Sunday, January 30, 2011 0 comments

The Year in Review

Wake Forest (3-9, 1-7 -7 ACC)
The Original Forecast: Wake went 5-7 in '09, but with key players from that unit moving, including star QB Riley Skinner, they were expected to suffer some fall off. In saying that, they had an okay OOC schedule, and Grobe has been successful with first-year QBs before, so a better record wouldn't be a surprise.

The Outcome: Well, it's hard to be wrong when you give vague predictions, but 3-9 is more in keeping with what I suspected for the season. They started brightly enough, blowing out Presbyterian, then beating Duke in a 54-48 duel. That's when things got ugly. They lost their next nine games, most of them blowouts, before topping equally embattled Vanderbilt to finish the season on a somewhat high note. On offense, their passing game was very poor, finishing with less yardage than their running game, a stat usually reserved for option teams. But the Demon Deacons threw 302 passes, most of them (241) by freshman Tanner Price. He gained 1349 yards and 7 TDs against 8 picks, but most of them were quick passes. He ran for 4 TDs, but wasn't really a threat on the ground. That spot was reserved for Josh Harris, who gained 720 yards and 7 TDs on just 125 carries. The receivers didn't help much, with the top two (Chris Givens and Devon Brown) combining for just 74 catches, 816 yards and 5 TDs. Losing 60% of their offensive line hurt, but only scoring but only scoring 132 points in your losses is unacceptable. The defense couldn't stop the run or the pass, and allowed a 47% third down conversion rate, meaning they didn't get off the field much. Despite this, they had some good performers on the defensive side of the ball. DE Kyle Wilber made up for in speed what he lacked in size and had a decent season, with 6 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. MLB Matt Woodlief rounded out his career with 57 tackles, 11.5 for loss. Safety Alex Frye had 55 tackles and 3 picks. While these guys, and others, made some big plays, they were few and far between for a small defense that needed to get off the field often to avoid being pounded by ACC opponents that liked to pound the ball. This was a rebuilding season, but coach Jim Grobe usually gets the most out of his players and won't be satisfied with the lack of competition they displayed.

Best Game: Thrashing a Presbyterian squad who was poor even in FCS play, doesn't count, and the basketball-esque game against Duke was exciting, but bordered on silly at times. Beating Vandy was a good scalp though, despite the fact they had their own struggles. It was one of their better defensive performances, despite allowing 443 yards. This was Deacon football at it's finest - bend but don't break; don't turn the ball over; take advantage of every opportunity; and keep the score close to pull it out at the end. Well, maybe not the last one in this case, but you get the drift. Price only threw for 73 yards, but ran for a score. Harris was the big play guy as usual, running for 138 yards (a 74 yarder too!) and a TD. Commodores' QB Jared Funk, threw for 277 yards, but it took him 61 attempts to do it, and his only TD pass came in the 4th quarter when the game was essentially out of reach. The defense also had two picks, and the special teams chipped in with two blocked punts, ensuring short fields for the struggling offense. One of a few bright spots in an otherwise poor season.

Worst Game: After winning their first two games behind an offense that appeared to be potent, and having beaten Stanford 24-17 last year, the Deacons must have fancied their chances again this season. They were wrong, getting blasted 68-24 behind 5 TDs from Andrew Luck. Luck threw for 207 yards and 4 TDs and also ran one in from 52 yards (!). In a defensive performance that was even worse than the previous week against Duke, the Cardinal ran at their leisure, totaling 303 yards and 6 TDs on the ground alone. Price threw for just 76 yards and a pick, although he did manage 65 yards and a score on the ground. The Cardinal had to punt just once in a game that was effectively over at halftime with the score 41-10. A bad sign of things to come.

89. Western Michigan (6-6, 5-3 MAC)
The Original Forecast: The Broncos looked to be able to move the ball through the air behind QB Alex Carder and some talented receivers, but didn't appear to have a capable running back. The defensive line was a bug question mark, and they lacked playmakers in the back seven. A relatively easy OOC schedule and a weak MAC had the Broncos looking like a bowl team, but probably not a division champ.

The Outcome: Not an awful season, as they finished 3rd in the West with a 5-3 record. The OOC schedule turned out to be their undoing, beating just Nicholls State. Carder was excellent for the most part, throwing for 3334 yards and 30 TDs against 12 interceptions. He was more mobile than Hiller and also ran in 6 TDs. He was sacked 30 times though, as the line struggled. The running game picked up the pace in the last few games, but was poor for the most part, allowing opponents to tee off on Carder. Jordan White (94-1378-10) and Juan Nunez (91-1032-10) were outstanding targets at receiver. The defense wasn't great, but did enough to hold opponents to 23.8 points per game. This is slightly misleading, as both their wins and losses tended to be lopsided. Rover Jamail Berry was expected to be a playmaker and didn't disappoint with 94 tackles, 9 for loss. He also came up with 5 turnovers. He wasn't the only one making plays though - SS Mario Armstrong and corner Lewis Toler both had 5 picks, while LB Dex Jones and DE Paul Hazel combined for 12 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. This all bodes well for the future, as this is a young Bronco team, but they did fall just short of a bowl game despite being eligible.
Best Game: They didn't beat anyone of note, but any time you put 56 on anyone, it's impressive, even if it is Akron. Carder was exceptional, completing 17 of 24 passes for 372 yards and 5 TDs, with Nunez and White combining for 14 catches for 360 yards and the 5 scores. The ground game, managed 137 yards and a TD, while the defense had an pick-six. They even took a kickoff back all the way. The defense came up with 3 turnovers and held the Zips to 274 yards. Akron's only TD was a direct result of the Broncos' sole turnover, a 57 yard fumble return by linebacker Bryan Wagner.

Worst Game: The Broncos were beaten by better teams for the most part, so it should be hard to pick their worst game. Except for one - rivals Central Michigan, who went 3-9 this year. What was even more galling was the fact that they led 22-13 going into the 4th quarter before being shut out the rest of the way. Carder threw for 272 yards and 3 scores, and Nunez and White had a combined 22 catches for 252 yards and the 3 scores. The running game mustered a solid 158 yards, led by Brandon Fields 71, but couldn't run the clock down when it mattered. CMU could only manage 73 yards on the ground, but QB Ryan Radcliff had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 300 yards and 2 TDs. Cody Wilson caught 12 of those for 185 yards and a score. The Bronco defense, which was great in the early going and even had a safety, couldn't come up with stops when it mattered most. If the Broncos wanted to win one game all season, it was this one. A tough loss.

88. Indiana (5-7, 1-7 Big 10)
The Original Forecast: The Hoosiers seemed to be a team on the rise with fan support higher than it had been in recent years. An easy OOC schedule and a solid offense led by QB Ben Chappell had them looking good for a bowl game, as long as they could pull off some in-conference victories. Easier said then done in the tough Big Ten.

The Outcome: Well, 4-0 outside the conference as predicted, but they could only beat a struggling Purdue team to leave them just short of a bowl. They had some close games such as Iowa and Northwestern, but the defense and lack of a running attack hurt them in the long run. Ben Chappell rounded out a decent career with 3295 passing yards and 24 TDs against just 9 picks, but he couldn't do it all himself. His receivers were solid, but no real big play guy emerged. Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss and Terrance Turner combined for 208 catches for 2219 yards and 14 TDs, and there were also some decent performances off the bench. The leading rusher was Trea Burgess with just 352 yards and 3 TDs. Darius Willis was meant to pick up where he left off in '09, but was injured after starting brightly with 278 yards and 4 TDs in the first four games. The defense was a sieve all season, coming with just 13 turnovers and 15 sacks. There were some okay performers, with SLB Tyler Repogle leading the way with 87 tackles, 6 for loss, while Jeff Thomas was second with 82 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and also had 2 interceptions. Big plays were few and far between and the leaky defense damned the Hoosiers to another quiet post-season, costing coach Bill Lynch his job.

Best Game: The final game of the season saw a 34-31 win over Purdue that wasn't their most impressive statistical performance, but saw the Hoosiers break a 12-game conference losing streak as well as their first win at Purdue since '96. Ben Chappell had a fine game to cap off his career, throwing for 330 yards and 3 TDs, with Doss catching all three. The running game was still poor, but the defense shut down the Boilermakers ground attack (their strength) and came up with the game-winning pick in overtime, allowing reliable kicker Mitch Ewald the chance to win the game.

Worst Game: They had some big losses, but one stands out ahead of the pack - an 83-20 shellacking to Wisconsin. Everything went wrong for the Hoosiers: Chappell went out in the first half, although he wasn't making much of a difference; his backup Dusty Kiel completed just 1 of 7 and had a pick returned for a score; the offense also contributed 2 lost fumbles and made just 4 of 14 third downs; and the defense couldn't stop the Badgers' running game, even without star John Clay. Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien completed 15 of 18 passes for 181 yards and 3 TDs, while RBs Monte Ball and James White combined for 311 yards and 5 TDs. The sole bright spot for Indiana was Nick Turner gaining 103 yards on the ground, but the game was too far out of reach for the running game to help them out. In a word - appalling.

87. Purdue (4-8, 2-6 Big 10)
The Original Forecast: Like most teams, the Boilermakers had a couple of glaring issues going into the season. One was a poor secondary that was likely to leak points, leaving it up to the offense to outscore them. This leads to the other question mark - was Miami transfer Robert Marve ready to step in and lead them to a bowl game. They were capable (thanks in part to an easy OOC schedule), they just needed Marve to fulfill his immense potential.

The Outcome: After struggling in the first three games (2-1 start), Marve was lost for the season against Toledo and his backup, dual-threat Rob Henry, struggled to put points on the board. He threw for 996 yards and 8 TDs, against 7 picks, and also led the team with 547 yards and 4 TDs. The second leading rusher was Dan Dierking, who ran for 529 yards and 3 TDs, but despite his efforts he was not the kind of back to carry an offense. Losing star runner Ralph Bolden prior to the season did them no favors either. Injuries hurt the receivers too, with '09 top receiver Keith Smith getting knocked out in week 2, and no-one stepping up to replace him. On defense, they were pretty tough against the run, and weren't awful against the pass. They only managed 10 interceptions, but came up with a solid 33 sacks. Corner Ricardo Allen had a decent season with 73 tackles and 3 picks, but the defensive star was All-American DE Ryan Kerrigan, who had 13.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. He inspired the rest of the defense to perform above expectations, but the struggling offense meant wins were few and far between. An unlucky and disappointing season.

Best Game: There weren't many, but the 28-17 win over beleaguered Minnesota was their most comprehensive of the season. Henry had one of his better games, throwing for 163 yards and a score and rushing 57 yards and 3 more. Dierking kept things moving on the ground with 126 yards. The defense kept the Gophers under wraps until the last quarter, when Weber threw 2 TDs. The secondary allowed 214 yards, but he completed just 20 of 45 attempts and also threw 2 picks. A fine all-round performance.

Worst Game: Purdue were beaten soundly by some quality teams, but the 44-10 hammering at the hands of a mediocre Illinois squad was a disaster. With Henry nursing a finger injury, backup Sean Robinson managed just 52 yards and a TD through the air, and the offense made just 2 of 14 3rd downs. The running attack came up with 153 yards, but 57 came on one play. With the offense misfiring the defense failed to stop the Illini. QB Nathan Scheelhaase had his best game of the season throwing for 195 yards and 4 TDs, and also rushing for 118 yards. The game was essentially over at halftime, with Illinois sporting a 37-0 lead. A tough loss for a team that caught few breaks this season.

86. Duke (3-9, 1-7 ACC)
The Original Forecast: One big question mark heading into the season was whether Sean Renfree could come close to emulating 2009 star Thaddeus Lewis. Getting some kind of running game to support him was a priority too. One thing was sure and that was the defense wasn't strong enough to hold every week up in a tough ACC. They had the talent to win 5 games, thanks to a relatively easy OOC schedule, although a bowl game was unlikely.

The Outcome: Not quite the season they were hoping for. Renfree turned out to be pretty good, throwing 3131 yards and 14 TDs (and four on the ground), although with 17 picks. He only threw 2 interceptions in the last five games though, and got better over the course of the season. His receivers' stats dipped due to his early struggles, although the top three still combined for 180 catches, 2195 yards and 9 TDs. TE Cooper Helfet missed a few games, but showed promise with 34 catches for 380 yards and 2 scores. The running game was okay, but couldn't be counted on when the passing game struggled. Desmond Scott led the way with 530 yards and 3 TDs, while backup QB Brandon Connette had 321 yards and 8 TDs in spot duty. Unfortunately, the offense couldn't score enough points to overcome a poor defense that ranked 109th in points allowed. They were equally inept against the run and the pass, despite the efforts of OLB Adam Kromah, who had 129 tackles with 9.5 for loss. With four losses by less than eight, a slightly better performance from the defense could have got them closer to bowl eligibility. After showing some improvement over the last two seasons, this year was something of a setback.

