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September 8, 2011

Week 2: C-USA, MAC, SBC, WAC and Indy

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

Newly independent BYU went into an SEC venue last week and won, edging Ole Miss 14-13. This week, the Cougars head to a Big 12 territory to play Texas.

It's the first time the Cougars ever have played road games at an SEC stadium and at a Big 12 stadium in the same season. Thus, it also could be the first time BYU wins road games and at SEC stadium and at a Big 12 stadium in the same season.

THE 12 BEST GAMES
FRIDAY
Florida International at Louisville, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY
San Diego State at Army, noon
Purdue at Rice, 3:30 p.m.
Hawaii at Washington, 3:30 p.m.
Southern Miss at Marshall, 3:30 p.m.
Virginia Tech at East Carolina, 3:30 p.m.
Northern Illinois at Kansas, 7 p.m.
BYU at Texas, 7 p.m.
Navy at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Middle Tennessee, 8 p.m.
Boston College at UCF, 8 p.m.
Notre Dame at Michigan, 8 p.m.
Texas beat Rice 34-9 last week, but the Longhorns' offense was inconsistent against a poor Owls defense. BYU's defense, on the other hand, was directly responsible for the Cougars' victory. BYU held Ole Miss to 208 total yards, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy scored the winning touchdown with 5:09 left when he stripped the ball from Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt, then picked it up on the 3 and strolled into the end zone.

"Defensively, they're really well-coached," Texas coach Mack Brown said in his weekly news conference. "They run to the ball. They will hit you. I think they knocked three Ole Miss tailbacks out of the game Saturday afternoon. They held Ole Miss to only 57 plays on offense and 208 yards, so it's a real challenge for our offense. ...

"This will be like an old-fashioned street fight. It'll be very physical. We've been concerned about how tough we were in both lines of scrimmage the last couple years. This game will be about the lines of scrimmage. It's going to be about who's the toughest."

Texas indeed had its toughness questioned last season, when the Longhorns finished 5-7. Beating Rice doesn't answer any questions about Texas' toughness.

One thing that has to worry BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is his team's offensive performance last week. The Cougars managed 316 yards, including only 91 against a rebuilt Ole Miss front seven. That's not likely to cut it against Texas.

BYU quarterback Jake Heaps was 24-of-38 for 225 yards and a TD last week. But BYU averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt, which means Heaps threw a lot of short passes.

"I thought we would finish more drives," Mendenhall said during his weekly news conference. "It's just simply the consistency and the execution. Once the volume of plays gets from around seven to 10 plays, that's when we started to make mistakes.

"We just need to sustain drives longer and finish drives. That leads to more efficient execution, more repetition that just takes more time."

A sellout crowd in excess of 100,000 is expected, meaning BYU will be playing in front of the largest crowd in its history. Mendenhall professes not to be worried about the size of the crowd and the potential noise.

"Besides warm-ups and maybe when you come of the tunnel when you notice the crowd, the rest of it, there isn't much of a difference for 60, 80 or 100,000 for players and coaches," he said. "You notice it more before the game."

That may be so. One thing is for sure: BYU will get notice afterward if it wins in Austin.

Best matchup: UCF tailbacks vs. Boston College linebackers. BC LBs Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis are a productive duo, and they will need to be active Saturday night against a deep UCF tailback group. In addition, UCF QB Jeff Godfrey has excellent mobility and is a running threat. Expect to see UCF play three tailbacks. The Knights are, really, the only team in Conference USA that attempts to win games with its defense and its rushing attack. UCF's defense will do its part against BC's mediocre offense. For UCF to win, its tailbacks must run effectively. UCF set a school single-game record with eight rushing TDs in last week's rout of FCS member Charleston Southern.

Player on the spot: Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz. Moniz had a big game on the ground last week in the Warriors' victory over visiting Colorado. The Buffs made sure they wouldn't get beat with the deep pass, so Moniz took advantage with his legs. This week, Hawaii plays at Washington, which was shredded through the air (473 yards) by FCS member Eastern Washington last weekend. Moniz has to like his odds when putting the ball in the air Saturday in Seattle. If he has a big game through the air, Hawaii can move to 2-0 on the season.

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Keep an eye on: Florida International's rushing attack. The Golden Panthers have a real shot to win at Louisville on Friday night if their tailbacks get the job done. FIU averaged 187.5 rushing yards per game last season - a jump of 83.2 yards per game from 2009 - and ran for 208 in last week's opening win over North Texas. Darriet Perry and Kedrick Rhodes (who was injured and missed about half of last season) are the top two tailbacks, and they combined for four rushing TDs last week. FIU QB Wesley Carroll is nothing special as a passer, but if he is able to use play-action, he can be effective. Louisville also has to worry about FIU's explosive T.Y. Hilton, a wide receiver who is a huge weapon as a rusher.

Numbers game: This is a big week for Conference USA, which has four games against Big Six schools - and three of them are home games for league schools (Boston College at UCF, Virginia Tech at East Carolina and Purdue at Rice). The WAC has five games against Big Six schools, with all five on the road. The MAC has four such games, with all on the road. The Sun Belt has three, with one at home (Georgia Tech at Middle Tennessee). In addition, newly independent BYU plays at Texas.

