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TGS COLLEGE FB REPORT...OLE MISS/MEMPHIS TRAVELOGUE!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


It was road trip time for us again last weekend, including a visit to one of those must-see stops on the map for every serious college football fan.

Notre Dame, Annapolis, Ann Arbor, West Point, Cal vs. Stanford, Army vs. Navy...all treats that college football fans should experience at least once in their lives. And certainly on that list is a visit to Ole Miss, including pre and post-game revelry at “The Grove.”

More on The Grove and Ole Miss in just a moment, because that was just part of the weekend excursion to the deep south.

Our main destination and base of operations for this trip was Memphis, which holds a special place to all at TGS because of our long history appearing on the airwaves of town. All of that thanks to Dave Woloshin, the top-notch play-by-play man for the Memphis Tigers and longtime host of local sports talk radio who has hosted me and TGS on his shows for 18 years, and Brett “Stats” Norsworthy, Woloshin’s cohort during the mid-morning hours on 560 AM, as well as a member of the Ole Miss broadcast crew. Woloshin, whose first hour on the air each day is spent with veteran local sports personality George Lapides, conducts an intelligent yet entertaining format with help from Norsworthy, whose colorful regional delivery makes for a great combo with Woloshin, a Chicago native but well-established in the Memphis market for nearly 30 years. Their banter is brisk and lively, with extra color added by the fact Woloshin is a longtime Cubs fan, while Norsworthy lives and dies with the St. Louis Cardinals. Needless to say, that adds an extra dash of seasoning to their on-air recipe.

Of course, unless you’re flying Delta/Northwest, or stowing away in the cargo portion of a FedEx jet, Memphis International Airport is not a preferred destination for most travelers. As a quintessential “fortress” hub (Northwest, now owned by Delta), the airport is dominated by one carrier, and the absence of Southwest Airlines and other discount airlines means that price competition does not exist at Memphis as it does some other airports in the region. My joker, however, was being able to redeem US Airways miles, which got me from Las Vegas to Memphis (via Phoenix) at almost no cost. Along the way, I got one of those “it’s football season” reminders in Phoenix, as several Iowa Hawkeyes fans were arriving at Sky Harbor Airport, readying to descend upon Tucson to watch their team go against Arizona on Saturday. For me, however, it was time to head the other direction, toward Memphis.

Although I didn’t arrive in Memphis until nearly midnight last Thursday, our accommodations were nearby the airport, so it was easy to settle in for the night. On Friday morning, it was just a short jaunt east on I-240 from the airport over to the 560 AM studios, where I joined Woloshin and Norsworthy for the entire 9-10 AM hour. And what a pleasure it is to share the airwaves with these two, both knowledgeable and sharp, with a keen sense of football history. Our words bounced around like neutrons in the studio, a rapid-fire and non-stop preview of the weekend’s games, with added color provided by the callers, who always want to know our opinions of their own favorite games on the weekend card.

It’s amazing, however, just how quick the time flies when on the radio, as before we knew it, my Memphis segment was complete. For me, all that meant was that I moved to the next studio, where Woloshin and Norsworthy kindly set me up to do my weekly 10 AM CDT segment on Jimmy Ott’s show from Baton Rouge. Ironically, I had done these shows in reverse last September when visiting Baton Rouge, when appearing live on Ott’s show but adjourning for the normal half-hour segment in Memphis.

When the shows were complete at 11 AM, it was time to head for lunch, and that meant barbecue. With so many quality choices in Memphis, we opted for lunch at the famous Rendezvous downtown, while I would have dinner that night at another famous local BBQ eatery, Corky’s. Woloshin also took me on a quick tour of Memphis as we traveled downtown. We didn’t stop at Elvis Presley's Graceland, although Woloshin highly recommended the Civil Rights Museum and the Stax Records Music Museum as other worthwhile visits.

