NCF Nation: ULM Warhawks

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

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

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

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

FIU (5-4) vs. FAU

Western Kentucky (5-4) at LSU

Louisiana Tech (5-4) at Ole Miss

Nevada (5-3) vs. Hawaii

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

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

2010, 2011

ULL 3-9, 8-2

Houston 9-0, 5-7

Ark. St 4-8, 7-2

WKU 2-10, 5-4

E. Mich 2-10, 5-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helmet stickers

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 24, 2011
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Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players are selected by a national media panel.

C-USA

Offense: Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina. Davis set an NCAA single-game record with 26 straight completions to open the game in a 38-34 win at Navy. He finished the game 40-of-45 for 372 yards with two touchdowns. His completion percentage of 88.9 was a school record.

Defense: Marques Wheaton, DB, Southern Miss. Wheaton recorded five tackles (four solos), a pass breakup and two fourth-quarter interceptions in Southern Miss’ 27-3 win over SMU. He returned one of his interceptions 41 yards for a score.

Special teams: Ty Long, K, UAB. Long, a true freshman, made the game-winning 40-yarder with 21 seconds remaining in a 26-24 win over UCF.

Independent

Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson led six touchdown drives in seven series before leaving the game early in the third quarter in a 56-3 win over Idaho State. Nelson completed 11 of 17 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and added 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Co-defense: Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU. Bacon returned his first career interception 70 yards for a touchdown in a 44-21 loss at Vanderbilt. Making his first career start, Bacon added a pass break-up, and he matched his season tally with a career-high 13 tackles, including a half tackle for loss. Van Noy had two sacks, three quarterback hurries and a blocked punt.

Special teams: George Atkinson III, KR, Notre Dame. Atkinson had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 31-17 loss to USC. He tallied 178 yards on five kickoff returns.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Chazz Anderson, QB, Buffalo. Accounted for 460 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 31-30 loss to Northern Illinois. Anderson completed a school record 35 passes on 53 attempts for 406 yards and three touchdowns, including one with just 14 seconds left in regulation that pulled Buffalo to within one before a missed extra point made the difference.

Defense: Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green. Jones had six tackles, three sacks and one quarterback hurry in a 13-10 win over Temple.

Special teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Went 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts, connecting from 24, 27 and 23 yards in a 37-20 win at Akron.

West Division

Offense: Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. Greene caught a 50-yard pass from Alex Gillett in the first quarter and scored on a 50-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for the two Eastern Michigan touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Marrow led Toledo with six tackles and tied his career high with two interceptions in a 49-28 win over Miami.

Special Teams:Jamill Smith, KR, Ball State. Returned the opening kickoff for a career-high 48 yards in the Cardinals' 17-point second half comeback victory, a 31-27 win over Central Michigan. Smith led all returners for both teams with four kickoff returns for a total of 135 yards.

Mountain West

Offense: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Moore completed 23-of-29 passes for 281 yards in a 37-26 win over Air Force. Moore tied former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy for the most career wins (45) in NCAA history.

Defense:Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Hout had a career-high 18 tackles against Air Force, including eight unassisted stops and a half tackle for loss.

Special teams:Antonio Graves, WR, TCU. Graves scored his first collegiate touchdown when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in a 69-0 win over New Mexico. He also forced a fumble on a kickoff return.

Sun Belt

Offense:Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for 206 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won their first home game since 2008 with a 42-23 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Defense:Eric Russell, DB, Middle Tennessee. Russell had six tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in a win over FAU.

Special Teams:Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose became ULM's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and he did it in style, returning the opening kickoff 100 yards at North Texas. He finished with 148 yards on three returns.

WAC

Offense: Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball rushed for a career-high 198 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and added two catches for 18 yards and another score in a 45-38 win over Fresno State.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Cole had 14 tackles (9 solo), including two for a loss, and broke up a pass in a 24-17 win at Utah State.

Special teams: Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech. Allen averaged 52.2 yards on eight punts in the win at Utah State. Seven of them were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 17, 2011
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Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players of the week are picked by a national media panel.

C-USA

Offense: J.J. McDermott, QB, SMU. McDermott was 20-of-31 and passed for a career-high 358 yards and two touchdowns as SMU defeated UCF, 38-17. McDermott improved to 5-0 as a starter and it marked his third straight 300-yard passing game, tying the SMU record.

