Tag:Mountain West Conference
Posted on: December 13, 2011 5:32 pm
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New Mexico Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Chip Patterson


A look at the key matchup that could decide the New Mexico Bowl

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming vs. Temple's defense

Temple's two strongest advantages heading into the New Mexico Bowl are their productive rushing attack and one of the nation's stingiest defensive units. The Owls rank third in the country in scoring defense, with their 13.8 points allowed per game trails only Alabama and LSU. But Wyoming has one weapon to counter Temple's touted D, and he is still just getting warmed up to the college game.

True freshman quarterback Brett Smith graduated early from high school in order to join the Cowboys football program in January, and the offense has not been the same since the 6-foot-3 dual-threat from Salem, Ore. won the starting job. Smith threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns while adding 44 yards and a score on the ground in the Cowboys season-opening win and has been shredding school and conference records ever since. He finished the regular season with 28 total touchdowns (18 passing, 10 rushing) and only eight interceptions, throwing for 2,495 yards and finishing second on the team in rushing with 645 yards. His 3,140 yards of total offense broke Andy Dalton's single-season MWC freshman record, and earned him Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors.

Smith is dynamic and explosive enough to keep the Owls guessing, and Wyoming will need him to deliver big plays and first downs to keep Temple's rushing attack off the field. The Owls' defensive numbers are impressive, especially considering some of the high-scoring teams in the MAC this season. But Temple did benefit from missing Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan in the regular-season schedule. NIU's Chandler Harnish and EMU's Alex Gillett were arguably the best rushing quarterbacks in the conference, with Harnish collecting conference MVP honors at the end of the season.

So before we can crown Temple's defense as the best in the conference, they need to contain a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Before Brett Smith can be considered the future of Cowboys football, he'd like to deliver a bowl win. It's the matchup that will likely determine the winner of the first bowl game in the 2011-2012 schedule.

For more New Mexico Bowl coverage, check out the Keys to the Game and the latest news at New Mexico Bowl Pregame

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Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Keys to the Game: New Mexico Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

TEMPLE WILL WIN IF: The Owls can control the game with their defense and a steady ground game. Even in the high-scoring MAC, Temple's defense ranked in the Top 15 nationally in total defense and trail only LSU and Alabama giving up just 13.8 points per game. Complimenting that stout defense is a Top 10 rushing attack led by First Team All-MAC running back Bernard Pierce. First-year head coach Steve Addazio has had the benefit of relying on a steady ground game to keep scores low and take the pressure off a revolving door quarterback scenario. Redshirt sophomore Chris Coyer is expected to get the start under center after injuring his throwing in the regular season finale against Kent State. Coyer served mostly as a rushing threat/change-of-pace quarterback until taking over the starting duties in the last month of the season. If Pierce and backup Matt Brown can get going early, they should be able to rack up the yards against a Cowboys defense giving up roughly 230 yards per game on the ground.

WYOMING WILL WIN IF: The Cowboys can force turnovers and create the big play on offense. Knowing Temple's strengths on defense and in the rushing game, Wyoming will need to take some shots to create explosive plays and rattle the Owls. Thankfully, their best weapon for that task seems up to the challenge. Dual-threat freshman quarterback Brett Smith shattered Andy Dalton's MWC freshman records for total offense with 3,140 yards passing and rushing on the season, earning him conference Freshman of the Year honors. Steve Addazio has gone as far as to compare Smith to a certain former Florida quarterback you might have seen in the NFL headlines recently. Defensively, the Cowboys have to find a way to disrupt Temple's rhythm by creating turnovers. Wyoming led the Mountain West in fumbles recovered and turnover margin, and will need to win that battle in claim another New Mexico Bowl win.

X-FACTOR: Adjustment to the altitude. University Stadium in Albuquerque is roughly 5,000 feet above sea level, creating an atmosphere that many athletes over time have had difficulty adjusting to in regards to getting enough oxygen during competition. With only two bowl appearances since 1979 - and the last one played in nearby Washington, D.C.- it is safe to assume Temple is not used to dealing with extraneous climate factors on a regular basis. On the other hand, Wyoming stormed back from a 28-17 fourth quarter deficit to eventually beat the Ryan Matthews-led Fresno State Bulldogs in double overtime in this same bowl game two seasons ago. As Temple's touted defense works to contain Brett Smith late into the fourth quarter, they'll need every gasp of air they can get to pull out a victory in Addazio's first season at the helm.

