Going into this past weekend, Fresno State had not beaten perennial Mountain West power Boise State since 2005. Thanks to senior signal caller Derek Carr, the Bulldogs have claimed a victory against their in-conference rivals once more. Carr threw for 460 yards and 4 touchdowns and led a late fourth-quarter drive to seal a 41-40 win in Fresno. With a performance like last weekend’s along with his 373.3 yards per game passing and 12 passing touchdowns this season, one cannot help but start to wonder about Carr’s Heisman Trophy prospects.
Traditionally, players from mid-major schools have not had much success at winning the Heisman, with the last mid-major winner being Ty Detmer in 1990 for BYU. Unfortunately for Carr, he has a lot more than history going against him. Fresno State has already had a game postponed this year, against a lowly Colorado team whose defense would have been no match for Carr, and if they cannot reschedule the game it is just one less opportunity for him to prove himself on a national stage. He also plays in the Mountain West, which has long been underrated as a conference on the national level.
Fresno State just jumped back into the Top 25 of the BCS Guru’s rankings, usually a pretty good determiner of what teams will see postseason success; and none of it would have been possible without the play and leadership of Carr. If he continues to play at the high level he has been this season and Fresno State continues winning each test left on their schedule, he not only should be a Heisman finalist, he needs to be one. And a Heisman finalist with a real chance at winning the award at that.
The first advance I found is a piece from ESPN’s NFL Nation blog about the game between the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. I liked this article because it started off with interesting facts about the game that really help set the stage for the game and gave good background on the matchup; for instance the fact that the Lions haven’t won in over 20 years in Arizona was interesting to me and showed me some possible motivation the Lion’s players may have going into the game. I also liked how they set up the article, by naming the top four keys to the game the Lions need to meet if they want to win.
The second article I liked happened to be from my blog beat in the Mountain West, off the blog Mountain West Connection. The piece is a game preview of Central Michigan and UNLV, and does a very good job of explaining how UNLV has struggled this season (leading to their 0-2 record entering the game) and what they need to do to win for the first time this season. I also really liked how they laid out who the key players were and what they need to do to help their teams win.
The top teams in the MWC continue to impress, but voters for the AP don’t seem to agree with Fresno State and Boise State being the only teams receiving votes in the whole conference. While the elite teams in the MWC continue to put up big numbers in their wins, their problem seems to be in strength in schedule. The MWC traditionally has trouble scheduling big games, because its stronger teams are seen as a threat by big conference schools and its weaker schools are often no match for any of the teams from the larger conferences. This is a problem that has no clear solution in the immediate future, but the easiest way for the conference to gain more respect on the national stage is to make a splash in the polls. If the conference cannot schedule bigger games anytime soon, its teams must win by large margins and on a consistent basis.
There are many stars in the MWC such as Fresno State’s quarterback Derek Carr or San Jose State’s quarterback David Fales, but it must rely on young stars such as Boise State’s true freshman running back Aaron Baltazar to carry it to the future success it could have as a conference.
The recent realignment in college football has been a blessing and a curse to the MWC, gaining back key members such as Boise State and San Diego State, but it makes it harder for them to gain national prominence with the rich getting richer in such conferences as the SEC (who added powerhouses Texas A&M and Missouri last year to their already stacked conference).
The future is bright for the MWC, but it will take the continued success of its elite schools and players as well as its weaker members building their programs to the same status as their counterparts.
From their storied undefeated season last year, to their BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama, to Manti Te’o and Everett Golson’s off the field woes, Norte Dame football has been in the headlines quite often over the past year. After all the publicity, both negative and positive, the program has received one might wonder how the Fighting Irish will fair this upcoming season, especially with the loss of so many key playmakers from last year’s squad. Something has got to give.
Head Coach Brian Kelly thinks that “consistent performance” will be key to the teams success this year, especially for freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith is a five-star prospect who will be filling the spot of Te’o, no easy task for a true freshman. Along with the rest of the defense, one filled with many other first-time starters, Smith will have to uphold the tradition of stout Irish defenses. Last year’s defense ranked among the best in the country, and the entirety of college football will be watching this year’s team with scrutiny.
If anything is apparent about this year’s squad, it is that they will have to keep their attention focused on their ultimate goal of a National Championship being brought back to South Bend. The Notre Dame coaching staff believes they have a team that can really do something big this year, but the adversity and scrutiny they will face might be more than this young team can handle. Only time will tell if the irish can get back to their winning ways.