NCF Nation: Tulsa Golden Hurricane

American spring preview

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
Another year, another set of fresh faces.

And, of course, new challenges, as well.

This is life now in the American Athletic Conference, which won’t complete its makeover complete until next season, when Navy joins the fold as a football-only member.

For now, it watches two others walk out the door while welcoming three new programs into the fold.

Goodbye, Louisville and Rutgers. Hello, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa.

And, if last season is any indication, the newcomers may not be second-class citizens upon their arrivals.

"There's enough talent around the country that creates a little bit more parity than people are talking about now," said East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeil. "I know they're trying to talk about these conferences and those conferences. Well, I've been to those conferences, and there's good football players in each league. And I feel we're ready to compete with anyone. I'm not afraid to say that, and I know other coaches in the league are not, either."

That became evident through UCF's historic campaign in the remodeled league's debut last season, with the Knights going 12-1 and topping Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. These, of course, were the same Knights that lost twice to Tulsa a year earlier, and the Golden Hurricane now enter the American coming off a disappointing 3-9 season last fall.

That is all encouraging from one perspective. But the optimist's approach shows a similar surprising run could be on the horizon in 2014.

"East Carolina is going to have a huge advantage in our conference. I think they're going to be the next guys, to be honest, similar to UCF," said conference commissioner Mike Aresco.

"Everything's in place: They've got a Heisman candidate, they've got just some tremendous players and I think they're going to make a mark quickly because they've never had this kind of TV exposure. They've got a 50,000-seat stadium and they fill it up all the time. Their quarterback Shane Carden I think will be a Heisman candidate. I think they're the kind of team that will really benefit."

Among the old guard, UConn made a major move by hiring prized Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to head its program. Cincinnati has another year under Tommy Tuberville and could possibly start the most talked about quarterback to never take a college snap in Gunner Kiel.

The American begins life in the post-BCS era with no automatic entry to access bowls. It is a member of a group of five conferences from within which the top overall team will be granted a berth at the adults' postseason table.

It's not exactly ideal, but after enduring a year of turmoil and coming out on the other end with a BCS win and several probable high draft picks to its name, the league enters its next phase with a much more positive outlook.

Future American Power Rankings

June, 21, 2013
You've seen the college football future power rankings. Let's take that to another level here, using the eye test to look at how this conference is set up in the years to come.

1) Cincinnati. With at least a share of four of the past five conference titles, and with a proven coach in Tommy Tuberville aboard, the Bearcats are the class of the conference.

2) UCF. The most ready-made of the conference newcomers this fall, the Knights have the ideal talent, recruiting tools and coaching to compete for the conference crown year-in and year-out moving forward.

3) USF. Like rival UCF, USF is ideally located to land top talent. The Bulls have had that talent in recent years, but the hope is that new coach Willie Taggart can make the most of it and thrive back on the recruiting trail in Tampa, Fla.

4) Tulsa. Three straight eight-plus win seasons show that this program is on the rise, as the Golden Hurricane, much like UCF, look ready to compete with the league's elite upon their arrival.

5) UConn. The last of the "old guard" of the old Big East is in need of a turnaround following consecutive 5-7 seasons under Paul Pasqualoni. A Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010 and five draft picks this past April show that there is potential here.

6) SMU. June Jones and Hal Mumme together will be a fascinating experiment to watch this year. But with their history and an always-strong nonconference slate, the Mustangs can put themselves in position to be a conference contender only if the breaks fall their way.

7) Navy. The Midshipmen won't be aboard until 2015. But eight-plus wins in nine of the past 10 seasons against a solid independent schedule suggests the triple-option can give its new conference brethren problems upon its arrival in two years.

8) Houston. Kevin Sumlin had a great run in 2011. Tony Levine still has some work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball, after a down season in 2012. But landing big-name receivers like Deontay Greenberry and Markeith Ambles shows that there is promise for the Cougars moving forward.

9) Temple. The Owls started off 2-0 in the Big East last season, but then received a rude awakening. New coach Matt Rhule seems perfect for the role, but the cupboard is bare as he tries to turn things around in Year 1.

10) East Carolina. The Pirates always face their share of tough nonconference opponents, but Ruffin McNeill seems to have the program trending upward after going bowling in two of his first three seasons.