Defense: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall. Curry had nine tackles, which included four tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, to go with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a win over Rice.

Special teams: Richard Crawford, PR, SMU. Returned a punt 92 yards in a win over UCF, the second-longest punt return in league history. He totaled 141 punt return yards for the game, the second-best single-game effort in SMU history.

Independent

Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson completed 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a team-high 87 rushing yards on 12 carries to lead BYU to a 38-28 win over Oregon State.

Defense: Brandon Ogletree, LB, BYU. Forced turnovers on each of the Beavers’ first three possessions of the third quarter, intercepting a pass and causing two fumbles.

Special teams: Jon Teague, PK, Navy. Teague made two field goals against Rutgers, though his 34-yard attempt was blocked with under five minutes to play.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce broke five school records in a 34-0 win over Buffalo after running for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Pierce and Matt Brown each rushed for 100 yards.

Defense: Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State. Forced an early fumble that led to a Kent State field goal and posted career-highs of six tackles and four solo stops in a loss to Miami (Ohio). He also had two tackles for loss, a pair of quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.

Special teams: BooBoo Gates, KR, Bowling Green. Gates had four kick returns for 152 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter in a 28-21 loss to Toledo.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Ran for a career-high 229 yards on 14 carries and passed for 203 yards on 14-of-27 passing for a total of 432 yards of total offense in the Huskies 51-22 win over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Had a team-high 10 tackles in a 28-21 win at Bowling Green. Marrow added a career-best three passes defensed.

Special Teams: Scott Kovanda, P, Ball State. Punted seven times for 327 yards and a 46.7 average in a 23-20 win at Ohio. Kovanda pinned Ohio inside the 20-yard line four times and had a career-long 67-yard punt.

Mountain West

Co-Offense: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Martin carried the ball 20 times for a career-high 200 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-13 win at Colorado State. His 65-yard TD run was the longest of the season for Martin. Hillman ran 27 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-27 win at Air Force. Both of his touchdowns came in the final period after the game was tied with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.

Defense: Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State. Crawford recorded five tackles in a win at Colorado State, including two sacks for losses totaling 14 yards. He also recovered a fumble.

Special teams: Chris McNeill, WR/PR, Wyoming. McNeill returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, threw a 28-yard touchdown pass and also completed a 2-point conversion pass in a 41-14 win over UNLV. The punt return for a touchdown was the Cowboys’ first since 2004 and the first in the Mountain West this season.

Sun Belt

Offense: Kolton Browning, QB, ULM. Went 23-of-31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Troy. He also added 33 yards on nine carries on the ground to top the 300-yard mark in total offense.

Defense: Lance Kelly, LB, ULL. Had a game-high eight tackles, a tackle-for-loss, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and an interception in a win over North Texas.

Special Teams: Mitchell Bailey, RB, ULM. After ULM took a 15-10 lead on Troy late in the third quarter, Bailey forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that the Warhawks recovered on the 17-yard line. Two plays later, Browning threw a touchdown pass to Colby Harper to stretch the ULM lead and the Warhawks never looked back.

WAC

Offense: Chandler Jones, WR, San Jose State. Scored three touchdowns three different ways in a 28-27 win over Hawaii. He scored on a 20-yard reverse, off a fumbled kick return, and caught a 37-yard pass with 36 seconds remaining to win. Jones came into the game with just one career touchdown.

Defense: Khalid Wooten, CB, Nevada. Recorded six tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in a 49-7 win over New Mexico.

Special teams: Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State. Blocked two kicks in San Jose State’s win over Hawaii. One was on an extra-point attempt, which was picked up and returned by Duke Ihenacho for the Spartans’ first-ever 2-point defensive PAT. He also blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt with 3:22 remaining.

APR for non-AQ schools

May, 24, 2011
5/24/11
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The NCAA released its full academic progress rates today, and six non-AQ schools are faced with losing scholarships for poor academic performance.

ULM lost seven scholarships, while UTEP and Akron each lost four; FAU lost three and Idaho lost one. FIU also lost one after failing to meet conditions that would have waived the reduction.

Each Division I team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility and retention of each scholarship student-athlete. Teams scoring below certain thresholds can face penalties, including scholarship losses and restrictions on practice and competition. Rates are based on the past four years’ performance.

The NCAA announced last week that 14 schools had been honored with Public Recognition Awards for being in the top 10 percent of their sports with their APR scores. Air Force, Boise State, Middle Tennessee, Navy, Northern Illinois and Rice were the non-AQ schools recognized.

