November 26, 2009

Weekend preview of the non-Big Six

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THE 10 BEST GAMES
In Conference USA
Southern Miss at East Carolina, 1:30 p.m.
In the Mid-American
Temple at Ohio, 11 a.m. Friday
Northern Illinois at Central Michigan, 1 p.m. Friday
Toledo at Bowling Green, 2 p.m. Friday
In the Mountain West
Wyoming at Colorado State, 2 p.m. Friday
Utah at BYU, 5 p.m.
In the Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee at Louisiana-Monroe, 4:30 p.m.
Troy at Louisiana-Lafayette, 7 p.m.
In the WAC
Nevada at Boise State, 10:15 p.m. Friday
Among the independents
Notre Dame at Stanford, 8 p.m.
While Boise State hopes to keep its BCS hopes alive this weekend, Wyoming simply will be trying to become bowl eligible.

The flipside: Even if Boise State finishes unbeaten, it's not guaranteed a BCS bid. If Wyoming can get to six victories, it will be in a bowl.

Let's run down all the bowl and title implications in this weekend's non-Big Six games.

Conference USA

Title race: Houston wins the West Division title if it beats in-town rival Rice or SMU loses to Tulane. East Carolina wins the East Division title - and the host spot in the league championship game - if it beats Southern Miss. Under those scenarios, ECU would play host to Houston in next week's C-USA championship game. If Houston loses and SMU wins, the Mustangs win the West. If Southern Miss beats ECU, it wins the East title. If Houston and Southern Miss are the division winners, Houston would play host to the title game. If it's Southern Miss and SMU, the team with the best BCS ranking would host - and that likely would be Southern Miss.
Bowl implications: Six teams already are bowl eligible, and UAB can become so if it beats UCF. The league has six bowl tie-ins, so if UAB wins, one team will miss out on bowl festivities - and the team left out likely would be UAB.

Mid-American

Title race: Central Michigan already has won the West Division title. Temple plays at Ohio University on Friday for the East Division title. The league championship game is next Friday in Detroit.
Bowl implications: Each division winner is guaranteed a bowl slot, and the league has three tie-ins, so the East runner-up and Northern Illinois also will be in the mix. In addition, if Bowling Green can get to seven wins - the Falcons play host to Toledo on Friday - it becomes a postseason candidate as well. In addition, because the ACC, Big Ten and Mountain West will be unable to fill their bowl slots, there will be some at-large selections made and MAC teams could fill some of those slots.

Mountain West

Title race: TCU already has clinched the title. The Horned Frogs now are focused on finishing unbeaten and earning a BCS berth.
Bowl implications: If Wyoming wins at Colorado State - which has lost eight in a row - on Friday, the Cowboys would become bowl eligible in coach Dave Christensen's first season. If Wyoming falters, the league will have two bowl slots unfilled if TCU goes to the BCS.

Sun Belt

Title race: Troy already has clinched at least a portion of the title and the league's New Orleans Bowl berth. If the Trojans beat Louisiana-Lafayette, they win the title outright.
Bowl implications: Middle Tennessee (8-3) also is in great shape to earn an at-large bid. Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette each are bowl eligible at 6-5, but neither has any real chance at a bid unless it gets to 7-5; ULM plays Middle Tennessee and ULL plays Troy on Saturday.

Western Athletic

Title race: Lost in all the talk about Friday's Boise State - Nevada game is that the game is for the WAC title. Thing is, both already know they're going bowling; the question is where.
Bowl implications: Fresno State and Idaho also are bowl eligible. If Boise State loses, things could get interesting. The WAC has three bowl tie-ins. But if Fresno and Idaho win this weekend, each of the WAC's four bowl-eligible teams would have eight victories, and eight-win teams get preference over seven-win teams when it comes to filling at-large spots.

KEY MATCHUP: Nevada rush offense vs. Boise State rush defense. Nevada leads the nation in rushing offense (373.2 yards per game) and is the first team in major-college history with three 1,000-yard rushers. In the past two games, Nevada has passed for a total of 141 yards - and has run for 1,035. Boise had trouble stopping the run in games against Fresno State (the Broncos allowed 320 rushing yards) and Idaho (209). But the Broncos also won those games by a combined 55 points. Given Nevada's horrible pass defense, the Wolf Pack must run wild to keep it close.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Utah QB Jordan Wynn. Wynn, a true freshman, will be making just his fourth college start Saturday against BYU in one of the nation's fiercest rivalries. Heck, Wynn was going to redshirt this season until coaches threw him into the fray in the Utes' eighth game. Wynn has been relatively steady, but coaches don't want him to have to win the game - especially in the environment that's going to be present Saturday. If that happens, Utah is in trouble. To win at BYU, Utah must run the ball effectively and have Wynn be a game manager.