Best Game: Even some of their wins don't deserve to be here, but the 34-31 victory over Navy was one of their better performances. Renfree was outstanding as the Blue Devils raced out to a 31-7 third quarter lead. He completed 28 of 30 passes for 314 yards and a score, and also ran in 2 touchdowns. The defense held Navy's vaunted rushing attack to 148 yards, and though they came back in the fourth quarter behind the passing of Ricky Dobbs, it was too little too late as Duke held on for the win. A good job all round in an otherwise tough season.

Worst Game: Duke took some bad beatings from some decent teams, but the 35-21 loss to Army was not only one they should have won, but the score flattered the Blue Devils. They had five turnovers, four of which led to TDs by the Black Knights. Renfree threw 3 picks and finished with 261 yards and 2 TDs, but most of this came in the last quarter with the game out of reach. Conner Vernon caught 8 passes for 129 yards and a score. QB Trent Steelman completed 4 of 6 passes for 85 yards and 2 TDs, and ran for 62 yards and another TD, as Army took advantage of every opportunity afforded them in racing out to a 35-7 lead.

85. Minnesota (3-9, 2-6 Big Ten)
The Original Forecast: The Gophers were something of a mystery going into the season. They had bowl potential thanks to a reasonable OOC schedule, but needed their offense and defense to step it up from the previous year. With a tough conference schedule, they had the look of Big 10 cellar dwellers, but could beat any of the second tier teams.

The Outcome: After opening up with a close won over a Middle Tennesse team who were missing their star QB, they proceeded to lose 9 in a row before pulling out the last two to finish second from bottom in the league. Only two of these losses were by less than a TD, with one of them to FCS squad South Dakota. On the flip side though, most of their games were within two scores, and they scored at least 17 in all but 2 games. QB Adam Weber was solid for the most part, throwing for 2679 yards and 20 TDs with just 9 interceptions. The running game wasn't especially good, but DeLeon Eskridge and Duane Bennett combined for 1227 yards and 10 TDs. The receivers had their moments, with Da'Jon McKnight leading the way with 48 catches for 750 yards and 10 TDs. The defense struggled to stop the run, but was decent against the pass. MLB Gary Tinsley was top tackler with 90, and had 9.5 for loss. Coach Tim Brewster was fired midway through the season and replaced by interim coach Jeff Horton.

Best Game: At the end of a tough season, Minnesota took on a disappointing but still tough Iowa team in a battle for the Floyd if Rosedale Trophy. The result was a 27-24 victory for the Gophers, and was all the more impressive for the manner of the victory. The defense was key, holding Hawkeye QB to 127 yards and limiting their running game to just 91 yards. For Minny, Weber threw for just 164 yards, but made enough plays to allow an impressive running attack to win the game for them. Eskridge and Bennett combined for 158 yards and 2 scores, including the game winner with under 5 minutes left in the game. A nice end to a bad season.

Worst Game: The 52-10 loss to Ohio State was an example of how everything can go wrong for a team in one game. Weber only threw for 162 yards and an interception, to go along with 2 fumbles, while their biggest threat was Eskridge, who ran for a hard earned 79 yards and Minny's only TD. For the Buckeyes, QB Terrelle Pryor threw for 222 yards and 2 TDs, and also ran for 55 yards and a score. Dan Herron was the leading rusher with 114 yards and a TD, while receiver DeVier Posey pulled in 6 passes for 115 yards and a score. Just to highlight the futility of the afternoon, Jordan Hall of OSU had a 70 yard punt return, and Minnesota also had a blocked punt and fumble returned for six points. Terrible.

84. Toledo (8-5, 7-1 MAC)
The Original Forecast: The Rockets entered the season with a lot of youth at key positions, including Austin Dantin at QB. This was expected to hinder them especially early in the season and their OOC schedule was tough. If the defense could make some plays, Toledo could make a bowl game, but it remained a big question mark.

The Outcome: The defense had three games where it was appalling, bit for the most part was rock solid. Against Arizona, Boise State and Northern Illinois they allowed 163 points. In the other 10 games, they allowed 208. The two linebackers were the heart of the defense, with Archie Donald making 146 stops and 3 interceptions, while Dan Molls has 143 tackles, 5.5 for loss with 5 sacks and another 3 picks. Dantin did struggle at QB, throwing for 1254 yards and just 7 TDs against 8 picks, although he did run for 292 yards and 8 TDs. He missed the last four games of the season with a shoulder injury, and was replaced by Terrance Owens who threw for 1244 yards and 13 TDs against just 5 interceptions. Adonis Thomas was the leading rusher with 1098 yards and 8 TDs, and second leading receiver with 31 catches for 372 yards and 2 TDs, while receiver Eric Page led the way with 99 catches for 1105 yards and 8 TDs. Finishing second in the MAC West to an impressive Northern Illinois squad and beating Purdue makes this a reasonably successful season, although the bowl loss to Florida International must leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Best Game: One week after getting blown out 65-30 by Northern Illinois, the Rockets bounced back by thrashing Bowling Green 33-14. Owens threw for 225 yards and 2 TDs, with Page catching 9 for 111 yards and a score. Page also threw a 35 yard TD pass. Adonis Thomas was the key player though, with 163 yards on the ground, including an 81 yard TD scamper. The defense allowed just 35 yards rushing and intercepted QB Matt Schilz twice, while holding him to 219 yards and a TD in 30 completions. The defense ended up with 4 sacks and 4 turnovers in a fine all round performance.

Worst Game: With first place in the MAC West on the line, the Rockets defense picked a bad day under-perform, allowing the Huskies to run riot in a 65-30 shellacking. QB Chandler Harnish threw for 162 yards and a score and also ran for 149 yards and another TD, while RB Chad Spann had 70 yards and 3 TDs. After falling behind 28-0 at halftime, the Toledo offense started to clink a little. Thomas was their biggest threat with 152 yards and 2 scores on just 10 carries. Owens completed just 18 0f 38 for 186 yards with 2 TDs and an interception. A bad day at the office that showed how far the Rockets were from really competing for the West crown.

83. Louisiana Tech (5-7, 4-4 WAC)
The Original Forecast: The Bulldogs entered the season with a new coach (Sonny Dykes) and a new offensive philosophy, moving from a pro-style offense to a spread-passing attack. This was likely to cause some issues as the current cast of players were recruited for the old style. Keeping defensive co-ordinator Tommy Spangler around ensures some continuity on that side of the ball, but the ability of the defense to keep the team in games was doubtful. A repeat of '09's 4 win season was likely.

The Outcome: Not a bad prediction, with LT coming up with 5 wins. However, the defense struggled in both aspects of the ball despite the efforts of SS Chad Boyd, who had 80 tackles and 4 picks, and DE Matt Broha, who 5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. The offense was decent, especially on the ground where Lennon Creer led the team 1181 yards and 10 TDs, most of which came over the latter half of the season. QB Ross Jenkins was solid again this year, throwing for 1760 yards and 12 TD against 6 interceptions, but he missed time through injury and his backups were less than stellar, combining for 816 yards and just 3 TDs against 9 picks. The offensive line was good too, allowing just 17 sacks in addition to opening holes for the backs. The top two receivers combined for 92 catches, 962 yards and 6 TDs, but a big-play threat was lacking. Not a terrible season, considering the circumstances, and a 4-3 finish spurred by the rushing attack has to leave Dykes feeling good about the future.

Best Game: Most of their wins were courtesy of the offense, and they beat nobody of note, so their best all round performance was the 24-6 victory against Utah State. Jenkins had a quiet day with just 147 yards, a TD and an interception, but Creer gained 120 yards and 2 TDs and was nicely complemented by receiver Tim Molton, who had 93 yards on 8 carries and 3 receptions for 44 yards and a score. Unfortunately, Molton sustained a knee injury late in the game and didn't play again this season. The defense was the talking point though, holding the Aggies to just 6 points. QB Diondre Borel managed just 73 yards on 14 completions, while the running attack mustered a hard earned 122 yards. The coverage teams were also on form, continually leaving the with Aggies poor field position. A sign of things to come?

Worst Game: They had some bad losses, but the inability to stop Hawaii's passing attack in their 41-21 loss was a disgrace. Warrior QB Bryant Moniz threw for 532 yards and 4 TDs, with Kealoha Pilares and Greg Salas combining for 28 receptions, 414 yards and all 4 TDs. Hawaii only ran for 115 yards, but they didn't need to run the ball. Jenkins wasn't bad for the Bulldogs, throwing for 215 yards and 2 TDs, with one pick, but they couldn't get much going in the running attack. A tough lesson on how to throw the ball.

82. Rutgers (4-8, 1-6 Big East)
The Original Forecast: Despite a number of questions on offense heading into the '09 season, the Scarlet Knights still managed a 9-4 season, with the help of an easy OOC schedule. The majority of those questions still hadn't been resolved going into 2010, but the defense (and another easy OOC) was expected to carry them to a bowl yet again.

The Outcome: Despite losing to Tulane, the Knights started brightly enough with a 4-2 record, before falling apart down the stretch and losing their last six games. The defense wasn't awful, but struggled down the stretch trying to compensate for an anemic offense. OLB Antonio Lowery led the team with 108 tackles, 8.5 for loss, but DE Alex Silvestro was the star of the show with 9 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Despite only coming up with 8 picks, they came up with 14 fumble recoveries and had an excellent +7 turnover margin. Ball security was one of the few good points of the offense. The running game, which has been excellent in recent years, managed 100.9 yards a game at a dire 2.7 yards per carry. Injuries were a factor here, and the three top rushers were actually designated as receivers initially. QB Tom Savage struggled early after showing promise last season, and lost his job to freshman Chas Dodd, who was okay, throwing for 1637 yards and 11 TDs with 7 picks. However, he's not ready to carry the team on his own and it hurt the offense. Despite the struggles in the passing game, Mark Harrison had a nice season with 44 catches for 829 yards and 9 TDs. Despite the concerns on offense, the Knights had expectations of going bowling again, so the season has to be a major disappointment.

Best Game: Back in the early days of the season when things were going well, Rutgers posted a 27-24 comeback over a solid Connecticut team. Chas Dodd was the hero in his first start, throwing for 322 yards and 2 TDs, and could have had even more if not for drops. The Huskies held their running game to 88 yards, but receivers Harrison and Jeremy Deering combined for 8 catches, 214 yards and 2 TDs. The defense was solid too. Jordan Todman ran for 123 yards and a score, but 66 came on one play. QB Cody Endres could only manage 153 yards passing, with a TD and a pick. UConn also scored on a 100 yard kick return by Nick Williams, but Joe Lefeged returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to set up a TD. Aside from a couple of big plays, Rutgers were outstanding, and showed some mettle with a 10 point comeback in the waning minutes.

Worst Game: In a tough season, a number of losses could fit in here, but the 40-13 loss to a resurgent Louisville team stings more for their futility as they fell behind 28-0 quickly. Cardinal QB Justin Burke only threw 11 passes, but completed 9 for 138 yards and 2 TDs and was replaced late by Will Stein who also threw a TD. Bilal Powell ran for 123 yards and a score, and also caught both TD passes. Chas Dodd completed just 14 of 32 passes for 177 yards and 2 picks, and was sacked nine times. His last interception was returned for a score by Johnny Patrick. Jordan Thomas and Jeremy Deering did combine for 171 yards and 2 TDs, but that was about the only highlight for Rutgers in a disappointing game.

81. Idaho (6-7, 3-5 WAC)
The Original Forecast: The Vandals shocked everyone by winning 8 games in '09, but no-one was expecting them to repeat the feat. They had a potentially explosive offense, but the defense was suspect at best. They were very capable of winning 9 games, but only if the defense kept their part of the deal.