For much more on Wyoming and Temple, cruise over to our New Mexico Bowl Pregame and get ready for Saturday's kickoff.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:38 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (9-2, 7-1 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (11-0, 7-0)
2. Alabama (10-1, 6-1)
2. Arkansas (10-1, 6-1)

LSU needs: Win over Arkansas on Friday, win against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and it's on to the BCS title game for the Bayou Bengals.
Alabama needs: Win against Auburn on Saturday, an LSU loss to Arkansas. The three-way tiebreaker in the SEC is decided by BCS standings, which the Tide would likely own after an LSU loss.
Arkansas needs: To beat LSU and for Auburn to upset Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks would have the opportunity to move up in the BCS standings with the losses and likely earn the bid to the BCS title game.
Georgia needs: Defeat SEC West Champion in Atlanta to cause mass chaos.

Pick: LSU over Georgia

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2)

Oklahoma State needs: A win over Oklahoma in the Bedlam game on Dec. 3. However, the Cowboys could clinch the conference title with an Oklahoma loss to Iowa State this weekend.
Oklahoma needs: Win out against Iowa State and Oklahoma State to claim share of Big 12 Championship and earn BCS bowl bid.

Pick: Oklahoma State

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (10-1, 8-1 conference)
2. Oregon (9-2, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. UCLA (6-5, 5-3)
2. Arizona State (6-5, 4-4)
2. Utah (7-4, 4-4)

Stanford needs: An Oregon loss on Saturday to clinch the Pac-12 North and a bid to the conference championship game.
Oregon needs: A win over Oregon State to move into a tie for the Pac-12 North, earning a championship game bid thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

UCLA needs: A win over USC clinches the Pac-12 South. A loss would result in the Bruins needing Colorado to beat Utah to avoid being jumped by the Utes.
Arizona State needs: A win against Cal and USC to beat UCLA. Even if Utah beats Colorado, the Sun Devils own the three-team tiebreaker.
Utah needs: A win over Colorado, Cal to beat Arizona State on Friday, and USC to beat UCLA on Saturday.

Pick: Oregon over Arizona State

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (9-2, 6-1)
2. Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2)

Penn State needs: A win over Wisconsin on Saturday
Wisconsin needs: A win over Penn State on Saturday

Pick: Wisconsin over Michigan State

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-2, 6-2 conference) - CLINCHED 

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1)
2. Virginia (8-3, 5-2)

Virginia Tech needs: A win over Virginia on Saturday
Virginia needs: A win over Virginia Tech on Saturday

Pick: Virginia Tech over Clemson

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Louisville (6-5, 4-2 conference)
1. Rutgers (8-3, 4-2)
3. Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2)
3. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
3. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)

Week 13 Key Games: Louisville at South Florida (Friday), Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Friday), Rutgers at Connecticut, Cincinnati at Syracuse
Week 14 Key Games: West Virginia at South Florida (Thursday), Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Connecticut at Cincinnati

Louisville needs: Win at South Florida, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh
Rutgers needs: Win at Connecticut, at least one loss for Louisville and West Virginia
Cincinnati needs: Wins against Syracuse and Connecticut, at least one loss for Rutgers and West Virginia
West Virginia needs: Wins against Pittsburgh and South Florida, South Florida defeating Louisville
Pittsburgh needs: Wins against West Virginia and Syracuse, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Rutgers

Pick: Louisville

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-2, 5-2 conference)
2. Marshall (5-6, 4-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (11-0, 7-0)
1. Tulsa (8-3, 7-0)

Southern Miss needs: A win over Memphis OR a Marshall loss to ECU clinches the East
Marshall needs: A win over ECU and a Southern Miss loss to Memphis.

Houston needs: A win over Tulsa on Friday
Tulsa needs: A win over Houston on Friday

Pick: Houston over Southern Miss

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (9-2, 6-0 conference)
2. Boise State (9-1, 4-1)
2. Wyoming (7-3, 4-1)

TCU needs: Having clinched a share of the title, the Horned Frogs can win outright with a victory over UNLV Dec. 3.
Boise State needs: Wins over Wyoming and New Mexico, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.
Wyoming needs: Wins over Boise State and Colorado State, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.

Pick: TCU

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-1 conference)
2. Nevada (6-4, 4-1)

Louisiana Tech needs: A win against New Mexico State earns a share of the WAC title, one Nevada loss will make them outright champions. Louisiana Tech earned the head-to-head advantage with a 24-20 win over Nevada.
Nevada needs: Wins against Utah State and Idaho earn the Wolf Pack a share of the WAC title. Nevada needs to win out and a Louisiana Tech loss to be outright champions.

