[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
HOW THEY'LL FINISH
|SAN DIEGO STATE||2‚Äì6||.250||3‚Äì9||.250|
|SAN JOSE STATE||5‚Äì3||.625||7‚Äì5||.583|
|NEW MEXICO STATE||4‚Äì4||.500||6‚Äì7||.462|
|Conference Championship Game: Dec. 1 Southern Missover Tulsa|
|Conference Championship Game: Dec. 1 in DetroitWestern Michigan over Ohio|
PLAYERS TO WATCHTop performers from unranked teams
August 19, 2007
A tailback inhigh school, the 6' 3", 252-pound senior is now a menace on D. "[Blake]was a big, speedy kid who spent his time in high school avoiding tacklers, sowe thought he'd have the ability to make great moves as a pass rusher,"says defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas.
The freewheelingsenior, whose practice helmet is adorned with a Bob Marley sticker, broke theNCAA single-season record for touchdown passes in '06, with 58. Now he'sgunning for an undefeated season, 6,000 passing yards and the HeismanTrophy.
Hurricane Katrinabriefly displaced the Biloxi native to Florida, but he returned to finish highschool and signed with the Golden Eagles. Good thing for Southern Miss: Fletchwas the nation's most productive runner among true freshmen last year, with1,388 yards.
He's the BigDaddy (300 pounds and married with a three-year-old son, Ayden) of the Falcons'line, having powered the MAC's top rushing offense last season. The senior hasstarted 35 straight games after breaking into the lineup in 2004 at leftguard.
On the first kickreturn of his college career, against Louisville last October, he ran 88 yardsfor a touchdown. Nickson brought back another kickoff for a touchdown andintercepted five passes, earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors as asafety.
TOP OFFENSIVEPLAYER Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State The darling of the Broncos' epic FiestaBowl victory over Oklahoma (one game-winning two-point conversion on a Statueof Liberty play, one marriage proposal) is in the Heisman hunt.
TOP DEFENSIVEPLAYER Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose State After picking off a total of 13 passesat Cabrillo (Community) College in 2004 and '05, the 6' 1" 185-pounder tiedfor most interceptions in the nation, with nine, in his first season with theSpartans.
TRUE FRESHMAN TOWATCH Alphonso Bryant, SS, Central Florida Landing Bryant, a four-star recruitout of Miami-Dade County who turned down Florida State, Arizona State andRutgers, was a coup for Knights coach George O'Leary.
COACH ON THE RISEChris Petersen, Boise State The innovative play-caller is undefeated--and soonto be a hot commodity for BCS-conference programs.
COACH ON THE HOTSEAT Phil Bennett, SMU After going 6-6 in '06, he was nearly fired by newathletic director Steve Orsini--and could be gone if the Mustangs don't get toa bowl game. Bennett is 17-41 in five seasons, and SMU hasn't been bowlingsince 1984.
BCS SLEEPERHawaii The Warriors, long a late-night novelty, have a shot at running thetable, thanks in part to a weak nonconference schedule. If that happens, theycould be this season's BCS crashers.
OMAR HAUGABOOK,the quarterback for Sun Belt-favorite Troy, threw 17 interceptions against 21touchdowns while directing the Trojans' high-octane offense as a junior. Butsome believe his final three games, in which he threw for eight TDs and wasintercepted twice, were a better indication of what to expect this year."Omar has the moxie of a good quarterback, and he really improved hisdecision making as the year went on," says an assistant coach for a SunBelt foe. . . . The key to Colorado State's being a sleeper bowl team--andperhaps salvaging the job of longtime coach SONNY LUBICK following a 4-8season--is the health of junior running back KYLE BELL. Having establishedhimself as one of the Mountain West's bright young stars in '05, when he ranfor 1,288 yards, Bell missed last season after he tore his right ACL inpreseason practice. . . . JARETT DILLARD, a junior at Rice, has caught at leastone touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, three short of the Division I-Arecord held by former Pitt wideout Larry Fitzgerald. Last year Dillard caught91 passes for 1,247 yards and 21 TDs. . . . FRED ROUSE, the former FloridaState wideout who was kicked off the team in January '06 for conductdetrimental to the team, then charged with three felonies after breaking intothe home of an ex-teammate four months later (he pleaded no contest and wassentenced to two years' probation), has resurfaced at UTEP. TheNo.¬†2-ranked wideout in the prep class of '05 according to scout.com andrivals.com, Rouse is listed as a backup on the Miners' depth chart.