September 28, 2009
This week in the undercards.
March of the Cougars.
The legend of the Big 12 South is really and truly no more, thanks to Houston's late-night efforts against Texas Tech, completing a mid-major sweep by UH (over Tech and Oklahoma State) and their fellow conquering Cougars, BYU (over Oklahoma), against three of the four reigning South Division heavies. Scoff if you must at the idea of a Conference USA team sullying the storied halls of the BCS, but take a look at the Cougars' schedule the rest of the way: There are traps ahead (Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Tulsa), but none insurmountable, and with two quality wins to their name, a high-profile January date is looking more likely by the week.
Elsewhere in perfection ...
Ho-hum, it's 4-0 for Boise State. The Broncos' toughest tests (Oregon, Fresno State) are behind them, and they'll shortly be settling into the creamy middle of the WAC schedule. It'll take wagonloads of points to make waves in the eyes of the pollsters, of course, but something tells me that's not going to be a problem: Since its season opening 19-8 slugfest with the Ducks, Boise has outscored opponents by a margin of 148-48. Bring on UC-Davis, and a tall glass of milk!
Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, TCU soldiered through nasty weather and its second foray into ACC country in as many weeks to rally past Clemson, 14-10. It'll be a bit trickier for the Horned Frogs to win out -- dates with BYU, Utah and scoreboard-assaulting Air Force remain -- but again, far from impossible for one of the most consistent programs in any league.
Yarbnalls no more.
Who was that idiot blogger who called Idaho a "yarn ball" last week? (Actually, in my first draft, the typo charmingly read "yarbnall," which I'm trying to bring into popular usage because it sounds like something Joe Kines would say.) Anyway, the Vandals knocked off Northern Illinois and are somehow 3-1. Drink it in.
In other improbably respectable records, Colorado State is defeated at last, but a loss to BYU is what our Viking ancestors would call a Good Death. The Rams remained poised for another bottom-barrel bowl bid.
Lose some, win some, lose some more.
Utah wasted no time mourning its long-lost win streak with a relatively easy win over lackluster Louisville, a game we would have killed to see when both Utes and Cardinals were tearing up their respective leagues under Urban Meyer and Bobby Petrino back in 2004. Good instincts on whoever set this one up, but poor timing.
Profiles in continuing ineptitude.
After four weeks, there are eight winless teams remaining in I-A: Rice, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Miami (Ohio), Ball State, New Mexico, Florida Atlantic and Nevada. Some are explicable (WKU is brand-new to the big leagues); some inexcusable (Nevada, we need to talk); some are actually evoking human emotions in heartless bloggers (we honestly feel bad for Ball State at this point). We assume everyone will get a valentine at some point in the next two months.
Speaking of ineptitude (what's the deal with airline food?), remember those low offseason rumblings about Memphis wanting to bolt C-USA for the bright lights and BCS lucre of the Big East? If that's ever going to be feasible, the football program's not helping: The Tigers lost their conference opener to Marshall, dropping to 1-3 in the process, with a lone win against I-AA Tennessee-Martin. The balance of the schedule isn't pretty -- trips to Southern Miss, Tennessee, Houston and Tulsa don't bode well for a turnaround, or for Tommy West's continued employment.
What Should Have Been ...
Close Call Edition: The Doc's Golden Eagles were all over Todd Reesing Saturday afternoon, but he shook them just long enough to tuck the game away safely, 35-28.
Not-So-Close Call Edition: Tennessee turned in a traditional post-big game clunker that very nearly cost the Vols a win over Ohio U. Injured Bobcat quarterback and unofficial Mid-Major Monday mascot Boo Jackson could've pulled that upset, we just know it.
... and What Never Had a Prayer.
Opposing defenders sweating over a future date with Texas, take note: If Colt McCoy throws an early ball your way, do the right thing and just let it bounce. You won't like him when he's angry. McCoy took out his interception frustration on a hapless UTEP defensive unit, going 28-of-35 for 286 yards and three scores en route to a 64-7 curb-stomping in Austin.
Token Mini-Major Meltdown.
Sorry, rubbernecking afficionados, no actual Division II implosions this week. Don't be fooled by the Tulane-McNeese State box score; it wasn't as close as it looked. And Syracuse did trail at halftime to the lightning-vomiting Black Bears of Maine, but pulled away with a quickness.
Player of the Week: Case Keenum, QB, Houston.
435 aerial yards plus sealing a poll-validating win with a rushing touchdown? You got moxie, kid. Style points, awarded.
Dan LeFevour Stat Watch
We're inordinately fond of this little tidbit from the AP recap of the Central Michigan-Akron game: "LeFevour alone outrushed the entire Akron team." 140 yards, to be precise, getting two touchdowns with his feet in the process. Our token MAC Heisman show pony added another 197 passing yards, bringing him to 725 on the year after only four games.
A Somewhat Arbitrary Mid-Major Top 10
1. Houston (3-0) More quality wins than Boise State in fewer games. Will pollsters care? We do!
2. Boise State (4-0) There's not much to walloping Bowling Green, but 4-0 is 4-0.
3. TCU (3-0) Frogs survive the decidedly frog-unfriendly culture of Clemson, ungigged.
4. Central Michigan (3-1) We swear to make it through the year without making a single LeFevour pun in this space. Write it down.
5. Southern Miss (3-1) A competitive loss to Kansas is a quality loss, particularly a close one on the road.
6. BYU (3-1) The thanks of a grateful nation for taking out the burgeoning juggernaut of Colorado State are yours, Cougars.
7. Utah (3-1) Shouldn't be that hard to get a new win streak going in the MWC.
8. Middle Tennessee State (3-1) Can the Blue Raiders hold on this week against a suddenly middling Troy offense?
9. Air Force (3-1) The first clash of the service academies kicks off next week with a trip to Navy.
10. Idaho (3-1) Here you go, yarbnalls.
Dropped out: Colorado State, Northern Illinois
On tap for next week: Hawaii-Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss-UAB, Arkansas State-Iowa, Central Michigan-Buffalo, Memphis-UCF, Ohio-Bowling Green, SMU-TCU.
• Most Realistic Upset: Houston at UTEP. And please understand that while it may be "most realistic," it's still pretty unrealistic, and we're iffy on this one solely for reasons of possible emotional exhaustion on the part of the Cougars and the weird, weird things that happen with 9 p.m. kickoffs in El Paso. We still like Houston to go undefeated, but they may be setting up for a scare here. Enough equivocation? Good! Onward.
• Most Unrealistic Upset: There are some very stingy lines being doled out in the MAC, where Toledo is a mere 6.5-point favorite over suddenly hapless Ball State and Central Michigan is only favored by 8.5 at struggling Buffalo. Free money!
• Most Inevitably Gruesome Blowout: When, then, is a 36-point line too stingy? When it's a surly, just-beaten Mike Leach piloting Texas Tech against the winless New Mexico.
Scoreboard. The Mountain West threatens to pull even in games played against the Big Six; wins by TCU and Utah over the ACC and Big East, respectively, bump the MWC's mark up to 5-8. The independents are still winless against major conference teams, but there's only two of them for our purposes (Army and Navy) and they've only had four chances between them. Apart from that, the Sun Belt boasts the lowest win percentage against the big boys at 2-14. After a month of competition, mid-majors are 15-67 overall against BCS conference schools.
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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.