New Big East Power Rankings – Week 9

And then there was one. Nine weeks into the season, Louisville is the sole undefeated team left in the New Big East. We all knew that that Highlander rules applied, but I don’t think anyone foresaw a couple of MAC teams wielding the swords that would lop the zeroes off of the records of Rutgers and Cincinnati. A week after Cincinnati fell to Toledo, Rutgers hosted Kent State and became the first ranked team the Golden Flashes beat in the history of the program – some 92 years.

Despite the disappointing out of conferences losses, it’s fair to say that the New Big East is doing better than most would have forecast before the season. In fact, Louisville checks in at #10 in the latest BCS rankings, while Boise at #19 just needs to keep winning and will likely finish inside the top 16. It’s something of the dawn of a new era for Boise State, as evidenced by comments from CNNSI writer Stewart Mandel:

Yup – Boise has transitioned from BCS buster to riding on the coattails of past success. At this point it doesn’t even matter that Nevada spent 60 minutes shoveling dirt on its pride against Air Force last Friday night. The Broncos simply need to keep winning and a BCS bowl should take care of itself. The Statue of Liberty play seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

Click on through to the rankings!

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This Week in Service Academy Football

Army (1-7): Lost to Ball State, 30-22. This game was a bit of role reversal for Army. Usually their offense plays pretty well, but just can’t keep up with the gobs of points that the defense gives up. Against Ball State, though, the Army defense was sort of decent. That’s relatively speaking, obviously. Giving up 413 yards isn’t good, but it was good enough to at least keep the game within reach. Ball State went up 14-0 after their first two drives, but they were never able to pull away. Army didn’t give up another touchdown until the 4th quarter, and by Army standards, that’s a pretty big deal. That was probably as good a performance as Rich Ellerson is going to get out of his young defense this season.

Unfortunately for Army, the offense couldn’t respond. In some ways, this was like the Eastern Michigan game. Ball State even used the same defense: the 4-4 cover 3 with the free safety playing the pitch. While Army was able to run for 341 yards, they weren’t very consistent in moving the ball. Just like against EMU, lousy blocking doomed the offense and led to four 3 & outs. On top of that, Hayden Tippett fumbled away a scoring opportunity at the end of the first half after Army had moved to the Ball State 30. Nevertheless, Army still had a chance to make it a one-score game with a little more than 2 minutes left, but Dan Grochowski’s FG attempt from 43 yards sailed wide left.

Both the offense and defense have had their individual moments this year, but neither have shown that they are good enough to carry the team when the other is struggling. Air Force has shown that it’s capable of losing to one-win teams, though, so maybe there’s a little hope for Army this week. But only a little.

Air Force (5-3): Beat Nevada, 48-31. This was probably Air Force’s best performance of the season, seen by DOZENS of people in Colorado Springs on Friday night. Nevada is a pretty good football team, and Air Force outgained them by 220 yards even without the services of Cody Getz. Filling in for Getz as the Falcon’s go-to back was Wes Cobb, who ran for 152 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Nevada’s defense appeared completely lost at times, and Air Force never had to punt. Not that the Wolf Pack didn’t have their opportunities. Nevada pulled to within a field goal after recovering a fumble near midfield in the third quarter, but Air Force responded with a pair of long drives on their next two possessions to regain a two-score advantage that they would hold on to the rest of the way.

The loss to UNLV is killing Air Force in the Mountain West. At 4-1, the Falcons are tied with Fresno State and San Diego State in second place in the league standings, and have yet to play either one. They could have controlled their own destiny for a share of their first MWC title since they don’t play Boise State. Instead, they have to hope that the 4-0 Broncos trip up somewhere along the way. Boise State already beat Fresno State. They get SDSU at home this week and hit the road to play Nevada at the end of the year. Meanwhile, Air Force plays both SDSU and Fresno State on the road. It’s a tall order.

Postgame Haiku, Vol. 64

Offense unleashes
A frankenstorm of touchdowns
Blue pants reign supreme

Q & A with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco

Q & A with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco | Cougars | a Chron.com blog.

Definitely worth a read. I don’t like an east-west divisional alignment very much, since it feels too much like “new” Big East vs. “old” Big East. I would have thought that the western schools would want more of an association with the established Big East programs. If that’s not the case, and the western schools would prefer a more geographic fit for our divisions, then great. Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the divisions change by the time Navy (and a mystery 14th member) joins.

