The week in lesser FBS luminaries:
• Is it that time of year already? Entering the November home stretch, let’s pause to examine Houston’s and Boise’s chances of hoisting a certain crystal football in two months and one week. In the latest AP Poll, the Broncos still hover at No. 5, while the Cougars skip from No. 18 to No. 14. This still makes them the lowest-ranked undefeated teams, in Houston’s case by nine slots. The Cougars trail the next closest team, Michigan, by over a hundred votes in the AP Poll. (Would you not pay dearly to see Case Keenum and Denard Robinson scoring at will on the Michigan and Houston defenses in a bowl game?) We will not discuss the den of iniquity that is the Coaches’ Poll, but let’s hit the BCS. Boise falls from No. 4 to No. 5 following its most recent bye; Clemson plummeted out of the top five as well, while previous No. 6 Stanford assumed Boise’s former place. Houston’s all the way down at No. 13, up from 17, and separated from the Broncos by seven one-loss teams. We’re still projecting Boise into the Sugar Bowl, but Houston’s prospects for a big-time January game look desolate.
Is there a chance for hardware glory in other races, however? Check out Cory McCartney’s latest Heisman Watch for more trophy-grubbing intel on Keenum and Moore.
• Houston a billionty, Rice 34: From Friday: “Before rain even began to fall in earnest, Houston’s Tyron Carrier returned the Owls’ opening kickoff for a touchdown, his seventh such feat, tying a previous record set by C.J. Spiller at Clemson. Rice fired back with a strong running game, returned a soggy Keenum fumble for a touchdown and seemed quite determined to hang with the Cougars until three consecutive touchdown passes from Houston put the game out of reach by halftime, 38-20.” There really was enough action and pratfalling contained within that half alone for an entire game’s worth of entertainment, but that was before Keenum decided tonight was the night for a statement game. Behold his stats, O mortals, and weep.
• Last night’s MACtion from an alien perspective: Pleas enjoy this account of Northern Illinois-Toledo from a baseball die-hard who tuned in to ESPN to watch something called the Golden Gloves and instead found himself transfixed by Tuesday night football.
• Quote of the day, non-AQ edition: “We have sacrificed tradition, live crowds, and defensive backs for your entertainment. We hope you enjoyed our exhibition of Rust Belt Calvin-ball last night.” — alert reader and MAC sympathizer DevilGrad
Profiles in ownage
• Matt Cleveland: Listed at 6-foot-4, 311, the Idaho lineman rumbled a fumble in for that most hallowed of all scores, a true Fat Guy Touchdown against Hawaii.
• … Western Kentucky? With an overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe, the Hilltoppers are within hollering distance of bowl eligibility. If they clinch it, though, it’ll be at the wire: The next two weeks bring FIU to town and take the Toppers to Baton Rouge.
• Sun Belt leader Arkansas State, which rocketed out to a 31-0 halftime lead over North Texas before easing back on the throttle for a 37-14, postseason-possibility-unlocking win.
• Miami RedHawks receivers: Four different players caught touchdown passes from Zac Dysert in Miami’s 41-13 romp over Buffalo, led by Dawan Scott, who recorded 141 yards on just three receptions.
Exposed to the world’s derision
• BYU‘s special teams: Had three punts not gone completely awry and kept the Cougars precisely in their own way, Friday night might have turned out much, much differently in Arlington — a thought that should be equally chilling for Cougar and Horned Frog partisans. If you’re looking for a graphical representation of the evening, seek no further.
• Akron, which, where to begin? The Zips staged a Swinging Gate in the third quarter against Central Michigan. It failed, as Swinging Gate is wont to do. This left Akron down a point, assuming a one-point kick would have sailed through, after scoring what would have been the game-tying touchdown at 00:09 in the fourth quarter. Rather than kick for that extra point, and overtime, the Zips attempted an aerial two-point conversion, which itself failed, giving them a 23-22 loss to the Chippewas, who (sing along if you know the words) are Not Even The Good Directional Michigan.
• Bowling Green, which allowed one-win Kent State to stage a 17-point fourth-quarter, including a fumble return for a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the game, for a 27-15 victory.
