Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 10
We have now entered the final full month of regular season action the 2016 college football season. Week 10 offers us #8 Wisconsin at Northwestern, #22 Oklahoma State at Kansas State, TCU at #13 Baylor, #10 Florida at Arkansas, Iowa at #20 Penn State, and the two biggest games on Saturday night: #1 Alabama at #15 LSU and #9 Nebraska at #6 Ohio State.
We will focus on games that may not appear to offer much at first glance. These games might not have a national impact, but they could affect a team’s bowl chances or a conference title race. Note that these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.
1. Louisville at Boston College (11/5 at 12 PM) – Ever since Louisville lost at Clemson they have not looked like the same team. They struggled against Duke at home, took care of NC State at home, but then struggled at Virginia. They needed a late touchdown to defeat the Cavaliers on the road and now they go to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College.
The Eagles sit at 4-4 overall and still have a solid chance at making a bowl game even with a loss. However, they can give Louisville fits if their defense is playing at their very best.
This game is bigger for Louisville because they have struggled since the loss at Clemson. They still have an outside shot of making the College Football Playoff, but how will the Committee view them if they continue to squeak by teams? A big win would help Louisville here.
2. Air Force at Army (11/5 at 12 PM) – The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy is at stake in this game for Air Force. Both teams are 5-3 and win puts Air Force in a bowl while Army would still need another victory due to their schedule containing two FCS schools.
Air Force started 4-0 including a 28-14 win at home against Navy. They then lost the next three games before needing a rally against Fresno State to reach 5-3. Army started 3-0 before back-to-back close losses to Buffalo and Duke on the road. They crushed Lafayette before North Texas soundly defeated the Black Knights. Army was able to get a big win last week against Wake Forest on the road to reach 5-3.
Army can also win the CIC Trophy by defeating Air Force this week and Navy to end the regular reason. This will be a fun game to watch the old school triple option offense from both teams.
3. Georgia Southern at Ole Miss (11/5 at 12 PM) – No conference implications here, but there are bowl implications for both teams. Georgia Southern is 4-4 overall with their final three games consisting of Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia State (away), and Troy. They will probably be favored in two of those games and a bowl game still looks likely even with a loss here.
The same cannot be said for Ole Miss and they must treat every game as a must win. They are currently 3-5 with Texas A&M (away), Vanderbilt (away), and Mississippi State after this game. They can lose only one game the rest of the way and still make a bowl. Given their schedule (read as: Texas A&M), this is not the one to drop.
4. Texas at Texas Tech (11/5 at 12 PM) – Neither of these squads will be winning the Big 12, but the bowl implications are huge. Both teams sit at 4-4 overall and their schedules to end the season require little margin for error.
Texas will face West Virginia, Kansas (away), and TCU after this contest. Texas Tech will play Oklahoma State (away), Iowa State (away), and Baylor. Now we can see why the winner of this game will be in much better position to make a bowl.
Looking beyond this game and season, could either or both coaches be fired if they fail to make a bowl game? Some outlets already have marked Charlie Strong as a lame duck. What about Kliff Kingsbury? That would make it two of four years that Texas Tech did not reach a bowl under Kingsbury, assuming they do not win two of their final four games in 2016. He probably will not be fired if the Red Raiders fail to make a bowl game, but his seat will undoubtedly be warmer.
5. Pittsburgh at Miami (FL) (11/5 at 12:30 PM) – What a difference a month makes for both teams. Pittsburgh was 2-2 going into October, but have come out ahead with a 3-1 record last month to make them 5-3.
Miami was 3-0 after September and it was 4-0 after defeating Georgia Tech, but it has been all downhill since. The Canes have lost four in a row with three games determined by a touchdown or less. Miami has a forgiving schedule the final month with games against Pitt, Virginia (away), NC State (away), and Duke, but nothing can be taken for granted with the slide they are currently on.
Pittsburgh has Miami (away), Clemson (away), Duke, and Syracuse to end the season. Both teams look likely to make a bowl game based on the schedules, but this game will be worth watching to see how they respond to losses last week.
6. UT-San Antonio at Middle Tennessee (11/5 at 2:30 PM) – Both teams are alive in their respective Division races in Conference USA. UTSA is 3-2 in the West and sit a game out of first place. Middle Tennessee is 3-1 in the East and are a half-game behind Western Kentucky in the win column, but the Hilltoppers own the head-to-head victory.
A loss for either team will probably end their hopes of making the Conference USA Championship Game. Middle Tennessee faces Marshall (away), Charlotte (away), and Florida Atlantic to end the season. They will probably be favored in all three of those, but would still need a loss or two from Western Kentucky to make the Championship Game.
UTSA faces Louisiana Tech (away), Texas A&M (away), and Charlotte to end the season. A loss here and they would be 4-5, out of the West Division race, and facing the real possibility of missing a bowl game. The Roadrunners are also 1-2 on the road this year. Their win was over lowly Rice by a score of 14-13. This game is very big for the Roadrunners.
7. Hawaii at San Diego State (11/5 at 7 PM) – San Diego State can put a hammerlock on the West Division of the Mountain West with a win. The Aztecs sit 4-0 in conference while Hawaii is 3-2. Hawaii is currently the only other team in the West Division that has not lost at least 3 conference games.
The Aztecs are also still in the race for the Group of 5 bid to one of the New Year’s Six Bowls. They need some help with Western Michigan still undefeated as well as Boise State having only one loss. Those two may also face in the Mountain West Championship Game.
As for Hawaii, they are currently 4-5 overall and will need to reach 7 wins to make a bowl game. They wrap up with Boise State, Fresno State (away), and Massachusetts. This is basically a must win game for Hawaii to reach those 7 wins.
8. Georgia at Kentucky (11/5 at 7:30 PM) – This is weird to fathom, but Kentucky is currently the second placed team in the SEC East and also have a better overall record (5-3) than Georgia (4-4).
Georgia really has not looked good since their opening win against North Carolina. They struggled against Nicholls State and Missouri to reach 3-0, but are just 1-4 their last five games including devastating late game losses to Tennessee and Vanderbilt at home.
Kentucky started 2-3 this year, but have reeled off three straight wins to reach 5-3. Kentucky has not finished ahead of Georgia in the SEC East since 2006 when both teams finished 4-4 in the SEC and Kentucky defeated the Bulldogs that year.
With a win Kentucky will be in a bowl, but probably would make one even with a loss against Georgia. They face Tennessee (away), Austin Peay, and Louisville (away). For Georgia, they face Auburn, UL-Lafayette, and Georgia Tech all at home to end the season. A loss is not crushing for the Bulldogs, but it will make things far easier for this inconsistent and underachieving team.
Check back next week for the week 11 edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.
Five Predictions For The Mountain West Conference In 2016
The 2016 College Football season is less than four weeks away and that means prediction time. Below are five predictions for Mountain West Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.
There are no changes for the Mountain West Conference as the twelve teams remain the same. The Mountain division is composed of Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State, and Wyoming. The West division is made up of Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State, and UNLV.
Here are five predictions for the Mountain West Conference in 2016:
1. Air Force will win the Commander-in-Chief Trophyand win 10 games – The first part only requires the Falcons to defeat the duo of Army and Navy. The chances are good to get back the CIC for the first time since 2014 (Navy has won the CIC three of the last four years). Navy was decimated on offense with only one returning starter and Air Force is better than Army on paper (that is why they play the games though).