The Outcome: One season after surprising the football world by winning eight games, they early did it again, winning six and losing two more by a total of five points. They managed this with a running attack that ranked 118th in the country, led by Deonte' Jackson's 442 yards and 4 TDs. Nathan Enderle did his best to carry the load, throwing for 3314 yards and 22 TDs, although he threw 16 interceptions (5 against Nebraska). Brian Reader got some decent game time, and threw for 568 yards and 5 TDs, with just one pick. Injuries hindered the receiving corps, meaning 8 players caught more than 20 passes. Eric Greenwood led the way with 741 yards and 6 TDs on 46 catches. The defense was certainly opportunistic, coming up with an excellent 30 turnovers, but struggled to stop anyone by traditional means, like tackling. There were some exceptions: WLB Robert Siavii led the team with 91 tackles, 13.5 for loss; Tre'Shawn Robinson had 80 tackles with 10 for loss; while DE Aaron Lavarias had 7 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. But as suggested in the preview, the defense struggled to come up with enough stops, and it cost the defense another bowl shot.

Best Game: In the absence of signature wins, I usually go for solid all round victories, and Idaho's 28-6 defeat of Utah State fits the bill. Enderle threw for 243 yards and 3 TDs, and a pick, with Greenwood catching 4 for 114 yards and 2 of the scores. Jackson led the way on the ground with 62 yards and a TD. For the Aggies, QB Diondre Borel only completed 14 of 35 passes for 103 yards, and 2 interceptions. He wasn't helped by a receiving corps that dropped a number of passes. Derrvin Speight was their biggest threat with 80 yards on the ground. A fine job on offense and defense.

Worst Game: Getting beaten by a decent Nevada team this season wasn't a surprise for Idaho, what was shocking was the manner of the 63-17 loss. Nevada racked up 844 yards (yep, you read it right) and moved the ball at will on the ground and through the air. QB Colin Kaepernick had a career day passing, throwing for 320 yards and 5 TDs. Running backs Vai Taua, Mike Ball and Lampford Mark combined for 330 yards and 2 TDs on just 33 carries. Rishard Matthews was the top receiver with 7 catches for 151 yards and 2 scores. For the Vandals, Enderle completed just 15 of 34 passes for 224 yards and a score, and ran for another, while the running attack mustered just 68 yards. Four fumbles, including one on special teams ensured Idaho had no shot of staying pace in a disgraceful performance by the defense.

The Year in Review


With the bottom 20 out of the way, we’ll start to get into some questions about how high people should be on the list, just like the BCS. Speaking of the BCS, at 100 we have our first BCS team, beleaguered Vanderbilt from the SEC.

100. Vanderbilt (2-10, 1-7 SEC)

The Original Forecast: The Commodores have some good talent, but lack the overall depth to be competitive in SEC. They have enough to pull off a surprise or two, but the league schedule, coupled with a tough OOC schedule, meant 3 or 4 wins would probably be the best they could come up with.

The Outcome: Another 2-10 season, although they did beat Mississippi in Oxford. Both offense and defense struggled, with the offense scoring more than 20 points only four times, and the defense holding only two teams, Mississippi and Eastern Michigan, to fewer than 20 points. Larry Smith flashes occasional talent at QB, but he has hardly improved in his second year as a starter, throwing for 1262 yards and 6 TDs against 5 picks with a poor 47.7 completion percentage. He does provide some useful mobility though, rushing for 248 yards and 4 TDs. Jared Funk saw time in 8 games, including starting the finale against Wake Forest, but had just 651 yards and 5 TDs to 6 interceptions, and a 47.4 completion rate. Vandy have some fine talent at running back, but injuries saw the top three rushers miss too much time, and Warren Norman led the way with just 459 yards and 4 TDs. The receivers were a problem last season, and didn’t improve much this year, further hindering Smith and Funk. When the Commodores have a successful season, it’s usually down to the defense, and even this year some players stood out. SS Sean Richardson led the team with 98 tackles, 7 for loss, followed by MLB Chris Marve who had 80 tackles, including 8 behind the line. Corner Casey Hayward chipped in with 70 tackles, and had 6 of the team’s 9 interceptions, and also defended 17 passes. There is no doubt injuries affected the Commodores hopes for a better season, but even so, this was a poor result.

Best Game: Blowing out EMU 52-6 wasn’t quite the great result it sounds, but beating an admittedly mediocre Rebels squad wasn’t too bad a scalp. Vandy weren’t amazing, they were outgained 385-300, but they forced 3 turnovers and Mississippi blew too many opportunities, dropping passes and missing a field goal. Commodore QB Smith threw for just 73 yards, but chipped in with 35 yards and a score on the ground. Norman ran for 111 yards, including an 80 yard TD. For Ole Miss, QB Jeremiah Masoli threw for 190 yards and 2 interceptions, but did run for 104 yards and a TD. The team also struggled on 3rd down, making just 5 of 13. This kind of performance won’t make many teams “Best Game” category, but this is Vanderbilt, and this how they win. By forcing turnovers, limiting their own mistakes and taking advantage of their opportunities.

Worst Game: There were some lopsided losses on the record, but this is a tough conference, and they were decent teams. However, in the last game of the season, a struggling Wake Forest team arrived in Nashville and took it to the Commodores 34-13. Vandy were missing their two leading rushers, took a 24-3 lead behind the running of Josh Harris who picked up 138 yards and a TD. Jared Funk tried to bring Vandy back, but completed just 27 of 61 passes for 277 yards, 1 TD and 2 picks. He did lead the team with 7- yards rushing too, but they could never get it going. Five 4th down failures just highlights their struggles. A bad end to a bad season.

99. Texas-El Paso (6-7, 3-5 CUSA)

The Original Forecast: The offense, led by QB Trevor Vittatoe and RB Donald Buckram was to carry the team again, assuming the latter could continue to stay healthy. Coach Mike Price more than likely needed a bowl game to keep the powers-that-be off his back, but needed some stops from a normally poor defense to help out a potent offense.

The Outcome: A tale of two seasons – UTEP ripped off a 5-1 start with an offense and defense that seemed to be clicking, and looked like contenders for West title, seeing as the only team who beat them, Houston, lost their star QB early in the season. UTEP only won one more (over SMU), but did get a bowl invite against BYU. They were pretty competitive in most of theses losses, except against Arkansas and Brigham Young. The running game was poor, only ranking 84th, and the passing game was a mediocre (by their standards) 58th. The defense wasn’t great, but was better than it has been in the recent past, but much of their statistical success was playing offensively challenged teams early on. Vittatoe had a decent enough season, throwing for 2756 yards and 22 TDs against 13 interceptions. Buckram had another injury plagued season, only mustering 335 yards and a TD, and the rushing attack suffered, with the exception of the efforts of Joseph Banyard who gained 623 yards and 8 TDs. Kris Adams was an outstanding deep threat, catching 47 balls for 1070 yards and 14 TDs, but the other receivers were average at best. Corner Travaus Nixon, who had 75 tackles, 4 for loss, 12 passes defended and 4 interceptions, was the standout. Injuries didn’t help the unit down the stretch, but this year was definitely a step forward for the D. The team did the make a bowl game, although they were beaten badly (52-24), but next year looks to be a rebuilding year, so Price might not have had the result he wanted.

Best Game: They had some big wins over teams beneath them on this list, but their best win was over a decent SMU squad and made them bowl-eligible. Vittatoe had a fine day, throwing for 183 yards and 3 TDs, and wasn’t sacked or intercepted. The defense won the game for them though, keeping the Mustangs from breaking any big plays. QB Kyle Padron threw for 255 and a TD, but that was on 28 completions. WR Aldrick Robinson had a good day, catching 9 passes for 131 yards and a score. A good won over a good team.

Worst Game: Probably the loss to defensively challenged Alabama-Birmingham 21-6 to start their losing run. After scoring 195 points in their first six games, the Miners managed just 229 yards of total offense and two first half field goals. Vittatoe had a stinker, completing just 15 of 33 for 169 yards and 3 interceptions. He got no help from a running attack that mustered just 60 yards though. Blazers QB Bryan Ellis, on the other hand, had an outstanding day throwing for 272 yards and 3 second half TDs. Their running attacked chipped in with 228 yards as they racked up 500 total yards. Receiver Frantrell Forrest chipped in with 99 yards and 2 TDs. A disappointing loss for a team that had developed higher aspirations.

98. Kent State (5-7, 4-4 MAC)

Original Forecast: The Golden Flashes had a pretty tough OOC schedule, but their strong defense should keep them in bowl contention if the offense can pull their weight. Having star RB Eugene Jarvis back for a 6th year was a major plus in that regard.

The Outcome: Well, the Flashes fell short, going 5-7 behind and outstanding defense and struggling offense. Jarvis was injured in the first game, and only returned for the last three, finishing the season with 294 yards and 3 TDs. The leading rusher was Jacquise Terry, who gained just 542 yards and 7 TDs, although he was decent when he carried the load. QB Spencer Keith failed to match his freshman promise, throwing for just 2212 yards and 8 TDs with 11 picks. The receivers were solid enough, with Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland combining for 115 catches for 1342 yards and 6 TDs. The defense was outstanding allowing just 97.2 yards rushing a game at 2.7 per carry, while the pass defense allowed just 10 TDs through the air against 16 interceptions. Good performances were plentiful – freshman tackle Roosevelt Nix was the star with 10 tackles for loss and 10 sacks despite starting only one game; WLB Dorian Wood had 96 tackles with 10.5 for loss; MLB Cobrani Mixon had 82 tackles, 5 for loss and 6.5 sacks; end Monte Simmons had 4.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 for sacks; and corner Norman Wolfe had 75 tackles and 5 picks, including 2 against Penn State. The season was something of a disappointment, and led to the resignation of Doug Martin, their coach of seven years.

Best Game: Has to be the final game of the season, a 28-6 win over Ohio that kept the Bobcats out of the MAC title game, and showed things could have been different with circumstances landing right. The defense was its usual self, coming up with 7 sacks and 4 turnovers, 1 for a TD, and held a decent Bobcat offense to just two field goals. On offense, Keith threw for just 100 yards, but ran in a score. Jarvis had 100 yards and a TD to keep things ticking over. A fine finish to an otherwise disappointing season.

Worst Game: Getting thrashed 38-3 by Western Michigan the week previously was just dreadful. Despite outgaining the Broncos by 431-426, they could only muster a solitary field goal. Keith threw two picks, despite passing for a 244. The running attack, led by Jarvis’ 72 yards, picked up 182 yards. The inability to convert on 3rd down, making just 7 of 19, meant too many drives fizzled out. WMU’s Alex Carder threw for 163 yards and a TD, while RBs Brian Fields and Tevin Drake shredded the Flashes normally tough defense for 234 yards and 3 TDs on a mere 21 carries. Both had 74 yard runs. In a word – dire!

97. Kansas (3-9, 1-7 Big 12)

The Original Forecast: Things weren’t looking too bright for a rebuilding Kansas squad, despite the presence of Turner Gill, the coach who managed to take Buffalo to a MAC title. Question marks littered the squad, and new leaders would have to step up quickly. The OOC schedule was a mixed bag, but rebuilding teams in their division meant a six-win season wasn’t impossible, but 4 of 5 wins were probably more likely.

The Outcome: The season got off to a bad start, losing 6-3 to FCS North Dakota State, but things looked better with a win over 15th ranked Georgia Tech the following week. After going 2-2 in OOC, which was expected (though not in that fashion), the Jayhawks looked in decent shape for a 6 win season if they could split their league games. Oh dear! In their first three contests they were destroyed 159-24 (including a loss to Baylor). They only pulled off one more win, a 52-45 shooutout with Colorado, and were rarely competitive. The big issue on offense was the passing attack: Jordan Webb had his moments during his freshman year, but struggled (including missing time) for the most part, throwing for 1195 yards 7 TDs against 8 interceptions and was sacked 21 times; and Quinn Mecham took over when Webb was out but with same results, passing for just 554 yards, 4 TDs and 5 picks. Big plays were few and far between, with a team long of just 43 yards on the season. The leading receiver was corner-turned-wideout Daymond Patterson, who had a respectable 60 catches for just 487 yards and 2 TDs, was the best of the bunch. The running game was slightly better (but still ranked just 83rd), with freshman James Sims leading the way with 742 yards and 9 TDs. He had some fine games, and should get better. Unfortunately, he was pretty much the star of the offense, and couldn’t outscore a weak defense on his own. There were some okay performances: MLB Justin Springer 85 tackles, 8 for loss; while corner Tyler Patmon had 45 tackles, 5.5 for loss and 10 PBUs to go with 2 picks; end Jake Laptad was the best lineman with 38 tackles, 4 for loss, and 4.5 sacks. If these are your best performances, your team has problems. A poor season after the Jayhawks recent run of success.

Best Game: The win over the Yellowjackets stands out, especially coming a week after a shocking loss. Jordan Webb was the main man, throwing for 179 yards and 3 TDs, but Sims saw his first collegiate action and gained 101 yards and a TD on 17 carries. Patterson led the receivers with 7 catches for 85 yards and a score. The defense played a bend-but-don’t-break approach, allowing Tech to move the ball on the ground, but keeping them from controlling the game. Kansas actually took a 28-17 lead, and though GT got back in the game at 28-25, that was as close as they got, failing three fourth down attempts, including a backbreaker in the waning minutes after a false start pushed them back.

Worst Game: Take your pick. The North Dakota State loss was bad, but the 55-7 loss to Baylor (who was a decent side) was their worst of the season, especially defensively. The Kansas D allowed 678 total yards and 32 first downs. Bear QB Robert Griffin III threw for 380 yards and 3 TDs, and had 64 yards and a TD on the ground. Receivers Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams combined for 8 receptions with 262 yards and a pair of TDs. Jordan Webb threw for 171 yards and a TD, but also tossed 2 picks, while the running game mustered just 99 yards. Four turnovers and a defense that couldn’t stop Baylor doomed a Kansas team that isn’t designed to play catch-up football.

96. Arkansas State (4-8, 4-4 Sun Belt)

The Original Forecast: The Red Wolves are in year 2 of a rebuilding phase, and looked to improve on the previous year on the field, but probably not in record. Their defense would take a step back with the loss of Alex Carrington, but their offense looked to improve. Their OOC schedule (like most Sun Belt teams) was a killer, and the strength of their record hinged upon their conference play. Coach Dave Roberts’ seat has been a little hot, and this season may help the powers-that-be make the decision on his future here.

The Outcome: Another 4-8 season and the resignation of Roberts, to be replaced by Hugh Freeze, the man he brought in as offensive co-ordinator the previous season. But they were greatly improved; losing 5 games by a TD or less, and scored in double digits in every game (and put 26 on Auburn). The defense was the issue, as was expected, and ranked 91st in points allowed. They struggled against the run and the pass, lacking an impact player like Carrington to inspire the troops. In saying that, DT Bryan Hall tallied 8.5 sacks and FS MD Jennings had 84 tackles, 3 picks and 2 fumble recoveries. The offense, however, was the unit that kept the team in games. Aplin looked like the type of player he hinted at last year, throwing for 2939 yards, 21 TDs and 11 picks. He was also second in rushing with 477 yards and 11 TDs. Derek Lawson was the top running back, with 500 yards and 4 TDs. The receivers were a solid bunch, led by Dwayne Frampton with 69 catches for 738 yards and 6 TDs. The O-line did its part, allowing only 23 sacks. The result was a season that matched most peoples’ expectations, but caused resignation of Roberts, who did have a decent career here.

Best Game: There were some good wins, but the 51-24 victory over Middle Tennessee was outstanding on both sides of the ball. The offense accounted for 493 yards, and only had 7 third down attempts. The defense allowed 382 yards, but came up with 7 turnovers, including 5 in a row on the second half. Aplin threw for 245 yards and 2 TDs, and ran in another. Lawson and Jermaine Robertson combined for 183 yards and 3 TDs, while Frampton caught 6 passes for 138 yards and a TD. MTSU’s Dwight Dasher did rush for 96 yards and a TD, but only threw for 146 yards and 1 TD against 4 picks. A fine victory on all counts.

Worst Game: It’s hard to pick a bad game. Apart from the Auburn game, no-one really blew them out, so I’ll go with the 35-19 loss to Navy. The Red Wolves were blown away by an (another) outstanding individual performance from QB Ricky Dobbs who completed 8 of 9 passes for 164 yards and a TD, and also ran for 154 yards and 3 TDs. Receiver Greg Jones caught 4 passes for 129 yards and an 85 yard TD, and Billy Yarbrough had 3 sacks. The defense struggled all day. It did come up with 2 turnovers, but allowed Navy to convert 9 of 12 3rd downs. Aplin threw for just 178 yards, but ran and threw for a TD. A poor performance for the most part.

95. Alabama-Birmingham (4-8, 3-5 CUSA)

The Original Forecast: This is a talented team that could contend for a bowl game if someone could replace the not-inconsiderable talents of Joe Webb. The usually iffy defense needed to step it up, but the offense was expected to carry its weight again. The Blazers needed a fast start to garner some momentum in wide open race for the East title, but the schedule would most likely hamper those hopes.

The Outcome: Well, same old UAB. The offense was usually excellent, but the defense leaked too many points for them to overcome. They lost 5 games by less than a score, and these shootouts could end up costing Callaway his job. There is plenty of talent, starting with Webb’s replacement at QB – Bryan Ellis. In his first season as a starter, the junior threw for 2940 yards and 25 TDs, with just 12 picks. He was helped by an offensive line that was meant to be good, but turned out to be outstanding, allowing just 12 sacks (7 on Ellis) and opened holes for running backs to the tune of 4.5 yards per carry. RB Pat Shed was both the leading rusher (901 yards and 3 TDs) and receiver (47 catches fro 471 yards and 4 TDs), but was by no means the focus of the offense. There were a number of contributors, particularly at receiver, where the ball was spread around nicely. The defense had some good performances, but they were few and far between. MLB Marvin Burdette racked up 114 tackles, with 8 for loss, but DT Elliott Hennigan was the star with 15.5 tackles for loss. DE Bryant Turner had 5.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. So a season where they promised much, scaring a couple of BCS teams, but tended to fall short at the final hurdle, primarily due to a suspect pass defense.

Best Game: They had some good wins, mostly in spite of the defense, but there was one exception – the 21-6 victory over a UTEP team who at the time were red hot. After falling behind 6-0 early on, the Blazers dominated every facet of the game, scoring on drives of 74, 80 and 99 yards. Ellis threw for 272 yards and 3 TDs with no picks, while receivers Frantrell Forrest and Jeffrey Anderson combined for 11 catches, 192 yards and the 3 TDs. On the ground, Justin Brooks and Daniel Borne kept things ticking over with 150 yards between them. The defense contributed 3 interceptions of UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe, and held their rushing attack to a mere 60 yards. A solid all round victory from the Blazers.

Worst Game: The Blazers managed to lose games in a variety of ways this season, and any one of them could end here, but the 32-29 loss to Tennessee has to sting the most. The Blazers fell behind 23-7 early, but came roaring back to tie the game at 23 before losing in double overtime. Losing to Tennessee isn’t usually a big deal for a non-BCS team, but kicker Josh Zahn wasted the hard work of his team-mates by missing FIVE field goals. After an interception return by Prentiss Waggner at the end of the first half gave the Volunteers their big lead, Ellis made amends in the second, leading 2 TD drives and completing two 2-point conversion passes to Jeffrey Anderson. Ellis finished with 373 yards a TD, while Forrest caught 7 passes for 109 yards and the score. For Tennessee, QB Matt Simms threw for 245 yards and 3 TDs, 2 to Denarius Moore, to keep the Vols ticking over. In double overtime, the Blazers came up short on third down, having to settle for three, then Simms threw his final TD on the next play for the win. But the game probably shouldn’t have made OT with the Blazers dominating in nearly every aspect. A thoroughly unsatisfying loss.

94. Utah State (4-8, 2-6 WAC)

The Original Forecast: This was to be a team destined to break their 14 year bowl drought with an explosive offense led by QB Diondre Borel and an improved defense that should be able to do enough to hit 6 wins. They weren’t going to contend for the WAC, or even come close, but they looked good enough to be bowl eligible by season’s end.

The Outcome: After a bright start in which they lost a tight contest to Oklahoma and beat up on FCS squad Idaho State, things went downhill in a hurry as they got blown out in the rest of their losses, with both the offense and defense struggling. Borel, who had promised so much the year before, completed just 53.2% of his passes for 2108 yards with a mere 8 TDs against 13 interceptions. He did chip in with 298 yards rushing and 7 TDs though. RBs Derrvin Speight and Kerwynn Williams (he was also an outstanding kick returner) combined for a decent 1230 yards and 12 TDs to provide some offensive spark. The receivers were poor, with Dontel Watkins leading the way with just 42 receptions for 492 yards and 4 TDs. Eric Moats was next with just 20 catches. The offensive line wasn’t the reason, getting some push for the run and allowing an acceptable 25 sacks. On defense, OLB Bobby Wagner was his usual outstanding self, racking up 133 tackles with 8 behind the line while FS Rajiric Coleman and corner Quinton Byrd each picked off three passes. But that was it for a defense that struggled against run and pass. A season which promised to see the Aggies back in a bowl fizzled out pretty quickly to just another disappointing year.

Best Game: The loss to Oklahoma was impressive, but their best win of the season was a 31-16 decision over hated in-state rival BYU. The Aggies were solid in all aspects of the game, and the final score doesn’t reflect their domination. Borel had a fine game, throwing for 192 yards and a score, and also ran for 68 and another TD. Speight kept the chains moving on the ground with 91 yards and 2 TDs on 23 carries. The defense continually harassed BYU QB Heaps, who threw for 270 yards, but it took 55 attempts. He also threw 2 picks. RB Williams returned a kickoff 67 yards after BYU’s first score and they blocked their final PAT to add special teams to the winning equation. Shame they couldn’t play like this more often.

Worst Game: Take your pick of the losses – they got thrashed regularly – but the 45-7couldn’ loss to Hawaii was their worst combined performance by far. Hawaii outgained the Aggies 605 yards to 181 as QB Bryant Moniz threw for 389 yards and a TD, and RB Alex Green ran for 172 yards and 4 TDs on just 14 carries. Receiver Greg Salas caught 9 passes for 158 yards and a TD. Borel passed for just 99 yards with two picks, while the running game managed just 58 yards. The defense managed 2 interceptions, but the Warriors moved the ball at their leisure otherwise. Disgraceful.

93. Marshall (5-7, 4-4 CUSA)

The Original Forecast: Marshall had been to a bowl in ’09 after a couple of seasons in the doldrums, but coach Mark Snyder still got canned. First time head coach Doc Holliday took over, but came into a decent situation with a team that didn’t lack talent. An okay OOC schedule and an East division that was winnable meant the Herd looked to be an outside shot at a spot in the title game. They looked good for a bowl too.

The Outcome: A tale of two seasons, with a dreadful 1-6 start, followed by a 4-1 finish. The defense picked it up a bit during the winning streak, but the offense struggled all season. Brian Anderson couldn’t seem to decide whether he was a good QB or not, alternating fine performances with head scratching ones. He ended up with 2358 yards, 20 TDs and 15 picks, but he was too inconsistent to carry the offense. His receivers had their moments, but none stepped forward to provide a go-to guy. The passing games struggles were especially problematic, as the running game was one of the worst in the FBS, ranking 114th. Martin Ward was the leading rusher with a meagre 345 yards and a score. The line had the potential to be a strength of the offense, but allowed 29 sacks in addition to the rushing woes. There were a couple of outstanding performers on defense, with WLB Mario Harvey racking up 143 tackles, 9 for loss, and 8.5 sacks, and end Vinny Curry coming second with 94 tackles, 6 for loss, and 12 sacks. Both units, like the season in general, flashed some great potential but always seemed to come up short.

Best Game: Probably the 31-17 win over UAB, a team with a fine offense, but was shut down by the Herd. Anderson had one of his best games, throwing for 304 yards and 3 TDs, with just one pick. TE Lee Smith caught 9 of those passes for 81 yards and 2 TDs. The ground game struggled though, making just 96 yards. The defense allowed Blazer QB Bryan Ellis to throw for 235 yards and 2 scores, but he only completed 20 of 44 passes and threw an interception. They were also held to 83 yards rushing. After UAB tied the score at 17 early in the fourth, Marshall clamped down, shutting them out the rest of the way while scoring 2 TDs. A good win in a season devoid of them.

Worst Game: Marshall got their tail handed to them by a few good teams, but losing 44-28 to a poor Bowling Green team had to be a disappointment. Anderson had a nightmare game, completing just 20 of 44 for 191 yards, 1 TD and 4 interceptions. The offense was pretty poor most of the night, with Andre Booker’s 68 yard TD run the sole big play. To be fair, they fell behind 28-7, before tying it up just before the third quarter ended. Bowling Green scored the last 16 to put paid to any further comeback hopes. For the Falcons, QB Matt Schilz threw for 191 yards and a TD, and also ran for one, while Aaron Pankratz threw for 111 and a score. Willie Geter picked up a tough 100 yards on the ground. Their defense had 5 total turnovers, including 2 pick-sixes. A loss that must have left a sour taste in the mouths of the Marshall faithful.

