NCF Nation: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

All dressed up, no place to bowl

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
10:30
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Sometimes you can do everything right and reach that six-win trigger point to become bowl eligible. But sometimes it’s not enough.

For nine teams this year, six wins (or more) didn’t get the job done. And while 70 other teams are preparing to play an extra game, snag some swag and -- most importantly -- getting extra practice time, these nine are on the outside looking in.

While a snub is a snub, it’s always fun to rank things. Here’s a snapshot of the “Jilted 9” from the most snubbed to the least snubbed.

Toledo (7-5, 5-3)
League: MAC
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 5
Notable: Seven wins feels like it should have been enough for the Rockets -- especially with victories over Navy, Bowling Green and Buffalo -- which are all going bowling. But a limping finish that included losses to Northern Illinois and a two-point loss to Akron snaps Toledo’s streak of three-straight bowl appearances.

San Jose State (6-6, 5-3)
League: Mountain West
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 6
Notable: A top 25-finish last year and a returning standout quarterback in David Fales wasn’t enough to get the Spartans -- who were looking for back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1986-1987 -- into the postseason. Prior to their signature win over No. 16 Fresno State to close out the year, the Spartans dropped three straight to San Diego State, Nevada and Navy (3 OT).

Western Kentucky (8-4, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: Despite closing the year with four wins and beating Arkansas State (which has a better conference record at 5-2, but a worse overall record at 7-5), Bobby Petrino and the Hilltoppers are left out. The Sun Belt has only two tie-ins (R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and GoDaddy Bowl), so they were the league that took the brunt of the snubbing. Last year -- a loss in the Little Caesars Bowl -- was the school’s first bowl appearance. Their eight wins are the most since moving to FBS ball in 2009.

Central Michigan (6-6, 5-3)
League: MAC
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 5
Notable: The Chippewas closed the year strong with three wins after dropping six of their first nine. But they failed to beat a ranked team, dropping the season opener to No. 17 Michigan 59-9 and falling to No. 23 Northern Illinois 38-17. Central Michigan had gone to five bowl games the past eight years.

Florida Atlantic (6-6, 4-4)
League: Conference USA
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 6 (Note: UTSA, though 7-5, is still in transition to NCAA Division I and won't be eligible for bowl games until next year.)
Notable: After starting the year 2-6 (coach Carl Pelini was fired, but other factors contributed to his dismissal), the Owls closed out the year with four straight wins. Their last appearance was the 2008 Motor City Bowl.

Louisiana-Monroe (6-6, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: One of five Sun Belt teams staying home for the holidays, the Warhawks made their only appearance in the postseason last year when they lost in the Independence Bowl to Ohio, 45-14. They dropped both games against ranked teams (Oklahoma, Baylor) and dropped two of their final three to close out the season. There was some hope that the season-finale win over Louisiana-Lafayette (headed to R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl) might have been enough of a statement for inclusion.

South Alabama (6-6, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: This was the fifth season of football for the Jaguars, who were bowl eligible for the first time since moving up from FCS. Like Louisiana-Monroe, they closed out the year with a win over Louisiana-Lafayette. But despite finishing the season with three straight wins and no games against ranked opponents, there wasn’t enough on the resume.

Troy (6-6, 4-3)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: Another one of those three-conference loss Sun Belt teams on the outside, the Trojans were 5-3 at one point during the year, but closed out the season losing three of their last four. They played the Blue Devils tough at Duke, losing 38-31 in September, but didn’t have much of a resume. Their last postseason appearance was winning the New Orleans Bowl in 2010.

Texas State (6-6, 2-5)
League: Sun Belt
Bowl eligible teams: 7
Teams going bowling: 2
Notable: In their first year of bowl eligibility after moving up from FCS, the Bobcats struggled in the Sun Belt and dropped three in a row to Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and Troy to close out the year. They lost their only game to a ranked team, Texas Tech, back in September, 33-7.

Instant analysis: C. Michigan 24, WKU 21

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
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Central Michigan closed the 2012 season with its fourth straight win by holding off Western Kentucky 24-21 on Wednesday night in the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field.

Here’s how it went down:

It was over when: Instead of trying a 36-yard field goal that could have tied the game and forced overtime, Western Kentucky elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Central Michigan 19-yard line with 51 seconds to play. Quarterback Kawaun Jakes just overthrew his tight end, Jack Doyle, who stretched out for the ball, but couldn’t come up with it inside the 5.

Turning point: With Western Kentucky punting from its own end zone, Central Michigan’s Avery Cunningham was able to get a hand on the Hilltoppers’ punt, and the Chippewas took over from their own 26 with 6:55 to play. Aided by a pair of pass interference penalties on Western Kentucky, Central Michigan needed just three plays to find the end zone and take the lead for good.

