October 26, 2009
The week in the undercards.
Into the rabbit hole (the one with computers).
What to do with our BCS-bound upstarts? Mid-major interlopers in the latest BCS standings include No. 6 TCU, No. 7 Boise State, No. 16 Utah and No. 18 Houston. Let's do some trajectory-mapping:
• As far as busting one of the big-money bowls, we can pretty easily dismiss Houston out of hand -- the Cougars face a potential trap game against Tulsa in two weeks but no opponents that could conceivably vault them any higher with a win. That UTEP loss was an ugly one, and it's going to stick.
• Utah has a slightly better shot at gaining national attention with remaining dates at TCU and BYU, and the Utes' only loss was a quality one (by seven, at Oregon). Still, they could just as easily drop both of the big Mountain West targets, and what with needing overtime to beat Air Force and all, remain very long shots to repeat last year's BCS run.
• Speaking of Oregon: The Ducks are turning out to be the linchpin of more than one mid-major season. With an upset of USC next weekend, they could leapfrog the same Boise State team that waxed them on national television in the season opener. Bronco partisans and head-to-head purists will howl, but the schedule's the schedule, and there's absolutely no one remaining on Boise State's slate that will allow it to make a case for late-season inclusion in the top ten. (Plus, I'm still convinced they're going to lose to Idaho in three weeks.)
• That leaves TCU at No. 6. Having the human pollsters on their side is asset enough, but the computers love them some Horned Frogs and have them ranked fourth. The good Doctor thinks TCU has staying power (and that Boise State's on the way out), and with two wins over Big Six schools, a decisive knockout of BYU and one more ranked opponent (Utah) on the schedule in mid-November, the Frogs' BCS dossier will be a tough one to argue against. (Why anyone might have been surprised by the outcome of the BYU game, by the way, is beyond us -- with essentially the same teams as the 2008 bout in Fort Worth, the final score Saturday in Provo was nearly identical, and BYU quarterback Max Hall got just as bloodied-up in the process.)
Sun Belt goes pinballin'.
Like your football wild and WAC-y? You'll love this year's incarnation of the Sun Belt, where three different games ended with the winner hanging 600-plus yards and 50-plus points on its hapless victim. Your merciless high-scorers: Middle Tennessee State (62-24 over Western Kentucky), Florida Atlantic (51-29 over Louisiana-Lafayette) and Troy (50-26 over North Texas).
There aren't two Temples. We checked.
Which is our way of saying that yes, the Temple that stands at 4-0 in conference games, just outgunned Toledo for its fifth consecutive win and currently sits alone atop the MAC East leaderboard ... that's that Temple. We'd like to imagine the Owls are as surprised as we are.
Profiles in continuing ineptitude.
Viva redbirds! Ball State lives! The Cardinals rolled over the also-winless Eastern Michigan, 29-27, thanks to more than 500 yards of ground-based offense from just two players, MiQuale Lewis and Cory Sykes. The win was BSU coach Stan Parrish's first as a head coach in 23 years, after guiding two straight winless seasons at Kansas State in 1987-88 and dropping his first eight in Muncie since taking over before last year's GMAC Bowl loss to Tulsa. Congratulations, coach, but beware: The bar has been raised.
To review, that leaves only Rice, Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan, New Mexico and Western Kentucky without wins in 2009, none of whom play one another the rest of the way.
What should have been ...
UAB, of which we are inordinately fond thanks to the Blazers' dragon mascot, cannot catch a break right now in the scoring department: They're moving the ball (432 yards of total offense versus Marshall), but not when it counts (three points versus Marshall despite zero turnovers).
... and what never had a prayer:
One week after stunning the American public by becoming bowl-eligible at 6-1 with a win over Hawaii, down goes Idaho. When Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is on his game, there's very little that can be done to slow him down -- an easy thing to forget when the Pack is only 4-3, but a 70-45 beating like they put on the Vandals Saturday ought not to be overlooked on any level. (And lest we forget this for even one week, Idaho totally has Boise State's number. We just know it.)
Player of the Week: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada.
And about time, too, even if he did earn it beating our precious yarbnalls of Moscow. The lanky junior had 230 ground yards, 178 aerial yards (on only 13 completions), four rushing touchdowns (one more in this game than he'd had all season), two touchdown passes and zero turnovers in the bloodletting against Idaho. Welcome back, ostrich. This is the Nevada we've been waiting on all year.
Dan LeFevour Stat Watch
Our boy's lost a step again this week, but Central Michigan won to advance to 7-1, and Bowling Green has the 21st-ranked passing defense in the nation, so a slight downturn in production is hardly cause for concern. For LeFevour, this means a mere 147 yards through the air and 128 on the ground, two touchdown passes, and no picks. Oh, and a 72.7 percent completion rate in the win. Ho hum.
(A Somewhat Arbitrary) Mid-Major Top 10
1. TCU (7-0) The computers love them. The scoreboards love them. Their mascot spits blood from its eyes, so we love them.
2. Boise State (7-0) Destined to drop in the BCS, but not here until they start losing.
3. Central Michigan (7-1) Moving ahead of Houston, because we're valuing a win against Bowling Green more than one against SMU.
4. Houston (6-1) Also, the Chippewas never lost to UTEP.
5. Utah (6-1) Overtime vs. an unranked team? Ouch.
6. Navy (6-2) The Middies boast the mids' lone win over a BCS school this week, without even attempting a pass in a 13-10 triumph over Wake Forest.
7. Temple (5-2) Welcome, Owls! If y'all can stick around after next week's date with Navy, we'll be really impressed.
8. Troy (5-2) Another new addition, and about time -- the usually prolific Trojans cracked 50 points for the first time all year in an emphatic pounding of poor North Texas.
9. BYU (6-2) At long last, the Cougars are who we thought they were -- nothing but paper tigers.
10. Idaho (6-2) It's only one (horrible) loss, but we still believe in you. Don't go breaking our hearts, Yarbnalls.
Dropped out: Ohio U., Tulsa
What we'll be paying attention to in Week 9: East Carolina at Memphis, Southern Miss at Houston, Temple at Navy, Central Michigan at Boston College, Louisiana Tech at Idaho, and Wyoming at Utah.
• Most Realistic Upset: Central Michigan over Boston College, which might be our LeFevour-for-Heisman homerism talking, and might be because BC is sort of terrible for a 5-3 team and has no business leading its division at the moment.
• Most Unrealistic Upset: New Mexico State at Ohio State. The Aggies' chances at a victory are almost as unrealistic as that 39.5-point line. (Jim Tressel will achieve a 21-point lead and sit on it and call it a blowout. This is science.)
• Most Inevitably Gruesome Blowout: Southern Miss at Houston. The line here is only 7.5, which seems gracious considering the only close games Houston's played this year have been against ranked opponents (apart from that little incident at UTEP, of course) and Louisville has carved up the Golden Eagles' secondary. Case Keenum could throw for 5,000 yards this year if the rest of C-USA's not careful.
Scoreboard. Only four outings in mid-major versus Big Six competition this week -- Akron-Syracuse, Wake Forest-Navy, ULM-Kentucky, and Rutgers-Army. Of these, only Navy emerged victorious, with a hilariously pass-less pantsing of Wake Forest. After eight weeks, mid-major programs are 18-80 against schools from BCS conferences.
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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.