Posted August 08, 2012

Profiles in Profiteroles: The new class of busters

Arkansas State Red Wolves, BCS, Bowls, FIU Golden Panthers, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Ohio Bobcats, Profiles in Profiteroles, Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Ryan Aplin and Arkansas State are cute, sure … until you feed them after midnight. (US PRESSWIRE)

Now that Boise State has become a household name to the college football set and TCU and Utah have joined power conferences, it’s time to identify the next generation of busters. Will one or more of the below mid-major squads pop up in a premier bowl over the next few seasons? Stranger things have happened (like the existence of Nachos O’Brady).

A note on conference realignment: For the moment, we’re ignoring teams with rapidly approaching mid-major exit dates, which, in addition to a bowl ban to be served this season or next, is why you don’t see the highly-regarded 2012 UCF team on this list.

Arkansas State

Last year: The Red Wolves shouldered early losses to Illinois and Virginia Tech and defeated every mid-major team they faced, by widely varying margins. They earned a postseason bid and wrapped the season with a loss to Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. They also hired Gus Malzahn to replace Hugh Freeze. You might have heard.

Key returning contributors: Malzahn, for one, who could make some noise in the Sun Belt if he chooses to stick around in Jonesboro that long. He’ll be working his quarterback whispering on Ryan Aplin, who ran a top 20 passing offense last season without Malzahn and can take off running when called upon. Aplin will need to rely on his own skills after losing a lot of experience on the line.

Games to watch in 2012: It will probably be over very early for Arkansas State, polls-wise. Voters are notoriously unforgiving to mid-major squads with even one loss, and the Red Wolves travel to Oregon for their season opener and to Nebraska in Week 3. Western Kentucky and FIU lurk in Weeks 4 and 5. The Red Wolves can practically coast downhill the last half of their season (notable exception: That road trip to Lafayette in October), and will need every gimme game they can get to erase memories of September flailings if things go that badly in Eugene or Lincoln. But wouldn’t it be something if we saw a real shootout between Malzahn and Chip Kelly on the first Saturday of the season?

Louisiana Tech

Last year: The Bulldogs turned a 1-4 start into an 8-4 finish, a conference title and a Poinsettia Bowl berth, where injuries and ill-placed turnovers kept them (but only just) from knocking off a listless TCU squad.

Key returning contributors: Documented extensively in our spring visit piece; Tech loses a couple shining stars at linebacker and defensive end and its top running back, but returns promising back Hunter Lee, 1200-yard receiver Quinton Patton, talented center Stephen Warner and Ray Guy winner Ryan Allen.

Games to watch: Tech’s schedule is highly front-loaded with nonconference contests; the Bulldogs open 2012 in Shreveport against Texas A&M and travel to Houston, Illinois and UVA before pew-pewing their way through the WAC. It’s not all that unrealistic to think they could win a majority of those first contests, particularly with their coaches swearing the team plays better across the board on the road.

>GLICKSMAN: Louisiana Tech among unranked sleepers

Ohio

Last year: Six of the Bobcats’ 14 2011 games were decided by less than a touchdown. They split those evenly, losing the MAC title game by a field goal and enduring a bizarre two-week skid against Buffalo and Ball State while edging out Temple and Bowling Green and, in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Utah State.

Key returning contributors: Fans of alliteration, rejoice! Tyler Tettleton, a top 20 offensive producer in 2011, returns at quarterback (and will be pitching to a notably depleted receiving corps, it should be noted), as does high-scoring kicker Matt Weller, who averaged close to nine points per game last season.

Games to watch: Treasure this moment, Bobcats sick of Buckeye supremacy: For this one year, you have a better chance of making a bowl than Ohio State. It’s a technicality, but it’s a fun technicality, consarnit. Ohio’s even scheduling like a power conference team, with its one high-profile nonconference game (a Week 1 trip to Penn State) headlining a menu that includes New Mexico State, Norfolk State and Marshall. The schedule continues to forecast sunshine when the Bobcats get into their conference schedule, a slat which avoids every single MAC team that finished with a winning record in 2011. Just go on and book your hotel rooms in Detroit — this season looks very nearly unjinxable. Unless the Bobcats lose to Buffalo again. Maybe try not to do that.