Game ball goes to: Central Michigan quarterback Ryan Radcliff finished 19-of-29 for 253 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His final touchdown was an 11-yard strike to Cody Wilson to give the Chippewas a 24-21 lead with 5:11 remaining.

Stat of the game: Central Michigan’s Zurlon Tipton rushed for 101 yards, which was his seventh straight 100-yard rushing performance.

Unsung hero: Central Michigan redshirt freshman receiver Andrew Flory had a pair of touchdown catches in the first quarter -- a 69-yarder and 29-yarder. The Chippewas were playing without two of their top three receivers, Titus Davis and Courtney Williams, both of whom were suspended for violating team policy.

What it means: After limping into the final week of October with a 2-5 record, Central Michigan put a bow on its torrid close to the season. The Chippewas (7-6) ended up winning five of their final six games.

Little Caesars Bowl keys

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
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Breaking down today’s Little Caesars Bowl matchup between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan:

1. Zapping Zurlon: Not only does Central Michigan’s Zurlon Tipton have one of the best names in all of college football, but he’s the centerpiece of the Chippewas’ offense. Tipton, a 6-foot-1, 219-pound junior running back, has been Mr. Dependable: He has rushed for 100 yards or more in each of his past six contests and has 19 touchdowns on the season. Western Kentucky has been pretty salty on defense this season and is 32nd nationally against the run. The Hilltoppers are allowing 138.2 yards per game on the ground. Holding Tipton under 100 yards would go a long way toward making Western Kentucky’s first bowl appearance a successful one.

2. Replacing Quanterus: The Hilltoppers will be without their best defensive player. Senior defensive end Quanterus Smith tore the ACL in his left leg in the next-to-last game of the regular season and underwent season-ending surgery. He had 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss and was easily Western Kentucky’s most dynamic game-changer on defense. Redshirt freshman Gavin Rocker started in Smith’s place in the regular-season finale, but the Hilltoppers also plan to rotate in sophomore T.J. Smith and freshman Calvin Washington. Central Michigan quarterback Ryan Radcliff isn’t much of a threat to run, but he is effective at avoiding the rush, moving laterally and finding his receiving targets. The Chippewas have given up only 14 sacks in 12 games.

3. Winning up front: Stopping the run hasn’t been Central Michigan’s strong suit. The Chippewas, who see a lot of spread offenses in the MAC, are 98th nationally in rushing defense and allowing an average of 198.3 rushing yards per game. Western Kentucky will try to set the tone with its running game right off the bat. The Hilltoppers are extremely physical in their offensive line and will utilize multiple tight end sets. Throw in Antonio Andrews’ versatility, and this will be a huge test for the Chippewas’ defense. Andrews has rushed for 230 yards or more in each of his past two games. If he gets into a rhythm early, Central Michigan could end up spending the rest of the game on its heels.

Pregame: Little Caesars Bowl

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
12:00
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Western Kentucky (7-5, 4-4 Sun Belt) vs. Central Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC)

WHO TO WATCH: Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews. The 6-foot, 211-pound junior leads the country with 2,977 all-purpose yards and is the only FBS player with more than 1,500 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving. He’s averaging 248.1 all-purpose yards per game and needs 274 yards in the bowl game to break Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season. Sanders amassed 3,250 yards in 1988 on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Andrews, who was a quarterback in high school, is one of four finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is given annually to the nation’s most versatile player.

WHAT TO WATCH: Central Michigan has given up points in bunches, and Western Kentucky has given up the football in bunches. Which of those troubling trends will continue? The Chippewas are allowing 33.3 points per game and were riddled for 40 or more points in five of their six losses. The Hilltoppers, on the other hand, are minus-1 in turnover margin. They’ve fumbled the ball 21 times this season and lost 12. They’ve also thrown 12 interceptions.

WHY TO WATCH: Even though he won’t be coaching, newly hired Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino will still be a hot topic. He takes over a Western Kentucky program that has progressed miles under Willie Taggart, who left to take the South Florida head-coaching job. Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry is serving as the Hilltoppers’ interim head coach for this game, a role that’s familiar to him. He stepped in as the interim head coach for Miami (Ohio) at the end of the 2010 season (after Mike Haywood left for the Pittsburgh head-coaching job) and led the RedHawks to a 35-21 victory over Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 31, Central Michigan 17. It wasn’t too long ago that Western Kentucky was playing its first official season in the FBS ranks. The Hilltoppers finished 0-12 in 2009, but here they are, in their first bowl game. Central Michigan is the hot team coming in. The Chippewas had to win three in a row to close the season just to become bowl eligible. The Hilltoppers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 25-24 win over North Texas in their regular-season finale. Western Kentucky’s ability to run the ball and eat up the clock will be the difference in this one, keeping Guidry’s perfect record as an interim head coach intact.

