The inaugural edition of SMQ's planned weekly "Mid-Major Monday" reports must open on a sorry note: in 22 total games against teams from one of the six alleged 'power conferences' in Week One, teams from the MAC, WAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Conference USA combined to fulfill negative stereotypes by winning only one. And that one was TCU over Baylor on Sunday, hardly a prized kill for one of the few respected "little guys."
Even this lone success was negated by New Mexico's utter futility against Portland State, in which the post-DonTrell Moore Lobos led just 6-0 at halftime and eventually fell to the Vikings, 17-6. UNM scored just two field goals against a I-AA team. That's about as bad being held to three by Buffalo. A sad state, indeed.
The Record Against BCS Conferences
This Week: 1-21
Season to Date: Same
Mid-Major Games of the Week
In Conference USA, defending division champs and returning favorites Tulsa and Central Florida predictably devoured I-AA cupcakes Stephen F. Austin and Villanova by 38 and 19, respectively, and UTEP took down San Diego State for a quality 34-27 road win. The news in the league, though, was the supposed debut of the spread passing game at Rice, where offensive coordinator Major Applewhite's previously option-bound Owls led heavy favorite Houston 30-14 at home before an All The Right Moves-like fumble by Quinton Smith (18 carries, 118 yards) at his own one-yard line late in the third quarter sparked a 17-point Cougar rally to victory. Though UH was stopped and only got a field goal from that turnover, the Rice punt team subsequently shanked a 10-yarder on its next effort and allowed a 17-yard return into its territory to set up short fields for the go-ahead Houston touchdowns in the fourth. Rice didn't go all Texas Tech (QB Chase Clement passed 26 times) but if the Owls, a hapless 1-10 in '05, learn how to handle being in front and start to look like this year's Central Florida, the whole conference may as well be up for grabs.
The best "upset" bid of the week came from the MAC, where host Toledo took Iowa State into triple overtime before falling on a failed two-point attempt to tie. But the Rockets' top half Mid-American brethren failed to proceed anywhere near that point: Bowling Green lost by 21 to Wisconsin; usually high-flying Miami, Ohio scored just a field goal on Northwestern, a team with the worst-ranked defense in the nation last season; defending league champ Akron was dropped 34-16 by Penn State; and Northern Illinois fell behind immediately and couldn't begin to overcome the hole against Ohio State. Western Michigan, Kent State and - after a wacked-out formation call ended a potential game-tying/winning drive against Boston College - Central Michigan all came up short against major conference schools. For the week, in fact, the league only had one victory over a Bowl Subdivision team not in the MAC: the aforementioned Bulls of Buffalo beat Temple, 9-3, in overtime.
Mid-Major Players of the Week
Heavy league favorite Northern Illinois crapped out and mostly embarassed the MAC on the national stage by getting whomped by Ohio State (what was the plan against that guy Ginn, exactly - to try to run with him?), but its star, tiny running back Garrett Wolfe (26 carries, 171 yards; 5 catches, 114 yards, 1 TD) was above and beyond advertised in juking, spinning, catching, tackle-breaking fashion against an OSU defense presumably geared to stop him...Out West, Fresno State's Dwayne Wright (26 carries, 158 yards, 3 TDs) was un-tacklable against pesky WAC rival Nevada, and singlehandedly carried the day on two fourth-and-one plays: one a second quarter touchdown that required an extra stretch to get the ball across, the other a late extra effort lunge in a must-convert situation that set up his own icing touchdown in the FSU win...Florida International was felled by an anemic offense and missed PAT in its 7-6 loss at Middle Tennessee State, but Panther end Antwan Barnes (nation-high 4 sacks) wreaked havoc on all-Sun Belt QB Clint Marks all afternoon.
An Entirely Subjective Mid-Major Top Ten
This is more of a power poll...
1. Boise State (1-0)
2. TCU (1-0)
3. Fresno State (1-0)
4. Tulsa (1-0)
5. Toledo (0-1)
6. UTEP (1-0)
7. Navy (1-0)
8. Northern Illinois (0-1)
9. Central Florida (1-0)
10. Nevada (0-1)
The Tuesday-Wednesday tilts have yet to begin, but Boise State gets its best shot of the year to justify its inevitable ten-win season when Oregon State visits for a national TV game Thursday. Saturday, Tulsa at BYU is an interesting inter-conference matchup that will be viewed by none. Potential upset of the week: NC State, coming off a mere 13-point win over defending 1-AA champ Appalachian State, should be wary of Akron, making its second tough road trip in two weeks to open the season; the Zips are in a better position to score the inexperienced Wolfpack defense than they were against superior talent at Penn State. Be very, very quiet about Wyoming sneaking into Virginia.