Air Force will be returning five starters on offense including their leading rusher Jacobi Owens (1,092 yards and 7 touchdowns) and receiver Jalen Robinette. (26 catches for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns). Also back is quarterback Nate Romine who was the starter to begin 2015, but suffered a torn ACL early in the season. The offense should come close to their 2015 numbers of 33.8 points and 451 yards per game.
The defense has nine back from a unit that allowed 25.5 points and 355 yards per game. The entire secondary returns led by strong safety Weston Steelhammer (80 tackles and 5 interceptions) and they will be the anchor of what should be another solid team. The schedule opens with Abilene Christian and Georgia State at home and the Falcons should be poised to go 4-0 in non-conference this year. The Falcons do have five away games in conference, but they are winnable (Utah State, Wyoming, New Mexico, Fresno State, and San Jose State). Their toughest games come at home against Colorado State and Boise State. The Falcons have a great shot at 10 wins in 2016.
2. San Diego State will win the West Division – The Aztecs won the 2015 Mountain West Championship with a 27-24 victory over Air Force. 2016 appears to favor SDSU to get back to the title game again. They return seven starters on both offense and defense led by running back Donnel Pumphrey (1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns), but there are other reasons.
First, they avoid the Mountain Division duo of Air Force and Boise State, which makes the road much easier. The second reason is they do not face much in the way of competition in their own division with being Nevada their biggest threat. The Wolf Pack return 10 starters on offense and five on defense, but lost their offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich to Hawaii. Nevada does not have to face Air Force and Boise State from the Mountain as well. San Diego State does have to face Nevada on the road, but they look likely to win the West in a down year for the division.
3. Boise State will lead the MWC in points scored and Thomas Sperbeck will lead the MWC in receiving yardage – The Broncos were easily the best scoring offense in 2015 putting up 39.1 points per game while Air Force was second at 33.8 points per contest. Sperbeck also led the conference in receiving in 2015 with 1,412 yards on 88 catches. The next closest was Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins with 75 catches for 1,062 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The offense should easily lead the conference again as they return the young and talented quarterback Brett Rypien (3,353 yards with 20 touchdowns and 8 interceptions) as well as running back JeremyMcNichols (1,337 yards and 20 touchdowns). Sperbeck will be accompanied by Chaz Anderson at receiver as he was the number two receiver with 42 catches for 578 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sperbeck will be the top target and let’s call for at least 1,500 yards in 2016 to lead the MWC.
4. UNLV will make a bowl game in 2016 – Finding an under the radar team from the West division to make a bowl game was tough. Fresno State and Hawaii have tough schedules while San Jose State is hardly under the radar after making the Cure Bowl last year. UNLV made some serious progress during 2015 in Tony Sanchez’s first season.
The offense went from 21.9 points and 387 yards per game in 2014 to 28.5 points and 405 yards in 2015 with only five starters back (as well as the new offense under Sanchez). This year six starters return including the talented Devonte Boyd at receiver (1st team all MWC in 2013 and 2nd team all MWC in 2015). The top three running backs return as well as three linemen. They will have a new quarterback, but he is likely to be former Nebraska Cornhusker Johnny Stanton. The offense should surpass the 2015 numbers they put up.
The defense went from 38.5 points and 513 yards allowed per game in 2014 down to 33.7 points and 457 yards per contest in 2015. Those numbers should improve again this year as eight starters return. The team was competitive last year and had three losses by a touchdown or less. UNLV will open up against Jackson State, UCLA (away), Central Michigan (away), and Idaho. They also face Fresno State, Hawaii (away), Colorado State, San Jose State (away), and Wyoming in conference, which makes a bowl in reach if they can go 3-1 or even 2-2 out of conference.
5. New Mexico will make their second straight bowl game in 2016 – The Lobos have not been to back-to-back bowl games since 2006 and 2007 when they played in the New Mexico Bowl both times. They played in the same bowl last year against Arizona where they lost 45-37.
The offense will have just five starters back from the group that put up 29.9 points and 388 yards per game. Quarterback Lamar Jordan returns after throwing for 1,045 yards with 5 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, but the focus of this offense is the triple option. Jordan ran for 807 yards and 9 touchdowns, but the leading rusher departs. He will be replaced by Teriyon Gipson who ran for 848 yards and 6 touchdowns. They also return the top two receivers from last year, which is a plus if they need to rely on the passing attack a bit more.
The defense looks like the strength of the team. In 2014, they allowed 35.9 points and 519 yards per game while 2015 saw an improvement to 28.4 points and 438 yards per game with seven starters back. For 2016, there are ten starters returning including middle linebacker Dakota Cox (97 tackles, 5 sacks, and one interception). There should be even more improvement this year.
The schedule opens up with South Dakota before winnable road games against New Mexico State and Rutgers. Their final non-conference game is in mid October against Louisiana Monroe, another winnable contest. In conference, they will have games versus San Jose State, Boise State, Air Force (in Dallas), Hawaii (away), Nevada, Utah State (away), Colorado State (away), and Wyoming. There are at least three wins in there in which they can become eligible for a bowl game (assuming a 3-1 non-conference record).
The Prediction Schedule
With the MWC predictions above, there are now predictions for six conferences in the books. Below are the predictions completed and which conference is next.
The Good And Bad From The Opening Round Of March Madness 2016
The 2016 version of March Madness has been just that: Madness. Brackets were busted early and then completely blown up by the end of the first round. For as much fun as the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament has been, there have been some bad parts of it as well. Below we will take a look at the good and bad from the first four days of the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament
Upsets Galore – #15 Middle Tennessee defeated one of the National Title favorites and #2 seed Michigan State in the first round. Double digit seeds won left and right (#13 Hawaii over #4 Cal, #11 Wichita State over #6 Arizona, #12 Yale over #5 Baylor, #11 Northern Iowa over #6 Texas, #10 VCU over #7 Oregon State, #10 Syracuse over #7 Dayton, #11 Gonzaga over #6 Seton Hall, #12 Arkansas-Little Rock over #5 Purdue, and #14 Stephen F. Austin over #3 West Virginia). That all made for some great action, particularly on Friday.
The ACC – The Atlantic Coast Conference has put a record 6 teams through to the Sweet 16 (Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia). That is incredible to have 38% of the remaining field, but it also came down to some favorable matchups like Syracuse against Middle Tennessee. However, that is no fault of the ACC as their teams delivered.
“Mid-Majors” – This was a good tournament for the upsets (see above), but the “Mid-Majors” got plenty of support in close games and some great stories. Stephen F. Austin got 33 points from Thomas Walkup, who played incredibly against West Virginia and had a solid game against Notre Dame. Yale won their first ever Tournament game against Baylor. Hawaii defeated Cal. Northern Iowa captivated the nation not once, but twice against teams from the state of Texas. First it was Texas and this buzzer beater, but then it was their collapse against Texas A&M. Saint Joseph’s played a great second round game against top seeded Oregon. Finally, Middle Tennessee going toe-to-toe with Michigan State was easily the biggest story of the first round. Mid-Majors should not be discounted in the future when picking brackets.
