BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
Hawaii, which had its second bye in three weeks, dropped two spots to 16th in the most recent Bowl Championship Series poll released Sunday.
The Warriors, 8-0, were 14th last week. They are ranked 10th in the Harris Poll.
Karl Benson, the Western Athletic Conference commissioner, said he wasn’t surprised much. He still blames the lack of computer love for the Warriors on what has been a soft schedule.
Benson said the Warriors’ six Division 1-A opponents are ranked a collective 103rd.
Nevada (83rd), Fresno State (62), Boise State (23) and Washington (62) are ranked a collective 57th by the computers. Benson said that wins over those squads will enable Hawaii to get some love from the computers.
“I agree (that it’s tough to go undefeated),” Benson said. “Right now three out of 119 teams are still undefeated. History shows that an undefeated team from a non-BCS conference will get to the top 12.”
Benson said the computers will look more favorably on Hawaii during its tough stretch of games.
Benson said that Hawaii had more votes this week – .3772 to .3627.
Benson also believes that if Boise State were to run the table that the Broncos could sneak into a top 16 spot. If a non-BCS conference winner finishes in the top 16 and beats out an automatic bid conference champ in the BCS rankings, it would get a bid. Connecticut is the team that Boise State would be hoping to leapfrog eventually.
FSU, HAWAII ON CENTER STAGE
Hawaii starts its three-game swing through the most difficult three teams on its WAC schedule – Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State.
The Warriors, ranked 16th in the BCS poll, entertain Fresno State in an ESPN2 game this weekend
“Hawaii and Fresno State games are one of the great rivalry games,” said Fresno State associate head coach John Baxter, who filled in for an absent Pat Hill. “It’s obvious June Jones has done a tremendous job with that program. We get our biggest crowds when Hawaii comes here. The fans are really into it.”
Baxter said the toughest thing about playing Hawaii is the travel aspect along with the temperature and humidity.
Fresno State, with Ryan Mathews at running back, has the ability to score from anywhere on the field as it showed against Nevada. The Bulldogs have great return men in A.J. Jefferson and Clifton Smith.
A reporter from the New Orleans newspaper asked what had to be the strangest question of the season.
Essentially the reporter asked Baxter if he was worried about the fact that so much money for the conference was riding on Hawaii making it to a BCS game, and did he have concerns about calls going Hawaii’s way.
Baxter answered the question without hesitation.
“Not at all,” he said. “We have conference officials. They are as good as any in the country.”
Fresno State has seen Mountain West, Pac-10 and Big-12 crews this season.
“I’m taken aback by the question,” Benson told the reporter. “They (the officials) are not looking at the names on the jerseys or records of the teams.”
Maybe the reporter was working on a conspiracy issue type of story.
OUT OF CONFERENCE
Louisiana Tech takes a break from conference play when it visits in-state powerhouse and second-ranked LSU.
It’s the third money game the Bulldogs have played under first-year head coach Derek Dooley. That’s something he hopes to change as time goes on. Tech has played Mississippi, California and now LSU.
“These guarantee games are at many of our (conference) schools.” Dooley said. “There’s a situation where you don’t want to play more than one of them. Three probably is not as good. In-state rival games can be tough when one team is No. 2 and the other team is building a program. Makes it a tough schedule. Not sure LSU wants to do it every year, and LSU is not going to come to our place.”
Dooley stepped into a tough situation. Tech needs the football program to pay for everything else, which makes it tough to win. Former coach Jack Bicknell won a WAC title in his first year, but struggled thereafter. He’s currently the line coach at Boston College.
Playing a nonconference game this late in the season isn’t the most ideal situation.
“You only control what you can control,” Dooley said. “We can’t control when we play LSU. It is a great challenge, a great opportunity.”
MY HARRIS VOTES
Nothing changed drastically in my voting last weekend, though I moved Boston College and Arizona State down after their losses.
My Top 10 was Ohio State, Oregon, LSU, Oklahoma, Kansas, Hawaii, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Arizona State and Boston College.
Fresno State kick returner A.J. Jefferson and Tech safety Antonio Baker were named the conference’s special teams and defensive player of the week, respectively.
Baker had eight tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery in the Bulldogs’ 28-16 win over Idaho. It’s the third straight game where Baker has intercepted a pass.
Jefferson returned three kicks for 158 yards and a score in Fresno State’s 38-27 win over winless Utah State. His 88-yard touchdown return came after Utah State had cut the lead to 31-17 in the middle of the third quarter. Jefferson also had a 65-yard return on the opening kickoff to set up a Fresno State score.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281