11) Memphis. Justin Fuente won't let the Tigers get too high on themselves after a three-game winning streak to end last season. By opening up key spots -- including quarterback, where Jacob Karam returns -- he has shown that he is set on taking this program to another level as it enters a new conference and tries to put the Conference-USA era behind it. Still, Fuente faces an uphill battle.

12) Tulane. The Green Wave haven't won five games in a season since 2004. They have their work cut out for them, as they move up to a better version of the C-USA they have struggled in.
Tulsa has been officially accepted as an all-sports member of the soon-to-be renamed Big East beginning July 1, 2014, the league announced Tuesday.

The addition of the Golden Hurricane gives the conference 11 all-sports members for 2014. Navy joins as a football-only member in 2015, giving the conference 12 football teams and the ability to hold a league championship game.

From the release:
"The addition of The University of Tulsa marks another significant step in building a strong conference," commissioner Mike Aresco said. "In common with our member schools, Tulsa brings a rich academic profile, outstanding and storied athletic programs, and a devoted fan base. Under the leadership of President Steadman Upham, the University will be a valued member of our conference and will make us even more competitive across the collegiate landscape.”

"The University of Tulsa family and friends are extremely excited about this new conference,” said University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham. "TU’s profile as a nationally ranked research university continues to rise alongside the continued successes of our Golden Hurricane athletic program. We welcome the opportunity to align ourselves with institutions that share our commitment to excellence and integrity. Admission into the Conference provides a new avenue for growth as we seek to further engage loyal alumni, prospective students and their families and new TU fans."

"Tulsa is an outstanding new member for our Conference, said USF President Judy Genshaft, chair of the conference executive committee. "Tulsa has high academic and athletic standards that fit well with our member institutions. We enthusiastically welcome Tulsa and President Steadman Upham to the conference."
Tulsa has a news conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday to announce its move to the soon-to-renamed Big East, sources told our Brett McMurphy.

The Golden Hurricanes will leave Conference USA on July 1, 2014, along with Tulane and East Carolina.

The addition of Tulsa will give the "old" Big East 12 teams when Navy joins the conference in 2015.

Rutgers and Louisville will move to the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, at the same time those three schools join their new conference.

You can read more on the move here from McMurphy, who reported the news last Tuesday.

The soon-to-be-renamed Big East Conference is set to add Tulsa as its 12th member and make East Carolina a member in all sports, sources told ESPN.

League presidents are expected to vote on Tulsa's addition by next week. Though commissioner Mike Aresco didn't name specific expansion candidates during a conference call announcing a hoops media rights deal Tuesday, he did say the league expected to have "something relatively soon" on a new member.

Tulsa has long been rumored to be the favored candidate and would begin league play in 2014. When Tulsa is approved, the league will have nine former Conference USA schools.

For more, click here.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Iowa State Cyclones (6-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (10-3)

Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, Memphis, Tenn. (ESPN)

Iowa State take by SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: Big 12 Conference play was unkind to the Cyclones, who have won just two games since Oct. 6. They finished 3-6 in the conference and 6-6 overall.

Nonetheless, ISU has plenty of hope heading into bowl season with the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Richardson in its final two games. He was 36-of-58 for 412 yards and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions in the final two games.

Richardson has played with a confidence and poise that should make Cyclones fans excited about the future. The month of bowl practices will help his development, and a good performance in ISU's bowl game could give him the confidence to take his game to another level as a sophomore.

The Cyclones feature a solid defense which allowed 23.3 points per game this season, so their offensive success tends to make the difference between a win and a loss for ISU. It’s also the final game for linebacker A.J. Klein, who has 98 tackles this season and is two tackles away from recording the third 100-tackle season of his college career. ISU surely wants to send one of the best defensive players in school history out with a bowl win.

Tulsa take from RecruitingNation's Brandon Chatmon: Tulsa earned its AutoZone Liberty Bowl berth after winning their first Conference USA title since 2005. The Golden Hurricane won the Conference USA championship game, 33-27, over Central Florida in overtime on Saturday.

Tulsa hasn’t had one spectacular individual on offense this season yet the Golden Hurricane saw three different running backs rush for 765 yards or more in 2012. Running backs Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton helped TU average 240.2 rushing yards per game this season.

The Golden Hurricane won seven straight games after a 38-23 season-opening loss to Iowa State and rebounded from a disappointing 35-27 loss at SMU, which finished 6-6, before winning the C-USA title game.