The #1 Seeds – The top four seeds in the Tournament all looked good on the first weekend, but also faced some competition at times. Kansas took a big lead against UConn before that dwindled, but the Jayhawks fended off that challenge. North Carolina had a close first half against Florida Gulf Coast and Providence, but dominated the second half of those games to pull away. Virginia and Oregon had tough second round games against Butler and Saint Joseph’s, respectively. However, they were able to get through those games and move to the Sweet 16. The top seeds look mighty tough, but this is March Madness afterall and we have seen that anything is possible.
The Referees – The inconsistency of the officials calling the Tournament made it frustrating to watch at times. Between Duke and UNC-Wilmington, the referees called every soft foul imaginable while other games would let them play. Constant foul calling stems the flow of the game for TV viewers, but how frustrating must that be for a player on the floor? One thing that needs to be looked at is how much contact to allow. It does come down to each referee, but how can one game have a foul called 80 feet from the basket for putting a hand on a player’s hip and another not call a push off?
Game Management – You can call this the Northern Iowa Special. The Panthers blew a 12 point lead with 35 seconds left in the game and then lost in double overtime to Texas A&M. They are not the only team to make questionable calls though. Xavier was up three in the final 10 seconds, but opted not to foul the Badgers’ shooters. Wisconsin subsequently tied the game and then Bronson Koenig hit a three at the buzzer to end Xavier’s season. Purdue deserves mention as well for letting Little Rock comeback late in the game and losing in double OT. There was also near comebacks by Wichita State (trailed 27-6 to Miami) and Yale (down as much as 27 to Duke), but those two were not able to complete the miracle comebacks.
Seeding/Selection Committee – The NCAA Basketball Selection Committee did a bad job selecting teams last Sunday. It turns out they did a bad job of seeding the teams as well. Stephen F. Austin deserved better than a 14 seed as did Middle Tennessee at 15. And this was before the games were played. It is easy to pile on the Committee after the fact, but some of the seeding was questionable beforehand. In addition, the scheduling for Wichita State was brutal. The Shockers had a late game on Tuesday, late game on Thursday, and an early game on Saturday, which may have contributed to them starting as flat as they did.
Wisconsin versus Pittsburgh – This was about as ugly a game to watch in recent tournament memory. The Badgers won 47-43 after scoring only 16 points in the first half. The teams combined to go 35 of 101 from the field and 7 of 30 from beyond the arc. The 90 total points were the fewest since 2000 in the NCAA Tournament. The game was wretched, but Badger fans felt greatest about the result and were lifted in the second round too.
Let’s hope the final two weekends give us as much entertainment as the first weekend provided.
The Big Ten had a full week of non-conference games before starting its conference schedule next week. It was a positive Saturday overall with the conference going 12-2, but, as always, there is room for improvement. Each game is broken down below.
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Result: Nebraska Win 36-28 (Saturday, September 26)
Nebraska improved to 2-2 on the season, but it was another poor performance from the defense that should cause concern in Lincoln. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong went 23 of 35 for 368 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. He was also effective in the running game with 63 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries.
Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp had another big game with 11 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Reilly had a few big plays, as he caught 3 passes for 112 yards. Terrell Newby had 76 yards on 18 carries to lead the Huskers in rushing. Andy Janovich was quietly effective with just five carries, but went for a total of 68 yards.
While the offense was good by racking up 610 yards, it was not very effective when it needed to be. Kicker Drew Brown attempted 7 field goals and connected on five. An 8 point win could have been a lot more comfortable had they converted two or three of those field goals into touchdowns. The offense went 4 of 13 on third down.
The defense largely held the Southern Miss running game in check with only 11 yards allowed, but gave up 447 yards through the air. Most worrisome is that the defense gave up three touchdown drives of at least 53 yards and 21 points. It has been a constant them for the Huskers that their defense is giving up quite a few points in the fourth quarter and we have already seen it cost them one game on the final play.
Nebraska faces Illinois next week on the road in their conference opener.
Kansas Jayhawks at Rutgers Scarlet Knight
Result: Rutgers Win 27-14 (Saturday, September 26)
Rutgers took care of business against Kansas, one of the weakest (if not the weakest) teams in all of FBS. That makes it hard to judge the performance, but a win is a win.
Chris Laviano had a decent game going 18 of 25 for 201 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The rushing game was very good for the Scarlet Knights as they rushed for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns on 58 carries as a team. Josh Hicks led the way with 113 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries while Robert Martin also broke the century mark at 102 yards on 17 carries. Overall, the offense was very effective with 513 yards, but converted on 8 of 12 third downs as well.
Defensively, it is hard to gauge this effort. They held Kansas to 342 yards of total offense including 64 yards on the ground. They forced just one turnover, but did not have a lot of trouble overall. Perhaps this will give them some confidence as they continue on in the Big Ten conference schedule.
The Scarlet Knights are off next week. Rutgers will have a stern test at home in two weeks against Michigan State.
#22 BYU Cougars at Michigan Wolverines
Result: Michigan Win 31-0 (Saturday, September 26)
Michigan looked incredible on Saturday against BYU, a team that had impressed the first three weeks. The defense was particularly impressive for the Wolverines.
Jake Rudock had a solid game with 14 of 25 passing for 194 yards and a touchdown. There were no interceptions or fumbles from him and he accounted for another two touchdowns on the ground (10 carries for 33 yards). De’Veon Smith had 125 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while his bruising 60 yard touchdown run was the highlight of the game. Smith did leave the game in the second half and did not return, but he is expected to be fine for next week’s game.
Amara Darboh had 4 catches for 57 yards and a touchdown including a wonderful one handed catch in the first half. Nine different players caught a pass for Michigan in a very equal passing game by Rudock.
The real story for Michigan was the defense. They allowed 105 total yards of offense to BYU with 55 through the air and 50 on the ground. BYU went 4 of 15 on third down and had just 8 first downs the entire game. The Wolverines did not allow them to get into a rhythm and this is what we expect from a JimHarbaugh coached defense.
Michigan travels on the road next week to face Maryland.
Central Michigan Chippewas at #2 Michigan State Spartans
Result: Michigan State Win 30-10 (Saturday, September 26)
Michigan State looked far from the #2 team in the nation on Saturday against Central Michigan, but they got the job done.
Connor Cook went 11 of 19 for 143 yards and a touchdown, but the offense did not always look great. Madre London ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while Gerald Holmes rushed for 22 yards and 2 touchdowns (both coming in the fourth quarter) on 4 carries.
The defense also had its issues against the Central Michigan offense. Cooper Rush threw for 285 yards and a touchdown on 26 of 39 passing. The trio of Jesse Kroll, Anthony Rice, and Corey Willis all had at least 5 catches and 57 yards.
Shilique Calhoun was disruptive for the Spartans on defense and also blocked a field goal. That was one of two blocked field goals by the Spartans. More worrisome for Michigan State is the possible losses of JackConklin, RJ Williamson, and Josiah Price.
Michigan State takes on Purdue next week at home in their Big Ten opener.
Bowling Green Falcons at Purdue Boilermakers
Result: Bowling Green Win 35-28 (Saturday, September 26)
Purdue slumped to 1-3 this year thanks to a loss to MAC opponent Bowling Green. It was not the worst loss for Purdue, as there was a good sign of improvement at quarterback.
