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September 30, 2010

Week 5: C-USA, MAC, SBC, WAC and Indy

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | MWC | Pac-10 | SEC

BYU at Utah State, 8 p.m.
Temple at Army, noon
Navy at Air Force, 2:30 p.m.
East Carolina at North Carolina, 3:30 p.m.
SMU at Rice, 7 p.m.
Wyoming at Toledo, 7 p.m.
Louisville at Arkansas State, 7 p.m.
Notre Dame at Boston College, 8 p.m.
Marshall at Southern Miss, 8 p.m.
Nevada at UNLV, 10 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Hawaii, 11:30 p.m.
Troy at Middle Tennessee, 8 p.m.

Nevada is No. 25 this week in the coaches' poll, the first time the Wolf Pack have been ranked in that poll, and coach Chris Ault's team can celebrate that ranking with a victory over their archrivals.

Nevada plays at UNLV on Saturday and carries a five-game winning streak in the series into the game; another win would set a record for consecutive victories in the series by either team.

As usual, the Wolf Pack have a potent offense, ranking fourth in the nation in total offense (529.0 yards per game), fifth in scoring offense (44.8 points per game) and sixth in rushing offense (286.3 ypg). For a change, though, the defense is keeping opposing teams out of the end zone. Nevada allowed 32.2 points per game in 2007, 32.3 in '08 and 28.5 last season. This season, that number sits at 18.5 despite games the past two weeks against California and BYU.

But first-year defensive coordinator Andy Buh, a Nevada alum who was co-coordinator at Stanford last season, still wants more.

"We have a long ways to go," Buh told the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal. "Remember, we've only been in this defense since spring ball. It's only six or seven months into this defense, so we've got a long ways to go."

Nevada goes against a struggling UNLV offense this week. The Rebels are 110th nationally in total offense, though they are coming off a 45-point game against lowly New Mexico.

These teams will be Mountain West rivals in the future, as Nevada is leaving the WAC for the MWC.

The Nevada-UNLV winner takes home the Fremont Cannon, at 545 pounds, the heaviest rivalry trophy in college sports. The cannon is a replica of one that explorer John C. Fremont brought with him before abandoning it in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1844.

"Anytime you're involved in college football and you don't have a heated rivalry game, than you are missing out on a big part of the experience," new UNLV coach Bobby Hauck told reporters early this week.

Best matchup: Boise State WRs Austin Pettis and Titus Young vs. New Mexico State CB Davon House. There is no mystery as to the outcome of this game, as Boise should really put the hammer down; the Broncos have outscored the Aggies 149-7 in their past three meetings. But the one-on-one duels between House -- who is the best corner in the WAC and has NFL potential -- and Boise's two big-play receivers should be fun to watch. This is a prime chance for House -- a 6-foot, 182-pounder from the Los Angeles area -- to impress NFL scouts.

Player on the spot: Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher. Dasher was the pick as the preseason player of the year in the Sun Belt, and his presence was the main reason the Blue Raiders were picked to win the league title. But he hasn't played this season because of an NCAA-mandated suspension related to improper benefits. He will return Tuesday when MTSU plays host to Troy, the other leading league title contender. At his best, Dasher is a dynamic playmaker who can really hurt foes with his running ability. But considering he has missed the first month, how sharp will he be? He must have a solid game if MTSU is to win. The winner definitely becomes the front-runner in the league title race.

Numbers game: Boise State has a 17-game winning streak overall, has won 13 in a row on the road and has won 16 consecutive WAC games. The Broncos' opponent this week is New Mexico State, which has lost 10 in a row overall.

