Rant Sports Mid-Major Power Rankings: Week 7
Rant Sports Mid-Major Power Rankings
The landscape of the mid-major football powers is ever changing and so is the hierarchy of the power rankings. After another exciting week of games, another new team sits at number one, acting as king of the mid-major hill at least for this week.
The top ten last week went 7-2, with one team on bye and two teams in the power rankings facing off against one another. The teams who failed to win fall out of the rankings this week, opening up the list for two brand new entrants.
Conference USA gets its first representative into the top 10 this week while the MAC adds yet another, pushing their total to four teams in the power rankings. The WAC and Sun Belt conferences both lose a representative, leaving them with one and two teams respectively in the top 10 this week. The Mountain West holds pat with two teams making the rankings.
This week, we also see the mid-majors breaking into the national polls with two teams cracking the AP Top 25 from non-AQ conferences. How will these teams handle the national attention? If they thrive, they’ll make a push to break through into the BCS party at season’s end. If they slip, they’ll be written off as just another also-ran.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Utah State Aggies
San Jose State Spartans
Fresno State Bulldogs
The pressure to perform is getting cranked up as conference play opens up in full for most of these teams. So without further ado, we count down the Rant Sports Mid-Major Power Rankings for Week 7.
10. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 4-1 (1-0) Sun Belt
Last Week: 7 (-3)
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were off this week and fell behind a couple of newcomers to the top 10 who have been on hot streaks as of late. With the week off, the Hilltoppers will hope to iron out the difficulties they faced in their rally over the Arkansas State Red Wolves as they look ahead to some tough conference matchups in the next month.
For WKU to continue their strong showing this season, they will need to continue to feed their running game, ranked 25th in the nation averaging 213 yards per game. Junior Antonio Andrews and Leon Allen will be the focus, as the one-two punch in the backfield is averaging over six yards per carry apiece. Andrews also leads the team in receiving yards with 235 yards on 19 catches and the duo has combined for eight total touchdowns.
9. Northern Illinois Huskies 5-1 (2-0) MAC
Last Week: NR
The Northern Illinois Huskies have overcome a season opening one-point loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes with five straight wins. Last week, the Huskies went on the road and took care of the Ball State Cardinals with a decisive second half in which they outscored the home team 21-7 by rattling off the last 21 points of the game in a 35-23 victory.
They were led by their rushing attack, which racked up 314 yards in the game. Dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch led the way rushing for 207 yards on 29 carries, scoring three touchdowns on the ground. He added 195 yards passing on 16-of-23 completions with another score. Lynch has been dynamic for NIU all season, averaging 341 yards of total offense per game, ranked 7th best in the country.
8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane 5-1 (3-0) C-USA
Last Week: NR
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane have hovered on the fringes of the power rankings for weeks now, but finally punch through and into the top 10 with a win over the Marshall Thundering Herd on the road. Tulsa was pushed in the game, which featured two ties and a two lead changes, before scoring the go-ahead touchdown about midway through the fourth quarter, eventually winning 45-38.
As has been the case all season, the running game was the key for Tulsa. The road team rushed for 250 yards (of the team’s 340 total yards), led by the one-two combination of Trey Watts and Alex Singleton out of the backfield. The pair combined for 205 yards on 334 carries with three touchdowns on the day. The defense looked spotty, surrendering over 500 yards of offense to Marshall, but came up with key stops and three turnovers to seal the win.
7. Kent State Golden Flashes 4-1 (3-0) MAC
Last Week: 10 (+3)
The Kent State Golden Flashes followed up their tough win over the Ball State Cardinals in Week 5 with a comfortable blowout win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The win was their third straight conference victory after a bad loss at the Kentucky Wildcats on September 8, and pushed Kent State to the top of the MAC standings with a perfect 3-0 conference mark.
The Flashes were paced by their rushing attack, which gained 321 yards on the day. They were paced by sophomore Trayion Durham who rushed for 116 yards on 24 carries with a pair of touchdowns. Dri Archer also showed off his playmaking ability scoring three touchdowns on the day, one receiving, one rushing on a 68-yard scamper, and one on a kickoff return when he took the second-half opening kickoff 98-yards for a score.
6. UL Monroe Warhawks 3-2 (1-0) Sun Belt
Last Week: 9 (+3)
The UL Monroe Warhawks opened up their Sun Belt Conference schedule with a very impressive road win over Middle Tennessee State, who was just one week removed from shocking the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Warhawks were methodical in their gameplan, rolling up 500 yards of total offense and held the ball for nearly twice as long as the Blue Raiders, holding the ball for practically 40 minutes. They finished the day with a 16-play, 70-yard drive which ran the final 8:25 off the clock to seal their 31-17 victory.
Kolton Browning continued his impressive season under center for the Warhawks. He finished the day 26-of-38 for 285 yards and a touchdown while Jyruss Edwards added two rushing touchdowns and 87 yards on the ground. The defense also came to shine in this game, forcing three turnovers and limiting the Raiders to just 69 yards rushing on the day. The Warhawks aggressive offensive game planning that got them so much attention against the big boys early in the season is paying dividends as they play the rest of their schedule.
