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September 23, 2010

Week 4: C-USA, MAC, SBC, WAC and Indy

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

The 12 best games
Toledo at Purdue, noon
Florida International at Maryland, noon
UCF at Kansas State, 12:30 p.m.
Stanford at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m.
Temple at Penn State, 3:30 p.m.
Arkansas State at Troy, 3:30 p.m.
Nevada at BYU, 6 p.m.
Fresno State at Ole Miss, 7 p.m.
Southern Miss at Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at La.-Lafayette, 7 p.m.
Oregon State at Boise State, 8 p.m.
Northern Illinois at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m.

Boise State cleared its first road block in the opener, rallying to beat Virginia Tech. The second -- and, really, last -- road block to a BCS appearance comes Saturday, when Oregon State pays a visit to the Broncos' blue turf.

Boise has a 16-game winning streak, the second-longest in the nation to Alabama's 17, and has won 26 in a row at home. Since the beginning of the 2000 season, Boise is 63-2 at home. In addition, the Broncos have won five of their past six against Big Six schools, including a 42-14 rout of Oregon State in 2006.

For the first time in WAC history, a conference school is playing host to ESPN's "College GameDay" crew.

Boise's schedule is such that Saturday's game looks to be the only impediment remaining to a 12-0 regular season, though a visit to Nevada on Thanksgiving weekend became more intriguing when the Wolf Pack waxed California last week. But Boise State coach Chris Petersen is having none of it.

"We're still a work in progress," he told reporters. "We need to get through a few more games and see what we have."

Petersen certainly doesn't appear to be feeling any pressure. On his conference call this week, he had some fun with two subjects.

When told that Oregon State had painted one of its practice fields blue in attempt to get acclimated to what they'll see Saturday, Petersen joked, "We've got them right where we want them to be if they are painting the field."

And when asked if the "GameDay" appearance would be a distraction to his team, Peterson said he doubted it: "That show comes on too early for our guys."

As for the on-field concerns, Peterson mentioned the Rodgers brothers.

"The Rodgers brothers are tremendous players," he said. "You start to hear more about one of them and start focusing on that guy -- and then you see the other guy.

"Jacquizz has as much agility of any player I have ever seen. You just don't see many backs like that. If it's clogged up, it's almost to his advantage."

While Oregon State struggled to stop Louisville's passing attack last week, Beavers coach Mike Riley professes to be more worried about Boise's rushing attack.

"A lot of people think about Boise and trick plays, but they are a run-oriented, power team a lot of the time," he said at his weekly news conference. "They will stick a dagger in you with a trick play or a long pass, but they establish the run."

Also worth noting is that this is a big week for the MAC, with eight of its teams playing Big Ten opponents. Meriting special attention are Temple at Penn State, Toledo at Purdue and Northern Illinois at Minnesota.

Best matchup: Fresno State offensive line vs. Ole Miss defensive line. Fresno State will be missing its best lineman, G Andrew Jackson, who is out with an ankle injury. Still, this is a big, physical, experienced group, and it will be going against an Ole Miss front that hasn't played up to expectations. Senior DT Jerrell Powe heads a unit that is physical and experienced. Fresno State can pull the upset if it can run effectively (140 or so yards); Bulldogs QB Ryan Colburn is solid when he is able to use play action.

Player on the spot: UCF QB Jeffrey Godfrey. Godfrey, a touted true freshman from Miami Central, made his first college start last week, on the road at Buffalo. Godfrey struggled in the first half but was more composed in the second half and led UCF to the win. He and the Knights face a much tougher task this week when they play at Kansas State. Godfrey is extremely quick and could hurt Kansas State with his feet; he also has to be sharp with his passes. UCF's receiving corps is deep enough that it could do some damage against K-State's secondary if Godfrey is on target.

Numbers game: Going into Friday night's home contest against TCU, SMU is 2-0 at home this season and has won five consecutive home games, its longest streak since a five-game stretch during the 1985 and '86 seasons. SMU also is 7-2 in its past nine games, the best mark for any nine-game run since the 1984 and '85 seasons.

