Thursday Football

Thursday Football

Game Preview for Memphis vs Arkansas State

FACTS amp; STATS: Site: Indian Stadium (33,410) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television:None. Home Record: Memphis 1-1, ASU 1-0. Away Record: Memphis 0-1, ASU 0-2. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: Memphis 0-1, ASU 0-0. Series Record: Memphis leads, 27-21-5.

GAME NOTES: The Memphis Tigers and Arkansas State Indians will try to fight it out once again, as the two schools square off in non-conference action from Jonesboro this Thursday. The Tigers and Indians were originally scheduled to lock horns on September 8th, but due to bad weather, that game was postponed and rescheduled for this Thursday. Both teams enter the contest just 1-2 on the season and each is coming off a loss. The Tigers were hammered in their Conference USA opener last weekend, 56-20, by UCF, while the Indians were beat up by Tennessee 48-27. ASU however, now returns home, where it posted its only win of the year, a 45-28 triumph over C-USA member SMU on September 15th. As far as the all-time series goes, the Tigers hold a 27-21-5 edge over the Indians, although ASU won last year's meeting to snap a 10-game skid against Memphis.

The Tigers have been able to move the ball on offense this season and they come into the game averaging a solid 25.3 ppg and 418.3 total ypg. The team has done a respectable job running the ball (146.0 ypg), but has thrived through the air, passing for 272.3 ypg. Last weekend, however, Memphis was slowed down by UCF, gaining just 303 total yards in a 56-20 setback. Martin Hankins paced the team in defeat by throwing for 81 yards and a touchdown on a sub par 10-of-23 pass attempts. It wasn't exactly the best performance of the year by Hankins, who has completed 63.8 percent of his tosses for 713 yards through three games. He has thrown five touchdowns against the same amount of interceptions as well. Hankins has done a nice job spreading out the ball thus far, as four players have at least 11 catches to their credit. Joseph Doss and T.J. Pitts have combined for 228 rushing yards this season, but neither was effective last weekend. Doss rushed for 48 yards on nine carries in the loss to UCF, while Pitts was limited to only 30 yards on eight totes.

Defensively, Memphis has had all sorts of trouble trying to slow down its opponents, allowing 31.0 ppg and 422.7 total ypg thus far. The unit has struggled against both the run (183.7 ypg) and pass (239.0 ypg) and it has recorded just four sacks in three games. Last weekend, the Tigers' defense was simply exploited by UCF, which rolled up 601 yards of total offense, including 313 on the ground. The Tigers surrendered seven rushing touchdowns in the game and also allowed UCF to convert 9-of-13 third down attempts. Jake Kasser finished with nine stops in the loss and he currently leads the club with 25 tackles for the year.

The Indians have been successful on offense in the early going, as they bring a 28.3 ppg and 430.0 total ypg average into the contest. The offense has fared well with its running (184.3 ppg) and passing (245.7 ypg) game, with six of its nine touchdowns coming on the ground. In a losing cause to Tennessee last weekend, ASU racked up 377 total yards, including 178 on the ground. The team however, committed three turnovers and they proved to be costly. Despite the loss, Reggie Arnold put forth another strong effort, rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Arnold is off to a solid start this season and he leads the team with 354 rushing yards behind an impressive 7.7 yard per carry average. Corey Leonard, unfortunately, didn't fare as well as Arnold did last weekend, completing just 18-of-35 tosses for 199 yards, with one touchdown against two interceptions. It was the worst effort of the season by Leonard, who has completed 60.0 percent of his throws for 724 yards thus far. Levi Dejohnette has become a favorite target of Leonard and he leads the team with 15 catches and 222 receiving yards, although he has yet to score a touchdown.

Much like their opponent, the Indians have struggled on the defensive side of the ball, allowing 32.3 ppg and 398.7 total ypg. Despite picking off five throws in 113 attempts, ASU has struggled against opposing aerial attacks, as it is giving up 269.7 ypg through the air. Of this unit's 13 touchdowns allowed, 10 have come via the pass. Last weekend, Tennessee torched this defense for 523 total yards, with 335 of those yards coming through the air. The Indians surrendered four passing touchdowns in the game and allowed Tennessee to convert 28-of-40 throws. On a positive note, the Indians did record an interception, courtesy of Tyrell Johnson, who took it 54 yards for a touchdown. Johnson finished the game with eight tackles and a forced fumble and he now leads the squad with 26 stops and two interceptions on the season.

