NCF Nation: ULM

Non-AQ bowl look

November, 9, 2010
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.


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.


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.


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.

Lunchtime Links

November, 9, 2010
Ready for some MAC football tonight? The MAC West is on the line when Toledo travels to Northern Illinois.

Now on to some links:

Boos show how the standards at Utah have been raised, writes Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Idaho running back Deonte Jackson stirred the pot going into the Boise State game on Friday. When asked about comments Boise State president Bob Kustra made that were critical of Idaho fans, Jackson said, "I wouldn't expect anything different coming from the blue and orange snot."

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte isn't interested in a football-only invite to the Big East.

Utah wants TCU to get a title shot.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is all business as he returns close to home when the Wolf Pack play Fresno State.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo's son is a budding high school football player and has drawn some interest from college programs.

A lack of playmaking has continued to hurt SMU.

More details emerge from "Replaygate" involving San Diego State and BYU.

Is a change coming at quarterback for Rice?

ULM receiver Brent Leonard is second nationally in fourth-down conversion receptions.

The Colorado State-BYU series is ending.

Non-AQ bowl projections

November, 7, 2010
Not much has changed in my non-AQ bowl projections for this week. I still have a non-AQ team in the BCS national championship game. I have TCU in there for the second straight week, based on my projection that the Horned Frogs will finish ranked ahead of Boise State at the end of the season. Moving in front in the human polls is a huge plus for TCU as it jockeys with the Broncos for that top spot among the non-AQs.

I still have Boise State in as an at-large BCS team, now playing Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. As for my conference champions, I am still projecting UCF to win Conference USA, Northern Illinois to win the MAC and Troy to win the Sun Belt.

I am still looking for a place to put Toledo. I know Rockets fans must think I am crazy for not having them in here. The problem is there are not that many at-large spots open because so many of the power conferences are going to have teams that end up being bowl eligible at 7-5 or 6-6. Lots of parity this year. I am still going with Ohio to get the No. 3 MAC nod ahead of Toledo.

Here are all of the non-AQ picks:

BCS National Championship Game: Oregon vs. TCU

Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Boise State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Boston College* vs. Nevada Bowl: Temple vs. Troy

Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Kentucky

Armed Forces Bowl: SMU vs. Army

Military Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. East Carolina

Independence Bowl: Clemson vs. Air Force

Little Caesars Bowl: Iowa State* vs. Northern Illinois

Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa vs. Hawaii**

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Texas A&M*

St. Petersburg Bowl: ULM vs. Southern Miss

New Orleans Bowl: Houston vs. Middle Tennessee

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. UTEP*

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. Fresno State

*at large selection because conference couldn't fill allotment.

**Hawaii already accepted bid to bowl.

Non-AQ Did You Know? Week 10

November, 5, 2010
Time for a little trivia and your weekly installment of non-AQ Did you know? Thanks to the school and league sports information departments for these notes, along with ESPN Stats & Information.

The Mountain West is the only league in the country with four teams ranked in the Top 10 for fewest sacks allowed. Utah is tied for second with Oregon with three through eight games. San Diego State is tied for seventh with Army (four). Air Force and TCU are tied for ninth with five.

TCU has allowed opponents to convert just 23.9 percent of third downs, best in the nation, but it is the Utah defense that is best on third-and-short. With 3 yards or fewer to go, opponents are converting on Utah at a rate of 38.1 percent.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs two rushing touchdowns to break the school record of 53 held by Chris Lemon. He is five passing touchdowns away from the school record of 78, held by Eric Beavers.

Utah State will honor the 10-year anniversary of Emmett White’s NCAA single-game all-purpose yards record at halftime against New Mexico State, the same school that White set his record against 10 years ago. White had 578 yards against New Mexico State, rushing 34 times for a school-record 322 yards, while adding 134 yards on seven receptions, 2 yards on one punt return and 120 yards on four kickoff returns. He also had four touchdowns in the win.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of UNLV’s Las Vegas Bowl victory, the entire 2000 Rebel football team will be honored during next week’s game against Wyoming. Representatives of the team will serve as honorary captains, and the entire squad will take the field to be recognized between the first and second quarters.