92. Wyoming (3-9, 1-7 Mountain West)

The Original Forecast: The Cowboys had something of a miracle season in ’09, pulling off 7 wins. The likelihood of this happening again was slim, even if the team improved. Them speed needed to be improved and the young players who muddled through the season had to become more consistent. A tough schedule wasn’t expected to do them any favours either.

The Outcome: The team won their first and last games, but only one other in between. They did lost 3 games by less than a score, but being blown out was more common, as both the offense and the defense struggled, ranking near the bottom in most categories. QB Austyn Carta-Samuels didn’t improve on last season as expected, instead throwing for just 1702 yards with 9 TDs and 8 picks. He was also sacked 29 times in just 252 passes. He did add 392 yards and 3 TDs on the ground, and his mobility kept the sack total down. The top runner was Alvester Alexander, who tallied 792 yards and an excellent 14 TDs. He also finished strong, with 478 yards and 10 TDs coming in the last four games. Speed at receiver was a problem in ’09, and continued to be last season. David Leonard was the top guy with just 47 catches for 452 yards and 3 TDs. The defense wasn’t bad against the pass, but that wasn’t a problem as they were very susceptible to the run. Josh Biezuns moved to end from linebacker and had 4 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, but standout performers were hard to find. Most of the stats were comparable to the season before except one – after a +8 turnover margin in ’09, they were -3 this season. When your team’s offense and defense are this mediocre, those few turnovers make all the difference between winning and losing.

Best Game: The Cowboys saved the best for last, blowing out an equally hapless Colorado State team 44-0. Alexander was the star of the show, picking up 147 yards and 5 TDs, while Carta-Samuels was very efficient, completing 23 of 32 for 2627 yards and running for 46 yards and a score. The defense had its best game of the season, holding the Rams to 97 yards passing and 65 rushing, and also had 2 turnovers. Biezuns had 3.5 sacks. A dominating display in all facets of the game.

Worst Game: Getting beaten up by better teams is old hat for Wyoming, losing 42-16 to an equally bad team like UNLV is tough. The offense did little the whole game. Carta-Samuels threw for just 108 yards and a pick, and while Alexander totalled 92 yards, 72 came on the first play. For the Rebels, QB Omar Clayton threw for 163 yards and 3 TDs, and Tim Cornett ran for 70 yards and 3 scores, and caught another. A poor performance, even by Cowboys recent standards.

91. Ohio (8-5, 6-2 MAC)

The Original Forecast: The Bobcats were a trendy pick to finish second in the East last season. They are well coached, and Frank Solich also does and outstanding job of recruiting, good reasons why they have been competitive recently, and should continue to be. The Temple game was expected to be the division decider. They were also a shoo-in for a bowl game.

The Outcome: Well, the Bobcats did come second in the East and make a bowl game. They won the Temple game, and looked good for a title shot, but surprisingly lost to a mediocre Kent State squad in the last game, relegating them to runner-up status. Finishing the season with a 48-21 thrashing at the hands of Troy put a dampener on an otherwise solid season. One issue with the team is they lack star power on offense, relying instead on a number of players. QB Boo Jackson came back from injury to throw for 1897 yards and 18 TDs, but also threw 17 interceptions. He also chipped in 345 yards and 7 TDs. Runners Vince Davidson and Phil Bates combined for 1064 yards and 9 TDs to spark an okay running attack, but the passing game was lacklustre. Terrence McCrae was the top receiver with just 35 receptions for 505 yards, but he caught an outstanding 9 TDs. The defense was expected to be tough and lived up to those expectations. They gave up some yards against the pass, put picked off 17 passes. Safety Donovan Fletcher played a major part there, coming up with 73 tackles and 5 interceptions. End Stafford Gatling had a good season with 7 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. For most MAC teams, this would be a successful season, but Ohio have been the bridesmaid too often recently and must be disappointed, particularly with how the season ended.

Best Game: Having already beaten Miami, Ohio needed to beat Temple and then Kent State to clinch the MAC East. Temple is a tough team, but Ohio was more than up to the task, beating them 31-23 in a game that wasn’t really that close. Jackson had an off day, throwing for just 78 yards and a score, but Davidson and Bates combined for 154 yards and 2 TDs as they took a 31-10 lead. The defense allowed just 81 yards rushing and came up with 3 turnovers. Temple QB Mike Girardi threw for 311 yards and 2 scores as he brought the Owls back, but also had two picks. Receiver Mike Campbell was outstanding with 11 catches for 131 yards and 2 scores. Temple scored twice in the last 2:16 to pull within 8, but the Bobcats special teams were up to the task recovering a final onside kick.

Worst Game: There can only be one. After beating their two main rivals, Ohio just had to beat mediocre Kent State to clinch the East title. Easier said than done. Flashes RB Eugene Jarvis rounded off an injury-spoiled career with 106 yards and a score, and the defense came up with 7 sacks and 4 turnovers, one for a TD by LB Luke Batton. Jackson threw for just 133 yards with 2 interceptions, while the running game managed just 50 yards. Perhaps Ohio made the mistake of looking past Kent State, but regardless this poor performance meant they had to watch Miami, a team they beat 34-13, advance to the title game instead.

Friday, January 21, 2011 0 comments

The Year in Review


Just in case anyone thinks I'm losing my mind, the ratings have been changed since I've started. I'll soldier on regardless, so anyone who feels the need to check up on me, there is a reason for the changes.

110. Bowling Green (2-10, 1-7 MAC)

Original Forecast: With Tyler Sheehan and Freddie Barnes moving on, and the Falcons struggling to run the ball or defend, I didn't have much hope for them making a bowl this season. They backed up with my lack of faith with a 2-10 season in which they ranked dead last in rushing and 100th in points for and against. The passing game was a decent 51st, but as a team they managed just 12 TDs against 20 picks.

The Outcome: They weren't as bad as the stats suggest, losing four games by less than a TD and putting up decent point totals on most teams. QB Matt Schilz threw for 2223 yards, but managed only 8 TDs against 14 interceptions, and most of his passes were short, in part because of his being sacked 30 times. He also missed two games. Kamar Jorden took over for Barnes and caught an excellent 96 passes for 1109 yards, but only 4 TDs. Not exactly Barnes-esque, but still a superb season. RB Willie Geter is a decent speed back who would do well in an offense tailored to his skills. He fought hard to gain 718 yards and 6 TDs on 197 carries, but that was about it for the running game. The offensive line struggled to block for the run as well as allowing 34 sacks and the offense struggled to get going. The defense could only manage 17 sacks and was vulnerable to both the run and the pass, but they did come away with a decent 29 turnovers. After making a bowl last season, regardless of excuses, 2010 can only be considered a step back.

Best Game: They lost some close games to decent opponents like Troy and Temple, but their 44-28 win over Marshall has to count as their best victory of the season. In their most complete game of the season, the Falcons racked up 393 yards of offense, including 292 through the air. Apart from a 68 yard run by Andre Booker, the defense made Marshall gain every yard and also came away with five turnovers, including two picks returned for touchdowns. Schilz threw and ran for scores, and Geter picked up a 100 on the ground and 5 catches for 86 yards through the air. What made the victory even more impressive is playing the fourth quarter with backup QB Aaron Pankratz after Schilz was knocked out with a sprained shoulder, the sole down note for the game. Pankratz also threw for a TD.

Worst Game: The 30-6 thrashing at the hands of Kent State was probably the team's worst performance of the season. The Golden Flashes looked like last years Falcons, with QB Spencer Keith completing 26 of 32 for 223 yards and two TDs. Receiver Tyshon Goode caught 12 of those for 158 yards and 2 TDs, while RB Jacquise Terry kept things ticking over on the ground with 94 yards. The Falcons, on the other hand, ran for -10 yards (yes, that's a minus) and Schilz completed 18 of 35 for just 118 yards and two picks. The only bright spot was a 75 yard kick return TD by Jerry Gates. Just to highlight the futility of the day, the Falcons managed to have the PAT blocked. Bowling Green wasn't great this season, but was better than this performance.

109. San Jose State (1-12, 0-8 WAC)

Original Forecast: This was a troubled team that was changing coaches and systems and, while I expected the team to improve on the field, I didn't expect much improvement in the record. They actually dropped a game on last year, but they lost five close games and game Wisconsin a scare before losing by only 13. That being said, they lost 228-26 against ranked teams and Hawaii, and lost to UC Davis (6-5 record!), so this team is a long way from getting back to a bowl game.

The Outcome: The Spartans knew this would be a tough season before it even started, with injuries hitting and people quitting the team, robbing it of any depth. The WAC was tough this year, and playing Alabama and Wisconsin wouldn't do a BCS team any favours. Still, their only win was over Southern Utah (6-5), so being competitive means little if you can't pull off a couple of wins. There were some bright spots – despite throwing 16 picks, QB Jordan La Secla threw for 2860 yards and 16 TDs and got better as the season went on. A receiving corps of Jalal Beauchman, Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones combined for 170 catches, 2131 yards and 11 TDs. As a result the passing attack was ranked a respectable 45th in the FBS. LB Keith Smith totalled 10 TFLs and 4 sacks, while DE Travis Johnson lived up to his freshman promise with 9.5 sacks. P Harrison Waid (43.8 avg) dropped 18 punts inside the 20 with just 3 TBs. These solid performances were the exception as opposed to the rule though, and the season had to be considered disappointing by all.

Best Game: When your only win is a dreary affair over a lower division team that actually outgained you but committed too many crucial penalties, you could almost ignore this section. But the Spartans effort against Wisconsin needs to be noted, considering the struggles this team had all season. It wasn't particularly close, but they gave it their all. Badger RB John Clay was the difference maker, gaining 137 yards and 2 TDs. SJSU harassed QB Scott Tolzien all day, forcing three fumbles and recovering one, and also picking off a pass. La Secla was on fine form, completing 20 of 26 for 228 yards and 2 TDs and kept the Spartans within shouting distance. Jones and Grigsby combined for 15 receptions for 192 yards and 2 TDs. A fine effort against a team at the opposite end of the FBS spectrum.

Worst Game: Take your pick. In my opinion, it has to be the loss to UC Davis, a game they led 13-0 at halftime. They ran and passed with relative ease, but just couldn't hit the endzone in the second half as Aggies' QB Randy Wright threw for 223 yards and a TD to bring them back. Two turnovers and 11 penalties put paid to any chance at snatching back victory.

108. Ball State (4-8, 3-5 MAC)

Original Forecast: The Ball State went from 12-2 in '08 to 2-10 in '09, so anything would have been an improvement. They had a couple of good performances from players, but mostly it was first time starters stepping up the plate. The experience should help them in the long run, but not a whole lot of improvement was expected.

The Outcome: The prediction for last season was the only way is up, but despite winning four games, I'm not sure they achieved it. They did win four games, but were 1-1 against the FCS, and the FBS teams they beat totalled six wins between them. They were competitive against mediocre teams (the MAC wasn't great this year), but were steamrolled by better opposition. The hope was RB Miquale Lewis would approach his tremendous totals of '08 after being granted an extra year of eligibility. Instead he struggled all season and finished with just 414 yards and a TD and averaged just 3.5 per carry. Instead Eric Williams provided what little spark they had on the ground, but only gained 613 yards and 5 TDs. He was also an excellent kick returner. Freshman Keith Wenning started most of the season at QB, and had his moments, but struggled when he had to carry the team. The receivers weren't great, although Jack Tomlinson missed some time but finished strong. Kicker Ian McGarvey was expected to be reliable, and he fulfilled those expectations, making 14 of 17 FGs. There were a couple of solid performances on defense too. MLB Travis Freeman had 109 tackles with 6 for loss, while SS Sean Baker was all over the field with 88 tackles, 6 for loss, 6 interceptions and 10 passes defended. DE Robert Eddins had 63 tackles, 7 for loss, and 6 sacks. Outside of these stars though, the defense struggled. It's hard to say whether the Cardinals improved enough. The offense was mediocre at best, and the stars on defense where the same guys from '09. If wins are all that matters, then the season was okay. If actual performance counts, then probably not.