David Blough was named the starter for this game and he did well. He went 29 of 39 for 340 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for a touchdown, but the Boilermakers were not good rushing with just 77 yards on 38 carries as a team.
The defense was all or nothing in the first half. Bowling Green scored a touchdown, then lost a fumble, scored a second touchdown, was intercepted, and ended the first half with a third touchdown. Purdue was able to turn one of the turnovers into a touchdown, but missed a field goal on the other.
The defense was better overall in the second half, but still could not do enough to hang on for the win. They allowed 539 yards of offense and also allowed Bowling Green to convert 11 of 16 third downs.
It will be a tall task next week for Purdue with a road trip to Michigan State.
Indiana Hoosiers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Result: Indiana Win 31-24 (Saturday, September 26)
Indiana got a road win to open the season 4-0 and sit just two games away from bowl eligibility. The defense was improved, but there is still plenty of concern on that side of the ball.
Nate Sudfeld had pedestrian numbers considering his normal output. He went 19 of 34 for 205 yards with 2 touchdowns. Jordan Howard had another big rushing game with 168 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. The offense converted 7 of 17 third down opportunities.
The defense played well early on for Indiana. The first three drives for Wake Forest yielded just one yard. The Hoosiers did allow 10 points in the second quarter, but held a 17-10 lead at the break. The defense played well again after halftime. A 20 yard pick six early in the fourth quarter by Kendall Hinton put the Hoosiers up 31-10. The concern is that Wake Forest scored two touchdowns on the next two drives. They did hold the Demon Deacons to 363 yards of offense including 99 on the ground and 4 of 18 on third down.
Indiana goes from facing Wake Forest on the road to Ohio State at home next weekend.
Maryland Terrapins at West Virginia Mountaineers
Result: West Virginia Win 45-6 (Saturday, September 26)
The worst Big Ten performance of the week belongs to Maryland. It was terrible performance, particularly from the quarterbacks.
Caleb Rowe went 10 of 27 for only 67 yards, no touchdowns, and 4 interceptions (!). Daxx Garman came in and threw for 86 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Brandon Ross did well to pick up 130 yards on 15 carries, but he was the lone bright spot in a dismal offense.
The defense struggled to put up any resistance to the West Virginia offense. The Mountaineers put up 601 yards of offense and it was nearly even with 297 through the air and 304 on the ground.
Maryland may find themselves struggling to get offense going again next week. They face Michigan at home, a team that has been solid on the defensive side of the ball.
North Texas Mean Green at Iowa Hawkeyes
Result: Iowa Win 62-16 (Saturday, September 26)
Iowa completely crushed North Texas to finish their non-conference schedule 4-0. It was a complete domination by both sides of the ball for Iowa.
C.J. Beathard was deadly accurate and efficient. He went 18 of 21 for 278 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Jordan Canzeri had a field day running the ball as well. He had four rushing touchdowns to go along with 115 yards on 22 carries. Tevaun Smith had 4 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
The defense had only two turnovers, but both were interceptions returned for touchdowns. First, it was Josey Jewell for a 34 yard pick-six late in the third quarter. The second one came late in the game with BoBower taking a pick 88 yards to the house.
Big Ten play begins next week with one of the toughest games on their schedule. Iowa travels to play Wisconsin in Madison with the winner having an early inside track on the Big Ten West.
Ohio Bobcats at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Result: Minnesota Win 27-24 (Saturday, September 26)
For the second week in a row, Minnesota escaped at home against a MAC foe. This week, at least there was more scoring.
Mitch Leidner had a solid day going 22 of 32 for 264 yards with no touchdown or interceptions. He also ran for 22 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries. Rodney Smith had a solid day as well with 94 yards on 16 carries, but Shannon Brooks emerged with 10 carries for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns including the game winner late. The offense looked much better this week and they put up 468 yards of offense and had only one turnover.
In an odd twist, the defense did not play as well as we have seen. They certain were not terrible, but it was not as stout as they were in the first three games. They allowed 8 of 16 on third down conversions and also gave up 345 yards of offense. They allowed 10 points in the fourth quarter that made it way too uncomfortable for the Gopher faithful.
Another worry, at least late, was the special teams. A muffed punt by Cody Grilliot was recovered by Ohio and led to a touchdown. They also gave up a massive kick return with less than 30 seconds remaining to Ohio after they just took the lead.
Minnesota finished their non-conference slate at 3-1 and they will have a defensive battle next week against Northwestern on the road.
Western Michigan Broncos at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes
Result: Ohio State Win 38-12 (Saturday, September 26)
Ohio State may have decided on a quarterback, but it still does not look like the Buckeyes we saw in 2014.
Cardale Jones went 19 of 33 for 288 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. His second half left a lot to be desired as he completed only 6 of 14 passes. Ezekiel Elliott, unsurprisingly, was good with 124 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Curtis Samuel had 2 carries for 55 yards including a 40 yard run for a touchdown just before the midway point of the fourth quarter. The offense still managed to put up 511 yards with 288 passing and 223 on the ground. They did go 8 of 13 on third downs, which is a big improvement over the 2 of 13 they managed against Northern Illinois last week.
The defense was very good for Ohio State. They did not allow Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell to get into a rhythm. He finished 18 of 33 for 169 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. That interception was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Adolphus Washington. The Buckeyes did allow Daniel Braverman to catch 10 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, but they clamped down in the second half.
Ohio State begins the defense of their Big Ten title next week on the road at Indiana.
San Diego State Aztecs at Penn State Nittany Lions
Result: Penn State Win 37-21 (Saturday, September 26)
Penn State relied on their running backs last week to get the offense going, but it was Christian Hackenberg that woke up the dormant offense this week. Hackenberg threw for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns on 21 of 35 passing.
Saeed Blackwell led the Nittany Lions with 4 catches for 101 yards while Chris Godwin had 5 receptions for 78 yards with a touchdown. The running game was dealt not one, but two blows, thanks to injuries. Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch both left leaving Nick Scott and Mark Allen to try and pick up the slack. Allen ran for 5 yards on 5 carries, but did catch 2 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. Scott had 6 carries for 9 yards. Those numbers will surely need to improve or Hackenberg will be primary target number one if Barkley and Lynch miss any time.
The defense was decent, but the highlight went to Austin Johnson. The defensive tackle ran (rumbled?) 71 yards for a fumble return touchdown that put Penn State up 34-21 early in the fourth quarter. The defense did only allow 242 yards of offense to SDSU including a poor 10 of 29 for 141 yards throwing.
The special teams is still a question mark after week four’s performance. They gave up a 100 yard kick return, fumbled a punt return that led to a touchdown, and also missed a field goal.
Unlike much of the Big Ten, they have not completed their non-conference schedule. Army visits next week in an early kickoff.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Illinois Fighting Illini
Result: Illinois Win 27-25 (Saturday, September 26)
Illinois bounced back from last week’s thrashing at North Carolina, but it was not easy by any means. They needed a last minute field goal from Taylor Zalewski and also needed a missed field goal from Middle Tennessee with seconds remaining to pull out the win.