The team, coach by John Robinson, was the last one from UNLV to make a bowl game. That fall, the Rebels won their last three games of the regular season in dramatic fashion to earn a spot in the Las Vegas Bowl, where they beat Arkansas 31-14 to finish 8-5.

UCF now has the third-longest active winning streak in conference play among FBS schools. The Knights have won their past 10 C-USA matchups, trailing only Boise State (19) and TCU (14). UCF is also ranked in the NCAA’s top 15 nationally in all four major team defensive categories, leading Conference USA in all but one (rushing defense). The unit is ninth in total defense (279.8 ypg) 11th in scoring defense (16.5 ppg) 13th in rushing defense (100.9), while placing 15th in pass defense (177.5 ypg).

Ball State senior running back MiQuale Lewis is approaching the school career rushing record. Lewis has 3,659 career yards and needs 344 yards rushing to break Marcus Merriweather’s mark of 4,002 yards. There are three games left in the season for the Cardinals, who host Akron on Saturday.

Temple has posted consecutive shutouts against Buffalo (42-0) and Akron (30-0) for the first time since 1971 (at Connecticut and vs. Xavier).

ULM quarterback Kolton Browning has thrown for more than 200 yards in seven straight games -- the longest streak at the school since Robert Cobb’s seven-game streak in 1993. His 1,741 passing yards are the most through eight games since Raymond Philyaw had 1,762 in 1996. Browning has thrown a touchdown pass in seven of ULM's eight games this season; the Warhawks are 4-3 in those games.

Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey needs 62 yards for his first 1,000-yard rushing season. Rainey has rushed for no less than 64 yards in a game this season.

Non-AQ storylines to watch: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
Come one, come all for your Top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 10:

1. Who remains undefeated, TCU or Utah? You have got to love the national spotlight being placed on two teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences on Saturday. Both teams are terrific. It is a shame somebody has to lose and be relegated to the Las Vegas Bowl. Utah has a great home-field advantage, having won a Mountain West record 21 straight at Rice-Eccles Stadium. TCU has worked on silent counts all week and pumped crowd noise into practice in order to prepare for what is sure to be a wild atmosphere. The winner of the TCU-Utah game has earned an automatic bid into a BCS game each of the past two years.

[+] EnlargeTejay Johnson
Dale Zanine/US PresswireTCU has the No. 1 overall defense and the No. 1 scoring defense in the country.
2. TCU D vs. Utah D. OK so the defenses don’t play against each other, but they are the two units to watch in this game. Both are ranked in the Top 10 in total defense and scoring defense, and both are playing better than perhaps many people expected going into the season. TCU is rated No. 1, a spot it held at the end of 2008 and 2009. Both get tremendous play from their front seven to take the pressure off their secondary. Big plays on offense are going to be at a premium in this one.

3. Will Hawaii be able to pass on Boise State? Yes, but pay attention to what happens inside the red zone. In 46 trips inside the 20, the Warriors have scored 37 times. But they have only gotten 25 touchdowns. They are going to need to convert those opportunities into points against an aggressive Boise State defense and a secondary eager to prove its worth.

4. So who ends up ahead in the BCS standings on Sunday? That is asking to predict the unpredictable. If TCU and Boise State win, expect to see the Horned Frogs stay on top. They might even jump Boise State in the human polls, depending on the outcome of the game. If Utah and Boise State win, expect the Broncos to go back into the No. 3 slot. In any of those scenarios, we will all be tuned into the BCS show Sunday night to find out.

5. Which of the service academies becomes bowl eligible? Army, Air Force and Navy all have five wins and are on pace to have winning seasons in the same season for the first time since 1996. Army and Air Force play in West Point with the Commander-In-Chief Trophy on the line. Air Force beat Navy earlier this year and would win it with a victory over Army. Navy, meanwhile, tries to overcome its worst performance of the season at East Carolina. Navy has a bowl tie-in to the Poinsettia Bowl this year. Army has no guaranteed tie-in but is a backup in the Armed Forces Bowl. If they are passed over for that game, the Black Knights are a backup for the Military Bowl.

6. Who else has a chance to become bowl eligible? East Carolina, Houston, Tulsa, Southern Miss , UTEP, SMU, Miami (Ohio) and Fresno State also are one win away from bowl eligibility. UTEP and SMU play each other.

