Force still has the top-rated rush offense in the country and was a two-point conversion away from sending its game against San Diego State into overtime last week. But the TCU defense is looking really strong, and the Horned Frogs have never lost to the Falcons at home.

No. 9 Utah 44, Colorado State 3. The Utes beat Wyoming last week, but had three interceptions and are still lacking when it comes to creating turnovers. They are going to have to do better than minus-6 headed into their tough stretch, which starts next week at Air Force. Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas can throw the ball, but not sure how much progress he will make this week.

UPSET SPECIAL: Navy 20, Notre Dame 18. The Midshipmen have not made things easy on themselves this season. Essentially all of their games have come down to the fourth quarter. While the offense might not be as prolific as expected, the defense has been terrific and kept this team in games. Last week against SMU, Navy forced three turnovers and held the Mustangs to 21 points. Notre Dame has had problems stopping the option, and Ricky Dobbs is not pressing as much.

SMU 38, Houston 28. My how the tide has turned in the West Division of Conference USA. Houston has dropped two straight, and it is the Mustangs who are alone in first place and in control of their own destiny. Ja’Gared Davis will cause fits for true freshman quarterback David Piland, and Kyle Padron will be able to throw on a Houston defense that continues to struggle.

UPSET SPECIAL II: Miami (Ohio) 28, Ohio 21. The emergence of the RedHawks has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the MAC and college football. Their three-game turnaround from last season is the best of any team so far this season. They sit alone atop the East at 3-0, but Ohio is right behind at 3-1 in this crucial matchup. Ohio has won four straight in the series, but the Miami defense makes the difference in this one.

BYU 20, Wyoming 17. Two of the worst scoring offenses in the country face off in a fight for their bowl lives. BYU is averaging 14.7 points a game and Wyoming 11.6 points a game. The Cowboys rank last in rushing defense, and that is going to be the difference. Because BYU has proved it can run the ball behind a strong offensive line and JJ Di Luigi. Coach Bronco Mendenhall promised more power running, and that should work this week.

Hawaii 44, Utah State 24. The Warriors are coming off a big win over Nevada, while Utah State had a week to prepare for the best passing offense in the country. Utah State has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the WAC this season, so it is hard to figure the Aggies out. But we do know Hawaii will pass and pass some more. The Warriors have won four of the five meetings between the school in WAC play.

Northern Illinois 30, Central Michigan 20. The Chippewas have won three straight in the series, but they are on a four-game losing streak and are 1-3 in the division, an unusual spot for them after winning the MAC championship three of the last four years. Many figured this would be a rebuilding year with Dan LeFevour gone and a new coach in Dan Enos. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois has won four straight and has found a groove with Chad Spann and Chandler Harnish leading the way on offense.

Middle Tennessee 27, ULM 24. The Blue Raiders need this game in the worst way. At 2-4, they are in a fight to become bowl eligible, though they have only played two conference games to date. ULM has needed two comebacks to beat FAU and Western Kentucky -- two of the worst teams in the league.

UTEP 31, Tulane 21. UTEP beat up on some bottom feeders en route to a 5-1 start. But the Miners stumbled on the road at UAB last week (one of two picks I got right!) and had only 229 yards of total offense. They are banged up going into this game but should have enough to beat the Green Wave, who are improved over last season.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
3:01
PM ET
Here are all the non-AQ players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: Kyle Padron, QB, SMU. Went 24-of-32 for 371 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions as SMU won at Rice for the first time since 1986.

Defense: Dezman Moses, DE, Tulane. Had six tackles and a team-high 2.5 tackles for loss and tied for a team-best 1.5 sacks for minus-8 yards in a 17-14 win against Rutgers.

Special teams: Jonathan Ginsburgh, P, Tulane. Punted nine times for 382 yards for a 42.4 average and tied the school record for the seventh-longest punt in school history with a 73-yarder.