Neither team has shown much on the defensive side of the ball and that should lead to a high scoring affair. ASU has the edge playing at home and with the strong running of Arnold, it should be able to outlast Memphis for the win in this one.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 30, Memphis 24

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Re: Thursday Football

Game Preview for Southern Miss vs Boise State

FACTS amp; STATS: Site: Bronco Stadium (30,000) -- Boise, Idaho. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Southern Miss 1-0, BSU 2-0. Away Record: Southern Miss 1-1, BSU 0-1. Neutral Record: Southern Miss 0-0, BSU 0-0. Conference Record: Southern Miss 1-0, BSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles hit the road this Thursday to challenge the Boise State Broncos on the blue turf in Idaho. Southern Miss, which has had more than a week to prepare for this contest, is a game over .500 at the moment thanks to a 28-21 victory over East Carolina on September 15th. This is the third straight road game for the Golden Eagles, whose only decision at home in 2007 was a 35-13 triumph over Tennessee-Martin in the opener. As for the Broncos, they too are 2-1 heading into action this week and are trying to fight their way back into the national polls. Included in the preseason rankings after going through the 2006 campaign unscathed, Boise State whipped Weber State (56-7) in the opener but then bowed to Washington on the road, which promptly hastened their exit from the national spotlight, to the extent where the Broncos failed to earn even a single point in the AP poll. A win over Wyoming (24-14) has the team moving in the right direction again, with the Western Athletic Conference schedule ready to begin a week from Sunday versus New Mexico State. This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools in football.

Jeremy Young is doing his best at the quarterback position to put the Golden Eagles in a position to win every game possible. After three contests he is completing 53.3 percent of his pass attempts for better than 200 ypg, but he still has just three TD passes, against two picks. Perhaps he is better suited to catch defenders sleeping when he carries the ball, resulting in 123 yards and a team-best three scores. The hard yards are being picked up by Damion Fletcher who is averaging better than five yards per carry and is ranked fourth in Conference USA with 101.3 ypg overall. With Young and Fletcher doing so well pounding the ball on the ground, it should come as little surprise that the team is ranked third in the league with 182 ypg rushing. With the special teams doing their job, putting up 22 yards per punt return (fifth nationally), it certainly makes the offense work a little easier with a shorter field.

Although classified as just a redshirt sophomore, linebacker Gerald McRath is not letting that stop him from being one of the leaders on the defense for the Golden Eagles. After three games he's produced a team-best 40 tackles, almost twice the number of any one of his teammates. Not only is McRath ranked first in the conference in stops per game, he's tied for second on a national scale. Although he doesn't have quite the number of overall hits, Martavius Prince has been just as important as McRath, making three of his seven overall stops behind the line of scrimmage and also leading Southern Miss with two and a half sacks. Eddie Hicks (two interceptions) adds 23 tackles for the group and has been trying to turn the tide when it comes to turnover margin, but he can't do it alone, which leaves the Golden Eagles ninth in Conference USA and 97th nationally with a minus-1.0 turnover margin per game.

Expected to be in the running for some prestigious hardware at the end of the 2007 campaign, Ian Johnson has gotten off to a slow start for the Broncos. The spark that led the team to an upset win in a BCS contest following last season, Johnson is averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground and has a mere three rushing touchdowns, a number that was almost produced on a weekly basis in 2006. A big part of the problem is dealing with a new quarterback after Jared Zabransky moved on. Taylor Tharp is certainly a talent in his own right, hitting on 60.4 percent of his passes for 217 ypg, but the end results have not been there, with just three TDs and three picks. However, don't tell that to Jeremy Childs who has 18 receptions for 243 yards and a score. Childs is fourth in the WAC in yards per game, but the team as a whole is fifth in the pass- happy league with only 221.7 ypg. As one of the top scoring teams in college football for several years, Boise State is third in the WAC and tied for 50th in the nation this week at 30 ppg.

While the offense for the Broncos has some issues meeting the lofty expectations of previous programs in Idaho, the defense seems to be on the right track yet again. The group is first in the Western Athletic in several major categories and have played well enough to show up on the national charts as well. The run defense, 14th in the country, is giving up just 80.7 ypg, the overall defensive stance yielding only 249.7 ypg to rank 10th in the nation this week. In terms of points allowed, Boise State places first in the WAC and 11th in the nation with just 15 ppg surrendered. While the group is getting the job done in that respect, it actually could be much better for the defense, considering it is seventh in the WAC and tied for 103rd in the nation in tackles for loss with less than five per game. Having played in only two of the team's three games, Mike T. Williams has proven he is a force to reckon with, producing two sacks on just three total tackles thus far.

