Thursday Night Bites: Conference fights! (FAQ)
Your Thursday night television viewing schedule is cluttered with college football this week. You must have so many questions. We’re here to help.
Eastern Michigan at Ohio
• What information do I, the discerning consumer, require in order to consume this game? The Eagles and Bobcats are scheduled to kick off in Peden Stadium at 6 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPNU and streamed on WatchESPN.
• So this will be a joyless romp, right? The Bobcats should be playing angry after losing to Miami (Ohio) for the first time since 2005 and being knocked out of contention for a major bowl, right? We’re not so sure. This might be a joyless non-romp, if the previous month or so is any indication. Every FBS team the Bobcats have played since Week 2′s rout of New Mexico State has given them fits. Eastern Michigan is a 1-7 team (albeit one that we at one point called the best 0-6 team in America) playing an Ohio program that’s gone from gunning for an undefeated season to not even necessarily being favored to win its own division. And again, on paper this should be an easy win for Frank Solich and Friends. Eastern hasn’t beaten Ohio since 1999, and it hasn’t beaten the Bobcats in Athens since 1994. But just look how the Bobcats played UMass, Buffalo and Akron with a potential BCS bowl bid on the line. Watching this game with interest: Kent State, which holds an identical 7-1 overall record, is currently undefeated in conference play and gets the Bobcats at home to close out the regular season.
• Anything noteworthy about tonight’s game? It may be the only major college football contest you watch all year in which both quarterbacks are named Tyler!
• What does Eastern Michigan have in common with LSU? Aussie punters! The Eagles’ Jay Karutz, a natural fit for a school abbreviated EMU, is up for this year’s Ray Guy Award.
Virginia Tech at Miami
• What information do I, the discerning consumer, require in order to consume this game? The Hokies and Hurricanes are scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET in Sun Life Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN and streamed on WatchESPN.
• What’s at stake here? Coastal Division positioning. These teams are two of four squads in their division carrying two conference losses, and they have identical 4-4 overall records. The loser here gets cast down in Georgia Tech’s direction, and nobody wants that.
• Who will be the unlucky castoffs? You couldn’t pay us to guess. The Hokies have won three straight games in this series, and four of the last five played in Miami, but none of this means anything, because this is the ACC, where even by our shockingly low standards we are appallingly bad at figuring out what’s going to happen. (We have recently termed this malaise “Clemson pox”; please make a note for your records.) We will simply say this: Logan Thomas is pretty good at putting up yards, which may pose problems for the Canes’ 116th-ranked defense! Punditry!
• But if you had to choose an ideal outcome, how would this game go? Miami’s Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett have shown some flair at returning kicks, as has Tech’s Demitri Knowles and, on punts, Kyshoen Jarrett. We would suggest just having these four guys do a return-off. It’s Thursday, y’know? Change up the format a little.
Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky
• What information do I, the discerning consumer, require in order to consume this game? The Blue Raiders and Hilltoppers are scheduled to kick off at 9:15 p.m. ET in The Houch. The game will be televised on ESPNU and streamed on WatchESPN.
• What’s at stake here? Maybe control of the conference, on the off chance Louisiana-Monroe completely disintegrates between now and the end of November. Both teams are 3-1 in Sun Belt play, with WKU holding a one-game edge in overall record. They’re tied for second in the standings behind the Warhawks along with Arkansas State.
• Coach Rick Stockstill, you have one of the greatest college football names and were clearly born to do this by virtue of being named “Rick Stockstill.” Have any coachspeaky thoughts on the surprising depth of the SBC in 2012? He does! Coach Stockstill, on Tuesday: “The Sun Belt is a very competitive conference this year, which results in very competitive games, more this year than ever before. I think this is the best this conference has ever been, with some really good teams in the conference this year.”
• Losing Benny Cunningham was pretty much the worst for the Blue Raiders, right? Certainly the worst for Benny Cunningham, who tore his patellar tendon against FIU and lost the chance to show off for NFL scouts for another half-season. But MTSU can still turn to Jordan Parker and Drayton Calhoun. We’ll see how they fare against a Hilltoppers’ defense that’s been vicious all year and particularly strong against the run.