Our weekly highlight show of lesser FBS luminaries. Non-AQs and independents, be welcome.
• HAIL TO THE SUN BELT, SURE IS A FUN BELT, RA RA RA! What could top Utah State’s thrilling Friday night victory over Utah? Nothing short of Louisiana-Monroe taking a top 10 SEC team to overtime, on the road, and pulling out the win on a fourth-down quarterback dash. Said quarterback, Kolton Browning, has since been named Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Week and a Walter Camp National Player of the Week honoree. Browning accounted for 481 of ULM’s 550 yards of offense, and four of the Warhawks’ five touchdowns. The Warhawks have their first win over a ranked team since leveling up to FBS, and to round out the weekly awards, have been named Week 2′s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week. Last week it was Ohio. (A moment of cynicism: We love the attention being bestowed on non-AQs more than just about anybody right now, but this Tostitos shout out is pretty adorable considering how nigh-impossible it would be for the Bobcats or the Warhawks to actually make it into the Fiesta Bowl.)
• It is barely Week 3 and we are already out of poll puns. Idle in Week 2, Boise State is unranked in both major polls for the first time in four years. BYU is the only ranked team in this week’s AP Poll at No. 25, with Boise State, ULM (whee!), Ohio and Utah State also receiving votes. The Aggies’ lone vote is the program’s first since 1966; the Warhawks’ 23 are their first in team history. We hesitate to even mention the Coaches’ Poll for fear of helping its continued legitimacy, but teams receiving votes from disinterested voting SIDs include Boise State, BYU, Louisiana Tech, Ohio, Nevada and ULM.
• EA Sports loves USA, after all. EA Sports personnel have been spotted in Mobile, making preparations to incorporate South Alabama into the next edition of NCAA Football.
• The best news. Tulane’s Devon Walker is reportedly “alert and responsive” following spinal surgery. Tulane has set up an assistance fund in his name; for more ways to support the Walker family, click here.
• Quote of the week, I. ”I looked down at my watch at the end of the first quarter.” — Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, following the Bulldogs’ comically drawn-out shootout win over Houston.
• Quote of the week, II. “I wouldn’t say we’re quite an SEC team. But if that conference wants to invite us, we’ll go.” — Idaho coach Robb Akey, preparing the Vandals for this Saturday’s trip to LSU.
• Scary stat projection of the week. Rice recorded 403 yards of total offense in its last-minute win over Kansas. How many yards do we suppose NIU will manage against the Jayhawks two weeks from now?
Profiles in ownage
• Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State. There is already so much to love about this Utah State win. Friday night football! A WAC team clinching a victory on defense, even against a backup quarterback! The end of a 12-game losing streak! But Keeton’s touchdown dance sealed him this award, as did his 302 all-purpose yards. Keeton garnered WAC Offensive Player of the Week honors and a Davey O’Brien honorable mention, and now he has to go play Wisconsin. Honor him.
• Cody Getz, RB, Air Force. The diminutive Falcon rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns in Ann Arbor.
• Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State. The Bulldogs’ Mighty Mouse already has the school record for most career rushing attempts (665) and we’re not even halfway through September yet. Rouse ranks fourth among active FBS running backs in career yardage, trailing only Montel Harris, Montee Ball and Denard Robinson. And, of course, our favorite Mighty Mouse stat: Rouse has only one lost fumble in 720 career carries.
• Nat Berthe, DB, San Diego State. Had a career day against Army with 10 solo tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
• Quanterus Smith, Arius Wright, Gavin Rocker and Baree Boyd, Western Kentucky. Combined to sack AJ McCarron six times during the Hilltoppers’ loss to Alabama.
Not sure if serious
Walking Dead Watch and the DJ Khaled Prize for Undefeated Excellence
As the season progresses, we’ll track the teams that look like they might emerge winless in 2012, and, conversely, those that look like they might make an undefeated run. Still a little early for prognostications on that front; we’ll try to get this rolling next week. Ohio at Marshall is the game to watch here.
Case Keenum Memorial Pinballin’ Hi-Score
Awarded this week to none other than Keenum’s successor, David Piland, Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Week after his 53-of-77, 580-yard, four-touchdown performance against Louisiana Tech. Piland even broke one of Keenum’s records, with 77 pass attempts in a single game.
FCS teams toppling FBS opponents for love and/or money in Week 2: Sacramento State (30-28 over Colorado), Northern Arizona (17-14 over UNLV), North Dakota State (22-7 over Colorado State) and Illinois State (31-14 over Eastern Michigan). That last one is our personal favorite, thanks to the first sentence of the postgame press release: “The Eagles could not overcome three interceptions, two lost fumbles and nine penalties in the 31-14 loss.”
Thing UTEP did this week
Mike Price said this at his weekly media luncheon, of the Miners’ trip to Oxford to play Ole Miss: “It was a heck of an experience for our team to go to Ole Miss and play in that environment. It was one of the loudest games I have ever coached in. We went offside three times, twice because of the loudness. We played a team that I thought we could beat going in, and they played a lot better than they did against Central Arkansas.”
After two weeks of game action, non-AQ programs are 7-36 against AQ teams. Big winners this week: Utah State, ULM and Rice.
What we’ll be watching this weekend: Navy and Penn State, which last played in 1974 and first played in 1894. Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma State, with an 11 a.m. CT kickoff that may prove painful for Cajun sensibilities. Arkansas State at Nebraska, because remember what we said earlier about NIU and Kansas? Same thing, but with Nebraska. Central Florida, which has forced seven turnovers in two games, against Florida International, which has committed four. Louisiana-Monroe at 0-2 Auburn. Utah State at Wisconsin, whilst fearing for the limbs of Chuckie Keeton. And for a nightcap, Houston at UCLA.
Selected rivalry games of interest in Week 3:
• The Deseret First Duel Rivalry, home of our favorite conference realignment stat, which is this: Before Utah joined the Pac-12 and BYU went independent, the two teams were in the same conference for A HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN YEARS.
• Ohio at Marshall is significant not only for the Battle of the Bell, but perhaps also for being an opponents’ best chance to knock off the Bobcats before they go all undefeated on us in the regular season.
• Toledo and Bowling Green renew the Battle of I-75, which did not have a trophy last year because it wasn’t finished in time for the game. The preceding sentence is not a joke, and it is absolutely appropriate for any rivalry game named after an interstate.
• Also freewaying it: UTEP and New Mexico State partake in the 90th edition of the I-10 rivalry, a game which comes with two trophies, one of which is a BRASS SPITTOON. The other is an “old prospector’s shovel dug up from an abandoned mine in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces in 1947.” The Battle of I-10 is amazing.