Cyclones gut out another home win

September, 1, 2012
The last time Iowa State played on its home field, it erased a 17-point lead against the nation's No. 2 team for the biggest win in school history.

Saturday's 38-23 victory over Tulsa wasn't quite as dramatic, but the Cyclones yet again showed guts, despite an early deficit.

Trailing 16-7 in the second quarter, the Cyclones offense was sputtering and Nebraska transfer Cody Green was completing passes with ease.

He hit Bryan Burnham for a 21-yard gain to midfield, but Cyclones linebacker Jake Knott blindsided Burnham, jarring the ball loose and turning the game in Iowa State's favor.

The Golden Hurricane scored just seven points the rest of the game, and the Cyclones fans went home happy -- all 54,931 of them, a school record for a season opener.

It wasn't pretty, and produced some nervous moments late with Green trying to rally Tulsa for a comeback of its own, but it's a win for Iowa State, and a much-needed one for a team that can't afford a nonconference loss if it wants to qualify for a third bowl in four years under Paul Rhoads.

The most welcome development: Steele Jantz's much-improved accuracy and decision-making. The Cyclones' passer was plagued by head-scratching throws into coverage and frustrating misfires that eventually led to a midseason benching last season.

He finished an impressive 32-of-45 for 281 yards with two touchdown passes and a rushing score, along with one interception off a tipped pass.

If he plays like he did on Saturday, the job will be his all season. Seeing Shontrelle Johnson back and looking like his old self is reason for celebration, too. His career was nearly over after suffering a neck injury against Texas last year. He's back, and rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries.

His touchdown sealed the win after Deon Broomfield ended Tulsa's last rally with an interception. Broomfield returned it 51 yards to the Tulsa 5-yard line.

Tulsa's a good team, even if they're not on the level of what Iowa State will see in Big 12 play. Rhoads' teams have always been marked by their toughness and resiliency, and it was on display yet again in Week 1. The early struggles and late backslide will offer plenty of film-room fodder for the next week, but Iowa State can smile, knowing it's safely reached 1-0 in a game that it easily could have lost.

MWC, C-USA to form new conference

February, 13, 2012

The Mountain West and Conference USA have announced plans to form a new athletic association for the 2013-14 season, as a way to ensure their future survival due to heavy losses each league has suffered in realignment.

Presidents and chancellors of the 16 schools that will be a part of the group met in Dallas on Sunday to discuss the details. Those schools: Air Force, UAB, Colorado State, East Carolina, Fresno State, Hawaii, Marshall, Nevada, New Mexico, UNLV, Rice, Southern Miss, UTEP, Tulane, Tulsa and Wyoming. With the exception of Hawaii as a football-only member, the participation would involve all sports.

The Mountain West is losing Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East, while Conference USA is losing Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF to the Big East as well. Most interesting in the announcement made Monday were these two points that will likely be included in the future structure of the new association:
  • Membership of 18 to 24 universities
  • Championship football game format that includes semifinal matchups

Growing from two to eight teams means the new association might have designs on absorbing the WAC, which is struggling to hang on after recent defections to the Mountain West, or possibly going after teams in the Sun Belt. Utah State and San Jose State, currently in the WAC, have been tied to the Mountain West in the past. In fact, Utah State was offered a spot in the Mountain West in 2010 but turned it down.

The championship game format, complete with semifinals, is obviously intriguing simply because that is something most folks have yearned for in college football as a whole. If the league grows to 24 teams, having four teams making it into a "championship round" would seem to increase interest. Especially if the semifinal round is on a home campus.

Now keep in mind regular-season scheduling will be contained to divisions, and those divisions are going to be set based on geography. There is a reason the news release cited this as essential to the new association: "bringing fiscal discipline into athletics and ensuring competitive fairness."

Right now, Conference USA has teams stretching from East Carolina to El Paso. So one would think that it would make more sense to have UTEP in a different division than the Pirates, just like they are now, with road games East contained to one or fewer a year, or perhaps eliminated entirely. If the league gets to 18 teams at a minimum with two nine-team divisions -- think eight regular-season football games contained to that division.

That should help alleviate some of the money that is spent on traveling alone, especially in the nonrevenue sports.

