BOWL PREDICTIONS: This week was the last chance for college football analysts to make their predictions for the 2014 Gildan New Mexico Bowl. UTEP garnered 8 of the 13 predictions for the second straight week, leading the way for Conference USA. Utah State still has a majority of the nods (5) for the Mountain West, but San Diego State and Air Force are not far behind in votes. Here is the breakdown for the 2014 bowl game:
Athlon Sports: UTEP (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
^Bleacher Report: Middle Tennessee (C-USA) vs. San Diego State (MW)
^CampusInsiders.com: Houston (American) vs. San Diego State (MW)
CBS Sports/Jerry Palm: UTEP (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
CFN.Scout.com: Marshall (C-USA) vs. Colorado State (MW)
College Sports Madness: Marshall (C-USA) vs. Colorado State (MW)
ESPN (Mark Schlabach’s pick): UTEP (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MW)
ESPN (Brett McMurphy’ pick): UTEP (C-USA) vs. Air Force (MW)
NFL.com/College Football 24/7: UTEP (C-USA) vs. Nevada (MW)
Phil Steele: UTEP (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
SB Nation: UTEP (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
Sporting News: UTEP (C-USA) vs. San Diego State (MW)
Sports Illustrated: Louisiana Tech (C-USA) vs. Utah State (MW)
^ have not updated pick in at least two (2) weeks
POSTSEASON PREVIEW: With BYU going to the Miami Beach Bowl and Navy headed to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which leaves 74 slots left amongst the 38 bowls slated for 2014-15. There are currently 78 teams that are bowl-eligible, which requires six or more wins in most cases. There are three teams which could still get eligible and 47 that have been eliminated from the postseason. For our aligned leagues, Conference USA has 13 teams and five bowl commitments while the Mountain West has 12 teams and 6 commitments. Both leagues also have one game where they are slated as a back-up.
Conference USA’s Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, UTEP, UAB and Rice are eligible for a bowl. Old Dominion has the six wins needed but is in the transitioning period and ineligible for a postseason berth unless there are not enough bowl-eligible teams to fill every game.
The MW’s Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, San Diego State and Utah State have the wins needed for a postseason berth. Currently, Boise State is the highest ranked team from the five conferences that have not arranged contracts for their champions to play in New Year’s bowl games. The ruling state the highest ranked team of those five will play in one of the six New Year’s bowls as determined by the selection committee.
C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: The 2014 Conference USA Football Championship Game gets under way on Saturday, December 6 with East Division champion Marshall hosting West Division champion Louisiana Tech. The Thundering Herd (7-1 in C-USA play, 11-1 overall) are in the game for the second straight year, while the Bulldogs (7-1 in C-USA, 8-4 overall) are in the contest for the first time in just their second year in the league. The 2014 C-USA Championship Game will be televised live on ESPN 2, beginning at Noon EST/11 a.m. CST.
Marshall has one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, ranking seventh in rushing offense (288.5 yards per game), second in total offense (574.6 yards per game) and scoring offense (46.7 points per game), all figures that top C-USA. Senior QB Rakeem Cato has passed for 3,314 yards and rushed for 429 this season (an average of 311.9 yards of total offense). He has also extended his FBS record for consecutive games with a touchdown throw to 44. Despite missing nearly two full games due to injury, junior RB Devon Johnson has 1,602 yards and 16 rushing TDs in 11 games. Johnson is among the FBS leaders in total rushing yards, average (145.6) and scoring (9.8 per game).
Offensively, Louisiana Tech is led by junior RB Kenneth Dixon, who has run for 1,080 yards and scored 23 touchdowns (18 rushing), tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in C-USA annals. Senior QB Cody Sokol is 239-of-400 passing for 3,117 yards and 29 touchdowns. Defensively, the Bulldogs lead the FBS with 36 forced turnovers and top the nation with 150 points scored off turnovers.
Both teams are coming off amazing offensive performances to close out the regular season. Louisiana Tech scored 76 points (one shy of the C-USA record) and rolled up 677 yards of total offense, while Marshall scored 66 points and generated 708 yards of total offense.
Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz becomes the first head coach to lead two different schools to the C-USA Championship Game. He led East Carolina to back-to-back C-USA Championships in 2008-09. Marshall’s Doc Holliday is the fourth coach to lead his team to back-to-back title games (Holtz, UCF’s George O’Leary and Tulsa’s Todd Graham).
Marshall and Louisiana Tech have met just one time, on Oct. 9, 1942. The Bulldogs posted a 26-0 shutout victory in Ruston, La., the third of four consecutive shutouts LA Tech posted to open that season.
The Thundering Herd are aiming to become conference champions for the first time since winning their sixth straight Mid-American conference title in 2002. The Bulldogs have won 25 conference championships in their program’s history, a number that ties for 11th among current FBS schools.
MW CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Boise State will host Fresno State in the 2014 Sports Authority Mountain West Football Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. MT and the game will be televised on CBS.
The Broncos (7-1 MW, 10-2 overall), led by first-year head coach Bryan Harsin, clinched the Mountain Division with a 50-19 victory over Utah State tonight. The Broncos are looking for their second Mountain West title since joining the league in 2011 after sharing the 2012 crown with Fresno State and San Diego State.
The Bulldogs (5-3 MW, 6-6 overall) captured the West Division for the second straight season after defeating Hawai‘i 28-21 earlier on Saturday night. Under third-year head coach Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State will attempt to win its third straight Mountain West title. Last season, the Bulldogs defeated Utah State in the inaugural MW Championship 24-17.
Boise State and Fresno State met earlier this season with the Broncos coming out on top 37-27 in Boise on Oct. 17. Boise State leads the overall series 12-5 and has won seven of the eight meetings in Albertsons Stadium.
RECAPPING THE WEEKEND: The weekend started off with two exciting games as Western Kentucky knocked off No. 24 Marshall, 67-66 in overtime and Air Force slipped by Colorado State with a last-second field goal. Louisiana Tech also scored big for Conference USA, dropping 76 points on Rice to earn the West Division title. In the Mountain West, Boise State clinched the Mountain title win a home win over Utah State and Fresno State brought home the West title with a victory over Hawai`i. UAB won possibly it’s last game, crushing Southern Mississippi. The school announced Tuesday that it is eliminating the program. The Blazers are eligible and would like to play in a bowl this season if invited. Bobby Hauck’s five-year tenure with the UNLV Rebels came to an end Saturday night with a tough home loss to in-state rival Nevada. Complete results for the week are: