9/17 Akron, 9/24 Louisville, 10/1 at Pittsburgh
9/2 Miami (Ohio), 9/9 at North Carolina State, 9/16 Kent State
9/1 at Miami (Ohio), 9/22 North Carolina State
9/5 at East Carolina, 9/19 at Ohio, 9/26 Pittsburgh
9/4 at Navy, 9/11 East Carolina, 9/25 at Appalachian State
9/3 Navy, 9/17 Appalachian State
Note: Author whiffs on several bowls Conference USA is hooked up with this season (Miami Beach, St. Pete, NOT Cure Bowl), but not all. Have a chuckle.
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
The Football Bowl Association released the schedule for the 2015-16 postseason, making it a perfect time to do the impossible and pick which teams will be playing in the record 40 bowl games set to take place between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2.
Plenty of wishful thinking involved – Texas vs. Texas A&M! – and picks all are subject to change before the season starts.
Wyoming vs. Rice
Houston vs. Western Kentucky
New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Air Force
New Mexico Bowl
Louisiana Tech vs. New Mexico
Las Vegas Bowl
Utah State vs. California
Toledo vs. South Alabama
Miami Beach Bowl
UCF vs. Georgia Southern
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Bowling Green vs. Fresno State
Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl
Western Michigan vs. East Carolina
San Diego State vs. Washington
Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois
Ball State vs. Middle Tennessee
BYU vs. Temple
St. Petersburg Bowl
Cincinnati vs. North Carolina
Louisville vs. Utah
Heart of Dallas Bowl
West Virginia vs. Marshall
Pittsburgh vs. Michigan
Miami vs. Florida
Foster Farms Bowl
Minnesota vs. Stanford
Navy vs. Virginia Tech
Quick Lane Bowl
Illinois vs. Duke
Armed Forces Bowl
Colorado State vs. Rutgers
Russell Athletic Bowl
Kansas State vs. Florida State
Texas A&M vs. Texas
Memphis vs. Mississippi State
North Carolina State vs. Missouri
Music City Bowl
Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee
Arizona vs. Penn State
Alabama vs. Clemson
College Football Playoff semifinal at Cotton Bowl
Notre Dame vs. Auburn
College Football Playoff semifinal at Orange Bowl
Ohio State vs. Baylor
Nebraska vs. Arkansas
Wisconsin vs. LSU
Boise State vs. Oregon
Arizona State vs. Michigan State
Georgia vs. TCU
Iowa vs. South Carolina
Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss
USC vs. Oklahoma
UCLA vs. Oklahoma State
College Football Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona
Ohio State vs. Auburn
Conference USA media poll: (East) 1. WKU; 2. Marshall; 3. Middle Tennessee; 4. Florida Atlantic; 5. FIU; 6. Old Dominion; 7. Charlotte
Dave Campbell’s All-Texas stuff, as carried in dallasnews.com, picks WKU over Marshall in C-USA East (North Texas was picked 5th of 6 in the West). (DMN ingeniously didn’t leave a URL on its story. No kidding.)
Best vote of confidence: Phil Steele picks the Herd 31st, albeit 8 spots behind Boise State.
And the annual repository of disrespect. WKU 80, Marshall 83?
C-USA preseason all-conference (coaches): RB Devon Johnson, OL Clint Van Horn, DL Jarquez Samuel, LB D.J. Hunter, P Tyler Williams, LS Matt Cincotta
Lombardi Award watch list (OL, DL, within 10 yards of snap; LBs within 5 yards from line of scrimmage): OL Clint Van Horn, LB D.J. Hunter
Rimington Award watch list (top center): Michael Selby
Outland Trophy (top lineman): Clint Van Horn
Maxwell Award (player of the year): Devon Johnson
Third-team All-American: KR Deandre Reaves.
First-team All-C-USA: Reaves, RB Devon Johnson, OL Clint Van Horn, LB D.J. Hunter, S Taj Letman, P Tyler Williams.