5. Toledo Rockets 5-1 (3-0) MAC
Last Week: 8 (+3)
The Toledo Rockets continue their climb up the rankings with a solid dispatching of the Central Michigan Chippewas. Toledo found themselves trailing at halftime 21-17, but made some effective halftime adjustments, particularly on defense, and stormed back in the second half. In the third and fourth quarters, the Rockets outscored their opponent 33-14 and coasted to the 50-35 win.
This win is credited to the Rockets’ defense and special teams. While the offense was not bad (quarterback Terrence Owens threw for 233 yards, running back David Fluellen rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown), the game was turned by three non-offensive touchdowns. Bernard Reedy put Toledo ahead in the third quarter with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter, the defense put the game away with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns by Jermaine Robinson and Mark Singer.
The ability to score in all three phases of the game makes Toledo a dangerous foe in the MAC moving forward.
4. Ohio Bobcats 6-0 (2-0) MAC
Last Week: 2 (-2)
The Ohio Bobcats fall for a second straight week in the rankings after another close call against an underwhelming opponent. This week, Ohio hosted the Buffalo Bulls and were fortunate to come away with the win. Buffalo outgained the Bobcat 501-333, rushing for 313 yards against the Ohio defense. The Bobcats broke open a 24-24 tie going into the fourth quarter with a pair of Ryan Boykin runs and held on to win 38-31.
The Bobcats’ defense was lucky they didn’t cost their team the win. They allowed two Bulls’ running backs to eclipse 100 yards rushing, struggled to get off the field on third down (allowing 10-for-19 third down conversion), and surrendering a staggering 30 first downs. They were bailed out by three fumble recoveries and a Daz’mond Patterson 100-yard kickoff return that started the Bobcats’ rally from a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter.
Ohio becomes the first MAC team to be bowl-eligible, but they have some issues to fix if they want to get invited to a good bowl this postseason.
3. Boise State Broncos 4-1 (1-0) MWC
Last Week: 4 (+1)
The Boise State Broncos have long been the standard for mid-major programs, but have had some trouble finding their footing in 2012, particularly on offense. They certainly found their groove on Saturday as they went on the road and completely dominated the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles to the tune of a 40-14 blowout. It was the kind of over-powering performance that has been the norm for Broncos football in recent years, and it was back in force this weekend.
Quarterback Joe Southwick has had some big shoes to fill being the guy to replace Kellen Moore, but he looked like he was starting to get comfortable with that on Saturday, throwing for three touchdown passes. The Broncos defense was stifling all day long, turning the Eagles over five times and making sure this game was never close.
Stringing together some dominant performances like this will go a long way in re-establishing Boise State as the premier mid-major program in college football.
2. Nevada Wolfpack 5-1 (2-0) MWC
Last Week: 1 (-1)
The Nevada Wolfpack looked vulnerable on Saturday as they were pushed to the edge by the Wyoming Cowboys, needing a late fourth quarter touchdown to force overtime before prevailing 35-28. The normally explosive Nevada running game struggled to get on track, and an injury to quarterback Cody Fajardo put the season into doubt after half time.
But the game ball this week goes to Nevada’s backup QB, sophomore Devin Combs, who stepped in after Fajardo went down with back spasms in the second quarter and had a heroic day. Finishing 11-for 19 with 217 yards passing, Combs stepped up when it mattered, throwing two touchdown passes on the day. The first came with just over a minute to play that tied the game at 28-28. The second gave Nevada the lead and the win in overtime.
It was not the way that Nevada drew up the game, but they did find a way to win. If Fajardo’s health is a concern going forward, now they know what they have as Plan B, and it’s a winner in Combs.
1. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 5-0 (0-0) WAC
Last Week: 3 (+2)
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs jump up to the top of our power rankings and into the AP Top 25 this week at No. 23 after they extended their perfect record to 5-0 with a thorough dispatching of the UNLV Rebels 58-31. The Bulldogs jumped out ahead right away, leading 20-7 after the first quarter, and turned up the pace again after halftime, outscoring UNLV 31-14 in the third and fourth quarters. The Bulldogs continued their impressive offensive output in the 2012 season, where they rank third in the country in points scored per game, averaging 53.2.
Running back Kenneth Dixon starred for the Bulldogs in this one, carrying the ball 16 times for 102 yards and four touchdowns. Ray Holley added 139 yards rushing on 22 carries and a touchdown of his own as the Bulldogs ran for 306 yards as a team to go along with quarterback Colby Cameron’s 316 yards passing.
The Bulldogs will get their biggest test yet next week as they face the Texas A&M Aggies in a game that was rescheduled from the opening weekend because of a hurricane. If La Tech can find a way to keep their high flying offense rolling against a quality SEC opponent like the Aggies, the Bulldogs will be on the fast track towards busting the BCS.