Sorry it’s a few days late, but it’s time for another NSLG column. This week we have a special guest in the house writing. Fudge Van Hooser, an Undergraduate Assistant for Video Operations at Tulane, has come on board for the week to write up his take on the four AAC teams that are in the hunt for one of the coveted New Year’s Six bowls. So, I’ll throw in my top ten as usual, but after that I’ll let Mr. Fudge take it away.
10. Appalachian State Mountaineers
9. Navy Midshipmen
The first of the Four Horsemen is the Navy Midshipmen. Back in August during CFB preseason, everyone was thinking that there was going to be this triple-option team wearing navy & gold that could sneak into a New Year’s Day game. However, that team we were all referring to was Georgia Tech. The final score of last week’s Navy-Notre Dame game was a little lopsided at 41-24. However, the Midshipmen were putting up a helluva fight in the first half. Navy only trailed the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish by 3 points when they headed into the locker room for halftime. Keenan Reynolds continued his campaign to become the best rusher in CFB history with another 100+ yard game (team ran for a total of 318….vs NOTRE DAME). However, with only 22 passing yards, it was not enough to pull the upset.
This week: BYE
Next week: Tulane
8. Marshall Thundering Herd
7. Ohio Bobcats
6. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
5. Memphis Tigers
Memphis is another team that if four years ago someone told you, “Memphis is going to run the table in football”, you’d probably slap them in the face for their stupidity. The Memphis Tigers used to bus down to New Orleans every other year to be Tulane’s homecoming game matchup. They were the laughing stock of the C-USA. But, just like Temple, they found a way to turn their program around. Last year we saw a good Memphis team that gave Ole Miss some trouble, and then went on to be included in a three-way tie for the American Athletic Conference Champion (last year the AAC only had 11 teams, so there were no divisions and no championship game). Now Memphis is taking its revenge and slapping around its conference members. Memphis, like Temple, looks like a Power Five team when you see them play. In a Thursday night primetime ESPN game at Cincinnati, Memphis showed the nation that they aren’t playing around this year. Against their fellow defending conference champion, the Tigers’ offense put up a whopping 53 points while QB Paxton Lynch threw for 412 yards. The next week, again on national television, the Tigers’ stout defense showed what their made of in their win against USF. After a bye week and plenty of time to prepare, the Memphis Tigers will take on their new-found rival Ole Miss this week in the Liberty Bowl. Expect a loud, sold out crowd of blue at 11am (central time, ESPN2/ABC) as Memphis puts up a fight against the Rebels. I’m picking an upset, so don’t say I told you so when Ole Miss takes its second loss of the season home from the 22nd ranked Tigers.
This week: #13 Ole Miss (11am ESPN2 or ABC)
Next week: @Tulsa (Friday)
4. Boise State Broncos
3. Houston Cougars
Houston is no stranger to competing with the “big boys”. Back in the Kevin Sumlin days, the Cougars seemed to always be a double-digit win team, but when Tony Levine took over, they took a bit of a slide. After being named the Broyles Award winner (Assistant Coach of the Year), Tom Herman took over as the Houston head coach. In his first year, he has already brought wins to the new TDECU Stadium that lacked success in its opening year in 2014. Houston’s three home wins had fans leaving early in the 4th quarters due to the massive leads by the Cougars. However, they’ve fared just fine on the road as well. The experts raised their eyebrows towards Houston after their 34-31 victory over a Louisville team that just barely lost to Auburn in week one. Houston’s second road win was a 38-24 victory over an improving Tulsa team. The Cougars have put up sensational numbers on offense behind their star quarterback, Greg Ward. Ward has been the AAC Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks. The offense is 9th in the country, averaging 46 points-per-game, including the 8th best rushing attack, which averages 287.2 yards-per-game. Ward is leader of this offense in both passing and rushing, and no team has been able to stop him yet, after their next two fairly easy games, Houston’s schedule will get a little bit tougher. However, expect this team to put up eye-popping numbers in their next two games and cover the spread in both.
This week: @Tulane (Friday night on ESPNU)
Next week: @UCF
2. Toledo Rockets
1. Temple Owls
The final team on the list may be one of the biggest shocks of the season, as the Temple Owls sit right outside the Top 25 on both polls (#26 in AP, #27 in Coaches’). Week 1 they shocked the world with their 27-10 upset over Penn State, then in week two they beat a very good Cincinnati team. They seemed to have slowed down a bit the following week as they just squeaked by UMass (25-23), but after a bye week they jumped right back up and slaughtered Charlotte in their third straight away game and then steam-rolled Tulane in a 49-10 win. The first half of the Temple-Tulane game looked like it could have been a thriller (Tulane coming off a two-game winning streak including a beat down of UCF). Temple lead just 21-10 heading into the locker room with a couple of crucial turnovers. But when they ran back out, the Owls were bloodthirsty. They massacred a sloppy looking Tulane in the second half scoring 28 points unanswered. Temple prevented any kind of glimpse of hope of Tulane making a come back. If you saw the second half of Saturday’s ball game and didn’t know who it was that was playing, you would have thought it was a Big Ten vs FCS matchup. Temple will likely win their next two matchups, entering the Halloween game against Notre Dame as a ranked 7-0 team. It would not be surprising if ESPN’s College GameDay goes to Lincoln Field for the already sold-out matchup between the Owls and the one-loss Fighting Irish.
This week: UCF
Next week: @ECU