NAVY 31, INDIANA 30

It’s a strange situation whenever Navy plays a struggling BCS-conference program. When we see a team coming into Annapolis with a 2-4 record, it’s only natural to think that maybe the Mids should win this one. You have to be careful not to fool yourself. Not that Navy isn’t capable of winning games against BCS programs, because we’ve seen over and over again that they are. It’s just that there’s a big difference between “should” win the game and “can” win the game. Even struggling BCS teams are still BCS teams, with the talent that goes with it. For every blowout of Missouri or Notre Dame we’ve seen over the last decade, you can point to even more tight games with Duke or Vanderbilt. These teams might have their issues, but their issues are at a whole different level; a Big Ten team with problems is a different proposition than a MAC team with problems.

That’s why beating Indiana is such a big deal. On the 4-4-4 spectrum, any game against a Big Ten team is a reach for Navy.

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New Big East Power Rankings – Week 8

This tweet sums up the biggest news in the New Big East this week:

Mr. Stevens (a must follow on Twitter if you’re the tweeting type) was referring Cincinnati and their trip to Toledo for a taste of MACtion. And just like those other BCS conference teams, the Bearcats left with a loss. Perhaps a lucrative new TV deal can help keep the conference’s top teams from heading to MAC schools for mid-season match-ups.

So a little shine is off the Louisville-Cincinnati match-up this weekend, but the conference is performing better than any preseason prognostications imagined. The top 5 teams are a combined 30-4. Rutgers and Louisville are 15th and 16th in the latest BCS standings, while Boise has moved up to 21st. The computers really like Rutgers (average of 10th), but Boise’s hill to climb (currently 20th in computers) got harder this weekend with Nevada’s loss.

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This Week in Service Academy Football

Army (1-6): Lost to Eastern Michigan, 48-38. Every Army game is pretty much the same. The offense piles on the yards and points, but makes too many mistakes to bail out a horrible defense.

This might be the worst one yet for Army, who fell to a previously winless Eastern Michigan team. EMU’s defense used the ol’ 4-4 cover 3 with the safety playing the pitch man, and Army was able to score every single time they were able to make their blocks. That isn’t hyperbole, either; the Black Knights had touchdown runs of 55, 73, and 75 yards. The problem is that they just weren’t able to carry out their blocking assignments consistently enough. This is the second week in a row where that has been the case, and it cost them. Army also fumbled the ball 5 times (losing 2), including a botched snap on a punt that gave EMU the ball on the Army 13. That put Army in a 14-0 hole right off the bat, and they were never able to recover.

Still, when you score 38 points and roll up 413 rushing yards, that should be good enough to win most games. Unfortunately for Army, Eastern Michigan’s offense appears to be hitting its stride. They were able to put up over 600 yards on a very good Toledo team a week ago, and followed that up with 577 yards on Saturday. Army’s defense is just plain slow.  They gave up 13(!) plays of 20+ yards, including three touchdowns.

This game was Army’s best shot at a win the rest of the year. Looking at their schedule, things don’t get any easier, starting with a 5-3, pass-happy Ball State team coming to Michie this week.

Air Force (4-3): Beat New Mexico, 28-23. I said last week that this game would be a big test for Air Force, but I didn’t think it would be this interesting. New Mexico RB Kasey Carrier set the Mountain West record by rushing for 338 yards. New Mexico’s pistol-based option offense rolled up 409 rushing yards, and the Lobos outgained Air Force by nearly 80 yards.

So how on earth did Air Force win this game? Three reasons. 1. New Mexico drove all the way to the Air Force 1-yard line on their first possession, but settled for a field goal. 2. Alex Means was able to tip and intercept a swing pass as New Mexico was driving late in the 2nd quarter, returning it 65 yards for a touchdown. 3. New Mexico played the entire second half WITHOUT A QUARTERBACK. Seriously. The Lobos only have two scholarship QBs on their roster, and Bob Davie told the sideline reporter after halftime that neither would be available the rest of the game due to injuries. They basically ran nothing but “wildcat” plays the rest of the way, rotating three different players at the quarterback position.

The craziest part is that it almost worked. After recovering an Air Force fumble on their own 40, New Mexico was able to drive 60 yards to take the lead in the 3rd quarter. Air Force scored on its next two possessions to take a two-score lead, but New Mexico was able to cut it to 28-23 after Kasey Carrier ran for a 37-yard TD. Another Air Force fumble gave the Lobos the ball with a chance to take the lead, but they couldn’t convert on 4th & 4 from the Air Force 12. Air Force ran out the clock after that.

I assume that Nevada (6-2) will have a quarterback when they visit Colorado Springs on Friday night.

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