Sun Belt Conference Football Week 1 News & Notes
Sun Belt Conference Football Week 1 News & Notes
Minnesota at Middle Tennessee (ESPNU) - 6:30 p.m.
Florida Atlantic at UAB - 7 p.m.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Georgia (SEC Network) - 11:21 a.m.
North Texas at Clemson (ESPNU) - 2:30 p.m.
Bowling Green at Troy (Troy/ISP Network) - 6 p.m.
WKU at Nebraska (PPV) - 6 p.m.
Arkansas State at Auburn (Fox Sports Net) - 6 p.m.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State will open its 2010 campaign at nationally-ranked Auburn on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in a Fox Sports South televised game . . . A-State and Auburn will meet for just the second time ever, but also for the second time in the last five seasons since first playing each other in 2006. The Red Wolves will carry a two-game winning streak in season openers into their contest against the nationally-ranked Tigers, the first of four non-conference opponents on their schedule. The Red Wolves return 50 lettermen (24 offense/24 defense/2 special teams), including Bryan Hall, the Sun Belt Conference’s 2010 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and fellow preseason all-conference choices Derek Newton (Sr., OL) and Demario Davis (Jr., LB). The Red Wolves are picked to finish third in the 2010 Sun Belt Conference race according to the league’s preseason coaches poll, released July 19 as part of the Sun Belt Conference Media Days . . . Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts enters his ninth year at Arkansas State after leading the Red Wolves to the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Championship and to bowl eligible seasons three of the last five years. During his first eight seasons as the Red Wolves’ head coach, he guided ASU to 41 wins for its most over an eight-year span at the school since 1985-1992 . . . The Auburn game will mark the fourth season out of the last five that ASU?has played an SEC?opponent, also catching Alabama in 2008, Tennessee in 2007 and Auburn in 2006. It will also be ASU’s 50th all-time meeting with a current member of the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas State holds a 1-46-3 record all-time against current members of the Southeastern Conference . . . Arkansas State will kickoff its 96th season of football Saturday. ASU?holds a 412-443-37 record since the inaugural 1911 season and has played in seven bowl games . . . The Red Wolves have won three of their last four season openers, including the last two in a row. A-State defeated Mississippi Valley?State 61-0 to start last season, Texas A&M 18-14 in 2008 and Army 14-6 in 2006. The only setback in season openers over the last four years came to then-ranked No. 4 Texas. A-State dropped a tough 21-13 decision to the Longhorns in that game. ASU?is 45-44-6 all-time in season openers.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic University’s football team will open the 2010 campaign at UAB, 8 p.m. est, Thursday, September 2. The two teams enter the scheduled three-game series tied at one. FAU will look for its offensive leadership to come from redshirt senior Jeff Van Camp. Van Camp made his collegiate starting debut at UAB, last season. In his first start, Van Camp was 24-36-2 for 254 yards and four scores. It was also the only two interceptions he threw in five starts. The offensive line experience a rash of injuries throughout the early days of preseason camp but have come together with nearly everyone back and are ready to prove that despite youth they will provide passing protection for Van Camp and create holes for Alfred Morris, the 2009 Sun Belt Conference rushing leader and 2010 preseason all-conference selection.
Defensively, the Owls will take signals from a new coordinator and those signals have FAU’s defense flying to the ball. With eight returners on defense, FAU will have game experience they lacked a year ago. The defense preseason camp was led by Tavious Polo, a preseason Sun Belt selection and Tarvoris Hill at the corners. Senior Dino Cox has the line ready and seniors Malik Eugene and Michael Lockley return at linebacker.
The Owls return nearly everyone on special teams and the focus on making the special teams an advantage was intensified in camp.
FAU will return home with an extra two days to prepare for Michigan State, Saturday, September 11. The Owls will host MSU at Ford Field in Detroit, MI.
For the second-consecutive year, FIU opens the year with a bye week. The Panthers will use the bye to prepare for its September 11th game with Rutgers. The game against Rutgers marks the first time that FIU will open the season at home since its inaugural 2002 season.