Pick: Louisiana Tech

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (8-3, 5-2 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1)
1. Toledo (7-4, 6-1)

Northern Illinois needs: A win over Eastern Michigan on Friday clinches the West Division thanks to the head-to-head advantage over Toledo.
Toledo needs: A victory over Ball State on Friday and a Northern Illinois loss to win the division and earn a spot in the conference championship game.

Pick: Northern Illinois over Ohio

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl + New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (9-2, 7-0 conference) - CLINCHED

BOWL-BOUND: Arkansas State accepted an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. after their 45-19 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. After the announcement, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl offered an invitation to Louisiana-Lafayette. It will be the first time in the bowl's 11-year history a team from Louisiana will be participating.

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Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 12

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (8-2, 6-1 conference)
2. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (10-0, 6-0)
2. Alabama (9-1, 6-1)
3. Arkansas (9-1, 5-1)

Week 12 Key Games: Kentucky at Georgia; Mississippi State at Arkansas; LSU at Ole Miss

Pick: LSU. The SEC West contenders all have games that should be easy wins this weekend before setting up the dramatic finale to the division race. Alabama needs to travel to Auburn for the Iron Bowl and Arkansas visits LSU in Baton Rouge for an eventful Thanksgiving weekend in the SEC. However, the East will be wrapped up by Saturday afternoon. If Georgia beats Kentucky at home, the Bulldogs win the East outright and punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC title game. If the Wildcats pull the upset, South Carolina wins the title game bid thanks to the 45-42 victory in Athens earlier this season.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1)

Week 12 Key Games: Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Friday); Oklahoma at Baylor

Pick: Oklahoma State. With Oklahoma State's dismantling of Texas Tech, Kansas State mathematically falls out of the running for the Big 12 title. Now everything is set up for Bedlam, with the Cowboys having a slight advantage with the extra preparation time. After Iowa State on Friday, Mike Gundy will have 15 days to get ready for Oklahoma's visit to Stillwater. In that time, the Sooners face Baylor on the road and Iowa State at home.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Oregon (9-1, 7-0 conference)
2. Stanford (9-1, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (6-4, 4-3)
1. UCLA (5-5, 4-3)
3. Utah (6-4, 3-4)

Key Week 12 Games: Utah at Washington State; Colorado at UCLA; USC at Oregon; California at Stanford

Pick: Oregon. With their impressive road win against Stanford, the Ducks jumped into the driver's seat of the Pac-12 North and also made themselves players in the national title discussion. Their argument as the nation's best one loss team is strong, but they will be tested again with a visit from a hot USC team. An upset at the hands of the Trojans would make the North interesting, but the way Oregon has been leaving opponents in the dust I think they take care of business down the stretch. The South is just a mess, with Arizona State and UCLA losing winnable games in Week 11 and suddenly making Utah a player in the race. The Bruins have the head-to-head on the Sun Devils, but Arizona State has more favorable matchups left on the schedule and a victory against Utah. Then again, no one in that division (at least no one eligible for the postseason) has been predictable.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 conference)
2. Michigan (8-2, 4-2)
2. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2)
4. Iowa (6-4, 3-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (8-2, 5-1)
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2)
3. Ohio State (6-4, 3-3)
3. Purdue (5-5, 3-3)

Key Week 12 Games: Indiana at Michigan State; Nebraska at Michigan; Wisconsin at Illinois; Iowa at Purdue; Penn State at Ohio State

Pick: Wisconsin. Even without taking off-field situations into consideration, Penn State desperately needed to win against Nebraska on Saturday for the Big Ten title race. The loss brought the rest of the division one game closer in the standings, and now interim head coach Tom Bradley must lead them on the road against Ohio State and Wisconsin to wrap up a tumultuous November for the program. Ohio State did themselves no favors in the overtime loss to Purdue, which negated the one game they picked up on Wisconsin with 33-29 win in Week 9. If the Badgers can avoid an upset against the Fighting Zooks this week, it will set up a division title game with Penn State in Camp Randall. Everything considered, I like the Badgers' chances in that matchup. The Spartans control their own destiny in the Leaders Division, with a one game lead and just Indiana and Northwestern left on the schedule. The loser of Nebraska - Michigan this weekend falls out of the title hunt, while the winner hopes for a Spartan slip-up. The Cornhuskers are in the best position to overtake Michigan State, but the schedule is not favorable with Michigan and Iowa left.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game - Orange Bowl 
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-1, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED DIVISION

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1)
2. Virginia (7-3, 4-2)

