Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
The second half of the season is here and with it comes some really intriguing matchups that not only have bearing on conference title races, but also the race for a BCS bowl berth.
I went 7-3 last week after going out on a limb with Wyoming and SMU picks that didn’t pan out. I am 52-20 this season, but it’s only going to get more difficult from here on out especially in some of the conferences that have close races.
Bowling Green 36, Central Michigan 26: The Chippewas have been playing well since the second week of the season, but Bowling Green has become an offensive force that few teams have found a way to stop. This will be Central Michigan’s biggest test of the conference season and with the game at Bowling Green I think it ends up being a tough result.
Marshall 29, UAB 27: This is a huge game in the race for the Conference USA East title. Both Marshall and UAB are 2-1 in conference play and trailing East Carolina. Both Marshall and UAB have been tough this season, but Marshall has fared better against tougher opponents and UAB hasn’t been a great defensive team this season.
Wake Forest 34, Navy 14: This score could be closer if Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs is able to play at 100 percent, but that’s unlikely since he’s missing practices with an injured right knee. Dobbs is a big leader for the Midshipmen and without him it will be tough for them to excel. However, if he does play close to 100 percent, expect the score to be a lot closer.
Utah 27, Air Force 20: Utah’s offense will be tested this week against an Air Force defense that has been one of the best in the country so far. The Falcons also lead the country in turnover margin, which is not good for a Utah team that has 12 turnovers this season. Utah’s rushing defense will need to be stout to combat Air Force’s running game. This will be a close one, but the Utes have the home field advantage.
Nevada 41, Idaho 38: I’m sure no one thought this would be a good game when the schedules were released, but with the way both of these teams are playing coming in, this is a very intriguing matchup. This will be an offensive showdown and though Idaho's rushing defense is holding teams to fewer than 100 yards per game, the Vandals have never faced a running game like this. This will be one of the closer games of the season.
Toledo 31, Temple 20: Temple has started the conference season 3-0, but it has yet to face one of the top teams from the West side of the league. Toledo has been hit and miss all season, but they have proven that they can score when needed. Temple is much improved, but I’m not sure its offense can go toe-to-toe with Toledo.
TCU 23, BYU 16: This is one of the most anticipated games of the season. Both teams have had this game circled because it is one of the major obstacles to a possible BCS bowl berth. TCU’s defense isn’t much different than the one that created chaos for BYU a year ago and that’s going to happen again this year. The difference will be how quarterback Max Hall handles it. He’s had trouble with turnovers this season, but in the past two games he’s been flawless.
Houston 51, SMU 30: This is a key matchup in the race for Conference USA West. SMU is undefeated with big wins over East opponents East Carolina and UAB, but playing against West teams is a different story. Since few of them are recognized for their defense, these games are usually a shootout. Houston has consistently been dynamic on offense and should be able to put up similarly gaudy numbers against an SMU defense that’s one of the worst in the country.
New Mexico 27, UNLV 24: This game made the list because it will be without New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley, who was suspended in his role in an alleged assault on an assistant coach. Neither one of these teams has played well of late, so this could go either way. However, I think New Mexico will rally around interim head coach George Barlow, who has had two weeks to prepare for the contest.
Boise State 48, Hawaii 10: The last time Boise State went to Hawaii, it came away with a loss and Hawaii went on to play in a BCS bowl. However, this isn’t that Hawaii team and Boise is a better squad in every aspect. Boise State is fighting for a BCS bowl berth and likely will meet little resistance against the Warriors. Boise State should dominate this game and quell questions about whether they deserve their high ranking.