Here’s the rest of the WAC capsule previews. After Nevada’s loss last night, the conference could sure use a couple nice non-con wins.
Today’s games (all times Pacific):
Fresno State (1-2) at #14 Cincinnati (3-0), 9 a.m.
Coming off a brutal shootout defeat by Boise State last week and a painful overtime loss at Wisconsin, things won’t get any easier for the Fresno State Bulldogs when they travel to face the Bearcats.
The Bulldogs are one of the WAC’s best programs on paper, but they’ve yet to prove it this season in the win-loss column. Their only victory so far came over FCS UC Davis, and while it’s clear Fresno State can score (their offense is ranked Top-10 in the nation) the real question is whether they can stop anyone else from scoring. Against FBS opponents, the Bulldog defense has been Swiss-cheesed, giving up 34 points to the Badgers and 51 to the Broncos.
Ryan Mathews ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns against Boise State, and to upend Cincinnati, Fresno State will need similar production from him. Stopping red-hot Bearcats QB Tony Pike, who threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State, may not be possible. If the Bulldogs can’t at least slow him down, they probably lose this one.
Idaho (2-1) at Northern Illinois (2-1), 12:30 p.m.
The Vandals are off to their best start in a decade, but this weekend they run headlong into a red-hot Huskie squad that will be at least their equal — and quite possibly their better.
NIU upset Purdue last week, 28-21, for only the program’s second-ever all-time win over a Big 10 team. Their ground game has been massive, running over the Boilermakers to the tune of 280 yards. Sophomore RB Me’co Brown accounted for 150 of those yards, plus a touchdown. Overall, the Huskies racked up 454 yards on offense, moving the ball essentially at will.
The Vandals have defended the run decently enough so far, but “decent” isn’t likely to cut it, particularly not on the road. Most worrisome, perhaps, is Idaho’s mediocre performance inside the red zone. Settling for field goals simply won’t cut it here — QB Nate Enderle, RB DeMaundray Woolridge and the rest of the Vandal offense have to figure out how to produce touchdowns. If the Vandals can keep scoring while targeting on Brown to wear him down, they’ll have a shot to win.
#8 Boise State (3-0) at Bowling Green (1-2), 4 p.m.
OK, so Bowling Green is actually an FBS program, but this is likely to be a pretty massive blowout in favor of the Broncos, perhaps on the scale of some of the FBS/FCS blowouts we’ve seen earlier. Nothing about the Falcons remotely suggests they can contend with the nation’s #8 team, as much as it pains us to admit it.
After opening the season with a win over Troy, Bowling Green has dropped two straight, to Missouri and Marshall, and the Broncos just ran amok all over perhaps the WAC’s second-best team in Fresno. This one will be over early. No need to belabor the point.
Cal Poly (1-1) at San Jose State (0-2), 5 p.m.
If the Spartans can’t beat Cal Poly, they may well be on a fast-track to 0-12. The schedule doesn’t get any easier from here on out. San Jose State will face Idaho at home in two weeks, then travel on back-to-back Saturdays to Fresno State and Boise State. Ouch.
The really scary part is, Cal Poly could well win.
The Mustangs beat San Diego State in 2006 and 2008, and nearly upset Wisconsin last year. They’re a top FCS squad, while the Spartans are a mediocre FBS one. That can be a recipe for disaster if you’re the home team. San Jose State’s another team that’s shown absolutely no ability to score or stop their opponents from scoring — they’ve been outscored 122-34 to open the season, giving up 800 yards on the ground and another 700 in the air. The Spartans’ ground game is nonexistent — the roster has a combined 81 carries for just 55 yards.
Poly, meanwhile, has four rushers averaging over 5 yards per carry, and two with more than 100 yards already. Mustang QB Tony Smith has tossed for 230 yards and three touchdowns. The worry for Cal Poly has to be passing — if San Jose State can get QB Jordan La Secla on a roll, the Mustang secondary could be ripe for the picking against FBS competition.
Southern Utah (1-2) at Utah State (0-2), 5 p.m.
The Aggies are a better team than their record indicates, having hung tough with Utah and Texas A&M on the road. Now their reward for surviving those brutal battles is a homecoming cupcake from Cedar City. The Thunderbirds’ only win so far came against Division II Dixie State, and they’ve given up a total of 77 points in consecutive losses to woeful San Diego State and fellow FCS squad Northern Arizona.
Thunderbirds QB Cade Cooper has shown some capability, at least on paper — tossing 7 touchdowns in just three games. But the SUU defense gave up 35 points to SDSU and 42 points to Northern Arizona. Against that porous unit, Utah State will turn loose stud running back Robert Turbin, who’s rushed for an amazing 269 yards on just 26 carries and wideout Stanley Morrison, who’s picked up 183 yards on just 9 receptions — that’s 20.3 yards per catch. It’ll be good night, Irene early on for Southern Utah. “Warm up the bus,” indeed.
New Mexico State (1-2) at New Mexico (0-3), 7 p.m.
This game is the ESPN Bottom 10 Pillow Fight of the Week, and not for no reason. The Land of Enchantment is, this year, the Land of Awful Football. Both teams are at the bottom of their respective conferences, largely because neither team has shown anything remotely resembling an offense. For that matter, there’s not been much defense, either.
Combined, the Aggies and Lobos have given up 199 points while scoring just 68.
This may be New Mexico State’s only chance at an FBS win this year (though they travel to San Diego State next week…) and if DeWayne Walker wants to stave off disaster in his first season, this is the place to start. Quarterback Jeff Fleming has no reliable receiving targets — and his touchdown-to-interception ratio stands at 4 picks, zero scores. The Lobos aren’t any better in the quarterback department, though — they’ve gone through two QBs already, who have each thrown 2 interceptions to zero touchdowns. It’s going to be up to the running game to come through here — RBs Seth Smith and Marque Colston will have to carry the Aggies to their first victory in the Rio Grande Rivalry since 2002.
Yesterday’s game: Missouri 31, Nevada 21