Playing in front of the home crowd on national television gives the Broncos reason to come out and shine this week. Perhaps the extra time off has also given the team some new ideas for how to exploit the Southern Miss defense, something that should happen time and time again on Thursday night.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boise State 42, Southern Mississippi 17

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Re: Thursday Football

Arkansas State hosts Memphis in rescheduled game
September 26, 2007

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Memphis coach Tommy West figures Arkansas State has a pretty good scouting report on his Tigers -- especially after they were routed last weekend by Central Florida.

"They saw some weaknesses or deficiencies Saturday," West said.

Arkansas State hosts Memphis on Thursday night, a rescheduled game after a Sept. 8 matchup was postponed because of bad weather. The makeup date gave both teams less time to prepare after playing last weekend -- and created a three-games-in-11-days stretch for the Tigers, who host Marshall on Tuesday night.

The Indians and Tigers should be plenty familiar with one another after preparing for the earlier game, and Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts says he has even more information to work with now.

"We have two more tapes on them now," Roberts said. "Obviously, we've seen different tendencies."

Memphis (1-2) is coming off an ugly 56-20 loss to Central Florida in which the Tigers trailed 49-0 early in the third quarter. Amazingly, Memphis didn't lose a turnover, but UCF gained 601 total yards.

"They got it rolling and it started snowballing on us and we couldn't come close to getting it turned," West said. "Then we made it worse."

Arkansas State's start has been a little more encouraging. The Indians (1-2) were competitive in losses at Texas and Tennessee, sandwiched around a 45-28 victory over SMU.

The last time Arkansas State actually played Memphis, it was a momentous occasion for the Indians. Corey Leonard's 53-yard Hail Mary to Patrick Higgins at the end of the game gave Arkansas State a 26-23 win, its first over the Tigers in 11 games.

Leonard is back and is third in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense, and the Indians' Reggie Arnold is second in the conference at 118 yards rushing per game.

"Their running back is putting 100 on everybody," West said. "Their quarterback's definitely a dual threat. He runs the ball well. They moved the ball pretty good at Tennessee."

Memphis has also moved the ball well, gaining 1,255 yards in three games. But the Tigers have been hurt by big mistakes. In their opener, a 23-21 loss to Ole Miss, they allowed touchdowns on an interception return and a blocked punt.

Martin Hankins has completed 64 percent of his passes, and four Memphis wide receivers have at least 11 catches.

"They have a great receiving corps," Roberts said. "They're huge. Their quarterback is playing well."

On special teams, Arkansas State's Brandon Thompkins set a Sun Belt record with 194 yards in kickoff returns last week.

Roberts estimates about 60 percent of his gameplan would have been the same had this game been played when it was originally scheduled. He's hoping something else can be replicated, too -- a home crowd that came ready to cheer in Jonesboro that night before the game was called.

"We need the atmosphere to duplicate what it would have been," Roberts said. "There was a great atmosphere. We need that same type of atmosphere Thursday night."

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Re: Thursday Football

Southern Miss at Boise St.

Southern Mississippi (2-1, 1-0 Conference USA) at Boise State (2-1, 0-0 WAC)
Thursday, September 27
7:30 PM ET on ESPN
Bronco Stadium (Blue Astro Play Turf)

Although it wasn’t the biggest surprise we’ve seen this college football season – that would have to be Syracuse coming out of nowhere to beat Louisvile last weekend – the Miami Hurricanes offense waking up last Thursday night and showing some life was something I certainly didn’t expect. But hats off to the Canes – unfortunately for my Texas A&M (+2) call, “the U” thoroughly outclassed the Aggies and the game never really was a contest.

So, after a mini two game winning streak my Thursday night record drops back to an even 2-2 on the year. The great thing is that an opportunity to start another winning streak – this one hopefully much longer – is only days away. Which brings us to tonight's game where the Southern Miss Golden Eagles will travel west to play the Boise State Broncos.

As I said last week when Texas A&M faced Miami, I think its great when two programs with a lot of success that rarely cross paths hook up for a game. In that sense, this game is a lot like last week, minus the national attention. Southern Miss and Boise have both had plenty of success in recent years and this will be the first time these two schools have ever faced one another on the gridiron.

Then again, I guess after their incredible season in 2006, Boise State no longer flies too low on the national radar.

