What we learned from the Independents and non-BCS, week 10


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
And then there were three: Tulsa had one chance to prove that it belonged in the BCS bowl talk and it fell short. The Golden Hurricane fell 30-23 to Arkansas to notch their first loss of the season against the first BCS team they played. Arkansas isn't exactly one of the top BCS teams either. The Razorbacks are 4-5 and have won just one game in SEC play. The Golden Hurricane needed the win to not only stay undefeated, but to lend credibility to their undefeated start. Now, just three undefeated teams remain as the final weeks tick down. Boise State (8-0) has the best chance of staying undefeated while both Ball State (8-0) and Utah (9-0) have tough mid-week games against the top opponents in their respective conferences. Both teams still have to play at least two teams in the top half of their conferences before the season concludes.

Sun Belt is back open: Playing at Louisiana-Monroe has been a pain for Troy in the past, but this year, it might cost the Trojans the Sun Belt title. The Trojans suffered their first conference loss of the season to allow Louisiana-Lafayette, which is undefeated in conference play, to move into first place. Troy drops to second while Arkansas State, which played Alabama on Saturday, is in third. The Red Wolves have played two fewer games than Troy. Troy still has to play the Ragin' Cajuns and the Red Wolves in the final two weeks of the regular season. Louisiana-Lafayette tied for the conference championship in 2005, but has never won it outright.

Notre Dame can't close out games: Coach Charlie Weis is immediately concerned with his team's response to Saturday's 36-33 four-overtime loss to Pittsburgh, but after that passes, he'll need to focus on why his team can't close out games. The Irish have been good in the first half against better teams, but for some reason gets complacent after halftime and often gets outscored in the second half. Such was the case against North Carolina and Pittsburgh when the Irish were outscored in the second half by double figures in both games. Notre Dame will have a week to regroup and play against a Boston College team that has lost two straight, but has not lost a nonconference game. The Irish are 1-2 on the road this season with their only win coming against a winless Washington team.

TCU and Utah prepare for MWC clash: Both TCU and Utah were on upset alert this weekend heading into Thursday's clash in Salt Lake, and TCU seemed to be the only team that heeded the warning. The Horned Frogs handled UNLV easily en route to a 44-14 win while Utah struggled to a 13-10 decision against New Mexico. TCU has been the hottest team in the Mountain West since defeating previously undefeated BYU a few weeks ago. And now that the Horned Frogs' offense has caught up with the defense, it might be the most potent team in the league. Thursday's game will go a long way toward determining the Mountain West champion. If TCU wins, it has just one more hurdle against Air Force to give itself an 11-1 record and a chance at a BCS berth. If Utah wins, it has games against San Diego State and BYU remaining to stay undefeated.

BYU skates by -- again: Ever since the 32-7 loss to TCU on Oct. 16, BYU hasn't been the top 10 team that skated through the first half of the season with swagger. In its last two contests, the Cougars have needed late-game heroics to pull off wins against some of the mid-to-lower-half teams in the Mountain West, which calls into question whether the Cougars are still in a funk or if this is the real BYU? My guess is that it's a little of both. The Cougars took a major ego hit against TCU, but they were also exposed a bit, especially on defense. Teams are playing the Cougars a little differently and with a lot more confidence. The Cougars will have a chance to get their confidence back against San Diego State on Saturday.