• UAB: Kyle Veazey thinks this story smacks of Memphis, and he’s not wrong, but the first thing I thought of was, well, Birmingham. (Google “Paul Bryant, Jr., Jimbo Fisher, and UAB” to remember why.) It’s just baffling to me that UAB’s still playing FBS ball, since there’s clearly no interest at the highest levels of control in making the Blazers competitive. What a waste of a perfectly excellent dragon mascot.
Not sure if serious
• SMU? Anybody alive in there? Did the Mustangs exhaust their year’s supply of moxie in upsetting TCU? The Ponies blew out UCF the following week, but have since been utterly flattened by first Southern Miss and now Tulsa. Can we put it past them to tank this season out of spite for Houston’s strength of schedule? Not really, right? You don’t have to throw games to qualify for Garrett Gilbert, y’all!
• Nevada, which is still the best bet to win the WAC, but which is getting played waaaay too close by the States of the San Jose, Fresno and now New Mexico varieties.
• San Diego State has precisely zero business losing to Wyoming in any game, but particularly on days when Ronnie Hillman records over 300 yards of all-purpose offense, 224 of them on the ground by himself. Does he have to do everything, Aztecs?
Case Keenum Pinballin’ Hi-Score of the week
With the career total offense and passing touchdowns records surmounted, “Keenum, already the Football Bowl Subdivision’s career leader in total offense (17,692 yards) and touchdown passes (139), needs 267 yards passing to break the NCAA record of 17,072 held by Hawaii’s Tim[my] Chang.” Is it safe to say he’ll knock this one out in the first quarter this Saturday in Birmingham?
Thing UTEP Did This Week
Ohhh, nothing much. Just had presumptive division champ Southern Miss locked in a 10-10 tie at halftime. Viva UTEP!
Profiterole Player of the Week
Chandler Harnish walked out of the Glass Bowl with the win last night, but it’s impossible to let this moment pass without noting what a thing of beauty Adonis Thomas’ performance was. Just look at those feet, if you can stand the golden glare.
Violently Subjective Non-AQ Top 10
1. Boise State (7-0)
2. Houston (7-0)
3. Southern Miss (7-1)
4. TCU (6-2)
5. Tulsa (5-3)
6. BYU (6-3)
7. Arkansas State (6-2)
8. Louisiana (7-2)
9. Temple (5-3)
10. Nevada (5-3)
Hovering somewhere just out of sight, reminding me this is why I don’t ever do serious polls, and deserving of mention: Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Wyoming.
DJ Khaled Prize For Excellence in Victory
Our winsome twosome, Houston and Boise State, enter the final month of the regular season with perfect records. Along with the Broncos and Cougars, plus last week’s additions of BYU, Southern Miss and Louisiana, TCU and Arkansas State are now bowl-eligible. Northern Illinois cleared six wins last night; Temple, Ohio, Tulsa, Eastern Michigan, SMU, FIU, Wyoming, Ball State and Hawaii all have the potential to cross the postseason-worthy threshold this week.
Walking Dead Watch
Two entered, and two remain: Florida Atlantic remains winless in 2011 thanks to a Week 9 bye, while New Mexico was ground into a fine powder in a 42-0 home loss to Air Force. Don’t look for either team to move the needle in Week 10, as the Owls host Arkansas State and the Lobos travel to San Diego State.
For our purposes in this space, we don’t cover Notre Dame as a mid-major team thanks to the bowl tie-ins the Fighting Irish enjoy, which means we do have to count Navy’s horrendous 56-14 loss in South Bend. Playing a high-scoring offense without a starting quarterback will do that to a team. This moves non-AQ teams to 17-86 for the season against schools from Big Six conferences (plus the Irish).
Temple and Ohio continue Week 10′s MACtion Madness tonight at 8:00 ET on ESPN; Thursday you’ll have to suffer through a half hour of Akron-Miami (Ohio) before Tulsa and UCF kick off. I cannot recommend watching Friday night’s Central Michigan-Kent State tilt before or while operating heavy machinery. Saturday, in descending order from “actual interest in the football to be played here” to “tune in out of morbid curiosity,” don’t miss: FIU-Western Kentucky, Ball State-Eastern Michigan, TCU-Wyoming, Utah State-Hawaii, Army-Air Force, Boise State-UNLV and Houston-UAB.