Rant Sports Mid-Major Power Rankings Week 8
Rant Sports Mid-Major Power Rankings
College football was rocked by a wild weekend that saw plenty of major upsets and surprisingly lopsided results. The West Virginia Mountaineers went to Lubbock and got walloped 49-14 by the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Elsewhere in Texas, the Oklahoma Sooners ran roughshod over the Texas Longhorns to the tune of 63-21. The Mid-Major Power Rankings didn’t suffer quite that much upheaval, but there was plenty of movement regardless.
The top 10 from last week went 9-1 on the week, with the one loss being a very close shootout with a high quality SEC opponent. The success at the top of the Mid-Major heap left little room for any newcomers to join the rankings, as no teams fell out of the power rankings.
That doesn’t mean that the order hasn’t been jumbled. Only two teams are in the same spot they were a week ago. Two teams fall a bit in the order and six teams move up at least one spot.
With the same ten teams in the power rankings, the conference numbers are the same. Conference USA has one team, the WAC also has just one, while the Sun Belt has two, the Mountain West has a pair, and the MAC still has the most representatives in the mix with four teams in the power rankings.
Utah State Aggies
Fresno State Bulldogs
Another new team takes over the top spot this week, making the third new team to take the number one position in the last three weeks. But with only one undefeated Mid-Major remaining, the chances of a BCS buster in 2012 grows slimmer. So without further ado, we count down the Mid-Major Power Rankings for Week 8.
10. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 5-1 (2-0) Sun Belt
Last Week: 10 (0)
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers stay put at number 10 in the power rankings after a hard-fought road win against the Troy Trojans. WKU trailed at the half 17-14, but came out strong in the third quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns to take the lead. The defense stiffened and held Troy scoreless in the fourth to preserve the win.
Quarterback Kawaun Jakes led the way, throwing for 255 yards with three touchdown passes while Antonio Andrews led the rushing attack, gaining 113 yards on 26 carries. It was the fourth straight 100-yard game for Andrews. The defense did their part as well, applying constant pressure to Troy backup quarterback Deon Anthony in the second half which sparked the Hilltopper rally.
Western Kentucky has had trouble gaining ground in the national media and in these power rankings because of the lack of a “signature” win. Their one major opponent, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, destroyed this team 35-0 which has forced WKU to overcome that stigma. They’ll get a chance next week in a Sun Belt showdown with the Lousiana-Monroe Warhawks, who have been steadily climbing in our rankings.
9. Toledo Rockets 6-1 (4-0) MAC
Last Week: 5 (-4)
The Toledo Rockets drop four spots this week after narrowly escaped a road game against the winless Eastern Michigan Eagles. The two teams combined for 55 points in the third quarter in what turned into a wild shootout with Toledo hanging on for a 52-47 win.
The Rockets got a spectacular day of production from a couple of their offensive playmakers. Terrence Owens threw for 401 yards on 21-for-32 passing with three touchdowns. Wide receiver Bernard Reedy was the main beneficiary, catching 11 passes for 237 yards, both game-highs, and scoring two touchdowns. Running back David Fluellen chipped in with 188 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.
The team was fortunate to have their offense clicking so well because their defense was nowhere to be found. The Rockets surrendered 624 yards of total offense to the Eagles, including 323 on the ground. There will be tougher tests ahead for Toledo (including this week against the No. 21 Cincinnati Bearcats), and performances like this one won’t be good enough to win.
8. Northern Illinois Huskies 6-1 (3-0) MAC
Last Week: 9 (+1)
The Northern Illinois Huskies showed how you handle a lesser opponent by thoroughly dispatching the Buffalo Bulls 45-3 at home. The Huskies put this game away in the second quarter with 21 points to give themselves a 28-3 halftime advantage. They continued to play stifling defense in the second half and distanced themselves from the Bulls for a blowout.