7. Houston offense vs. UCF defense. The Cougars have reinvented themselves with Case Keenum out for the season and have relied more on the run. But they are facing the best defense in Conference USA and one of the best defenses in the country. UCF is allowing right around 100 yards a game on the ground this season, and has confidence. Last season, the Knights upset the Cougars in Orlando for the first win over a ranked opponent in school history.

8. Does anybody want to win the Sun Belt? Troy has won four straight conference titles but opened the door for others to knock it off the perch after losing to ULM last week. If the Trojans win out, they still win the crown, but there is no margin for error anymore. FIU has one conference loss. ULM, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee each have two conference losses, but Troy has already beaten the Red Wolves and Blue Raiders.

9. Will the winless watch for Akron and New Mexico ever stop? Last season ended with two winless teams from the MAC (Eastern Michigan) and Sun Belt (Western Kentucky). This season could end with two winless teams, too. But both squads are playing opponents with losing records this week -- Akron against Ball State (2-7) and New Mexico against Wyoming (2-7).

10. Must win for BYU. The Cougars (3-5) come off their bye week facing a must win every week from here on out if they want to make it to a bowl game. They start against UNLV, a team struggling more than the Cougars are this season. After that, they play Colorado State and New Mexico before closing the season at Utah. So they have to win all three games before the season finale. Colorado State next week will be the biggest test in the upcoming three-game stretch.

TCU, Utah, Boise State top Mailbag

November, 3, 2010
Time once again for our midweek mailbag. Lots of questions this week about TCU/Utah and Boise State. Since I got so many of the same questions, I will answer a few right here at the top before getting to others.

On the issue of whether TCU or Utah will jump Boise State: There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this. Some believe Boise State will jump back ahead because it has more games remaining, including games against Hawaii and No. 23 Nevada. TCU only has Utah, San Diego state and lowly New Mexico, which would drop the computer average.

If TCU wins, and wins convincingly, I think voters will jump the Horned Frogs over Boise State. This is just my opinion. There really is no way of knowing right now what is going to happen. TCU jumping ahead last week after a win over UNLV was quite unexpected. Many have asked how that happened, but I think it was more a function of other teams on the schedule. TCU has also played two more games, and that has played a role.

If Utah wins, it is a bit more difficult to predict. The Utes’ computer average is 9, while Boise State’s is 5. A win over TCU is not going to jump them ahead in the computer average or in the polls. There is still way more skepticism about Utah than there is about TCU, though a win would go a long way toward convincing people.

On margin of victory: The BCS asked the computer programmers to no longer count margin of victory after the 2001 season, so a blowout is equal to a close win (hence Auburn can squeak past Mississippi State, Clemson and South Carolina without batting an eyelash). I understand there is a concern about running up the score for style points, but counting a 60-3 win and a 6-3 win the same seems a bit off to me.

Also, I asked last week for some suggestions on what I should do if Utah beats TCU, since I have picked the Horned Frogs to win. Lots of creative responses. Trevor in Draper, Utah, wants me to kiss a frog. Nonpoisonous of course.

Ben in Salt Lake City wants me to paint my face red and white and sing the school song. My only concern -- red with a red-head? Hmmm. Tyler D. in Salt Lake City wants me to film one of my video segments in a bikini. That is just a flat-out no. Rob in Salt Lake City also wants me to wear Utah gear and hang a Utah flag in all my videos -- for the rest of the year. That one is extreme, but I do like the flag idea for just one video.

Another Tyler in Salt Lake City wants me to eat tofu so I stay healthy to cover Utah's undefeated run. Is there such thing as chocolate covered tofu? Brandon in Salt Lake City wants me to wear a “Max Hall hates me T-shirt” in red. Where can I get one of those?

Now on to a few other questions:

Eric Barrier writes: How is this for an argument? The Giants do not actually deserve their World Series victory because they came from a weaker division than some of the others. Beating the Rockies and Dodgers is less impressive than beating, for example, the Red Sox and Rays, with some regularity. The Yankees really deserved to win the World Series. Their division was tougher, and it's a shame that a loss prevented the better team from making it to the championship. After all, this is the team that won last year. The comparison does not really work because, the MLB has a playoff. But this is how the Alabama-over-Boise/TCU arguments sound to me.