Mountain West

Offense: Tim Jefferson, QB, Air Force. Tied a career-high with two rushing touchdowns in a 14-6 win against Navy, helping the Falcons end a seven-game losing streak to the Midshipmen.

Defense: Jordan Waiwaiole, LB, Air Force. Recorded a career and team-high 15 tackles, an interception and a sack in a 14-6 win against Navy.

Co-Special teams: Jamil Cooks, LB, Air Force and Austin McCoy, P, Wyoming. Cooks had a blocked field goal and blocked punt in the win against Navy. Cooks is the first Falcons player to block two kicks in a game since Robert Kraay blocked two point-after attempts against Notre Dame in 2006. McCoy limited the Rockets to zero return yards on eight punts and placed two kicks inside the Toledo 10-yard line.

Sun Belt

Offense: Chris Masson, QB, Louisiana. Threw for a career-high 310 yards and tied his career mark with two touchdown passes in the Cajuns' road win at North Texas.

Defense: Javon McKinnon, LB, Arkansas State. Recorded a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best two tackles for loss, against Louisville for the most stops by a Sun Belt Conference player since the 2008 season.

Special teams: Jermaine Rogers, DT, Louisiana. North Texas appeared to be sending the game into overtime after scoring a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, but Rogers blocked the extra-point attempt to seal the win.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Matt Brown, RB, Temple. Had a career-high 226 yards on 28 carries and four touchdowns in a 42-35 win at Army.

Defense: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. Had a team-high nine tackles and a career-best four tackles for loss in a 28-26 win at Bowling Green. Mack also had two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one pass break-up and one sack.

Special teams: Trevor Cook, K, Miami. Had a 36-yard field goal and 21-yarder, making him 9-of-10 on the year in a win against Kent State.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Went 16-of-20 for 281 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdowns in a 50-14 victory at Akron.

Defense: Robert Eddins, DE, Ball State. Had a career-high 4.5 sacks plus had seven total tackles and one quarterback hurry in a 31-17 win at Central Michigan.

Special teams: Ben Armer, P, Western Michigan. Had three punts of more than 50 yards, including a career long 65-yard punt in a 33-13 loss to Idaho.

WAC

Offense: Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii. Set a school record with 18 catches in a 41-21 win against Louisiana Tech and had a career-high 217 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Defense: Robert Siavii, LB, Idaho. Had a team-high nine tackles in the 33-13 win at Western Michigan. Siavii added 1.5 tackles for loss, including a half sack, and also broke up two passes and had one quarterback hurry.

Special teams: Shawn Plummer, LB, Fresno State. Blocked his first career punt in a 38-17 win against Cal Poly. The punt was recovered in the end zone.

Lunchtime Links

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
12:00
PM ET
A new week, new headlines.

Houston has not settled on a quarterback entering this week's game against Mississippi State. The Cougars list Terrance Broadway or David Piland as the starter. Broadway has started one game in place of the injured Case Keenum.

BYU might not have hit rock bottom yet.

Fresno State avoided injuries in its loss to Cal Poly.

San Diego State prepares to play a "wounded bear" in BYU.

Western Michigan is facing a must-win game against Ball State.

Tulane is floating on air after beating Rutgers.

Home cooking is on the menu for Northern Illinois.

Air Force is ranked for the first time under Troy Calhoun.

Despite the slow start, the season is no bust for FIU.

What we learned from non-AQs: Week 5

October, 3, 2010
10/03/10
10:00
AM ET
There were not too many dramatic matchups among the non-AQs during Week 5, but there are a few things we learned:

1. Navy is beatable. Folks suspected that might be the case going into its game against Air Force, but Navy had won a record 15 straight games against the service academies, including seven straight over the Falcons. But Air Force won 14-6, setting the stage to wrest control of the Commander-In-Chief Trophy from Navy for the first time since 2002. Air Force ran for 292 yards, but more impressively, held Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs without a touchdown for the first time in his 17 career starts. In fact, it was Navy’s lowest point total since getting shutout 34-0 to Rutgers in October 2006. Going into the season, many thought Navy had a great chance to go undefeated. Now the Midshipmen are 2-2, while Air Force is 4-1.