Instant analysis: BYU 24, Tulsa 21

December, 30, 2011

BYU beat Tulsa 24-21 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Friday afternoon. Here is a quick analysis:

How the game was won: You have to love the moxie of quarterback Riley Nelson. Trailing 21-17 with 4:18 to go, Nelson engineered a terrific game-winning drive, converting once on fourth down and once on third down with big-time runs. Facing second-and-goal from the Tulsa 8 with the clock ticking down, Nelson pulled out the ol' fake spike attempt and found Cody Hoffman for a 2-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 11 seconds left. BYU has now rallied for victory in five of its 10 wins this season.

Turning point: Tulsa got a major break with six minutes to go, leading 21-17. Pinned deep in its own territory and forced to punt, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy got flagged for running into the punter. But Tulsa could not take advantage of the break, and went three-and-out to give BYU the ball back. The Cougars then went on their game-winning drive.

Stat of the game: BYU won its third straight bowl game for the first time in school history.

Player of the game: BYU receiver Cody Hoffman. Hoffman had eight catches for 122 yards and tied a career high with three touchdown receptions. He broke the 100-yard mark in three of his final four games.

Unsung hero of the game: BYU offensive tackle Matt Reynolds. BYU was able to close to 14-10 right before halftime thanks in part to Reynolds, who delivered a hit with his helmet off as Nelson scrambled away from the pressure. That hit allowed Nelson to find Hoffman in the end zone with 12 seconds to go before the break.

What it means for Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane close the season on a disappointing note, having squandered several opportunities to put this game away. They were simply too inconsistent on offense and defense. A big play would be followed by a letdown play. G.J. Kinne threw three TD passes in the final game of his career, but he was just 17-of-31 for 210 yards. He leaves behind big shoes to fill.

What it means for BYU: The Cougars won 10 games -- their fifth 10-win season in the past six years. That has to be considered a major success in Year 1 as an independent. Nelson returns next season, and BYU has to hope for a little bit more consistency out of him. He was not very good for most of the first half, and threw two interceptions. He actually had a third called back because of a Tulsa penalty. Many of the skill players also return, so hopes will be high for 2012 once again.

Record performance: Tulsa cornerback Dexter McCoil had two interceptions to tie the school record for career interceptions with 13.

Armed Forces Bowl: BYU vs. Tulsa

December, 29, 2011
BYU (9-3) takes on Tulsa (8-4) in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Friday at noon in Dallas. Here is a quick preview:

WHO TO WATCH: Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne. What Kinne has been able to do with the Golden Hurricane is pretty remarkable, when you consider he has played for three different offensive coordinators. This season, Kinne became the third Tulsa quarterback to go over 9,000 yards passing in a career. He now has 9,258 career passing yards, ranking third on the school's all-time list. Kinne also has thrown 78 touchdown passes and ranks second in school history. He is five behind Paul Smith, so catching up with a huge game against BYU is not out of the realm of possibility. Kinne can run, too -- he is the only quarterback in school history to pass for more than 6,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.

WHAT TO WATCH: Tulsa run game versus BYU run defense. Both teams rank in the top 25 in the nation in their respective categories of run offense and run defense. The Golden Hurricane have two backs that have gone for more than 800 yards -- in addition to Kinne racking up more than 400. Ja'Terian Douglas, Trey Watts and Kinne have more combined rushing yards than BYU's entire team. Seeing Douglas and Watts emerge has been huge for the Golden Hurricane -- Kinne led the team in rushing the past two seasons. BYU has been solid against the run this season, allowing only three 100-yard rushers. BYU does have a size advantage on its defensive line and rotates in plenty of players. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been the best player on the defense, leading the team with 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. He has come up big in run support and has defended the pass as well, so he is a definite player Tulsa must watch.

WHY TO WATCH: BYU has been one of the most consistent programs in the nation, save for last season. A victory would give the Cougars their fifth 10-win season in the past six years. It will also be the 16th 10-win season in school history, which ranks 13th among all current FBS teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Given that success, BYU has never won three bowl games in a row. The Cougars go into this game having won two straight bowls.

PREDICTION: BYU 30, Tulsa 27. These teams are about as evenly matched as you can get, with quarterbacks who like to run, a backfield that isn't reliant on one player and linebackers who are capable of making plays. Kinne has an edge on Riley Nelson, but BYU has the edge on defense and up front -- and that will be enough to lead BYU to the victory.