Here is a complete list of the non-AQ conferences and how their schools did. I have listed the schools based on the conference they played in for 2009-10.

Conference USA
Rice 983
UCF 971
Tulane 970
Marshall 947
East Carolina 943
Memphis 940
SMU 939
Houston 929
Southern Miss 928
Tulsa 927
UTEP 918 -- lost four scholarships
UAB 901

MAC
Northern Illinois 987
Miami (Ohio) 970
Western Michigan 963
Ohio 950
Central Michigan 943
Toledo 943
Ball State 942
Kent State 942
Bowling Green 941
Eastern Michigan 937
Temple 937
Buffalo 930
Akron 924 -- lost four scholarships

Mountain West
Air Force 978
TCU 972
Utah 956
Colorado State 948
New Mexico 947
UNLV 947
San Diego State 934
BYU 929
Wyoming 933

WAC
Boise State 981
Hawaii 959
Fresno State 952
Utah State 946
Louisiana Tech 944
Nevada 943
Idaho 923 -- lost one scholarship
San Jose State 931
New Mexico State 918

Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee 979
Western Kentucky 959
Arkansas State 943
Louisiana 943
FIU 936 -- lost one scholarship. (Failed to meet conditions that would have waived the penalty).
North Texas 932
Troy 932
FAU 920 -- lost three scholarhips
ULM 908 -- lost seven scholarships

Independent
Navy 978
Army 968

Vote: Non-AQ surprise team

May, 13, 2011
5/13/11
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When I thought of candidates for a surprise team, I tried to make a list of teams I thought would make a bowl game or win their conference that missed out last season. I left off teams like BYU, SMU and Houston, because I don't think it would surprise anyone if they had good seasons.

First take a look at Colorado State, a team that should make a bowl game in 2011. If you look at the first five games of the season -- against New Mexico, Northern Colorado, Colorado, Utah State and San Jose State, the Rams could easily start 4-1 or even 5-0 if they can beat the Buffs. That means they would only need to win a few more games in conference play to become bowl eligible. That is possible with a game at UNLV and a home game to close the season against Wyoming.

Southern Miss is a team nobody is talking about right now, but it returns an underrated quarterback in Austin Davis, who came into his own last season. The Golden Eagles have a relatively light nonconference schedule with their most difficult game coming at Navy. They also get UCF and SMU at home. Of the three teams from C-USA West on its schedule, SMU is the only one that is expected to have a winning record.

Fresno State has a difficult nonconference schedule but has just as good a shot as Nevada and Hawaii to win the WAC, especially if Derek Carr lives up to the hype. Louisiana Tech has made big strides under coach Sonny Dykes and could also contend in the WAC. Running back Lennon Creer is poised to have another 1,000-yard season. ULM was one win away from being bowl eligible last season and returns 18 starters on offense and defense, including quarterback Kolton Browning. The Warhawks could be the FIU of this season.

Disagree with me? Write in your choice in the comments section and we will discuss next week.

Lunchtime Links

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
12:00
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Time to return to some old hijinx with non-AQ lunchtime links! (Hey, I am running on a lack of sleep!)

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has elevated his play.

ULM students are set to vote on whether they want to increase the fees they pay to support the athletics department.

The Sun Belt could add an 11th school.

Hawaii kicker Tyler Hadden wants to feel the heat.

Southern Miss has wrapped up spring practice, and there remain some questions on defense.

Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne has played for his share of offensive coordinators.

Tulane's receivers have showed signs of improvement this spring.

Northern Illinois linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz talks about the first hours following the shooting of Devon Butler.

Former Georgia receiver Dontavious Jackson is thankful for his second chance at UAB.

Linebackers are Utah State's strong suit.

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen won't decide on a starting quarterback until the fall.

Lou Greenwood is officially at receiver for Colorado State.
We close out our look at returning starters from the non-AQ conferences with the Sun Belt. FIU emerged as the dark horse this past season to win a share of the league championship and its first bowl berth. Will another school emerge the way FIU did or will the Panthers and the Troy Trojans be the favorites again?

You can check out the returning starters for the Mountain West, WAC, Conference USA and MAC. Now on to the Sun Belt:

ULM: 20 (10 offense, eight defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: QB Kolton Browning, WR Luther Ambrose, DL Ken Dorsey

Key losses: RB Frank Goodin, S Alex Ibe.