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Cajuns face Georgia for the first time in school history…Kickoff is set for 11:21am (CT) live on the SEC Network…The Bulldogs enter the season No. 23 in the AP Top 25 after finishing 2009 with an 8-5 record and an Independence Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
ULL plays seven road games, five of which where against teams bowl eligible in 2009…The Cajuns road opponents had a 48-41 record in 2009 – 26-15 at home last season…In 706 games against Division I opponents, the Cajuns have never faced a school from the state of Georgia… The Sept. 11 Sun Belt Conference opener is the earliest SBC game in school history…The schedule had contained only four September conference games in nine seasons, with the earliest a Sept. 22, 2007 meeting with Troy…MT defeated Southern Miss 42-32 in the New Orleans Bowl last season…The Cajuns and Oklahoma State met six times between 1986-2003, with two meetings coming at Cajun Field (1986, 1997)…Troy lost in a thrilling 44-41 double-overtime decision to Central Michigan in the 11th annual GMAC Bowl…Ohio, 9-3 during the 2009 regular season, played in 14 games after facing CMU in the MAC Championship game before facing Marshall in the Little Caeser’s Pizza Bowl…The Sun Belt Conference now holds two primary bowl tie-ins – New Orleans Bowl and GMAC Bowl…ULL has been bowl-eligible in four of the last five seasons.
Current Cajuns tight end Ladarius Green is the most prolific pass-catching tight end in school history…Already the career leader in yards among tight ends, Green’s first catch of 2010 will give him the most receptions by a TE in school history.
Since 2002, ULL has seen the fewest penalty flags in the Sun Belt. Not only do the Cajuns lead the league in the fewest total penalties, ULL also leads with a league-low 6.29 penalties per game. In 2004, ULL was flagged for only 61 infractions - the lowest total for the Cajuns since 1990. The Cajuns average number of penalties per season is less than 74.
ULM enters the first week of the season as just one of two teams that will watch Saturday’s action from home – fellow Sun Belt member FIU also has a bye week to open the season…ULM is the only FBC or FCS team to open its season against a ranked opponent in each of the past three seasons – #11 Auburn (2008), #2 Texas (2009) and #19 Arkansas (2010)…the Warhawks have averaged a third place finish in the Sun Belt over the past six seasons…offensive coordinator Steve Farmer is the 10th youngest coordinator in the FBS…running back Frank Goodin needs just nine rushing touchdowns and 874 rushing yards to become ULM’s all-time leader in both categories…after squaring off against Arkansas, ULM will have played an SEC team every year since moving up to FBS in 1994…ULM allowed 102.6 fewer yards per game on the ground last season than in 2008…wide receiver Luther Ambrose is the second fastest football player in the country – he finished third at the NCAA 100m Outdoor Championships in June, only Florida’s Jeff Demps is faster.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Thursday’s football game between Middle Tennessee and Minnesota will be the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two schools.
Middle Tennessee has an overall mark of 57-36-2 in season-opening games, including a 1-3 mark under Rick Stockstill, and has won 18 of its last 29. The Blue Raiders have won their opening game just three times since elevating to the FBS level in 1999. MT defeated SEC member Vanderbilt in 2001 on the road and then upset Akron on the road in 2004. The Blue Raiders also won the 2006 opener at home against Florida International.
Since Floyd Stadium opened in 1933, the Blue Raiders have compiled an overall mark of 262-103-13 (.710), including a record 31-game win streak from 1987-94. MT is 41-18 at Floyd Stadium since the renovation in 1998 and has won 22 of its last 30. Overall, the Blue Raiders are 24-9 at home in SBC play. Under Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders are 14-6 overall at Floyd Stadium and 11-3 in SBC games.
The Minnesota game will mark just the third game in school history for the Blue Raiders against the Big Ten. Middle Tennessee is 0-2 all-time against the Big Ten with both losses coming to Illinois. MT fell to the Illini in 1998, 48-20, and then again in 2000, 35-6.
The Middle Tennessee-Minnesota game will mark the Blue Raiders’ 11th Thursday night game in the modern era and the sixth in the Rick Stockstill era. Overall, Middle Tennessee is 5-5 in Thursday night tilts and 2-3 under Stockstill. The Blue Raiders have picked up wins over Vanderbilt (2001), UT-Martin (1991), Arkansas State (2003), Florida International (2006), and Tennessee Tech (2006), while the five setbacks have come against Georgia Southern (1989), FAU (2003), No. 8 Louisville (2007), WKU (2007), and Troy (2008).