Key Week 11 Games: North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Thursday); Virginia at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. The Tigers nearly avoided letting the Atlantic Division slip away with the 31-28 come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest at home on Saturday. The Coastal Division race narrowed last weekend as well, with Virginia Tech knocking Georgia Tech from competition in the Thursday night contest in Atlanta. The Hokies return to action on Thursday against a reeling North Carolina team. Virginia needs a win over Florida State or a Virginia Tech loss to set up a season finale meeting with the Hokies for the Coastal Division title. A Cavaliers' loss to the Seminoles paired with a Virginia Tech win on Thursday will clinch Frank Beamer's fifth division title in seven years.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1 conference) 
2. Rutgers (7-3, 3-2)
2. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
2. Louisville (5-5, 3-2)
2. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)
6. Connecticut (4-5, 2-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Louisville at Connecticut; Cincinnati at Rutgers

Pick: West Virginia. Cincinnati and Louisville needed wins in Week 11 to create some distance in the always-muddled Big East title race. Instead both teams lost and now we are left with this six-team dash towards the finish line. The Bearcats' loss was not just in the standings on Saturday, but starting quarterback Zach Collaros has been ruled out for the season with a broken ankle. Victories over Cincinnati and Rutgers put West Virginia in the best position heading down the stretch, but the Mountaineers cannot afford another loss with the Backyard Brawl in two weeks and at USF in the season finale. The conference is rooting for Rutgers to knock off the banged up Bearcats and even the playing field with two-loss teams. The Scarlet Knights just have Connecticut left on the schedule, but will need some help to overtake West Virginia. Louisville has a favorable schedule with Connecticut and USF, but both games are on the road and they need Cincinnati to lose twice. Pittsburgh and Connecticut are still technically in the race, though there is little evidence in their resume that they are prepared to close out against the competition.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-1, 5-1 conference) 
2. Marshall (4-5, 3-2) 

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (10-0, 6-0) 
1. Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) 

Key Week 12 Games: Southern Miss at UAB (Thursday); SMU at Houston; Marshall at Memphis; Tulsa at UTEP

Pick: Houston. East Carolina fell from contention with a loss in Week 11, and Southern Miss avoided dropping a costly game to UCF with a gritty 30-29 victory. The Golden Eagles have a favorable slate left, with UAB and Memphis as the obstacles left in the way of a Conference USA title game bid. The West Division continues to set up for a potentially scoreboard friendly regular season finale between Houston and Tulsa. I don't expect the Cougars to lose focus at this point, particularly now that a BCS bowl game bid has become a possibility for Case Keenum and Co..

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (8-2, 5-0 conference) 
2. Boise State (8-1, 3-1) 
2. Wyoming (6-3, 3-1) 

Key Week 12 Games: New Mexico at Wyoming; Colorado State at TCU; Boise State at San Diego State

Pick: TCU. For the second year in a row, Boise State is knocked from their perch in the national rankings and conference standings with a missed field goal in the final moments of a close loss. The only way TCU loses the Mountain West conference at this point is falling to Colorado State (3-6) and UNLV (2-7). If sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall is 50% as productive as he was against the Broncos, the Horned Frogs should have the conference locked up in the coming weeks. Still, Wyoming and Boise State can win out to keep alive. But I wouldn't bet on TCU slipping down the stretch.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (6-3, 4-0 conference) 
2. Louisiana Tech (6-4, 4-1) 
3. Utah State (4-5, 2-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Louisiana Tech at Nevada; Utah State at Idaho

Pick: Nevada. HUGE game in the WAC this weekend as Louisiana Tech squares off against conference-leading Nevada. The winner takes the driver's seat in the conference title race, with the Wolf Pack nearly locking up the championship if they can get the win at home. Utah State still technically has a shot to finish on top, but the extent of help they would need to jump both teams seems unrealistic. Louisiana Tech is on a five game winning streak after starting 1-4, but cannot afford to drop another game if they hope to steal the WAC from Nevada.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (7-3, 4-2 conference)
2. Temple (6-4, 4-3)
3. Kent State (4-6, 3-3)
3. Miami (OH) (4-6, 3-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1)
1. Toledo (6-4, 5-1)
3 Ball State (6-4, 4-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Ball State at Northern Illinois (Tuesday); Ohio at Bowling Green (Wednesday); Western Michigan at Miami (OH) (Wednesday); Toledo at Central Michigan (Friday); Eastern Michigan at Kent State