Adelson writes: I could not have written that better myself.

James Dorminey of Orlando writes: I don't know where you get your Conference USA information but if you don't go out of your way to apologize for the lack of respect you have given to UCF the last 2 weeks I am going to go out of my way to trash your writing on every blog I can find. ECU's defense really improved? UCF better be on your stupid non-AQ top 10 with an apology note included for disrespecting the seventh-best defense in the nation. You really thought ECU could play with us? The score doesn't show how lopsided the game was, check the tape.

Adelson writes: Let's see, East Carolina beat NC State, and UCF lost to NC State. You're right; there was no way the Pirates could hang with UCF. I did pick UCF to win, by the way. The Knights are in the Power Rankings this week. But hey, if you still feel the need, trash away, my friend.

Konnon in Salt Lake City writes: Can I get your take on something? Utah had 51 running plays against Air Force and a narrow escape from Colorado Springs. Is this cause for alarm, or were they keeping the playbook shut to prevent TCU from learning anything from game film?

Adelson writes: No cause for concern at all. Air Force has had major problems stopping the run, and the key to keeping the Falcons' dangerous triple option is ball control. So the game plan made perfect sense.

Tanner Pump in Dallas writes: What do you think is going to happen in November to substantiate your Big Ten bowl picks? I'm particularly intrigued by how you think Iowa will end up in the Insight Bowl.

Adelson writes: The Insight Bowl has actually jumped up in the pecking order and will alternate with the Gator Bowl for the No. 4 pick. My projections are based on two non-AQ teams making it and only one Big Ten making it. Therefore, I have Iowa being the No. 4 selection behind Wisconsin and Ohio State, and Michigan State going to the Rose Bowl.

Andrew Hinton in Monroe, La., writes: What is your take on the ULM Warhawks after they dismantled the Sun Belt Conference bully Troy and pushed their record to 4-4 and 3-2 in conference play. With a favorable schedule down the stretch, do you see the Warhawks finishing 7-5 and heading to their first bowl since joining Division I?

Adelson writes: I have ULM in a bowl game in my latest projections. Very impressed with the win last week, and I think 7-5 is possible, though the game against Louisiana-Lafayette to close the season is no gimme.

Sun Belt bowl picture still muddled

November, 3, 2010
Arkansas State pulled off an impressive 51-24 win over Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night in its first ever nationally televised home game, but both teams are still going to have to scramble if they want to make a bowl game.

The Sun Belt has no team bowl eligible yet but two guaranteed bowl spots. Arkansas State, ULM and Troy each have four wins. The Red Wolves (4-5, 4-2) have to win two of three, and that is entirely plausible with games remaining against Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic. Quarterback Ryan Aplin has proved to be one of the best in the league, and Tuesday night was no different.

He threw for a touchdown and ran for another. But more impressively, the defense forced seven turnovers. The Blue Raiders turned the ball over on five straight possessions in the second half, blowing any chance they had of winning the game. The 27-point margin of victory was Arkansas State's largest ever over Middle Tennessee. The Red Wolves have won three straight conference games.

"The defense had a heck of a night flying around and playing great football," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said.

The misery of the season continued for Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders went into the year coming off a 10-4 season and a bowl victory and were the preseason favorites to win the league. But dual-threat quarterback Dwight Dasher was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the season for improperly accepting a loan. Since his return, he has not shown any of the flashes that last season made him the fourth player in NCAA history to pass for more than 2,500 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

The Blue Raiders (3-5, 2-2) are 1-3 since his return. He tied a career-high with four interceptions against Arkansas State and lost a fumble. He has three passing touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and is averaging a career-low 3.4 yards a carry. It hasn't helped that the Blue Raiders have had major injuries to the offensive line, but what has hurt them most in the last two games is turnovers.

The seven against Arkansas State are the most in the FBS era for the Blue Raiders. Add that to six turnovers against Georgia Tech, and the Blue Raiders have almost handed games to their opponents. Coach Rick Stockstill called the performance "embarrassing and disgusting."

But there is still hope for bowl eligibility. Middle Tennessee needs three wins in its final four games and should be favored in all of them -- North Texas, Western Kentucky, FAU and FIU. The four teams have combined for seven wins this season.

