We have a new leader in the clubhouse in the East
After a head-scratching performance on offense in week one, Middle Tennessee bounced back in a big way, securing a 30-23 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Brent Stockstill returned to his usual self, accounting for 269 yards and three touchdowns on 22/36 passing, tossing just one interception. MTSU Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer returned to his old stomping grounds in New York and led his unit to one of the better defensive showings I can remember seeing from a Blue Raiders team in recent memory. MTSU held Syracuse to just 308 yards of total offense as the Orange earned just 4.1 yards per pass and 2.6 yards per rush.
The forecast isn’t so rosy around the rest of the eastern division. Western Kentucky did little to prove that they won’t miss a step without Jeff Brohm calling the shots in Bowling Green. The Toppers were abysmal on the ground, rushing for a whopping six total yards against a young and inexperienced Illinois front. Quarterback Mike White wasn’t much help either, earning just 5.5 yards per pass attempt as he failed to throw for a touchdown despite 43 attempts.
With Old Dominion struggling to find an answer at the quarterback position this division appears to be Middle Tennessee’s to win right now.
UTSA’s defense will be a force in C-USA play
The Roadrunners finally earned their first-ever Power Five win after 10 attempts through seven seasons. While G5 upsets over P5 teams are typically concocted of crazy special teams play and high-scoring offenses, UTSA dared Baylor to beat them in the trenches and the Bears were simply unable to best the Roadrunners’ physicality. UTSA outgained Baylor 375 to 274 and the Roadrunners controlled the ball for 38:52 to Baylor’s 21:08. Baylor’s ten points were their lowest point total since losing to a 2010 TCU squad that would finish their season 13-0.
UTSA forced just one turnover however the Roadrunners held Baylor and their speedy wide receivers to just three successful conversions on 15 attempts. Baylor’s quarterback Anu Solomon completed just 38% of his passes as UTSA’s cornerbacks locked down Baylor’s wide outs.
The Roadrunners’ defensive line was the most impressive unit on the field as they helped lead the charge for four sacks, four quarterback hurries, and ten tackles for loss against a Baylor offensive line that averaged 6’5”, 310 pounds. With former Alabama assistant Bo Davis coaching up this unit they appear to have the potential to dominate every offensive line they will face for the duration of their regular season.
Wave goodbye to UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler
In an early in-conference match up, the Rice Owls decimated UTEP in El Paso. The 31-14 final tally doesn’t come close to describing how much the hapless Owls outclassed UTEP as Rice outgained UTEP 306 to 26 on the ground. When you factor in the torment Rice has been going through due to Hurricane Harvey it makes UTEP’s poor performance even more frustrating.
The El Paso media didn’t pull any punches in placing the blame for the loss at Sean Kugler’s feet. With UTEP players describing fighting and dissension in the locker room it seems that Kugler may have lost total control of his program. While discipline issues will certainly hurt the program, it’s been Kugler’s poor recruiting and stubbornness that have truly plagued the program over the past four years. The following excerpt from the El Paso Times’ Bret Bloomquist sums the situation up:
"When we get outphysicaled I'm always disappointed," Kugler said.
Kugler seems to define "physical" as being able to run the ball between the tackles against a team stacked to stop it, so he's bound to be disappointed some more.
UTEP's entire offense looks to be built around the premise that creativity, trying to keep the defense off balance, is a sign of lack of character, that real men just run over people.
That's not the way of college football anymore, that's not the way for any team that isn't twice as talented as its opponents and it sure isn't a likely formula for success for a team like UTEP that annually ranks around 120th in recruiting classes.
UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz has been the lone bright spot on a relatively talentless offense but with rumors of a serious shoulder injury swirling, the Miners may be without their best player on offense for a period of time.
With New Mexico State looking like a bowl team the UTEP Miners may not have another chance at a win until week 12 against UAB. I think it’s safe to say Sean Kugler won’t be calling the shots when the Miners travel to Birmingham on November 25th.