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Aug. 21, 2006
Aug. 21, 2006

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Aug. 21, 2006

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This is an article from the Aug. 21, 2006 issue

Top performersfrom unranked teams

UTAH

ERIC WEDDLE,SS

Utes coach KyleWhittingham says he builds his defensive game plan around the 6-foot, 200-poundWeddle. Last year Weddle limited Georgia Tech All-America wideout CalvinJohnson to two catches for 19 yards in the Emerald Bowl.

CENTRALMICHIGAN
DAN BAZUIN, DE

A hard-nosed farmkid from McBain, Mich. (pop. 599), Bazuin is a relentless rusher who last yearled the nation with 261/2 tackles for loss and was second in sacks, with 16.The 6'3" 269-pounder should go on the first day of next April's NFLdraft.

NAVY
ROB CALDWELL, LB

The anchor of theMidshipmen's stout 3-4 defense, Caldwell piled up a team-high 140 tackles in2005. "Rob plays the game smart," defensive coordinator Buddy Greensays. "He studies so much tape that he rarely misses other teams'keys."

NEVADA
JEFF ROWE, QB

At 6'5" and225 pounds, Rowe is a rising star with an NFL body. In Year 1 running thepistol offense, a modified shotgun attack concocted by Wolf Pack coach ChrisAult, Rowe completed 62% of his passes as Nevada finished 9-3.

CENTRALFLORIDA
KEVIN SMITH, RB

Recruited by mostschools as a safety, the 6'1", 210-pound Smith gained 1,178 yards as afreshman (including 202 in the Golden Knights' Hawaii Bowl loss to Nevada),making him the leading returning rusher in the Sunshine State.

CAN'T-MISSGAMES

OCT. 5

TCU AT UTAH

In Year 1 of theexpanded BCS, there could be a spot for the Mountain West champion-and thewinner of this game will have the inside track. The Horned Frogs took lastyear's showdown in overtime, ending the Utes' 18-game winning streak andstarting a 10-game streak of their own en route to an 11-1 season.

OCT. 28

NOTRE DAME VS.NAVY

Which is moredaunting for the Midshipmen-the thought of having lost 42 straight games to theIrish or the memory of being shredded by Brady Quinn (four TDs) last year?Coach Paul Johnson said then that his team had to play "close toperfect" to pull off the upset; the same statement applies in '06 when theteams meet in Baltimore.

NOV. 7

TOLEDO AT NO.ILLINOIS

For those whofavor pigskin over polls on Election Day, the MAC is serving up its biggestgame of the year on national TV. The Huskies' Garrett Wolfe torched theRockets' stout 3-4 defense for 177 rushing yards in an upset last season; thewinner this time will be well on its way to the Motor City Bowl (orbetter).

NOV. 25

BOISE STATE ATNEVADA

These twofinished tied atop the WAC in '05, but it was clear who the better team was:Boise won the head-to-head meeting 49-14. This year, however, the Wolf Packgets the Broncos away from their blue artificial turf. Will Nevada spoil ChrisPetersen's bid for a BCS berth in his first year as coach?

EXTRA POINTS

Southern Calexpatriates could play key roles in the Mountain West: Oft-injured DarrylPoston, who was buried in the backfield behind Reggie Bush and LenDale White,should start for UTAH, while cornerback Eric Wright and quarterback Rocky Hindswere major pickups for UNLV. Hinds, who would have competed for the USC jobthis year, still has to overtake incumbent Shane Steichen. Rebels coach MikeSanford says it's a matter of Hinds's "learning the spread offense downcold. Right now he's still thinking too much." ... The nation's mostunderrated quarterback may be TULSA junior Paul Smith, who led the GoldenHurricane to a Liberty Bowl win over Fresno State. Says one Conference USAcoach of Smith, "He's not flashy, but he has a great command of theoffense-a [high school] coach's son who plays like it." ... Sun Beltco-champ ARKANSAS STATE will welcome back a star to what was already theleague's best D. Linebacker Josh Williams, whom coordinator Kevin Corless callsa "violent tackler," is set to return after being suspended last seasonfor disciplinary reasons. As a redshirt freshman in '04 he had with 110tackles.... The marquee player at NORTHERN ILLINOIS is running back GarrettWolfe, but the Huskies' top NFL prospect is Wolfe's escort, 6'7", 302-poundtackle Doug Free, who could be a first-round draft pick next April.