What to watch in the non-AQs: Bowls

December, 15, 2011
Here is what I will be watching from the non-AQ teams once bowl season begins:

1. Last hurrah for Kellen Moore. Boise State closes out the season in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas next week against Arizona State, bringing to a close the final chapter for Moore, the best player in school history. Moore already holds the NCAA record for career victories. Another win will mean he and his senior class will set the school mark for most victories by a group with 50. What Moore has achieved is simply remarkable — four-year starter, 3,000-yard passing seasons in each of his four seasons and only once did he throw double-digit interceptions (his freshman year, 10). He led this team to four top-10 finishes in the BCS standings, one BCS appearance and one undefeated season. His critics will point out that the strength of schedule has not been impossible, but it is hard to knock what this young man has accomplished with his consistency, his football IQ and his ability to will his team to victory. Boise State has lost three games in his time as a starter, and all three were by a field goal or less. Moore has elevated this program, and whoever replaces him will have an enormous legacy to match.

2. TCU says goodbye. It has been a nice run for the Horned Frogs in the Mountain West, but now it is time for them to say goodbye and move on to their new home in the Big 12. They closed out the conference season with their third straight league title, thanks to a huge win at Boise State, and now have a chance to post 11 wins for the seventh time in the past 10 years. A victory also would be career win No. 109 for coach Gary Patterson, which would tie him with Dutch Meyer as the all-time winningest coach in school history. Meyer was 109-79-13 from 1934 to '52, including national championships in 1935 and 1938.

3. How does Houston respond? One of the biggest questions in all of bowl season is what we will see out of Houston. This is a team that fell one win short of making a BCS game. Now the Cougars are relegated to the TicketCity Bowl against Penn State and will be without coach Kevin Sumlin, who accepted a job to coach Texas A&M. It is hard to know exactly what to expect out of Houston for several reasons. Its performance in the Conference USA championship game against Southern Miss was the worst of the season, it has to fight the distraction of losing its coach and it has to fight the feeling of playing in a lesser bowl game after working so hard to try to bust into the BCS. It will be up to senior quarterback Case Keenum to get his teammates prepared to play and motivated to find a little extra to get them up for this game.

4. Anything to prove? There are four bowl games out of 35 that pit non-AQ teams against those from automatic qualifying conferences: Boise State-Arizona State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Western Michigan-Purdue in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, SMU-Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl, and Houston-Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl. Bowl season is always a great time for the non-AQs to prove themselves against teams from the bigger conferences, but without a big BCS matchup this season, these matchups fall a little flat. Is anybody going to take notice if the non-AQs go 4-0 with wins over Arizona State (6-6), Pitt (6-6) and Purdue (6-6)?

5. My favorite matchup: BYU vs. Tulsa, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Both teams have had solid seasons. BYU in Year 1 as an independent has a chance for another 10-win season; Tulsa survived a brutal nonconference stretch to open the season to make it back to a bowl game. Starting quarterbacks Riley Nelson and G.J. Kinne can run, and both have good skill position players around them. Tulsa linebacker Curnelius Arnick and BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy have put together great seasons and are fun to watch. When you start to parse the numbers, their wins have not come against the toughest competition. Of BYU's nine wins, only one has come against a bowl team. Of Tulsa's eight wins, only two have come against bowl teams.
You probably could have predicted the stakes in the regular-season final between Tulsa and Houston before the season started.

Tulsa finished 2010 ranked in the Top 25, and returned veteran quarterback G.J. Kinne along with a host of starters. Houston got a sixth year of eligibility for Case Keenum, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history. Most everybody expected they would be battling it out for the top spot in the West Division of Conference USA.

That is exactly how everything has played out. No. 8 Houston and Tulsa head into their critical game Friday with undefeated marks in league play. The winner hosts the C-USA title game Dec. 3 against the champion from the East.

"We said probably as early as last spring that the way the schedule played out, we should be playing Houston for the division title," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. "We’ve been talking about that for a long time. From that standpoint, they had it planted in their brain that we’re not going to be done with this until the Friday after Thanksgiving."

This is not only a critical game for conference title hopes, but for BCS hopes as well. If Houston (11-0, 7-0) loses, the Cougars will not get an automatic spot into the BCS. Tulsa has played three teams ranked in the Top 10 already this season (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State), and have a long history with Houston, so they know exactly what they are in for Friday.