Best Game: When teams are at the bottom end of the FBS, it can be hard to find a performance that can be deemed the best. The Cardinals have two games that could be counted, the 31-17 win over Central Michigan and the 20-3 win over Buffalo. In this case, the CMU win looks to be the winner. Wenning was solid, keeping the offense ticking over by throwing for 130 yards and two TDs, but the real story was the running attack which mustered 306 yards. The Cards were up 31-3 in the fourth before the Chippewas made a concerted comeback behind Ryan Radcliff who threw for 295 yards and 2 TDs, but 3 earlier interceptions already had the game out of reach.

Worst Game: There are a couple of contenders, but the 45-16 thrashing to Western Michigan has to rankle the most, as the Broncos aren't a particularly good team either. WMU QB Alex Carder was practically a one-man army, throwing for 265 yards and a TD and running for 66 yards and 3 more. The Broncos racked up 480 yards of offense and had scored all their points by the end of the third quarter. Wenning was yanked from the game after completing more passes to the opposition (2) to his own team (1). One of the interceptions was returned for six on the Cardinals' first play of the game. The running game racked up 239 yards, but 5 turnovers meant their efforts would come up empty. Kelly Page did lead a TD drive in the fourth, but it was far too little, far too late.

107. Louisiana-Monroe (5-7, 4-4 Sun Belt)

Original Forecast: Thing were looking bleak for the Warhawks with a new coach and only a few starters returning. A tough OOC schedule would have many wondering whether the team could actually make it through relatively unscathed. I predicted 2-3 wins could be considered an acceptable season.

The Outcome: Lucky they didn't listen to me. Coach Berry had as many wins last season as he had in 4 years with Army. Let's be honest, this still isn't a particularly good team, but Berry showed why he was successful at Illinois State in managing this many wins. Freshman Kolton Browning brought stability to the passing attack, throwing for 2552 yards with 18 TDs against 12 picks. He had his off days, but he was pretty good out of the gate. He was also the second leading rusher with 385 yards and 4 TDs. The running game was problematic all season, with the usually reliable Frank Goodin only managing 438 yards and 3 TDs. Luther Ambrose provided a solid target for Browning with 65 catches for 752 yards and 6 TDs. The defense struggled, but had some good performances from OLB Cameron Blakes who had 74 tackles, 5 for loss, and 6 sacks, and DE Ken Dorsey who had 52 tackles, 7 for loss and 5 sacks. The season was better than most expected and ULM could do some damage next season.

Best Game: If there was one conference foe in the Sun Belt you wanted to beat, who would it be? Well, Troy of course. Troy arrived at ULM mid-season on the back of an unbeaten conference streak that dated back to 2008. The game was tied 14-14 midway through the second quarter before the Warhawks took the lead on a 43 yard run by WR Tavarese Maye. Browning scored on a 9 yard run after the half, and the defense shut down the Trojans with a late interception by Robert Nelson sealing the deal. Browning threw for 226 yards and a TD, and ran for 2 more, while Maye also caught a 48 yard TD. The defense flustered Troy QB Corey Robinson, who completed just 16 of 38 for 167 yards with a TD and two picks. An excellent all round victory that showcased the Warhawks future potential.

Worst Game: A week prior to the Troy game, the Warhawks travelled to Middle Tennessee to take on a Blue Raider team that was very beatable. Things started badly when Browning threw a pick-six on the first drive and things steadily got worse. MTSU QB Dwight Dasher threw for 219 yards and 2 TDs and also ran for 66 yards, while RB Phillip Tanner picked up 73 yards and a score on the ground and also had a 75 yard reception. With ULM rushing for -1 yard, Browning fought hard, throwing for 232 yards and a score but also threw another interception. With long third downs the order of the day, the Warkawks made just 3 of 18 and never came close to threatening the Blue Raiders' lead.

106. Middle Tennessee (6-7, 5-3 Sun Belt)

Original Forecast: The Blue Raiders had a good squad coming into the season, and were expected to contend for the Sun Belt even with QB Dwight Dasher missing the first four games.

The Outcome: After going 2-2 without Dasher, the team was expected to be far more of a threat with him back. Instead the team limped through the season, coming 3rd in the conference more due to the fact that the Sun Belt isn't a good conference than any great play. Dasher rarely flashed the immense talent he possesses, throwing for 1550 yards and 6 TDs against 18 interceptions, together with 543 yards and 8 TDs rushing. RB Phillip Tanner was their best threat on offense, gaining 928 yards and 13 TDs on just 160 carries. They had some solid performances on defense, but DE Jamari Lattimore, who had 68 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks, SLB Darin Davis who totalled 81 tackles, 6 for loss, 3.5 sacks and 3 interceptions and CB Rod Issac, who had 54 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 3 picks stood out. But one might ask, why is a bowl team ranked so low on the list? The answer is twofold: 1 – they play in the Sun Belt; 2 – there are too many bowls.

Best Game: They had some good wins, but the 28-27 win over Florida International to become bowl eligible probably ranks at the top. Dasher had one of his better games of the season, throwing for 244 yards and a TD, and rushing for 57 yards to keep the offense moving. Tanner ran for 62 yards and 2 TDs to keep FIU from focussing on Dasher. The defense allowed some big gains on the ground, including 104 yards to RB Darrian Mallary, but stood tall when it mattered, recovering a fumble on their own 27 as the Golden Panthers drove for a potential game winning FG.

Worst Game: They had some disappointing games, including being blown away by Arkansas State, but one loss rankles more that the others – a 42-13 home loss to Troy. Trojan QB Corey Robinson passed with ease, throwing for 259 yards and 3 TDs. Their oft-forgotten running attack totalled 238 yards and the defense held the Blue Raiders to just 207 yards. Dasher, in his first game back, ran for 2 TDs, but passed for just 172 yards and ran for 27. The game was never close, and MTSU coach Rick Stockstill falls to 0-5 against Troy.

105. Tulane (4-8, 2-6 CUSA)

Original Forecast: After a 3-9 record the year before, and an offense and defense that struggled, almost any improvement was welcome. They had a tough schedule which didn't inspire much hope for a quick turnaround, and a lot of questions at key positions.

The Outcome: The offense was greatly improved, thanks to a 38th ranked passing attack led by freshman QB Ryan Griffin, who threw for 2371 yards with 14 TDS against just 8 interceptions. The running attack was ranked just 91st, but was much improved over the second half of the season when RB Orleans Darkwa took over. He rushed for 752 of his 925 yards in the last six games. He also had 11 TDs. The receivers were competent, but lacked a game-breaker. The pass defense was improved, but teams didn't need to pass to beat the Green Wave. Ends Moses Dezman and Justin Adams combined for 13.5 sacks, and MLB Trent Mackey was a tackling machine with 124 stops, including 7.5 behind the line. The secondary was reliable enough, but corner Phillip Davis was the best of the bunch with 3 picks and 15 passes defended. The Green Wave showed plenty of improvement on the field, despite just mustering 4 wins, but the season was definitely better than the previous year.

Best Game: Beating Rutgers was nice, but in retrospect wasn't too big a deal. The 34-24 win over bowl squad Texas-El Paso, on the other hand, was their best team performance of the season. The offense was excellent; Griffin threw for 201 yards and a TD, and Darkwa and Albert Williams combining for 208 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. WR Casey Robottom caught passes for 151 yards and both of Griffin's TDs. The defense shut down UTEP's Trevor Vittatoe, holding him to 102 yards passing and a score against two picks. They gave up some yards on the ground, but made enough plays when it mattered to ensure victory.

Worst Game: Central Florida has been one of the best teams in Conference USA for a while now, but is better known for their stingy defense. While their offense gets the job done, it is hardly explosive. So how did Tulane manage to give up 61 points (well, 47 to be precise)? Not having Griffin hurt, as backup Kevin Moore completed just 15 of 34 for 156 yards and an interception. Darkwa ran for 129 yards and a TD, but he was the lone bright spot. UCF returned the opening kickoff all the way, and also intercepted 3rd string QB DJ Ponder and took it 100 yards for a score on the last play. In between, Knights QB Jeffrey Godfrey completed 6 of 8 passes for 133 yards and 2 TDs, and also ran for 2 scores. RB Latavius Murray ran for 146 yards and a TD on just 11 carries, and the Knights D forced 4 turnovers in a game that was never close. A very disappointing loss this late in the season.

104. Central Michigan (3-9, 2-6 MAC)

Original Forecast: The Chippewas are usually one of the top teams in the MAC but the last four years they've been dominant, winning 3 championships. Last season they went 12-2 and won the MAC and their bowl game. No-one was expecting a repeat this season, especially as superstar QB Dan LeFevour and coach Butch Jones had moved on, but the guts of a talented team remained and respected coach Dan Enos was brought in to keep the ship afloat. They were still an outside shot at another MAC title, and looked good for at least 6 wins.

The Outcome: After a bright 2-1 start to the season with the only loss to a tough Temple team, the wheels fell off the wagon and the Chippewas only won one more game. Sophomore QB Ryan Radcliff had the thankless task of trying to replace a legend, and did okay, throwing for 3358 yards and 17 TDs, but also 17 interceptions. He also lacked LeFevour's mobility and was sacked 33 times. He got little help from a rushing attack that ranked 108th, led by Paris Cotton who had 651 yards and 6 TDs, but the run game was too inconsistent. Sophomore Cody Wilson was the top receiver, catching 83 passes for 1137 yards and 5 TDs. The pass defense wasn't bad though it only managed 4 interceptions, but the run defense was the real weak spot. They were good on third down and in the redzone, and as a result ranked an okay 60th in points allowed. WLB Matt Berning was the standout with 102 tackles, 9 for loss, and 4 sacks. CMU had to expect some dropoff from the previous stellar season, but nobody imagined this 3 win flop.

Best Game: Arch-rival Western Michigan came to town to take on a reeling CMU squad who had lost six in a row, and were up 22-13 at the end of the third quarter. But the Chippewas were not going to fold, especially not against the Broncos. The team raised its game in the fourth quarter to score 13 unanswered points and hold off any comeback attempts. Both offenses were on fine form, with Radcliff throwing for 300 yards and 2 TDs and Carl Volny carrying the load on the ground with 91 yards and a TD. Wilson made Radcliff's life easier by having a monster game, catching 12 passes for 185 yards and a TD. For the Broncos, QB Alex Carder threw for 272 yards and 3 TDs, with receivers Juan Nunez and Jordan White combining for 22 catches for 252 yards and 3 TDs. Central's defense kept Western scoring opportunities to a minimum by recovering four fumbles. A good and much needed win over a rival.

Worst Game: CMU were pretty competitive in league play, with the exception of eventual champs Northern Illinois. A 33-7 beating had to hurt, as they had some success moving the ball but shot themselves in the foot with 5 turnovers. Radcliff was the biggest culprit, throwing 3 picks. He did throw for 178 yards and a TD though. He wasn't helped by a running game that managed just 94 yards. Huskies QB Chandler Harnish threw for 138 yards at his leisure, backed up by a running attack that steamrolled the Chippewas to the tune of 282 yards. A disappointing loss in a disappointing season.

103. Nevada-Las Vegas (2-11, 2-6 Mountain West)

Original Forecast: UNLV were a team that underachieved defensively in '09 and had the speed to make more of an impact in 2010, but a killer schedule would keep them from going bowling. They had a fine passing attack, and had worked hard at improving the running game in the offseason. A new coach, Bobby Hauck, arrived off the back of a successful career at FCS team Montana, bringing new enthusiasm to the squad.

The Outcome: Could someone please explain the Rebels' season to me. They won two games (equally hapless New Mexico and Wyoming) by an aggregate of 87-26, and lost 11 by 490-152. I appreciate that playing in the Mountain West can be thankless if you're not in the top 3.5 (Air Force), but there can't be that much of a gulf. The offense and defense were equally poor, despite some good talent on the roster. QB Omar Clayton had his moments, throwing for 1818 yards and 13 TDs with just 9 picks. The top ground gainer was Tim Cornett, who totalled just 546 yards and 6 TDs, and he had more than double number two. The receivers were serviceable with Phillip Payne providing the deep threat and Michael Johnson catching the underneath stuff. No-one was stood out as the kind of player an offense could build on though. Corner Will Chandler picked off five of the team's seven passes, but the defense lacked playmakers otherwise and was susceptible to both the run and the pass. UNLV has been a coach's graveyard lately. Let's hope Hauck can put together better seasons than this shocker.