[+] EnlargeTim Jefferson
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireAir Force quarterback Tim Jefferson scored both of the school's touchdowns (50 yards, 1 yard) in a win over Navy.
2. TCU may not be impressive, but it is winning. For the second straight week, the Horned Frogs were less than impressive. This time, it was a 27-0 win over one-win Colorado State. The defense did record the first road shutout in the Gary Patterson era, but the offense was not terrific and had only six points at the half. TCU suffered through dropped passes and much inconsistency. Andy Dalton was just 11-of-24 for 109 yards with a touchdown. But the running game came through with 346 total yards. A win is a win and TCU will take it.

3. No letdowns for Boise State, Nevada. The WAC frontrunners had little trouble on Saturday after big weekends. No. 3 Boise State beat lowly New Mexico State 59-0. Kellen Moore played a little more than a half and improved to 30-1 as a starter as the Broncos rolled up 608 yards of total offense. No. 25 Nevada, ranked in the both polls for the first time ever, handled UNLV 44-26. The Wolf Pack beat their instate rival for a record sixth straight time. The Broncos and Wolf Pack will collide Nov. 26 in Reno.

4. Temple, Northern Illinois appear to be the class of the MAC headed into their big game this week. The Owls (4-1) had a come-from-behind win over Army 42-35 thanks to Matt Brown, who became the first player in school history with over 200 yards rushing and four touchdowns in one game. Temple was down 15 before scoring 29 straight points to win. Coach Al Golden said, “That's the biggest win since I've been here, make no mistake.” Meanwhile, Northern Illinois (3-2) beat Akron 50-14 behind Chandler Harnish. Toledo and Western Michigan had disappointing losses. Meanwhile, watch Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks are 3-2 and off to their best start since 2003.

5. Louisiana-Lafayette can sure play special teams. The Ragin’ Cajuns got a blocked extra point with 31 seconds left to beat North Texas 28-27. The block was the 42nd under coach Rickey Bustle and the 12th extra point block over that span. The Cajuns rank fourth in the nation in blocked kicks since the start of the 2002 season. They did lose starting running back Kevis Streeter (knee) and starting tackle Jonathan Decoster (ankle). Tight end Ladarius Green (ankle) also sat out. Louisiana is 2-1 in the Sun Belt.

6. Conference USA is better than the Big East. Well, at least it was on Saturday after Tulane upset Rutgers 17-14. It was the Green Wave's first win over a team from an automatic qualifying conference since 2006, when they beat Mississippi State 32-29.

Lunchtime Links

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
12:50
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I had to wipe some Cheetos off my fingers to finish my lunch links ...

Boise State loves to play smash-mouth football.

BYU tries to avoid an uncharacteristically slow start.

Houston isn't going to get pity without Case Keenum.

Ball State coach Stan Parrish doesn't have a problem with his players using Twitter, as long as it doesn't become a distraction.

Ronnie Hillman is helping San Diego State get something that has been rare -- hype.

Tulane welcomes back suspended players for its big game against Houston.

Tulsa coach Todd Graham says his defense has been neglected while the team worked to build a powerful offense.

Louisiana isn't dwelling on the Dwight Dasher situation at Middle Tennessee.

Arkansas State and Troy match two wide-open offenses.

As long as Hawaii is bowl eligible, it will have a place in the Hawaii Bowl through at least 2013.

Other conference links:

ACC

Big 12

Big East

Big Ten

SEC

Non-AQ Predictions: Week 4

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
9:00
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 3 were the best yet. 9-3! Maybe I am getting the hang of this. With a 21-13 overall record, I am picking up steam with full-tilt conference play around the corner.

On to the picks!

