CFT predicts: Mountain West standings

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As we look ahead to the 2011 college football season, we take with us the lessons we learned from seasons past. We calculate, scrutinize, dissect and digest schedules, returning starters, coaching changes, injuries, and yes, even hunches, and spew it back in the form of how we think each of the 11 Division 1 FBS conferences — and the independents — will pan out by year’s end.

Of course, these are merely our opinions. Feel free, as we know you will, to disagree. We know that’s why you really come here anyway.

Here are our predictions for the Mountain West:

Ben’s take
The Mountain West thought that it would be inching closer to becoming a newly-minted member of the BCS’s automatic qualifying conferences by adding WAC powerhouse Boise State.

Then TCU announced it is leaving for the Big East after this season, Utah bolted for the Pac-12 and BYU pursued football independence.

Oops.

But regardless of the MWC’s place among college football’s best conferences, the Broncos are expected to make an immediate impact as first-year members. Boise State loses a talented receiving duo in Titus Young and Austin Pettis to the NFL, but at this point I’m convinced Kellen Moore (he’s so dreamy) could make my grandmother a 1,000-yard receiver. Running back Doug Martin returns from a 1,200-yard junior season and should be able to take some of the pressure off Moore. The Broncos also get TCU and Air Force at home this year (they just won’t be able to wear all blue uniforms).

I have Air Force at the No. 2 spot not so much because of what the Falcons have, but what TCU doesn’t. I’ll never underestimate Gary Patterson’s recruiting tactics and ability to plug guys into his system, but the Horned Frogs have some serious hurdles to jump over in 2011. Replacing quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver Jeremy Kerley — both have gone on to the NFL — won’t be easy, and TCU has road games at Boise State, San Diego State and Air Force.

Rocky Long inherits an elevated, senior-laden program in San Diego State from Brady Hoke, so the Aztecs will do pretty well in 2011.

Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico all have work to do to improve in the win/loss column.

John Taylor’s take
In with the new, out with the old, which will be a wash-rinse-repeat cycle next year at this time as well. Such is the storyline for the Mountain West in 2011. Not so unexpectedly, both the new and the soon-to-be-old schools will likely be the ones staking a claim to conference bragging rights — and another potential BcS bid — at the end of the year.

Even as it will be its first year in the MWC, Boise State will be the prohibitive favorites, based in part on Broncos’ past success in the WAC and in large part to returning 14 starters from last year’s 12-1 squad, including one of the likely Heisman frontrunners in Moore. The Horned Frogs, on the other hand, return just eight offensive/defensive starters, the second-lowest total in the country, just ahead of defending national champion Auburn.

The biggest loss for TCU will be Dalton, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the school’s history whose leadership may be missed even more than his on-field production. Obviously, the Nov. 12 showdown in Boise — originally scheduled as a home game for TCU — will very likely determine the conference champion.

Both Air Force and San Diego State should be improved, but not to the point where either is ready to challenge the conference heavyweights.

More predictions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, C-USA, MAC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC, Independents

CFT’s preseason Top 25

Florida State looked sluggish and sloppy in first half vs. N.C. State, as expected

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Florida State, as many probably expected, looked like a team that has not played a game in three weeks after one half of play in Tallahassee against N.C. State. The visiting Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and hold a 17-7 advantage on the Seminoles at halftime in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Ryan Finley completed a 71-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers, who performed some acrobatics across the goal line (which was flagged, although the score counted) for the 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Florida State seemed to get in sync in the second quarter. After two series on the field resulting in a pair of three-and-outs and a total of one yard of offense, Blackman and the Noles put their first drive together to the tune of 12 plays and 75 yards. Blackman capped the drive with a pass to Auden Tate from the four-yard line, but it was this key 3rd and 8 play that suggested Blackman had gotten comfortable for the first time in the game. A dropback pass to Tate went for 24 yards, and the placement of the pass could not have been much better.

That momentum did not seem to last too long, however. Florida State fumbled the ball away in crazy fashion on their next offensive series and later missed a field goal from the NC State 13-yard line. Blackman had a nice spin move to get away from a tackler, but he lost control of the football toward the end of his run, leading to a massive shift in momentum in bizarre fashion.