FIU: 17 (seven offense, seven defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: QB Wes Carroll, AP T.Y. Hilton, RB Darriet Perry, DB Jonathan Cyprien

Key losses: CB Anthony Gaitor, DL Jarvis Wilson, OL Brad Serini

Western Kentucky: 17 (seven offense, eight defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: QB Kawaun Jakes, RB Bobby Rainey, DL Quanterus Smith

Key losses: LB Thomas Majors, OL Mychal Patterson, DB Orlando Misaalefua

Arkansas State: 15 (six offense, seven defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: QB Ryan Aplin, LB Demario Davis, DL Dorvus Woods

Key losses: OL Derek Newton, DL Bryan Hall, DB M.D. Jennings

North Texas: 14 (six offense, six defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: RB Lance Dunbar, K Zach Olen, RS Brelan Chancellor

Key losses: LB Craig Robertson, OL Estaban Santiago

Troy: 14 (four offense, eight defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: QB Corey Robinson, DL Jonathan Massaquoi, OL James Brown

Key losses: RS Jerrel Jernigan, OL Tyler Clark, DL Mario Addison

FAU: 13 (seven offense, five defense, one special teams)

Key returnees: DB Marcus Bartles, RB Alfred Morris, DB Marcus Bartels

Key losses: QB Jeff Van Camp, WR Lester Jean, LB Michael Lockley

Middle Tennessee: 12 (seven offense, three defense, two special teams)

Key returnees: LB Darin Davis, WR Malcolm Beyah, K Alan Gendreau

Key losses: QB Dwight Dasher, DE Jamari Lattimore, RB Phillip Tanner, DB Rod Issac

Louisiana: 11 (five offense, five defense, one special teams)

Key returnees: TE Ladarius Green, RB Aaron Spikes, LB Devon Lewis-Buchanan

Key losses: OL Ian Burks, CB Orkeys Auriene, DB Maurice Rolle

Independents

Navy: 12 (seven offense, five defense, zero special teams)

Key returnees: FB Alexander Teich, DE Jabaree Tuani, SB Gee Gee Greene

Key losses: QB Ricky Dobbs, CB Kevin Edwards, ROV Wyatt Middleton

Army: 11 (six offense, four defense, one special teams)

Key returnees: QB Trent Steelman, FB Jared Hassin, ROV Steve Erzinger

Key losses: DE Josh McNary, DT Mike Gann, LB Stephen Anderson

Lunchtime Links

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
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T.G.I.F. y'all. Now on to some links.

Boise State hopes to open its new football complex before the 2013 season.

Southern Miss is still looking for a receiver on the recruiting trail.

The Star-Telegram reports that if TCU and BYU do play, it won't be on Thanksgiving weekend.

ULM coach Todd Berry is building a recruiting pipeline into Oklahoma.

Dave Doeren has completed his coaching staff at Northern Illinois.

New Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth is picking up some key recruits.

Tulane coach Bob Toledo is looking for a special-teams guru to help improve his subpar unit.

The Mountain West made the right call when it held off on expansion.

Non-AQ returning starters

January, 27, 2011
1/27/11
10:30
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If you have checked in at the Big Ten and SEC blogs, you have seen several posts on returning starters in their conferences thanks to a complete breakdown from college football guru Phil Steele. So I decided to do the same for the non-AQs. This first post will set up some of the non-AQs expected to have the most returning starters back and the fewest back. Then in the next few days I will have a breakdown by conference, so you can evaluate for yourself how a team could potentially do in 2011.

As for the teams with the most returning starters, you might be surprised to learn San Jose State and ULM are tied for the second most in the nation with 20. San Jose State has seven returning on offense, the entire defense returning and two on special teams. ULM has 10 on offense, eight on defense and two on special teams. Many of those Spartans players jumped into the starting lineup because of injuries that severely hampered the team, so you can bet there will be plenty of competition in the spring between lots of experienced players.

Wyoming and New Mexico, two of the worst teams in the nation this past season, also return a bevy of starters: 19 for the Cowboys and 18 for the Lobos.

On the other end of the spectrum, TCU will be one of the youngest teams in the nation with 10 starters returning. Big difference from this past season when the Horned Frogs were one of the most-experienced teams in the country with 16 returning starters. All that experience led to a Rose Bowl victory and 13-0 season. Hawaii, which won a share of the WAC, also has just 10 starters returning.

