The Sports Business Journal reported Monday that the NCAA has started talks with broadcasters about the benefits of an expanded NCAA Tournament field.
Speculation points to the field expanding from 65 to 96 teams, a number that hit close to home with Head Coach Ken McDonald.
“It means last year we’re not on the bubble if you think about it in those terms,” McDonald said. “I think you’ve got quality teams that are left out of that tournament every year, and that’s the bottom line.”
McDonald said the Sun Belt Conference, which usually earns one bid to the NCAA Tournament, could benefit greatly from an expansion.
Last season, the Toppers’ only top-100 Ratings Percentage Index win in conference came against Arkansas-Little Rock. McDonald said stats like that keep Western from gaining an at-large status.
“We entertain the thought of that, because a lot of the so-called mid-majors are on the outside looking in, and a lot of it is unfair,” McDonald said. “We play a great non-league schedule, and we’re usually a one-bid conference. There’s some quality teams in this conference.”
Along with expanding the field, McDonald offered his insight should he be “commissioner for a day.”
“I always think you’ve got to have people on the committee from both sides of the fence — people that are from BCS conferences, and I think half should be made up of teams, or (athletic directors) and presidents and different people from so-called mid-major to low-major conferences,” McDonald said. “Then you really can take a look at guys that are deserving that usually are on the bubble.”
Officials confirmed North Texas freshman receiver Darius Cary’s dive at the endzone, and the Mean Green scored the game’s 21st point less than halfway through the first quarter.
- The latest edition of this matchup is looking much like last years past. Western and North Texas combined to score 144 points in their first two meetings.
Sophomore receiver Derrius Brooks answered the North Texas touchdown with an 81-yard kickoff return. Sophomore running back Bobby Rainey scored a play later from six yards out to tie the game early.
- It will be interesting to watch the Toppers’ defensive front as the game progresses. Junior linebacker Chris Bullard played down on the first drive, throwing more of a 4-3 look at North Texas rather than the customary 3-4.
The Mean Green struck first after a methodical march down the field ended on a two-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore running back James Hamilton.
- The Toppers failed to gain possession on an onside kick to open the game. Junior linebacker Thomas Majors jumped offsides, and Western kicked away on the ensuing attempt.
Western and North Texas are set to kick off at 3:15 p.m. CT. The Mean Green own the series 2-0 so far, knocking off the Toppers 27-26 in 2007 and 51-40 in 2008.
- This game is pivotal in terms of Head Coach David Elson’s career record, which would move to less than .500 with a loss today. Elson is 39-39 in seven seasons.
- On the other side, North Texas coach Todd Dodge is 4-27 in three seasons as a head coach. A win today would mean that the majority of Dodge’s wins came against Western.
- To the day, Western is 7-3 on Halloween. Their most recent Oct. 31 contest was a 1987 loss at Louisville.
- A player to watch today is senior receiver Jake Gaebler, who continues to inch towards the all-time receptions record at Western. Gaebler is 11 catches away from surpassing Curtis Hamilton.
Check out the game notebook at the WKU Herald site here and stay tuned to Toppertalk for in-game updates.
MTSU’s Desmond Gee opened the second half with a 79-yard kick return, and from there it was more of the same for Western. The Toppers were outscored 17-7 and enter the fourth quarter down 48-17, their largest deficit since they lost 63-7 to Tennessee in the season opener.
- Sophomore running back Bobby Rainey fumbled after MTSU’s quarter-opening field goal, and the Blue Raiders found the end zone two plays later on a 49-yard run by Kenneth Gilstrap.
- Western’s lone score of the third quarter came on a four-yard rush by sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes, who was the Toppers’ lone option at quarterback until senior quarterback Brandon Smith came in during the final minute of the quarter.
- One thing changed in the third quarter, and that was the time of possession. Although MTSU didn’t stick exclusively to the ground, they managed to close the gap to two minutes after holding the ball for much of the quarter.
Middle Tennessee poured it on in the second quarter, scoring 31 unanswered points to enter the half up 31-10.
- The Blue Raiders piled up 246 total yards (to Western’s 101) in the first half, and their 28 second-quarter points tied a record under MTSU coach Rick Stockstill set last season against North Texas. But 36 of the Toppers’ yards came on a late scramble by sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes, and a touchdown reception by senior receiver Jake Gaebler on the final play of the half tacked on 42 more.
- Western is leading the time of possession battle by five minutes over MTSU, the strongest sign of the Blue Raiders’ ease of scoring. MTSU’s longest scoring drive lasted three minutes, 28 seconds, but the other five drives each lasted less than three minutes.
- MTSU senior receiver Patrick Honeycutt has three receptions for 49 yards, all of which came on third down. The Blue Raiders are four-of-seven on third down, with the Toppers three-of-nine.
- Following the opening field goal drive, Western committed penalties on the next three kick returns. The only player profiting from the Toppers’ poor field position is senior punter Jeremy Moore, who punted five times for 203 yards in the first half.
Western went blow for blow with Middle Tennessee in the game’s first quarter, scoring out of the gate with a 37-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Casey Tinius. The Blue Raiders matched that on their first drive as MTSU sophomore kicker Alan Gendreau hit a 38-yard field goal to tie the game.
- Western punted on its second possession after inheriting the ball on its own eight-yard line, and now MTSU is driving deep into Topper territory. The Blue Raiders will start the second quarter on second and four from the Western 13-yard line.
- Western’s scoring drive was aided by three MTSU penalties for 30 yards. Twice the Toppers went for an uncharacteristic deep pass, and both times the Blue Raiders were called for pass interference.
- Western has switched back and forth between redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes and senior Brandon Smith, and with little success. The Toppers compiled only 26 total yards of offense in the first quarter.
- Gendreau’s field goal marked his ninth straight this season, a career best.
- Despite much warmer weather than in last week’s loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, the stands here in Murfreesboro, Tenn., are lightly populated – somewhere under half of Floyd Field’s 30,788-person capacity.
Coach David Elson announced Thursday that senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler will not play in this week’s game against Central Arkansas.
Gaebler fought a sore hamstring throughout camp and pulled it again recently. Elson said he expects sophomore Derrius Brooks and freshman Anthony Sheppard to step up and develop the receiving corps in the absence of the unit’s lone senior.
“I think big picture, it definitely helps develop your depth and gets some questions answered that maybe otherwise would not get answered,” Elson said about the loss of Gaebler.
Taking Gaebler’s place on punt returns will be sophomore running back Bobby Rainey, who will also slide into the no. 1 spot at running back ahead of senior back Tyrell Hayden. Rainey rushed for 56 yards on eight attempts against South Florida.
Western came into practice last week looking to up the physicality after a 63-7 blowout loss at Tennessee. The Toppers came out fired up Saturday night for South Florida, but recorded 13 penalties for 124 yards—10 in the first half alone.
Junior offensive lineman Preston King said practice this week is about keeping the effort level up and the penalty yards down.
“We’re still playing physical, but being smart while playing physical,” King said.
Coach David Elson said he talked about the penalties to his team when looking over Saturday’s game film and said that he’s “confident that it will be corrected.”
Elson preached the same message as King — that Western needs to play smarter this Saturday against Central Arkansas.
“A lot of it had to do with effort,” Elson said. “We were just playing that hard and couldn’t let up, but we’ve got to learn to do that. We need to learn how to play at a really high intensity level but under control to where those things don’t happen.”
Also, after sitting out of Tuesday’s practice, freshman tight end Jack Doyle, senior center Cody Hughes, junior lineman Derrick Elder and sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin all returned to the field on Wednesday. Senior receiver Jake Gaebler continues to nurse a pulled hamstring.