Much has been made of Houston this season because the Cougars are putting together such a fantastic year. But what Tulsa has done deserves praise as well. The Golden Hurricane went into the season with a new head coach in Blankenship, after Todd Graham left for Pitt. They also had to deal with the loss of all-purpose superstar Damaris Johnson, arrested just before the start of the season on embezzlement charges.

Put that together with the back-breaking nonconference schedule, and Tulsa began the year 1-3. But this is a team that did not break. Tulsa (8-3, 7-0) has won its conference games this season by an average of 25.7 points, has the No. 1 rushing offense in the league and the No. 2 total offense.

You can probably guess which team has the No. 1 offense. Keenum has been outstanding in his return from a torn ACL, and is a huge reason why the Cougars are in this position. Houston has posted over 500 yards of total offense in eight straight games, and is averaging 53.1 points. The NCAA record for average points scored per game is 56, set by Army in 1944.

Consider this stat: Houston has scored 302 points the last five weeks. That's more than 64 teams have scored all season. Keenum leads the nation with 4,269 yards passing and has gotten more Heisman buzz as the year has gone on. If the Cougars win out, there is a very good chance he will get an invite to the Heisman ceremony in New York.

But before any of that, the Cougars must focus in on their big game Friday, a game that could get them a school-record 12th victory.

"Every week there seems to be something out there that hasn't been done that our guys look at and say, 'Let's do that,'" Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "I think it's important for our team. ... We talk about making history and quite frankly there's things that we're trying to accomplish that 20 years from now, when you bring your kid in here you can say, 'This is what your dad did.'"

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 21, 2011
Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 12.

[+] EnlargeKellen Moore
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireThanks to a stellar game from Kellen Moore against San Diego State, Boise State remains in play for an at-large berth into the BCS.
Boise rebounds. It may not have been pretty, but the Broncos rebounded from their loss to TCU with a 52-35 win over San Diego State. Kellen Moore went 28-of-40 with four touchdown passes and an interception as Boise State jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead and then held on. The defense, with its top three cornerbacks out, has not looked like the dominated unit we are used to seeing. The Broncos have now given up at least 35 points in back-to-back games for the first time since losing to Hawaii (39-27) and East Carolina (41-38) to close out the 2007 season. It also was the third time in four games Boise State has allowed over 400 yards in total offense. Still, Boise State remains in play for an at-large berth into the BCS. The Broncos are No. 7 in the latest standings, and could be chosen considering the SEC has five teams in the Top 14 and the Big 12 has three. You must be in the Top 14 to be considered for an at-large berth and there is a limit of two teams per conference. If Houston gets the automatic berth into the BCS, that would leave three at-large spots open.

Conference race update. Here is how the conference races are shaking out.

Conference USA: The winner between Houston and Tulsa on Friday wins the West and clinches a spot in the C-USA title game. Southern Miss lost to UAB 34-31 but can still clinch the East Division with a win over Memphis on Saturday or a Marshall loss.

MAC: Ohio won the East and is in the MAC title game. In the West, Northern Illinois clinches a return trip with a win over Eastern Michigan or a Toledo loss at Ball State.

Mountain West: TCU wins the outright league title with a victory over UNLV on Dec. 3.

Sun Belt: Arkansas State can win the league title outright with a win over Troy on Dec. 3 or a Western Kentucky loss to Troy this Saturday. The Red Wolves have already accepted an invitation to the Bowl. ULL also has been invited to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. FIU and Western Kentucky are also bowl eligible, but the Sun Belt only has two tie-ins. There are backup agreements with the Little Caesars Pizza and BBVA Compass Bowls, but it appears as if there will not be open slots in either of those games.

WAC: If Louisiana Tech and Nevada win out, both would get a share of a conference title.

Game of the week. Louisiana Tech 24, Nevada 20. The Wolf Pack built a comfortable 20-3 lead on the Bulldogs, and appeared set to cruise to a win in their quest to win an outright WAC title. Nevada was the only undefeated team in the league going into the game; Louisiana Tech had one loss. But Colby Cameron engineered an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to lift the Bulldogs to a 24-20 win. Now they have a chance to clinch a share of the WAC title Saturday against New Mexico State. Cameron threw three touchdown passes in the span of nine minutes, hitting Taulib Ikharo with 51 seconds to play to complete the rally. Nevada had two first downs on its final three possessions. Adrien Cole finished with 17 tackles, and Cameron finished 25-of-45 for 355 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs have now won six straight -- the longest winning streak since 1999.