Tulsa

Last year: Had prolific quarterback G.J. Kinne not injured himself early in Tulsa’s Week 3 home stand against Oklahoma State, the Golden Hurricane might have managed better than a 1-4 start against a nasty September slate that included not only the Cowboys, but road trips to Oklahoma and Boise State. Tulsa skated through conference play undefeated until its regular-season finale, a 16-48 pantsing at the hands of Houston, and fell to BYU by a field goal in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Key returning contributors: Tulsa loses Kinne, but returns potent ground power in the form of Ja’Terian Douglas and Trey Watts for an offense that averaged close to 200 rushing yards in 2011.

Games to watch: Mercifully for Tulsa, no Oklahomas of any kind are to be found. Tulsa opens 2012 at Iowa State as part of Week 1′s Thursday schedule, travels to Arkansas in early November, and spends the two weekends immediately following attempting to exact revenge at Houston and hold off UCF at home.

Florida International

Last year: We (in this case meaning Campus Union and Stewart Mandel) harbored real hipster Heisman hopes for hotshot FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton. That didn’t work out so well for us, but Florida International went on to its second bowl game in conference history. Which it lost. So why are we excited? BECAUSE, that’s why.

Key returning contributors: Pretty much everybody not named T.Y. Hilton or quarterback Wes Carroll. Running back Kedrick Rhodes, all-conference defensive end Tourek Williams (preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year) and strong safety Jonathan Cyprien lead the pack.

Games to watch: Every really interesting team in the Sun Belt (Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, South Alabama) pops up on FIU’s schedule this year, in addition to UCF in Week 3 and rematches with Duke and Louisville.

11 comments
KevinJudice1
KevinJudice1

Really, you have stAte and FIU over UL? Both of them come to the Swamp this year, and we actually have winnable money-games against Oklahoma State and Florida. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

BobMarkeyII
BobMarkeyII

No Sun Belt team will coast over Troy - champion in five of the past six seasons - and few if any will beat the Trojans, who return the best QB in the league, a vastly improved defense and offensive line, great RBs and one of the best receiving corps in the nation. Troy has home games versus Mississippi State and Navy, wins from which could get it into some polls.

BrianWright
BrianWright

Good article Holly, hopefully South Alabama will rise enough to be included in the next list.

Phanatron
Phanatron

TY Hilton was a good dark horse for Heisman last year. He hurt his hammy mid year and never really recovered. If FIU's offense can put up some points, it can be a real BCS buster because its defense is one of the fastest in the country.

rcjii
rcjii

Great article, super thumbs up for not mentioning Southern Miss, considering they were actually BCS ranked last year.  Sure that's not relevant at all!

 

Good job!

Andrew1
Andrew1

I'm actually looking forward to watching FIU, I think they could be a decent 8-4 squad this year. 

 

Though I'm more interested in the late season, Tuesday & Wednesday night "turn the defense off" fests with bajillionty points.

Steven5
Steven5

 @KevinJudice1 Louisville? Sorry but they are in a BCS league so can't be chosen. Or do you actually mean ULaLa(ULL) in which case that is that's laughable. One average year and the fanbase acts like they are the best thing since sliced bread.

SIHolly
SIHolly moderator

 @dcoxfinancing Have you really tried, though? Give it a shot. I believe in you.

SIHolly
SIHolly moderator

 @rcjii Not sure where you got "THIS IS AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST" from "Will one or more of the below mid-major squads pop up in a premier bowl over the next few seasons?", but Southern Miss is sort of a weird case at the moment. Very talented, but a new coach is always an adjustment no matter the level a team is playing at. (It's also valid to wonder whether Arkansas State will regress under a new coach for the same reasons.) Anyway, you have a great day!