SUN BELT WEEK #6
A great week for the fledgling Sun Belt Conference, as Idaho and New Mexico State knock off teams from the mighty Mountain West, while Louisiana Lafayette shuts out a Conference USA team! Arkansas State grabs the early lead in the Sun Belt conference race with a road win over Louisiana Monroe in the first Sun Belt Conference game of 2002. We had predicted that 4 or 5
conference teams would win Saturday, and by golly four of them did. Only 5 Sun Belt teams are in action this weekend, and all are nonconference games. UI, NMSU and NT are all double digit underdogs, while ASU and MTSU are heavy home favorites against 1-AA teams. It will likely be a 2-3 weekend for Sun Belt teams. The Sun Belt record against nonconference teams stands at 5-20.
IDAHO 48 San Diego State 38
How sweet it is!! Finally a victory and over a big name team from a big time conference. This is UI's first win over a Mountain West team since
John L. Smith's 1-AA Vandals stunned Utah 28-17 in 1993. Congratulations to Coach Cable, his staff and most of all the players - who gave us one of UI's biggest victories in at least two years!! If Brian Lindgren's six TD passes
do not get him Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week, we would be shocked. In spite of all the offensive brilliance by the Vandals, we thought the game turned UI's way for good when DE Brandon Kania crushed Aztec QB Hall, knocking the ball loose for a Brian Howard recovery in the third quarter! Enough reveling in victory, it is time to move on to UI's next opponent the #13 ranked Washington Huskies - Idaho's third top 15 opponent of the year. Although UI (1-3) is getting very nice press in Seattle for their big win over SDSU, including very laudatory remarks from UW coach Rick Neuheisel, the Vandals are still 30 point underdogs. The Huskies (2-1) hammered Wyoming 38-7 last week and never punted. If not for four turnovers by fumble, the Huskies probably would have scored 58. Let us hope the Husky fumbleitis continues this week. As with Oregon, UW probably has more great
football players than UI does - which means the game is a likely mismatch. We will be in the stands hoping for a stunning upset, but reality says UW wins.
UW 45 UI 21.
NEW MEXICO STATE 24 New Mexcio 13
As we predicted, the Aggies beat their "uppity" in-state rivals from the prestigious Mountain West Conference in front of a packed house of 28,857 in Las Cruces. Congrats to Coach Tony Samuel for a big win for his team and the Sun Belt Conference. Freshman QB Paul Dombrowski guided NMSU's option running attack and gained 136 yards himself on just 18 carries. NMSU (1-2)
now heads to Georgia to play the SEC's #8 ranked Bulldogs in Athens, as 28 point underdogs. We wish the Aggies well, but visiting non-conference teams win in Athens about once every 10 years. Look for the Bulldogs, who have already whipped Clemson and South Carolina, to roll.
UG 38 NMSU 13.
LOUSIANA LAFAYETTE 34 Alabama Birmingham 0
This one really shocked us, as ULL had given up 34 points per game in three previous losses! Congratulations to new Ragin Cajun coach Rickey Bustle for his first win, a shut out of Conference USA's normally potent UAB offense.
ULL held UAB to 216 total yards and forced 4 turnovers, in front of a nice crowd of 19,616 in Lafayette. ULL used an error free balanced offense and had control of the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the game. ULL (1-3) now has two weeks to prepare for cross state rival and #20 ranked LSU of the SEC. They will need it!
ARKANSAS STATE 33 LOUSIANA MONROE 21
ASU wins the first Sun Belt Conference game of 2002 with a road win at Monroe in front of 9,375. ULM, whose coach resigned last week, was ahead 21-10 at half time under new coach Mike Collins (previously defensive coordinator). ASU coach Tony Roberts must have really inspired his players at halftime, as ASU won the second half 23-0! ASU had 231 rushing yards and 226 passing yards - now that is really balance! ULM could not run the ball, gaining only 59 yards on 30 attempts. ULM (0-4) has the weekend off and two
weeks to prepare for a home game against Tulane of Conference USA. ASU (2-3) has a home game against Tennessee-Martin (2-2) of 1-AA as 19 point
favorites (Sagarin) and should win handily.
ASU 31 UTM 10.
Kentucky 44 MIDDLE TENNESSEE 22
We had boldly predicted an upset here, but were very wrong. MTSU made a game of it in front of 60,584 in Lexington and were behind only 24-22 in the third quarter. But the SEC's Wildcats then pulled away with 20 consecutive points. The Blue Raiders had 422 yards offense, but UK had 510 in a very entertaining game. MTSU is 0-3, but all the losses are to SEC teams! The Blue Raiders finally get a schedule break and host 1-AA Southeast Missouri (2-2) as 25 point favorites (Sagarin). We think MTSU is looking for someone to pound on and they will!
MTSU 44 SEM 14.
Texas Christian 16 NORTH TEXAS 10
We had this game figured out (TCU 19-13 forecast), as NT's defense certainly kept it close, but the Eagles offense just could not score enough to win. Conference USA's Horned Frogs had a meager 178 yards total offense in an
ugly game in front of 33,281 in Fort Worth. NT acutally had more yardage at 219, but this was a "punt fest", with NT punting 11 times and TCU nine times. There were also 19 penalties to provide further excitement for the fans!! Next up for NT (1-3) is a trip to Tuscon to take on the Pac-10's Arizona Wildcats as 15 point underdogs. Arizona is 2-1 and got pummeled by
Wisconsin last week 31-10. If NT had a decent offense we would be tempted to predict an upset, but it looks like a UA win.
UA 33 NT 13.
FUTURE IDAHO NONCONFERENCE OPPONENT
MONTANA 13 Idaho State 9
Strange game in Missoula in front of 19,689. Griz get 398 yards offense to 299 for ISU, but somehow it turns into a defensive struggle. The #1 ranked 1-AA Griz extended their winning streak to 18 in a row, and upped coach Joe Glenn's record to 31-3. Montana has this weekend off and two weeks to prepare for their trip to Moscow. If Idaho can figure out what ISU was doing to keep UM out of the end zone, the Vandals will have a decent chance of ending the Griz win streak on October 5.
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