What they're saying

"This bye week is important for a number of people. There are players on this team that aren't playing up to their potential. They need to do that here in the next two weeks. This is a performance-based program and a performance-based business." -- Houston coach Kevin Sumlin

"It's homecoming for them, and we'll play several homecomings in October. Everybody loves to play us for homecoming." -- Tulane coach Bob Toledo, on this week's game at Rutgers

"There is no question that that kind of player can influence and generate an enthusiasm if you stay with the principles of run, hit and get excited on defense. He can run, he can hit and he gets people excited.' -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, on Irish LB Manti Te'o

"A lot of people have asked, and I know there has been a lot of conversation about the 54-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Looking back, would I like to do it over? Yes -- because it didn't work. But if it had worked, we would all be happy." -- UAB coach Neil Callaway, on last week's double-OT loss at Tennessee

"I think we reacted differently than we did against Purdue, for whatever reason, I don't know. It's probably because for most of the game, certainly the second half, we dominated the football game. It's not like it was a last-second victory or we had to do a fake punt or something like that to win the game. We clearly won the game." -- Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, comparing last season's win over Purdue to last week's win over Minnesota

"It doesn't hurt that we're not playing the best quarterback in the country every week in our stadium. The last couple of years, that's kind of how it has been with all the Conference USA quarterbacks and Colt McCoy from Texas [coming in here]." --UTEP coach Mike Price, on his defense's solid play during the Miners' 3-1 start. UTEP has held three of its first four opponents to less than 300 yards of offense for the first time since 1991 and has limited three of its first four opponents to 13 or fewer points for the first time since 1987

"Places I've been in the past have all been programs that have been similar in a lot of ways to this program. Kentucky was kind of an also-ran in the SEC. Texas Tech was kind of an also-ran in the Big 12. Arizona was kind of an also-ran in the Pac-10. All of those places were unique challenges, and we had to go there and do something different." -- New Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, on "growing" the Bulldogs' program

Etc.: The WAC has two ranked teams this week -- two more than the Big East. Toledo already has nine interceptions after finishing with just 12 last season. Florida International is playing its fourth consecutive Big Six foe this week. Dating to last season, Troy has played five consecutive games decided by seven or fewer points. Hawaii's Bryant Moniz tied a school record with six touchdown passes (all in the first half) in last week's 66-7 rout of FCS member Charleston Southern. UAB's Bryan Ellis has passed for 733 yards and four touchdowns in the past two games. He is the first Blazers quarterback to throw for more than 350 yards in back-to-back outings. SMU became the third C-USA school to set a stadium attendance record this season. The Mustangs drew a crowd of 35,481 for Friday's game with TCU. East Carolina (50,010) and Houston (32,119) set attendance records in their openers. Utah State plays host to BYU on Friday night, and the Aggies are 0-13 vs. the Cougars on Friday nights. ... Kent State leads the nation in rush defense (61.3 ypg). Louisiana Tech, which is at Hawaii this week, has lost its eight in a row on the road. The Bulldogs also have scored a WAC-low 18 points in the second half of its games this season. Marshall senior DE Vinny Curry leads the nation with six sacks. UAB DE Bryant Turner is tied for second with five. With nine touchdowns, all on the ground, Houston RB Bryce Beall is tied with Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon for the national lead in TDs. Memphis again could be without G Dominik Riley, its best offensive lineman; he has a leg injury. The MAC won two games against Big Ten opponents last week; that gives the league eight in the past three seasons. Toledo has a three-game road winning streak for the first time since 2002. Ohio scored on a 36-yard Hail Mary on the final play of regulation but missed on the two-point conversion to fall 24-23 at Marshall last week. Army seems likely to again be without LB Andrew Rodriguez this week; Rodriguez, who led the team in tackles last season, hasn't played this season because of a bad back. Fresno State WR Jamel Hamler, the team's leading receiver, is expected to miss this week's game with Cal Poly because of a shoulder injury. Leading rusher A.J. Ellis (toe) also is unlikely to play. WAC commissioner Karl Benson told the Idaho Statesman newspaper that five schools were scheduled to make formal presentations to join the league. Montana, Texas State and UT San Antonio would join for all sports, while Denver and Seattle would join for all sports other than football. Boise State S Winston Venable will be suspended for the first half of Saturday's game against New Mexico State as the result of a flagrant foul in last week's victory over Oregon State. The WAC originally suspended Venable for the whole game, but Boise appealed the decision. Venable was not penalized for the helmet-to-helmet hit on Oregon State WR James Rodgers, who left the game with a concussion.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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