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
10:12
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Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6)

Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET, Detroit (ESPN)

Western Kentucky take from SEC blogger Edward Aschoff: After a 5-1 start for the Hilltoppers, they finished the season losing four of their last six, including three in a row before finishing the season with a 25-24 comeback win against North Texas.

Despite finishing fifth in the Sun Belt Conference, Western Kentucky gave Sun Belt champ Arkansas State its lone conference loss with a 26-13 win in Jonesboro, Ark.

The Hilltoppers had one of the nation’s best statistical running backs. Antonio Andrews not only led the Sun Belt with 1,614 yards but ranked sixth nationally. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns.

Western Kentucky owned the Sun Belt’s top defense, allowing a conference-low 342.8 yards per game and was equipped with the conference’s top sack artist in defensive lineman Quanterus Smith (12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss).




Central Michigan take by Wolverine Nation's Chantel Jennings: The Chippewas showed their potential in a 32-31 early-season win over Iowa, scoring on a 47-yard field goal by David Harman with three seconds left to earn the victory.

The early momentum didn’t last, however, as Central Michigan went 2-5 through its first seven games. The Chippewas turned it around, however, and finished 4-1 in their final five games to finish 6-6 in a surprisingly deep MAC.

Keying the turnaround was talented junior running back Zurlon Tipton, who ran for 12 touchdowns in the last five games and finished the regular season with 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns. Balancing out the offensive attack were senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff and his two favorite receivers -- sophomore Titus Davis and senior Cody Wilson. Radcliff threw 20 touchdown passes, eight to Davis.
1. When a player like Western Kentucky senior defensive lineman Quanterus Smith leads the FBS with 6.5 sacks, there’s a tendency to dismiss it. Western Kentucky, right? But think again. The Hilltoppers, 4-1 and 1-0 in the Sun Belt, have played two SEC teams, losing to No. 1 Alabama and beating Kentucky. That’s a tougher schedule than most teams have played this season. Smith had three sacks and forced a fumble against the No. 1 Tide. In other words, next question.

2. Speaking of which, Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o has five turnovers, more than 19 FBS teams, including Michigan (four) and No. 17 Oklahoma (somehow, only one). The Fighting Irish have forced 13 turnovers this season, one fewer than in all of 2011. And Notre Dame has allowed only two touchdowns in 10 red zone trips (20 percent). Last season, opponents scored 25 touchdowns in 43 trips (58 percent). So that’s why the No. 9 Irish are 4-0.

3. With five new head coaches among its 12 members, Conference USA figured to endure a season of transition. But, oh, the humanity. The league is 7-31 against nonleague FBS foes, including a 1-12 record against the six AQ conferences. Let’s hear it for Rice kicker Chris Boswell, whose 45-yard field goal as time expired gave the Owls a 25-24 victory and is the only play that separates C-USA from being shut out thus far.
1. With Virginia Tech’s loss at Pittsburgh, the longest road winning streaks belong to No. 3 Oregon (11 games) and No. 9 Stanford (eight). Neither streak will end this week -- the Ducks are home for No. 22 Arizona; the Cardinal is off. And all praise to both programs. But two Pac-12 teams atop this list speaks as much to the top-heavy nature of the league over the last two seasons as anything. If the fast start by the Wildcats, No. 19 UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State are for real, those road winning streaks are in danger.

2. Willie Taggart left behind a job coaching Stanford running backs after the 2009 season (when his back, Toby Gerhart, finished as Heisman runner-up) to take over as head coach of his winless alma mater, Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers went 7-5 last season, played respectably in a 39-0 loss to Alabama and upset Kentucky, 32-31, in overtime Saturday. When Mama called, Taggart answered. But now that he has put himself on the national coaching radar, I’m guessing it won’t be long before he leaves Mama behind.

3. Speaking of which, Sun Belt conference teams are 2-1 in overtime games against the SEC this season (WKU 1-0, Louisiana-Monroe 1-1) and 2-5 against the SEC overall. That may not seem like much, but Sun Belt teams had gone 0-35 against the SEC by an average score of 42-11 before Sept. 8, when ULM beat Arkansas, 34-31. This season, the Sun Belt teams have lost by an average of 36-22. The league may be the SEC’s little brother, but it’s as strong as it has ever been.

Top 10 non-AQ moments of 2011

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
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Let's take a look back at some of the top moments from the non-AQs in 2011, both good and bad.

