NCF Nation: UTEP

Return of the non-AQ mailbag

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
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During my two months away, the Adelson mailbag overflowed with plenty of queries. For those wondering, no, I could never forget about the "little sisters of the poor." I was just trying to ward off sleep deprivation while taking care of a newborn and 2-year-old. I had middling success. Hopefully, I will fare much better in this edition of the mailbag. Since I got so much mail, stay tuned for several mailbag posts this week.

Kevin Clifton of Hattiesburg, Miss., writes: How long does the WAC have? Is it on life support? How long before the MWC poaches Utah State away? Then what? I see Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio going to Conference USA after Houston and Central Florida leave for greener pastures in the Big East. Then UTEP goes to the MWC, New Mexico State and Texas State go to the Sun Belt. All you would have left is Idaho and San Jose State. San Jose State is thinking of dropping their status as a FBS school and Idaho, who needs them? If you have Boise State, you have the Boise market. I also see Army keeping its home television rights and joining the MAC and I see Navy doing the same and joining Conference-USA.

Andrea Adelson writes: Kevin is the grand Nostradamus of college football expansion! This plan sounds good, but there are a few problems. First, the WAC might actually survive, depending on what happens with everyone else. That does seem hard to believe, but let us say it implodes. The Sun Belt really wants to keep its geographic footprint and I do not see the league going into New Mexico. It does the Sun Belt no good. A recent report in the Miami Herald explained as much, and also theorizes that Louisiana Tech could find a landing spot here. Of course, a lot of that is dependent of what happens with the Big East, which could choose Memphis or East Carolina ahead of Houston. Much of that depends on whether the league wants a travel partner for TCU. If Houston is not chosen, it would have to decide whether it wants to stay in C-USA or maybe even go to the Mountain West should that league want to expand to 12. Utah State is not a part of those expansion plans right now. Even though it would theoretically bring the Salt Lake City market, the school really does not have a fan base as big as BYU or Utah to meaningfully replace that market. Army was in a league before and that did not work so well for the service academy so I would bet on the Black Knights staying independent.


Brad in Dallas writes: What do you think TCU's record will be this upcoming season? What are your thoughts on the TCU-Boise St. match up? Do you think TCU has a chance to win on the blue turf?

Adelson writes: Never too early for way too early predictions, right? My best-case scenario has TCU at 10-2 this season, with losses to Baylor and Boise State. I have Baylor down as a loss right now for a few reasons. First, Casey Pachall will be making his first start at quarterback and it is on the road. It is very tough for first-year starters to win on the road, especially right out of the gate. Second, first games are usually tough because you do not have the identity of your team yet, and there are generally a lot of mistakes. I also have the game at Boise State as a loss. The Broncos get the edge because of Kellen Moore, and because of the blue turf. But TCU definitely has a chance -- especially if its defensive line is going to be as good as Gary Patterson anticipates. That is the key to slowing down Boise State, being able to put adequate pressure on Moore to force him to make mistakes and hurry throws. I reserve the right to change my mind between now and the start of the season, so stay tuned!


Joe Mimnaugh in Las Vegas writes: With both Boise and TCU in a semi-rebuilding year and TCU leaving, do you think that TCU might tank a few games to 1, get revenge on the MWC for their schedule and 2, to make sure that any chance the MWC of becoming a BCS conference is not realized? Do you think that the MWC will be better in a few years after the changes are done, or would the WAC in 2011 be better than a MWC in 2014?

Adelson writes: No shot that TCU tanks anything. If anything, the Horned Frogs want to stick it to the Mountain West for moving the Boise State game to Boise. You will not find a competitor out there who would rather tank games than win championships. TCU will do everything it can to leave the Mountain West with yet another conference title. As for the future of the MWC, the league has dim prospects of becoming an automatic qualifier even if the Horned Frogs go 12-0 again. I think it would have to take winning an appeal to the Presidential Oversight Committee to become AQ. As for the WAC in 2011 vs. the Mountain West in 2014, the essential difference is Boise State -- and that would make the Mountain West stronger.

Non-AQ bowl look

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

Conference USA

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

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

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

Guaranteed bowl spots: Six.

MAC

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

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

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

Guaranteed bowl spots: Three.

Mountain West

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

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

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

Guaranteed bowl spots: Five.

Sun Belt

Already eligible: No one.

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

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

Guaranteed bowl spots: Two.

WAC

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

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

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

Guaranteed bowl spots: Four.