Wes Lunt went 29 of 49 for 238 yards with 1 touchdown and no interceptions. The large amount of incompletions are a bit worrisome, especially after he went 15 of 32 against North Carolina a week ago. Josh Ferguson ran for 83 yards on 20 carries while Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Geronimo Allison easily led the team in receiving with 10 catches for 128 yards. Desmond Cain was also involved in the passing game with 7 catches for 48 yards. Coming into the game, Cain had 8 catches for 53 yards on the year.
The defense gave up only 38 yards rushing to Middle Tennessee thanks largely to -30 yards rushing by the Middle Tennessee quarterback on sacks. They allowed 330 yards through the air as well as 3 touchdowns. The defense allowed 13 fourth quarter points as the Blue Raiders moved down the field with ease.
The special teams unit was good overall. There was a missed field goal, but a blocked punt subsequently allowed Illinois to build a 14-3 in the second quarter. Clayton Fejedelem fell on the ball in the end zone for the score.
Illinois enters Big Ten play 3-1 and they immediately get Nebraska next week at home. It is a potentially big game, as Illinois needs three wins to make bowl eligibility.
Ball State Cardinals at #17 Northwestern Wildcats
Result: Northwestern Win 24-19 (Saturday, September 26)
Northwestern was able to hang on against Ball State in a deceivingly good second half from the offense. The first half left a lot to be desired from the Wildcats, especially at the quarterback position.
Clayton Thorson looked like a freshman during the first half. He lost a fumble after a nice run, which led to a field goal for Ball State. He also threw an interception (led to a missed field goal), but his fumble late in the first half allowed Ball State to score a touchdown and take a 10-7 lead at halftime.
The second half was like a whole new ball game for the Wildcats on offense. Their first three drives resulted in 17 points and a 24-10 lead. Thorson finished the game going 18 of 31 for 256 yards with 3 touchdowns and the interception. He also ran for 45 yards on 9 carries. Justin Jackson had a big game rushing the ball with 184 yards on 33 carries. Dan Vitale easily had his best game of the year with 5 catches for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. His emergence really helped Thorson in the final 30 minutes.
The defense played solidly and it is worth noting that they kept the game close while the offense struggled in the first half. They recovered a fumble deep in their own territory and forced a total of four field goals from Ball State. Ball State missed two field goals, which would have been the difference.
Northwestern is likely to have a defensive battle next week at home in their Big Ten opener against Minnesota.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at #22 Wisconsin Badgers
Result: Wisconsin Win 28-0 (Saturday, September 26)
Taiwan Deal rushed for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries while Dare Ogunbowale had 15 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. The Badgers rushed for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns as a team on 54 carries. Most importantly, the offense looked to have gotten their running game back, if only for this week. The offense nearly held a 2-1 advantage in time of possession, another good sign.
Joel Stave was not overly impressive, but he was smart with the ball and did not force unnecessary throws. He went 14 of 23 for 164 yards and a touchdown. In no surprise, Alex Erickson was his top target with 9 catches for 87 yards. Austin Traylor had 2 catches for 23 yards and a touchdown and is quietly becoming a big red zone target for Stave.
The defense did not make any big plays, but they did not allow any type of rhythm for the Hawaii offense. Hawaii’s longest drive was 60 yards, but the defense held firm on fourth and three at the Wisconsin 33. Another drive got as close to the Wisconsin 1 yard line, but a series of penalties by Hawaii resulted in a missed 49 yard field goal. In the last three games, Wisconsin has allowed a total of 3 points and has two shutouts.
Wisconsin faces Iowa at home in their Big Ten opener next week.
Check back next Sunday for a look at the Week 5 Big Ten Roundup. There will be plenty of Big Ten Conference action that is dissected.
The Big Ten went 8-6 in the opening week of the college football season, but overall it was not a good weekend for them. Week two was a good chance for the Big Ten to redeem themselves. A closer look at each of the Big Ten’s teams is below.
Oregon State Beavers at Michigan Wolverines
Result: Michigan Win 35-7 (Saturday, September 12)
Jim Harbaugh’s first game in the Big House did not get off to a good start. The Beavers took the opening drive and marched right down the field to take a 7-0 lead. It got worse when quarterback Jake Rudock lost a fumble on the Wolverines’ first possession and put Oregon State in position to add to their lead. The Michigan defense stepped up to force and recover a fumble two plays later while the offense turned it into a field goal.
Michigan looked more like Michigan after that first drive by not allowing another point the rest of the game. De’Veon Smith was effective at rushing the ball and was more decisive as well. He finished with 126 yards and 3 touchdowns on 23 carries. Rudock went 18 of 26 for 180 yards, but did not have a touchdown pass and threw an interception.
The Michigan defense allowed a total of 138 yards the entire game and 79 of those yards came on Oregon State’s opening drive. They were disruptive and all over the field for nearly all of the game. The defense gave up only one third down conversion to the Oregon State offense out of 11 attempts.
The Wolverines face UNLV next week at home with a chance to continue improving on both sides of the ball.
Western Illinois Leathernecks at Illinois Fighting Illini
Result: Illinois Win 44-0 (Saturday, September 12)
The departure of Tim Beckman had no effect in week two as the offense continued to shine. Wes Lunt went 33 of 46 for 316 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His top target was Geronimo Allison who had 8 receptions for 124 yards. Marchie Murdock had a solid game with 6 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
One area that the offense struggled in was holding on to the ball. They had four turnovers in total with three of those coming on lost fumbles. Obviously it did not hurt this week, but a similar performance against better competition will have disastrous consequences. The Illini also had 147 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 40 carries as a team, which does not even average to 4 yards a carry. That will also need to improve.
The defense pitched a shut out and gave up only 141 yards of offense to Western Illinois. They allowed just 43 yards through the air and intercepted two passes. It was a suffocating performance that bodes well for them.
Illinois looked good for two weeks, but the waters get very deep next week on the road at North Carolina. That will be a great test for Illinois on both sides of the ball against their highest quality opponent to date.
Bowling Green Falcons at Maryland Terrapins
Result: Bowling Green Win 48-27 (Saturday, September 12)
Maryland had a second half surge to beat Richmond last week and it looked like they were going to do well against Bowling Green this week. The Terps led 13-6 at halftime, but struggled mightily in the final 30 minutes.
The defense for Maryland was the biggest culprit as they gave up 42 second half points. They allowed 491 yards and 6 touchdowns through the air while giving up another 201 yards on the ground. They managed just one turnover and allowed 10 of 22 on third and fourth down conversions.
Perry Hills did not have a good game going 15 of 30 with 168 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. He threw three interceptions, but did run for 94 yards on 8 carries. William Likely was a bright spot again with an 85 yard touchdown return on a punt.
Maryland has a third home game in a row next week against South Florida, but that will not be easy if they continue to struggle.
Buffalo Bulls at Penn State Nittany Lions
Result: Penn State Win 27-14 (Saturday, September 12)
Penn State was atrocious in week one against Temple, but rebounded to beat Buffalo at home this week. However, it was not always pretty as they continued to struggle on offense.
Christian Hackenberg went 14 of 27 with 128 yards and a touchdown. He and the offense would not score until midway through the second quarter, but built a familiar 10-0 score. Buffalo made it 10-7 on their second drive of the second half, but the offense was able to do enough to put the game out of reach. Hackenberg was not sacked at all against Buffalo after being sacked 10 times in week one.