Pick: Northern Illinois. The Huskies continue to own the inside track in the West Division thanks to their 63-60 victory over Toledo earlier this month, but Ball State can shake things up with a win Tuesday night. Toledo needs to win out in-conference and get help from Ball State or Eastern Michigan to jump into first place, while the Cardinals will get an opportunity to knock off both frontrunners in their next contests. The East is even more confusing, with three three-loss teams hoping Ohio slips up down the stretch against Bowling Green and/or Miami (OH). Next week will be the deciding weekend for the MAC East, with Ohio facing Miami and Kent State taking on Temple. Regardless of who finishes on top, taking down Northern Illinois or Toledo in the MAC title game will be no easy task.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (8-2, 6-0 conference) 
2. Western Kentucky (5-5, 5-1) 

Key Week 12 Games: Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee; Western Kentucky at North Texas

Pick: Arkansas State. Arkansas State continued their surprising tear through the Sun Belt with a much-needed victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 11. The loss eliminated the Ragin' Cajuns from title contention, and now Arkansas State needs just one more conference win to clinch the title. Western Kentucky remains in contention, but need the Red Wolves to lose their final two games to overtake them in the standings.

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Posted on: November 12, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 8:27 pm
 

QUICK HITS: TCU 36, No. 5 Boise State 35

Posted by Chip Patterson

TCU WON. The Horned Frogs walked into Boise unintimidated, and walked out in the driver's seat to another Mountain West Conference title after converting a two-point attempt to knock off the undefeated Broncos 36-35 on the Smurf Turf.

HOW TCU WON: Sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall took advantage of Boise State's secondary to deliver big play after big play for the Horned Frogs, always having an answer to Kellen Moore's well orchestrated drives. Pachall finished the afternoon completing 24 of 37 passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns, but none were as important as the rollout pass to Josh Boyce on the two-point conversion with 1:05 remaining. TCU head coach Gary Patterson told his offensive staff to have the 2-point try play called in advance, after Boise State backup running back Drew Wright turned the ball over with 2:26 remaining in regulation. Shaky field goal kicking would not cost TCU this opportunity to steal a signature win on Boise's home field.

WHEN TCU WON: Shaky field goal kicking did cost Boise the victory, and shattered their BCS title dreams. Dan Goodale's kick from 37 yards out was pushed wide right, and for the second year in a row Boise State's BCS campaign is halted over a last-minute missed field goal.

WHAT TCU WON: A signature win for a young team with a bright future. With the move to the Big 12 on the horizon, Casey Pachall and the rest of this youthful team made a statement to their future league partners with the upset of Boise State. Pachall will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12, and this win will help the Horned Frogs as they continue to improve over the final weeks of the season. TCU has gotten much better since conference play began, and now controls their own destiny for another Mountain West Conference title.

WHAT BOISE STATE LOST: After 65 consecutive regular season home wins, the Broncos' first loss will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. The season has been a record-setting one for Kellen Moore, who recently became college football's winningest quarterback. But Moore's goal of competing for a national championship will fall short with the Broncos' loss.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Boise State can't seem to shake kicking issues. While double-digit leads have kept them safe from crunch time kicks, Saturday's miss by Goodale was eerily similar to the loss against Nevada last season. TCU, with kicking issues of their own, emerged victorious for the decision NOT to kick.



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Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:35 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 11

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (5-1)(7-2)
2. South Carolina (5-2)(7-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (6-0)(9-0)
2. Alabama (5-1)(8-1)
3. Arkansas (4-1)(8-1)

Week 11 Key Games: Florida at South Carolina; Tennessee at Arkansas; Auburn at Georgia

Pick: LSU. The Tigers take control of the SEC with their 9-6 overtime victory in the "Game of the Century" (tag now debatable), but the home stretch won't be a cakewalk. Arkansas will get their shot at the No. 1 team in the nation in the regular season finale, causing a mind-numbing three-way tie for the division title. If Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas all finish with one conference loss (against each other), the SEC title game representative will be decided by BCS standings. For now I'm liking LSU's chances against Arkansas and Georgian in the title game, assuming the Bulldogs can lock up the East down the stretch.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (6-0)(9-0)
2. Oklahoma (5-1)(8-1)
3. Kansas State (4-2)(7-2)
4. Texas (3-2)(6-2)

Week 11 Key Games: Texas at Missouri; Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; Texas A&M at Kansas State

Pick: Oklahoma State. Week 11 serves as a "Separation Saturday" of sorts in the Big 12, with Kansas State and Texas facing elimination from title contention. If the Cowboys can avoid the Texas Tech trap that caught their Bedlam brethren, they will be just an Iowa State win away from a possible unofficial Big 12 title game against the Sooners. Oklahoma still has to beat Baylor on the road, and does not get the advantage of a week off prior to the big game in December. I like Mike Gundy to have his team focused down the stretch, and outscoring anyone they face.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (7-0)(9-0)
2. Oregon (6-0)(8-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-2)(7-2)
1. UCLA (4-2)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Oregon at Stanford; UCLA at Utah; Arizona State at Washington State

