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MONDAY QUICK HITS: WAC AND MWC MAKING NOISE
September 22, 2008

SCS.comCollege football is being turned upside down by the mid-majors. It is subtle, somewhat hard to notice, but it is happening. The Western Athletic Conference has looked very good so far. Boise State beat Oregon this week, although the Ducks played their 5th string quarterback in the 4th quarter. Louisiana Tech beat an SEC team, Mississippi State, in week one. Fresno State, who hung with Wisconsin, beat Rutgers earlier this year 24-7. The Mountain West, on the other hand, is 5-0 against the PAC-10. BYU has taken care of business, beating two PAC-10 schools. Utah beat Michigan convincingly. This week, UNLV beat Iowa State, another BCS conference team. Air Force and Utah, who were both undefeated, played in one of the best games of the weekend.

These two conferences have looked solid. Compared to the PAC-10, Big East, Big 10, and ACC, they look amazing. Only four teams in the PAC-10 have one loss or less (only Southern California is unbeaten). In the Big East, South Florida and Connecticut have looked good, but other teams like West Virginia and Rutgers have looked abysmal. The Big 10 struggled with MAC opponents this weekend (Purdue barely beat Central Michigan and Ball State beat Indiana.) Penn State, Northwestern, and Minnesota are undefeated, but they are largely untested. Only Wisconsin has earned their record and ranking in the Big 10. Finally, the ACC has zero depth. Florida Stateís offense is anemic, again. Perennial contenders, Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson have had their troubles this season.

Am I insinuating that the WAC and the MWC might be better than one of these four flailing BCS conferences? Not yet. However, you have to keep a watchful eye on this situation as the season progresses. These teams play hard, believe in themselves, and have proven to have the ability to pull some major upsets.

Enough ranting about the mid-majors. Letís dive into week four and beyond. Southern California is licking its lips thinking how easy their road to an undefeated season is going to be. Projected contenders, Arizona State and Oregon, look like they will be no match for USC. I know upsets and slip-ups are possible, but in all likelihood, USC is going to go undefeated. Will this lack of competition hurt them in their bowl game? Possibly, but I have trust in Pete Carroll to keep the Trojanís minds right.

Some BCS busters were busted this weekend. East Carolina fell in overtime to feisty North Carolina State. Head coach Skip Holtz, who has been terrific all year, went for it on fourth and goal in the fourth quarter when a field goal would have given his team a two possession lead. They did not convert. NCSU went on to score, send it into overtime, and win the game. Guess how much sleep Holtz got Saturday night? Not much.

Utah and Air Force battled to keep their BCS hopes alive. Utah had two 100-yard rushers, including Darrell Mack who scored the go-ahead touchdown with :58 remaining. Air Force was intercepted on the following possession, sealing their fate. UNLV, Air Force, TCU, Utah, and BYU, with the latter two being unbeaten, make a solid top five in the Mountain West.

There were some great late night games on Saturday. Fresno State beat Toledo in double overtime after Toledo got an onside kick and kicked a late field goal to send the game into overtime. Toledo decided to pull a Mike Shanahan and go for the two-point conversion in the 2nd overtime. They failed to convert and lost a close game that Fresno State was fortunate to survive unscathed. UNLV beat Iowa State in overtime in another late one. UNLV, after giving up a field goal in overtime, scored on their first play of their overtime possession and won 34-31.

Hits:

  • Congrats to Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, in his first start, took all but one snap and threw four touchdowns. The play calling still needs tweaking, and the lines must toughen up, but Pryor is a dynamic player that will keep Ohio State in any game. Beanie Wells has to return soon for the bulk of conference play if Ohio State wants to make it to the Rose Bowl.

  • Colorado and Nebraska are both 3-0. I predicted that these two teams would not go quietly in the Big 12 North. Colorado got a huge win over West Virginia on Thursday. Nebraska gets its chance to impress this upcoming weekend against Virginia Tech.

  • Vanderbilt barely snuck out of Oxford, Mississippi with a win, but they will gladly take it. Chris Marve forced an Ole Miss fumble at the goal line, which was recoverd in the end zone by D.J. Moore. A touchdown would have given Ole Miss the lead with little time left. The real hero of the game was Ryan Hamilton, who made three interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Vandy, who has been in this situation many times, is 4-0 an eyeing a bowl bid.

  • In a battle of fallen programs, Miami appropriately won the game. Miami looks to be on the way back up, while Texas A&M seems to be in a downward spiral.

  • If people still think Florida is not the best team in the SEC, I do not know what they are watching. This team is for real and will give Georgia everything it can handle and then some in the SEC East.

  • The Auburn-LSU game was exciting and refreshing. Both teams were flying all over the field. Jordan-Hare Stadium was rocking. The finish was almost better than last yearís finish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6wJ_vz0zaY, with LSU coming out on top again.

  • Alabama will not let Auburn or LSU run away with the SEC West. They have clobbered Clemson and Arkansas. They are for real. Saban has turned the program around faster than any Tide fan could have hoped for. I like them to contend in the West.

  • Texasís Colt McCoy broke the school record for passing touchdowns and he is only a junior. He is no Vince Young, but he and his team are rolling right now.

  • Keep an eye on Tulsa. They are 3-0, they have a favorable schedule (no East Carolina), and their offense has been unstoppable so far.

    Misses:

  • Last week, I touched on Florida Stateís mirage 2-0 record (two wins over FCS opponents). Somehow they fell into the top 25. Wake Forest shutdown Florida Stateís offense, forced seven turnovers, and won 12-3. Hopefully this will teach the pollsters to be more observant.

  • What has happened to West Virginia? They are 1-2 with losses to East Carolina and Colorado. Is Bill Stewart not the man for the job, or was this inevitable without Rich Rodriguez as coach? In my opinion, a mix of both.

  • Mississippi State seemingly turned a corner last season. However, they are 1-3 this season. They got upset by Louisiana Tech in week one. Their offense was held scoreless against Auburn in week two. This week, Georgia Tech dominated them 38-7. Their offense is beyond pathetic.

  • Rutgers is a disappointing 0-3. They have lost by a combined 61 points this year.

  • If Phillip Fulmer is not on the hot seat, then nobody is. His Vols make an unimaginable amount of mistakes. They seem unprepared and overwhelmed by opponents. They are going to struggle this year in the East. Is this the year Vandy finishes with a better conference record?

  • North Carolina was in complete control against Virginia Tech. Then, quarterback T.J. Yates got hurt and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Up 17-3 in the third, UNC failed to score the rest of the game. Virginia Tech pounced on the opportunity and stole an important conference win.

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