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, DT Brian Howard, the SBC leader in tackles-for-loss, will lead the Vandals against North Texas in a Homecoming clash this Saturday afternoon in The Dome.
In conference action, Idaho stuns New Mexico State and Arkansas State survives against Louisiana Monroe. Idaho gains a share of first place with North Texas and Utah State, while Arkansas State evened its conference record. In nonconference action it was another embarrassing week for the Sun Belt, as home favorite Middle Tennessee loses to Big East weakling Temple, and Utah State and Louisiana Lafayette get blown out on the road. The Sun Belt's nonconference record drops to 4-32 for the year, the worst we can ever remember, including the Big West years from 1996 to 2000. The dismal nonconference record does nothing to improve the Sun Belt's football
IDAHO 35 NEW MEXICO STATE 31
Whow and double whow!! A road win and a tie for the best comeback in UI history. Pinch us, we must be dreaming! The Vandals get their first road win since November 4, 2000 and only their second win outside the Palouse under Tom Cable. Brian Lindgren leads the Vandals back from a 0-28 hole, with 5 TD passes, with the game winner coming with only 14 seconds on the clock. The Vandals (1-0, 1-5) were outgained by the Aggies (0-1, 1-4) 427 to 417 and survived 3 interceptions. THIS TIME it was the Vandals who found a way to win, not the darn Cougs, Eagles, Broncos, Huskies, or Grizzlies. Congratulations to all the Vandal players and coaches for pulling off this big upset! We are especially happy for the seniors who have worked their tails off the last three years and have only tasted victory four times. We TRULY hope this is the start of something special for the Vandals. We can only wonder what UI's record would be if Lindgren had started every game?? But that is history and no one can change it. Next up is the two time
defending Sun Belt Champion North Texas Mean Green (1-0, 2-3), who are riding a 12 game Sun Belt winning streak and are favored by 7. (And by the way, some Las Vegas types like the Vandals, as the opening line on this game
was NT by 9 & one-half and it has been bet down to 7). Let's see now, NT had the weekend off and two weeks to prepare for UI, NT has a 12-1 record in Sun Belt play versus 3-10 for UI, and NT is favored by 7. Only a fool would say the Vandals have a chance to pull a big homecoming upset. Well color us foolish, we are going with the Vandals.
UI 31 NT 30.
ARKANSAS STATE 44 LOUISIANA MONROE 41
In Little Rock, Arkansas State falls behind winless ULM 23-9 at halftime, but roars back in the second half to build a 44-33 lead, then hang on to win a real dog fight! We can only imagine what ASU coach Steve Roberts had to say at halftime and whatever it was it sure worked. Poor ULM (0-2, 0-6) actually outgained ASU (1-1, 3-3) by 538 to 465, but four turnovers did them
in. ASU had zero turnovers. Next up for ASU is a trip to Ole Miss as 25 point underdogs. Ole Miss (3-2) upset #24 ranked Florida Saturday behind Heisman candidate QB Eli Manning. It looks like ASU will be in for a long
day unless the Rebels are still celebrating their big win.
Ole Miss 42 ASU 24.
New Mexico 34 UTAH STATE 7
We expected a better game from the Aggies, who were dominated by NM (3-3). The Lobos led 24-7 at halftime and cruised to an easy win, outgaining USU (1-0, 1-4) 352 to 221. The Aggies could muster only 55 yards on 31 rushing attempts and coughed up 3 fumbles. Next up for USU is a home game against Joe Glenn's Wyoming Cowboys (1-4) of the Mountain West Conference. As most
of you know, Joe Glenn is in his first year at Wyoming after very successful runs at Montana and Northern Colorado, where he won national championships for each school. The Cowboys have had a very tough schedule with their only
win over Montana State of the Big Sky. In this matchup of former Montana head coaches, Wyoming is a slim 3 point favorite. We would normally pick Mick Dennehy's Aggies in a mild upset, but we were so VERY impressed with Joe Glenn at UM we will have to go with Wyoming.
UW 24 USU 20.
Temple 44 MIDDLE TENNESSEE 36
MTSU continues to disappoint us. MTSU was at home and favored, but were behind 14-41 at the end of three quarters, before rallying to make the score more respectable. Temple improved to 1-4, while MTSU fell to (0-0, 0-5). The Blue Raiders were our pick to win the Sun Belt, but they have stunk it up in non-conference play. Next up for MTSU is another home game as 4 point
favorites in their first conference game against NMSU (0-1, 1-4). NMSU is fresh off two heartbreaking losses to New Mexico and Idaho and come in with zero momentum. MTSU has been such a poor performer this year the "wolves my be barking" at MTSU coach Andy McCollum's door. With that incentive, we will pick the Blue Raiders in a close one.
MTSU 38 NMSU 37.
Oklahoma State 56 LOUSIANA LAFAYETTE 3
This was even worse than our 52-10 prediction, but ULL actually led 3-0 in the second quarter before the roof caved in and it was 28-3 at halftime. OSU (4-1) returned THREE punts for TD's, of 69, 78, and 60 yards! Looks like ULL needs some special teams help. For the record OSU outgained ULL 481 to 351. Next up for ULL (0-2, 0-6) is a battle for the early cellar of
the Sun Belt with cross state rival ULM also (0-2, 0-6). Hey folks, at least one of them will get a win. ULL is at home and favored by 3, and we will go with the Vegas boys on this one.
ULL 27 ULM 24.