37 Teams Play First Conference Game
12 Games Are Head-to-Head League Openers
As the halfway point of the season draws near, 37 teams are getting ready to play their first conference game of the season with 12 of those matches featuring head-to-head league openers.
The slate features 55 games, which is 7 more contests than were played last week. And for the second consecutive week, no FBS team plays a school from the FCS. 15 teams get a bye week, including undefeated Houston and 4-1 Oregon State.
Some of the conference races are looking rather odd at this early juncture with teams such as Iowa, Tulane and South Alabama in the lead of their respective league or division.
Houston heads the new American Athletic Conference (4-0, 1-0) but only because the Cougar-Temple game is the only conference contest that has taken place. This week, three head-to-head conference openers take place with Cincinnati visiting USF, UCF traveling to Memphis, and Rutgers trekking to SMU. Idle UConn (0-4) won't open its league schedule until next week when equally horrid USF comes calling.
Louisville (4-0) and UCF (3-1) are the apparent class of the American, regardless of Houston's current standing.
Every team in the ACC has played at least 1 conference game, except for Maryland, Syracuse and Miami (Fla.). That changes this week as each of those schools open league play against a highly regarded opponent. The Terrapins, which are an almost shocking 4-0, get the unenvious task of visiting Florida State while the Orange host Clemson and the Hurricanes entertain Georgia Tech.
As expected, Clemson and Florida State are tied for the ACC Atlantic division lead (4-0, 2-0). Those two schools will collide October 19 at Clemson. Perhaps not as expected, Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0) has the upper hand in the Coastal. Each of the 5 other Coastal members that have played an ACC game have suffered at least 1 loss.
Oklahoma and Texas Tech are tied atop the Big 12 (4-0, 1-0). They're not slated to duke it out until October 26 in Norman. Baylor is the only other conference team that is unbeaten overall. The Bears open this week by hosting West Virginia. Kansas and Iowa State also begin Big 12 play as the Jayhawks have to host the Red Raiders while the Cyclones welcome Texas on Thursday night.
Texas has been a major disappointment. The Longhorns were expected to be legitimate BCS title contenders but have already taken two losses by 19 (BYU) and 21 (Ole Miss) points. Talk has been swirling of Mack Brown being on the hot seat, especially with the announcement on Tuesday that long-time Athletic Director DeLoss Dodd is stepping down next August. Still, Texas won its only Big 12 contest to-date (Kansas State) and isn't out of the running for the conference title.
The Big Ten has 7 teams opening conference play this week - Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana and Penn State. The latter two play each other in Bloomington, while the Gophers visit Michigan (4-0), the Wildcats (4-0) welcome Ohio State, the Spartans go to Iowa, and the 'Huskers host the Illini.
Right now, Iowa (4-1, 1-0) sits alone atop the Legends division while the Buckeyes have staked out early front-runner status in the Leaders division and have a nation's-best 17-game winning streak going. Illinois has been a surprise with its 3-1 start after the computer's preseason projections had them picked to open 1-3.
Conference USA has a surprising leader of its own in the West division where Tulane (3-2, 1-0) sits atop the standings with Rice (2-2, 1-0) and upstart UTSA (1-0, 2-3). East Carolina (3-1, 1-0) and Middle Tennessee (3-2, 1-0) head the East division.
Marshall, UAB, FIU, Southern Miss, North Texas and Tulsa all play their first league game this week. The Herd host UTSA while UAB entertains FAU. Also, North Texas visits Tulane and Tulsa welcomes Rice. Two of the nation's worst teams - Southern Miss and FIU - go toe-to-toe in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles rank 120th in the CCR Top 125 and are on a 16-game losing streak. The Golden Panthers have dropped 5 straight, and 15 of their last 18. FIU averaging just 5.75 points and 150 yards of total offense per game this season.
Bowling Green (4-1) is already 2-0 in the MAC East while Ball State mirrors those records while taking the early advantage in the MAC West. At the other end of the spectrum, the MAC has more winless teams than any other conference with Western Michigan (0-5), UMass (0-4) and Miami (0-4) all looking for their first victory. Six MAC schools are ranked 107th or worse in the CCR Top 125.
Ohio opens its MAC slate at Akron where the Zips will try to shake off futility streaks of 25 straight losses to FBS opposition and 16 consecutive setbacks vs. fellow MAC schools. Buffalo, UMass, Miami and Northern Illinois also open their conference slates this week with the Bulls at home vs. lowly Eastern Michigan while the Minutemen travel to Bowling Green, the RedHawks host Central Michigan and the Huskies (4-0) head to Kent State.