Pick: Stanford. UCLA's victory over Arizona State has made the Pac-12 South suddenly a heated race in November. Without owning the head-to-head against UCLA, the Sun Devils must remain perfect down the stretch and hope the Bruins falter to earn that bid to the Pac-12 title game. Arguably the biggest conference matchup of the season will be Stanford's showdown with Oregon at home on Saturday night. Knocking off the Ducks will give create enough separation to feel good about winning the Pac-12 North. If the banged-up Cardinal can get it done against Oregon, I like their chances against California the following week.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (4-1)(7-2)
2. Michigan (3-2)(7-2)
2. Nebraska (3-2)(7-2)
2. Iowa (3-2)(6-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(8-1)
2. Ohio State (3-2)(6-3)
2. Wisconsin (3-2)(7-2)

Key Week 11 Games: Nebraska at Penn State; Michigan State at Iowa; Michigan at Illinois; Wisconsin at Minnesota; Ohio State at Purdue

Pick: Michigan State. Week 10's results have left the Big Ten title race in a chaotic state. The good news for a Big Ten fan is that now almost every game on the schedule has a potential conference championship implication. Interestingly enough, one of the team with the most control in the jumbled Legends race is Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated Michigan on Saturday, and face both Michigan State and Nebraska in the final three weeks of the season. Michigan State, with a game up on Iowa, can also lock up the division by winning out and faces an easier slate. Penn State has the toughest road in the Leaders division, and the off-field issues will be impossible for those around the program to ignore. Owning the head-to-head against Wisconsin, Ohio State is actually in the best position to leap ahead of Penn State should they fall along the way.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-4)
2. Florida State (4-2)(6-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)
3. Virginia (3-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech; Wake Forest at Clemson; Duke at Virginia; Miami at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. Week 11 provides the ACC with some huge matchups with conference title implications. Clemson can lock up the ACC Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest, and the winner of Thursday night's showdown between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech moves into the driver's seat for the ACC Coastal. I like the Tigers to take care of business with a week off following their loss to the Yellow Jackets, and Dabo Swinney's team will play to a Tiger-friendly crowd at the title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (3-0)(7-1)
2. Louisville (3-1)(5-4)
3. Rutgers (3-2)(6-3)
4. West Virginia (2-2)(6-3)
4. Pittsburgh (2-2)(4-5)
4. Connecticut (2-2)(4-5)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 11 Games: West Virginia at Cincinnati; Pittsburgh at Louisville

Pick: Cincinnati. The Bearcats' surprising 7-1 campaign runs into arguably the biggest road block on Saturday, facing a steaming-mad West Virginia team in Paul Brown Stadium. A loss knocks the Mountaineers from title contention, and Dana Holgorsen will be looking for improvements on all sides of the ball after the loss to Louisville. The Cardinals can also knock out a contender this weekend with a win over Pittsburgh.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (4-1)(8-1)
2. East Carolina (3-2)(4-5)
2. Marshall (3-2)(4-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (5-0)(9-0)
1. Tulsa (5-0)(6-3)
3. SMU (4-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Houston at Tulane; Marshall at Tulsa; UCF at Southern Miss; East Carolina at UTEP

Pick: Houston. No one in the league has been as impressive as Houston this season, but Tulsa's five-game win streak is nothing to ignore. The two teams are on a collision course to meet in Houston on Thanksgiving Friday, likely for the West Division crown. UCF gave the Golden Hurricanes a challenge in Week 10, and Southern Miss should be on alert after picking up a game on East Carolina.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (4-0)(7-2)
2. Boise State (3-0)(8-0)
2. Wyoming (2-1)(5-3)

Key Week 11 Games: TCU at Boise State; Wyoming at Air Force

Pick: Boise State. My question is not if Boise State will beat TCU this weekend on the Smurf Turf, but how they beat TCU. The Broncos have once again found themselves in a position where they might be on the outside looking in of the BCS title game, and TCU presents their last quality opponent on the schedule. It would favor the Broncos to end this game early, and keep the foot on the accelerator to draw the attention of as many human voters as possible to help their BCS chances.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (4-1)(5-4)
2. Hawaii (3-2)(5-4)
4. Fresno State (2-2)(3-6)