I’m sure everyone remembers Boise State’s dramatic comeback and victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last season. The Broncos were only the second team from outside the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) to play in a BCS bowl game and their stunning 43-42 victory capped off a perfect 13-0 season.

Graduation has stripped second-year Boise State coach Chris Petersen of many of the key figures from that magical season including the heart and soul of the Broncos offense, QB Jared Zabransky.

But before you start feeling too sorry for Petersen and gang, remember that one of the 12 returning starters is the dynamic running back Ian Johnson.

Johnson recently had his streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games snapped but make no mistake, this is one of the most talented backs in the nation. Despite having been held to fewer than 100 yards and without a touchdown in two straight contests, Johnson ranks 41st in the nation with 97.3 rushing yards per game.

Taking over for Zabransky is fifth-year senior Taylor Tharp who will be making just his fourth career start this Thursday. The Boise passing game is slowly finding a rhythm but you can bet this offense will be ground oriented the entire year.

Southern Miss can certainly understand that line of thinking. Behind running back Damion Fletcher, the Golden Eagles also look first to their rushing attack to lead their offense. Fletcher rushed for 1,388 yards as a true freshman last season and when the diminutive speedster finds the end zone, the Golden Eagles are a perfect 8-0.

Whether it’s the running or passing game, you can be sure both offenses will find plenty of resistance across the ball.

The Boise State defense currently ranks 10th in the nation in total defense and is riding quite a streak. With the exception of the first half against Washington, the Broncos have shut out the opponent in five of the past six quarters with suffocating efficiency.

However, you can be sure that Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower has not only spent plenty of time sizing up this Boise defense but is also bringing quite a stout unit to the table as well.

Dominating defense has historically been the calling card for successful Southern Miss teams and this year is no different. Linebacker Gerald McRath is the leader of the Southern Miss defense and you have to figure he has been eating and sleeping Ian Johnson for the past couple of weeks in preparation for this game. McRath is a tackling machine, recording double-digit tackles in all three games this season, as well as five consecutive games and six of the past seven.

Both programs have followed a very similar path this season. Both opened with a Division 1-AA opponent – Boise defeated Weber State 56-7 while Southern Miss dispatched Tennessee-Martin 35-13. However, after those tune-ups both teams hit a bump in the road.

Ranked number 22 in the nation, Boise then traveled to Washington and had its 14-game winning streak, at the time the longest in major college football, snapped as the Huskies' won 24-10.

Similarly, Southern Miss dropped their Week 2 game – at Tennessee. The Golden Eagles only trailed 17-16 at the half but couldn’t sustain their game plan for four quarters and eventually lost 39-19.

Both schools rebounded nicely the following week – Boise clipping Wyoming 24-14 and Southern Miss beating East Carolina 28-21 – before taking off last week to prepare for this Thursday night.

For Southern Miss this will be their first trip to the blue “Smurf Turf” in Boise since appearing in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl. In that game the Golden Eagles lost to Idaho 42-35.

Unfortunately for Bower and company, they won’t be facing the Vandals this time. No, Southern Miss will be playing Boise State and in the process be trying to crack a code that no non-BCS team has solved since 1998. The Broncos have not lost a home game to a non-BCS conference team since the season finale that year, amassing a 53-2 at home over that period, with their only losses coming to Washington State in 2001 and Boston College in 2005.

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Re: Thursday Football

Thursday night lights: Southern Miss at Boise State

The matchup: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Boise State Broncos

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET from Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho

The line: Boise State -10 ½, total 49 ½ points

Weather forecast: There’s no chance of rain in Boise and the southeast wind won’t top 5 mph. The temperature will start in the mid-70s at kickoff and steadily drop to the low 60s through the game.

Key injuries

Southern Miss: Offensive guard Ryan Hebert has returned to full-speed drills but remains doubtful for Thursday. Nose tackle Sean Merrill sat out Tuesday’s practice with a strained back but will play. Freshman linebacker Martez Smith will miss one more game due to suspension.

Boise State: The Broncos missed a pair of starters in their last game against Wyoming, receiver Vinny Peretta and linebacker David Shields. Both are probable starters for Thursday.

Three reasons why Southern Miss could cover:

1. The Eagles’ Young man is maturing: Quarterback Jeremy Young is fresh off his biggest clutch performance since toppling Houston at home last year. Young led a comeback win at East Carolina with 237 passing yards and a pair of one-yard scoring runs. Young’s continued improvement keeps opposing defenses from keying on sophomore tailback Damion Fletcher.