Jordan Lynch continued to be Mr. Everything for NIU, amassing 361 total yards of offense (232 passing, 129 rushing) and scoring four touchdowns. Wide receiver Martel Moore chipped in with eight receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown. The team struggled offensively on third downs, going just 4-for-14, but made up for it by being aggressive on fourth down, converting 4-of-5.
The Huskies look like a team that is finding its stride as the season progresses. The offense if finding its rhythm, the defense is getting more stops, and the schedule is set up for them to finish very strong. They have just one opponent in their final five games currently over .500 (Toledo Rockets, November 14), and two opponents still searching for their first win of the season. Look for NIU to make a strong push for the MAC Championship and a big bowl game to follow.
7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane 6-1 (4-0) C-USA
Week: 8 (+1)
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane move up one spot in the power rankings this week after taking care of the UTEP Miners at home by a final score of 33-11. UTEP was holding tough through two quarters, trailing Tulsa by a field goal, 6-3, at the break. But the Golden Hurricane found their offense to open the second half and scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Tulsa was paced on offense by their running game, led by Ja’Terian Douglas who rushed 13 times for 128 yards with a touchdown, including an 81-yard score during Tulsa’s third quarter offensive explosion. Senior Alex Singleton added 96 rushing yards of his own on 21 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
Tulsa continues to separate themselves as the cream of the crop in Conference USA, but will want to solve their slow-start issues they had this week against an overmatched UTEP squad as they move through the tougher part of their conference schedule.
6. Kent State Golden Flashes 5-1 (3-0) MAC
t Week 7 (+1)
The Kent State Golden Flashes get bumped up a spot this week after heading to West Point and defeating the Army Black Knights 31-17. The Flashes jumped up quickly, scoring the first 17 points of the game and led 24-3 going into the fourth quarter. Army tried to rally, but could only trade touchdowns and fell by 14.
Dri Archer was the star for Kent State in this game. The junior running back rushed 12 times for 222 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for the Flashes. The defense struggled to contain the Army option-attack, surrendering 325 yards on the ground, but did force a turnover and avoided giving up any big plays.
Kent State is well positioned to make some moves in the power rankings over the next few weeks. They have a trip to face undefeated Big East co-leader Rutgers Scarlet Knights October 27 and have a showdown with the Ohio Bobcats November 23 in what could determine the MAC winner. They’ll have opportunities, but they’ll need to capitalize on them.
5. UL Monroe Warhawks 4-2 (2-0) Sun Belt
Last Week: 6 (+1)
The UL Monroe Warhawks handled their business on Saturday and won in a walk over the Florida Atlantic Owls. The Warhawks scored first, putting the first 21 points on the board capped by a muffed punt recovered in the end zone. They would lead 21-7 at half, and continued to press their advantage for the comfortable win.
Kolton Browning didn’t put up great numbers, just 10-for-23 for 147 yards and 10 carries for 59 yards, but he did find the end zone twice through the air. Monterell Washington added a pair of rushing touchdowns as well. The defense, however, was the real star as they shut down the Owl offense. FAU gained just 46 yards rushing on the day, good for a 1.2 yards per carry average.
ULM went toe-to-toe with some college football heavyweights early in the season and it looks like it has prepared them well to storm through the Sun Belt. They’ll be tested next week against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers which has turned into a game that could decide the Sun Belt champion.
4. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 5-1 (0-0) WAC
Last Week: 1 (-3)
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs hosted the Texas A&M Aggies in what was being called the biggest game in Bulldogs history. At the start, they were making it look like it might just be the biggest blowout suffered by the Bulldogs in history as the Aggies ran out to a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter. La Tech closed the gap to 39-16 at the half, but still looked like a team that was going to get run off the field.
But that all changed in the second half as the Bulldogs staged a wild rally that saw them close to within two points twice in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the two-point conversion attempts failed both times and the Aggies escaped Louisiana with the 59-57 win.