With Troy (4-3) and ULM (4-4) also vying for bowl spots, it is conceivable the Sun Belt could have four teams that have six wins or more. But they are only guaranteed two spots, including one to the league champion. Even though Troy lost last week, if the Trojans win out, they win their fifth straight conference title. Troy also has North Texas, Western Kentucky, FIU and FAU left.

Then the scramble will be on for the second spot.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 1, 2010
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: UAB running back Pat Shed, UCF running back Ronnie Weaver. Shed ran for a career-best 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 50-49 double overtime win against Southern Miss. He finished with 235 all-purpose yards as the Blazers posted their first win in Roberts Stadium. Weaver ran for a career-high 180 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns in a 49-35 win against East Carolina.

Defense: Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson. His interception with 37 second left in the first half gave Tulsa the momentum in its 28-27 win against Notre Dame. He also had six tackles, a sack and two quarterback hurries.

Special teams: Tulsa punt returner Damaris Johnson. Had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown, the second of his career in the win. He is 25 yards shy of tying the Conference USA all-time kickoff return record.


East Division

Offense: Miami receiver Nick Harwell. Had eight receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-9 win at Buffalo.

Defense: Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones. Had six tackles, five tackles for loss, three and a half sacks and recovered a fumble in a 17-14 win at Central Michigan.

Special Teams: Kent State punter Matt Rinehart. Averaged 52 yards on four punts as the Flashes posted a 43-yard net in a 33-14 win against Ball State.

West Division

Offense: Western Michigan receiver Jordan White. Had a career-high 14 receptions for a career-high 180 yards and one touchdown in a 28-21 loss to Northern Illinois.

Defense: Northern Illinois defensive end Jake Coffman. He had four tackles and the game-saving interception on Western Michigan’s final offensive play to seal the win.

Special Teams: Toledo punter Vince Penza. Averaged 40.6 yards on five punts in the Rockets' 42-7 win at Eastern Michigan.

Mountain West

Offense: San Diego State receiver DeMarco Sampson. Had seven receptions for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-38 win against Wyoming. He has three straight 100-yard games.

Defense: Utah safety Brian Blechen. Had a career-high nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 28-23 win at Air Force.

Special teams: San Diego State punter Brian Stahovich. Kicked the longest punt in San Diego State history at 89 yards in the second half against Wyoming. It was his only punt of the day.

Sun Belt

Offense: North Texas running back Lance Dunbar. Ran for a season-high 215 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-6 win at Western Kentucky. The 215 yards was the most by any player in the Sun Belt this season and the third-highest rushing total in the nation this week.

Defense: ULM Darius Prelow. Had six tackles and an interception in a 28-14 upset win against Troy. The defense held Troy to its lowest point total in a Sun Belt game since 2006.

Co-Special Teams: Louisiana kicker Brett Baer, North Texas kicker Zach Olen. Baer made a field goal and four extra-point attempts, and had two perfectly placed onside kicks in a loss at Ohio. Olen made two field goals, including a 48-yarder, the longest by a North Texas kicker since 2005.


Offense: Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz. Went 27-of-38 for 326 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-10 win against Idaho. He also rushed seven times for 43 yards and another score. Moniz is the first quarterback in the nation to reach 3,000 yards this season (3,247).

Defense: Hawaii S Mana Silva. Had nine tackles (six solo), including one for a loss of 13 yards, and intercepted a pass in the win against Idaho.

Special teams: New Mexico State kicker Tyler Stampler. Went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts in a 29-27 win against San Jose State. He made a 42-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and then added a 25- and a career-long 43-yarder in the fourth quarter of a tight game.

Non-AQ weekend rewind: Week 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ Bowl Projections

October, 31, 2010
Well, nine weeks in and the time has come. I am removing Boise State from the national championship game. The latest BCS rankings make it clear that if the Broncos and TCU finish undefeated, it would be the Horned Frogs who finish as the top non-AQ team. So I am going with Oregon vs. TCU in the BCS national title game for this week.