The team with the fewest returning starters -- national champion Auburn, with seven.
FIU all-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton was honored as the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, while Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey was named Offensive Player of the Year, Middle Tennessee defensive end Jamari Lattimore was Defensive Player of the Year and FIU coach Mario Cristobal won Coach of the Year, the league announced Wednesday.

Hilton led the Panthers with 56 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for 291 yards and four scores, and had 785 yards and a score on kickoff and punt returns. He was also selected to the first team at receiver and return specialist, and second team all-purpose player.

Rainey averaged over 130 yards rushing a game and his total of 1,649 rushing yards ranks second in the nation only behind Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James from Oregon.

Lattimore ranks sixth nationally in total sacks with 11.5. Cristobal, in his fourth season as coach, has helped turn around the FIU program into a conference co-champion.

Troy quarterback Corey Robinson was also named Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. Robinson led the league in passing yards this season and is currently ranked 12th nationally in that category.

Here are the first and second teams, and honorable mentions.

(Read full post)

Outrage over Ohio State prez in Mailbag

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
12:00
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Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I want to thank you all for all your wonderful comments in the mailbag. I do read all of them, even if I cannot respond to each one.

You had plenty to say about Boise State/TCU and the recent comments from Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee. Matthew O'Rourke was so angry, he decided to send an e-mail to Gee. Here is a snippet:
These football programs win the games set before them just as your football program strives to do, the BCS ranked them high enough in the preseason polls to allow their undefeated seasons(so far) to rank them where they are. So according to every unit of measure they do belong and they are worthy. There is a system and they follow it to achieve success.

If you do not like the system, go to the BCS committee and fight them, or go to the conference and ask for an easier schedule. But do not knock these schools who are making every effort to show the nation as a whole that they do belong even going as far as to change conferences to raise the level of competition they face.
Aaron in Tampa writes: I am surprised every time educated, high profile individuals such as Gee, Perlman, Saban, and Miles make such ignorant, biased remarks about non-AQs' ability to compete. I would like to highlight another point of "Power Conference" hypocrisy, in that these schools hold all the cards when it comes to scheduling -- and they demand to play their nonconference games at home, which makes scheduling substantially more difficult. Big-name schools need to come to terms with the reality that they can't simultaneously criticize non-AQs' scheduling while acting as a hindrance to that end. If they want to play four home out-of-conference games each year for the revenue it raises, that's fine, but the choice has consequences.

Andrea Adelson writes: I agree with you completely, and have been trying to make this point the entire year. The double standard will always exist. The reason it does not happen is because teams like Ohio State would rather pay $1 million to Eastern Michigan for a guaranteed win than the same amount to a Boise State team that could beat them. They have nothing to gain -- only the non-AQ does. So why would they help?


Kevin Cox in Dayton, Ohio, writes: Boise State and TCU would lose to all 8 of the other top 10 teams and many more teams except Oklahoma State. I don’t buy them at all. FYI my power rankings are based on who I think would win in a 10-game series. 1. Alabama 2. Auburn 3. Wisconsin 4. Ohio State 5. Oregon 6. Stanford 7. BSU 8. South Carolina 9. Oklahoma 10. Iowa.

Adelson writes: Since when did college football turn into baseball? A 10-game series? You are probably the only one outside of Tuscaloosa who believes a 2-loss Alabama team is the best in the country.


John Landers in Washington, DC writes: You have Northern Illinois facing ULM in the Pizza Bowl. NIU is more than likely going to be 11-2, in the top 25 and MAC champions. Their only two losses were heartbreakers to Iowa State and Illinois. Why would they play a 6-6 Sun Belt team instead of a Big Ten or an AQ team? Don't tell me the big boys are all booked.

Adelson writes: With eight Big Ten teams bowl eligible and two going to BCS games in my projections, that leaves the league without a representative for the Little Caesars Bowl. The Sun Belt has a backup agreement in place with the bowl, hence ULM. Little Caesars has the first pick of the MAC this year, and I think it would be hard for the bowl to turn down a team with the credentials you just listed.


Jamie in Evanston, Wyo., writes: After the Boise massacre of Fresno State it is really heating up on Pat Hill to replace him as head coach. Any suggestions? I realize that we may have to run out the last two years of Pat's contract, unless he decides to step down, or somehow Fresno State can buy him out. But fans what a change, 14 years no WAC titles, being Boise State's step-child is really getting old.