Unlike some other older metro areas elsewhere in the country, Memphis reflects some of the newer south with a clean and unpretentious downtown. They’ve done some work dolling up downtown Memphis, much like they’ve done in Louisville. The drive into town from the south took us by the swanky Riverside Drive, with its mansions (and home of local product Cybill Shepherd) on the bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. Famous Tom Lee Park, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, hosts the annual World Championship barbecue each May.

The Rendezvous is an experience unto itself, as patrons descend from street level into a subterranean world of barbecue history. The Rendezvous staple is the “dry rub” pork ribs, flavored with plenty of seasoning but not adorned with any sort of saucy emulsions. Although BBQ sauce is available at the table for those who wish to have their ribs “wet” instead of dry. The side dishes are other highlights; a wicked red beans and rice dish, including a pork link, can be a meal on its own. Pickles, cheese, and links, all seasoned up, are other side dishes before the main course arrives, although several of the guests at our table opted for the excellent pulled pork or pork loin sandwiches instead of the ribs, which all had sampled countless times in the past. It is rumored that some of the more-desirable jobs in downtown Memphis are as waiters at the Rendezvous, as a chance to get one of these plum assignments is akin to a Supreme Court appointment.

As could be imagined, the revelry in most Memphis eateries each fall focuses upon football, with practically all of the patrons talking about Ole Miss, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Memphis, or any other team in the region. Including Auburn, as I found out when walking though the restaurant while wearing an Auburn polo shirt; I must have heard five different “War Eagle!” chants as I made my way to the table, where Woloshin and Norsworthy had herded a collection of football-savvy locals to join us for the BBQ feast.

The luncheon complete, I had time to get some more work done at the hotel before appearing via phone segment on Brian Blessing’s show on 1100 AM in Las Vegas, one in which I usually appear live each Friday at the M Hotel. Being in the Central Time Zone, however, meant we were at 5 PM when finishing with Blessing, and it was time to be on the move again, as on the agenda that night was more BBQ at the main Corky’s, off the colorful Poplar Street on the east side of town (how much could,I really eat), then a hop back to downtown to watch some minor league baseball at AutoZone Park, where Woloshin and Norsworthy had kindly provided tickets as the local, AAA Redbirds were involved in the PCL Championship series against visiting Tacoma.

I suspected that downtown might be hopping a bit more than usual thanks to the Redbirds game, but there’s other things to do, including a visit to the famous Beale Street, anchored on one end by B.B. King’s Blues Club and blocked off from car traffic, so the many visitors can stroll the few blocks that head east, almost to the FedEx Forum, home of the NBA Grizzlies. With lots of blues clubs and BBQ establishments, Beale Street is a very colorful alternative as it sits adjacent to the FedEx Forum, which must enhance the experience of watching a Grizzlies or Memphis Tigers game in the newer arena.

My only problem was that after being stuffed with BBQ at both Rendezvous and Corky’s (where I opted for the unique BBQ spaghetti dish, the pasta adorned with pulled pork and BBQ sauce instead of marinara and meatballs), I had no appetite for the other fine-looking eateries along Beale Street. Although I was able to get a seat at one of the establishments and watch the world go by while checking in on the Kansas-Southern Miss and Cal-Nevada games being televised that night.

Not wanting to miss any of the Saturday revelry in Oxford, I was up early the next morning and on the road southbound on I-55, making sure I would arrive in plenty of time to enjoy pregame festivities at Ole Miss prior to its SEC opener vs. visiting Vanderbilt. (By the way, it's nice to pick Vandy as the opposing team for one of these special trips, as tickets are usually a bit easier to come by.) With an early 11:20 AM CDT kickoff, I managed to beat the traffic into Oxford, only about an hour and fifteen minute drive from Memphis. Hoping to avoid the legendary postgame traffic jams out of the stadium lots, I parked on the south side of Highway 6, the main artery into Oxford from the east and west.