Quotes of the week

"Look, nobody wants to go in and change their quarterbacks each and every week. That's just not the way you play this game. So our hopes are Tommy [Rees] is productive and can play at a high level week in and week out. He's got a pretty good resume - 4-0 as a starter and he's come off the bench twice and has played very well under those circumstances." - Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, on changing starting quarterbacks, with Tommy Rees replacing Dayne Crist

"I think I was extremely frustrated with the game. You know, what I have to recognize is that I'm on TV all the time. You know, do a better job of understanding when that camera is on me. Seems like it's on more than I'm used to. So I'll have to do a better job of controlling my emotions." - Kelly, who received some criticism for his sideline demeanor in last week's loss to USF

"He moved around and created a couple plays. I didn't like him running as much as he did, but he slid and ran out of bounds. He knows what he's doing." - Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, on QB Case Keenum, who played for the first time last week since being lost for the season with a torn ACL in Game 3 last season

"That was as difficult a loss as I have ever been around. I have been around some great victories and some difficult losses; that tops its now. The question is where do we go from here." - Utah State coach Gary Andersen, on last week's last-minute 42-38 loss at Auburn

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"What shocked me a little bit was being that far away from the edge, like we were afraid of making a mistake. That's me reading tea leaves again, but we just didn't quite let it go. We were so busy trying to not make a mistake that we weren't playing the game. There was not a joy in our heart as we were flying around out there.' - Army coach Rich Ellerson, on 23 players making their college debuts in last week's loss to Northern Illinois

"We have the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. Period." - East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill, whose team opened with a loss to South Carolina, plays Virginia Tech this week and also gets North Carolina and Navy in out-of-league games

Poll watch: Only two non-Big Six programs are ranked in the coaches' poll and both are from the Mountain West. Houston, at 31st, is the next-highest non-Big Six team. UCF is 34th and Hawaii 35th.

Etc.: Three teams already have changed starting quarterbacks: Notre Dame, SMU (to J.J. McDermott from Kyle Padron) and Memphis (to Tyler Reed from Andy Summerlin). ... UAB plays at Florida this week, and Blazers offensive coordinator Kim Helton will be used to the surroundings. He played for the Gators and also was an assistant there. ... UAB and Nevada were the only FBS schools who didn't open their seasons last week. Nevada opens at Oregon on Saturday afternoon. ... Temple junior RB Bernard Pierce ran for 147 yards last week in a victory over Villanova; he became the third Owl in history with 10 100-yard games in his career. ... After recording just eight interceptions last season, Western Kentucky had three picks in its opening loss to Kentucky. ... Houston QB Case Keenum has a chance to move into fourth place on the FBS career passing charts against UTEP on Saturday. He has 13,896 yards, and is 297 yards away from tying former Hawaii QB Colt Brennan for fourth place on the career list. ... SMU junior DE Margus Hunt blocked two PATs in the Mustangs' loss at Texas A&M, giving him 12 blocked kicks in his career. ... Fresno State blocked two PATs last week in its loss to California to increase its nation's-leading overall block total to 59 since 2002. ... Bowling Green had 478 yards of total offense, including 377 in the first half, in winning at Idaho last week. The Falcons' highest offensive output last season was 414 yards. Meanwhile, true freshman RB Anthon Samuel finished with 141 rushing yards and was the first Falcons freshman to top 100 yards since 2006. ... Western Kentucky RB Bobby Rainey rushed for 105 yards against Kentucky, his sixth consecutive 100-yard game. ... Navy senior K Jon Teague had a school-record 54-yard field goal in last week's rout of Delaware. His previous career long was 38 yards against East Carolina last season. ... Tulane true freshman TB Robert Kelley set a school single-game record for kickoff-return yardage in his college debut, with 213 yards on seven returns in a win over FCS member Southeastern Louisiana. ... Louisiana-Lafayette used three quarterbacks in last week's loss at Oklahoma State, and all three completed at least one pass. In addition, ULL had six players who ran the ball and 10 players who caught a pass. ... Both starting quarterbacks in the Ohio State-Toledo game are from Tallahassee, Fla. The Buckeyes' Joe Bauserman went to Lincoln High, and Toledo's Austin Dantin went to Leon High. ... Houston WR Tyron Carrier has caught at least one pass in a nation's-leading 40 consecutive games. ... East Carolina QB Dominique Davis has completed at least 30 passes five times in the past seven games. ... North Texas unveils $75 million Apogee Stadium on Saturday against Houston. ... UTEP was outrushed 231-36, but beat FCS member Stony Brook 31-24 in overtime last week. ... Texas-San Antonio, which will be a member of the WAC next season, won its first game Saturday, beating Northeastern State (Okla.) 31-3 in front of 56,743 at the Alamodome. That was a record crowd for an NCAA start-up program; USF held the previous modern record with 49,212 on Sept. 6, 1997, against Kentucky Wesleyan. UTSA is coached by Larry Coker.

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

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