Inside Marshall Sports

Friday afternoon in Memphis

First, the latest from the Commercial Appeal… Kind of expands on the theme I had earlier this week about Singleton and Calhoun.

Other notables from the end of that item: (a) RB Curtis Steele got into practice Thursday in a limited fashion and (b) Brett Toney has been running the second unit at QB. Toney has been buried on the depth chart, but is a senior and has starting experience.

Memphis sits on the Mississippi border, so I’ve heard a good dose of screaming about Houston Nutt on sports radio. Play-calling seems to be unanimously blasted — me, personally, I try to give coaches the benefit of the doubt on play-calling unless something just jumps out at me and smacks me between the eyes.

Flew through Atlanta today and picked up a Journal-Constitution today. It was another shocking look at the newspaper industry.

The AJC has cut down to a really skinny broadsheet, skinnier than the format we switched to 10 or 12 years ago in Charleston. The Friday sports page had just 9 pages — granted, we’re happy to have 5 at times, but this is *Atlanta*, for Pete’s sake.

And get this — the college coverage is really segmented. Tuesday is UGa and Ga. Tech opponents, Wednesday is Georgia, Thursday is Tech (hope I got the order right) and Friday highlights Georgia stars doing well elsewhere. Today’s paper had a good story on the son of Ga. coach Mark Richt, who is QB at Mars Hill, had some around-the-SEC capsules and THAT WAS IT. It does look like a lot of excess work is going in blogs only.

If you got the print version of Friday’s Gazette, you’ll notice I picked Memphis. This is a really tough call, but I’ve seen a lot of Herd road games (including the last one) and I’m still kind of spooked. I want this team to get off the bus and punch a C-USA foe in the mouth, sort of like it did last year at Southern Miss.

I did see five or six Herd fans on the planes today, and it always makes me feel good. And really, it’s not a bad drive, especially on the way down, when you gain an hour with Central time. If you went to Cullowhee and have never made it to Memphis… are you kidding me?

Enjoy the game, whether you watch or listen.

UAB 44, Rice 24

Link to the Birmingham News.

Frightening thought No. 1: Joe Webb could end up being the best QB in the East Division this year.

Frightening thought No. 2: The Blazers play SMU at home this coming weekend, meaning they could very well start 2-0. Believe it or not, their third C-USA game is at home, though against Southern Miss. The game at Marshall is No. 4.

Do temper the result, though, by considering the plight of Rice. The Owls will not be good. I voted them sixth in the West, and have no idea how they were fourth in the media poll. I see nothing but a total collapse for that bunch this time around.

Around C-USA, week of Sept. 5

With no Conference USA notebook in this week’s Gazette, here is my lineup of games, with some observations …
First, some news on CBS College Sports gaining a little exposure in Houston. Hey, every bit helps.

And now, the lineup:
Tulane 37, Tulsa 13: A yawner, as expected. I have been in the office tonight, flipped the TV on and the first time I looked up it was already 17-0. G.J. Kinne was a workmanlike 15-of-20 for 210 yards and a TD, plus he ran for 78 yards and another score. But, hey, Marshall doesn’t have to deal with the Golden Hurricane this year.

Tulsa’s oft-maligned defense forced two turnovers and held Andre Anderson to 49 yards rushing. And that was that.

Rice at UAB, 4 p.m.: Only interesting because the Blazers will either take an early lead or take an early step into the cellar in the East. Frankly, this may be a battle of last-place teams.

UAB has 11 players on its two-deep who haven’t played offense or defense, so it’s still in many ways a young team. Ed Zaunbrecher takes over as Rice’s offensive coordinator, but he does so without Chase Clement, James Casey or Jarrett Dillard.

The hunch? I have none.

Appalachian State at East Carolina, noon: Toughest ticket today in the state of North Carolina. The big question is whether Armanti Edwards, who injured his foot in a lawnmower accident, will play. He did return to practice Monday, but his backups are athletic enough to be punt returners.

The hunch: Pirates in a thrilla.

Buffalo at UTEP, 9 p.m.: When the Miners lost 42-17 last year at Buffalo, we thought that a bit embarrassing … until Turner Gill’s Bulls won the MAC title. The Bulls may or may not take a step back, but 3,100-yard running back James Starks is injured and tackle Dane Robinson has been suspended for two games.

Look for a big game from Trevor Vittatoe, one of C-USA’s rising stars at QB. The hunch: Miners will return the favor from last year.

Ole Miss at Memphis, 3:30 p.m. Sunday: Fun rivalry game in the Mid-South, though the Rebels have kept the upper hand in recent years. My question on the Tigers: Will the offensive line be up to snuff? Coach Tommy West thinks so, but Ole Miss may not be the best barometer.