It’s a different world in Mississippi, with a slower pace of life than in the big cities and metro areas, and one cannot help but be struck with the sereneness of the landscape heading into Oxford, with many estate-like homes and housing developments adjacent to Highway 6. Of course, all eyes are on the Rebels at this time of season, and Ole Miss supporters were ready to party in The Grove before kickoff, early as it might have been.

The Grove is situated not far from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, right in the middle of campus and adjacent to the student union building. It’s actually a 10-acre park filled with majestic oak, elm, and magnolia trees that shade the area and provide a perfect venue for pregame tailgating. Although much of the pre and post-game revelry used to center around the fraternity and sorority houses on campus, The Grove has evolved from an informal gathering spot to “the place to be” before and after Ole Miss games. Cars and RVs are no longer allowed to park in The Grove, which is jammed with blue and red-colored party tents for each Rebel game. And the food spreads at each of these tailgate parties must be seen to be believed. They all try to outdo one another, although there is a spirit of conviviality among the fans in The Grove. Like most southerners, hospitality reins supreme, a welcome departure from years of attending games at places such as Southern Cal, whose insufferable fan base and uncomfortable L.A. Coliseum venue hardly make for a comfortable afternoon of football and fun.

What struck most about The Grove was the friendliness of the Rebel fans, many of whom glad to invite me in for a bite to eat at their tailgate, and more than happy to talk about the current and past Rebel teams. The fact some even recognized my name from the many years doing the shows with Woloshin and Norsworthy in Memphis was an unexpected bonus. Much like Bear Bryant at Alabama, former coach Johnny Vaught is still revered at Ole Miss, and we ran into more than a few Rebels who played for Vaught from 1947-70, and ‘73. One alum, who played on the great Archie Manning Rebel teams from 1968-70, recalled how a then-aging Vaught would often called Manning “Charley” in reference to one of his previous Ole Miss QBs, Charley Conerly. Some also recalled the starling 31-14 upset the top five-ranked Rebs suffered against Southern Miss in 1970, a result that sent Manning’s Heisman campaign off course and opened the door for Stanford’s Jim Plunkett to win the award. But the highlights of pre-game time at The Grove are when the Rebel players walk through on their way to the stadium, and the appearance of the Ole Miss Marching Band at The Grove Stage, where the crowd is whipped into a frenzy by the Rebel drumline.

Notable about any Ole Miss game are the formalities attached. Sorority girls dress as if they are on their way to “clubbing” in New York city, rather than watching a football game, and most women take their dress and appearance seriously at Ole Miss games. Walking around The Grove, it is no surprise to find out that Ole Miss boasts of more Miss America winners than any other school. Meanwhile, many of the fraternity boys dress in coat and tie when bringing a sorority girl to the game, another tradition that is going to die hard in Oxford.

Norsworthy was an outstanding host, not only introducing me to numerous fans and their tailgate parties, but also setting me up to watch the football action from a private box adjacent to the press box. Which was a good idea, with temperatures reaching the low 90s and humidity climbing as well. It was nice to be in an air conditioned box, with plenty of food and drink and a TV to watch action from down below or elsewhere in the country. All a bit nicer than I am used to experiencing these days at football games.

Although Vaught-Hemingway is one of the nation’s oldest stadiums, built in 1915, it has undergone numerous upgrades, to the point you would never guess the age of the facility once you enter. That’s partly because the sky boxes and endzone boxes were added rather recently, in 2002, bringing the capacity to 60,000. Though modernized, Vaught-Hemingway has maintained much of its charm, and the football experience in Oxford has nice feel to it, unlike the over-the-top sensation one experiences elsewhere in the SEC (Alabama and others, that’s you).