Fresno State (4-0, 2-0) has the outright lead in the West division of the Mountain West, and Utah State (3-2, 2-0) tops the Mountain division. San Jose State (1-3, 0-1) has been a major disappointment with its only win coming against FCS member Sacramento State in the season opener.
Disappointing San Diego State (1-3) plays its first conference game at home vs. Nevada on Friday. Idle Colorado State will be the last team to begin MWC play when the Rams host San Jose State next week.
The PAC-12 ties the ACC for the most undefeated teams with 4. Stanford and Oregon lead that group as the No. 1 and 2 squads in my Congrove Computer Rankings. UCLA and Washington are also unscathed, but something will have to give when the Huskies visit the Cardinal on Saturday.
Stanford (4-0, 2-0), Oregon State (4-1, 2-0), Oregon (4-0, 1-0) and Washington (4-0, 1-0) are all in decent shape for a run at the North division title. Of those four schools, only the Beavers have lost a game overall.
UCLA is the only South division team to have not already lost a PAC-12 game, largely because it visits Utah on Thursday as the last team in the conference to begin league play when.
Florida and Georgia (both 3-1, 2-0) lead the SEC East, but Missouri (4-0) is the only team in that division that is still unbeaten overall. The Tigers are also the last school to commence conference play as they open at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Alabama (4-0, 2-0) is the only SEC west school that remains undefeated. The six other schools all have 1 league loss.
And finally, South Alabama (2-2, 1-0) is surprisingly tied with Arkansas State (1-0, 2-3) for the Sun Belt lead. Texas State, UL-L and UL-M open league play this week with the Bobcats visiting the Ragin' Cajuns while the Warhawks host Western Kentucky (Thursday). Georgia State will be the last school to start its Sun Belt schedule when it welcomes Troy next week. This week, GSU goes to Tuscaloosa as a 52.69-point computer underdog to Alabama.
Northern Illinois keeps its road warrior status for another week. The 4-0 Huskies have wins at Iowa, Idaho and Purdue, along with a victory over FCS member Eastern Illinois in their only home game to date. NIU hits the road again this week to face Kent State before finally getting their first home game against a school from the FBS on October 12th vs. Akron.
FBS vs. FCS:
There aren't any FBS vs. FCS matchups this week. FBS teams have lost 14 such matchups this season after losing just 10 all of last year. 15 FBS-FCS games still remain to be played.
The FBS is 81-14 (.853) this season vs. the FCS, and 817-79 (.912) in such matchups since 2003.
106 FBS schools scheduled a total of 110 games against FCS foes this year. Clemson and Georgia Tech each scheduled two such schools. FBS newcomer Georgia State scheduled 3 FCS teams and lost to each of them.
Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
8/29: Towson 33, Connecticut 18
8/29: Southern Utah 22, South Alabama 21
8/30: Samford 31, Georgia State 21
8/30: North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21
8/31: Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20
8/31: Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46
8/31: Eastern Illinois 40, San Diego State 18
8/31: McNeese State 53, USF 21
9/7: UT-Chattanooga 42, Georgia State 14
9/7: Maine 24, Massachusetts 14
9/7: Nicholls State 27, Western Michigan 23.
9/14: Fordham 30, Temple 29
9/14: Bethune-Cookman 34, FIU 13
9/21: Jacksonville State 32, Georgia State 26 (OT)
Eastern Washington, McNeese State and North Dakota State also had wins vs. FBS teams last year.
Ohio State - Won 17 straight overall. At Northwestern on Saturday.
Northern Illinois - Won 22 straight at home and 17 straight vs. conference foes. At Kent State on Saturday.
LSU - Won 44 straight regular season nonconference games. At Mississippi State on Saturday.
Michigan - Won 17 straight home games. Hosts Minnesota on Saturday.
Oregon - Won 16 straight road games. At Colorado on Saturday.
Southern Miss - Lost 16 straight overall. Hosts FIU on Saturday.
New Mexico State - Lost 16 straight overall. At New Mexico on Saturday.
Akron - Lost 29 straight road games, 26 straight FBS games and 17 straight conference games (MAC). Hosts Ohio on Saturday.
Kansas - Lost 21 straight conference games and 20 straight road games. Ended 22-game losing streak vs. FBS teams with a 13-10 win over Louisiana Tech 2 weeks ago. Hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.
UNLV - Ended 23-game road losing streak with a 56-42 victory at New Mexico last Saturday.