Something was in the air this week, and I’m not talking about that fall crisp that has thankfully washed over most of the East Coast. For example:
• Washington State was within 4 of Oregon at the half.
• LSU trailed Towson and took some time to put the 1-AA team away
• West Virginia and Baylor agreed to play no defense and finished within a field goal of the D1-A scoring record set in that epic 2007 Navy-North Texas matchup.
• Georgia and Tennessee played in the highest scoring SEC contest…ever.
Point being, there were some struggles this weekend. And while those struggles certainly extended into our future conference, the cream of the conference rose to the occasion and won thier games. We enter the month of October with three undefeated teams – Louisville, Rutgers, and Cincinnati. The Coaches’ Poll has all of them ranked and adds in Boise State to give the New Big East 4 ranked teams. In the AP Poll, Cincinnati and Boise lead the “others receiving votes” category.
5 weeks into the season and we’ve pretty much defined three tiers of the conference. And for as nice at that top tier looks, the bottom tier is just as ugly. Navy, Houston, Memphis and SMU have combined for a grand total of one win over D1-A competition, thanks to Houston beating 1-win Rice this week. Yikes. As a reminder, these rankings aren’t a view of how the season will end, nor is it solely reflective of that week’s action.
1. Louisville (5-0)
Last Week #1; This Week: Won 21-17 @ Southern Miss
Some will look at the score of the Southern Miss game and think that maybe Louisville is a little overrated. To them, I give you this:
Yup, that’s standing water on the field in the first quarter – and the rain didn’t let up. Teddy Bridgewater attempted just 13 passes, but Cardinals running backs Senorise Perry (2 TDs) and Jeremy Wright combined for 202 yards rushing on 42 carries to help Louisville rally back from 11 down in the 2nd quarter. Going 5-0 in your non-conference schedule is all that can be asked of a team. The start of conference play waits a week as Louisville is on a bye before going to Pitt.
2. Cincinnati (3-0)
Last Week #3; This Week: Won 27-24 vs. Virginia Tech (@ FedEx Field)
In the eyes of this humble blogger, Cincinnati’s wins over Virginia Tech and Pitt are ever so slightly more impressive than Rutgers’ wins over USF and Arkansas. One could even argue that Cincinnati could take over the #1 spot from Louisville. But despite a pretty dominating performance on the field, Cincinnati couldn’t put the game away until an 85-yard, 90-second drive was capped with a 29-yard TD pass from Munchie Legaux to Damon Julian with 13 seconds left in the game. On a financial note, I don’t think you’ll see Cincinnati move any more home games to FedEx field. Thanks to insane ticket prices, the game against the Hokies drew just 11k more fans than Nippert holds. The Bearcats begin a string of 3 trap games this weekend when they host Miami (OH) (ESPN3, 7pm).
3. Rutgers (4-0)
Last Week #2; This Week: Bye
Rutgers currently has the 10th-ranked scoring defense in the country. UConn has the 92nd-ranked scoring offense. So long as the Scarlet Knights keep choppin’ that wood, next week should be another win in what is looking like a really good shot at a 9-0 start to the season (ESPNU, Noon).
4. Boise State (3-1)
Last Week #4; This Week: Won 32-29 @ New Mexico
Boise started this game like many expected them to start a game against one of the worst teams in the MWC. The defense forced 3 first-half fumbles and the offense put up 25 points while keeping the Lobos off the scoreboard. Then the second half happened. Boise fumbled twice; once on the kickoff that opened the half and another halfway through the 4th with an 11-point lead. Those turnovers led to 15 New Mexico points on drives that totaled 27 yards. Boise got the job done in the end, but when you have 311 passing yards and 2 RBs who combine for 216 yards rushing, you just have to do better against a team like the Lobos. Perhaps a trip to winless Southern Mississippi this week will get the Broncos in the AP poll this week (FSN, Noon).
5. UConn (3-2)
Last Week #6; This Week: Won 24-17 vs. Buffalo
Enter the second tier of the New Big East. This week it is led by the Huskies by virtue of them being the only team in the middle that won a game this weekend. They struggled to put away a Buffalo team that was without its starting running back, Branden Oliver (426 yards, 3 TDs in 3 games). Just like in their victory over Maryland, UConn had a solid lead in the 2nd half – 24-7 with just 20 minutes left to play. And just like in that game, the opposition had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to at least tie it up. It’s becoming a little difficult to predict a bowl for UConn with just 2 games remaining (Temple and Syracuse) that should be wins. A colossal upset versus Rutgers this weekend would go a long way toward securing a spot in the postseason (ESPNU, Noon).