[+] EnlargeCasey Pachall
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesQB Casey Pachall and TCU stopped Boise State's 65-game regular-season home win streak en route to a third straight Mountain West title.
1. A missed field goal strikes again. Everybody knew the Boise State-TCU game would have major implications in the national picture. No. 5 Boise State came in undefeated, with a 65-game regular-season home winning streak and veteran Kellen Moore leading the way. But the Horned Frogs are never an easy out, as Boise State has learned through the years. Casey Pachall rallied his team from a fourth-quarter deficit with 1:05 to go when he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Carter. Rather than go for the extra point to tie the game at 35, Gary Patterson went for 2. It was a bold move, but it was one he felt was necessary if he wanted to win in regulation. Pachall converted with a pass to Josh Boyce and TCU went up 36-35. Moore wasn't done. He guided the Broncos into position for the game-winning field goal. But for the second straight year, they missed. This time, it was Dan Goodale's 39-yard kick sailing wide right, denying Boise State a shot at a BCS game. TCU left the Mountain West with its third straight conference title.

2. Houston collapses. All Houston had to do to secure its first BCS berth was beat Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game. The Cougars were the favorite, having gone undefeated in the regular season with Case Keenum behind center. Southern Miss had lost to UAB. So yeah, most everybody expected the Cougars to romp. Instead, the Golden Eagles pulled one of the biggest upsets of the season, shutting down Keenum and winning 49-28 in a game they dominated from start to finish. Keenum threw two interceptions and was harassed all day long. The end result: Houston ended up in the TicketCity Bowl, a far cry from one of the major BCS games. Southern Miss won its first C-USA title game.

3. Records broken. The two best non-AQ players this year ended up breaking two of the most meaningful stats for quarterbacks. Moore ended his career as the NCAA all-time wins leader with 50, passing Colt McCoy of Texas; Keenum ended his career with several NCAA marks -- 19,217 passing yards; 20,114 yards of total offense; 155 passing touchdowns; and 1,546 completions. They both did all they could to lead their teams with maturity and class, and were great representatives for their respective programs.

4. No BCS. For the first time since the BCS expanded to five games, there were no non-AQ teams represented. Much was made about a one-loss No. 7 Boise State team getting passed over for an at-large selection in favor of two teams ranked lower in the BCS standings (Michigan and Virginia Tech). Though four non-AQs finished the season ranked in the AP poll (Boise State, TCU, Houston, Southern Miss), this season will be remembered as one in which there were no undefeated non-AQs for the first time since 2005.

5. Expansion. One of the biggest storylines to eclipse the entire season was expansion, and its impact on the non-AQs. The Mountain West and Conference USA announced they were forming an alliance in the hopes of gaining an automatic bid, and bolstering itself in the event they lost teams. Well, the inevitable happened and they both lost teams. Boise State and San Diego State are leaving the MWC for the Big East, along with UCF, Houston and SMU of C-USA. With TCU going to the Big 12, you can say the non-AQs have been stripped of nearly every single one of their most consistently good teams. There is no word on the future of the alliance between the MWC and C-USA.

[+] EnlargePat Hill
AP Photo/Gary KazanjianPat Hill won 112 games and made 11 bowl appearances in 15 seasons at Fresno State.
6. End of an era. Pat Hill had become an institution at Fresno, guiding the Bulldogs to some of their most important victories in the past 15 years while putting this program on the national map. But this team has slid in recent years and hit rock bottom in 2011 -- going 4-9, tying the mark for most losses in school history. The administration decided it was time for Hill to go and fired him after winning 112 games and going to 11 bowl games in his career there.

7. End of an era, Part II. Many wondered how good TCU would be this season with Andy Dalton headed to the NFL. After a few early-season struggles, the Horned Frogs proved they would be just fine. TCU ended its Mountain West reign with its third straight conference title; 11 victories; and yet another top 15 ranking. In fact, TCU is one of just four schools (Alabama, Boise State and Oregon) to finish in the top 15 of both major polls over the past four seasons. On top of that, TCU and Boise State are the only schools to win at least 11 games each of the past four years.

8. Navy streak ends. For the past eight years, we have come to expect Navy in a bowl game. But it was not meant to be this season. The Midshipmen lost one heartbreaking game after another -- five games by three points or fewer. The last one of those was a 27-24 setback to San Jose State in the second-to-last game of the season. Navy led going into the fourth quarter, but could not hold on. A victory in that game would have ensured a bowl appearance, because Navy finished the season with its 10th straight win over Army.

9. Got any D? The wildest game in college football happened in the MAC this year, between Northern Illinois and Toledo. Now this game is what MAC-tion is all about. The Huskies outlasted the Rockets 63-60 in a game that featured eight lead changes, 1,121 combined yards of offense and a MAC-record 17 touchdowns. Chandler Harnish won the game when he threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Perez Ashford with 19 seconds left. The victory gave Northern Illinois the MAC West title, and allowed the Huskies to make it to the conference title game, where they won their first title since 1983. They also ended up tying the school record with 11 victories.