Saquon Barkley had a good game with 115 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while Akeel Lynch was stifled at times gaining only 46 yards on 19 carries. This duo was able to move the ball at times while the passing game was ineffective under Hackenberg.
The Nittany Lions’ defense was solid allowing only 274 yards of offense to Buffalo and only 69 yards on the ground. They did not force a turnover, but were solid for most of the game.
Penn State kicks off their Big Ten schedule with a home game against Rutgers next week.
Miami (OH) Redhawks at Wisconsin Badgers
Result: Wisconsin Win 58-0 (Saturday, September 12)
Wisconsin was in fine form in week two after their tough opening week game against Alabama. Week two provided Miami (OH), which was a welcome relief as the Badgers crushed them.
Corey Clement did not play this week due to a lingering injury, but it did not matter with Joel Stave slinging the ball around. The running game struggled early on, but eventually got on track as the Redhawks wore down. Dare Ogunbowale ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while Taiwan Deal had 45 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries.
Stave looked sharp again this week going 19 of 30 for 236 yards with 3 touchdown and an interception. His best target was surprising with Robert Wheelwright leading the team. He had 6 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns with the bulk of the catches coming late in the second quarter. Alex Erickson had 5 catches for 73 yards, but was also effective on punt returns with 72 yards on 4 returns.
The defense, as expected, was dominant. They held Miami to -3 yards rushing and a total of 157 yards. They forced four turnovers including two picks Leo Musso and one interception by Tanner McEvoy. McEvoy got snaps at wide receiver as well in this game catching 3 passes for 29 yards.
It was a much better performance, but the run game will need to find its feet quicker and not rely on Stave too much to get the offense going. The Badgers will have Troy in town next week.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at #1 Ohio State Buckeyes
Result: Ohio State Win 38-0 (Saturday, September 12)
Ohio State had a quick turnaround from Monday night’s win over Virginia Tech and it may have played a part in their lackadaisical effort at times.
Cardale Jones started the game, but struggled for the first quarter and a half. He was pulled in the second quarter with J.T. Barrett taking over. Neither quarterback was overly impressive with Jones going 12 of 18 for 111 yards and Barrett going 8 of 15 for 70 yards. Neither threw a touchdown or interception.
Ezekiel Elliott was relied on more heavily this game going for 101 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 carries. Braxton Miller, to no surprise, was used as well with 8 carries for 57 yards, but was held to 2 catches for 16 yards. Curtis Samuel finished as the leading receiver with 7 catches for 53 yards and Michael Thomas had 52 yards on 5 catches.
The defense was very good by allowing only 165 total yards with 85 of those coming through the air and 80 on the ground. They forced four turnovers (2 interceptions and 2 fumbles) and returned one of those fumbles to the house courtesy of Vonn Bell from 14 yards out.
The Buckeyes will certainly be looking to get more a rhythm next week at home against Northern Illinois.
Washington State Cougars at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Result: Washington State Win 37-34 (Saturday, September 12)
It looked like Rutgers was going to pull one out for the Big Ten, but a wild fourth quarter saw these two teams combine for 39 points including touchdowns from each team in the final 1:31.
Kyle Flood opted to play Chris Laviano against the Cougars and he was decent. He finished 23 of 29 for 204 yards with a touchdown, but threw an interception that led to a field goal. He was able to spread the ball around finding 10 different receivers with Janarion Grant leading the way with 5 catches for 65 yards. Josh Hicks led the team in rushing with 91 yards on 16 carries while Robert Martin ran for 61 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries.
The obvious weakness this week was the defense that was shredded by Washington State’s air raid offense. Luke Falk went 47 of 66 for 478 yards with 4 touchdowns. Gabe Marks caught 14 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown while River Cracraft had 8 catches for 121 yards and a score. The Rutgers defense was not able to force a turnover and the critical drive that led to the loss. The defense will need to improve if Rutgers wants to make a bowl game this year.
The Scarlet Knights face Penn State on the road next week.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Colorado State Rams
Result: Minnesota Win 23-20 in 1 Overtime (Saturday, September 12)
Minnesota played well in week one and did so again in week two on the road at Colorado State. The Gophers needed overtime to get the win, but they were able to force an interception and then kick a field goal to give them the three point victory.
Mitch Leidner’s stats are not overwhelming, but he played well when he had to for the most part. He went 23 of 45 for 233 yards with 2 touchdowns, but no interceptions. He did lose two fumbles with the first one occurring inside the Rams’ 20 yard line on fourth and one. The other happened inside his own red zone that led to a field goal. Still, his ability to lead the offense down the field late in the fourth quarter for a go ahead touchdown was impressive.
Rodney Smith ran for 108 yards on 21 carries while Leidner was the second leading rusher with 47 yards on 11 carries. Drew Wolitarsky was a big target for Leidner with 9 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. KJ Maye made the biggest catch in the fourth quarter for a touchdown and finished with 6 catches for 54 yards.
The defense played well, especially when it counted the most in overtime. They finished with four turnovers forced and also held the Colorado State offense to 314 yards. The defense got lucky that Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins was out, but still did well overall.
Minnesota’s strong start will look to be continued next week back at home against Kent State.
Eastern Illinois Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats
Result: Northwestern Win 41-0 (Saturday, September 12)
If there was any worry that Northwestern would be too full of themselves after last week’s win over Stanford, it was not apparent in week two.
The offense was far from overwhelming, but was efficient led by Clayton Thorson who went 11 of 16 for 152 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown and only attempted two runs. Justin Jackson had 22 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown while WarrenLong saw action and finished with 12 rushers for 72 yards and a score.
Austin Carr had 2 catches for 61 yards and a long touchdown of 44 yards. Dan Vitale had 4 catches for 40 yards. The offense was not spectacular, but the defense was even if it was versus a FCS team.
Matthew Harris had a big game this week with two interceptions including one returned 71 yards for a touchdown. The defense allowed only 138 yards of offense to Eastern Illinois and did not allow a third down conversion (0 for 11). It was another dominant performance that bodes incredibly well for the Wildcats.
Northwestern will take on Duke next week on the road in another early season test for the Wildcats.
Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones
Result: Iowa Win 31-17 (Saturday, September 12)
Iowa had to battle against their in-state rival Iowa State, but they got the job done thanks to a balanced offense. Quarterback C.J. Beathard threw for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 of 25 passing. He also showed some wheels by running for 77 yards on 10 carries including long runs of 44 yards and 57 yards.
Jordan Canzeri pounded the ball 24 times for 124 yards and a touchdown, but did lose a fumble inside the Iowa State red zone with the game tied at 17. Matt VandeBerg was a safety blanket catching 9 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The defense was not great in the first half allowing all 17 points, but they played well in the final two quarters. With the game still in the balance and Iowa leading 24-17, Desmond King intercepted a pass at the Iowa State 36 and put the offense in great position to salt the game away.
One drive worth noting was Iowa’s final drive of the first half. They started from their own 2, moved the ball down to the Iowa State 22, and were in a great spot to kick a field goal. The game was a 17-10 Iowa State lead at the time, but Kirk Ferentz decided to try a trick play and let Marshall Koehn run the ball on a fake field goal, but he was stopped at the five. It was a bizarre play call that had no effect in the end, but the timing was very curious.
Iowa has another good game next week with Pittsburgh going to Iowa City.