6. USF (2-3)
Last Week #7; This Week: Lost 30-17 vs. Florida State
In the battle of where to rank the directional Florida schools, South beats Central thanks to a decent showing against the now #3 Florida State Seminoles. It was a 3-point game in the 3rd quarter after Tashon Whitehurst blocked a FSU punt and set up a 3-play, 8-yard TD drive. But that just lit a fire under the Noles, who ripped off 17 unanswered points (including a fumble return for a TD) and held USF to just 88 yards for the rest of the game. The Bulls have a good chance to rebound this week as they visit Temple (BE Network, Noon).
7. UCF (2-2)
Last Week #5; This Week: Lost 21-16 vs. Missouri
In a game that featured a total of 17 punts, UCF had a great chance to notch a win over an SEC team when the Tigers came to visit. And if victories were based off of box scores, they would have. They outgained Missouri in the air and on the ground, kept them to just 1 for 11 on 3rd down, and held sizable advantages in TOP and 1st downs. But an 80-yard TD pass from James Franklin to Dorial Green-Beckham and a 66-yard punt return TD by Marcus Murphy just proved too much for the Knights to overcome. UCF got the ball back at their 35 with 2:44 to play, but picked a terrible time for their only turnover of the day, fumbling away their shot at a win on the 2nd play of the drive. East Carolina comes to town this Thursday for a weeknight game (CBSSN, 8pm).
8. Temple (1-2)
Last Week #9; This Week: Bye
With just 3 games played, I really can’t tell what Temple is this year. They beat Villanova, as they should, and played decent games against Maryland and Penn State. They start Big East play this weekend when South Florida comes to visit (BE Network, Noon).
9. SDSU (2-3)
Last Week #8; This Week: Lost 52-40 vs. Fresno State
SDSU’s defense was just plain flat this weekend. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr managed to reach 300 yards once in his first 4 games (in the blowout win over Colorado), but against the Aztecs he was 42-56 for 536 yards with 5 TDs and 2 INTs. Add in his 43 yards rushing on just 5 carries and Carr accounted for 579 of the Bulldogs’ 655 total yards. Despite Fresno State scoring 28 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter, SDSU actually lead this one 40-36 in the 3rd after a Leon McFadden pick 6; but Fresno State closed out the game on a 16 point run. SDSU hosts Hawaii this weekend (CBSSN, 8pm).
10. Houston (1-3)
Last Week #12; This Week: Won 35-17 vs. Rice
And now we enter the bottom tier of the New Big East. Houston takes the lead this week because they not only won, but they beat a D1-A team. They did so behind another 600+ yard offensive game. But unlike in their game against Louisiana Tech, 600 yards was good enough. Houston also held Rice to their lowest point total of the year, which is noteworthy considering the Owls have played both La. Tech and #25 UCLA. With North Texas coming to Houston this weekend, the Cougars have a fighting chance at establishing a winning streak (Comcast Sports South, 6pm).
11. SMU (1-3)
Last Week #11; This Week: Lost 24-17 vs. TCU
In a pouring rain, SMU kept it close enough to have a chance at pulling off another upset win over the Horned Frogs. But when your quarterback’s line reads 15 for 40, 195 yards, 1 TD and 5 interceptions, it’s going to be really hard to do so. TCU was held to just 156 total yards and its 4 scoring drives totaled just 58 yards. But SMU didn’t fare much better, gaining just 80 yards in the second half. Such is life in the battle for the Iron Skillet. The Mustangs travel to UTEP this weekend to open CUSA play (Local TV Only, 7pm).
12. Navy (1-3)
Last Week #10; This Week: Lost 12-0 vs. SJSU
We all know the story, so no need to rehash it too much. Buddy Green’s unit yielded just 4 field goals in an excellent defensive performance, but the offense was virtually non-existent. I am stoked by the progress the defense has made, but outside of thrashing a bad D1-AA team, Navy’s offense leaves a lot to be desired. This was not the launching pad the Midshipmen needed heading into their annual game against Air Force (CBS, 11:30am).
13. Memphis (0-4)
Last Week #13; This Week: Bye
Memphis will spend plenty of time looking at Houston’s game tape from the Rice game. The Tigers host the Owls this weekend in an attempt to get their first win of the season (FCS, 7pm).