Best Game: Both their wins were impressive, but New Mexico had a freshman making his first start, so we'll go with the 42-16 victory over Wyoming. Clayton had the rare chance to pass at his leisure, throwing for 163 yards and 3 TDs. RB Tim Cornett ran for 70 yards and 3 TDs, and also had a TD reception. The defense allowed a 72 yard run on the first play from scrimmage, but just 201 yards after that. Cowboys QB Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 13 of 22, but for just 108 yards and also threw a pick. The Rebels offense totalled 376 yards and converted all 3 4th down attempts, while shutting down Wyoming after allowing two big plays for TDs in the first quarter.

Worst Game: One week after being battered 48-6 by TCU, the Rebels headed to play a sub par (by their standards) Brigham Young, minus Clayton at QB. The result was even uglier, with the Cougars thrashing them 55-7, a game in which UNLV didn't score until the last minute. Jake Heaps picked apart the Rebels defense for 294 yards and a pair of scores, while runners JJ Di Luigi and Joshua Quezada combined for 145 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. The Rebels offense managed just 144 yards in total, with almost half of them coming on the final drive. QB Caleb Herring looked lost at sea, completing just 8 of 21 passes for 109 yards and 1 TD and interception.

102. Colorado State (3-9, 2-6 Mountain West)

Original Forecast: Coach Steve Fairchild said at the end of '09 that he wouldn't accept another 3-9 season, and the team had the talent to rack up a couple more victories. It was contingent upon finding a decent quarterback to keep an offense loaded at running back ticking over.

The Outcome: Well – another 3-9 season. Only this season was a step down. True freshman Pete Thomas took over at QB and did a good job, throwing for 2662 yards with an excellent 64.7 completion percentage, but he had only 11 TDs against 13 picks. The running attack, led by Leonard Mason who had just 513 yards and 5 TDs due to injuries, was very poor, ranking just 103rd in the country. There were no standout receivers, which hurt Thomas' TD stats, but they got the job done despite injury problems. The defense couldn't stop pretty much anyone, and they ranked 104th in points allowed. They had some good performers though: WLB Ricky Brewer had 107 tackles, including 7 for loss; SLB Mychal Sisson had 95 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks and forced an outstanding 7 fumbles; while DT Guy Miller came up with 6.5 sacks. Fairchild was no doubt disappointed, and might even be feeling a bit of heat coming from his seat.

Best Game: Their three wins were all quality performances, but the ease with which they dispatched UNLV was impressive. Pete Thomas only threw 14 passes, but completed 10 for 233 yards and 3 TDs. Mason and Chris Nwoke combined for 196 yards and a TD on the ground. On defense, Guy Miller had 4.5 sacks and harassed the Rebel offense all day. QB Omar Clayton completed 15 of 23 passes, but tallied just 114 yards. UNLV had some success on the ground, but 2 turnovers and three 4th down failures put paid to any hopes of getting back into the game.

Worst Game: Easy choice, even in a bad season such as this. The last game of the year, facing an offensively impotent Wyoming squad, the Rams got blanked 44-0 and allowed 479 yards in the process. Pete Thomas, who'd been solid most of the season, completed just 16 of 33 for 97 yards and an interception, while the running game managed just 65 yards. 2 of 15 third downs and 2 turnovers just highlighted the futility. For the Cowboys, Austyn Carta-Samuels threw for 267 yards and ran for 46 yards and another score. Alvester Alexander and 147 yards and 5 TDs, while on defense Josh Biezuns racked up 3.5 sacks.

101. Rice (4-8, 3-5 CUSA)

Original Forecast: The Owls had a brief flirtation with success in the last couple of years before slipping back into familiar territory with just 2 wins last season. Except for QB they had enough talent to be competitive, but needed the defense to pull its weight to avoid too many shootouts. 5-6 was a possibility, but 3-4 wins was the most likely result.

The Outcome: Rice improved greatly over the previous season thanks to a decent offense and solid run defense. They didn't have much trouble putting points on the board, but the pass defense was shocking and cost them a better record. QB was a question coming into the season and Nick Fanuzzi was okay, throwing for 1681 yards and 11 TDs against 9 interceptions, but couldn't carry the team on his own. Taylor McHargue started the last two games and played in others, and threw for 491 yards and 6 TDs with only 1 pick. Rice had a decent running game too, with ex-Michigan RB Sam McGuffie picking up 883 yards and 6 TDs. Power guy Jeremy Eddington bulled for 365 yards and 10 TDs. They also had one under-rated weapon in punter Kyle Martens who averaged 46 yards a kick. The season was definitely an improvement and again they finished well.

Best Game: Easy choice here – a 62-38 home thrashing of bowl-bound East Carolina. Rice led 34-28 at halftime but ran riot in the second half, outscoring the Pirates 28-10. McHargue was outstanding, completing 11 of 15 for 220 yards and 3 TDs. On the ground, Eddington had 143 yards and 4 TDs, while McGuffie had 114 yards and a score. McGuffie also had 3 receptions for 83 yards and a 64 yard TD catch. East Carolina's QB Dominique Davis threw for 308 yards and 3 TDs, but also threw two interceptions. RB Jonathon Williams ran for 100 yards and a score, and receivers Lance Lewis and Dwayne Harris combined for 14 catches for 245 yards and 2 TDs.

Worst Game: Getting blasted 64-27 by Tulsa. Don't get me wrong, Tulsa are a fine team and when QB GJ Kinne is on form, they could score on pretty much anyone. Unfortunately for the Owls, this happened to be one of those games. Rice was down 41-7 by halftime as Kinne threw for 371 yards and 4 TDs. Receiver Damaris Johnson caught 8 balls for 163 yards and 2TDs, and also returned a kickoff for a score. Tulsa even returned a blocked PAT for 2 points to rub salt in an already gaping wound. Tulsa finished with 612 yards of offense. Rice QBs combined for just 8 of 18 passes for 221 yards and 2 TDs. McGuffie had a great day though, rushing for 178 yards and a score, but many of those yards came when the Owls needed to pass. A disappointing performance for a team that could have done better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 0 comments

The Year in Review


After going on a hiatus caused by lack of time due to college and work, I've got my blog back up and running. This is a review of each NCAA 1A team from worst to first, using USA Today's Jeff Sagarin's ratings ( Anyone who feels the need to debate a team's placing can take it up with him. This was an interesting season, with number 1's dropping like flies and two originally (relatively) low ranked contesting the Championship. There are some surprises throughout the list, in keeping with the year in general, so enjoy a trip down recent memory lane. On to the teams:

120. Akron (1-11, 1-7 MAC)

Original Forecast: I didn't hold out much hope for the Zips: they were less than impressive last year and were changing coaches and systems, and they easily repaid my lack of faith.

The season was a disaster with the team (except for a 1 point loss to FCS Gardner-Webb) getting blasted far too often. They improved over the last two weeks, losing close games to Ball State and MAC champ Miami, before getting there first win by beating equally beleaguered Buffalo. Alex Allen remained relatively healthy and had a nice season (186-877-8), and Nate Burney (109-467-0) had his moments in reserve. QB Patrick Nicely struggled for the most part, completing less than 50% of his passes with just 10 TDs against 13 Ints. In his defense, the receivers were subpar most of the season, with the exception of Jeremy LaFrance (43-534-6), but he missed three games mid-season. Jalil Carter blew up in the last three games, with 18 receptions for 297 yards and 2 TDs, but he also missed three games and was unimpressive otherwise. Somewhat disappointingly, the defense, despite some good experience, generally allowed teams to run or pass at their leisure. On the plus side, DE Shawn Lemon was voted 2nd Team All-MAC after a season in which he totalled 7 sacks with 10.5 tackles for loss.

Best Game: It has to be rising to the occasion against Buffalo in the last game of the season to avoid a winless season. It was also Nicely's best game throwing for 193 yards and 3 TDs. The defense came up big with the 3 turnovers, and the game wasn't as close as the score the suggests – Buffalo scored in the last 2 minutes to pull within 8.

Worst Game: This was a tough choice, but losing to 4-7 FCS squad Gardner-Webb has to be the one. They even led 31-17, but let the Bulldogs back into it. A blocked extra point in overtime was the difference. Despite running for 224 yards, the Zips still managed to blow this one.

119. Buffalo (2-10, 1-7 MAC)

Original Forecast: I thought Buffalo had a shot at the MAC East title, on the assumption that the QB and receivers could make enough plays to allow a potentially potent running game and solid defense to win games.

Guess what? The QBs, led by Jerry Davis, completed just 45.1% of their passes and threw 23 picks against (a somewhat respectable) 17 TDs. The running game struggled all season, averaging just 3.1 per carry and scoring 3 TDs. Receiver Marcus Rivers was a bright spot, catching 50 passes for 690 yards and 5 TDs, but slowed down over the second half of the season when defenses realised he was the big play guy. The defense was pretty tough, but spent too much time on the field and wore down as games went on. The season was a disappointment for a team that has been so competitive lately.

Best Game: Good question. Their closest losses were to equally poor Eastern Michigan and Akron, and one of their wins was over 5-6 FCS team Rhode Island, so the win over Bowling Green is the only other option. The Bulls dominated the 28-26 win, racking up 441 yards to 176 for the Falcons. Jerry Davis threw for 241 yards and 3 TDs, but also threw four picks, with one returned 82 yards to paydirt to make the score 28-20 in the fourth quarter. Buffalo then had a punt blocked to lead to another score and a last minute fumble almost lost them the game, but Falcons' kicker Bryan Wright missed a 40 yarder as time expired. Not an impressive performance by most standards, but when you're 2-10, it's good enough.

Worst Game: There are a couple of candidates, but after some great games with Temple the last few seasons, a 42-0 thrashing was shocking. The Owls ran the ball at will with 2 100-yard rushers, and QB Mike Gerardi also threw 3 TDs. The offense managed just 161 yards and turned the ball over 3 times.

118. Eastern Michigan (2-10, 2-6 MAC)

Original Forecast: No wacky bowl game predictions here – EMU are historically poor and two wins was all I'd predicted, although they did show some improvement too. Thanks for making me look good after my Buffalo debacle.

The Eagles actually managed to rank 37th in rushing nationally due to the two pronged attack of QB Alex Gillett and RB Dwayne Priest, both of who gained over 700 yards. Gillett had his moments passing as well, but also threw 13 picks. No-one stepped forward at receiver to give him a reliable target though. The offense wasn't terrible, and compared to the defense was amazing The Eagles held just two teams to under 30 points! The had four games allowing 40+ points, two over 50 and two of 70+. Simply appalling!

Best Game: Has to be the 41-38 OT win over Ball State. To be fair, it wasn't so much the team's best game as Gillett's. He threw for 225 yards and 3 TDs and ran for 189 yards and two TDs and brought the team back from a 28-7 deficit. But football's a team game, so their best game it is.

Worst Game: Going into their last game of the season, after showing some fight against some BCS teams as well as division opponents, EMU hoped to make a statement against MAC West leader Northern Illinois to end another disappointing season on a high. The result? A 71-3 thumping in which the Eagles allowed 544 yards rushing including 5 TDs of over 61 yards. They did force two punts though. Gillett managed an abysmal 11 yards passing. If this is their statement for next season, coach Ron English might want to explore some other options.

117. Western Kentucky (2-10, 2-6 Sun Belt)

Original Forecast: Nobody was expecting the Hilltoppers to have a dream bowl season after the struggles in their first two FBS seasons, and the two conference wins are exactly what I expected.

2-10 may not seem like something to shout about, but WKU were competitive for much of the season, losing four games by less than a TD. There's no question of who inspired this turn of events – running back Bobby Rainey. The Hilltoppers rode him all season and he responded to the tune of 1649 yards and 15 TDs. It wasn't just a case of beating up on bad Sun Belt defenses –the first three games of the season he ran rushed for 155, 184 and 105 yards – against BCS foes Nebraska (!), Kentucky and Indiana (maybe not so great). He also scored 5 TDs in that span. Just to prove he's not a one-trick pony, he caught 29 passes too. QB Kawaun Jakes had some good games in his second year in charge, but for the most part showed too much inconsistency. His mobility and some okay play from the line meant he only endured 28 sacks. There were concerns of a dropoff at the receiver position, and this was the case with no-one stepping up to the plate. The defense has been pretty much awful since the moved to the FBS and last season it did improve, but not by much, leading to the resignation of coordinator Clint Bowen. Despite this, a lot of positives can be taken from the season, not least of all Rainey back for one more hurrah, and the season was a big improvement on the previous two years.