Adelson writes: I certainly understand the frustration Fresno State fans are feeling today. The Bulldogs were poised to become what Boise State is today, but instead have not been able to take that next step. Hill is a solid coach. But the big question I always ask is this -- who do you want and will they be able to do a better job? If Fresno State struggles to close out the year and is mediocre again next year, his time may be over.


Casey in Houston writes: Maybe you could give a blog congrats to Tejay Johnson, a non-AQ safety making the Thorpe award finalist list.

Adelson writes: Perhaps you missed my feature on Tejay earlier this year. If you did, here it is. He is a class act and a great guy.


Ed Enright of Oakland, N.J. writes: With all that has happened with the MWC expansion, I feel like Utah State has been harshly penalized for sticking to its principles. It has been left out in the cold, after refusing to accept the invitation from the MWC because it had just renewed its commitment to the WAC (which Nevada and Fresno chose to ignore). How do you think things will work out for them? Any chance they could be the 12th member of the MWC?

Adelson writes: You have to feel for Utah State. The school did what it thought was right at the time, and now appears to be on the outside looking in. I would be surprised if they get a second chance to come into the league.


Jason Robinson in St. George, Utah, writes: Hey Andrea-Long time reader, first time questioner. How do you see BYU doing next year? They have some really tough early games, but they are playing very good football on both sides, and lose the least number of seniors in the Bronco Mendenhall era. I think 10 wins is possible again next year.

Adelson writes: The schedule is tough early on, and I think 10 wins is going to be really hard but may be possible. What was bad about this season could be good about next season -- all these young players playing and gaining the valuable experience they needed. I like how Bronco Mendenhall took charge of his team, and I think it’s good that he will stay on as defensive coordinator. Heaps-DiLuigi has the potential to be as good as Hall-Unga, in my opinion.

Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 13

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
10:15
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Come one, come all for your top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 13:

1. Does Boise State finally pass TCU in the BCS standings? Ever since TCU had its less than impressive 40-35 win over San Diego State, experts and fans have speculated it was only a matter of time before the Broncos passed the Horned Frogs as the top non-AQ team in the BCS standings. This could be the weekend it happens. No. 4 Boise State plays No. 19 Nevada, while No. 3 TCU plays lowly New Mexico (1-10). Their computer average should be about the same, so watch for how the two line up in the human polls.

2. Does a non-AQ still have a national title shot? Tune in to Iron Bowl on Friday afternoon for your answer. No. 2 Auburn plays at rival Alabama, and many are predicting a win for the Tide. If that happens, either Boise State or TCU should move into that No. 2 position, but there are no guarantees. A one-loss SEC team could still be enough for voters to keep the Tigers ahead of both non-AQs. A lot depends on the final score, and then what happens in the SEC title game the following week. But losing late is never beneficial. Oregon hosts Arizona on Friday night, and there is an outside shot the Wildcats pull the upset.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireGary Patterson says style points won't come into play against New Mexico.
3. Can TCU do anything to help itself? Win in a blowout. But that still may not be enough. Boise State plays Friday night, so the Horned Frogs will have a better idea of where they could stand when the BCS standings are released on Sunday. Boise State has all the momentum this weekend. Meanwhile, TCU coach Gary Patterson says there is no way his team will put up style points on the Lobos.

“Both sides have players and coaches who are human beings,” Patterson said. “Somebody wrote an e-mail: Oregon beat them 72-0. I can promise -- even if I had a chance to do that, that would never happen. Do I want to get an opportunity to play for a national championship? Yes, but not at the expense of teaching my young people a life lesson. I believe in doing things the right way. It’s not about teaching them the wrong message.”

4. Boise State D vs. the Pistol. The Broncos put on a dominating performance last week in a 51-0 win over Fresno State, but they face the trendsetting offense of the year: the Pistol. They are used to playing against this offense, so it will be easier for them to defend against it. Nevada ranks No. 3 in total offense, and Boise State ranks No. 2 in total defense. Colin Kaepernick had a terrific game in a four-overtime thriller his freshman year against Boise State, but since then has not posted a 100-yard rushing game against Boise State. The key here could be the running of Vai Taua, ranked seventh in the country in rushing, and whether Kaepernick is able to pass as efficiently as he has so far this season.

