September 3, 2009

Weekend breakdown of the non-Big Six

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THE SCHEDULE
In Conference USA
Friday
Tulsa at Tulane, 8 p.m.
Saturday
Appalachian State at East Carolina, noon
Rice at UAB, 4 p.m.
Southern Illinois at Marshall, 4:30 p.m.
Northwestern State (La.) at Houston, 7 p.m.
Alcorn State at Southern Miss, 7 p.m.
Samford at UCF, 7:30 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin at SMU, 8 p.m.
Buffalo at UTEP, 9 p.m.
Sunday
Ole Miss at Memphis, 3:30 p.m.

In the Mid-American
Thursday
Troy at Bowling Green, 7 p.m.
Coastal Carolina at Kent State, 7 p.m.
Villanova at Temple, 7 p.m.
North Texas at Ball State, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday
Miami (Ohio) vs. Kentucky in Cincinnati, noon
Akron at Penn State, noon
Toledo at Purdue, noon
Western Michigan at Michigan, 3:30 p.m.
Connecticut at Ohio U., 7 p.m.
Army at Eastern Michigan, 7 p.m.
Northern Illinois at Wisconsin, 7 p.m.
Buffalo at UTEP, 9 p.m.
Central Michigan at Arizona, 10 p.m.

In the Mountain West
Thursday
Utah State at Utah, 9 p.m.
Saturday
Nicholls State at Air Force, 2 p.m.
Weber State at Wyoming, 3 p.m.
BYU vs. Oklahoma in Arlington, Texas, 7 p.m.
New Mexico at Texas A&M, 7 p.m.
San Diego State at UCLA, 7:30 p.m.
Sacramento State at UNLV, 10 p.m.
Sunday
Colorado State at Colorado, 7 p.m.

In the Sun Belt
Thursday
Troy at Bowling Green, 7 p.m.
North Texas at Ball State, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday
Western Kentucky at Tennessee, 12:20 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at Clemson, 6 p.m.
Mississippi Valley State at Arkansas State, 7 p.m.
Southern at Louisiana-Lafayette, 7 p.m.
Florida Atlantic at Nebraska, 7 p.m.
Louisiana-Monroe at Texas, 7 p.m.

In the Western Athletic
Thursday
Utah State at Utah, 9 p.m.
Oregon at Boise State, 10:15 p.m.
Saturday
Central Arkansas at Hawaii, 1 a.m.
Nevada at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m.
San Jose State at USC, 3:30 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Auburn, 7 p.m.
Idaho at New Mexico State, 8 p.m.
UC Davis at Fresno State, 10 p.m.
Some folks are calling Boise State's game Thursday night at home against Oregon the biggest in school history.

ESPN is coming to town to televise the game between two top-20 teams, and therein lies the rub for Boise State: The Broncos play a 13-game regular-season schedule, and it's all but certain that Oregon will be the only ranked team they face all season.

Thus, a win means a 13-0 regular season is likely, and that almost certainly would lead to a BCS berth. A loss, though, and a season that could be spent on the national stage would instead end almost before it begins.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen is doing his best to temper talk of a one-game season.

"I think it's great for the city and great for the fans, and hopefully our team is prepared and does a great job," he said. "But when teams start buying into hype, positive and negative, it doesn't do you any good."

Boise won 37-32 last season in Eugene, Ore., and Ducks players remain bitter about the loss, feeling Broncos players let loose with some cheap shots. Boise safety Jeron Johnson was ejected for a late hit on Ducks tight end Ed Dickson in the second half.

While the Ducks are looking for payback, they're also looking to get Chip Kelly's head-coaching career off to a good start. Kelly had been the Ducks' offensive coordinator for the past two seasons before replacing Mike Bellotti.

Kelly will rely heavily on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount. Blount, a 240-pounder, is heavier than any Boise linebacker, but he may not have as much room to run as Kelly would prefer. Oregon has four new starters on the offensive line, and there have been grumblings out of practice about the new group's effectiveness.

Best matchup: Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Notre Dame's defense. The Irish defense struggled to stop the run last season, and Nevada will roll into South Bend with the 1-2 punch of Kaepernick (1,130 yards, 17 TDs) and RB Vai Taua (1,521 yards, 15 TDs). Kaepernick's athleticism makes him a great fit for Nevada's "pistol" offense - the tailback lined up behind the quarterback in a sort of I-formation, with the quarterback in a modified shotgun - and his ability to get around the corner will test the Irish. Kaepernick also threw for 2,849 yards and 22 scores, but a rebuilt wide receiver corps means the Irish need to focus on stopping Kaepernick the runner before they worry about Kaepernick the passer.

Player on the spot: BYU QB Max Hall. Hall needs to have a huge game for BYU to have any shot at an upset against Oklahoma in Arlington, Texas. Hall struggled mightily - one TD passes, eight picks - in the Cougars' three losses last season. BYU's offensive line returns just one starter and is battling injuries to the point that coach Bronco Mendenhall said it's possible that the Cougars will take just seven offensive linemen on the trip. BYU has not beaten a ranked non-conference opponent since 1998, going 0-12 in that span.

Numbers game: Teams in the five non-Big Six conferences are playing 15 games against Football Championship Subdivision foes this weekend, and that is skewed somewhat by six such games for Conference USA teams. There are 23 such games for Big Six schools.

What they're saying:

"We owe that team an ass-whuppin." - Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount about Boise State, to Sports Illustrated early this summer.

"I've been saying he's going to be a first-round pick for a long time. Since he was a sophomore, I've told people to remember and draw a circle around my statement - and I've never changed my mind about it." - Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger about FAU QB Rusty Smith, to the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald

"Dan [LeFevour] is a great player. He deserves all those accolades that he is receiving. He is a legitimate player. He is one of the best we'll see all year, quarterback-wise." - Arizona coach Mike Stoops on Central Michigan's quarterback, at his weekly news conference

"I think the first word that comes to mind is 'speed,' and I'm starting with the defensive line. The teams we've struggled with in the past are the teams that could get to our quarterback without having to use blitzes, and they are certainly capable of doing that." - BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall about Oklahoma, at his weekly news conference

Etc.: Western Kentucky is playing its first game as a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision. WKU has just 11 scholarship seniors, tied for fifth-fewest in the FBS. TCU was the media pick to win the Mountain West, but only three times since the MWC began play in 1999 has the predicted winner actually won the league. Central Michigan WR Bryan Anderson has caught a pass in 40 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the nation. Buffalo's Naaman Roosevelt is second with 38 and Memphis' Duke Calhoun third with 37. Utah has won a nation-leading 15 in a row. The Utes play Utah State on Friday, and Utah has won 11 in a row in that series. San Diego State is 0-20-1 all-time against UCLA. Five Middle Tennessee assistants either coached or played at Clemson. Hawaii has just one starter back on defense, tied with Cincinnati for the fewest in the nation. North Texas is opening on the road for the eighth consecutive season. San Jose State opens with USC, then Utah. The Spartans are the only school in the nation to play two schools that won BCS bowls last season. UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe has hooked up with WR Jeff Moturi on 20 TD passes the past two seasons; that's fourth-most in the nation, behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham (25), Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant (25) and Kansas' Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe (21). Former Nebraska RB Quentin Castille, who was dismissed from the team last week, now is a backup running back at Northwestern State (La.) and is expected to play against Houston.

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




 

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