Two games on the schedule for tonight, with both being conference affairs that the road team could definitely use to stay in their respective divisional races. Houston, despite a slow start to the season, may be the only thing standing between Tulsa and a cakewalk to the Conference USA title game. And in the wide-open MAC East, Buffalo could cement themselves as one of the favorites while dealing Ohio a devastating blow with a win in Athens. At the least, it'll give people a commercial break diversion from opening night in the NBA.
Buffalo @ Ohio 7:30 PM EST on ESPNU
Two teams that are in the middle of the pack when it comes to total offense face off in Athens. Buffalo (3-4, 1-2 MAC) ranks slightly ahead of the Bobcats (2-6, 1-3) in total offense (7th to Ohio's 8th), but when looking at the quarterbacks it's hard to figure out how Ohio has the league's fifth-ranked pass offense. Buffalo's Drew Willy ranks third in the conference in passing and has fourteen touchdown passes to just four interceptions on the year. Boo Jackson runs the show for Frank Solich's Bobcats and is the league's seventh-ranked passer. But with nine touchdowns and eight picks on the year, Jackson has had issues valuing the football at times.
In fact that could be said for Ohio as a whole, given their ranking of twelfth in the MAC in turnover margin. Along with that is the fact that the Bobcats are dead last in the league in penalties, giving up some sixty-seven yards per game. This shouldn't be as ugly as Ohio's last national television appearance (a hard-to-watch close loss at Temple), but the Bulls should win this game. But given the state of the MAC East (each team has at least two conference losses), it wouldn't be a surprise if Coach Solich beat fellow Husker Turner Gill.
Houston @ Marshall 8PM EST on ESPN2
Quick: which team leads Conference USA in pass offense? You're probably thinking Tulsa, and while they do lead the league in scoring and total offense the answer is actually Kevin Sumlin's Houston Cougars (4-3, 3-0 Conference USA). Led by QB Case Keenum, the Cougars average an impressive 403 yards/game through the air, and that's been a key reason for their current four-game win streak. Another key for Houston of late has been turnovers. In losses to Oklahoma State, Air Force and Colorado State the Cougars were rather generous with the football. That's changed and as a result the offense has been all the more effective.
As for the Thundering Herd (3-4, 2-1), they still entertain thoughts of winning the West Division despite a disappointing loss at UAB last week. And it helps that they get both Houston and Tulsa at home. But if a mediocre defense (7th in total defense, 11th in sacks) can't step up and an offense led by WR Darius Passmore and RB Darius Marshall doesn't stay on the field longer than they have this year (time of possession: 27:10; ranks 11th in C-USA) this one could get ugly. Marshall hangs in there for a bit but the Cougars make it four straight losses for Mark Snyder's Herd.
- Tyrone Willingham out at Washington.
Not really big news here, for Willingham was 11-32 in four years in Seattle. Injuries and a lack of depth did in Willingham, who will finish out the season while AD Scott Woodward begins his search for a new head coach. It's been said that former USC assistant and Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin is interested in the position. There were also rumors earlier in the season that the Huskies could talk to Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, who is an alum and coached there under Don James.
- Northwestern RB Tyrell Sutton out for the regular season.
Due to a wrist injury suffered in the Wildcats' loss at Indiana on Saturday, star running back Tyrell Sutton will miss the remainder of the regular season. Sutton will have surgery today, and his injury became bigger when it was announced that QB C.J. Bacher is questionable for their game at Minnesota due to a leg injury.
- Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum also done for the year.
A tough year for Beckum, who just couldn't stay healthy after a hamstring injury cost him time early, has come to an end thanks to a broken fibula suffered in the Badgers' win over Illinois. Surgery was a success for Beckum, who was a favorite to win the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end before the season began.
- The bye week couldn't come at a better time for Virginia Tech.
It's bad enough that the Hokie offense has been scuffling all year long. But to add ankle injuries to both Tyrod Taylor ans Sean Glennon is to add injury to insult. Cory Holt, who was listed on the depth chart as a wide receiver, finished the 30-20 loss at Florida State. Both Taylor and Glennon are questionable right now for their game next Thursday against Maryland.
Holt went 3-6 for 28 yards and a touchdown in the game, but the Seminole defense (especially the line) had their way with Tech all afternoon. But instead of simply focusing on fixing the offense, head coach Frank Beamer and offensive coordinator Brian Stinespring have to worry about the health of their quarterbacks.