November 25, 2010

Week 13: C-USA, MAC, SBC, WAC and Indy

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | MWC | Pac-10 | SEC

THE EIGHT BEST GAMES
Friday
SMU at East Carolina, 2 p.m.
Western Michigan at Bowling Green, 2 p.m.
Southern Miss at Tulsa, 6:30 p.m.
Boise State at Nevada, 10:15 p.m.
Saturday
Arkansas State at Fla. International, 3:30 p.m.
Kansas State at North Texas, 4 p.m.
Houston at Texas Tech, 8 p.m.
Notre Dame at USC, 8 p.m.

Boise State is No. 4 in the BCS standings this week, but the Broncos seem destined to move up when the next set of standings is released Sunday.

How high they move up is the question.

The Broncos beat Fresno State last week to improve to 10-0 for the fifth time since 2004. The previous four times, the Broncos went on to finish the regular season undefeated (2004, '06, '08 and '09). The Broncos have won 24 in a row, which is a school record and the longest active streak in the nation.

The last real impediment to another perfect regular season is Friday night at Nevada (10-1), which is No. 19 in the BCS this week. Because No. 3 TCU plays lowly New Mexico this week, Boise seems likely to move past the Horned Frogs in the new BCS standings.

But could the Horned Frogs be even higher. And -- dare we say it? -- could they be No. 1?

No. 1 Oregon (against Arizona) and No. 2 Auburn (at Alabama) have tough games earlier Friday, so Boise State will take the field that night with a clear idea of how high it can move up in the BCS.

First things first, of course, and that means beating Nevada, which has given Boise State more trouble than anyone in the past three seasons. Boise State won 44-33 last season, held off a late Nevada rally in 2008 to win 41-34 and barely escaped with a 69-67 four-OT win in '07.

"Our goal is to win the WAC championship, and you have to go through the best to become the best," Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick told reporters earlier this week. "They've been the best the past few years. We definitely have to knock them off."

Kaepernick has to play well if the Wolf Pack -- who are two-touchdown underdogs -- are to pull off the upset. He needs 16 rushing yards to become the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Boise State has won 16 consecutive road games. In addition, the Broncos have scored at least 40 points in seven consecutive games, lead the nation in rushing defense, passing efficiency, sacks and tackles for loss and are second in scoring offense, total defense and scoring defense.

One reason Boise State has been so dominant this season is that it blows out teams early. The Broncos have outscored foes 152-21 in the first quarter and 148-17 in the second period. That's an incredible 300-38 advantage in the first half.

This will be the first time two top-25 teams have faced off at Nevada's Mackey Stadium.

"I can't lie and say I haven't known that this game is coming up," Boise State safety Jeron Johnson told reporters this week. "It's going to be a big game."

It might become so big that it propels Boise State into the national championship game.

Best matchup: Nevada offensive line vs. Boise State defensive front seven. Boise State is going to score at least in the 30s, and Nevada knows that. That means Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the offense need to be extremely productive. And that means the guys up front have to control the line of scrimmage. Nevada is fourth nationally in rushing offense at 304.4 yards per game, and the Wolf Pack have rushed for 214 yards in every game but one -- a loss to Hawaii. But Boise State leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 72.3 yards per game. The Broncos have allowed just seven rushing TDs -- two of those came in the opener against Virginia Tech -- and are giving up just 2.2 yards per carry. If Nevada can't run for at least 200 yards, it has no shot at the huge upset.

Player on the spot: Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, a senior, has thrown for 625 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 278 yards and two TDs in three games against Boise State. This season, he has to be at his best as he tries to shatter Boise State's BCS dreams. Kaepernick showed he could deliver against quality defenses in September when he accounted for five touchdowns in a 52-31 rout of California. But Boise State leads the nation in run defense and is second in total defense and scoring defense.

Numbers game: Tulsa junior WR Damaris Johnson became the NCAA's career leader for kickoff-return yardage last week. He has 3,202 yards; the previous record (3,118) had been held by Western Michigan RB Brandon West (2006-09).

What they're saying

"It is a sad day when it is your last day. Most of these guys have played midget-league football since they were about 7 years old. They are finally going to realize that this is going to be the last football game for 99.9 percent of them. A couple of these guys will have an opportunity to play on, but for the majority of them, this will be the last football game they get to play. It's hard. You work 16 or 17 years of your life to play football, and then it is over just like that." -- Marshall coach Doc Holliday, on the end of the season for seniors

"I got to tell you also, from my perspective again, rivalries are such when it's not one-sided. This one has been one-sided. It's our job to make this a true rivalry. That is winning the football game." -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. The Irish have lost eight in a row to USC

"I would like to build a bully. In order to build one, you have to beat a bully. Troy is a bully in this conference." -- Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, on Troy, the Hilltoppers' opponent this week