5. End of an era for BYU-Utah. The Holy War will have a different feel to it this season, simply because it’s the final one featuring the two teams as members of the same conference, and the final one scheduled to close out the regular season. The two teams will play in 2011 and 2012 in September, but have no future games scheduled after that. Both schools want to keep the game alive, and they should. This is one of the fiercest rivalries in all of college football.

6. C-USA race. All SMU and UCF have to do is win and they are in the Conference USA title game Dec. 4 in Orlando. The Knights would host the game based on their better record. UCF should be a shoo-in to beat Memphis (1-10). SMU will face a more difficult challenge at East Carolina. The Pirates have lost three of their last four, and gave up an average of 62 points in those losses. But they have only dropped one at home, and have a good offense behind Dominique Davis and Dwayne Harris that can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

7. MAC race. If Ohio beats Kent State on Friday night, the Bobcats punch their ticket to the MAC title game on Dec. 3 in Detroit for the second straight season. Consider the job coach Frank Solich has done this season -- he lost his best defensive player in Noah Keller and his best offensive player in LaVon Brazill for the season, along with Freshman All-America safety Gerald Moore. But the Bobcats have won seven straight and beat the two other East Division teams that are bowl eligible in Temple and Miami (Ohio).

8. Sun Belt race. FIU gets its first Sun Belt title game and first bowl appearance with a win over Arkansas State on Saturday. The Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises this season and have won three straight to take command of the league race. The last time these two teams played in Miami, FIU won 22-21 on a touchdown pass from receiver T.Y. Hilton to fellow receiver Junior Mertile.

9. Bowl eligibility. A few teams have hopes of getting to six wins this weekend: Houston (at Texas Tech), Western Michigan (at Bowling Green), Troy (at Western Kentucky), FIU and ULM (Louisiana). Louisiana Tech (4-6) and Idaho (5-6) have to win out to become eligible. Louisiana Tech has to beat San Jose State and Nevada; while Idaho needs to beat Fresno State and San Jose State.

10. Your waistline. Oh, forget about your waistline! Put on a pair of sweatpants, and enjoy all the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie you can as you feast on a terrific college football slate this holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Non-AQ picks: Week 13

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
9:00
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ bowl look

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
4:30
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We are running out of weekends for teams to become bowl eligible. Here is a look at where teams stand in the non-AQ conferences.

Conference USA

Already eligible: UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss, UTEP, East Carolina, SMU.

Vying for a spot: Houston has to win at Texas Tech to get to six wins.

Conference race: UCF clinches the East and hosts the C-USA title game with a win at Memphis (1-10). Southern Miss needs to beat Tulsa and have UCF lose. East Carolina needs a win over SMU and UCF and Southern Miss to lose, creating a three-way tie. If that happens, the Pirates win the East. All three teams would finish 6-2 and would have beaten each other. The next tiebreaker is highest winning percentage within the division. East Carolina would be 4-1 while Southern Miss and UCF would be 3-2.

In the West: SMU clinches with a win at East Carolina. Tulsa clinches with a win over Southern Miss and an SMU loss. If both lose, SMU clinches a spot in the C-USA title game.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Six.

MAC

Already eligible: Temple, Toledo, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio).

Vying for a spot: Western Michigan needs a win at Bowling Green (2-9) on Friday to get to six wins.

Conference race: Northern Illinois has clinched the West. Ohio wins the East with a victory at Kent State on Friday. Miami (Ohio) needs a win over Temple tonight and an Ohio loss. If both lose, Ohio clinches a spot in the MAC title game.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Three.

Mountain West

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

Vying for a spot: Nobody else can become eligible.

Conference race: TCU wins the title outright with a victory over New Mexico or a Utah loss to BYU.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Five.

Sun Belt

Already eligible: No one.

Vying for a spot: Troy (5-5), FIU (5-5) and ULM (5-6) become bowl eligible with wins this weekend. Troy plays Western Kentucky (2-9), FIU hosts Arkansas State (4-7) and ULM hosts Louisiana (2-9). FAU (4-6) and Middle Tennessee (4-6) play each other with bowl hopes on the line.

Conference race: FIU takes the league with one win in its final two games. Troy needs to win out and have FIU lose out to win its fifth straight title.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Two.

