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October 21, 2010
This is a week light on important games in the non-Big Six leagues.
Before the season, the Houston-SMU showdown was predicted to be a sort of de facto Conference USA West title game. But QB Case Keenum's injury has affected Houston to such an extent that you wonder if the Cougars -- who lost to Rice last week -- can even make it to a bowl this season.
One of the more important matchups this week is the Miami-Ohio contest in the MAC. Miami is the only unbeaten team in league play in the MAC East, and the Red Hawks have a legit shot at the division title of they can beat the Bobcats.
Boise State is off this weekend but plays host to WAC foe Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night.
Best matchup: Navy QB Ricky Dobbs vs. Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o. One season after rushing for 27 touchdowns, which set an NCAA record for quarterbacks, Dobbs has been a mild disappointment this season. He is averaging just 63.2 yards per game and has scored only five touchdowns. Still, Navy is 4-2 and has a good shot at a win Saturday, presuming Dobbs plays well. He ran for 102 yards and a score against the Irish last season, when he had eight 100-yard games. Dobbs has just one this season. Te'o has been an active force for the Irish's defense, which has been steady against the run but leaky against the pass. He is averaging 11.3 tackles per game, which is 10th nationally. Against Navy's option, Te'o must play assignment football and forget about freelancing; still, you can expect him and Dobbs to meet up, oh, about 15 times Saturday.
Player on the spot: Miami QB Zac Dysert. Miami was 1-11 last season but actually has a shot at a bowl -- and the MAC East title -- this season because of Dysert's strong arm. He is throwing for 231.7 yards per game and has five TD passes and just one pick in three league games, all of which have been Miami wins. He rushing attack is horrible (118th nationally, at 69.7 ypg), so if Dysert struggles, the offense as a whole struggles. Ohio's pass defense has been iffy, so a big day could loom for Dysert in a game that is crucial to both teams' division title hopes.
Numbers game: Louisiana-Monroe scored 28 points in the fourth quarter against Western Kentucky last week in rallying for a win. That's tied for the most points scored by a team in the fourth quarter in any game this season. Auburn (vs. Arkansas), Iowa State (vs. Texas Tech) and Pittsburgh (vs. FIU) also have had 28-point fourth quarters.
What they're saying
"We now face the challenge of going against a very good football team in Navy. Coach Ken, I'll call him -- I don't want to mess up coach's last name -- he has done a great job since taking over." -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, on Navy counterpart Ken Niumatalolo
"Every week we come up in a different situation that could [win the game for us] and we haven't dealt with it the right way. When you're up, you've got to learn to step on their throat and keep them down. We panicked toward the end. We've got to get back to work and keep sawing. Keep sawing, keep sawing and keep sawing. That wood will break." -- Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, whose team blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead last week and lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Western has lost 26 in a row
"Believe it or not, players bounce back a lot quicker than coaches or fans -- a lot quicker, whether it's a win or a loss." -- Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, whose team lost to Rice last week and has a key game against SMU this week
"Our seniors have not beaten Central [Michigan] in the last three meetings. We should be focused. We have no other reason for anything other than that." -- Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, on this week's opponent
"To be honest, when you have two losses in conference play, it's tough to be able to win the championship. That being said, we still have goals. We want to go to a bowl game. We have six games left and we can still reach that goal. We've got to come out and play every week. We are up against the wall, so to speak, and there is no more room for error." -- Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle
"We talk about it every day. I do not believe in the theory [that] you can talk about it too much. We talk about it every day. That is how you win and lose. We have to get that corrected." -- Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill, about his team nation's-worst turnover margin (minus-13)
Etc.: North Texas fired coach Todd Dodge on Tuesday night; the Mean Green are 1-6 this season and were 6-37 overall under Dodge, who was in his fourth season. UNT has been wracked by injuries this season, with its top three quarterbacks lost to season-ending injuries. In all, 15 starters have missed at least one game. Last week, P Will Atterberry broke his arm in a loss to Florida International. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, in his first season at the school, will be the interim coach. The Mean Green are off this week. ... Miami (Ohio) will unveil three statues at its "Cradle of Coaches Plaza" on Saturday, those of former coaches Paul Dietzel, Carm Cozza and Weeb Ewbank. Dietzel and Cozza will return to campus for the ceremony , while Ewbank will be represented by his 104-year-old widow, Lucy. ... Boise State senior K Kyle Brotzman should set the WAC's career scoring record in Tuesday's game against Louisiana Tech. Brotzman has 389 points; the record is 395, set by Hawaii K Jason Elam (1989-92). ... Memphis LB Jamon Hughes made 21 tackles last week in a loss to Southern Miss. That's tied with Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o for the most tackles in a game this season. Te'o had 21 in a loss to Stanford on Sept. 25. ... Saturday's Navy-Notre Dame game will mark the 84th consecutive season the teams have played; it is the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football. ... Boise State is ranked second in the AP, coaches' and Harris Interactive polls. It's the highest ranking in school history for the Broncos and the highest a WAC team has been ranked since BYU was No. 1 at the end of the 1984 season. ... Last week's victory over Louisiana-Lafayette improved Troy's home record to 42-5 since it moved up to the FBS ranks in 2001. Troy's .893 winning percentage at home over that stretch ranks fourth in the FBS behind only Oklahoma, USC and Ohio State. ... UCF junior RB Ronnie Weaver has rushed for 379 yards and five touchdowns in the past four games after rushing for a combined 26 yards in his first two games this season. ... Hawaii senior WR Greg Salas has 61 catches for 910 yards this season. He has caught 227 passes for 3,366 yards in his career, and both of those numbers are the most of any active player in the nation. ... Last Friday, Florida Atlantic broke ground on its on-campus stadium, which is supposed to be ready for the start of the 2011 season. ... Central Michigan LB Nick Bellore has started every game of his career, and his consecutive starts streak stands at 48. Unless Central makes a bowl, though, he is going to come up one shy of tying the NCAA record of 54, held by former Hawaii C John Estes (2006-09). Bellore leads the nation in most career tackles by an active player with 431. ... East Carolina junior QB Dominique Davis is second in "points responsible for" per game, at 20.0 per game. Davis has thrown 16 TD passes and rushed for four more scores. He trails only Auburn QB Cameron Newton (21.4 ppg) in the category. ... In last week's 38-36 loss at Indiana, Arkansas State sophomore QB Ryan Aplin had a school-record 33 completions and junior WR Dwayne Frampton had a school-record 12 receptions. ... Northern Illinois ranks third nationally in fewest penalties per game (3.43), behind only Wisconsin and Penn State. ... Boise State has won 18 consecutive WAC games, the longest league winning streak in the nation. Troy is tied for second (with Cincinnati) at 13, while East Carolina and UCF are tied for fifth at eight in a row. ... Florida International scored 17 first-quarter points in last week's win over North Texas, its highest first-quarter point total since 2003. ... East Carolina plays its 100th Conference USA game when they play host to Marshall on Saturday. ... Temple becomes bowl-eligible with a win over Buffalo. That would mark the second season in a row for bowl eligibility; the Owls never have been bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons in school history.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.