Tag:Sun Belt
Posted on: November 27, 2010 7:14 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2010 8:39 pm
 

FIU makes school history, wins Sun Belt

By J. Darin Darst

Ask a Florida Gators fan what its like to be 7-5. Or a Miami Hurricanes fan if they feel good with their team at 7-5.

Now ask an FIU fan (if you can find one), how it feels to be 6-5 today?

I'll tell you -- It feels FANTASTIC. Why? Because with FIU's victory over Arkansas State, the Golden Panthers won the Sun Belt and are headed to a bowl game for the first time in school history.

We won't be running through the streets of Miami celebrating or racing online to purchase New Orleans Bowl tickets, but it's nice to know the school you currently go to or graduated from is finally going to a bowl game. Not everybody in the Sun Belt can say that.

I would venture to guess most of the 42,000+ students had no idea FIU was playing for a bowl game today. But that's ok, I knew. And as a proud graduate (class of 1996), I'll be one of the first to get my "FIU: New Orleans Bowl" t-shirts that go on sale in a couple of weeks.

You see, Florida International is a commuter school in West Miami. It's one of the largest universities in the nation, but only 3,000 students live on campus. When I went to school there in the mid 1990s, the enrollment was in the 20,000 and it was basically -- drive to school, go to class, get in your car and drive home.

The football team started in 2002 and before this year, the best season was 5-6. FIU has never beaten a BCS team and its most impressive victory was probably beating Toledo on the road in 2008.

That all changed this year -- when FIU won at Troy 52-35. After that win, a bowl game was in grasp. All it had to do was win two of the final three games of the year. And it did!

So now we are probably headed to the New Orleans Bowl to play either Southern Miss, East Carolina, UTEP or another C-USA team.

GO GOLDEN PANTHERS!

Posted on: November 23, 2010 11:26 am
 

North Texas turns down desperate WAC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

These are dark times indeed for the WAC and commissioner Karl Benson , who have seen every step forward they've tried to take in the conference expansion wars followed by a giant step back. They thought they had forged a deal with BYU ; the Mountain West responded by poaching Nevada and Fresno State to push BYU into independence. They invited UT-San Antonio and Texas State to maintain their basic viability as a football league; then Hawaii responds to the two extra trips into the Central Time Zone by taking their ball and -- probably -- joining the MWC , too. 

That maneuver has left the WAC with just seven football schools again, one short of the mandated FBS minimum. The league's profile has sunk to the point where not only is the league looking to poach schools from the Sun Belt , the FBS's weakest, most tradition-deficient conference ... those schools are barely giving the WAC the time of day :
North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal told WAC commissioner Karl Benson that the school has no interest in joining the league late Monday night, just hours after Benson called to gauge the school’s interest in leaving the Sun Belt Conference.

“I told [Benson] that while we appreciate the interest, the University of North Texas is going to be a member of the Sun Belt Conference and will work to continue building the league,” Villarreal said. “We appreciate the opportunity and wish them luck as they move forward.”
Keep in mind that that it's hardly like UNT is a pillar in the current Sun Belt; the coach-less Mean Green have been one of Division I's sickliest programs since a run of SBC titles in the early aughts. As the Sun Belt's only Texas team, they should theoretically also leap at the chance to forge natural rivalries with UTSA and Texas State, and there's little question that with strong programs like Utah State and New Mexico State around, the WAC would represent a substantial step up in quality for UNT's improving men's hoops team.

And still North Texas barely even considered the WAC's offer before publicly shooting them down. When the Sun Belt isn't just seen as the better option but the definitively better option, for a team that makes some geographical sense for the WAC, Benson has some major, major troubles. If they can't convince slow-moving Montana to make the leap to the FBS sooner than anticipated, the WAC may truly, finally be finished as a conference.

HT: GTP .

Posted on: November 1, 2010 1:47 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2010 2:07 pm
 

Report: WAC to invite teams you've never heard of

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

After the Mountain West 's smash-and-grab of Nevada and Fresno State foiled their plans to add BYU and left them with only six football-playing members, it was common knowledge that the WAC was going to have to make a desperate move to remain a viable Division I league.

How desperate? According to this report from the San Marcos Daily Journal , home newspaper for the Texas State Bobcats, this desperate:
Consider it a done deal.

Texas State will receive an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference within the next 30 days — or sooner — along with Denver, Seattle and Texas-San Antonio. Montana has gone from a sure bet to sitting on the fringe, at least for the time being.

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson has stated he’d like the conference to get back to having at least eight football-playing members and with the immediate addition of Texas State and UTSA, it would bring the WAC to eight. When Montana finally gets around to declaring itself ready, it would bring that total to a favorable nine.