BYU 31, Nevada 30. My upset special of the week. The Cougars have given us little reason to believe they can win this game, with the anemic offense and the way it has performed in two straight losses. Nevada, meanwhile, is coming off a huge win over California and has super stud Colin Kaepernick. But the Wolf Pack are going on the road for the first time this season, and BYU finally will have one quarterback playing. Jake Heaps is a true freshman, but this team is in desperate need of a leader, and having one quarterback will begin to help the offense get better. BYU has started 1-3 just once under Mendenhall. The Cougars started 1-2 in 2006 and 2007 -- both times they ended up winning 10 straight.

Boise State 34, Oregon State 21. This is the second of three games for Boise State against a team from an automatic qualifying conference and another opportunity to prove it deserves to be in the national championship conversation. The atmosphere should be wild. The Boise State defense has been impressive in its first two games, and should be able to put enough pressure on Ryan Katz and slow down Jacquizz Rodgers.

TCU 38, SMU 17. The Battle for the Iron Skillet resumes in Dallas, where SMU has asked its fans to wear red for a “Red Out” in the nationally televised game Friday night. The Mustangs are vastly improved, but they are no match for TCU, coming off its best game of the season. Watch for SMU to try and attack cornerback Greg McCoy, the way other teams have so far. Even still, the TCU defensive line could have a big game against a team that has already given up 10 sacks this season.

Ole Miss 24, Fresno State 20. The Bulldogs have won six of their last eight games against AQ teams, but they are 0-3 against the SEC. This is their first trip into Mississippi, and it comes at a really inopportune time. Why? Because Ole Miss finds itself 1-2 with losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. You can bet the Rebels will be extra motivated to win this one. Fresno State has played well defensively this year but faces its biggest challenge against Jeremiah Masoli.

Marshall 33, Ohio 20. Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl redux! The Herd won their matchup in December, and this is as close to a must-win as you can get so early in the season. It’s not a conference game, but Marshall is 0-3 and in desperate need of a shot of confidence going into conference play. Ohio, meanwhile, still is shuffling its quarterback and has gotten little generated in the way of offense, ranking 119th in the country.

Minnesota 20, Northern Illinois 19. The Huskies played better against Illinois last week and almost had a chance to win. But until they can get Chad Spann going, it is going to be tough to win these games against non-AQ teams. The Gophers have looked shaky, and there is talk that coach Tim Brewster is on the hot seat. They cannot afford to lose this game.

San Diego State 27, Utah State 20. The Aztecs could be 3-0 if not for a block in the back that went unnoticed on Missouri’s game-winning touchdown catch last week. They are running the ball this season more effectively thanks to the contributions of freshman Ronnie Hillman. That has made Ryan Lindley better, too. The Aggies have had nothing but close calls in their two losses. This is going to be another one.

FAU 24, North Texas 10. The Owls go into the game off a bye week and face a team reeling because of injuries. The Mean Green must start their third different quarterback after losing their top two for the season with injuries. Riley Dodge returns to start. Eight other starters have been lost for the season as well. A season that started with coach Todd Dodge on the hot season has only gotten tougher.

Air Force 28, Wyoming 13. Air Force put up a valiant effort against Oklahoma, falling just short of the upset. Its offense is humming with the triple option right now, and the defense is playing well, too. The Falcons were able to slow down Landry Jones last week and should have the same success against Austyn Carta-Samuels this week.

Houston 30, Tulane 10. The Cougars survive Week 1 in the post-Case Keenum era, but mainly because they play the overmatched Green Wave. True freshman Terrance Broadway gets the nod, and there is no question he is going to need help from his supporting cast. He handled himself well against UCLA last week when Keenum and backup Cotton Turner went down for the season with injuries. It may be a good thing he gets to start against Tulane. After a bye week, Houston hosts Mississippi State.

Handicapping the Conference USA race

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
4:40
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With Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner out for Houston, the Conference USA race is now wide open. Let’s handicap who has the best shot at winning the title now that the preseason favorite has taken a big hit.

Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles could be the most complete team. Their defense had its best game against Kansas last week -- holding the Jayhawks to under 300 yards. Offensively, Austin Davis has been efficient at quarterback, and the offensive line has held its own. Southern Miss has had to fight through some injury problems at running back and offensive line, and now top receiver DeAndre Brown has a strained leg.

Games to watch: Southern Miss hosts East Carolina on Oct. 9, but a three-game stretch to close the season will decide how the Golden Eagles finish -- at UCF on Nov. 13; home against Houston on Nov. 20, then at Tulsa to close the season in a Friday night game the day after Thanksgiving.

UCF. I have Southern Miss rated higher because of uncertainty at quarterback for the Knights. Rob Calabrese has already been benched in favor of true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, who has looked stellar at times. He should continue to improve as the season goes on. As expected, the defense is the best in Conference USA. But what happens hinges on how Godfrey handles being the starter.

Games to watch: UCF has its tough division games at home, but this three-game stretch could determine what happens -- home to East Carolina on Oct. 30; at Houston on Nov. 5 and home to Southern Miss on Nov. 13.

SMU. The Mustangs have their running game going this season behind Zach Line, who is second in the conference in rushing. As a team, SMU is averaging 5.4 yards per rush this season -- up from an average of 3.8 last year. Linebacker Ja’Gared Davis is tied for the league lead with four sacks and leads the league with eight tackles for loss. The one thing this team still lacks is experience – only four of the 22 starters are seniors.

Games to watch: home Oct. 9 against Tulsa, home Oct. 23 against Houston and road games at UTEP on Nov. 6 and East Carolina the day after Thanksgiving.

Houston. The new starter will most likely be true freshman Terrance Broadway, a four-star recruit out of Baton Rouge, La. He is more of a dual-threat than Case Keenum, but coach Kevin Sumlin said he didn’t anticipate many changes to the offense without Keenum and backup Cotton Turner. Bryce Beall leads the league in rushing, and it’s going to be imperative that he performs well under pressure. The big question mark continues to be the defense, which had a hard time stopping the run last week at UCLA.

Games to watch: This Saturday’s game against Tulane is going to be huge to see how the Cougars look without Keenum. They must play at SMU on Oct. 23. They have back-to-back home games against UCF at home Nov. 5 and Tulsa on Nov. 13, then finish conference play at Southern Miss on Nov. 20.

East Carolina. We know the Pirates can score behind Dominique Davis. The problem is their young defense hasn’t been able to stop anybody. East Carolina ranks near the bottom of the league in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and passing defense. So until the defense improves itself, East Carolina could be in shootouts every game this season.

Games to watch: Big division games at Southern Miss on Oct. 9, home to Marshall Oct. 23, at UCF on Oct. 30 and at UAB on Nov. 11.

UTEP. The Miners already lost to Houston, but they have played the entire season without running back Donald Buckram, who has been battling a knee injury. Trevor Vittatoe has tried to do everything on his own, but they are going to need a healthy Buckram to have any shot at the division title.

Games to watch: at UAB on Oct. 16, home to SMU on Nov. 6 and at Tulsa on Nov. 20.

Tulsa. A season that started with high expectations is in danger of turning into disappointment. G.J. Kinne and the offense are what we expected, but the defense has been unable to stop anybody. The Golden Hurricane are giving up an average of 45.3 points a game, ranking No. 117 in the country, and rank No. 118 in total defense, giving up an average of 521 yards a game.

Games to watch: at SMU on Oct. 9, at Houston on Nov. 13 and home to UTEP Nov. 20 and Southern Miss on Nov. 26.

The others:

Rice. With an uncertain quarterback situation and injuries beginning to mount, the Owls are long shots at winning the conference.

Tulane. Running back Orleans Darkwa has been a bright spot for the Green Wave, but they are still offensively challenged.

UAB. Quarterback merry-go-round could take a toll. Bryan Ellis starts this week and David Isabelle will come off the bench. Without having played an AQ opponent, the Blazers are still giving up 31 points a game.

