The Rimel Report - Sun Belt Week #1

Guest columnist Duane Rimel, a long-time contributor to the Vandal email list, provides a week-by-week look at the Sun Belt Conference, with a special focus on the Idaho Vandals (of course). We appreciate the opportunity to reprint his group's analysis of each SBC game, each and every week of the season.

Believe it or not, the college football season has arrived. Unfortunately, it will be a rough first weekend for Sun Belt teams. Six of the eight Sun Belt football members are 24 point or MORE road underdogs, and will likely get trounced. Middle Tennessee is the only favorite this weekend, with Utah State probably the only other Sun Belt team with a chance of victory. In the cold, cruel world of Division 1-A football, teams that are 24 or more point road underdogs only win about 1% of the time. We will hope for lots of upsets, but do not hold your breath!

IDAHO at Washington State (In Seattle at Seahawks Stadium)
Although the Vandals have whipped the Cougs twice (1999 & 2000) since the annual "Battle of the Palouse" was renewed in 1998, the Vandals are 28 point underdogs. And for good reason. The Cougs won the Pac-10 title in 2002, while the Vandals struggled through a 2-10 season. WSU has a new head coach and a new QB, Matt Kegel. The Vandals chances probably hinge on disrupting Kegel's rhythm with sacks, deflections or interceptions. If he has all day to throw, it could be a long evening. We will be in the stands, cheering hard for a big Vandal upset, but it looks like - WSU 37 IDAHO 17.

Florida Atlantic at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (Thursday, August 28)
Instead of opening with an SEC road game, MTSU wisely decided to open at home with a weak 1-AA team. FAU was 2-9 last year as a 1-AA independent and are 28 point underdogs (Sagarin). Looks like the Blue Raiders start the season on a positive note.
MTSU 45 FAU 10.

NEW MEXICO STATE at Texas (Sunday, August 31)
It is a short trip for the Aggies and for a lot of money, but NMSU has little chance against the fifth ranked Longhorns. Texas is favored by 29 and will probably win by that or more. We hope Tony Samuel's guys can pull a big upset, but it looks like a Texas W.

NORTH TEXAS at Oklahoma
NT's defense might be as good as OU's, but their offense is not - hence they are 32 point underdogs. It would be real sweet to see the Sun Belt Champs knock off the nation's number one ranked team, but it will not happen.
OU 34 NT 13.

This may get nasty. Gamecocks are favored by 24 and should win by more. Ragin Cajuns only hope is that in some years Lou Holtz's teams start slowly. USC was only 5-7 last year, but Holtz never has two bad years in a row. The Gamecocks are looking for someone to pound on.
SC 37 ULL 7

Although second year head coach Steve Roberts pulled off a minor miracle last year in guiding ASU to 6 wins, we don't think he has enough rabbits in his hat to upset the Aggies. A&M is favored by 29 and should handle ASU easily.

Utah at UTAH STATE (Thursday, August 28)
The Aggies of USU relish whipping their big city rivals and do it quite often. The Utes often come to Logan with a superior attitude, only to leave with a loss. Will this be one of those years?? Utes have a new coaching staff , but are 20 point favorites. A win by USU would go a long way to solidifying coach Mick Dennehy's job status in Logan. We will go way out on a limb and take the hungry Aggies over the cocky Utes in a big upset.
USU 37 UTAH 34.

LOUISIANA MONROE at Louisiana State
New ULM coach Charlie Weatherbie gets indoctrination under heavy fire! The number 14 ranked Tigers are 35 point favorites and seldom show mercy in Baton Rouge.
LSU 42 ULM 3.


SDSU is favored by 12 (Sagarin) and in theory should win easily. BUT we remember Oregon State's Fiesta Bowl Champs eking out a 3 point win over EWU in Corvallis a couple of years ago. It will be closer than the Aztecs want!
SDSU 31 EWU 24.

BOISE STATE does not play the first weekend. They host Idaho State next week.

WASHINGTON at Ohio State
Our old Vandal Pal Keith Gilbertson and his #17 ranked UW Huskies face the defending national champs on the road! Wheeew, could it possibly be any tougher of a start for the new UW coach? #2 ranked Ohio State is a legitimate 8 point favorite, but we think the UW has the talent to play with the mighty Buckeyes, including Idaho native and senior QB Cody Pickett. If the UW offensive line can protect Pickett, an upset is possible. But realistically it looks like OSU 31 UW 21.

MONTANA at Maine
For the second year in a row the Griz open up on the East Coast. Last year they shut out Hofstra 21-0, but this year it may be different. Maine was 11-3 last year and Griz are only favored by 3 (Sagarin). New Montana coach Bobby Hauck (UM alum, 1988) has to travel 3,000 miles for his first game - a tough chore. We will go with the veteran coaching staff at Maine in a close game between two good teams.
Maine 24 MONTANA 21.


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