This is still is a leap of faith on my part, because I have no idea whether the Horned Frogs would be able to hold off a hard-charging one-loss Alabama team, should the Tide win out. I still have TCU beating Utah and project the the Horned Frogs to go undefeated. I also am still projecting Boise State to go undefeated, and am guessing the BCS would take two non-AQs again. There is always the possibility it could go with two Big Ten teams rather than two non-AQ teams. Or even two Big 12 teams, depending on who they are.

Toledo is bowl eligible, but I have not been able to find a home for the Rockets just yet. They would need an at-large selection. UTEP is in the middle of a massive slump, and though I do project the Miners to be bowl eligible, I have them as the No. 7 team in Conference USA. That means they would also need an at-large berth. ULM is back in, but mainly because the Sun Belt serves as a backup to the Big East in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg.

BCS national championship game:Oregon versus TCU

Sugar Bowl: Alabama versus Boise State

Little Caesars: Michigan versus Northern Illinois

Military Bowl: North Carolina versus Tulsa

Liberty Bowl: UCF versus Kentucky

Hawaii Bowl: East Carolina versus Hawaii**

Armed Forces Bowl:SMU versus Army*

New Orleans Bowl: Houston versus Middle Tennessee Bowl: Temple versus Troy

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio versus Iowa State*

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah versus Texas A&M*

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State versus Navy

Independence Bowl: Air Force versus Clemson

New Mexico Bowl:BYU versus Fresno State

Kraft Fight Hunger: Boston College* versus Nevada

Beef O’Bradys:ULM* versus Southern Miss

*=at large selection because conference doesn’t have enough teams to
fill tie-in.

**= accepted bid.

Non-AQ Helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 31, 2010
Several late games involving the non-AQs are still ongoing but it is time to give out a few helmet stickers to the players who have already had big days:

North Texas RB Lance Dunbar. Ran for a season-high 215 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns in a 33-6 win over Western Kentucky. The game marked the debut of interim head coach Mike Canales, who took over for the fired Todd Dodge a little more than a week ago. Dunbar helped give the Mean Green their second win of the season, and first since beating FAU on Sept. 25.

Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish. Led Northern Illinois on a game-winning, 79-yard, seven-play drive with less than five minutes left in the game to give the Huskies a 28-21 win at Western Michigan. Harnish threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Willie Clark with 3:42 to play and led his team to its sixth straight victory, its longest winning streak since 2004. Harnish had three total touchdowns in the game. Western Michigan WR Jordan White had a career-high 14 catches for a career-high 180 yards in the loss.

SMU QB Kyle Padron. Threw for 354 yards and was the key in a 31-17 comeback win over Tulane. His 82 yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson broke a fourth-quarter tie. He also scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to close out the win. Robinson finished with 182 yards.

San Diego State WRs DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. The two combined for 12 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-38 win over Wyoming. Each had more than 100 yards, and the two touchdowns belonged to Sampson. It was the first time since Sept. 27, 2008 that San Diego State had two receivers have more than 100 yards in the same game. San Diego State is bowl eligible for the first time since 1998.

ULM defense. The WarHawks beat Troy 28-14, holding the Trojans to their lowest point total in a Sun Belt Conference game since 2006 and breaking their 13-game league win streak. ULM held Troy to just 285 yards, and Jerrel Jernigan had just 92 all-purpose yards. He entered the game averaging 178.3 ypg.

New Mexico State WR Taveon Rogers. Talk about a game winner. Rogers caught an 8-yard touchdown with no time left to give New Mexico State a 29-27 win over San Jose State. Rogers was making his first start of the season and had 90 yards and two touchdowns.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

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

Conference USA

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

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

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


East Division

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

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

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

West Division

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

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

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

Mountain West

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

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

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

Sun Belt

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

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

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


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

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

Special teams: Boise State PR Chris Potter. Returned four punts for 76 yards in a 48-0 win over San Jose State. The 76 return yards are the most by a WAC player this year.

Non-AQ Bowl Look

October, 17, 2010
My bowl projections have been a weekly ritual since before the season began. But now that we are midway through the season, we have a better idea of where teams might end up. Not the right idea, just a better idea.

Given the increasing unpredictability of the landscape from week to week, I am not budging from my choice of Boise State in the BCS national championship game just yet. I still think this year is shaping up to be one in which there will be either one or no undefeated teams from power conferences. I have no idea whether an undefeated Boise State would make it in over a one-loss team from a power conference, but because Boise State is ranked so high in the polls this season it could be groundbreaking.

