Saturday's Temple-Toledo matchup is one of the biggest of the season in the MAC.
Temple was picked to finish first or second in the MAC East in almost every preseason poll; Toledo was picked to finish first or second in the MAC West in almost every preseason poll. Thus, it wouldn't be a surprise if Saturday's game in Philadelphia is the first of two meetings this season, with the other coming in the league championship game.
The game could've been even bigger, as both should be coming in off victories over Big Six opponents. Temple crushed host Maryland 38-7 on Saturday, whipping the Terps along the line of scrimmage. Toledo fell 33-30 in overtime at Syracuse in a game in which the officials had a big hand - unfortunately, from Toledo's point of view - in the outcome.
This one likely will come down to how well Toledo holds up against Temple's rushing attack. Owls junior tailback Bernard Pierce leads the nation with 12 rushing touchdowns and is 10th nationally in rushing at 124.0 yards per game. Backup Matt Brown also is an effective runner, and Temple's quarterbacks have good mobility, as well.
Toledo is allowing 140.5 rushing yards per game. Interestingly, though, the Rockets have done an OK job stopping the run against the two best teams they've played. Ohio State managed just 112 rushing yards in a narrow win, and Boise State had 145 in a 25-point win.
Toledo was missing four defensive starters against Syracuse because of injury: linebackers Dan Molls and Charles Rancifer, cornerback Taikwon Paige and free safety Mark Singer. Singer is out for the season, but the status of the other three for Saturday's game isn't known. Molls is one of the best linebackers in the MAC, and the Rockets need him on the field against the Owls.
Best matchup: SMU offensive line vs. TCU defensive front six. Forget about SMU coach June Jones' love of the forward pass; if SMU is to upset TCU, it will be because of Mustangs RB Zach Line. He had three rushing touchdowns during Saturday's win at Memphis, giving him 11 on the season. He lacks breakaway speed, but he's a bruiser who can be incredibly effective between the tackles. TCU has given up just three rushing TDs this season, including one to Baylor and one to Air Force. SMU's offensive line is the most experienced in the nation, and those guys have to get a good push against TCU's 4-2-5 scheme to enable Line to produce. Jones has to like Line's chances to run over a safety; running over a defensive lineman or a linebacker is a different story.
Player on the spot: BYU QB Jake Heaps. BYU's offense has struggled during the Cougars' 2-2 start, and Heaps hasn't been that good. He has thrown for 855 yards, completed 55.6 percent of his passes and has thrown three touchdown passes and five picks. He threw for just 133 yards in last week's win over UCF and has an embarrassing 4.4 yards-per-attempt average. He needs to ramp up his production, beginning this week against a shaky Utah State secondary. The Aggies are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 63.6 percent of their passes, and they have allowed five TD passes with no interceptions.
Keep an eye on: The quarterbacks in the Air Force-Navy game. When two triple-option teams get together, chances are the team that wins is the team that gets the better quarterback play. That puts pressure on Air Force's Tim Jefferson and Navy's Kriss Proctor. For one of just two times all season (the other is when each plays Army), the quarterbacks will face a defense that is well-versed in the triple option. It wouldn't be a surprise if a big pass turns out to be the key play.
Numbers game: UTEP and Houston have played six times as Conference USA members. The Miners have scored 211 points in the six games (35.2 ppg), and the Cougars have scored 246 (41.0 ppg). UTEP and UH have teamed to produce 6,109 yards of offense (1,018 per game), including 3,856 passing (643 per game). The winning team has scored at least 34 points each time and 42 points or more in each of the past three matchups.
Quotes of the week "We've always wanted to bring the big teams to Fresno; we just have to respond fan-wise. We had Illinois here last time [at the end of last season], but we didn't have the attendance we anticipated. If you're going to bring these kinds of teams out here, it's important for us to really take advantage of those games and fill the stadium more, or we'll have to play more road games." - Fresno State coach Pat Hill, whose team plays host to Ole Miss on Saturday
"There's some difficulty with our staff and our players accepting the fact that we're 1-3. We're disappointed in that. As disappointed as we are, we try to be realistic as we look at the schedule and realize that three of our losses come to teams ranked in the top five in the nation [Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State]. That's the reality of it." - Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship
"One of the things that I liked about our football team at Pittsburgh is that we showed poise and confidence down the stretch. Poise to me is the ability to raise your level of concentration when it's most needed. That you can't talk about. You have to go demonstrate that." - Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, on last week's win
"We have an injury problem on the offensive line, let's admit to this. We have a freshman and sophomore that are starting for us that aren't starting for us anymore. Behind them, we have younger and less-experienced guys. So, we have to be smart about coaching these guys and we got to be smart on what we call." - Hawaii coach Greg McMackin
"We were on the road against an SEC opponent and I think our players expected to win. I don't think there was anybody who hoped to win or wished we could win, or any of that kind of stuff. I think our players expected to win and I feel like that was progress." - Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes, whose team fell in overtime at Mississippi State
"I think that's illegal, and if our compliance people had any guts at all, they would turn the athletic director from Houston in for violations." - UTEP coach Mike Price, with tongue firmly in check, about his opponent Thursday night. Because of previous injuries, including an early-season injury in 2010 that came after Houston played UTEP, Keenum was granted an extra season of eligibility by the NCAA
Poll watch: Houston could move into the top 25 next week, assuming it wins Thursday night at UTEP. This week, Houston was 26th in the coaches' poll and 27th in The Associated Press poll. The Cougars are 4-0 for the first time since 2006 and just the second time since 1990.
