Mid-Manifest Destiny: TCU Plays Survive And Advance; Boise State Hits Cruise Control

A weekly examination of the lesser luminaries of Division I-A. On this week's agenda: TCU, Nevada and Utah must walk an uncomfortably fine line for favorable bowl selections, and Boise State's gaining ground.

• Nobody breathe regular but Boise. The Broncos sailed past their loathed in-state rivals, pummeling Idaho 52-14, but other ranked mid-major teams struggled in Week 11. The travails of TCU and Nevada are understandable, if unfortunate: San Diego State and Fresno State, while not competitive on the national stage, are no pushovers, and both gave their superior opponents quite the workout. The Horned Frogs held off the Aztecs despite a late 14-point surge, while the 'Pack escaped the Bulldogs by a single point. Survive and advance may not be enough for most mid-major teams to retain their rankings buoyancy, but both teams have to be grateful to still be alive.

Then, there's Utah. Kyle Whittingham, your offense. Woof.

A team expected to wreak vengeful havoc in South Bend sat on their hands for about 47 minutes Saturday afternoon, and Jordan Wynn and his receivers appeared to be operating on entirely different planes of existence. The Utes' 28-3 loss to Notre Dame was amazingly uncomfortable to watch. Utah remains ranked, somehow, but still has to contend with a San Diego State team that gave the vastly superior TCU fits and a suddenly-maybe-competent BYU. Best of luck, boys -- somehow, it suddenly looks like you need it.

• Hail to the Sun Belt, sure is a fun belt! Even mid-majors aren't safe from the madness of 2010. Florida International just beat Troy. If you're not a Sun Belt fan, you don't understand the import of this, but maybe knock back a stiff drink anyway at the thought of a 4-5 team leading a Division I-A college football conference. Troy is 5-4. FIU and FAU are 4-5. This is, seriously, as good as it gets.

• We care because we cannot dissociate him from Friday Night Lights. Todd Dodge's Mean Green managed a surprise victory over the horribly flailing Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State, making North Texas the third I-A team to win without a head coach last weekend.

• Now you try. It's Idaho State's turn to try putting together a win without a skipper, as John Zamberlin was fired on Sunday. Mike Kramer, an administrator at Washington State who hasn't coached in three years, is reportedly tabbed as his replacement. Have fun with that!

• Pinballin', shot callin'. Tulane, FIU, East Carolina, and Boise State all scored over 50 points in Week 11 play.

• This week in Mike Locksley Still Has A Job Theatre: The Lobos were crushed by Air Force, 48-23, which was only to be expected. We continue to post this section to remind you that: a) Mike Locksley once punched his own assistant and remains employed and richer than you, and that b) the Lobos' starting quarterback is named Stump Godfrey.

• This week in No, Seriously, What The Hell Do We Do With UTEP? We got Jessie-Spano-on-caffeine-pills jacked over the first 28 points traded between the Miners and Arkansas Saturday night. The final score of 58-21 was markedly less enticing.

Profiles in ownage.
• ECU staged a heroic 27-point fourth-quarter comeback to topple ... the 3-6 UAB Blazers. Ownage is relative, right?
• BYU, winning games all of a sudden! The Cougars have rebounded from an early four-game losing streak to take four of their last five and have only to beat New Mexico (HA!) to become bowl-eligible.
• Ohio University, who beat a tough Temple team sans our beloved Boo Jackson, who appears to be healing up nicely.

Not ready for primetime.
• Houston, fresh off a field goal loss to Tulsa, will need to beat either Southern Miss or Texas Tech to have a prayer of a bowl hope. Ouch.
• UCF, celebrated last week for its surprising entrance into the national polls, promptly wet themselves in a home stand against Southern Miss, 31-21.

Mini-major medalist.
U-S-A! U-S-A! The South Alabama Jaguars, prepping for Sun Belt membership, have reeled off a second straight undefeated season as a fledgling football program. And in this year's Sun Belt, they might have been a fearsome contender.

Scoreboard. 
Reminder: For our purposes, thanks to their AQ status, we count Notre Dame as a BCS school. This week, that's rather inconvenient, because it means adding Utah's ignominious defeat in South Bend to the UTEP and ULM losses in SEC country. Mid-major teams' 0-3 record in Week 11 moves the overall needle to 18-84 in 2010 regular-season play.

Walking Dead Watch.
Akron lost by five points, and did it in the following fashion: After a scoreless first quarter, the Roos were outscored by Miami (Oh) 10-7, but broke off a 91-yard run in the opening seconds of the third quarter to take a 14-10 lead. Then the RedHawks kicked three field goals and won. Lordy, this was fun to watch. The Zips' last chance at averting a winless season is a home stand with 2-8 Buffalo in Week 13.

Violently Subjective Mid-Major Top 10
T-1.  TCU (11-0)
T-1. Boise State (9-0)
3.  Nevada (9-1)
4. Utah (8-2)
5.  Northern Illinois (8-2)
6. Hawaii (7-3)
7. San Diego State (7-3)
8. Southern Miss (7-3)
9. UCF (7-3)
10. Navy (7-3)

Stay Tuned.
Busy Thursday night for the mids and minis this week, as Georgia State travels to Alabama for the Bill Curry Comeuppance Bowl and Air Force road-trips to UNLV. Friday night brings us Fresno State at Boise State.

Saturday games featuring ranked mid-major teams: Nevada-New Mexico State, Utah-Stan Diego State.

AQ/Non-AQ clashes: Troy-South Carolina, Army-Notre Dame, and the FAU-Texas Silver Fox Coach-Off Presented By Barbasol.

Potential actual interesting football game: Houston-Southern Miss.

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