The Rimel Report - Sun Belt Week #2

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. This week, Idaho takes on Eastern Washington.

For the first weekend in Sun Belt history, all eight conference football members lost! Not a great way to start 2003 But not surprising, since 7 of our eight teams were 20 point or more road underdogs. The shocker was Middle Tennessee losing at home to a 1-AA team that was 2-9 last season. And MTSU was our pick to win the conference crown - boy does that look foolish now! But there are 88 games left to play and this week should be much better for Sun Belt teams. Five teams are favored to win, and a sixth is only a slight underdog at home. The "good news" for Vandal fans is that 9 of their future opponents also lost their first game. Only Montana won, while BSU was idle.

Washington State 25 IDAHO 0
The defending Pac-10 champs used an effective ground attack to shut out the Vandals. The Cougs speedy, aggressive defense hampered the UI offense all night. The largest crowd to ever see the "Battle of the Palouse" (50,118) saw the Cougs outgain the Vandals 466-250. Credit the Vandal defense with making the Cougs kick four field goals and interecepting a pass in the end zone, or the score would have been real nasty. WSU got 3 sacks and 3 interceptions, as Harrington was under heavy pressure the entire game. The Vandals hurt themselves with numerous illegal procedure penalties in the second half. Time to forget about this one and start worrying about Eastern Washington. Not worried?? You better be!! The Eagles lost to San Diego State 19-9 Saturday, but were 6-5 last year including a season ending 30-21 win over Montana in Albi Stadium in Spokane. In case you forgot, this is the same Montana team that beat Idaho 38-31 in the dome last year. Vandals are a meager 4 point home favorite (Sagarin). This is an absolute MUST WIN if the Vandals are to have a good season. We think the Vandals will bounce back and get a hard fought victory.
UI 28 EWU 20.

Florida Atlantic 20 MIDDLE TENNESSEE 19
Favored by 28 MTSU lost at home to 1-AA FAU! MTSU outgained them 343 yards to 257, but a 62 yard fourth quarter TD bomb sealed the Blue Raiders fate. FAU defense scored a TD on a blocked punt in the end zone, while MTSU blew a 19-7 fourth quarter lead. Memo to MTSU coach Andy McCollum: Losing to 1-AA teams at home could get you fired! Next up for MTSU is a trip to #8 ranked Georgia, a 30-0 winner last week over Clemson. MTSU is a 29 point underdog and will lose by more. If Georgia can shut out powerful Clemson, they will feast on the Blue Raiders.
UG 50 MTSU 0.

Great effort by the Indians against the powerful Aggies in College Station. It was just 9-3 at half time and mighty A&M outgained ASU by just 257 to 208. A&M could muster only 2 TD's and four FG's as ASU easily beat the 29 point spread. ASU coach Steve Roberts continues to impress us. Next up for ASU is a home game against 1-AA Tennessee Martin, who defeated Austin Peay last week 21-20. UTM was only 2-10 last year, but have a new coach and won their first game. ASU is favored by 32 (Sagarin) and we will go with the Indians at home.
ASU 31 UTM 13.

Louisiana State 49 LOUISIANA MONROE 7
This one went as we expected, as LSU outgained ULM 474-240. ULM did not score until late in the fourth quarter after LSU cleared the bench. Next up for ULM is a winnable game at home against 1-AA Stephen F. Austin as ONE point favorites. SFA was 6-5 last year and did not play last week. We will go with ULM in a squeaker.
ULM 21 SFA 20.

South Carolina 14 LOUSIANA LAFAYETTE 7
ULL returned a blocked punt 89 yards for their TD and scared the SEC's Gamecocks! Lou Holtz's team could only outgain the Ragin Cajuns 326-272, and 3 turnovers by ULL may have kept them from pulling off a huge upset. Needless to say, ULL easily beat the 24 point spread. Our pre-season pick of ULL for the cellar of the Sun Belt certainly looks suspect now. Next up for ULL is a home game against arch-rival Lousiana Tech of the "mighty" WAC. Tech got blasted on national TV by Miami 48-9 Saturday and was only 4-8 last year. But Tech is still a 5 point favorite. We will go with home standing ULL in a mild upset in a cross state rivalry game.
ULL 28 LT 26

Oklahoma 37 NORTH TEXAS 3
This one went as expected as the #1 ranked Sooners crushed the Sun Belt Champs. The Mean Green could muster only 154 yards of offense against powerful Oklahoma in a nationally televised game. Next up for NT is a home game against Baylor of the Big 12 conference and NT is a big 16 point favorite - the Sun Belt champs are getting respect in Las Vegas. This is a rivalry game and Fouts Field in Denton should be near its 30,500 capacity. Baylor lost at home last week to Alabama Birmingham of Conference USA 24-19 and was only 3-9 in 2002. We will go with that dominating NT defense.
NT 21 Baylor 9.

In this nationally televised game Sunday, NMSU was ahead 7-0 in the second quarter. Then the Longhorns got mad and scored the next 66 points! Texas converted 5 Aggie turnovers into easy scores and made a blowout of the game. NMSU controlled the ball for 38 minutes versus 22 for UT - so ball controll does not always determine the outcome. Next up for NMSU is a home game against Division II Western New Mexico. There is no point spread and we know nothing about Western New Mexico - but this looks like a scheduled win.
NMSU 45 WNM 14.

Utah 40 UTAH STATE 20
Boy did we ever get this game wrong. The game was in Salt Lake City instead of Logan (contrary to the UI media guide). It was a closer game than the final score indicated as the Utes outgained the Aggies only 382 to 357. 8 penalties for 70 yards were a factor in the USU loss. It doesn't get any easier for the Aggies as Saturday they play at #24 Nebraska, a 17-7 winner over Oklahoma State last weekend. Nebraska is favored by 32. We will go with the same score as last year.
UN 44 USU 13.


Idaho State at BOISE STATE
Poor ISU is probably walking into a buzz saw. BSU loves to run up large scores and since they will probably never ever play ISU again - why not make a lasting impression. BSU is favored by 28 (Sagarin) and it will be their first game. As much as we would love to see a big ISU upset for our old Vandal pal Jim Senter (new ISU Athletic Director), it looks like a big Bronco win.
BSU 66 ISU 20.

Ohio State 28 WASHINGTON 9
Huskies were soundly trounced by #2 ranked Buckeyes. UW did not score a TD until OSU cleared the bench in the fourth quarter. UW could not run (only 7 yards in 24 attempts), as OSU defense controlled the game. Next up is a home game against Indiana as 24 point favorites. Indiana is a Big Ten doormat and lost last week to Connecticut 34-10. Looks like a big Husky win.
UW 41 IU 14.

MONTANA 30 Maine 20
The Griz were fortunate to win this one as they got only 218 yards offense versus 283 by Maine. What they did do was get a 91 yard kickoff return for a TD and a four yard fumble return for a TD. When the defense and special teams score, it takes a lot of pressure off the offense!! Griz overcame 12 penalties for 104 yards and were able to rush for only 49 yards on 33 attempts. Amazing win, and the 3,000 mile trip doesn't seem to bother them. Teams that are used to winning always find a way to win and the Griz are consistent winners. Next up is Division II North Dakota State at home. Their is no line on this game and we know nothing about NDSU. Looks like a scheduled patsy for the Griz to devour.
UM 38 NDSU 17.


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