Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Notes and Such

While most of America is busy handicapping the races in the SEC, Big 10, and Big XII, there is a pretty interesting race developing in the Sun Belt. Florida Atlantic, the consensus preseason pick of everyone and I mean everyone, is currently 1-5, and more importantly 0-2 in conference play. Taking the Owls place atop the league are the triumverate of Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Troy, and uh, Florida International? All 4 teams are 2-0 in league play and none is more shocking that the Golden Panthers. The Ragin' Cajuns from Louisiana were co-champs as recently as 2005, as were the Red Wolves from Arkansas State. Troy has shared the league title the past 2 seasons, so those teams are old money Sun Belt powers. Florida International on the other hand, won a single game in the 2 seasons preceeding 2008. They've tripled that win total in just 6 games, and each of their losses have come to BCS-conference foes (Kansas, Iowa, and South Florida). I mention this because the first installment of the Sun Belt's round-robin battle on the road to New Orleans begins this week. Florida International travels to Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette hosts Arkansas State. Troy has the more favorable schedule down the stretch as they host Florida International, Arkansas State, and Louisiana-Lafayette, but don't sleep on the Cajuns. Remember, Louisiana-Lafayette has played extremely well in one-score defeats at both Illinois (20-17) and Kansas State (45-37).

Speaking of the Sun Belt, I need to give props to senior Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Jason Cherry. In the Ragin' Cajuns win against North Texas on Saturday, Cherry caught 3 passes for 123 yards. More importantly, each catch went for 6 points. Cherry also ran the ball 3 times for 85 yards and a score. And he returned 2 kickoffs, one he was able to take all the way back for 6. So if you're scoring at home, he touched the ball 8 times and scored 5 touchdowns.

If Ron Prince joins Tommy Bowden in the unemployment line at season's end (and you can make a pretty cogent argument he deserves to), the Wildcats should be sure to retain the services of the gentleman (men) who work on special teams. The Wildcats scored 6 touchdowns on special teams in 2006 and 2007, but thus far in a half-season's work they have 5. The Wildcats are especially proficient at blocking kicks, totalling 6 in 6 games.

If you know Washington State coach Paul Wulff, send him a card. Or better yet a defense. The Cougars have played 4 Pac-10 games. 3 of their opponents (Cal, Oregon, and Oregon State) have topped 60 points against their alleged defense. Things don't get any easier this weekend when the mighty Trojans come to town. The early spread is SC -42. Ouch.

And people thought Tuane would miss Matt Forte. Not so much. Andre Anderson has done quite nicely filling in for the Chicago Bears draft pick. Anderson has 852 yards on the ground through 6 games. He's topped 100 yards in each of the past 4 contests (twice going over the 200-yard mark). Since netting only 32 yards in the opener against Alabama, Anderson has averaged 164 yards per game and a robust 5.22 yards per carry.

And speaking of running the football, the Black Knights of Army may have found their feature back in fullback Collin Mooney. Mooney had only 6 carries and 22 rushing yards coming into the season, but in the past 2 games, he has put up 187 yards against Tulane and 229 against Eastern Michigan. The team as a whole is playing much better in Stan Brock's second season. After opening 0-3, including a loss to IAA New Hampshire, the Black Knights have won 2 of 3 with the lone loss coming by 4 points at Texas A&M.

There's dominance, and then there is what the MAC West has done to the MAC East this season. Teams in the MAC West (Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ball State, and Toledo) are 10-0 against teams in the MAC East (Bowling Green, Akron, Ohio, Temple, Buffalo, Kent State, and Miami). The lone MAC West team without a win against their eastern brethren is Toledo, and well, that's because they have yet to play an eastern dwellar. The MAC East has a chance to get off the schnide as Akron hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

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