Etc.: Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast will use Brett Favre as the color analyst for its live coverage of the Rice-Southern Miss game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Favre is a Southern Miss alum. ... Southern Miss senior LB Korey Williams, one of the top 20 or so players in the nation at his position and maybe the best defensive player in Conference USA, is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He has 35 tackles and three interceptions this season. ... Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will be at midfield for the honorary coin toss for the Air Force-Navy game. ... Western Michigan's road trip to Connecticut is the school's first travel by plane since the 2008 Texas Bowl. The 2009 and '10 seasons marked the first time the Broncos had gone back-to-back seasons without a flight since the 1986 and '87 seasons. ... Army did not complete a pass in four attempts in last week's loss at Ball State and has only one completion in the past two games (1-of-11). The Black Knights are 10-of-34 for 155 yards through the air this season. ... Nevada is playing its fourth consecutive road game to open the season. The Wolf Pack finally will play at home, against UNLV, next week. Florida Atlantic has it even worse. The Owls also are playing their fourth consecutive road game, but they don't play at home until Oct. 15; they will be the final FBS team to play a home game this season. ... BYU WR Cody Hoffman's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter in last week's win over UCF was the first for a Cougars player since 1998. ... North Texas QB Derek Thompson passed for 201 yards in last week's upset of Indiana. It's only the second time in the past 14 games that the Mean Green have had a quarterback pass for 200 yards. ... Navy is 16-1 in its past 17 games against the other service academies. The only loss was last season to Air Force, which is Saturday's opponent. ... Louisiana-Lafayette already has four interception returns for touchdowns this season. CB Dwight Bentley has two of them. ... Notre Dame's defense has allowed only one rushing touchdown this year. Only Florida (zero) has allowed fewer. ... Through four games, UCF is one of only two FBS teams that has not thrown a TD pass (UAB is the other) and one of two FBS teams that has not allowed a TD through the air (Navy). Thus, in 16 quarters of football, there has not been a single touchdown scored through the air in a game involving UCF. ... Arkansas State K Brian Davis set a school and Sun Belt Conference record with six field goals in last week's win over Central Arkansas. He scored 23 points in the game, one shy of the NCAA record by a kicker. ... Toledo freshman K Jeremiah Detmer made a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half in last week's loss at Syracuse. It was his first college attempt. ... Because of injuries, UTEP already has had three different starting quarterbacks (in four games) this season. ... BYU has played Utah State on a Friday every season except three since 1987 in order to avoid conflict with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' General Conference, held the first weekend of every October. BYU had two byes and played on a Thursday the other three weekends. ... UAB junior LB Greg Irvin had four fumble recoveries in last week's loss to East Carolina. Despite the loss, UAB played the first penalty-free game in school history. ... Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish has accounted for a school-record 67 touchdowns in his career. ... Middle Tennessee K Alan Gendreau made five extra points in last week's loss to Troy. That gave him a Sun Belt-record 137 extra points in his career. ... Navy is looking for its first 3-1 start since 2006. ... Bowling Green QB Matt Schilz has 14 touchdown passes this season; he threw for eight all of last season. ... Since 1982 (a span of 29 games), the winning team in the Notre Dame-Purdue game has scored at least 23 points in every meeting except 1993. ... Cincinnati plays at Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, the 116th meeting in the nation's oldest non-conference rivalry. This is the fifth-most-played rivalry in the nation. ... Akron has lost 16 consecutive road games as it readies for Saturday's game at Eastern Michigan. The Zips' last road win came Oct. 18, 2008, against EMU. ... UAB has submitted plans for an on-campus stadium. The first phase of approval could come as early as November. ... After starting with two games on the road, BYU is readying for the third of four consecutive home games. The last time the Cougars had four home games in a row was in 1991. ... SMU's 42-0 win over Memphis last week improved the Mustangs to 3-1, their first 3-1 start since 1992. In addition, it was the first shutout by the Mustangs since a 28-0 win at Hawaii on Oct. 3, 1998. SMU has allowed just seven total points in the past two games, the fewest in any two-game stretch since 1983.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.