What to watch from non-AQs, Week 8

October, 21, 2010
10/21/10
10:15
AM ET
Come one, come all for your Top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 8:

1. Can Navy win three of its four over Notre Dame? The Navy senior class is trying to join the Class of 1937 and the Class of 1964 as the only classes to beat Notre Dame three times in their career. The Midshipmen ended a 43-game losing streak to the Irish in 2007 and won in South Bend last year. Navy has not defeated Notre Dame at a neutral site since 1960.

[+] EnlargeTCU Defense
Ray Carlin/Icon SMIThe TCU defense faces a stiff test Saturday in Air Force.
2. Does the TCU defense have another stellar performance in it? The Horned Frogs have given up one field goal in their last three games, but face a much tougher test Saturday against the Air Force triple-option offense. Gary Patterson has prepared his team for this offense throughout the spring and fall, and there is no question the defensive guru wants to see how it responds.

3. Boise State is off as it prepares to play Tuesday night against Louisiana Tech. How will this affect its standing in the polls and BCS rankings when they come out on Sunday? This is going to be a continuing story line, even when the Broncos are off. It all depends on what happens to everyone else. Oklahoma has a tough game against Missouri, and Auburn and LSU are playing in a matchup of Top 6 teams. Many have wondered whether a big Auburn win would vault it ahead of the Broncos. That remains to be seen. Remember, last week at this time we thought Boise State would be No. 1. Instead, the Broncos are No. 3.

4. Will BYU or Wyoming be bowl eligible this season? I still have the Cougars going to a bowl game, but they have got to win this one. If Wyoming is going to be bowl eligible, it has to win this one, too. Neither team has been prolific on offense, and both have faced difficult schedules to this point. But with this game followed by contests against UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico, I can still see BYU finishing 6-6.

5. Does SMU take control of the West Division in Conference USA? It might be too early to say that, but certainly the Mustangs have a chance to distance themselves with a win. That would give them a two-game lead over Houston and Tulsa, two teams they have already beaten. UTEP, Rice and Tulane would also be at least two games back, depending on results from the weekend.

6. Which Utah State team shows up against Hawaii? It is the team that barely lost to Oklahoma and looked dominant against BYU? Or is it the team that scored a combined 13 points against San Diego State and Louisiana Tech? Coach Gary Andersen has said his team does not know how to handle success. The Aggies had a week to prepare for Hawaii, which has scored 49 or more points in four of its five wins over them in WAC play.

7. Rocky Long returns to New Mexico. The San Diego State defensive coordinator has declined interview requests this week as his team gets ready to play the Lobos, where he was head coach for 11 seasons before stepping down following 2008. He had success there, guiding the team a school-record 65 wins. Since he left, Mike Locksley has gone 1-17 and the program is the worst in the country.

8. Does UTEP become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005? The Miners had a chance last week but had a disappointing loss to UAB. They play Tulane on Saturday in a game they are favored to win. UTEP stands at 5-2 following a 4-8 season last year, and the seniors on this team made it a point to bring everyone closer together to set higher goals, because they were so tired of losing. UTEP has several players banged up going into the game, including quarterback Trevor Vittatoe (ankle, shoulder), but he expects to play.

9. Can the Utes start creating turnovers this week against Colorado State? About the only thing coach Kyle Whittingham has had to complain about his team is its lack of turnovers. Utah only has gained six turnovers in six games -- four interceptions and two fumbles. Last season, Utah was able to force 25 turnovers and had a plus-5 turnover margin.

10. Can Akron break its winless streak against Western Michigan? Pretty unlikely the way this season has gone for a team that has taken on its Zips nickname. Quarterback Patrick Nicely is 2-11 as a starter, and coach Rob Ianello says he is sticking with him. But Nicely has done little to help the cause, completing less than 50 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns to seven interceptions. But the poor guy has been sacked 23 times.

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