by Mike Mitchell
At the beginning of the year, Fresno State's trip to LSU looked like it would be an interesting non-conference game as the Tigers were only a 7-point preseason pick. But since then, the Bulldogs have fallen flat on their rawhides and are now a 21-point computer underdog.
After giving up 68 points at home to Hawaii last week, one has to worry what LSU will do to the Valley Boys in Baton Rouge. Fresno State has won just one of its last 10 games and hit bottom with a loss to lowly Utah State on October 7th.
Fresno State started the season off with a win over highly-respected Nevada, the preseason pick of many prognosticators to win the WAC title. They followed that victory up with narrow losses to Oregon and Washington by a combined 8 points. Now, though, the wheels have come off and a road trip to LSU isn't what the doctor ordered to stop the bleeding.
Idaho is another WAC team that finds itself in unfamiliar territory with a 3-0 conference record, the same as state rival, and perennial conference heavyweight, Boise State. The Vandals are 4-3 over-all but have taken advantage of a schedule that dealt them three teams in-a-row, and four in their last five games, that were winless against 1-A competition on the date they played - Idaho State (1-AA), Utah State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.
Idaho hosts Boise State on Saturday with the Broncos favored by 24 points, but the teams have three common opponents that paint wildly different pictures of what you can expect for a final outcome. Each has played Oregon State with Boise State winning 42-14 at home, and Idaho losing 38-0 on the road. Both teams have defeated New Mexico State with Idaho winning by 8 at home, and Boise State by 12 away. Each team also downed Louisiana Tech with the Broncos winning by 41 at home and the Vandals by 10 on the road.
There's one other thing both teams have in common - they're playing under first-year head coaches.
Actually, Dennis Erickson can hardly be called a "new" head coach. Erickson coached the Vandals from 1982-1985 before he went on to stints at Wyoming, Washington State, Miami (where he won two national titles with the Hurricanes) and Oregon State. He also spent six years in the NFL as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
Broncos' head coach Chris Petersen was Dan Hawkins' offensive coordinator at Boise State and took over the reigns when Hawkins left for Colorado.
Boise State has a legitimate chance of snagging a BCS bid, but the Broncos must go undefeated to have any real hope of achieving the necessary Top 12 finish in the BCS Standings that would secure the invitation.
Don't be surprised if the SEC delivers more upsets this week. As it stands now, Arkansas leads the west and Florida is hanging on to the east. The Razorbacks entertain a Mississippi team this week that took Alabama to overtime this past Saturday. The Gators have the week off before their annual rivalry game with Georgia in Jacksonville next week.
After upsetting Georgia last week, Vanderbilt will be home against South Carolina. And Alabama has to visit a rested Tennessee team that's coming off of a bye week after clobbering Georgia 51-33 in their last outing.
The ACC is another conference that's been great at delivering weekly surprises. And nothing could be much more surprising than finding Wake Forest near the top of the Atlantic Division right now and Florida State in the cellar.
This week, the Seminoles are mere 2-point favorites at home against a Boston College team that disassembled Virginia Tech 22-3 last week.
Clemson, the top team in the Atlantic Division, hosts Coastal Division leader, Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech, licking its wounds from consecutive ACC losses, goes out of conference to host Southern Miss.
This is the week that we will discover if undefeated Rutgers is for real, or not. The Scarlet Knights dismissed many critics last week with a resounding 34-0 thumping of Navy. This week, they head to Pitt which leads the conference at 6-1, 3-0. Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia are all 6-0, 1-0.
The Mountaineers play Friday night at Connecticut (3-3, 0-1), and the Cardinals visit a Syracuse team (3-4, 0-2) that is just good enough to be a dark horse upset threat. Louisville seems ripe for the upset, coming off a narrow 23-17 escape of Cincinnati at home where the Cardinals commonly hang 50+ points on the opposition.
Speaking of Cincinnati, they host South Florida on Sunday night. The Bulls are 5-2 over-all, 1-1 in the Big East, and not entirely out of the conference title picture.
In the Big 12, Texas journeys to Nebraska for what could be a "trap" game for the Longhorns. The Cornhuskers were 13-point preseason underdogs in this contest, but that gap has now narrowed to just 7 points. Each team is undefeated in conference play and leads their respective divisions. Nebraska has made unbelievable strides back towards the top of the conference after a horrendous first season under Bill Callahan in 2004 when they hit a ton of new historical low points, including a 70-10 loss to Texas Tech.
Missouri looks to rebound from its first loss of the season, at Texas A&M, when it hosts Kansas State.