If only the Rebels performed as well as their fans behaved. Neither Ole Miss nor Vandy did much for the first quarter and a half of play, when the penalties exceeded the first downs. Reb fans, however, were becoming a bit concerned that their team was having so much trouble converting on third downs, and from short yardage to boot. Oregon transfer QB Jeremiah Masoli was also having his problems, although he wasn’t helped much by his receiving corps, including a dropped pass that would surely have resulted in a TD late in the first quarter. Out of nowhere, the Commodores came to life in the second quarter, with their heretofore somnambulant offense awakening for an unlikely 97-yard TD drive capped by Zac Stacy’s 35-yard TD run. Shortly thereafter, Masoli was picked off by CB Eddie Foster, who raced untouched 21 yards into the Reb endzone for a 14-0 Vandy lead.

The Rebs managed to get back into the game, cutting the deficit to 14-7 at halftime, then leveling matters in the third quarer when Masoli broke free for a 28-yard TD run. Immediately, however, Vadny reasumed command when Warren Norman broke clear on the first play after the kickoff, free by the time he was only a few yards downfield en route to an 80-yard TD jaunt. Now ahead 21-14, the Dore “D” took over, again frustrating Masoli and the Rebel offense in short yardage situations. A Rebel fumble later in the 4th Q was immediately converted by Vandy and dreadlocked QB Larry Smith, who walked in untouched on an option run from the 15 to close out the scoring. Vandy 28, Ole Miss 14. Not what The Grove’s inhabitants had in mind.

Although I should have been exhausted by this time, my football day was only half complete, as the trek back up to Memphis for the battle between the hometown Tigers and Middle Tennessee State at the Liberty Bowl was due to kick off at 6 PM CDT. Miraculously, the legendary Vaught-Hemingway traffic jam never materialized after the game, as dissatisfied Rebel fans started to filter out of the stadium long before the final gun, effectively thinning the traffic on Highway 6. So, I managed to escape Oxford without too much trouble, heading west to I-55, where I would connect for about an hour’s drive up to Memphis, listening to plenty of college football (mostly Florida at Tennessee) along the way.

The Liberty Bowl experience was a bit different and not as tradition-laced as Ole Miss, but the Tiger fans create a pretty lively scene, which surprised me a bit after their team had fared so poorly for new HC Larry Porter in their first two games of the season. As Woloshin told me when arranging for my ticket to the game, they’re trying to create their own “The Grove” experience at the Liberty Bowl with the aptly-named “Tiger Lane,” a long row of tailgaters all partying pretty good before kickoff. Indeed, it was a pleasant surprise to see so much atmosphere in the Liberty Bowl parking lot before the game. The Tiger fans were a pretty jovial bunch, too, and if I didn’t already have enough to eat on the day, some of the Memphis fans invited me to their tailgates to sample their foodstuffs as I strolled up Tiger Lane, mostly stopping at the tents that had big screen TVs, where college football was on the tube.

The Liberty Bowl, built in the mid ‘60s, is a bit spartan, and designed similarly to the old “Sombrero” in Tampa, but the atmosphere was pretty good inside of the stadium that was covered in swaths of blue from both Memphis and MTSU, which brought a few thousand fans and its band from Murfreesboro. There seemed to be more than the announced crowd of 27,965 in the stadium, a handful of whom had their radios with them to listen to the voice of the Tigers, Woloshin, truly one of the best play-by-play men in the business.

As if I hadn’t eaten enough in the previous 30 hours, I had to sample a little of the available fare at the Liberty Bowl, and discovered a real treat, BBQ nachos, from the HogWild Restaurant concession. Added to the normal nacho fare of chips and melted cheese was a pile of pulled pork and BBQ sauce that made for quite a treat. And the football wasn’t bad in the Liberty Bowl, either, with Memphis displaying a lot of spark, freshman QB Ryan Williams in particular, as it bolted to a 17-3 lead in the 2nd quarter. Middle, still handicapped with QB Dwight Dasher sitting out his third game of a four-game suspension, pulled starting QB Logan Kilgore in the third Q for juco Jeff Murphy, who temporarily revived the Blue Raiders, pulling them to 24-17 deep into the 3rd Q. For the remainder of the game, Memphis was bottled deep in its own territory thanks to MTSU punters Josh Davis and Nathaniel Toulson, who alternated backing the Tigers into the shadow of their own goal, but the defense, keyed by several impact newcomers, held firm, and new Memphis HC Larry Porter had his first win, 24-17.