#7 Oregon Ducks at #5 Michigan State Wolverines
Result: Michigan State Win 31-28 (Saturday, September 12)
The Big Ten’s biggest game of the week turned out to be a good one that went their way with a nice performance out of the Michigan State Spartans.
Connor Cook had a decent game going 20 of 32 for 192 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Madre London had a good game running the ball with 103 yards on 18 carries while LJ Scott pounded the ball in for two touchdowns and 76 yards on 11 carries. Aaron Burbridge had a great game catching 8 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
The Michigan State defense was not great, but they played well considering their opponent. They forced two interceptions in the first half with the first one leading to a touchdown for the offense. They also had a huge goal line stop in the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, they allowed a touchdown with a 31-21 lead, but were able to force a turnover on downs on the following drive (thanks in large part to a sack by Chris Frey and Lawrence Thomas).
Michigan State will be back at home next week with Air Force coming to town.
South Alabama Jaguars at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Result: Nebraska Win 48-9 (Saturday, September 12)
Nebraska rebounded from week one’s crushing Hail Mary loss to decimate South Alabama. TommyArmstrong went 21 of 30 for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead the Huskers. Terrell Newby had a monster game rushing for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns on 28 carries. Newby also had 2 catches for 38 yards and a score while Brandon Reilly caught 5 passes for 71 yards to lead the team.
The defense was clearly angered by last week’s performance and did well with the starters in. They did not allow a point in the first half and when the Jaguars did get into scoring position, they stopped them both times.
Nebraska faces the Miami Hurricanes next week on the road in another big game for them.
Florida International Panthers at Indiana Hoosiers
Result: Indiana Win 36-22 (Saturday, September 12)
Indiana escaped an upset last week against FCS Southern Illinois while this week’s game was not as dramatic at the end. However, Indiana did struggle early on with FIU. The Hoosiers trailed 22-19 early in the fourth quarter before putting up the final 17 points to make the finish comfortable.
Jordan Howard had another very good game with 27 carries for 159 yards. The defense struggled at times, but sealed the game with a pick six for 96 yards by Jameel Cook. That happened to be on fourth and goal with just over 4 minutes left.
Indiana’s defense will be tested again next week with the high-powered Western Kentucky offense going into Bloomington.
That concludes a look at the second week of the Big Ten football roundup. Look out for the week three edition next week.
Sports Enthusiasts’ 2015 College Football Preview is up to part four and the Mountain West Conference’s West Division. The MWC’s Mountain Preview can be found here while the entire schedule for each conference or division preview is below.
Below is a look at the Mountain West Conference’s West Division and conference championship prediction.
1. San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State will be in their 5th year under head coach Rocky Long and he has been ultra consistent making a bowl game in each of his first four seasons. Year 5 will have added pressure as they will be one of the favorites to make the Mountain West Championship Game.
The offense will be led by Donnel Pumphrey at the running back position. All he did was run for 1,867 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2014 with a 6.8 yards per carry average. Even his backup, Chase Price, ran for 674 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those two will be important as the Aztecs are breaking in a new quarterback in Maxwell Smith, who has transferred in from Kentucky. He should be able to be on par with last year’s starter Quinn Kaehler. Kaehler threw for 2,157 yards with 9 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and 55% completions. Smith will also have two of the top three receivers from 2014 as well as 3 starters from the offensive line returning. The offense should be just fine in 2015.
The strength of the San Diego State team in 2014 was the defense. They gave up only 19.8 points and 332 yards per game while bringing back only 4 starters. In 2015, the number of returning starters is eight including six of the top 7 tacklers. The losses are all in the front seven with one on the defensive line and two at linebacker. The secondary will be the focal point for the Aztecs defensively. They gave up only 179 passing yards per game and allowed only 55.8% on completions. All four starters return, which means opposing quarterbacks better watch out.
San Diego State opens the season against fellow city university San Diego before an in-state road trip to California and another home game against South Alabama. The wrap up their non-conference schedule at Penn State before another home game against Fresno State. The Aztecs have a fairly easy Mountain West schedule by not having to face Air Force or Boise State and get Utah State at home as well. Things are looking very good for San Diego State in 2015.
2. San José State Spartans
It is probably a bit surprising to see San José State here in the second spot of the West Division after a 3-9 season in 2014, but there are plenty of positives including 16 starters returning.
On offense, the Spartans return 10 starters with their lone loss at the center position. Joe Gray returns at quarterback after throwing for 2,305 yards with 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. His most impressive stat from 2014 is the fact he completed 63.6% of his passes. He will also have his top three receivers from 2014 back including Tyler Winston. Winston caught 78 passes for 694 yards and 5 touchdowns. Newcomer Kanya Bell is a prized recruit who is likely to see a big role in 2015. Tyler Ervin will be the starter at running back after 888 yards and 4 touchdowns with four of his offensive linemen back to pave the way. After averaging only 19.3 points and 395 yards per game in 2014, the offense should do far better this year.
San José State has 6 starters returning on defense including linebacker Christian Tago, who tied for the team lead in tackles with 96. He also recorded 5.5 tackles for loss. Both the defensive line and linebacking units lose two starters, but considering the fact they gave up an average of 259 rushing yards per game in 2014, it may not be the worst thing. The secondary only allowed 118 yards passing per game in 2014 and they return three starters as well as adding in a solid freshman (Tae’on Mason). The defense should be solid again in 2015.
San José State has a tough start to the season after an opening game against New Hampshire. They have back-to-back road games against Air Force and Oregon State before a home game against Fresno State. They draw New Mexico and Boise State from the Mountain Division in addition to Air Force. San José State could surprise many and they are right in the thick of the race for second in Mountain West Conference’s West Division.
3. Fresno State Bulldogs
Fresno State has made the first two Mountain West Championship Games in 2013 and 2014, winning the first and losing the second. However, 2014 was a sub-standard season with a 6-8 record including losses in the MWC Title Game and bowl game.
In 2015, the offense will have some work to do with the top quarterback and wide receiver departing. Marteze Waller will have a heavier burden, but that should not be too much of an issue. Waller ran for 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. The quarterback battle will be down to freshman Chason Virgil and sophomore Zack Greenlee. Greenlee started against Wyoming, but had a very poor outing going 7 of 16 for 55 yards. Gone at wide receiver is Josh Harper (90 catches, 1,097 yards, and 7 touchdowns) while Aaron Peck will step in to fill his shoes. Peck caught 32 passes for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2014. There will be some growing pains for Fresno State on offense, but should be able to reach their 2014 numbers of 28.5 points and 406 yards per game.
The defense will have 5 starters back in 2015 from a defense that gave up 32.4 points and 456 yards per game a year ago. The defensive line has only 1 starter back in Todd Hunt, who recorded 54 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss. There are two starters back at linebacker and in the secondary. The pass defense was poor in 2014 with 254 yards passing a game given up as well as 60.4% on completions. Like offense, there will be some growing pains.
Fresno State has an easy game against Abilene Christian to start the season before back-to-back toughies at Ole Miss and home to Utah. In conference, they have early road tests against San José State and San Diego State in back-to-back games before a home game against Utah State. They draw Air Force and Colorado State out of the Mountain Division as well. Fresno State could finish as high as second or as low as fourth in this division, but should be able to reach bowl eligibility.
4. Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada enters 2015 with Brian Polian in his third season at the helm. Polian led Nevada to a 4-8 record in 2013 before a 7-6 record and a bowl game in 2014.
2015 will bring back six starters on offense for the Wolf Pack, but one of them is not at quarterback. CodyFajardo is gone after throwing for 2,498 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions as well as running for 1,046 yards and 13 touchdowns. Replacing Fajardo will be redshirt freshman Hunter Fralick. He will have four of the top five receivers as well as the second and third leading rushers from 2014. Don Jackson ran for 957 yards and 7 touchdowns while James Butler contributed 635 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns. There are only two starters returning on offense and the losses give some worry about their performance, at least in the early part of the season.
On defense, there will be 5 starters returning from a unit that allowed 27.2 points and 447 yards per game in 2014. That unit also had 10 starters returning. Both the defensive line and secondary were hit hard by losses with two losses on the line and three in the secondary. The linebacker unit will be the strength with the #2 and #3 tacklers from 2014 comprising this group. Those two are Jordan Dobrich, who started only 6 games in 2014, but still managed to record 85 tackles. The other is Matthew Lyons who finished with 80 tackles. This defense will probably take a step back in 2015.
Nevada will open the season with back-to-back home games against UC Davis and Arizona before road trips to Texas A&M and Buffalo. In conference play, Nevada draws New Mexico (home), Wyoming (road), and Utah State (road) from the Mountain Division, but have a brutal four game stretch to finish the season. Those four games are Fresno State (road), San José State (home), Utah State (road), and San Diego State (road). Nevada could finish second or third if they do well in the final stretch and should also make a bowl game in 2015.
5. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Hawaii has hit hard times after their spectacular 12-1 season in 2007. Norm Chow has gone 3-9, 1-11, and 4-9 in his first three seasons and another losing record in 2015 could see the end of his time in Honolulu.
2015 should produce Hawaii’s best offense under Chow. They return 8 starters from 2014 including their quarterback, but he is likely to be usurped by new arrival Max Wittek, who was previously at USC. Also returning is the top rusher from a year ago in Steven Lakalaka, though he only ran for 646 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wittek will have he top two receivers from 2014 as well with Marcus Kemp (56 catches for 797 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Quinton Pedroza (59 catches for 674 yards and 3 touchdowns). The highest production under Chow was in 2013 when Hawaii put up 27.4 points and 416 yards per game. 2015 should produce those numbers again, if not higher.
On defense, the Warriors will have 6 starters back including their #2, #3, and #4 leading tacklers from 2014. Two starters have to be replaced on the defensive line and at linebacker. Kennedy Tulimasealii will anchor the line after recording 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 7 tackles for loss. Simon Poti will be one of the top men at linebacker after putting up 64 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 tackle for loss. The secondary will return three starters and a former starter in Marrell Jackson at safety, who started 15 games in his first two seasons. The defense should put up similar numbers as it did in 2014 (26.8 points and 418 yards per game).
Hawaii does not have an easy non-conference schedule. They open with a home game against Colorado, travel to face Ohio State, come back home to face FCS UC Davis, and then travel to Wisconsin to close out September. Hawaii will also face Louisiana-Monroe on the final weekend in November to end the regular season. In conference, the Warriors draw Boise State (road), New Mexico (road), and Air Force (home) out of the Mountain Division. They do get San Diego State, Fresno State, and San José State at home, but it looks like another losing season for Hawaii.
6. UNLV Rebels
Bobby Hauck was given 5 years to turnaround UNLV and it looked like he would after a 7-6 season in 2013. However, the 2014 season produced a 2-11 record with both the offense and defense getting worse. Now, former high school head coach Tony Sanchez is the head coach and he has his work cut out.
The offense returns five starters from a unit that produced 21.9 points and 387 yards per game. They will be learning a new system, but do return quarterback Blake Decker. Decker threw for 2,886 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions while completing 57.6% of his passes. He also ran for 365 yards and 5 touchdowns as the third leading rusher in 2014. The running game was by committee and the leading rusher from last year is gone while the #2 rusher, Keith Whitely, is back after running for 504 yards and 2 touchdowns. The top receiver in Devonte Boyd is back as well after he put up 65 catches for 980 yards and 4 touchdowns. Things are not looking too bad for UNLV, but 2015 might be a learning experience with the new offense being put in place.
The defense also returns five starters as well as five of their top six tacklers from 2014. The defensive line was decimated by departures with only one starter returning, but that group gave up an average of 294 yards rushing per game last year. All three linebackers return including 2014’s leading tackler TauLotulelei. He had 99 tackles, 3 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss. The secondary was also hit hard with three starters lost. The lone returning starter is Peni Vea who had 88 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 interceptions last year. The defense could be in for a long season with the losses they have sustained.
The non-conference schedule will be tough for a new head coach. The Rebels open with a road trip to Northern Illinois, a home game against UCLA, another road trip to the Big House to face Michigan, and finish September with a home game against FCS Idaho State. The Rebels will be lucky to get a win from Mountain West play and could finish with double digit losses for the fifth time in six seasons.
The 2015 Mountain West Conference’s West Division looks to be pointing to San Diego State as the winner. However, if they stumble or have a lot of bad luck, then it will be between San José State, Fresno State, and Nevada to win. Hawaii is a cut below the top four while UNLV will be back in the basement for 2015. Below is predicted order of finish for the West Division.
1. San Diego State
2. San Jose State
3. Fresno State
2015 Mountain West Championship
Part three of the 2015 College Football Preview looked at the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division and took Boise State to win. With San Diego State predicted as the West Division winner, that means it will be between Boise State and San Diego State for the conference championship. Boise State looks like the superior team and they are predicted to win the 2015 Mountain West Conference Championship Game.
Check back on Tuesday, July 14 for an in-depth look at Conference USA’s East Division Preview.
Hawaii will play Oregon three times; September 19, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon, September 16, 2023 in Eugene, and September 21, 2024 in Hawaii.
Hawaii and Arizona will play a home-and-home series in 2016 and 2025. Arizona will be the host on September 17, 2016 while Hawaii will be home on August 30, 2025. These two games are in addition to the 2019 game in Honolulu and 2020 game in Tucson.
Hawaii also announced that they will play a home-and-home series against Army in 2022 and 2024. Hawaii will travel to Army on November 19, 2022 while Army will be the road team on November 30, 2024. Just like the Arizona series, this is also an addition to a previously scheduled two games series. Army will be home to Hawaii on September 15, 2018 while Hawaii will be the host on November 30, 2019.
The two other teams that were scheduled for Hawaii were Western Carolina on September 2, 2017 and Fordham on September 12, 2020. Both of those games will be at home and are against FCS opponents.
Finally, Hawaii has announced a changed in the date of the 2021 game against the Wisconsin Badgers. The game has been moved from September 4, 2021 to August 31, 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Badgers will still be at home on September 17, 2022.
The first conference game will take place on Saturday, September 12 with San Jose State at Air Force. The season will conclude on Saturday, December 5 with the 2015 Mountain West Conference Championship. The Championship game will be played at the home of the highest-ranked division winners.
The Mountain West will televise games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday throughout the season. Some of the games listed below will be moved to another day when ESPN and CBS Sports Network determine their respective television schedules.