“It’s pretty obvious at this point,” WAC Senior Associate Commissioner Jeff Hurd said. “You know who the football playing schools are and you know who the non-football playing schools are. I don’t know if you can say it’s automatic but if you’re looking at a probability, it’s pretty high.”
If you're keeping track, that's two football programs in TSU and Texas-San Antonio with FCS records of 4-4 (1-3 in the Southland Conference ) and FILE NOT FOUND , respectively. Why no record for UTSA? Because the Roadrunners don't even have a football program yet . They're scheduled to begin FCS play in 2011. (Their head coach is former Miami head man Larry Coker , so they've got that going for them.) The one potentially known quantity on the FCS level, former I-AA national champion and Big Sky  powerhouse Montana , is apparently taking a pass for the time being.

So yes, the WAC will be able to continue playing FBS football. But if this report is accurate, the teams involved appear to bring so little to the table that that's the only bare-bones positive they'll be able to find in this entire expansion mess. (Though geographical odd duck Louisiana Tech  might also be happy about exchanging two cross-country trips for relatvely short jogs into Texas.) The bottom line is that come 2012, the Sun Belt is going to have a serious challenger for the "honor" of being the FBS's weakest conference.

HT: Cowboy Altitude


Posted on: October 27, 2010 4:15 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2010 4:37 pm
 

FAU announcer loses mind on air, wants to fight

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Unless you're a fan of Florida Atlantic football, you probably have no idea who Dave Lamont is, and I can't blame you.  I had no idea who Lamont was until about five minutes before I started writing this post, but I can tell you that he's now one of my favorite play-by-play guys in college football. 

Move over, Pam Ward! There's a new man in town.

You see, Dave Lamont and I have quite a few things in common.  Neither of us are big fans of quarterbacks taking shots to the head while carrying the ball after they've already slid and ended the play ... which is exactly what happened to FAU quarterback Jeff Van Camp during a game against Arkansas State last week, and Lamont got a bit angry over the lack of a penalty flag.

The other thing we have in common is that we're willing to fight anybody in the press box, anytime, anywhere.  Bring it on, beat jockeys.




Unfortunately, Lamont and I stop having things in common here, as he has since apologized to everybody in the press box since making the remarks, though he's saving his apology to Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters until he sees him in person this weekend.  I wouldn't apologize for anything because I'm right stubborn.

Hat tip: SBNation and Spencer Hall, whom I wouldn't fight, even if I saw him in a press box staring me down.  Not because I'm scared, but because he bought me a beer once.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 10:39 pm
 

What I learned from the non-BCS (Oct. 23)

J. Darin Darst

1. Can we please just give the Mountain West an automatic bid to the BCS instead of the Big East? Please, I beg you. Utah and TCU are easily deserving of BCS bids and I would even say Air Force is better than any team in the Big East too. One team I learned we shouldn't forget about is BYU. Most of us have written the Cougars off, but this team finally looks like its putting things together and might shape the BCS bid for the Mountain West as they have to play Utah in the final game of the season. How much would BYU fans enjoy knocking Utah off one last time before the Utes bolt to the Pac-10, knocking them out of the BCS bowl picture. They don't call it the Holy War for nothing.

2. Circle your calendars for a showdown next weekend of the two best teams in Conference USA next weekend -- East Carolina at UCF. The Pirates have won three in a row and are averaging 38 points per game over that stretch. Meanwhile, UCF has the conferences best defense, which has allowed only 11.6 points over its three-game winning streak. The winner of this game should decide the East Divison in the conference and will be the favorite to win the C-USA crown and that Liberty Bowl berth. It's going to be a great matchup in Orlando. What a weekend you could plan -- watch UCF take on East Carolina and after the game head on over to Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights.

3. How good is this Hawaii team? Utah State was supposed to be a sleeper team and hung with Oklahoma, but all Hawaii did was blast them 45-7. Bryant Moniz ... has anybody else outside of Hawaii heard of this guy? He only leads the nation in passing yards and finished Saturday with another 389 yards. The biggest question we all want to know is, can the Warriors (6-2) give Boise State a game? We are going to find out soon enough -- at Boise on Nov. 6.

4. Who is the Sun Belt's second-best team? Since the conference has two bowl bids this year, somebody has to grab that second spot, right? Louisiana-Lafayette looked like it might finally grab a bowl bid, but ended up losing at home to Western Kentucky 54-21. The Hilltoppers hadn't won a game in close to three years. Maybe its Arkansas State? The Red Wolves are now 3-2 in the conference and played Troy really close (Lost 35-28). Big game for Arkansas State on Nov. 2 as it takes on Middle Tennessee. FIU was off this week, but it is 2-0 in Sun Belt play. Will somebody please step up in the coming weeks!