Although that was it for in-person action, I was still able to watch much of the late-night football back at the hotel, while working on TGS items for the next day’s issue, a process that continued on my early morning flight back to Las Vegas through Phoenix. And, eventually, a normal TGS Sunday afternoon. Although my weekend was a lot more interesting than usual.

Overdosing on football and BBQ might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me last weekend, it was almost like heaven on earth.

STYLE POINTS?


What next? Dick Button and Peggy Fleming joining Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso on ESPN College Game Day?

Forgive us that bit of speculation, but based upon some of the new terminology in college football, we’re not sure it isn’t appropriate. That’s because the new buzz words in college football are “style points,” something usually more associated with figure skating, or perhaps synchronized swimming. But nowadays, “style points” have become part of gridiron lexicon.

The reason? Absent of a true playoff system, teams contending for a spot in the BCS and national title game are compelled to impress the pollsters however possible. Mere wins are not going to be enough for some of the squads, especially those in the “BCS Buster” category. They’re going to have to score wins impressively whenever possible. And if that means running up the scores, so be it.

And therein lies another of the complaints about the current, wholly unsatisfactory BCS system, where teams can be compelled to humiliate opposition as they seek to sway the opinions of the pollsters. Not that this is a recent phenomenon in college football; many noteworthy teams from the past, long before the current BCS system, were also inclined to run up scores in order to curry favor with the voters. After all, it was the pollsters who would almost always decide the champions in those days. And even today, it’s the polls that mostly decide which two teams end up in the BCS title game.

But nowadays, “style points” seem to be more important than ever. Especially with those aforementioned “BCS Busters” who must first get to the top of that queue to have a shot at even entering the big, bad BCS. Getting from there to the national championship game will likely require an even greater reliance upon those style points.

A quick glimpse at last week’s college results confirms how style points are distorting the scorelines. Last Saturday, the three top BCS Busters made sure that they took care of business, convincingly. Boise State jumped on Wyoming from the get-go at Laramie, bolting to a 34-0 lead by halftime en route to a 51-6 romp over a Cowboy team that won a bowl game last December. The Broncos didn’t seem to ease up in the second half, either, en route to outgaining Wyo by a whopping 648-135 while recording 32 first downs to Wyo’s 7. Meanwhile, TCU jumped all over Baylor at Fort Worth, scoring TDs on its first five possessions and rolling to a 45-10 rout over what appeared to be a representative Bears outfit. TCU QB Andy Dalton was still in the game in the 4th Q, throwing a 9-yard TD pass to star WR Jeremy Kerley for the Frogs’ final points. Meanwhile, at Albuquerque, Utah rolled up the score on hapless New Mexico, 56-14, although in the Utes’ case they seemed to be scoring TDs inadvertently in the second half, so bad were the Lobos. Utah scored 3 TDs in a 2:40 span early in the 3rd quarter, with a 35-yard interception return by Matt Martinez and a 73-yard punt return by Shaky “Mr. Excitement” Smithson included in the eruption.

What does this all mean, in a practical sense, for handicappers? Simply, don’t be afraid to lay a lot lumber if you have to with some of these potential BCS busters, many of whom have recorded stellar big chalk marks in recent years. Boise is now 12-4-1 its last 17 when laying 20 points or more. TCU is 20-5 laying double digits since 2006. Utah is 13-6 as double-digit chalk since 2007. BCS Buster wannabe (and maybe this is the year) Nevada is 15-5 as double-digit chalk since 2004.

Laying big points with a serious BCS Buster? No different than expecting a perfect triple lutz from a Gold Medal winner, as Dick Button or Scott Hamilton might say.