10. Turn it around. This season, the Sun Belt literally turned itself upside down. Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and Western Kentucky went a combined 9-27 in 2010. This season, they went 26-12 and each finished with a winning record. Arkansas State won the league and finished 10-3; ULL went 9-4. Both teams made bowl games. Western Kentucky, which went winless in 2009, finished 7-5 but was left out of a bowl.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
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Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 13:

Houston one step away. The Cougars faced a tough task on the road at Tulsa, with a spot in the Conference USA championship game on the line. Tulsa jumped out to a 10-6 lead early in the game, and some had to wonder whether we were seeing the old Houston come back to life. But these are not the Cougars of 2009 or 2010. The Cougars reeled off 28 straight points in the second half to blow open the game and win 48-16. Case Keenum threw for 457 yards and five touchdown passes, and Patrick Edwards had 181 yards and four touchdowns as Houston won a school-record 12th game. Two of their touchdown connections came on fourth down. Edwards went over 100 yards for the 16th time in his career and also broke the conference record for career receiving yards. Houston now hosts Southern Miss on Saturday with a chance to make its first BCS appearance.

Coaching carousel starts. Akron, Memphis and UAB all are in the market for new head coaches. The Zips fired Rob Ianello after he went 2-22 in his two seasons at the helm. The Tigers fired Larry Porter after he went 3-21 in two seasons. UAB fired Neil Callaway after he went 18-42 in five seasons with the Blazers. Athletic directors at all three schools essentially said they did not see improvement in their programs and decided to go in different directions. Callaway is the third Conference USA coach who has been fired this season, joining Bob Toledo of Tulane. New Mexico also fired coach Mike Locksley earlier this season, but already hired former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. Meanwhile, Ianello was reportedly fired as he drove to his mother's funeral in Long Island, N.Y.

Going bowling. Marshall became bowl eligible for the first time under coach Doc Holliday, after a 34-27 win over East Carolina in overtime. The Pirates sent the game into the extra period when Dominique Davis threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jones with 14 seconds left in regulation. But Davis threw an interception in overtime, after Tron Martinez scored on a 1-yard run for the Herd. East Carolina will not be in a bowl game for the first time in six years. As for the Herd, they are one of several non-AQ teams to become bowl eligible after losing seasons in 2010:
  • Ball State improved from 4-8 to 6-6.
  • Western Kentucky improved from 2-10 to 7-5.
  • Wyoming improved from 3-9 to 7-4, with one game remaining at Colorado State.
  • Louisiana Tech improved from 5-7 to 8-4 and WAC champs.
  • Utah State improved from 4-8 to 6-5 with one game remaining at New Mexico State.
  • Arkansas State improved from 4-8 to 9-2.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette improved from 3-9 to 8-4.

As you can see, three Sun Belt teams made five-game improvements, and the league has four bowl-eligible teams this season.

Game of the week. FAU 38, UAB 35.

Howard Schnellenberger announced his retirement before the season, began but his final season was not exactly going according to plan. The Owls were the only winless team in FBS heading into Week 13. But alas, the football gods conspired to make sure the legendary program builder would not go out without a win. The Owls played inspired football Saturday against UAB, beating the Blazers 38-35 as Schnellenberger avoided his first winless season. Alfred Morris had a career-high four touchdowns, with a career-high 198 yards on 38 carries to notch his fifth straight 100-yard game. "I got the biggest and best kiss from [wife] Beverlee in a long time on the sideline," Schnellenberger said afterward. "And I'm expecting more when I get home."

WAC-ky WAC. Nevada was in control of the WAC heading into last week's game against Louisiana Tech. But the Wolf Pack have now dropped two straight games, losing to Utah State 21-17 on Saturday. The Bulldogs had no such problems after their big win over Nevada last week and beat New Mexico State 44-0 to win their first WAC title since 2001. Louisiana Tech has won seven straight after starting the year 1-4. The team also accepted a bowl spot in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the fifth bowl bid in school history. This will be first bowl appearance since an Independence Bowl victory over Northern Illinois in 2008.

Helmet Stickers

Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall. Cato went 23-of-29 for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 overtime win over East Carolina to get the Thundering Herd to a bowl game.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce had a season-high 189 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in a 34-16 win over Kent State. Pierce went over the 100-yard mark in rushing for the 17th time in his career and eighth time this season. Pierce has had three or more touchdowns in six games this year.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey had a season-high 227-yards and three touchdowns in a 41-18 win over Troy. Rainey also broke the school's single-season rushing record, ending the regular season with 1,695 yards. He now leads the nation for the second straight season in carries and broke his own school record with 369 attempts on the season.

Travis Stanaway, S, Boise State. Stanaway, making just the second start of his career for Boise State, had a career-high nine tackles, forced a fumble and had his first career interception as a Bronco in a 36-14 win over Wyoming.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State. Wagner had a game-high 15 tackles in a 21-17 win over Nevada, and also had a critical fumble recovery on a fourth-and-1 in the final minutes of the game to preserve the victory.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
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Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

C-USA

Offense: G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. Kinne went 21-of-27 for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another in a 57-28 win over UTEP.