WAC

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

Vying for a spot: Louisiana Tech (4-6) and Idaho (5-6) have to win out to become eligible. Louisiana Tech has to beat San Jose State and Nevada; while Idaho needs to beat Fresno State and San Jose State. The Vandals need seven wins because they have a 13-game schedule this season.

Conference race: Boise State wins the WAC with wins over Nevada and Utah State. Hawaii wins the WAC if it wins its final two games and Boise State loses its final two games. Nevada wins the WAC with a win over Boise State and a Hawaii loss. If there is a three-way tie, Nevada, Boise State and Hawaii would be considered co-champions. Hawaii is headed to the Hawaii Bowl regardless. As for Nevada and Boise State, the WAC -- along with a bowl committee of non-bowl eligible athletic directors -- work with the bowls to help decide the best place for each bowl eligible team.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Four.

Independents

Navy (8-3) and Army (6-5) are bowl eligible. Navy will head to the Poinsettia Bowl. Army is eligible for the first time since 1996. Though the Black Knights don’t have an automatic bowl tie-in this year, they have backup agreements with the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Notre Dame (6-5) is also headed to a bowl.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 22, 2010
11/22/10
5:00
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Here are the non-AQ Players of the Week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense:Southern Miss QB Austin Davis. Threw for 293 yards on 24-of-31 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions and added his second career 100-yard rushing performance with 111 yards on 17 carries and four rushing TDs in a 59-41 win over Houston.

Defense:SMU DB Richard Crawford. Had two interceptions and six tackles in a win over Marshall. The two picks were the most for any SMU player in 23 games.

Special teams:UCF KR Quincy McDuffie. Returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in a 61-14 win over Tulane. It was his second kickoff return for a touchdown this year.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Ohio RB Vince Davidson. Had 100 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in a 31-23 win over Temple.

Defense: Miami DB Brandon Stephens. Had a season-high nine tackles in a 19-14 win at Akron. Stephens nine tackles were all solo and marked the first time this season he led the club in tackles.

Special Teams: Bowling Green PR Eugene Cooper. Had a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 33-14 loss at Toledo on Nov. 17. It was Cooper's second punt return for a score this season.

West Division

Offense: Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest. Ran for a career-high 192 yards on 35 carries and had three touchdowns in a 21-17 win at Buffalo.

Defense: Western Michigan DB Jamail Berry. Played in his third different position on an injury depleted defense and racked up a career-high 17 tackles in a 38-3 win over Kent State.

Special Teams: Northern Illinois LB Jordan Delegal. Blocked two punts in a 59-21 win at Ball State and the Huskies set a school record with three blocked punts in the game.

Mountain West

Offense:Wyoming RB Alvester Alexander. Had 147 rushing yards and a school-record five touchdowns on 23 carries in a 44-0 victory over Colorado State.

Defense:Wyoming DE Josh Biezuns. Had a career-high 3.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup in the win over Colorado State.

Special teams: Utah P/K Joe Phillips. Handled kicking, punting and kickoff duties in a 38-34 victory at San Diego State. Phillips made a 32-yard field goal and five extra points. In his collegiate debut as punter, he averaged 35 yards per punt, landing four of his five attempts inside the 20.

Sun Belt

Offense:ULM QB Kolton Browning. Tied the school record with five touchdown passes in a 49-37 victory over North Texas. Browning completed 18-of-23 passes for 247 yards and also ran for 73 yards on 16 carries.

Defense: Middle Tennessee DB Rod Issac. Western Kentucky led 26-13 and had the ball at the Blue Raiders 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal when Issac picked up a fumble and went 99 yards for a touchdown, matching the longest fumble return in school history. Middle Tennessee won 27-26.

Special teams:Western Kentucky LB Bar'ee Boyd. Had two blocked punts against Middle Tennessee, the first blocks for the Hilltoppers in over two years. His second block was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

WAC

Offense:Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz. Threw for a school record 560 yards on 32-of-44 passing and three touchdowns in a 41-7 win over San Jose State. He also moved into third place on the school’s all-time passing list with 6,330 yards.

Defense: Hawaii LB Aaron Brown. Made five tackles, including one for a loss, and made his first two career interceptions in the win over San Jose State. He returned the first interception 22 yards for a touchdown.

Special teams:Boise State K Kyle Brotzman. Made all three of his field goal attempts (20, 20 and 50) and all six extra points in a 51-0 win over Fresno State. He broke the Boise State school record in scoring and now has 418 points in his career.

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