5. Miami (Ohio) isn't all that great and the fade is beginning. Sure the RedHawks were 3-0 in the conference, but just lost to Ohio, a key game in the East Division. They now have three of their final four games on the road, including next week at Buffalo. I'm not sure they are going to be able to win the division. Ohio and Temple are much better teams and with the conference only getting three bowl bids, Miami (Ohio) is most likely going to be left out. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois is making a HUGE statement in the West as it has now won five in a row. Get ready for the game on Nov. 9 against Toledo, which will likely decide who reaches the MAC title game.

Posted on: October 23, 2010 8:01 pm
 

Nation's longest losing streak is over

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It won't make the kind of headlines that Cam Newton 's run or Iowa State 's big upset or Wisconsin 's thrilling win will. But we should nonetheless take a moment to recognize that enough precincts have reported in that we can declare Western Kentucky a winner in their matchup with Lousiana-Lafayette. The Hilltoppers, losers of 26 straight, are up 54-14 over the not-so-Ragin' Cajuns with only two minutes and change remaining. The win is Western Kentucky's first as a full member of the FBS.

The win must be especially sweet for the Hilltoppers after blowing a 24-7 fourth-quarter lead a week ago against UL-Monroe. But rather than let it "beat them twice," as the saying goes, they clearly used it as fuel for a performance that left no doubt this week. No one must feel more redeemed than quarterback Kawaun Jakes , who threw a critical pick-six in the Monroe collapse but has gone 18-of-22 today.

With WKU off the schneid, only two winless teams remain in the FBS: New Mexico , who faces San Digeo State tonight, and Akron , 56-10 losers to Western Michigan today.



Posted on: October 19, 2010 10:11 am
Edited on: October 19, 2010 2:06 pm
 

Midseason Report: Rest of Non-BCS

The Midseason Report separates the contenders from the pretenders in each conference race, and in the some of the smaller conferences, it's anybody's conference crown. Here's what's happened so far and what might happen down the stretch.

MOUNTAIN WEST

The MWC crown is almost certain to come down to one game: TCU (7-0, 3-0) at Utah (6-0, 3-0) on Nov. 6. Neither the Horned Frogs nor the Utes have broken a sweat in conference play to date (the Frogs have gone three weeks without even allowing a touchdown), and with nonconference challenges like Oregon State, Pitt, Baylor, and Iowa State all collectively behind them, chances are good both teams will go into their showdown undefeated, ranked in the top 10, and ready for a mega-hyped, winner-take-all matchup for the conference title.

And if a handful of the BCS conference powers above them in the BCS standings drop games between now and then, the stakes could be even higher than that.

The only team with a realistic shot of upsetting the MWC Game of the Century apple cart is Air Force (5-2, 3-1), which will travel to TCU this week and host the Utes Oct. 30. The Falcons came within a whisker of collecting a huge scalp at Oklahoma and have the inside track on the Commander in Chief's Trophy after ousting Navy, but their 27-25 loss last Saturday at San Diego State (4-2, 1-1) means they'll likely have to sweep the TCU/Utah pairing to take the conference title. Good luck with that, Falcons.

And hey, speaking of the Aztecs, Brady Hoke 's impressive salvage job has SDSU all of six points (and two questionable calls, one each at Missouri and BYU ) away from a perfect 6-0 record. As is, they'll likely have to settle for playing spoiler against the two league powers and their first bowl berth since 1998.

The less said about the other five teams in the league -- and their combined 7-22 overall record -- the better.

C-USA

We are in for quite a race in the East with East Carolina (4-2, 3-0), UCF (4-2, 2-0) and Southern Miss (5-2, 2-1). East Carolina already beat Southern Miss but plays at UCF on Oct. 30. The Golden Knights will host Southern Miss on Nov. 13.

 UCF might be the best of the trio with a defense ranked as one of the best in the nation. The Knights have been led by defensive end Bruce Miller (seven tackles for a loss) and cornerback Josh Robinson (eight breakups). The offense has come along despite not having starting running back Brynn Harvey. Freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey has done well this season, rushing for 310 yards, while throwing for 669.

East Carolina has one of the best passing offenses with former Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis (16 TDs, nine INTs). The Pirates can pass with anybody, but the biggest problem right now is the defense. East Carolina's defense is ranked 111th in the nation and has given up 40 or more points in four of the six games.

Southern Miss will need to beat UCF and get some help after losing 44-43 to East Carolina a few weeks ago, but this is still a pretty good team. Austin Davis is having a good season (1,480 yards), but top receiver DeAndre Brown has been struggling with a leg injury all season. The Golden Eagles need him to have a shot to win the conference crown. The defense is once again strong against the run with LBs Korey Williams and Ronnie Thornton leading the way.

