Our weekly highlight show of lesser FBS luminaries. Non-AQs and independents, be welcome. WE HAVE MUCH TO DISCUSS.
• On teams about to move themselves outside our purview. Like we said this morning, we had no sooner finished updating our magnificent work of college football realignment art than word came down we might need to add Middle Tennessee State to it. And right as we were wrapping up this here column, Florida Atlantic joins the fray, chasing FIU to Conference USA. Consider this another plea for a dead period in conference realignment, for the sake of everyone’s collective multitasking abilities, at least until the bowls are over. What on earth else are we going to talk about in February if we get all this conference-hopping sorted out before Christmas?
And what to do with some of these teams going forward? We have a while to figure it out, obviously, but how to cover this ballooning middle class created by the sinking of the Big East? Will the Blue Raiders graduate from Profiterole-dom as Temple did last year? We’ll probably dedicate way more thought to this than we should; but, again, best to save that for the offseason when we have nothing better to do.
• Conference races drawing to a close. Where we’re at heading into that weird hybrid weekend of regular and postseason games: Kent State and Northern Illinois meet Friday night in Detroit for the MAC title game. Tulsa hosts Central Florida this Saturday for the C-USA championship. The Mountain West remains deadlocked in that wacky three-way tie between San Diego State, Fresno State and Boise State, with only the Broncos’ Saturday date with Nevada standing any chance of breaking it. The top two teams in the Sun Belt, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee, play a final regular-season game Saturday that may as well be the conference title game. Utah State has clinched the WAC title outright with last week’s victory over Idaho. And Army and Navy will meet a week from Saturday for the right to hoist the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, with Air Force out of the race entirely for the first time since 2005.
• Bowltyme! Stewart Mandel’s latest postseason projections can be found here, along with a freshly-updated chart listing every accepted bowl invitation. Profiteroles playing this holiday season include Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl, Utah State in the Potato, San Diego State and BYU in the Poinsettia, Louisiana in the New Orleans, SMU in the Hawaii, Air Force in the Armed Forces and Navy in the Fight Hunger.
Profiles in ownage
• Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech. Freshly minted newest honoree of the Touchdown Club of Columbus, which just announced Cameron will be presented with the Sammy Baugh Award in February. (Last year’s winner: Profiteroles favorite Case Keenum.) The timing of the announcement is somewhat awkward, as Cameron was intercepted three times in his last game by San Jose State DB Bené Benwikere, the reigning Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week.
• Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State. Helped the Bulldogs hang onto their Mountain West championship tie with a 452-yard, four-touchdown performance against Air Force.
• Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina. 439 yards and six touchdowns in the highest-scoring game in Conference USA history, ECU’s 65-59 double-overtime defeat of Marshall.
• Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU. Caught five touchdown passes against New Mexico State, just the second time this season an FBS player has hit that mark.
• Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky. Third consecutive game with 300+ all-purpose yards, including 230 rushing yards on 25 carries against North Texas. Third on the NCAA’s all-time single-season yardage list, trailing some guy named “Barry Sanders” by 274.
• Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State. 255 rushing yards and four touchdowns versus Wyoming.
• Kevin Byard, DB, Middle Tennessee. 77-yard pick-six, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a second interception against Troy.
• Trent Voss, LB, Toledo. 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL, one interception and two pass breakups against Akron. And he’s a freshman. Sorry, MAC West.
• Ja’Gared Davis, LB, SMU. Accounted for an interception, a blocked punt and a fumble recovery in the Mustangs’ upset of Tulsa.
• Jeremy Eddington, KR, Rice. 210 yards on four returns against UTEP, including a 97-yard return for a score. Before this week, Rice had not seen a kickoff returned for a touchdown since 1984.
Not sure if serious
• Kolton Browning’s victory formation fumble. “The contest started rather inauspiciously,” reads Louisiana-Monroe’s official game recap, but not nearly as inauspiciously as it ended: “On third and 13, with FIU out of timeouts and 28 seconds on the clock, Browning was hit while in victory formation and the ensuing fumble was recovered by FIU’s Josh Forney. After an incomplete pass, Hilliard found receiver Willis Wright for a 56-yard touchdown pass down the visitors sideline. Griffin’s point after tied the game at 17, and forced overtime.” Todd Berry had, by this point, already received the victory Gatorade shower, but at least he didn’t have to watch Mario Cristobal get a second one.
• Ross Parmley’s suspension. Here’s a bunch of words you don’t ever want to appear in the same sentence as your name if you’re an athletic department official: “Ten months after becoming the University of Tulsa’s athletic director, Ross Parmley was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday after having been described by the FBI as an ‘admitted gambler.’”
Walking Dead Watch
Southern Miss suffers one of the cruelest indignities in college football, at the tail end of a season full of them: A double-digit loss to Memphis. 0-12 is in the books, and Ellis Johnson is hitting the bricks.
Case Keenum Memorial Pinballin’ Hi-Score
After this year, we might have to rename it after Jordan Lynch. After Friday’s 49-7 obliteration of Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish replacement part has put together a first starting season to be goggled at: 1,611 yards rushing. 16 rushing touchdowns. 2,750 yards passing. 23 passing touchdowns. Four interceptions. 4,362 yards of total offense. And a 63-yard punt, just for funsies.
Thing UTEP did this week
Sent off their retiring coach with a “Mike Price Appreciation Day” in the Sun Bowl … that culminated in a loss to Rice. Never change, UTEP.
With no more schedule AQ-on-non-AQ games before bowl season, we retire the 2012 scoreboard for the regular season at 22-86. Well done, lads.
On tap for this week: A Kent State-NIU MAC title game that could conceivably land a MAC squad in a BCS bowl (Friday, 7 p.m. ET) … the final C-USA showdown of the season between Central Florida and Tulsa (Saturday, noon) … the de facto Sun Belt championship game between the Red Wolves and Blue Raiders (Saturday, 3 p.m.) … one regular-season game that could unsnarl the Mountain West three-way tie, a little (Boise State at Nevada, Saturday, 3:30) … and one last late Hawaii kickoff to lull us out of the regular season: South Alabama kicks off on the island at 11 p.m.