Key Week 11 Games: Hawaii at Nevada; Fresno State at New Mexico State

Pick: Nevada. Louisiana Tech takes a break from conference play to face Ole Miss while Nevada gets a shot to eliminate Hawaii from title contention. I like the Wolf Pack coming in from a week off to knock the Warriors off at home, setting up a huge WAC showdown with Louisiana Tech in Week 12. Nevada plays to a favorable schedule down the stretch, and I like their chances to keep a hold on the top spot in the conference.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (3-2)(6-3)
1. MIami (OH) (3-2)(4-5)
3. Temple (3-3)(5-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Ball State (4-2)(6-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Northern Illinois at Bowling Green; Western Michigan at Toledo; Miami (OH) at Temple; Ohio at Central Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. While NBA fans are complaining about missed games, the MAC is seizing the opportunity to show off their mid-week fireworks. Week 11 is another Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday slate of contests with conference title implications, so get the scoreboard warmed up. The East leaders will each have to hit the road to protect their spot, with a Miami - Ohio rivalry game still left on the schedule. If Northern Illinois can avoid the upset at Bowling Green, their remaining schedule sets up well for a strong finish and plenty of rest for the conference title game.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (5-0)(7-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (6-1)(8-2)
3. Western Kentucky (5-1)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: La.-Lafayette at Arkansas State; Western Kentucky at LSU

Pick: Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have been on a tear for nearly two months, and now their opportunity to lock up the Sun Belt Conference comes right to their front door with Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns are fresh off a thrilling battle with Louisiana-Monroe that required two touchdowns in the final three minutes to secure the 36-35 victory. I like Arkansas State on Saturday, and to lock things up down the stretch in the Sun Belt.

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Posted on: November 2, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. South Carolina (5-1)(7-1)
1. Georgia (5-1)(6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Alabama (5-0)(8-0)
1. LSU (5-0)(8-0)
3. Arkansas (3-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: South Carolina at Arkansas, LSU at Alabama

Pick: LSU. This could easily be Alabama, but right now I've got the Bayou Bengals winning 21-17 in Tuscaloosa. Regardless, whoever wins the SEC West will likely be the one to win the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Even with a victory over Alabama, LSU would still need to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge. South Carolina owns the head-to-head against Georgia, so the Bulldogs will need to win out and hope for a Gamecocks loss this weekend to win the East.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (5-0)(8-0)
2. Oklahoma (4-1)(7-1)
2. Kansas State (4-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M at Oklahoma

Pick: Oklahoma. I like the way the Sooners responded to getting upset by Texas Tech in their performance against Kansas State. Unless the Cowboys continue to showcase the defense that was on the field against Baylor - which they might - I have a hard time seeing the Sooners' offense getting stopped in the Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State also has a tough road against Kansas State and on the road against Texas Tech before that season finale. Could be the Cowboys, but right now I'll take the Sooners.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (6-0)(8-0)
2. Oregon (5-0)(7-1)
3. Washington (4-1)(6-2)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-1)(6-2)
2. UCLA (3-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Arizona State at UCLA, Oregon at Washington

Pick: Stanford. If Arizona State beats UCLA this weekend it should basically lock up the USC-less South Division for that bid to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. The North will be a more difficult challenge for the Cardinal, but the resiliency showed by Andrew Luck and the offense after the pick-six in fourth quarter was just one of those moments that makes you believe this is their year to win the league.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan (3-1)(7-1)
1. Nebraska (3-1)(7-1)
1. Michigan State (3-1)(6-2)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(6-2)
2. Wisconsin (2-2)(6-2)
2. Ohio State (2-2)(5-3)
2. Purdue (2-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Nebraska, Purdue at Wisconsin, Indiana at Ohio State 

Pick: Wisconsin. Penn State has been the surprise of the league, now sitting as the only team undefeated in conference play. But with Nebraska and road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule, I think the Badgers will have a chance to win the division in the regular season finale. The Legends Division is a little more cloudy, but right now Michigan State's remaining schedule is the most favorable among the three contenders. I like the Badgers to exact their revenge on Sparty in a rematch from the upset in East Lansing.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-3)
3. Florida State (3-2)(5-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)

Key Week 10 Game: Florida State at Boston College

Pick: Clemson. This weekend won't reveal much more about the ACC title race, with the top teams in the conference sitting this out this first weekend in November. But the Hokies and Yellow Jackets will square off in Atlanta next Thursday, a game that could seal the division for either team. Wake Forest will get their shot at the Tigers, but a Clemson win should st them up for a return to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (2-0)(6-1)
2. West Virginia (2-1)(6-2)
2. Louisville (2-1)(4-4)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisville at West Virginia, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Pick: Cincinnati. The league-leading Bearcats do play three of their final five conference games on the road, but they will get to play host when West Virginia comes to town. If Cincinnati can get another game on the Mountaineers, I like their chances to emerge as a 1-loss Big East champion. West Virginia has to finish their season on the road against South Florida on a Thursday night. So far in 2011, Big East home teams are 6-0 when playing conference games on a weekday night.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (3-1)(7-1)
1. East Carolina (3-1)(4-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (4-0)(8-0)
1. Tulsa (4-0)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Tulsa at UCF, Southern Miss at East Carolina

