College Football: Florida Atlantic @ Middle Tennessee Preview
The first month of the season is on its way out the door, with one more game to be played before the calendar shifts into October. It also marks the traditional time in recent years when leagues in search of more national exposure play games on just about any day that doesn't interfere with the NFL. Hence tonight's Sun Belt matchup between Florida Atlantic (1-3, 0-0) and Middle Tennessee (1-3. 0-2). Both teams have played tough BCS opponents in the non-conference schedule, but with differing results.
The Owls, who entered 2008 as the defending confrence co-champions, received whippings at the hands of Texas and Minnesota along with suffering through a slopfest at Michigan State. The Blue Raiders were able to knock off Maryland at home, then fell one yard short of a miraculous upset of Kentucky in Lexington. QB Rusty Smith will run the show for head coach Howard Schnellenberger's FAU attack, and in LB Frantz Joseph they've got one of the best defensive players few have heard about nationally.
Middle Tennessee heads into this one winless in conference play, which puts them right behind the eight ball if they want to entertain any thoughts of competing in the title chase. The Blue Raiders will lean upon the arm of QB Joe Craddock (94-144, 1,076 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT), for they have one of the worst running games in the FBS (69 yards/game on the ground). Even though Middle Tennessee has battled to the end against both Maryland and Kentucky they haven't been close in either league game sofar (Troy and Arkansas State). So I like FAU to win their league opener on the road.
- Oregon State was named FWAA/Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week. The 27-21 win over #1 USC was the second time in school history that the Beavers knocked off the nation's top team. The last time was all the way back in 1967, when they beat USC in Corvallis. Honorable mention for the award: #2 Alabama (who raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead in beating then-#3 Georgia 41-30), Duke (ended their 25-game ACC losing streak with a 31-3 win over Virginia) and Ole Miss (who upset then-#4 Florida 31-30 in Gainesville).
- North Carolina safety Trimane Goddard was named FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week due to his performance in the Tar Heels' 28-24 win at Miami. Goddard's interception in the end zone on the game's final play sealed the second win for UNC outside of North Carolina since 2002. He finished the game with eight tackles and two interceptions, and as a result was added to the Nagurski Award Watch List.
- West Virginia QB Pat White (thumb) is expected to be available to play in their game Saturday against Rutgers. White bruised the thumb on his throwing hand in their win over in-state rival Marshall this past weekend. Jarrett Brown took over for him, but if the margin had been closer White could have played.
- Connecticut QB Tyler Lorenzen (broken foot) and TE Steve Brouse (broken leg) will both miss 6-8 weeks after sustaining their injuries in the Huskies' 26-21 win at Lousville last Friday. Martin Bedard will most likely take over for Brouse, while Notre Dame transfer Zach Fraser runs the offense when they visit North Carolina Saturday night.
- Washington QB Jake Locker (thumb) will miss time after breaking the thumb on his right (throwing) hand in their home loss to Stanford. But it's been reported that he could return sooner than the 6-8 week prognosis, but it would be at a different position. With the Huskies facing an 0-5 start when they head to Arizona, you can understand if panic is setting in up in Seattle. Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch, who looked good in relief of Locker against the Cardinal, will get the start.
- California RB Jahvid Best (elbow) is expected to miss the Golden Bears' next game due to a dislocated left elbow suffered in their blowout win at Washington State. The hope is that Best, who won't need surgery, will be ready when they visit Arizona on October 18th. The Bears have a bye following their game this weekend against Arizona State. Shane Vereen will get the start against the Sun Devils.
- Mash unit at Georgia: Luckily for the Bulldogs they've got this weekend off, but they may not be out of the woods on the injury front when they host Tennessee October 4th. RB Knowshon Moreno severely bruised his elbow in the loss to Alabama, and he along with WR Chris Durham (sprained ankle), TE Bruce Figgins (shoulder) and TE Tripp Chandler (shoulder) are in danger of missing that SEC East tilt. In fact, Figgins may undergo surgery that would end his season. QB Matthew Stafford (tested negative for a concussion) should be ready to play and LB Danell Ellerbe (sprained knee) has a chance since the injury suffered in the first half isn't as serious as originally feared.