North Texas Mean Green
North Texas will begin its 95th season of football when it kicks off the 2010 season against Clemson on September 4. Since the inaugural season in 1913, North Texas has accumulated a record of 467-442-34, amassed 25 conference championships and played in seven bowl games.
North Texas is 37-54-3 all-time in the season debut. The Mean Green has won just two season-openers in the last 13 years, a 14-7 win at Middle Tennessee in 2005 and last season’s 20-10 victory at Ball State. North Texas has not won season opening games in back-to-back seasons since 1991 and 1992. The game at Clemson marks the ninth straight year that North Texas will open the season away from home as the Mean Green last opened the season at home in 2001 against TCU.
The 2010 year is the final season that North Texas will place in Fouts Field. After 58 years of serving as the home for Mean Green football, North Texas will bid farewell to the stadium on November 27 in the final game against Kansas State. In 58 years at Fouts Field, the Mean Green has racked up 155 wins and a winning percentage of over 62. North Texas worked with HKS to build the stadium - the same company that designed the American Airlines Center in Dallas and the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The new stadium, currently under construction at a cost of 78 million dollars, is location across highway from Fouts Field will be ready for the 2011 season. Seating capacity at the new stadium will be approximately 30,000.
Junior running back Lance Dunbar was named a Doak Walker Award Candidate . The award is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back. Dunbar is on the list with 48 other top running backs from around the nation. Last season, Dunbar burst onto the scene with 1,378 yards rushing, finishing 15th in the country, despite starting only eight games.
This is the second of two scheduled meetings between the Trojans and Falcons. BGSU defeated the Trojans 31-14 to open the 2009 season.
For a second consecutive season, the Trojans were undone in overtime in a bowl game. After taking a 31-19 lead on Central Michigan in the fourth quarter of the GMAC Bowl, the Chippewas battled back to take a late lead before the Trojans forced the game to overtime. The Trojans fell in the second extra frame when a 31-yard FG attempt failed.
The Trojans enter the 2010 season picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans won their fourth straight league crown in 2009, and became the first SBC team to complete a season a perfect 8-0 in league play.
Troy has an all-time record of 48-35-6 in 89 season openers. That record includes a 27-12-2 record in home season openers.
Coach Larry Blakeney has posted an overall record of 13-6 in season openers, including an 5-0 mark in home season openers. Blakeney has posted a perfect 19-0 record in home openers at Troy. Overall, Troy has won 23 straight home-openers, with the last loss coming in 1986, and has a 64-24-2 all-time record in home opening games. Blakeney has posted an 44-27 record during his career in games played in September and he is 85-11-1 overall in his career in home games.
Troy is 2-0 all-time in games played on Sept. 4. They won at Marshall 17-10 (2004) and defeated Angelo State 38-9 (1976).
Former Hilltopper All-American Willie Taggart will take to the sidelines for the first time as WKU head coach in 2010. Taggart will become the 18th head coach in the 91-year history of Hilltopper football, but just the fifth since 1968. He is also the second former WKU All-America quarterback to eventually become head coach. Jimmy Feix guided WKU to a 106-56-6 record (.649) in 16 seasons from 1968-83. At 34, Taggart is also the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
WKU will open the 2010 season at Nebraska, which is ranked eighth in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and ninth in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll. That means the season opener for the Hilltoppers will also mark the second time they have taken on a Football Bowl Subdivision team ranked in the top 10. WKU opened the 2007 campaign at #3, and defending national champion, Florida. The Toppers did not play a ranked opponent in 2009, but had three on the 2008 slate — #11 Alabama, #20 Virginia Tech and #25 Ball State.
Despite the Hilltoppers’ recent struggles, an impressive streak has remained intact and will enter its ninth season in 2010. WKU has not been held scoreless in a game since a 14-0 home loss to Western Illinois on Sept. 14, 2002 — a streak of 95 games. That is also the longest streak without being shut out of any team in the Sun Belt Conference. The previous record for consecutive games scoring was 88, set between the 1975 and 1973 seasons. After being blanked by the Leathernecks, the Hilltoppers dropped just one more game in that ‘02 campaign as they went on to capture the I-AA National Championship.
Sophomore Kawaun Jakes has been named WKU’s starting quarterback to begin the 2010 season. Jakes started eight of the final nine games in 2009 as a redshirt freshman, completing over 60 percent of his passes for 1,516 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for 355 yards and five scores.
Source: Sun Belt Media Relations