What they're saying

"The gap is 154 points to nine over the last four years. That's the issue. The issue is we've been outgained by 1,073 yards. We've punted 17 more times. I could go on and on, but hopefully the biggest thing is trying to hang in there and hang in the game with them and try to keep it close." -- Temple coach Al Golden, to the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, on his team's performance in the past four games against Penn State, which plays host to the Owls on Saturday

"There are not many teams in the country that can overcome turnovers, and we sure as heck are not one of them." -- Marshall coach Doc Holliday, whose team committed five turnovers in last week's loss to Bowling Green

"It'll be our first road game, and it's always interesting going on the road. I talked to our team about how this is a business trip. It's not a vacation." -- Tulane coach Bob Toledo, whose team plays at Houston on Saturday

"Where our football team has to get better is the discipline of our football team. That doesn't mean running around causing trouble. It's the discipline playing within what you're supposed to do." -- Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill

"We're playing BCS opponents to the wire. The physicality of our football team is better. We can and we will take that next step, be that Sun Belt Conference team that can beat one of those BCS schools that we face." -- Florida International coach Mario Cristobal, to the Miami Herald. FIU plays at Maryland this week after losing close ones to Rutgers and Texas A&M

Etc.: In last week's loss at UCLA, Houston lost starting QB Case Keenum (knee) and backup Cotton Turner (collarbone) for the season. True freshman Terrance Broadway, who was in line to be redshirted, is the new starter. UTEP plays Memphis this week, and it's doubling as a Price family reunion. UTEP's coach is Mike Price and his son Aaron Price is UTEP's offensive coordinator. Another son, Eric Price, is Memphis' offensive coordinator. Mike Price: "Don't ask my wife, Joyce, who she is going to be cheering for. I'm not even second; I'm third on that list. She wants both of her boys to do well." San Jose State S Duke Ihenacho, who may be the Spartans' best player, will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot. North Texas has lost its starting quarterback, its backup quarterback, it starting center and its backup center for the season with injuries. The new quarterback is Riley Dodge, who started last season but was moved to wide receiver this season because his surgically repaired throwing arm was deemed too weak for him to continue at quarterback. Three members of Temple's coaching staff will be going "home" when the Owls play at Penn State on Saturday. Owls coach Al Golden is a former Penn State tight end, Owls defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio is a former Nittany Lions linebacker and Owls offensive coordinator Matt Rhule is another former Nittany Lions linebacker. Golden and D'Onofrio were team captains during their senior seasons at Penn State in 1991. Through three games, Toledo has intercepted eight passes. The Rockets picked off just 12 passes in 12 games last season. Former Northern Illinois running back (1999-02) and assistant (2005-06) Thomas Hammock will face his alma mater Saturday; he is Minnesota's co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Akron plays at Indiana on Saturday, and Zips defensive coordinator Curt Mallory is the son of former IU coach Curt Mallory, the Hoosiers' winningest career coach. Curt also is a former IU assistant (2002-04). Nevada is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1991. Florida International is playing its third consecutive Big Six foe this week. Western Kentucky is playing its fourth in a row. UTEP has held two of its first three opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense for the first time since 1991. Middle Tennessee could be without three offensive line starters when it plays at Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. T Mark Fisher (knee), the Blue Raiders' best lineman, and C Alex Stuart (knee) are out, while G Brandon McLeroy (multiple injuries) is questionable. Troy has played four consecutive games decided by three or fewer points. Houston has won 17 in a row at home, the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the nation. In 10 of those victories, the Cougars have scored at least 50 points. SMU beat Washington State 35-21 on Saturday, the Mustangs' first victory over a Big Six school since they beat Kansas in 2000, snapping a 17-game losing streak. Akron is 1-20 vs. current Big Ten members. The win came in 1894 over Ohio State, when the school was named Buchtel College and led by coach/quarterback by the name of John Heisman. Middle Tennessee's Nathaniel Toulson has punted six times this season; three have been downed at the 1 and another at the 2. Three consecutive North Texas opponents have scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game. Army seems likely to be without starting slotback Patrick Mealy for Saturday's game with Duke. Louisiana Tech starting WR Phillip Livas, who missed last week's game with a concussion, is expected to play this week against Southern Miss.

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

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