Independents

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

Non-AQ bowl projections

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
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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

GoDaddy.com 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 What we learned: Week 10

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
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What we learned from the non-AQs in Week 10:

TCU is for real. Say whatever you want about how good Utah is, but you cannot deny the Horned Frogs' defense is fierce. They held yet another opponent to under 200 yards of offense in the 47-7 win over Utah, and have allowed 23 points in six league games. That includes two shutouts. TCU is also the only team in the nation to not allow an opponent to reach 200 yards passing this season. The defense lost its two best players, but is playing better than the team that went undefeated last season in the regular season. TCU came into the game with the No. 1 total defense and No. 1 scoring defense in the country. It showed exactly why in a game against a Top 5 team.

Gary Patterson
Jim Urquhart/AP PhotoGary Patteron's Horned Frogs showed why they have the No. 1 total defense and No. 1 scoring defense in the country.
Boise State is for real. Many (including myself) thought Hawaii would give Boise State a real test. Not so much. Kellen Moore had a monster game with 507 yards passing, and the Boise State defense proved it is just as fierce as that group down in Fort Worth. The Broncos had seven sacks, and held Hawaii to 196 total yards, their lowest total in 12 years. Boise State went into the weekend with the No. 3 ranked total defense in the country. The beauty pageant between the Broncos and Horned Frogs is set to continue through the closing weeks of the season, as both try to jockey for a spot in the BCS national championship game.

Offense everywhere. If you like offense, then Saturday was the day for you. Boise State had a school-record 737 yards of offense. Nevada had a school-record 844 yards of total offense in a 63-17 win over Idaho, including 320 yards passing and five touchdowns from Colin Kaepernick. That was the highest offensive total of any FBS school since 2004. Navy scored a modern school-record 76 points in a win over East Carolina. Tulsa had 612 yards in a 64-27 win over Rice. BYU even got into the act with a season-high 516 yards and 55 points in a win over UNLV. TCU had over 500 yards of total offense, too. So did Fresno State.

Air Force reigns supreme. We have a new top dog for the service academies. Air Force captured the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the first time since 2002 after beating Army 42-22 on Saturday. None of the Air Force players had ever seen the trophy before, because it had belonged to Navy for the past seven years. But Air Force beat Navy earlier this year, making the Falcons 2-0 against the academies this year. Tim Jefferson ran for two touchdowns and threw for two touchdowns in the win. The Falcons are now bowl eligible, while Army still needs one more win to reach six.

More bowl eligibility. Several other teams became bowl eligible on Saturday -- Navy punched its ticket to the Poinsettia Bowl. Southern Miss, Tulsa, UTEP and Fresno State all reached the six-win mark. Southern Miss beat Tulane, while UTEP had a strong win over SMU. Fresno State got 286 yards rushing from Robbie Rouse to beat Louisiana Tech.

Non-AQ storylines to watch: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
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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.

Non-AQ Picks, Week 10

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 9 were decent, and I got my upset special right. Tulsa beat Notre Dame to help me get to 7-3. Should have known Western Kentucky might have a letdown after its first win since 2008.

With a 57-37 overall record, bring on Week 10.

Drumroll please: No. 3 TCU 24, No. 5 Utah 21. Yes, I know Utah has a 21-game home winning streak. Yes, I know TCU is 0-3 in Utah. But I am picking the Horned Frogs for two reasons: 1. I think the defense is better. 2. I think Andy Dalton and his experience will be a big key. These teams are so evenly matched, turnovers could make a difference. Utah has struggled until recently in creating them. TCU is at plus-5. Utah is at minus-1 in turnover margin. For more on my pick, check out my prediction video on this game later today.

No. 4 Boise State 38, Hawaii 23. The Warriors will give the Broncos a test with their passing offense. The Boise State secondary has to step up and prove it is not a weak link on this defense. In the end, Boise State will get enough pressure on Bryant Moniz to throw him off rhythm, and Kellen Moore will be able to make enough plays to help the Broncos win.

No. 23 Nevada 35, Idaho 17. Nevada got back on track last week on offense in a win over Utah State. But coach Chris Ault had some choice words for his defense, which gave up 42 second-half points after shutting the Aggies out in the first two periods. “We stunk up the field and played with absolutely no sense of urgency,” Ault said. That should be corrected against the Vandals, who had 14 penalties for 152 yards and four turnovers in a loss to Hawaii last week.

Air Force 28, Army 21. The Falcons have hit a bit of a rough stretch, losing three straight. All three were to bowl-eligible teams, including No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Utah. Army is putting together its best season since 1996, but the Falcons have the edge in this game because their triple option offense is better. They gave Utah all it could handle last week, but had five turnovers. If Air Force wins, it gets the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the first time since 2002.

