Thursday Night Bites: C-USA, our only hope
• Akron @ Miami (Ohio), 7:30 p.m., ESPNU: This is bad, y’all. Akron is 1-7 and the “1″ came thanks to playing VMI. The Zips suffered their closest loss to Central Michigan last week, falling 23-22 thanks to two failed two-point conversions. In their seven losses, they’ve been outscored 260-99. They are bad at running, passing, scoring, protecting the quarterback and defense. The RedHawks … have Zac Dysert. Ballgame. Just watch him play pitch-and-catch with freshman Dawan Scott for a half hour before picking your poison from the 8:00 games.
• Florida State @ Boston College, 8:00 p.m., ESPN: Projection: Also gross! Like Akron (and boy howdy, do you never want to be featured in a sentence that starts out that way), the Eagles have a win over an FCS team (UMass), and finally picked on somebody their own size last week with an unseemly win over a Maryland team in the throes of identity crisis. They’ve been defeated soundly by both ranked opponents they’ve faced, then-No. 8 Clemson and then-No. 18 Virginia Tech. They lost to Duke, and were wholly clocked by Central Florida. And now, although it’s a Thursday night game and things tend to get wacky, BC must welcome a Florida State team that has EJ Manuel back, on a short week, with bowl eligibility at stake. Gulp.
The good news, for the Eagles: Sophomore running back Rolandan Finch, who blew the doors off Maryland’s ground defense last week, has gained yards leaps and bounds over the past month or so. The bad news, of course, is the Seminoles’ fourth-ranked rushing defense and the fact that BC’s having a lot of trouble passing successfully, and even more trouble protecting the quarterback. Chase Rettig, I fear, is in for a reeeal bad night against a defensive front ranking third in the country in sacks. The longer BC can hold onto the ball via Finch, the longer it can keep it out of Manuel’s hands. But the way the ‘Noles have been marauding along the line of scrimmage lately, that may not be a reasonable hope.
• Tulsa @ UCF, 8:00 p.m., CBSS: We got a live one, folks! An actual competitive football game lurks on the Thursday night undercard, confined to Conference USA. The Golden Hurricane have had a bit of a hard-luck season, playing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State this September, and temporarily losing the services of starting quarterback G.J. Kinne thanks to a knee injury suffered against the Cowboys. They reeled off four straight wins in October, however, and while three were recorded against non-AQ patsies, the fourth was over would-be conference contender SMU, whom the Hurricane demolished 38-7.
For their part, the Knights have been worse than expected. Widely projected to contend for a conference championship (I’ve lost track of just how many times I’ve had to type that this season), Central Florida followed up three excusable losses to FIU, BYU and SMU and a weird, sluggish win over Marshall with a 26-24 loss to … UAB. It’s the Blazers’ lone win of the season, and it may end up haunting the Knights come bowl selection time, with four more weeks to gain two more wins and Tulsa and Southern Miss looming in back-to-back dates. UCF boasts, on paper, the nation’s third-ranked defense, but has only put up impressive offensive numbers against laughably inferior competition like Charleston Southern, Memphis and Boston College (yeeowch). Will that stout defensive unit stem the flow of touchdowns that flicker from the hands of Kinne and stop a refreshed ground attack? Probably not, but let’s watch anyway, as the Hurricane will have to pile on the scoreboard to keep ahead of their underperforming defense. UCF is undefeated at home in 2011. Think that’ll stand?