The hunch: Rebs, Rebs, Rebs.

The other games feature unranked FCS teams looking for a payday: Northwestern State at Houston, Alcorn State at Southern Miss, Samford at UCF, Stephen F. Austin at SMU. My questions: Can UCF score on anybody and can SMU stop anybody? Houston and Southern Miss should have no problems.

Deep breath before the first week

In Monday’s column, I will just scrape the surface on why Herd fans should be nervous about Southern Illinois, both from a historical aspect and a simple look at the opponent.

Elsewhere in the world, we may have witnessed the beginning of the end of Rich Rodriguez’s reign at Michigan, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. The “Freep” not only got a number of current and former players to speak anonymously, they quoted a few freshmen completely on the record, newcomers who had no clue of what NCAA rules say.

I would daresay this serves as a look into the Mountaineer program during the Rodriguez/Barwis days. Hmmm…

The Birmingham News, one of the more positive aspects of the old Alabama steel city, took its stab at the Conference USA East Division, and somebody’s been dipping in the Kool-Aid. The question is who? Those guys or me?

Their order is Southern Miss, ECU, Memphis, UAB, Marshall, UCF. OK, somebody has to be sixth, but it won’t be UCF. And UAB won’t be fourth, though it was fourth last year when you factor in tiebreakers.

When I voted in the preseason poll (remember, this was well before camp), I voted Southern Miss, UCF, ECU, Marshall, Memphis and UAB. UCF represents the illogical hunch pick, and I was bloody well going to take one. If you don’t learn anything about Conference USA, you must learn that results don’t follow logic. (That and George O’Leary always worries me after a down year.)

That said, it’s tough to envision ECU in third. And I like Marshall’s prospects a lot better than I did coming out of spring. Memphis has the offense to contend.

You can bust on Conference USA all you want, but I’ve liked the East Division from the beginning. I hope it stays together awhile.

With all that, I leave with a final shot: Big things are always possible. I know, because I actually watched WVU Tech win a game this weekend. 😉

A tailgating dustup at UCF

I’m not sure how it affects the Marshall-UCF game, considering it’s on a Sunday, but here it is:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/college/knights/orl-sportsucf-tailgate-06080609aug06,0,1210731.story

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_bianchi/2009/08/ucf-needs-to-come-clean-and-give-real-reason-for-new-tailgating-policy.html

Feedback from C-USA Media Day

Yeah, I know, Memphis writers are predisposed to piling on C-USA. But after my disgust with VideoMedia Day, I loved this piece from Geoff Calkins.

C-USA media day

It is a video teleconference this year, which is probably a good move even without the cost containment considerations. I am ending my vacation a day early to participate. You will see at least one story tonight.

I may or may not blog during the conference, depending on how things progress.

UPDATE … nevermind…. it was a technological disaster. I am back on vacation until Friday.

MU football opponent schedules

Here are the schedules for Marshall’s 2009 opponents, excepting West Virginia (nothing personal, just waiting for Dave Hickman to type those in when we run these things in the Gazette a little later this summer). Last year’s results are included.

Southern Illinois
Sept. 5 at Marshall DNP
Sept. 19 Southwest Baptist DNP
Sept. 26 North Dakota State* L, 27-35
Oct. 3 at Western Illinois* W, 24-14
Oct. 10 Illinois State* W, 17-10 (OT)
Oct. 17 at Northern Iowa* W, 27-24
Oct. 24 Youngstown State* W, 33-0
Oct. 31 at Indiana State* W, 60-7
Nov. 7 at South Dakota State* W, 38-35
Nov. 14 Missouri State* W, 23-17
Nov. 21 at SE Missouri State DNP
*–Missouri Valley Football Conference games
2008 record: 9-3, 7-1 Missouri Valley, shared conference title. Postseason: lost to New Hampshire in first round of Division I playoffs, 20-29.
Dropped: Hampton (W, 37-31), Northwestern (L, 7-33), North Dakota (W, 40-21).