UCF 27, Houston 17 (Friday night). This is going to be a grind-it-out game between two teams that are relying on running the ball. But the difference here is UCF will be able to run on Houston, which ranks No. 98 in the country in run defense. Ronnie Weaver has emerged, and is coming off a career night. Bryce Beall, Houston’s leading rusher, is banged up and his status is in question for the game. UCF has the best defense in Conference USA and will be able to slow Houston down.

UPSET SPECIAL: Kent State 21, Temple 20. The Golden Flashes are undefeated at home, and have the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense. That is going to pose a problem for Temple, which relies on Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown to set the tone. Temple has won three straight against MAC bottom feeders, including back-to-back shutouts of Akron and Buffalo (combined two wins). This will be the Owls’ biggest challenge since losing to Northern Illinois on Oct. 9.

UPSET SPECIAL II: Navy 35, East Carolina 27. If you can figure Navy out this year, please raise your hand. The Midshipmen have been on more highs and lows than a yo-yo. But East Carolina is going to have a hard time stopping the run game, and the Navy defense should return to form to get it to six wins and bowl eligibility. Last week was a very uncharacteristic performance from a Navy defense that has generally played well all season.

Troy 35, North Texas 23. Troy has won six of the last seven meetings between the schools, and no longer has any margin for error if it wants to win the Sun Belt. That is because the Trojans lost to ULM last week, their first conference loss in two years. North Texas won last week under interim coach Mike Canales, but Troy has more talent and depth and will be even more motivated to win.

SMU 30, UTEP 20. The Miners are in a tailspin, losing three straight games. Trevor Vittatoe hasn’t been healthy, and he has played erratically because of it. SMU is the stronger team on offense and defense. One more point: Since 2006, the Miners are just 4-15 in November.

Wyoming 33, New Mexico 17. Slim chance for an upset here -- the Lobos are the worst team in America for a reason. Now add in the fact that they could be without starting quarterback B.R. Holbrook and well, this one is looking like another loss. Wyoming has been eliminated from bowl contention, but I’m sure the players don’t want to be the ones to end the New Mexico losing streak.

Non-AQ weekend rewind: Week 9

November, 1, 2010
11/01/10
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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 What to Watch, Week 9

October, 28, 2010
10/28/10
10:15
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Come one, come all for your top-10 non-AQ storylines for Week 9:

1. Do No. 4 TCU and No. 8 Utah stay undefeated headed into their big showdown next week? TCU travels to UNLV and Utah travels to Air Force on Saturday. The Horned Frogs have been inconsistent in two true road games this season, trailing early to SMU and leading only 6-0 at halftime against Colorado State. TCU is a heavy favorite to beat lowly UNLV, but this is a good road test before its trip to Salt Lake City. Utah faces a much more difficult test at Air Force. The games between the two schools are generally close, and the Falcons are smarting after two straight losses. Many have complained about the “weak” Utah schedule to this point. A win here might answer some of those critics.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lindley
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireRyan Lindley and the Aztecs are on the brink of bowl eligibility.
2. Who becomes bowl eligible? Eleven non-AQ teams are one win away from becoming bowl eligible this Saturday, with some new faces scattered in there. San Diego State (5-2) has not been to a bowl game since 1998 and plays at Wyoming, a game it should win. Toledo (5-3) and UTEP (5-3) have not been to a bowl game since 2005. East Carolina (5-2) and UCF (5-2) play each other so only one will get to six wins. Hawaii (6-2), Nevada (6-1), Navy (5-2), Ohio (5-3) and Southern Miss (5-2) are all favored to win their games. Air Force (5-3) has a big game against Utah, as mentioned above.

3. Does UCF break through and beat East Carolina? The two rivals have combined to win each of the past three Conference USA championships and four of the past five East Division titles. Both have won all their league games, marking the latest that two undefeated teams have played since the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005. But East Carolina has won four straight in the series and holds an 8-1 overall edge. Many people thought this might be a rebuilding year for the Pirates, but they have won behind Dominique Davis. The UCF defense is going to have its hands full.

4. Navy has a chance to win four straight. The Midshipmen were down and out after losing to Air Force 14-6 earlier this season. A team that has known nothing but dominance over its fellow service academies has been strengthened because of that loss, running off three straight wins. None was more convincing than a 35-17 victory over Notre Dame last week that was vintage Navy. It hosts Duke on Saturday.