Second team: OL Sebastian Johansson, DB Corey Tindal.
Third team: WR Deon-Tay McManus, OL Selby, DL Gary Thompson, LB Evan McKelvey.
Fourth team: WR Angelo Jean-Louis and S A.J. Leggett.
(Sure as heck wasn’t a game.)
Birdsong 6-(-3), Butler 13-84, Pittman 11-127, 2 TD, Gaydosz 13-78, Holcombe 3-1, Team 2-(-12), Litton 4-5. Total 52-280 2 TDs.
Holcombe 11-16 147, 2 TDs (15 to Elzy, 44 to Beal); Birdsong 5-20, 58 yards, 2 TDs (25 to Foster, 1 to Foster); Litton 6-12-1, 61 yards, 2 TDs (6 to Green, 5 to Byrd); Garvin 0-0-0. Total 22-48-1, 266 yards, 6 TDs.
Green 5-41, TD, Elzy 3-30, TD, Gaydosz 3-29, Gammon 2-21, Jean-Louis 1-5, Pittman 1-9, Foster 2-26, 2 TDs, Byrd 1-5, TD, Knight 1-7, Beal 2-73, TD, Yurachek 1-20.
Houston 5 tackles, sack; Carter 5 tackles, fumble recovery; Riedel 6 tackles; Hunter sack; Massaquoi sack; Bee sack, safety; Dozier sack; Keller sack; Williams-Hall pass break-up; Allen PBU, Smith PBU; Huskey fumble recovery for TD.
(On lookout for new extensions …)
Conference USA salaries
(Source: USA Today, 2014)
- Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee, $803,129
- David Bailiff, Rice, $780,243
- Doc Holliday, Marshall (extended contract), $755,500
- Dan McCarney, North Texas, $711,600
- Todd Monken, Southern Mississippi, $700,000
- Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky, $600,000
- Ron Turner, Florida International, $551,000
- Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech, $510,000
- Sean Kugler, Texas-El Paso, $508,364
- Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic, $500,000
- Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion, $486,010
- Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio, $402,150
(Charlotte’s Brad Lambert was not ranked, as the 49ers were still an FCS program.)
With spring practice beginning Tuesday, here are 10 items about which I am curious:
- How will the Herd function at defensive end? I bet you thought I’d mention some other position, I’m sure. Gary Thompson has to be a beast on every down, not just a few. At the other end, Joe Massaquoi must tackle better and Armonze Daniel has to be legit. … and, as a reader remains me, Blake Keller can be big-time.
- Sandley Jean-Felix at left tackle: I wondered if Clint Van Horn might make the switch to the left side, but I know he’s pretty comfortable on the right. You know why I like Jean-Felix: his size and those long, long arms.
- OK, I’m not ignoring the post-Cato QB race. Gunnar Holcombe enters the spring as the leader because of his experience, however limited. I’m trying to figure out how Michael Birdsong has the “OR” designation with Cole Garvin.
- Michael Selby at center with Cody Collins/Jordan Dowrey at right guard: We know Selby can do it, but the RG position needs development.
- Welcome back Stefan Houston! He is needed to star at “Will” linebacker — and play the entire year.
- Hyleck Foster vs. Gator Green — at both slot receiver and punt return.
- Tony Pittman at running back: With Devon Johnson and Remi Watson held out of contact, how hard can Pittman push Steward Butler for carries?
- Chris Williams-Hall: He’s listed as No. 2 boundary corner and nickel, both behind Antavis Rowe, so he’s getting a longish look.
None of this takes into account new players entering the program in summer and fall … and those Raheim Husky-like players who shoot up the depth chart during the season.
I started this out as a spoof of recruiting mania, but this list has become a commentary on the character of this program, evaluation and development of talent.