Defense: Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and three sacks in a 37-7 win over SMU.

Special teams: Chris Boswell, K, Rice. Boswell made a pair of field goals that went over 50 yards in a 19-7 win over Tulane. His first field goal was a career-best 54-yarder, and he added a 51-yarder in the third quarter.

Independent

Offense: Jake Heaps, QB, BYU. Heaps returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 30 and led BYU to a 42-7 home win over New Mexico State, going 21-of-36 for 238 yards and a career high-tying four touchdowns.

Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a team-high 12 tackles in a 16-14 win over Boston College. He added three quarterback hurries.

Special teams: David Ruffer, K, Notre Dame. Ruffer kicked field goals of 40, 41 and 27 yards against Boston College. He has made eight consecutive field goals dating back to a win over Purdue on Oct. 1, and has made 47 straight extra points.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo. Oliver set the school FBS record with a career-high 235 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns in a 51-10 win over Akron. His performance broke the record set by James Starks (231 against Toledo in 2007).

Defense: Stephen Johnson, LB, Temple. Johnson had a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best eight solo stops, in a 42-14 win over Army.

Special Teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Weller kicked he game-winning field goal from 23 yards, giving Ohio a 29-28 victory over Bowling Green and the MAC East title. The game-winning field goal was his school record fifth in the game.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense in a game with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State. His 519 yards of total offense is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season.

Defense: Drew Nowak, DL, Western Michigan. Nowak had a career-high 2.5 sacks and as many tackles for loss in a 24-21 win at Miami. Nowak leads the team with 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the season.

Special Teams: Demarius Reed, KR, Eastern Michigan. Reed returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown at Kent State for the first time in his career. It was the longest return by an Eastern Michigan player since 2002. Additionally, Reed’s return surpassed the entire season punt return yards total for any player during the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 season.

Mountain West

Offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team’s 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. He had a career-high 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and threw for 212 yards and a touchdown.

Defense: Tank Carder, LB, TCU. Carder returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and tied a season-high with nine tackles (one for loss) in a 34-10 win over Colorado State.

Special teams: Ross Evans, K, TCU. Evans accounted for 10 points (four extra points, two field goals) in a 34-10 victory against Colorado State. His two field goals of 21 and 46 yards gave him 55 for his career, moving him past BYU’s Matt Payne (54, 2001-04) into second place on the conference career chart.

Sun Belt

Offense: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception to finish with 262 all-purpose yards.

Defense: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU. Cyprien had nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception return for a touchdown in a 28-17 win over ULM.

Special teams: Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose had a 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown against FIU, moving into second place in Sun Belt history with his third career kickoff return for a touchdown.

WAC

Offense: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State. Turbin ran for a career-high 208 yards and three touchdowns in Utah State’s 49-42 double overtime win at Idaho. Two of his touchdown runs came in the overtime periods and the other was on an 80-yard run in the second quarter.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Recorded a career-high 17 tackles (15 solo) in a 24-20 win at Nevada, ending the Wolf Pack’s 16-game home winning streak.

Special teams: Jens Alvernik, K, San Jose State. Alvernik hit two field goals from 44 and 23 yards to help San Jose State beat Navy, 27-24. He now has 16 field goals on the season, tying the school record.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
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Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helmet stickers

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
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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.

Weekend rewind: Non-AQs

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
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Time to take a look back at Week 8 for the non-AQs:

Quarterbacks rule. In case you missed it, three quarterbacks had pretty awesome days on Saturday. Dominique Davis of East Carolina completed 26 straight passes. Kellen Moore of Boise State tied the NCAA record for career wins with 45. Case Keenum of Houston became the NCAA career leader for total offense, with the NCAA career passing mark and NCAA career touchdown passing mark in his sights. You can read more about their days here.

[+] EnlargeDominique Davis
AP Photo/Gail BurtonDominique Davis misfired on only five of his 45 pass attempts in East Carolina's win over Navy.
Southern Miss streaking. The Golden Eagles are off to their best start since 2000 after an impressive 27-3 win over SMU. They are ranked No. 25 in the coaches' poll, their first ranking since 2004, and have won five straight. Austin Davis has been impressive but so has the defense, which has made big-time improvements this season and has been a major reason this team is now the favorite to win the East Division in Conference USA. SMU came into the game with its high-powered passing offense, but Southern Miss totally shut down the Mustangs, who had season lows for points and passing yards (173). Southern Miss had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. After it plays UTEP (4-3) Saturday, Southern Miss does not have a team left on the schedule with a winning record, making it conceivable the Golden Eagles could win out. Who would they face in the C-USA title game? The West is still wide open between Houston (7-0, 3-0), Tulsa (4-3, 3-0) and SMU (5-2, 3-1), but the No. 17 Cougars would have to be the favorite if they keep rolling. They get Rice this Thursday, but close the season with back-to-back games against the Mustangs at home, then at Tulsa on Nov. 26.