NUMBERS GAME: Friday's Boise State-Nevada matchup features teams that have won a combined 19 consecutive games. Nevada has won eight in a row; it has averaged 51.6 points per game and won those contests by an average of 29 points per game. Boise State is 11-0 and is averaging a nation-best 44.4 points per game. The Broncos are winning games by an average of 27.1 points per contest.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

"I'm trying to not use foul language, but I could care less what anybody thinks of the play-calling or my decision to use certain personnel. I'll do what is best for this football program, and I'll just say that with a period." - Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild

"Practicing. My take on that is you have to make sure you're thankful every day because if you have a game that week, it's hard to focus on Thanksgiving." - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, on his Thanksgiving plans

"Do we emotionally have the edge? No. These are kids. They are worried about who is going to be the new head coach. Is their focus right now just the Tulsa game? No. I understand that. I just want to finish this thing with some class. ... The hard thing is coaching, and knowing that edge isn't there. You have to have that edge, but I think our players will go rally and play hard against Tulsa. I don't think I'm being stupid saying that." - Memphis coach Tommy West, who already has been fired and coaches his last game Saturday

"We know we probably have to throw the ball this game to win. It's just that the last few weeks, we haven't had to throw it, so we haven't." - Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick, whose team has attempted just 37 passes in the past three games

"It just seems like we find interesting and creative ways to lose. Man, do we find that. I wish I could put a stop to it." - UTEP coach Mike Price

"We're in a mode where we just need a win. I've never been part of a season like this. At the same time, I couldn't be prouder of the way the guys handled last week. I love the guys here. It's been an amazing experience. It's not a matter of soaking everything in. We're trying to give the players the thrill of winning, and we need to get that done." - San Jose State coach Dick Tomey, who already has announced he's retiring at the end of the season. The Spartans are 1-9 and have two games left

"This is a mature team. You can make a case that we just played our best two games of the year, in November, back-to-back. We're finishing games right now. That's hard to teach a team to do that - not just finish in the fourth quarter, but in the fourth quarter of the season - and these kids have learned that." - Temple coach Al Golden, after last week's victory over Kent State

ETC.: Western Kentucky hired Stanford running backs coach Willie Taggart as its new coach Monday. Taggart was a quarterback at WKU in the 1990s and played for Jack Harbaugh, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's dad. Taggart succeeded Tommie Frazier at quarterback at Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee High in the '90s and is expected to recruit Florida hard for the Hilltoppers. ... Temple freshman RB Bernard Pierce, who has rushed for 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns on 224 carries, will miss Friday's game at Ohio with a shoulder injury. The game will determine the MAC East champ. Freshman Matt Brown, who is 5 feet 5, will take Pierce's place in the starting lineup. Lamar McPherson and Jason Harper, who also plays wide receiver, could see time as well. ... Fresno State LB Ben Jacobs tied an NCAA record by forcing three fumbles in last week's 30-28 victory over Louisiana Tech. He recovered two of the fumbles, returning one 21 yards for a touchdown. ... A victory Saturday over Utah would give BYU its 200th win at LaVell Edwards Stadium, which opened in 1964. ... Troy QB Levi Brown threw for 477 yards in last week's win over Florida Atlantic, breaking the school single-game record of 469 he set earlier this season. Brown also has thrown for 3,575 yards this season, setting a school single-season record. ... Navy (8-3) has won seven of its last eight games, with the only setback against two-loss Temple. The Midshipmen's other losses have come to one-loss Pitt and two-loss Ohio State. ... BYU has won 10 consecutive games decided by seven or fewer points. ... Idaho G Mike Iupati was named one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman in the nation. Iupati joins Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh. The last WAC player to win the award was BYU G Mohammed Elewonibi in 1989. ... Hawaii C John Estes has started 52 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation. ... Troy C Danny Franks proposed to fiancée Elaina Lee on the field before Saturday's win at Florida Atlantic, in Boca Raton, Fla. Lee, a Troy alum who is attending graduate school at Nova Southeastern in nearby Fort Lauderdale, said yes. "I was lucky. I definitely outkicked my coverage," Franks said. ... New Mexico State threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in last week's 63-20 loss to Nevada. Those were the first offensive touchdowns for the Aggies in 21 quarters. The Aggies are last in the nation in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense. ... Hawaii is 13-1 in the month of November since 2006. ... Utah State's loss to Boise State on Friday was its 16th in a row in non-Saturday games.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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