The play was reviewed to determine if Blackman’s knee had hit the ground prior to the fumble. After the review, the call on the field was upheld, and N.C. state recovered the ball at their two-yard line.

N.C. State’s first two offensive possessions were good for a combined 22 plays and over 120 yards and 10 points.

Blown call by SEC official screws Texas A&M out of a touchdown in first half vs. Arkansas

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Arkansas is leading Texas A&M by a score of 21-17 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas after one half of play, but the story of the half will be the blown call by a SEC side judge trailing a long run down the sideline. It was bad.

After Kellen Mond appeared to run the length of the field and stumble his way into the end zone for six, the official on the field ruled Mond had stepped out of bounds at the Arkansas 10-yard line.

He did not.

Because the play was blown dead, the ruling on the field could not be sent upstairs to the instant replay booth. Texas A&M would get no further down the field and had to settle for a field goal as a result.

The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter, first with Austin Allen completing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cornelius for the Razorbacks and then Mond completing a pass to a wide-open Christian Kirk for an 81-yard score.

Arkansas regained the lead in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns with Cole Kelley tossing one from two yards out and Chase Hayden running for a six-yard score. The Aggies did eventually get back in the end zone late in the first half with Trayveon Williams finding room up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown.

Report: No. 6 Oklahoma State expected to be down two starting O-linemen against No. 16 TCU

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This is certainly an interesting potential development.

According to Jake Trotter of ESPN.com, the right side of No. 6 Oklahoma State’s offensive line — guard Larry Williams and tackle Zachary Crabtree — is expected to be sidelined for the game against No. 16 TCU in Stillwater.  Both linemen sustained the injuries in the Week 3 win over Pittsburgh, Williams his ankle and Crabtree a toe.

Crabtree has started 32 straight games at right tackle for the Cowboys.  He was named second-team All-Big 12 following the 2016 season, while he was a preseason All-Big 12 selection heading into the 2017 season.

Williams began his collegiate playing career at East Carolina, coming to OSU from the junior college ranks after leaving the Pirates.

The Cowboys enter the conference opener for both schools with one of the most explosive offenses in the country, currently third in the country in total yards per game (607),  tied for fourth in points per game (54) and seventh in passing yards per game (407.3).  OSU enters today’s contest as an 11.5-point favorite according to the line set by Bovada.lv.

St. John’s-St. Thomas to double Div. III single-game attendance mark

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Yes, this is kind of a big deal.

St. John’s-St. Thomas is one of the best and longest-running rivalries at the Division III level of college football.  Today’s renewal will mark the 87th meeting between the two Minnesota schools, with this one being played at Target Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.

According to the Associated Press, more than 35,000 tickets have already been sold for the game that kicks off at 2:20 ET Saturday afternoon.  That number will likely more than double the previous D-III single-game attendance record of 17,535 set in October of 2016 for UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater.  The record that game broke?  The 17,327 that were in attendance for the 2015 St. Thomas-St. John’s game.

In fact, this rivalry between the two Catholic schools accounts for four of the top seven single-game attendance marks at that level of football.  From D3Football.com:

17,535: UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater, 10/8/16
17,327: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 9/26/15
16,514: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 9/24/16
16,421: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 10/2/10
15,287: UW-Platteville at UW-Whitewater, 10/3/15

14,437: Randolph-Macon at Hampden-Sydney, 11/12/94 (100th meeting)
14,286: St. Thomas at St. John’s, 9/15/12
13,671: Amherst at Williams, 11/11/89 (New England small-college record)
13,627: UW-Oshkosh at UW-Whitewater, 10/25/14
13,107: Bethel at St. John’s, 11/8/03 (John Gagliardi’s 409th win)

Today’s game will also fare favorably when compared to its big football brother as, according to research undertaken by the St. Thomas sports information department, the attendance for this contest will exceed the attendance of 20 of the 40 FBS bowl games played last season.

“If we could do this every single week for the rest of my career, sign me up right now,” St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso told the AP. “It has been an absolute blast, and it would never, ever get old. Are there extra media requests? Yes. Are there extra ticket requests? Sure. But at the end of the day if you can’t get genuinely excited about this opportunity, then what are we doing coaching this sport?”

In addition to the attendance record, this matchup will also mark the first-ever college football game played at the major league park.