Bowl streak ends. After Navy beat SMU last week, hopes brightened for the Midshipmen to keep its bowl streak alive. Navy had games left with San Jose State and Army -- two teams with losing records. Win out, and go to a bowl game. But the Midshipmen blew several opportunities on offense and could not stop San Jose State running back Brandon Rutley, losing 27-24 to the Spartans. The loss breaks a streak of eight straight bowl appearances. If you were to encapsulate this season for Navy, it would be about an uncharacteristic lack of discipline and missed chances to win. Four of its seven losses have been by three points or less.

"My worst nightmare came true. We were sleepwalking to start the game. We left a ton of points out on the field offensively. We had some uncharacteristic mental lapses that really hurt us," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said after the game. "We didn't deserve to win. We played horribly, and it starts with me. Obviously, I didn't do a good job of getting us ready."

Helmet stickers

Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, included 4.5 for a loss and three sacks, in a 37-7 win over SMU. He was selected Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State on Tuesday night. His 519 total yards is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season. Harnish passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception. Rainey needs 82 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher.

Brandon Rutley, RB, San Jose State. Rutley ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a career-high eight passes for 101 yards in a 27-24 win over Navy. Rutley is the first San Jose State player to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game. The Spartans now have four wins -- one more than 2009 and 2010 combined.

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team's 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. In addition to rushing for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns, Smith completed 23-of-38 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Wyoming is now bowl eligible.

SEC closer to title-game rematch

November, 20, 2011

BCS standings reaction: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | Non-AQ

College football fans who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line and west of the Mississippi River were already sick of hearing about the SEC’s dominance.

What are they going to do now?

After its teams won each of the sport's past five BCS national championships, the SEC now has the top three teams in the latest BCS standings, which were released Sunday night. With only two weeks to go in the regular season, an all-SEC rematch in the Jan. 9 Allstate BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans now seems like a strong possibility.

LSU remained No. 1 with a perfect BCS average of 1.000, followed by No. 2 Alabama (.9491) and No. 3 Arkansas (.8985).

Oklahoma State, which kicked off a chaotic weekend of football by losing to unranked Iowa State 37-31 in overtime on Friday night, fell from No. 2 to No. 4 with an .8408 average. Virginia Tech is No. 5 (.7842) and Stanford is No. 6 (.7711).

“It’s quite a lineup for us,” SEC commissioner Michael Slive said Sunday night. “It’s not over yet, though.”

LSU hosts Arkansas in Baton Rouge, La., on Friday, and if it wins would then play No. 13 Georgia in the Dec. 3 SEC championship game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. But if the Razorbacks upset the Tigers -- and if Alabama beats No. 24 Auburn on the road in Saturday’s Iron Bowl game -- the SEC West would be decided by a three-way tiebreaker.

In that case, the SEC West champion would be determined by the final BCS standings. The highest-rated team in the Nov. 27 BCS standings would be declared champion, unless the second-place team were within five spots and won the head-to-head matchup.

Alabama seems to be in better shape than Arkansas -- even if the Razorbacks upset LSU -- because of the Tide’s 38-14 victory over the Hogs in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Sept. 24. Because of that victory, it’s hard to imagine the Tide falling below the Razorbacks, as long as the Tide beat Auburn.

LSU has the tiebreaker over Alabama because of the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime win in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5.

Here’s a couple of other BCS notes:
  • Houston is No. 8 in the BCS standings, one spot behind No. 7 Boise State. But as long as the Cougars defeat Tulsa on the road on Friday and win the Dec. 3 Conference USA championship game, they’ll receive a BCS at-large bid. That’s because the Cougars would be rated in the top 16 of the BCS standings and would be higher than the Big East champion. The Big East doesn’t have a single team included in the top 25 of the BCS standings.

  • Under that scenario, the Broncos would probably be eliminated from BCS at-large consideration, since BCS rules state that only one team from a non-AQ conference must be selected each season.
  • Michigan is No. 15 in the BCS standings, but must finish in the top 14 to be considered for a BCS at-large spot. If the Wolverines defeat Ohio State on Saturday, there’s a good chance they’d be in line to receive an at-large bid. If the Wolverines are defeated, Kansas State might be next in line. The Wildcats are No. 11 in the BCS standings.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 14, 2011
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference.