Bowl bound: Southern Miss and Houston are two of five non-AQs already bowl eligible (Boise State, ULL, BYU).

Next up on deck, with games this weekend:

Arkansas State (5-2) vs. North Texas
Toledo (5-3) vs. Northern Illinois (Nov. 1)
Ball State (5-3) at Western Michigan
Northern Illinois (5-3) at Toledo (Nov. 1)
Temple (5-3) vs. Ohio (Nov. 2)
Ohio (5-3) vs. Temple (Nov. 2)
TCU (5-2) vs. BYU (Arlington, Friday)
SMU (5-2) at Tulsa
* Eastern Michigan is 5-3 but the Golden Eagles need to get to seven wins because they have two wins over FCS opponents.

Disappointments: This has been a popular question during my weekly chats: Which team(s) have been the biggest disappointment. There are three on my list today: Fresno State, UCF and Colorado State. The Bulldogs had WAC nemesis Boise State out of the way this season, the perfect opportunity to win a league championship before moving on to the Mountain West. Instead, they have sputtered to a 3-5 start and just lost to Nevada. Fresno State needs to win three games to become bowl eligible. It should be able to get there, but nothing is a given with the improved play of Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and San Jose State. Meanwhile, there were those who thought Colorado State had everything it needed to get back to a bowl game, with a young quarterback in Pete Thomas and 14 starters returning. But injuries have completed decimated this team, and the Rams are 3-4 and are going to need to pull an upset or two to get to six wins with UNLV, San Diego State, TCU, Air Force and Wyoming left.

Perhaps most disappointing of all, though, has been UCF. Here you have a program coming off the first Top 25 season in school history and a win over Georgia in the bowl game. Many thought that would give this program much-needed momentum and a building block for the future. Instead, the Knights dropped to 3-4 and 1-2 in conference last week after a loss to previously winless UAB, losing to a team that played its backup quarterback and backup running back. Starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey was benched in favor of Blake Bortles, who nearly led the Knights to a win. Now UCF might have a quarterback controversy on its hands, as coach George O'Leary has declined to say who would start Saturday against Memphis. The Knights have some tough games left and are going to need help to make it back to the C-USA title game.

The heartbreak: You have got to feel for Navy, one of the most snake-bitten teams in college football. Navy has lost four games this year by a total of eight points. The Midshipmen, Utah State and Indiana are the only three teams in the country to lose four games by eight points or fewer. The heartbreak continued Saturday in a 38-35 loss to East Carolina. The Midshipmen hung tough after losing starting quarterback Kriss Proctor (elbow) and had a chance to win in the closing minute. An apparent touchdown pass from Trey Miller to Matt Aiken was ruled incomplete, and then Navy missed yet another field goal. Aiken appeared to cross the plane after catching the ball at the 2, but the ball came loose as he hit the ground. Replay officials ruled Aiken did not maintain control as the reason for the ruling of an incomplete pass. Navy dropped to 2-5 and is in danger of breaking its eight-year bowl streak.

Helmet stickers

Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball had a career-high 198 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries in a 45-38 win over Fresno State. He had rushes of 35 and 41 yards, the two longest runs by any Nevada player this year.

Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Had a career-high 18 tackles in a 37-26 win over Air Force. His tackle total is the most by a Broncos player since Korey Hall had 15 against New Mexico State in 2006.

Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. 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 both touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Bobby McCain, DB, Memphis. McCain had a 79-yard interception for a touchdown in a 33-17 win over Tulane. The interception gave the Tigers the lead for good in their first conference win since beating UTEP 35-20 Oct. 10, 2009.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey ran 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. Rainey moved into fourth place on the WKU career rushing list with his performance -- the second 200-yard rushing game of his career.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
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Let's take a look back at the weekend that was for the non-AQs:

The good: FIU pulled off yet another big win, this one against UCF, 17-10. The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time in school history and received votes in both polls for the first time in school history. They did it without star receiver T.Y. Hilton, who hurt his hamstring. But coach Mario Cristobal says his star player should be fine. ... Trent Steelman had a terrific game for Army, scoring three touchdowns in a 21-14 win over Northwestern. It was Army's first win over a team from a Big Ten team since 1988 -- which also was the last time it played a team from that conference. And that team was -- Northwestern. ... Ohio is 3-0 for the first time since 1976 after beating Marshall 44-7. ... Ronnie Hillman had 191 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a 42-24 win over Washington State and is now the second-leading rusher in the nation. Hillman is tied for the national lead in rushing touchdowns with eight this season.