Marshall. What a Jekyll and Hyde team. From almost beating West Virginia to laying an egg against Bowling Green, it is hard to know what to expect from the Herd. The offense has been anemic.

Memphis. The Tigers also have uncertainty at quarterback, and are simply a few years away from competing for the title.
You heard from all the conference bloggers, now let us take a look at the biggest stories to watch around the country in Week 2:

1. Can “Monster Saturday” live up to the hype? With Miami-Ohio State, Notre Dame-Michigan, Florida State-Oklahoma and Penn State-Alabama headlining one enormously huge day, this certainly has the potential to be one of the best college football weekends in recent memory. Here’s hoping each game is competitive and we don’t end up with a bunch of duds.

2. Will the good vibes go sour in Ann Arbor or South Bend? There was much anticipation last week over Brian Kelly’s debut at Notre Dame and Rich Rodriguez starting the season on the hot seat at Michigan. Both coaches won, and hopes shot up higher. Kelly doesn’t have as much on the line as Rodriguez because he is only in his second game at Notre Dame. But you can bet Irish fans want to see a more wide-open offensive attack, while Wolverines fans want all Denard Robinson, all the time. Whoever loses will most certainly face withering scrutiny from a fan base that wants to win now.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireAfter the first week of the season, Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray is fourth in the country with 208 rushing yards.
3. How does the Florida State defense stop DeMarco Murray? Anticipation is high for the Stoops brothers matchup, but the onus is on FSU defensive coordinator Mark to stop DeMarco Murray. Last week against Utah State, Murray ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Samford wasn’t much of an early test, so this game is going to be a huge measuring stick to see how far the defense has come in just a few months.

4. How much is revenge really going to be a factor in the Miami-Ohio State game? Revenge has been a big theme among former players, who have talked about nothing but that since the summer. But you can bet the bigger theme for the current team is another R-word: respect. Players see this as a statement game, a way to show the country the Hurricanes program is back.

5. Can the bad snaps be snapped? Several teams across the country struggled with their snaps in Week 1. Woes plagued North Carolina, Oregon State, Virginia Tech but most notably Florida, which had 13 bad exchanges between Mike Pouncey and John Brantley. We’ll see whether the bad snaps were a result of first-week kinks or if this continues to be an issue that plagues teams.

6. Do Alabama fans bite their tongues? We already know about Joe Pa vs. Nick Saban, the history with Bear Bryant, and a freshman quarterback going into Tuscaloosa as the starting quarterback for the Nittany Lions. Will the fans heed Saban’s warning and hold back their boos when Penn State is introduced? Incidentally, Bryant would have turned 97 on Saturday.

7. How do Ole Miss and Kansas rebound from FCS losses? The Rebels have a far better chance of following up their embarrassing overtime loss to Jacksonville State with a win than Kansas does. Ole Miss goes to Tulane, one of the worst teams in the country last season. But Kansas has to play No. 15 Georgia Tech with a new quarterback and revamped offensive line. Coach Turner Gill announced Jordan Webb would start over Kale Pick on Saturday. Both played in the loss to North Dakota State last week.

8. How does Georgia freshman quarterback Aaron Murray handle a tough South Carolina defense? As SEC fans will tell you, the Gamecocks have had one of the best defenses in the league for the last few years. So will they be able to rattle the freshman quarterback making his first start on the road – especially with top target A.J. Green out? The games in this series have been pretty tight -- in the last nine years, seven have been decided by a touchdown or less.

9. Early conference play opens. This can either be good or bad depending on your point of view. Good if you think you can catch your opponent off guard since they don’t know much about you. Bad if you think your opponent can catch you off guard. The ACC, Conference USA, Pac-10 SEC, Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt all have conference games in Week 2.

10. Can Tennessee slow down the Oregon offense? Putting 72 points up on New Mexico was certainly unexpected for the Ducks. But they also made a statement -- they are much more than just Jeremiah Masoli, who is no longer on the team. What does Oregon do for an encore?

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