Boise State is as close as it has ever been. I am projecting the Broncos to finish the season undefeated. At best, they are in the national championship game. At worst, they are in a BCS bowl game. I also am projecting TCU to beat Utah and finish undefeated, which I am sure is going to earn me more love notes from Utes fans. Here is where I have everyone else going:

BCS national championship game: Oklahoma vs. Boise State

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. TCU

Liberty Bowl: SMU vs. Kentucky

Armed Forces Bowl: UCF vs. Army

Eagle Bank: Maryland vs. Southern Miss

Hawaii Bowl: UTEP vs. Hawaii

Beef O’Bradys: Cincinnati vs. East Carolina

New Orleans Bowl: Tulsa vs. Middle Tennessee

Little Caesars: ULM* vs. Northern Illinois (*=not enough Big Ten teams eligible)

GMAC Bowl: Temple vs. Troy

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio vs. Idaho

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Washington

Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy

Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. NC State

New Mexico Bowl: BYU vs. Fresno State

Kraft Fight Hunger: Arizona State vs. Nevada

What we learned from non-AQs: Week 7

October, 17, 2010
What did we learn from the non-AQs in Week 7? Read on to find out.

1. And then there were three. Boise State, TCU and Utah are the only non-AQ teams that have a shot at a BCS bowl this season, now that Nevada has been knocked from the ranks of the undefeated. The Broncos took a hit to their strength of schedule after the Wolf Pack and Oregon State lost, and it appears they could be No. 3 when the BCS standings are released later today. What Boise State needs is for the major conference teams to continue to lose, which is exactly what happened on Saturday. Of course, it remains to be seen whether an undefeated Boise State or TCU/Utah would finish ahead of a one-loss power conference team at the end of the season for a spot in the BCS national title game. That has never happened.

2. Winless no more. Kudos to Eastern Michigan for getting its first win since November 2008. The Eagles beat Ball State 41-38 in overtime, after trailing 28-7 late in the second quarter. Quarterback Alex Gillett accounted for 414 yards of total offense and five touchdowns -- he ran for 189 yards and two scores and threw for 225 yards and three scores in the win. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky came oh so close to ending its 25-game losing streak, but ULM scored 28 fourth-quarter points to win 35-30. Three winless teams remain -- Western Kentucky, Akron and New Mexico. The Lobos were off Saturday, but the Zips lost 38-10 to Ohio.

3. This could be a long season for Houston. We knew the Cougars were going to be hurting without Case Keenum and Cotton Turner. But surely, they would be able to beat Rice without them. Nope. Houston fell behind 28-7 early before a late rally came up short in a 34-31 loss. On fourth-and-inches from the Rice 42 with a chance to come back for the win, quarterback David Piland fumbled the snap and that sealed the game. As it stands now, it is going to be hard for Houston to become bowl eligible. The Cougars are at SMU next week and still have to play UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss and Texas Tech. In all, five of their final six opponents are .500 or better.

4. Hawaii is for real. Start paying attention to the team on the islands, because it is starting to resemble some of those high-flying Warriors teams we have come to know. Hawaii upset No. 19 Nevada 27-21 late Saturday night in a game that ended past 2:30 a.m. EDT, but it was well worth it if you stayed up and watched. Nevada was able to slow down Hawaii in the second half, but Bryant Moniz came up with the big plays when he needed to and outplayed Colin Kaepernick. The outcome may have been different had Kaepernick not fumbled the ball out of the end zone in the third quarter down 17-0. But now the Warriors have won four straight and have emerged as the top challenger to the Broncos in the WAC.

5. Nov. 6 is shaping up to be a really big day. We already knew the TCU-Utah game would be huge, but this one is even bigger now that Air Force lost. No question the game in Salt Lake City should determine the Mountain West champion -- if TCU beats the Falcons next Saturday and Utah beats them Oct. 30. Meanwhile, Hawaii is at Boise State on the same day in another game that could impact the national championship race. Hawaii is the last team to beat Boise State in the regular season -- 39-27 on Nov. 23, 2007 in Honolulu.

Non-AQ Did you know, Week 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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