U.C.F. at B.Y.U.; Non-B.C.S. Themes
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 22, 2011
It’s a big weekend for Conference USA. It’s a big week — big month — for Conference USA, in fact, what with the potential for a major merger with Mountain West clearly on the table for both parties. In terms of this coming weekend, the Conference USA slate will be highlighted by a Friday night date with U.C.F. and B.Y.U., with both teams looking for a win after disappointing losses a week ago. Who needs it more? You can see it from both sides: U.C.F. should be a bit chagrined after losing to Florida International last weekend, as that was an opportunity for the Knights to stem F.I.U.’s recent climb; B.Y.U. isn’t merely chagrined but humiliated after losing by 44 points at home to bitter rival Utah. Touching on the upcoming Conference USA schedule and other non-B.C.S. conference themes:
Conference USA games to watch Southern Mississippi’s trip to Virginia is a good barometer for both teams. The Golden Eagles are 1-1 against F.B.S. competition, sneaking past Louisiana Tech on Sept. 3 and losing at Marshall, 26-10, a week later. Louisiana Tech is pretty good, based on its toe-to-toe battle with Houston, but Marshall might have showed its true colors in last weekend’s one-sided loss to Ohio. So we don’t really know anything about the Golden Eagles; we’ll know more on Sunday. Speaking of Marshall, the Thundering Herd head to Virginia Tech to take on a team still working out the kinks offensively. Rice heads to Baylor, hoping to derail Robert Griffin III and the 2-0 Bears. The Owls will obviously need to score and score — and score, probably — to notch the upset. And Saturday’s marquee game? That would be Tulsa at Boise State. Scoring? Not a problem for the Golden Hurricane. Defense? Therein lies the rub for Tulsa, and Boise should be licking its chops.
Tulane 49, U.A.B. 10 How unexpected was Tulane’s 49-10 win over U.A.B. last Saturday? Forget the fact that few expected the Blazers to lay such an egg, though few saw that coming. The Green Wave had scored 49 or more points against F.B.S. competition only five times since 2001, and in only one, against Louisiana-Monroe in 2002, did the Green Wave win by such a wide margin. Is Tulane improved? I’m leaning towards slightly improved, but this is the same team that beat Southeastern Louisiana by 14 points to open the year and scored only three points the following week against Tulsa. So is U.A.B. that bad? That’s my guess, and that doesn’t bode well for Neil Callaway’s future. He needed a bowl berth to guarantee his return, and based on the 39-point loss to Tulane, that’s not going to happen.
Army should win on Saturday Get blown out by Northern Illinois: so that’s the Army team of 2011, I guess. Lose by a field goal to San Diego State: maybe the Aztecs aren’t that good. Beat Northwestern: alright, that’s the Army we’ve been waiting for. Maybe the first week’s result was a case of the Cadets shaking off the cobwebs a bit, especially when it comes to a defense lacking several of last season’s contributors. The defense has buttoned things up since N.I.U. with a little help from its offensive counterparts. It was the offense that dominated the clock against the Wildcats, maintaining possession for more than 40 minutes in a 17-14 win. If that’s the Army team of 2011, the Cadets must take care of business this weekend against Ball State. The Cardinals have been a little pesky, but a team that hangs with S.D.S.U. and beats Northwestern should have little problem landing a two-touchdown win.
Temple gets another shot The Owls had Penn State on the ropes, hoping to end a decades-long string of ineptitude against the heavily-favored Nittany Lions. Temple had an early lead; Penn State couldn’t get out of its own way, especially on special teams; and the Owls even had the ball late with a chance at a game-winning score. So Temple came up a bit short. There’s another opportunity lying just around the corner in Maryland, which hosts the Owls on Saturday. Here’s the bad news: the Owls match up far better with the Nittany Lions than with the Terrapins. Temple likes to play a physical game, and Maryland is going to throw the ball around, not go up the gut. That doesn’t play into Temple’s strength defensively, but the Owls should be playing with confidence after nearly notching a big-time win last weekend.
The race for 12-0 A few undefeated teams suffered their first loss of 2011 last weekend: Bowling Green, U.C.F., Colorado State and Navy. So which non-B.C.S. conference teams remain blemish-free in the loss column? That would be Houston, Ohio, San Diego State, Wyoming, Boise State and Florida International. Which teams survive until week five? Houston will beat Georgia State. Boise State will beat Tulsa. Ohio plays Rutgers, and that’s a very intriguing game: if the Bobcats can beat Rutgers, there’s no reason why they can win 11 games in the regular season. San Diego State heads to Michigan, and while the Aztecs are more than capable of winning in Ann Arbor it’s going to be tough to match up with Michigan’s talent. Wyoming is going to lose to Nebraska; really going out on a limb there.
Don’t watch these The worst game of the weekend? That would o-3 V.M.I. visiting 0-3 Akron. As with Austin Peay and Memphis last weekend, this seems like Akron’s best chance at a win on the year. The worst game of the weekend pitting two F.B.S. teams? That would be 1-2 New Mexico State visiting 0-3 San Jose State. I know the Aggies notched a nice win over Minnesota two weeks ago, but come on: even improved, N.M.S.U. is still along the bottom rung of the F.B.S. ladder. And while the Spartans have looked better against U.C.L.A. and Nevada, this is still a very young team that remains at least a year away. You know what? Actually, this game isn’t that terrible. It’s still the worst game of the weekend, unless I’m overlooking something.
Conference power rankings Of the non-B.C.S. conferences, with average P.S.R. ranking, highest team ranking and number of teams in the top 25 in parentheses:
1. Mountain West (59.1, 3, 2)
2. Conference USA (77.0, 23, 1)
3. MAC (86.1, 46, 0)
4. WAC (86.4, 61, 0)
5. Sun Belt (92.2, 30, 0)
N/A. Independents (50.5, 38, 0)
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Tags: Akron, Army, B.Y.U., Ball State, Boise State, Conference USA, Marshall, Maryland, New Mexico State, Ohio, Rice, San Jose State, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, U.A.B., U.C.F.
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