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

HOW THEY'LL FINISH

C-USA: EAST

TEAMConference:
W-L
PCT.Overall:
W-L
PCT.
CENTRAL FLORIDA7-1.8759-3.750
SOUTHERN MISS6-2.7508-4.667
UAB4-4.5005-7.417
MEMPHIS3-5.3755-7.417
MARSHALL2-6.2503-9.250
EAST CAROLINA2-6.2502-10.167
WEST
TEAMW-LPCT.W-LPCT.
TULSA7-1.8759-3.750
UTEP6-2.7508-4.667
HOUSTON5-3.6257-5.583
SMU4-4.5007-5.583
TULANE1-7.1252-10.167
RICE1-7.1251-11.083

INDEPENDENTS

TEAMOverall:
W-L
PCT.
NOTRE DAME12-01.000
NAVY10-2.833
ARMY4-8.333
TEMPLE0-12.000


MAC: EAST

TEAMConference:
W-L
PCT.Overall:
W-L
PCT.
AKRON6-2.7509-3.750
MIAMI (OHIO)5-3.6258-4.667
BOWLING GREEN4-4.5006-6.500
OHIO4-4.5005-7.417
KENT STATE2-6.2503-9.250
BUFFALO1-7.1252-10.167
WEST
TEAMW-LPCT.W-LPCT.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS8-01.00010-2.833
TOLEDO7-1.8759-3.750
CENTRAL MICHIGAN4-4.5005-7.417
WESTERN MICHIGAN4-4.5005-7.417
BALL STATE2-6.2503-9.250
EASTERN MICHIGAN1-7.1251-11.083

CONFERENCECHAMPIONSHIP GAME

NOV. 30 INDETROIT NORTHERN ILLINOIS OVER AKRON


MOUNTAIN WEST

TEAMOverall:
W-L
PCT.Overall:
W-L
PCT.
TCU7-1.87510-2.833
UTAH7-1.8759-3.750
BYU5-3.6258-4.667
COLORADO STATE4-4.5005-7.417
SAN DIEGO STATE3-5.3756-6.500
NEW MEXICO3-5.3755-7.417
AIR FORCE3-5.3754-8.333
UNLV2-6.2504-8.333
WYOMING2-6.2503-9.250

SUN BELT

TEAMConference:
W-L
PCT.Overall:
W-L
PCT.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE6-1.8578-4.667
ARKANSAS STATE6-1.8577-5.583
TROY5-2.7146-6.500
LOUISIANA-MONROE3-4.4294-8.333
NORTH TEXAS3-4.4293-9.250
MIDDLE TENNESSEE2-5.2863-9.250
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL2-5.2862-10.167
FLORIDA ATLANTIC1-6.1432-10.167

WAC

TEAMConference:
W-L
PCT.Overall:
W-L
PCT.
BOISE STATE7-1.87511-1.917
FRESNO STATE7-1.8759-3.750
NEVADA6-2.7508-4.667
HAWAII5-3.6257-6.538
LOUISIANA TECH5-3.6257-6.538
SAN JOSE STATE3-5.3754-8.333
UTAH STATE2-6.2502-10.167
IDAHO1-7.1252-10.167
NEW MEXICO STATE0-8.0002-10.167
EIGHT PHOTOSHELMETS THROUGHOUT PREVIEW COURTESY OF CAL SPORTS INFORMATION; DAVE KLOTZ/LOUISVILLE; IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS; NEVADA MEDIA SERVICES; ONLINESPORTS.COM; OREGON MEDIA SERVICES; SCOREHERE.COM; SCOTT WALSTROM/NIU MEDIA SERVICES; SIDELINEMVP.COM; USF ATHLETICSPHOTOKEN LEVINE/WIREIMAGE.COM TCU
ROBERT MERRILL
SIX PHOTOSROB HOLT/ICON SMI; ROBERT BARCLAY/CMU; PHIL HOFFMANN/NAAA; M. GARCIA/WIREIMAGE.COM; REINHOLD MATAY/WIREIMAGE.COM; BILLY HEFTON/ICON SMI