Offense: Charles Sims, RB, Houston. Sims rushed for a career-high 207 yards on only 10 carries with two touchdowns to lead Houston to a 73-17 win at Tulane. He had 252 all-purpose yards in the game.

Defense: Shawn Jackson, LB, Tulsa. Jackson had nine total tackles, including eight solos and three tackles for loss, and added one pass breakup in a 59-17 win against Marshall.

Special Teams: Danny Hrapmann, K, Southern Miss. Hrapmann tied his own school and Conference USA records by making five field goals in a 30-29 win against UCF.


Offense: Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame. Rees set a season high for completions with 30 in a 45-21 win against Maryland. Rees completed 30-of-38 pass attempts for 296 yards and two touchdowns, his 18th and 19th passing touchdowns of the season.

Co-Defense: Thomas Holloway, DB, Army. Jabaree Tuani, DE, Navy. Holloway set a career high with 14 tackles in a 27-12 loss to Rutgers. He also got his first career interception. Tuani had four tackles and a sack in a win against SMU.

Special teams: David Ruffer, PK, Notre Dame. Ruffer made a career-long 52-yard field goal against Maryland.


East Division

Offense: Matt Brown, RB, Temple. Brown made his first start of the season and rushed 24 times for 123 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win against Miami (Ohio).

Defense: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State. Nix tied a career-high with six tackles in a 35-3 win against Akron. Nix helped his defense hold Akron to just 58 yards rushing on 27 attempts.

Special Teams: Paul Hershey, P, Ohio. Hershey had five punts for 205 yards, including a 51-yard punt in a win over Central Michigan. He had four go inside the 20.

West Division

Co-Offense: Alex Carder, QB, Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. Carder threw for a program record 548 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for another in a 66-63 loss at Toledo. The yardage total ranks second all-time in MAC history and his passing TD total is tied for the most in conference history. White had 238 yards receiving and became the school leader in career receiving yards leader (3,678), single-season receptions (111) and single-season receiving yards (1,402).

Defense: Brad Ohrman, DL, Eastern Michigan. Ohrman had eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack in a 30-17 victory over Buffalo.

Special Teams: John Potter, K, Western Michigan. Potter made a career high nine extra points at Toledo. Potter became the MAC's record holder for consecutive PATs made with 114.

Mountain West

Offense: Casey Pachall, QB, TCU. Pachall went 24-of-37 for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in a 36-35 win at Boise State. The five touchdown passes tied a TCU single-game record, while his 473 yards marked the second-highest single-game total in school history.

Co-Defense: Carmen Messina, LB, New Mexico. Nat Berhe, DB, San Diego State. Messina had his fifth straight double-digit tackle performance with 14 stops in a 21-14 victory against UNLV -- the first of the season for the Lobos. He also forced a fumble. Berhe tied a team-high with six tackles, forced a fumble and also had an interception in San Diego State’s 18-15 win at Colorado State.

Special teams: Anson Kelton, P, TCU. Kelton averaged 45.8 yards on four punts in a 36-35 win at Boise State.

Sun Belt

Offense: Derek Thompson, QB, North Texas. Thompson set a North Texas single-game record by completing 82 percent of his passes – going 31-of-38 -- to lead North Texas to its first win ever at Troy. He completed 17 consecutive passes in the game and threw for 331 yards.

Defense: Brandon Joiner, DL, Arkansas State. Joiner tied a school and conference record with four sacks, and he also tied his career high with a team-best eight tackles in a 30-21 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Special teams: T.Y. Hilton, KR, FIU. Hilton returned a punt 97 yards for touchdown in a win over FAU. The punt return is the longest in FIU history.


Offense: Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada. Fajardo accounted for 371 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win against Hawaii. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 290 yards and a career-high three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed 19 times for 81 yards including a 25-yard touchdown run in the second half.

Defense: IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech. Had six tackles, including 3.5 for a loss of 18 yards, in the 27-7 win at Mississippi. Enemkpali had a sack for a loss of seven yards and also forced a fumble.

Special teams: Taveon Rogers, KR, New Mexico State. Rogers returned eight kickoffs for a career-best 246 yards -- including a 99-yard return for a touchdown -- in a 48-45 win against Fresno State. He had a school-record 412 all-purpose yards in the game.