Best Game: Has to be going to Louisiana-Lafayette on the back of a 26 game losing streak and blowing them out 54-21. With the Ragin' Cajuns focusing on stopping Rainey (a mortal 67 yards) Jakes threw for 262 yards an a TD and ran for 2 more in his best game of the season. The defense had three turnovers - two for TDs - and harassed Louisiana QB Chris Masson all day.

Worst Game: The following week, at home to a North Texas squad who had just seen their head coach fired, the Cajuns were brought back to earth with a bump getting beaten 33-6. Mean Green RB Lance Dunbar ran riot to the tune of 215 yards and 3 TDs while QB Jakes failed to move the Cajun offense with Rainey again the focus of attention (100 yards).

116. Memphis (1-11, 0-8 CUSA)

Original Forecast: Another team who struggled last season and I didn't expect to show much this season, although 3 or 4 wins were possible. Questions at the offensive skills position were plentiful, and the defense had some good players, but lacked talent in other areas.

The offense was impotent, scoring more than 19 points just once (27 against East Carolina), and the defense was worse, allowing an average of 39.8 per game. Freshman QB Ryan Williams had an okay season, throwing for 2075 yards and 13 TDs against 10 INTs, with Marcus Rucker showing some of his potential by catching 41 passes for 704 yards and 8 TDs. He got better as the season progressed too. Gregory Ray was the main man on the ground with 676 yards. The defense was consistent, being equally bad against the run and the pass and allowing 63 TDs against a mere 13 turnovers. While the play of some of the players suggests a brighter future, the Tigers will want to forget about 2010 as soon as possible.

Best Game: Like our other bottom-10 teams, Memphis didn't compete in many of their games, but their one win, a 24-17 decision over a somewhat disappointing Middle Tennessee squad, is still noteworthy. The Blue Raiders were expected to contend for the Sun Belt, but instead struggled with inconsistency all season. They were missing Dwight Dasher who's made a few BCS teams look silly, but holding their talented offense to 17 points was impressive. Ray had one of his best games of the season, rushing for 121 yards and 2 TDs and carried the Tiger offense. The defense held up their end of the bargain too, holding MTU to 315 yards and coming up with four turnovers. What they were doing the rest of the season is another question.

Worst Game: Take your pick. Their worst loss statistically was 56-0 to Louisville, who was much improved this season. The Tigers allowed 574 yards in total, with Cardinals RB Bilal Powell gaining 204 yards rushing and 2 TDs on a mere 18 carries. QB Adam Froman also threw 4 TDs. MU gained just 223 yards and was 3 of 16 on third down. For a team that has beaten BCS foes in not-too-distant past, this was a bad loss.

115. Louisiana-Lafayette (3-9, 3-5 Sun Belt)

Original Forecast: Going into the season, the Cajuns had questions at running back and on the O-line and the schedule outside of the Sun Belt was a killer.

I did think they could manage at least 5 or 6 wins, but it turns out the Sun Belt was tough this year and the lack of running attack was too much for the team to overcome. Masson (1842 yds, 11 TDs) struggled with the responsibility of carrying the load, and also missed three games and most of a fourth with injury. In saying that, the passing game had its moments. The running game, on the other hand, averaged just over 100 yards a game at 2.9 a carry despite 3 runs over 55 yards. Aaron Spikes was the leading rusher with a mere 339 yards. 39 sacks allowed certainly didn't help the overall stats (or Masson's health), but the running game was consistently poor with the exception of a couple of games. The defense struggled all season, with 22 points their least points allowed. Their run and pass defense were equally suspect, and they managed just 22 turnovers. In saying all that, they were quite competitive and showed some sass against superior teams before running out of steam. I'm not sure they should be rated as low as they were, but they were definitely one of the weaker teams this season.

Best Game: There are a few games that should get a mention, but their win against Arkansas State was probably their best team effort. A week after getting trounced 55-7 by Georgia, the Cajuns ran over the Red Wolves to the tune of 242 yards, including two TDs over 60 yards. Masson ran for one of those scores, and also threw for one. Receiver Javone Lawson also threw a TD. The defense did allow Ryan Aplin to throw 438 and two TDs as they tried to come back from 31-7 down, but they allowed just 18 yards rushing and came up with 3 turnovers, including the game winning interception.

Worst Game: It can only be the loss to Western Kentucky, who came into the game riding a 26 game losing streak. The game was close for about 27 minutes before the Hilltoppers went on a points explosion behind QB Kawaun Jakes, who completed 18 of 22 passes for 262 yards and a TD. They also returned a fumble and interception for scores in a 54-21 thrashing.

114. Florida Atlantic (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt)

Original Forecast: This was meant to be a tough season for the Owls after a relatively successful stint behind QB Rusty Smith, and it was. QB Jeff Van Camp was expected to excel, but the offensive line and defense were problematic in '09 and were essentially the same units going in 2010. I thought they'd struggle to win five games again, and they backed me up by winning four, all over teams who join them at the bottom of these rankings.

The offense was still effective but few of the players who were expected to carry the load performed to expectations. Van Camp had a nice season, completing 57.3% of his passes for 2459 yards and 17 TDs against 13 picks, but didn't quite live up to the promise of his stint in '09. RB Alfred Morris had an outstanding season the year before, but couldn't find the holes as often this season and ended up with a respectable 928 yards and 7 TDs. WR Lester Jean was exceptional, though, catching 64 balls for 988 yards and 8 TDs. TE Rob Housler wasn't too shabby either with 39 catches for 629 yards and 4 scores. The defense was poor against the run, allowing over 200 yards a game, but was okay against the pass. But then you didn't need to pass against FAU to win. It's a hard call to say how the Owls view their season. The last three games were all blowouts (Texas is acceptable), and it looks like they're on the downslide after an okay (4-5) start.

Best Game: Has to be the season opener against Alabama-Birmingham in which the Owls refused to give up, coming back from 14 and 16 point deficits to win with just 2:20 left. Van Camp threw for 254 and 3 TDs, while Morris had 103 yards and scored the winning TD from 38 yards out. Jean caught 9 passes for 164 yards and 2 TDs, including a 77 yarder. The defense may have allowed Blazer QB David Isabelle to rush for 214 yards and 3 TDs, but returned an interception for a TD and shut down the UAB passing attack. The special teams blocked a last second 28 yard FG to ensure the 32-31 victory.

Worst Game: After the disappointing loss to Middle Tennessee (which could also feature here), more was expected of FAU against Troy in the season finale. The two teams have had some good games over the last few seasons, and this was not one of them. Trojan QB Corey Robinson threw for 305 yards and 3 TDs as they moved the ball at will against the Owls defense. Despite Van Camp throwing for 302 yards and a TD, the Owls struggled to generate any consistency on offence and turned the ball over three times and faltered on three fourth downs. A disappointing end to a disappointing season for coach Howard Schnellenberger.

113. New Mexico (1-11, 1-7 Mountain West)

Original Forecast: There were a lot of factors that could have prevented the Lobos from getting to a bowl game in 2010 – a new coach and offense, a tough OOC schedule and the fact that they weren't great the year before anyway. I thought they could pull off 3 or 4 wins, but they managed just one, over equal hapless Wyoming.

The above factors weren't the only problems, New Mexico struggled with injuries too, losing seven starters for the season, and players lost a total of 83 games. This led to the Lobos going through 35 different starters this season. With this kind of turnover continuity was an issue, and an 1-11 season is no surprise. Four starting QBs were used, and the passing attack ranked 106 as a result. The running game also ranked 106th, but sophomore Kasey Carrier got most of the work over the last four games and showed enough to suggest a decent future. The defense held just one, offensively challenged New Mexico State, to less than 30 points, and ranked plum last in the FBS in points allowed. On the plus side, the experience should count in the future, and Locksley was retained, ensuring continuity in the system too.

Best Game: For a team that struggled to both move the ball and stop other teams, a win is a win regardless of opponent. The midseason 34-31 win over Wyoming is the only contender in this case. Freshman Stump Godfrey made his first start at QB and completed 16 of 20 for 211 yards and 2 TDs, as well as 69 yards rushing and a TD on 23 carries. Carrier added 97 yards and a TD with TE Lucas Reed adding 100 yards and 2 TDs on 7 receptions. The defense did allow 392 yards rushing, but came up with four turnovers. Reliable kicker James Aho made all his kicks, including the game winner from 38 yards as time expired.

Worst Game: Quite a few contenders here, but the season opener against Oregon was a disaster, with no lengthy injury lists for an excuse. No-one expected an upset here, but a 72-0 spanking in which the Lobos mustered a mere 107 yards and turned the ball over 5 times while allowing 720 yards and 9 TDs was just abysmal.

112. North Texas (3-9, 3-5 Sun Belt)

Original Forecast: North Texas looked to be turning the corner under Todd Dodge, with the most returning starters in the Sun Belt, some serious talent on offense, and an improving defense. Six games appeared to be well within their reach.

But after just two games, seven key performers were down, including QB Nathan Tune. Dodge's son Riley moved in at QB, where he played the last two seasons but was moved to receiver after being beaten to a pulp and developing shoulder problems, and was a decent game manager, throwing for 1212 yards (60.2% complete) and 11 TDs with just 4 picks. He also ran for 253 yards and a TD. RB Lance Dunbar was the heart and soul of the offense, racking up 1553 yards and 13 TDs for the nation's 19th ranked running attack. He also caught 28 passes for 332 yards and a further 3 scores. He finished on a high note two, tearing through Kansas State's defense for 270 yards and 3 TDs. The receivers were capable and moved the chains effectively, but none stood out. The defense did improve, but wore down towards the end of the season, and although they did enough to keep the team in their many close games, they rarely did enough to ensure victory. Dodge was fired with five games left, so it can be said the season didn't meet expectations.

Best Game: Has to be the 33-6 pasting of Western Kentucky the week after coach Dodge was fired. WKU were coming off their first victory in 26 games, a 54-21 blowout of Louisiana-Lafayette. Lance Dunbar 215 yards and 3 TDs while the Mean Green defense held the Hilltoppers and superstar running back Bobby Rainey to a mere 272 yards. They also came up with two turnovers. This was NT's most complete game of the season, and came at a time when many teams would throw in the towel.

Worst Game: How about the week before in what would be Dodge's last game? A home game against Florida International turned out to be an embarrassment with Golden Panthers routing them 34-10. QB Wesley Carroll threw for 288 yards and 3 TDs to inspire the victory. The Mean Green offense could only must 285 total yards, with Dunbar being held to a mere 30. Their best play was a 64 yard run by Craig Robertson on a fake punt to set up a TD.

111. New Mexico State (2-10, 1-7 WAC)

Original Forecast: New Mexico State has struggled recently with an offense that couldn't find balance between the run and the pass, and a defense that couldn't stop either. A tough schedule and an improving conference suggested an improved Aggie team may manage a mere three wins. Despite being one of the better non-BCS recruiters, they couldn't even do that.

After switching from an effective passing team who couldn't run to an effective running team who couldn't pass, the Aggies finally achieved some balance by struggling to do either. The fact that they were 117th in points for and 115th in points allowed just highlights their problems. The offense averaged just 296.5 yards per game, compared to 453.3 allowed and a turnover total of just 12 (4 interceptions!) showed they have a long way to go to even be competitive. The only two teams they beat, New Mexico and San Jose State, are at the bottom of the list too. They have some solid players and continue to recruit at a high level, if coach DeWayne Walker can get these players to play to their talent level, they could be a team to watch. This has been said before though.

Best Game: The 29-27 win was a solid victory, with the Aggies showing some poise by driving down the pitch to win on a last second TD pass. After going in at halftime leading 17-3, NMSU allowed the Spartans back into the game behind the passing of Jordan La Secla. But QB Matt Christian, who threw for 259 yards and 2 TDs, and ran for 74 yards and a TD, led them back down the pitch after SJSU took a 27-23 lead. The defense held the Spartan rushing attack to 70 yards, but did allow big plays in the second half. Regardless this was the Aggies best game of the season by far.

Worst Game: Getting blasted 59-0 by Boise State. Getting beaten by the Broncos is pretty much acceptable, but the Aggies were down 45-0 when BU QB Kellen Moore took the rest of the day off after one second half drive. The Broncos passed for 309 yards and ran for 299 and scored on their first five possessions. NMSU could muster just 208 yards and turned the ball over 3 times in a game that was effectively over by the end of the first quarter.