In the West, SMU is in the driver's seat with Houston, UTEP and Tulsa all giving chase. The Mustangs lost some tough out-of-conference games against Texas Tech and TCU, but is still undefeated in conference play. It should be no surprise that SMU has been able to pass and put up points. Kyle Padron is doing very well with 1,818 yards passing and 19 TDs. Aldrick Robinson has become Padron's favorite receiver with 580 yards receiving. SMU faces Houston this weekend and at UTEP on Nov. 6. It already beat Tulsa 21-18 on Oct. 9.

WAC

Make no mistake about it, Boise State is in total control of the WAC. It went undefeated through the conference last season as is expected to cruise through this year. Kellen Moore is once against having a fantastic season with 16 touchdown passes with only one interception. Also to nobody's surprise, Boise State ranks in the top 5 in both offense and defense, including having the No. 1 rush defense in the nation. The only games that could spell trouble for the Broncos are vs. Hawaii on Nov. 6 and at Nevada on Nov. 26.

Hawaii's passing attack and Nevada's pistol offense can be tough to defend, but it would be a major shock if Boise State lost either of those games.

MAC

This conference is wide open, but looks like it's going to come down to Northern Illinois (5-2, 3-0) or Toledo (4-3, 3-0) in the West and a trio of teams in the East.

 Miami (Ohio) has been the biggest surprise of the conference, sitting on top of the East with a 3-0 record and 4-3 overall. The RedHawks still have their toughest competition left with Ohio (Oct. 23), at Temple (Nov. 23) still on the schedule. It's also pretty amazing since Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst rushing games in the nation, gaining just 69.7 yards per game (112th). I'm not sure this team can win the East, but we'll have to keep an eye on them.

Ohio stumbled against Marshall, but has won three in a row and can take a big step toward the East title with a win over Miami (Ohio) this weekend. It would have to play at Temple on Nov. 16. Boo Jackson is doing pretty well back at quarterback with 913 yards passing and nine TDs. The defense has done a solid job, being led by Donovan Fletcher who leads the team with 42 tackles and five interceptions.

Everybody's favorite Temple is right in the thick of the race and gets to host Ohio and Miami (Ohio) later this season. If I had to pick a team to win the conference, I would pick the Owls. The passing game needs to get better, but the rushing attack has been just fine. When Bernard Pierce is healthy, he gives the Owls a huge boost over every team in the conference. And when Pierce is out, Matt Brown has stepped right in just fine.

Out West, Northern Illinois has been using a strong rushing attack, led by Chad Spann (753 yards, eight TDs) and quarterback Chandler Harnish (457, 6.4 avg) to improve to 3-0 in the conference and 5-2 overall. It will host Toledo on Nov. 9 in what will probably decide the division. Toledo's offense hasn't been all that great this year, but does have one of the top wide receivers in Eric Page (54 catches, 580 yards). Archie Donald has been fantastic at linebacker, recording 72 tackles, which ranks 18th in the nation.

Sun Belt

The conference is Troy's to lose ... again. Middle Tennessee was supposed to contend, but the Trojans did away with them 42-13. Louisiana-Lafayette put up a fight, but Troy beat them 31-24. So who's left? Keep your eye on Florida International . The Golden Panthers are 2-0 in the conference and hung with Rutgers and Texas A&M earlier in the season. That game is at Troy on Nov. 13.

Troy hasn't missed a beat with freshman quarterback Corey Robinson . He has thrown for 1,740 yards and 12 touchdowns, while RB DuJuan Harris (300 yards rushing) and Jerrel Jernigan (501 yards receiving) have also done a nice job. FIU also has a good receiving core with Greg Ellingson and T.Y. Hilton . Anthony Gaitor is one of the best defensive backs in the conference and could be a factor in their game next month.


Posted on: October 18, 2010 12:27 pm
 

Go Daddy takes over the GMAC Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Whenever I've watched the GMAC Bowl -- and I watch it every year -- I can't help but think to myself "You know what this stellar matchup of teams from the MAC Conference and Sun Belt Conference needs?  More stupid commercials with Danica Patrick in them.  That would really put the whole ensemble together."

Well, I've finally gotten my wish.  It was announced on Monday that GoDaddy.com would be taking over the title sponsorship of the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, giving us the very first GoDaddy.com Bowl.   Get excited, people!

"We're excited to have a powerhouse like Go Daddy behind Mobile's biggest event of the year," said GoDaddy.com Bowl President Jerry Silverstein . "Go Daddy stepped up big time for this sponsorship, which is good for all of us. Our bowl holds the record for the highest-scoring game in college football bowl game history. We are looking forward to another marquee match-up."

My only fear is that while the first half of the game will be shown on television, they'll then force all of us to go online to see the conclusion, and when we do, we'll all be severly disappointed.
 
 
 
 
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