Tech’s offense may have started slowly, but they picked it up and proved that their fire power is for real on Saturday. Colby Cameron complete 44-of-58 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Kenneth Dixon rushed 19 times for 111 yards and pair of touchdowns as well, while wide receiver Quinton Patton put his name on the map with a 21 reception, 233 yard, four touchdown performance, including a 62 yard score in the fourth quarter that pulled the Bulldogs to within a score.
The Bulldogs had a great opportunity to catapult themselves into the BCS buster conversation against the Aggies. They ended up falling just short, but showed an incredible resolve and toughness that’s going to scare whichever big time programs scheduled them for next season.
3. Ohio Bobcats 7-0 (3-0) MAC
Last Week: 4 (+1)
The Ohio Bobcats remain the lone unbeaten mid-major in the power rankings after dispatching the Akron Zips 34-28 at home. Ohio jumped out early on the Zips, scoring the first 20 points of the game en route to a 20-7 halftime lead. They took a 20 point lead into the fourth quarter before hanging on as Akron scored the final 14 points of the game, but had their rally come up short.
The running game continued to be the strength of the Bobcats’ offense, racking up 252 yards on the ground. They were led once again by junior Beau Blankenship, who rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries for his sixth 100-yard rushing day of the season. The Bobcats also got in a bit of trickeration on the day, scoring their first touchdown on a pass from wide receiver Landon Smith to quarterback Tyler Tettleton for a 39-yard score.
While Ohio continues to win games, they haven’t been winning with authority lately. Their last three games have been decided by seven points or less against opponents who are a combined 2-17 on the season. The soft schedule and their struggles with it are the main reasons that Ohio hasn’t risen higher in these power rankings or broken into the AP Top 25 earlier. They may be able to squeak through undefeated, but they won’t impress voters enough to bust the BCS at this rate.
2. Nevada Wolfpack 6-1 (3-0) MWC
Last Week: 2 (0)
The Nevada Wolfpack found themselves in a deep hole in Las Vegas against the UNLV Rebels. Trailing 14-0 after one quarter, Nevada could only trade scores with UNLV in the second and went into the half trailing by 17 points. But the halftime adjustments worked for the Pack, as they rattled off 28 straight points to rally for the 42-37 win.
Devin Combs got the start at quarterback for the injured Cody Fajardo and did well, but was not great. He was 14-of-19 passing for 167 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He did most of his damage with his legs, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown. The star of the offense, however, was running back Stefphon Jefferson who rushed for 185 yards on 34 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
It was the second straight week that Nevada has had to rally against a seemingly lesser opponent. They’ve found ways to win, however, and the offense is as explosive as anyone on this list. They will need to improve their focus, however, to avoid any stumbling blocks between now and the season ending showdown with the Boise State Broncos.
1. Boise State Broncos 5-1 (2-0)
Last Week: 3 (+2)
Speaking of the Boise State Broncos, they leapfrog Nevada into the top spot of the power rankings this week after a strong performance against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Many people saw Fresno State as the team to beat in the Mountain West, but the blue-turf denizens of Boise had something to say about that. The Broncos jumped ahead early, posting a 17-0 halftime lead. Then they let their defense do the rest, holding on for the 20-10 win.
The difference in this game was the running game. Boise State outgained Fresno State on the ground 215-56, led by D.J. Harper’s 21 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown. Jay Ayaji added some big plays as well, rushing 15 times for 91 yards. The Broncos struggled on offense converting third downs, going just 4-of-12, but were bailed out by their defense who held the Bulldogs to 8-of-18 on third down conversion and created a pair of turnovers.
This is the first time that Boise State has hit the top of the power rankings as they try and make their farewell season on the Mid-Major circuit a memorable one. They are finally starting to look like the team that has been the standard-bearer for the BCS busters over the last decade. They’ll need some big performances to make up the ground to do it this year, but for now, they can be content sitting at the top of the mid-major mountain.