Our weekly highlight show of lesser FBS luminaries. Non-AQs and independents, be welcome.
You see, they are called the "Sun Belt" teams because they are just out there belting people. See. That the Sun Belt would field four teams to be reckoned with in 2012 was a reasonable preseason estimate of ours, we think. What we didn't expect was that two of those teams would be Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee State rather than Florida International and Arkansas State. Mario Cristobal's Golden Panthers fell to 1-4 after a 48-20 loss to Louisiana Saturday; perhaps this is his way of telegraphing just how much he wants people to start bothering him with potential job openings in power conferences. We saw the Panthers, on paper, as the likely top contender for conference championship honors; right now, as deep as the Sun Belt is rolling, FIU will be lucky to finish in its top half.
But let's focus on the good stuff, which you already know if you're bothering to read this, but which we can't stand not to repeat: Middle Tennessee, which opened the season with a six-point loss to an FCS team, just racked up 510 yards and 49 points against Georgia Tech, at Georgia Tech. Tee-hee! The Blue Raiders' weapon of choice: junior running back Benny Cunningham, who carried the ball 27 times for a grand total of 217 yards and five touchdowns. MTSU's defense sacked Tevin Washington four times. Paul Johnson must've eaten a quarry's worth of gravel just to make it through a single film session.
"Our guys know what they’re getting into at Middle. These guys have played against them the last couple of years. This is a good conference," said Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry after Saturday's win over Tulane. A popular sentiment heading into 2012, re: the Sun Belt, to be sure. But did you ever think these two outfits would be this thickly in the mix? Week 6's Warhawks-Blue Raiders tilt is looking like appointment television about now.
Profiles in Ownage, Week 5
• Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio). The first player in FBS history to record 500 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game. Thankyew kindly, defenders of Akron!
• Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State. Set school and conference records in completions (42) and offensive yardage (579) against San Diego State. Later, we assume the Bulldogs' first 500-yard single-game passer since one David Carr quipped, "Take that, Dave."
• Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada. With Saturday's 40 carries for 178 yards against Texas State, Jefferson is now averaging 175.4 yards per game. AVERAGING.
• Dri Archer, WR/KR, Kent State. Recorded a tidy 350 yards against Ball State, 174 of which came on kick returns and 104 of which came on receptions.
• T.T. Barber, LB, MTSU. Tallied 11 tackles (10 solo), two tackles for loss and a forced fumble against Georgia Tech.
• Quanterus Smith, DE, WKU. Last seen sacking AJ McCarron three times, Smith recorded 3.5 sacks against Arkansas State in addition to being credited with seven tackles and 5.5 for loss.
• Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. Now leads the FBS in tackles for loss after amassing 3.5 more against UConn, along with a sack and a forced fumble.
• Chip Thompson, S, East Carolina. Earned a Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week nod for two fourth-quarter interceptions, eight tackles (four solo) and one pass breakup against UTEP.
• Mathew Sims, K, NIU. Connected on two field goal and five PAT attempts and scored a rushing touchdown on a fake kick against Central Michigan.
• Louisiana Tech's war-chest-to-win-loss ratio. Per a cheeky release from LaTech sports information: "In the last two weeks La. Tech has two wins and $1.6 million in guarantee money." Nice cupcake scheduling plan you've got there, Illinois and Virginia.
• Tim DeRuyter, coach, Fresno State. Ownage as in owning it, with his Bulldogs rallying from a 21-7 first-quarter deficit to beat San Diego State: "I was really proud of the way our team rebounded from a horrific start," he said.
Not sure if serious
• Norm Chow. Hawaii got shut out by BYU last week, which, despite Hawaii being Hawaii, hadn't happened since 1998.
• Navy. Shut out by San Jose State and held to 144 yards of offense in the Midshipmen's first scoreless outing since 2006.
• Ball control in Fresno. Nine turnovers between the Aztecs and Bulldogs.
• Boise State back in the rankings. The entity we puzzlingly continue to refer to as the Coaches' Poll welcomed the Broncos back to the Top 25 after a squeaky three-point win over New Mexico.
• Weather in Hattiesburg. Mercy.
Walking Dead Watch and the DJ Khaled Prize for Undefeated Excellence
Still undefeated heading into Week 6: Ohio (5-0 for the first time since 1968 after a 37-34 scare against UMass), Louisiana Tech (4-0 for the first time since 1975 following a 44-38 win at Virginia) and UTSA (5-0 overall and 1-0 in WAC play after knocking off New Mexico State). Tech's Sonny Dykes is already being asked about coaching positions opening up elsewhere, and has an excellent response prepared: “That is someone posting on the internet; some 19 year old kid smoking pot in his dorm room, you know what I am saying? That is how that stuff gets started. That is why you cannot give it too much credibility. You never know."
Down in that old winless well, still: UAB, Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulane, Army, UMass, Eastern Michigan and Idaho.
Case Keenum Memorial Pinballin' Hi-Score
Thing UTEP did this week
Rode out a lightning delay at East Carolina, a not-uncommon Carolina weather phenomenon, but one we prefer to think was called down by Mike Price like the bolts of Thor to power his mighty pickaxe. The Miners lost, 28-18, but return man Autrey Golden garnered C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week honors for amassing 157 yards on five kick returns.
After five weeks of play, non-AQ teams are 17-74 against AQ-conference programs.
• So now we're to be treated to ULM-MTSU like it's a thing! 3:30 p.m. ET kick in Murfreesboro. "There's more on this game then there was on the past ones," said Berry.
• An all-orphaned football programs contest between Idaho and New Mexico State.
• More Sun Belt Shakedowning as Arkansas State travels to FIU for a Thursday prime time tilt.
• Ohio hosts Buffalo at noon Saturday, and Tyler Tettleton is two touchdown passes shy of the Bobcats' all-time career record.
• Utah State and BYU play for The Old Wagon Wheel and The Beehive Boot (Utah traveling trophies are many and complex, y'all) Friday night. Bizarro tidbit of the week, from Aggies SID: "USU’s game at BYU will be its only regular season outing of the year played on natural grass."
• The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series kicks off with Navy and Air Force at NINE-THIRTY IN THE MORNING COLORADO SPRINGS TIME. It's like they just want to show off how disciplined and alert humans can be at that hour. We concede their superiority. But how many passes do we think will be thrown? • Ragin' Cajuns' homecoming game, against Tulane, which we encourage you all to attend because MANY MANY CAJUNS WILL FEED YOU. Louisiana quarterback Blaine Gautier will miss at least a month after breaking his hand against FIU; his replacement, Terrance Broadway, may be familiar to those of you closely following Houston football. But, again: CAJUNS TAILGATING. Go.