Virginia Tech
Sept. 5 Alabama (at Atlanta) DNP
Sept. 12 Marshall DNP
Sept. 19 Nebraska W, 35-30
Sept. 26 Miami* L, 14-16
Oct. 3 at Duke* W, 14-3
Oct. 10 Boston College* L, 23-28
Oct. 17 at Georgia Tech* W, 20-17
Oct. 29 (Thur.) North Carolina* W, 20-17
Nov. 5 (Thur.) at East Carolina L, 22-27
Nov. 14 at Maryland* W, 23-13
Nov. 21 North Carolina State* DNP
Nov. 28 at Virginia W, 17-14
*–Atlantic Coast Conference games
2008 record: 10-4, 5-3 ACC (shared Coastal Division title, defeated Boston College 30-12 for ACC championship). Postseason: Orange Bowl vs. Cincinnati, W, 20-7.
Dropped: Furman (W, 24-7), Western Kentucky (W, 27-13), Florida State (L, 20-30)

Bowling Green
Sept. 3 (Thur.) Troy DNP
Sept. 12 at Missouri DNP
Sept. 19 at Marshall DNP
Sept. 26 Boise State L, 7-20
Oct. 3 Ohio* W, 28-3
Oct. 10 at Kent State* W, 45-30
Oct. 17 at Ball State* DNP
Oct. 24 Central Michigan* DNP
Nov. 3 (Tue.) at Buffalo* L, 34-40, 2OT
Nov. 12 (Thur.) at Miami, Ohio* L, 20-27
Nov. 20 (Fri.) Akron* W, 37-33
Nov. 27 (Fri.) Toledo* W, 38-10
2008 record: 6-6, 4-4 MAC (tied for second, East Division).
Dropped: Pittsburgh (W, 27-17), Minnesota (L, 17-42), Wyoming (W, 45-16), Eastern Michigan (L, 21-24), Northern Illinois (L, 13-16).

Memphis
Sept. 6 (Sun.) Mississippi L, 24-41
Sept. 12 at Middle Tennessee DNP
Sept. 19 Tennessee-Martin DNP
Sept. 26 Marshall* L, 16-17
Oct. 3 at Central Florida* L, 21-28
Oct. 10 Texas-El Paso* DNP
Oct. 17 at Southern Miss* W, 36-30
Oct. 27 (Tue.) East Carolina* L, 10-30
Nov. 7 at Tennessee DNP
Nov. 14 UAB* W, 33-30
Nov. 21 at Houston* DNP
Nov. 27 (Fri.) at Tulsa* DNP
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 6-7, 4-4 C-USA (tied for second, East Division). Postseason: St. Petersburg Bowl vs. South Florida (L, 14-41).
Dropped: Rice (L, 35-42), Nicholls State (W, 31-10), Arkansas State (W, 29-17), Louisville (L, 28-35), SMU (W, 31-26), Tulane (W 45-6).

East Carolina
Sept. 5 Appalachian State DNP
Sept. 12 at West Virginia W, 24-3
Sept. 19 at North Carolina DNP
Sept. 26 Central Florida* W, 13-10, OT
Oct. 3 at Marshall* W, 19-16, OT
Oct. 10 at SMU* DNP
Oct. 17 Rice* DNP
Oct. 27 (Tue.) at Memphis* W, 30-10
Nov. 5 (Thur.) Virginia Tech W, 27-22
Nov. 15 (Sun.) at Tulsa* DNP
Nov. 21 UAB* W, 17-13
Nov. 28 Southern Miss* L, 3-21
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 9-5, 6-2 C-USA (Won East Division, defeated Tulsa 27-24 for C-USA championship). Postseason: Liberty Bowl vs. Kentucky (L, 19-25).
Dropped: Tulane (W, 28-24), North Carolina State (L, 24-30), Houston (L, 24-41), Virginia (L, 20-35), Texas-El Paso (W, 53-21).

Tulane
Sept. 4 (Fri.) Tulsa* L, 7-56
Sept. 12 Brigham Young DNP
Sept. 26 McNeese State DNP
Oct. 3 at Army L, 13-44
Oct. 10 Marshall* DNP
Oct. 17 Houston* L, 14-42
Oct. 24 at Southern Miss* DNP
Oct. 31 at LSU L, 10-35
Nov. 7 Texas-El Paso* L, 21-24
Nov. 14 at Rice* L, 17-42
Nov. 21 at Central Florida* DNP
Nov. 28 at SMU* W, 34-27
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 2-10, 1-7 C-USA (fifth West Division).
Dropped: Alabama (L, 6-20), East Carolina (L, 24-28), Louisiana-Monroe (W, 24-10), UAB (L, 24-41), Memphis (L, 6-45).

Alabama-Birmingham
Sept. 5 Rice* DNP
Sept. 12 SMU* DNP
Sept. 19 at Troy DNP
Sept. 26 at Texas A&M DNP
Oct. 1 (Thur.) Southern Miss* L, 14-70
Oct. 17 at Mississippi DNP
Oct. 24 at Marshall* W, 23-21
Oct. 31 at UTEP* DNP
Nov. 7 Florida Atlantic L, 34-49
Nov. 14 at Memphis* L, 30-33
Nov. 21 at East Carolina* L, 13-17
Nov. 28 Central Florida* W, 15-0
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 4-8, 3-5 C-USA (tied fourth East Division).
Dropped: Tulsa (L, 22-45), Tennessee (L, 3-35), Alabama State (W, 45-10), South Carolina (L, 13-26), Houston (L, 20-45), Tulane (W, 41-24).

Central Florida
Sept. 5 Samford DNP
Sept. 12 at Southern Miss* L, 6-17
Sept. 19 Buffalo DNP
Sept. 26 at East Carolina* L, 10-13, OT
Oct. 3 Memphis W, 28-21
Oct. 17 Miami L, 14-20
Oct. 24 at Rice DNP
Nov. 1 (Sun.) Marshall W, 30-14
Nov. 7 at Texas DNP
Nov. 14 Houston* DNP
Nov. 21 Tulane* DNP
Nov. 28 at UAB* L, 0-15
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 4-8, 3-5 C-USA (tied fourth, East Division).
Dropped: South Carolina State (W, 17-0), South Florida (L, 24-31, OT), Boston College (L, 7-34), UTEP (L, 13-58), SMU (W, 31-17), Tulsa (L, 19-49).

Southern Mississippi
Sept. 5 Alcorn State DNP
Sept. 12 Central Florida* W, 17-6
Sept. 19 Virginia DNP
Sept. 26 at Kansas DNP
Oct. 1 (Thur.) at UAB* W, 70-14
Oct. 10 at Louisville DNP
Oct. 17 Memphis* L, 30-36
Oct. 24 Tulane* DNP
Oct. 31 at Houston* DNP
Nov. 14 at Marshall* L, 27-34
Nov. 21 Tulsa* DNP
Nov. 28 at East Carolina* W, 21-3
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 7-6, 4-4 C-USA (tied second, East Division). Postseason: New Orleans Bowl vs. Troy (W, 30-27, OT).
Dropped: Louisiana-Lafayette (W, 51-21), Auburn (L, 13-27), Arkansas State (W, 27-24), UTEP (L, 37-40, 2OT), Boise State (L, 7-24), Rice (L, 40-45), SMU (W, 28-12).

Southern Methodist
Sept. 5 Stephen F. Austin DNP
Sept. 12 at UAB* DNP
Sept. 19 at Washington State DNP
Oct. 3 at TCU L, 7-48
Oct. 10 East Carolina* DNP
Oct. 17 Navy L, 7-34
Oct. 24 at Houston* L, 38-44
Oct. 31 at Tulsa* L, 31-37
Nov. 7 Rice* L, 27-56
Nov. 14 Texas-El Paso* L, 10-36
Nov. 21 at Marshall* DNP
Nov. 28 Tulane L, 27-34
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 1-11, 0-8 C-USA (sixth, West Division).
Dropped: Texas State (W, 47-36), Texas Tech (L, 7-43), Central Florida (L, 17-31), Memphis (L, 26-31), Southern Miss (L, 12-28).

Texas-El Paso
Sept. 5 Buffalo L, 17-42
Sept. 12 Kansas DNP
Sept. 19 at New Mexico State L, 33-34
Sept. 26 at Texas L, 13-42
Oct. 3 Houston* L, 37-42
Oct. 10 at Memphis* DNP
Oct. 21 (Wed.) Tulsa* L, 35-77
Oct. 31 UAB* DNP
Nov. 7 at Tulane* W, 24-21
Nov. 14 at SMU* W, 36-10
Nov. 21 at Rice* L, 44-49
Nov. 28 Marshall* DNP
*–Conference USA games
2008 record: 5-7, 4-4 C-USA (fourth, West Division).
Dropped: Central Florida (W, 58-13), Southern Miss (W, 40-37, 2OT), Louisiana-Lafayette (W, 37-24), East Carolina (L, 21-53).

UTEP arrests

Here’s something a little worse than what has happened recently to (current) MU players:

Two Miners arrested in robbery

Good Fulmer Cup points there. And speaking of that, here is the latest in that prestigious contest.

One basketball blog

Dan Wolken, the Commercial Appeal’s basketball beat writer, weighs in with a 1-to-12 Conference USA ranking for next winter. He has his cynical streak, so Herd fans should be encouraged that he picked Marshall at No. 5.

His ranking.

Some other comments:
— Derrick Caracter at UTEP? Boy, that’s interesting!
— SMU at No. 6? I’ll believe it when I see it, though Paul McCoy’s a stud.
— UCF at No. 8? I’ll pick higher, for reasons Wolken outlines, namely that Kirk Speraw can really, really coach.
— UAB at No. 9? Shoot, I’ll buy it. Why did they hire Mike Davis?
— ECU at No. 12? Somebody has to go there. Poor Mack McCarthy.