Pick: Houston. Winner of this weekends East Division showdown should take front seat for the Conference USA title game. Either way I'm not sure either team could beat Houston. Tulsa will have their chance to play spoiler to the Cougars, hosting Case Keenum and Co. in the final game of the regular season, but they'll have to get by UCF and Marshall to have that opportunity.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (3-0)(6-2)
2. Boise State (2-0)(7-0)
2. Wyoming (2-0)(5-2)

Key Week 10 Games: TCU at Wyoming, Boise State at UNLV

Pick: Boise State. The only hurdle left for the Broncos is TCU, and the Horned Frogs' defensive drop-off from 2010 has been well documented. The game also will be played on the Smurf Turf in Boise, and I like Kellen Moore's chances to dissect that defense from under center at home. With the possibility of the Broncos earning a BCS bid, there is also significant competition for those extra bowl spots. I do like TCU to finish ahead of Wyoming for the second-place spot.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Hawaii (3-1)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (3-1)(4-4)
4. Fresno State (2-1)(3-5)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisiana Tech at Fresno State, Utah State at Hawaii

Pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack bounced back from a 1-3 start with four straight wins to jump out ahead of the conference. The ground attack has been grooving, and they will have a week off before hosting Hawaii in a crucial battle for the top spot in the league. With Week 10 off and three of their final four contests at home, I like Nevada's chance to emerge as the top team in the WAC.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1, Temple (3-2)(5-3)
2. Ohio (2-2)(5-3)
2. MIami (OH) (2-2)(3-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Eastern Michigan (3-1)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. Temple at Ohio, Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. Tuesday night's 123-point touchdown extravaganza provided thrilling mid-week action for college football fans, but it was also a huge win for the Huskies in the battle for the West Division title. Temple and Ohio will have a similar battle on Wednesday night, as the division races should have much more clarity heading into the weekend.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (4-0)(6-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (5-1)(7-2)
3. Western Kentucky (4-1)(4-4)
4. Florida International (2-2)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Florida International at Western Kentucky, Arkansas State at Florida Atlantic, La.-Monroe at La.-Lafayette

Pick: Arkansas State. Both La.-Lafayette and the Red Wolves have winnable Week 10 games before facing each other Nov. 12 in a game that could decide the Sun Belt Champion. With no conference title game you can never count out ties, but I like Arkansas State next week to at least pick up the head-to-head tie breaker in the final standings.


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Posted on: November 1, 2011 12:43 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Army at Air Force

Posted by Chip Patterson

AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF: Air Force was able to bounce back from a three-game losing streak to finally notch their first conference win against New Mexico. The Falcons will be looking to capture their second-straight Commander-in-Chief's trophy with a victory over their rivals from West Point. Having defeated Navy in a 35-34 overtime thriller earlier in the season, their sixth-straight victory over Army would seal the 18th outright win in the annual battle between the service academies. The Falcons will need their patented option-rushing attack to help build a big lead early, as neither team has an offense that has shown the ability to mount a fast comeback. With starting quarterback Tim Jefferson's status still unknown, I expect senior running back Asher Clark to step up with an increased workload and production in the rivalry game. If the Falcons run their offense and avoid turnovers, they should emerge victorious again in their first home game since Oct. 13.

ARMY WILL WIN IF: Statistically Army's rushing attack puts up slightly better numbers than Air Force (Army leads the nation with 369.0 yards per game, Air Force is third with 326.88), but the Black Knights will find opportunity for victory if they can force the Falcons to turn the ball over. Air Force turned the ball over 8 times during their three-game slide in October, and it has been the one weakness to the Falcons' offensive attack all season. Army's secondary might find that opportunity through the air, where Air Force quarterbacks have thrown at least one interception in any game where more than 15 passes are attempted.

X-FACTOR: Health of Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson. Jefferson left the Falcon's 42-0 victory over New Mexico with a reported injury to his nose. He was back on the practice field on Monday, but head coach Troy Calhoun did not offer any official comment on his status for Army. The good news for the Falcons was his backup, sophomore Conner Deitz, played exceptionally in his absence. Deitz entered the game and finished as the team's leading rusher with 87 yards on six carries - including a 39 yard touchdown rush to put Air Force up 35-0 before halftime.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com