HOUSTON...YOU’VE GOT A PROBLEM


For all of the fun the likes of Boise, TCU, and Utah seemed to have last weekend, it was just the opposite for the Houston Cougars, who rolled into Pasadena for an intersectional battle vs. a reeling UCLA squad, confident that their undefeated start to the season would reach three games. Instead, Houston was dealt a triple dose of bad at the Rose Bowl by the aroused Bruins, who physically took apart the Cougs, 31-13, and maimed Houston’s QBs in the process.

The decorated sr. signal-caller Case Keenum, a peripheral Heisman threat and on course to challenge the NCAA career passing yardage record currently held by Hawaii’s Timmy Chang, is instead lost for the season after tearing his ACL while trying to make a tackle following an interception in the second quarter. If that wasn’t bad enough, backup Cotton Turner was also KO’d later in the game with a broken collarbone. Both are done for the season. True freshman Terrance Broadway, a highly-touted Baton Rouge product (and the 5th rated dual-purpose threat recruit in the nation last year), will get the starting call for Saturday’s game against Tulane. Word around C-USA is that Broadway, who lead UH to ten points late in the second half at the Rose Bowl, could be a future star for the Cougs, although it will not be realistic to expect him to produce Keenum-like numbers off the bat. Another true frosh, David Piland, from Metroplex football factory Southlake Carroll, could also compete for snaps, although Broadway is getting the initial nod from HC Kevin Sumlin.

BCS BUSTER TOP TEN


Following are our latest “BCS Buster” rankings, with straight-up and pointspread records listed, as well as the next opponent.

1-BOISE STATE (2-0, 2-0)...The “beat” (literally) goes on for the Broncos, who realize that putting a hurting on visiting Oregon State on Saturday night will be an important “style points” test that could come in handy when the BCS tallies up all of its votes in early December. The Beavers are the last “Big Six” conference foe to face the Broncos, at least until a bowl game. And note that OSU has been creamed, 53-34 (2004) and 42-14 (2006), in its last two games on the blue carpet. Mike Riley, you’ve been forewarned. Hosts Oregon State this Saturday.

2-TCU (3-0, 2-1)...It’s ironic that Oregon State could have a lot to do with the BCS Buster equation, because if Boise has more trouble vs. the Beavers than TCU experienced vs. OSU back on opening day (a 30-21 Frogs win at Jerry World), that might be what voters need to justify leaping the Frogs past the Broncos in the BCS queue. If TCU is still behind Boise in the polls after this week, however, the Frogs are probably going to need someone from the WAC (which top to bottom looks a bit stronger than the Mountain West this season) to put a real scare into Boise to climb over the Broncos in the polls. Assuming both remain unbeaten, that is. At SMU this Friday.

3-UTAH (3-0, 2-1)...Lurking just off the pace remain the Utes, who get what looks to be another breather this week (San Jose State) after having UNLV and New Mexico served to them on a platter the past two Saturdays. HC Kyle Whittingham has seen no reason to rush QB Jordan Wynn, recuperating from a right thumb injury, back into the lineup with the capable Terrance Cain (now 9-1 as a starter) filling in admirably. Meanwhile, the colorful Shaky Smithson is emerging as one of the nation’s best homerun threats, with another punt return TD and long TD reception last week vs. the Lobos. Looking ahead, the Utes’ season likely gets defined by a three-game stretch beginning October 30 (at Air Force, TCU, at Notre Dame). Run that gauntlet, and the Utes are very much in the BCS picture. Hosts San Jose State this Saturday.