5. How does TCU quarterback Andy Dalton play on the road? In three neutral site/road games this season, Dalton has three touchdowns to four interceptions. At home: 11 touchdowns to one interception. TCU closes with three of its final four games on the road, starting Saturday. Coach Gary Patterson said earlier this week, “We’ll probably go as Andy Dalton goes. If he plays at a high level, we’ll have a chance to win more of those games than we lose.”

6. Can the Utah defense be as effective as TCU at stopping Air Force? A lot of people like to scoreboard watch as a way to measure teams against each other. TCU and Utah both are in the top 10 in the nation in total defense. So which will be able to handle the Air Force triple option better? TCU held Air Force to a season-low 184 yards rushing last week.

7. Ohio is asserting itself in the MAC. The Bobcats have won four straight games behind solid play from quarterback Boo Jackson. Of course, it has helped that they also got to beat up on Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Akron. But last week’s win over Miami (Ohio) was big. They have outgained five consecutive opponents on the ground for the first time since 2006. During the four-game win streak, Ohio has scored 151 points, the most points in a four-game stretch since 2002. They get Sun Belt Louisiana this week and Buffalo next before a huge game against East Division opponent Temple on Nov. 16.

8. Two of these teams are going to get to two wins on Saturday: San Jose State, New Mexico State, North Texas and Western Kentucky. The season has been especially unkind to San Jose State and North Texas, who have lost multiple players to season-ending injuries. The Mean Green have lost 10 starters, the Spartans 15 starters and key reserves. North Texas travels to play Western Kentucky, coming off its first win of the season, while San Jose State goes to Las Cruces.

9. How does Mike Canales fair in his first game as a North Texas interim head coach? Canales takes over for Todd Dodge, who was fired last week after winning just six games for the Mean Green. This is a job audition for Canales, who would love to become a head coach and has learned under some of the best. Most recently, he served as offensive coordinator under Jim Leavitt at USF before coming to North Texas this season.

10. The BCS standings will look how? Depends on what happens with everybody else. The big question moving forward: If TCU and Utah are undefeated next week and the Horned Frogs win, will that give them a boost toward climbing ahead of Boise State? They are just 0.0013 points behind Boise State this week. If Utah wins, will that give the Utes a boost? That is much less likely because they still have far to climb, especially in the human polls.

Non-AQ Bowl Projections

October, 24, 2010
10/24/10
8:30
PM ET
Time for the latest bowl projections for the non-AQ teams. I have done these for all of college football from the beginning of the season, but now is when things truly get interesting in the fight for bowl eligibility. It is a huge guessing game, but also keep in mind -- the projections are not necessarily where the teams are going to finish.

Bowls are not required to take teams based on order of finish in the conference if they feel there is a more intriguing team that is available to them. Hawaii, for example, might finish second in the WAC, but would go to the Hawaii Bowl regardless.

One change - I am now projecting UCF as the winner of Conference USA. SMU's loss to Houston on Saturday night had a hand in that. But right now UCF and East Carolina are the two best teams in the conference, with a big showdown looming this week in Orlando. I also have Houston back in the projections after the big win.

I still have Boise State in the national title game. The more No. 1 teams that lose, the more that helps the Broncos.

Here are the latest projections after Week 8:

BCS national championship game: Oregon vs. Boise State

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. TCU

Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa vs. Hawaii

Armed Forces Bowl: East Carolina vs. Army

Eagle Bank: Maryland vs. Southern Miss

Liberty Bowl: UCF vs. Kentucky

New Orleans Bowl: UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee

GoDaddy.com 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

Little Caesars: Penn State vs. Northern Illinois

Beef O’Bradys: Louisville vs. SMU

Kraft Fight Hunger: Houston* vs. Nevada

* = at large because conference cannot fill bowl allotment.
Ask UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe about breaking the school records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns, and he deflects the answer back to the team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among them:

A true Miner will be mature.

A true Miner will focus on academics.

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

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

A true Miner will be his brother’s keeper.

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

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

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

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

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

He has yet to miss a game.

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

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

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

“Back to work.”

That work continues Saturday.

Lunchtime Links

October, 21, 2010
10/21/10
12:35
PM ET
Here are a few links to help you make it through another day. But hey! There is football on tonight. Join me and Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller for a live chat during the UCLA-Oregon game, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to watch from non-AQs, Week 8

October, 21, 2010
10/21/10
10:15
AM ET
Come one, come all for your Top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 8:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ predictions: Week 8

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

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

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

On to the picks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-AQ Bowl Look

October, 17, 2010
10/17/10
8:30
PM ET
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

Non-AQ Did you know, Week 7

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
9:00
AM ET
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.

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