Check out the best “2-star” recruits under coach Doc Holliday (using Rivals this time):
TE Ryan Yurachek
CB Antavis Rowe
S Tiquan Lang
G Michael Selby
LS Matt Cincotta
RB Devon Johnson
DE Gary Thompson
CB Corey Tindal
T Clint Van Horn
G/T Sebastian Johansson
LB Evan McKelvey
K Justin Haig
TE Gator Hoskins
DE Ra’Shawde Myers
CB Darryl Roberts
T Garrett Scott
DT Brandon Sparrow
52 points, 505 total yards, 9 of 14 on third down. Tommy Shuler played out of his mind.
Between 3 red-zone stops and a statistically dominant second half, there isn’t much to gripe about.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
An early loss of field position on punts, but Deandre Reaves’ TD return gave Marshall a surge.
No tough start this time for Cato, who threw, 3 brilliant TD passes.
Didn’t find much to pick at, and the preparation obviously was outstanding.
Blew away a team that could have gone to a major bowl. Give Doc a raise.
Today’s weather in Boca Raton: A passing shower or two, high 72.
I won’t run down the links here, but I have retweeted bowl ratings from Yahoo! Sports, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Awful Announcing (a very good, funny follow). Those are 10th, 14th and 8th, if I recall correctly. If you’re griping about national perception, there you go.
If you want to read the wailing from the Huntington paper, you can find that bunch of hooey yourself. I was taken aback by the writer’s references to Stephen Kopp, as if he personally lobbied for the bowl. If you didn’t know, there is no love lost between those two.
Those who say a loss to Northern Illinois would be “devastating” are exhibiting the same uppity behavior that some WVU fans have about possibly losing to Marshall. The Huskies aren’t Akron, Miami (oh) or those unlovable Buffalo Bulls, people. They are what Marshall was, 1997-2002.
One bettin’ site, OddsShark makes Marshall an 11-point favorite. A percentage of bets is listed, and it appears that line will go down. (La Tech game was down to 9½ by Saturday, according to CBS Sports.)
A few words about the 2013 Military Bowl: I don’t think beating Maryland was nearly as much of a perception boost as it was a confidence builder for the Marshall program. You saw it in the players’ eyes all spring and all August. The fourth-quarter finish was a testament to the strength program, and I think — I don’t think, I know (a Doc-ism) — it made the players buy in that much harder. These guys darn near worship Scott Sinclair.
(Consider the strong fourth quarters in the UAB, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech games, and perhaps Miami and Florida Atlantic. We could be talking about a 9-3 team.)
Look for me to drop off this week, as I squeeze in my last two days of vacation, resurfacing before the Marshall-WVU basketball game. A Sunday 4:30 tip? Wow.
Could be lower, considering the 3 turnovers and scoring only one touchdown in the first 58 minutes. Rushing was mostly throttled, managing 121 yards on 35 carries. Rakeem Cato struggled mightily early on. But that winning drive looked easy, as the Herd faced one third down, a third-and-3.
90 total yards in the second half is all you need to know. Another stat: When not saddled with a short field, this unit was scary good — the Bulldogs ran for 87 of their 196 yards on those short-field TD drives.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
I’m going to deduct only one-plus letter for that blocked punt and the goofy turnover because of what else happened: Justin Haig hit 40, 46 and 40 FGs after not even trying one past 39 all season. Constantly gained field position on the punt game, had a punt downed at the 1. More positive than negative, though it could have easily gone the other way.
Cato had lot of trouble in the first half, when he was just 9 of 20, but rebounded. The interception was not his fault in the least, nor were the two turnovers. But that end-of-game drive — and completing that 9-yard pass on third-and-9 to finish the game — that was money.
Give all credit to Chuck Heater for keeping that defense together through what could have been 3 deflating touchdown runs. And give long-term credit for this team not panicking when there were plenty of chances to do so.
This may be low, considering the ultimate result. This game probably shouldn’t have been so in doubt, but Louisiana Tech does have an opportunistic defense. This team has had three straight tough games, so you can grouse about that. But remember, this program hasn’t accomplished this in 12 years.