4-NEVADA (3-0, 2-1)...That was a big “hump” win for the Wolf Pack over Cal last Friday, especially with Nevada having lost eight in a row vs. BCS-conference opposition since a win over Northwestern at Reno back in 2006. But it was the manner of victory that really opened some eyes, with Colin Kaepernick and Chris Ault’s Pistol complemented by a big-play defense that recorded the play of the night when DB Marlon Johnson took back a Kevin Riley pass 65 yards for a score that put the Pack ahead 31-21 and restored momentum that seemed to have swing to Cal. The 52-31 final means the Pack maintains scoring a robust 51 ppg, and sets up a collision course with Boise on Thanksgiving weekend should Nevada knock off BYU this week. At BYU this Saturday

5-AIR FORCE (2-1, 2-1)...The Falcs did nothing to hurt their reputation by pushing Oklahoma to the limit last Saturday at Norman. The Sooners were forced to hold on for dear life in the final minutes of a 27-24 win that saw the Force outgain OU 458-367 and gain a healthy 5.6 ypc while recording 351 rushing yards, the most ever yielded by a Bob Stoops-coached Sooner team. Although the Sooners seemed happy to escape with their lives, Falcon HC Troy Calhoun was not into moral victories. “Our guys,” said, the coach, “are not interested in close.” At Wyoming this Saturday

6-FRESNO STATE (2-0, 2-0)...The Bulldogs appear back to their ornery selves, following up their opening win over Cincinnati with last week’s 41-24 win at Utah State, a chic upset pick by many heading into that game at Logan. Which, to be fair, was a bit closer than the final score, which was recorded after Fresno outscored the Utags 17-0 in the 4th Q. Still, HC Pat Hill has to be pleased with a “D” that kept livewire USU QB Diondre Borel in check, as well as soph RB A.J. Ellis, who cruised for 165 YR and 3 TDs in the win. At Ole Miss this Saturday

7-NAVY (2-1, 1-2)...Did QB Ricky Dobbs get a call from President Obama, advising him to hand off the ball a bit more, and maybe try a pass now and then? Or maybe it was HC Ken Niumatalolo who got through to Dobbs, who despite still leading Navy in carries (19) at La Tech, finally made better use of the other elements in the Mid option. Such as FB Vince Murray, who carried 14 times and softened up the Bulldog middle for Dobbs and the slippery Geee Greene (87 YR on just 6 carries) to burn La Tech on the flanks, while setting up the play-action element of the Mids’ underused aerial game. Dobbs also passed for a career-best 219 yards in the Mids’ 37-23 win at Ruston, although it was the ground element of the option that wore down the Bulldogs in the second half. At Air Force October 2

8-SMU (2-1, 2-1)...Now that Houston is down to a freshman QB, the door could be opening for the Mustangs in C-USA. And this Friday provides a chance for HC June Jones to get the signature win that could put the Mustangs back on the map when hosting Metroplex rival TCU at Ford Stadium. It’s a tall task, but QB Kyle Padron could make things exciting. Hosts TCU this Friday

9-SOUTHERN MISS (2-1, 1-2)...Another C-USA rep that could also benefit from Houston’s misfortune is Southern Miss, which seems to have rebounded quite smartly from its opening loss at South Carolina with a pair of wins, including an impressive 31-16 whipping of Big XII Kansas at Hattiesburg last Friday night. HC Larry Fedora has to be pleased with the progress of QB Austin Davis, almost flawless (19 of 24 passing, plus 61 YR) vs. the Jayahwks, as well as his special teams that recorded a TD on a blocked punt. At La Tech this Saturday

10-TEMPLE (3-0, 2-1)...Is that Rod Blagojevich coaching the Owls? No, but the resemblance to HC Al “Touch of” Golden is a bit uncanny. And there is nothing fraudulent about the Owls coach, who continues to steward one of the more unlikely renaissance stories in the country with the formerly downtrodden Owls, now 3-0 after a landmark win over UConn last week at the Linc. Remember, the Huskies are considered a legit Big East contender and had dominated Temple in recent years. But the Owl defense made the play of the day when stripping UConn RB Jordan Todman, with DE Adrian Robinson scooping up the fumble and rumbling 25 yards to the go-ahead TD with 9 minutes left. At Penn State this Saturday

Knocking on the door: Houston, UCF, Idaho


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