"These programs have put themselves in a position to have those opportunities. I tip my hat off to them if they're able to go to the Mountain West Conference. I think that if Hawaii gets the opportunity, I think they'll go. Like I said earlier, you get all these teams that are leaving our conference, it's hard for me to be negative because they've positioned themselves to do so. Maybe we need to position ourselves to do the same, and I think with them leaving the conference, it gives us the opportunity to emulate some of the things they have done." - New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker, on three and possibly four WAC teams leaving for the MWC

"The guys that are here have been all over the place and at this point they understand what going on the road is all about. We're looking forward to it. It's the last regular-season game, it's against a Big 12 opponent and it's a chance to become bowl eligible. I like the way our guys have bounced around. I know some people outside the program think the season is over, but to our guys it's not. We have a lot to play for this week." -- Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, whose 5-6 team plays at Texas Tech on Saturday

"You talk about the importance of this game, how do you motivate them, well, that's motivation right there alone. There's a lot to play for, so [finishing in the top 25] is another carrot you can throw out there. You can throw it out there to the kids, 'Hey, you have an opportunity if you keep winning to do some special things.' " -- Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, whose team has a chance to win 10 regular-season games with a victory over Eastern Michigan on Friday

"[Saturday] was one of those nightmarish circumstances. You really don't believe what you are seeing as it happens." -- Troy coach Larry Blakeney, whose team lost 69-24 at South Carolina. Troy trailed 56-7 at halftime

Etc.: Kent State coach Doug Martin, who is in his seventh season, announced that he would step down as coach after Friday's game against Ohio U. Martin, 47, is the longest-tenured coach in the Mid-American Conference and takes a 28-53 record into Friday's game. He joined the staff in 2003 as the offensive coordinator under Dean Pees before being promoted to coach on March 1, 2004. Ohio wins the MAC East title with a victory over Kent State. A Kent State victory means Miami (Ohio) wins the division. Notre Dame has gone 11 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown. That's the first time that has happened since 1981. With Leslie Frazier being named interim coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Rice now has two players whose dads are NFL head coaches. Frazier is the father of sophomore S Corey Frazier, the Owls' leading tackler. Freshman WR Klein Kubiak is the son of Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak. Houston senior TE Wesley Scourten blocked a Southern Miss field-goal attempt last week, giving him five blocks this season and nine in his career. Junior WR/KR T.Y. Hilton became the first Florida International player to reach 5,000 all-purpose yards for a career. He has 5,006 career all-purpose yards. Hawaii junior QB Bryant Moniz threw for a school-record 560 yards in last week's rout of San Jose State. He broke the previous record of 559 set by Colt Brennan in the 2006 Hawaii Bowl. East Carolina scored its 53rd offensive TD of the season in last week's loss to Rice, establishing a program record. The previous best was 50 by the 2007 team. Arkansas State sophomore QB Ryan Aplin has school single-season records for total offense, completions, passing touchdowns, passing yards, pass attempts and total offensive plays. Toledo, which had 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1994-2005, clinched its first winning record since '05 with its win over Bowling Green last week. Louisiana-Monroe becomes bowl eligible with a win Saturday over rival Louisiana-Lafayette. FIU also can become bowl eligible this week with a win over Arkansas State. A win also would clinch the Sun Belt title for the Panthers. Western Michigan is looking to close out a season with three consecutive victories for the first time since 1998. The final game at North Texas' Fouts Field will be played Saturday against Kansas State. The Mean Green are 155-99-7 in 59 seasons at the stadium. Nine Notre Dame opponents currently are bowl eligible. No FBS school has played as many bowl-eligible teams than the Irish. The number could increase to 10 if Western Michigan beats Bowling Green. Troy has surrendered 121 points in its past two games, a school record for points allowed in consecutive games. The previous mark was 117 was set in 1928. Southern Miss junior K Danny Hrapmann has made 46 extra points this season to set a school single-season record. He also has made 23 field goals, which ties a single-season record. Toledo ranks second in the nation in turnovers forced (30) and tied for third in interceptions (18). Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey had 248 yards on a school-record 45 carries in last week's loss to Middle Tennessee. He now holds the school and Sun Belt Conference single-season record for rushing attempts in a season, with 313. Rainey ranks fourth nationally in rushing at 135.6 yards per game. Bowling Green has had five of its 11 games come down to the final play, but the Falcons are just 1-4 in those games. Bowling Green is 2-9 this season, and the last time the school didn't win more than two games was 2000, when the Falcons finished 2-9. Ohio U. has won 15 of its past 17 MAC contests. USC has won eight in a row and 11 of the past 14 against Notre Dame. That comes on the heels of a 13-year streak in which the Irish were 11-0-2 against the Trojans.

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




 

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