The Rimel Report

This is a look around the Sun Belt Conference for Week 11, as provided by Duane Rimel, who is a regular contributor to the Vandal eMail List.


New Mexico State and North Texas get road wins and remain undefeated in conference play. Idaho eliminates Middle Tennessee State and remains alive in the Sun Belt Conference title chase. Arkansas State suffers its second conference loss and drops out of title contention, while ULM picks up a double overtime nonconference win over Utah State. The race for the New Orleans Bowl is down to three teams, NMSU, NT and UI, with Idaho needing to win all four remaining conference games to win the conference title. North Texas has the more favorable schedule with three home games, including both NMSU and UI in Denton. NMSU must play both NT and UI on the road. Sun Belt teams improved to 9-29 against nonconference foes.

We are happy to be wrong on this prediction, as we expected an offensive donnybrook with UI coming out on the short end. Instead we got exactly the type of game we expected against Montana, a smash mouth defensive battle and a Vandal win! Blair Lewis puts on one of the best running exhibitions in UI history (221 yards) and when the game was on the line the much maligned defense won it in front of 12,434 in the dome. This was a 1960's type game with two great tailbacks (Dwone Hicks was equally brilliant) smashing away at determined defenses. The Vandals outgained the Blue Raiders 468 total yards to 341 and could have won by more, but two promising drives ended in fumbles. Congratulations to the Vandal players and coaches for a hard fought and exciting conference win!

Next up for UI (2-6, 1-1) is a trip to Louisiana Lafayette as two point favorites, while MTSU (2-6, 1-2) heads to Las Cruces. The fact that the Vandals are favored makes us nervous, as this is the third time the Vandals have been favored to win in 2002, and they lost the first two (Montana and ULM). Also making us nervous is the fact that the Vandals have not won a road game since November 4, 2000. It seems eons ago that John Welsh hooked up with Josh Jelmberg on a 49 yard pass that set up a winning 21 yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining in a miracle 16-14 win over NT. ULL (1-7, 0-3) was shut out by North Texas at home Saturday and have lost four in a row. Last year ULL scored 54 on UI at Martin Stadium, but we think the Vandal defense will cut that in half and that Lindgren and Lewis will lead the Vandals to victory.
UI 31 ULL 27.

As we expected the Eagles defense dominated and crushed ULL at Lafayette in front of 8,413. NT (3-5, 2-0) held ULL (1-7, 0-3) to 241 total yards and only 9 rushing yards. In typical NT fashion they grind out 213 yards rushing on a whopping 56 carries, controlling the time of possession by 11 minutes and the game, while adding 147 passing yards on only 7 completions. North Texas is looking more and more like a good possibility to repeat as Sun Belt Champs. ULL next hosts our Vandals and we think UI will prevail 31-27. North Texas host ULM as 16 point favorites and we expect some big time payback in this one. Amazingly, ULM was the only team to beat NT in conference play last year.
NT 31 ULM 9.

The Aggies come back from a 0-14 second quarter deficit and ruin the Indians chances of a Sun Belt crown in front of 11,036 in Jonesboro. NMSU (5-3, 3-0) wins their fourth straight, while ASU (4-6, 2-2) dropped their third straight. The Aggies option attack gains 370 yards, but two interceptions slow their scoring. The Indians played turnover free and gained 298 yards, but it was not enough to win. Next up for ASU is a home game against 1-AA Southern Utah (1-7) as 21 point favorites. ASU should snap their losing streak with a nonconference win in this one. ASU 41 SU 17. New Mexico State is favored by 3 against MTSU in Las Cruces this weekend. It looks like five wins in a row for the Aggies, as MTSU is really banged up at QB.
NMSU 27 MTSU 20.

ULM (2-6, 1-2) wins a wild double overtime game in front of 6,190 in Monroe. We got this one wrong, as USU (2-6) was favored by 7 and we thought they could win. USU gets their first taste of traveling to Lousiana, as they will join the Sun Belt next year. ULM deserved the win as they gained 654 yards to a "mere" 449 by USU. Amazingly, ULM has scored more points in their two games against Idaho and USU (85) than they did in their other 6 games (73). ULM heads to North Texas Saturday and are 16 point underdogs. As mentioned earlier we like NT big time.
NT 31 ULM 9.


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