Colorado, which ended a 10-game losing streak last Saturday with a big 30-6 win at home over Texas Tech, heads to Oklahoma this week. The Sooners are hurting with the loss of RB Adrian Peterson to a broken clavicle. Oklahoma LB Rufus Alexander was arrested Sunday morning on two misdemeanor charges and his situation for Saturday was unknown at the time this article was written. The Sooners began the season by losing starting QB Rhett Bomar to a violation of NCAA rules for accepting pay for work that he didn't performed.
Baylor could improve to 3-1 in conference play when they host a Kansas team on Saturday that is 0-3 in the Big 12.
The top game in the Big 10 is Iowa at Michigan. The Hawkeyes were surprised by Indiana last week and are in bad need of a win to keep their outside chances at a conference title alive. This week's CCR Top 119 has Ohio State and Michigan ranked 1-2 in the nation. The Buckeyes host those suddenly pesky Hoosiers.
PAC-10 leader USC is idle this week, giving California a chance to gain the top spot. The Trojans and Bears are both 4-0 in conference play as Cal hosts much-improved Washington on Saturday.
Oregon, the only other team in the conference that hasn't already lost at least 2 PAC-10 games, visits Washington State.
Another PAC-10 game, UCLA, discovers itself in the undesirable position of having to trek to South Bend, Indiana to take on Notre Dame. The Bruins fell to 4-2 over-all, 2-2 in the conference, with the loss to Oregon last week while the Fighting Irish had the week off to rest, heal and prepare for the back half of their season.
Miami swings back into action this week (maybe I shouldn't use the word "swing") with a visit to Duke. The Hurricanes and the ACC have suspended 13 players for that game and more could be announced. In case you've spent the past few days with your head in the ground, Miami and FIU players staged a bench-clearing brawl in the 3rd quarter of Miami's 35-0 win on Saturday. It was the first time the two Miami schools played each other. The brawl included stomping, kicking, punching, and the use of everything from crutches to helmets as weapons.
FIU, which had 18 suspensions handed down by the school and the Sun Belt conference, is idle this week. Their player suspensions will be served next week when the Golden Panthers visit Alabama.
Both schools said the situation was still being reviewed and further action could be taken, including indefinite suspensions and removal from their respective teams.
The brawl was reminiscent of the South Carolina-Clemson game that marred the end of Lou Holtz' coaching career two years ago.
Lamar Thomas, a former Miami player, was an analyst on the game that was picked up as part of the ESPN GamePlan package. When the fight erupted, he offered verbal endorsement and encouragement of the fight, rooting on the spectacle. At one point, he even taunted that he should go down the elevator and join in on the action. He was fired Monday by Comcast Sports SouthEast, but it still should cause great alarm that someone in his capacity as a former player and current television commentator, could personally enjoy such a wretched display of ignorance and stupidity.
Seven teams enter the week with unblemished records - Boise State, Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State, West Virginia, Rutgers, and USC.
Six schools are still looking for their first win - Duke, Eastern Michigan, FIU, San Diego State, Stanford, and Temple.
All games Saturday unless otherwise indicated.
Only 1 team plays a 1-AA school this week as Minnesota hosts undefeated North Dakota State, a 29-24 winner over Ball State earlier this year.
Over 75 schools took the opportunity of a 12th game to schedule a cupcake opponent.
1-AA schools lost all three games against 1-A teams last week and are 6-67 for the season. Since the start of the 2003 campaign, 1-A teams hold the upper hand by a huge margin, 231-24 (.906).
USC has won 38 straight regular season games, a nation's-best 30 consecutive home victories, and 27 straight conference games.
Ohio State owns the nation's longest winning streak at 14 games.
West Virginia has 13 straight wins.
Boise State has won 34 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos have never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (22-0).
Texas has won 18 straight conference games.
Temple owns the nation's longest losing streak at 19 games. They've lost their seven games this year by an average score of 44 to 7. They lost all 11 games last year by an average result of 45.3 to 9.7.
Duke has lost 14 straight games over-all, 17 straight to 1-A teams.
New Mexico State has lost 17 straight to 1-A teams.
The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. We're tracking their progress throughout the season.
Boise State, 7-0 under Chris Petersen, visits Idaho.
Wisconsin, 6-1 under Bret Bielema, visits Purdue.
Idaho, 4-3 under Dennis Erickson, hosts Boise State.
Kansas State, 4-3 under Ron Prince, visits Missouri.
Middle Tennessee, 3-3 under Rick Stockstill, visits Louisiana-Monroe.
Northwestern, 2-5 under Pat Fitzgerald, hosts Michigan State.
Rice, 2-5 under Todd Graham, visits UCF.
Buffalo, 1-5 with Turner Gill, visits Ohio.
Colorado, 1-6 under Dan Hawkins, visits Oklahoma.
San Diego State, 0-5 under Chuck Long, hosts Air Force.
Temple, 0-7 under Al Golden, visits Northern Illinois.