2. Boise State’s offense isn’t ticking: The Broncos hung points on all takers in recent years, culminating in last year’s 43-42 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. They’ve played two FBS (Division I-A) opponents this year and struggled offensively in both, committing four turnovers at Washington and scoring only 24 points at home against Wyoming in Week 3. It was their first home game scoring less than 41 points since October 2005.

3. Strength in the front seven: Southern Mississippi came into the 2007 campaign with what was reputed to be C-USA’s top defensive line and and top group of linebackers. The team’s numbers took a hit against Tennessee, but in the Eagles’ other two games, no opposing runner topped 45 yards on the ground.

Three reasons why Boise State could cover:

1. The Broncos excel on the Smurf Turf: Boise State is 21-1 SU and 12-6-1 ATS at Bronco Stadium since the start of the 2004 season, with the only SU loss being its MPC Computers Bowl defeat to Boston College in 2005. The Broncos have won 18 straight regular season home games by a touchdown or more.

2. Southern Miss is a bad road doggie: The Golden Eagles have won five games away from Hattiesburg since the start of the 2006 season, but were favored in all of those wins. They’ve been a road underdog five times over the same span and have gone 0-5 SU and ATS in those games.

3. Boise State continues to smother the run: No matter how much Young has improved, the Golden Eagles make hay with its running game, which runs into a defensive buzz saw on Thursday. Boise State held eight opponents under 100 rushing yards last year and the Broncos are up to the same tricks in 2007, holding Wyoming to 35 yards on 24 carries in their last game Sept. 15.

Cool stat of the day

Preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful Ian Johnson has been held under 100 rushing yards in two straight games. The last time that happened (against Utah and Louisiana Tech a year ago), Johnson rebounded with back-to-back 180-plus yard games. Johnson also reached the end zone four times in each of his rebound games.

Boise State center Jeff Cavender promised Johnson a 150-yard, three-touchdown game against the Eagles, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Key quote

“From what I’ve been looking at, (Boise State’s All-American left tackle Ryan Clady is) beatable," Eagles defensive end Robert Henderson told the Hattiesburg American.

“I think you can beat him with speed. He's a big guy, so if you go in there and let him get his hands on you, you're really not going to get too much off him. If you beat him with speed and be more finesse than him, he's beatable.”

"That's on both sides. Both of their tackles look beatable to me. They’re good, but everybody can be beat."

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Re: Thursday Football

College Football Betting Preview: Southern Mississippi at Boise State         

The blue turf will be on display Thursday night on ESPN as Boise State hosts Southern Mississippi.  The Broncos are not having their typical year, having lost already this season to Washington.  They were also unimpressive against Wyoming.  Southern Miss is coming off a nice win against East Carolina.  Boise State will get back receiver Vinny Peretta and linebacker David Shields for this game. SBG Global reports that early betting has the public taking the favored Boise State at Home.

SBG Global Opening Line: Boise State -11.5, Total 49.5 

Southern Miss Quarterback Jeremy Young led a big win against East Carolina with 237 passing yards and two running touchdowns in the Eagles last game.  Boise State on the other hand has had trouble on offense in their last two games.  The Broncos struggled putting up points against Wyoming and Washington.  The good news for Boise is that they are 21-1 straight up and 12-6-1 against the spread at Bronco Stadium since the start of the 2004 season. The Broncos have won 18 straight regular season home games by a touchdown or more. Preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Ian Johnson has been held under 100 rushing yards in two straight games.

SBG Global Current Line: Boise State -10.5, Total 50.5 Over (-115)

On the other side of the coin Southern Miss is a bad road dog.  They are 0-5 straight up and against the spread in their last five road games.  In other betting statistics for Thursday’s game we see that Southern Miss is 14-6 ATS in their last 20 games vs. a team with a winning record. The Golden Eagles are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 road games.

The Broncos are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 Thursday games. The Broncos are 29-11-1 ATS in their last 41 games as a home favorite. The Broncos are 35-16-1 ATS in their last 52 home games. The Broncos are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games in September.                                                     

The Over is 5-1 in the Golden Eagles last 6 games overall. The Over is 5-1 in the Golden Eagles last 6 road games. The Under is 16-6 in the Golden Eagles last 22 games in September. The Under is 22-9-1 in the Golden Eagles last 32 non-conference games. The Under is 19-9 in the Golden Eagles last 28 games as a road underdog. The Under is 8-1 in the Broncos last 9 non-conference games. The Under is 7-1 in the Broncos last 8 games in September. The Over is 4-1 in the Broncos last 5 games as a home favorite.

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