The bad: Perhaps bad is a kind way of describing BYU's performance against Utah. The Cougars and Utes generally play a tough, close game. Twelve of the previous 14 meetings had been decided by a touchdown or less. Then came Saturday. BYU had seven turnovers -- three from quarterback Jake Heaps -- and lost 54-10 to its biggest rival. Incredibly, the score was 14-10 at halftime. But one mistake after another snowballed, and BYU faces some serious questions heading into its game against UCF on Friday night.

The upset: If you had asked for any non-AQ game considered a lock for a win Saturday, you probably would have picked Hawaii over UNLV. The Warriors came in as 20-point favorites, have a win over Colorado already this season and played Washington well. But the Rebels shocked the Warriors in one of the more stunning upsets of the day, winning 40-20. I admit it. I did a double-take when I saw the score. Hawaii had four fumbles, 6 yards rushing and converted 1-of-9 third-down opportunities in the disappointing loss. UNLV had scored 24 combined points in its first two losses of the season to Wisconsin and Washington State. But perhaps the UNLV victory should not come as a huge shock. UNLV has beaten Hawaii four of the last five times they have played in Sam Boyd Stadium.

Then there is Western Kentucky, which lost for the 17th straight time at home. Only this loss was to FCS Indiana State 44-16. It was Indiana State's first win over an FBS opponent since 2001.

The oh-so-close: Navy played with South Carolina every step of the way in its game, taking a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter. But South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was just too much to contain as he ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns in the 24-21 win. ... Temple was right there with Penn State as well, holding a 10-7 lead until late in the fourth quarter. But for the second straight season, the Nittany Lions squeaked out a close victory, breaking Owls' hearts again.

The comeback: The common knock on Houston is that the Cougars generally lose at least one game a season that they should not. That looked to be happening against Louisiana Tech, as Houston trailed 34-7 with 5:11 to go in the third quarter. But alas, the Cougars have Case Keenum, who engineered a furious rally. Houston scored the final 28 points of the game to cap the biggest comeback in school history and win 35-34. Keenum began the rally with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Edwards, and he ended it with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Edwards with 1:36 remaining in the game. Keenum has now engineered three of the top four biggest comebacks in Houston history. In addition to this one, he rallied Houston from 19 points down against UTEP in a 42-37 win in 2008; and from 17 points down against UAB in a 45-20 win, also in 2008.

The heartbreak: Bowling Green had a furious late fourth quarter rally, overcoming a 28-14 deficit when Matt Schilz threw touchdown passes on two straight drives. But Wyoming blocked the game-tying extra point with 3 seconds left to hold on and win 28-27. Wyoming is 3-0 for the first time since 1996. ... San Jose State was 15 yards away from pulling off one of its biggest wins in years. The Spartans trailed Nevada 17-7 in the fourth quarter before Matt Faulkner delivered one touchdown drive and had his team marching down the field for another. But his pass in the end zone was intercepted by Duke Williams with 1:10 left and the Wolf Pack survived 17-14. The road is much tougher for Nevada next, with games at Texas Tech and at Boise State. ... Miami (Ohio) knows the feeling. Zac Dysert had a pass broken up in the end zone as time expired, and the RedHawks lost to Minnesota 29-23.

Milestone watch: TCU coach Gary Patterson earned his 100th career victory as the Horned Frogs’ head coach in a 38-17 win over ULM Patterson is 100-29 in 11 seasons, and needs 10 more wins to surpass Dutch Meyer (109-79-13, 1934-52) as TCU’s all-time winningest coach. Meyer coached TCU to its 1935 and 1938 national championships. Patterson is one of nine active head coaches to have 100 wins at their current school.

Helmet stickers

Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane. Went 22-of-26 for 281 yards and tied a career high with three touchdown passes in a 49-10 win over UAB.

Logan Harrell, DT, Fresno State. Recorded a career-high 11 tackles and tied his career high with 4.5 tackles for a loss in a 27-22 win over North Dakota.

Kellen Moore, Boise State. Completed 32 of 42 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Toledo. The 32 completions is a single-game career high for Moore, while the five touchdowns tied his career high. The five passing TDs also tied the MWC single-game record for most by a senior. The 42 pass attempts were second most in his career, as were his 455 yards.

Trent Steelman, QB, Army. Ran the ball 28 times for 108 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-14 win over Northwestern. It was his second straight three-touchdown rushing effort.

Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. Had 13 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns in Western Michigan's 44-14 win over Central Michigan. White moved into fourth place on the career receptions list at WMU with 195, is now third in career 100-yard receiving games (13) and is tied for seventh in career receiving TDs (17).

Melvin White, DB, Louisiana. Returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a touchdown to break a tie and help the Ragin Cajuns beat Nicholls State 24-7. He also forced a fumble that led to the first score of the game.

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