Come one, come all for your top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 12:
1. Boise State has the spotlight to itself. As the only undefeated team playing this weekend, the Broncos have a big chance to make a big impression. That serves twofold this week, as they host Fresno State on Friday night. This is actually the second of a three-game stretch of Friday night games. They get a big spotlight game next week, too, at No. 18 Nevada. This of course can be good and bad. Good if you win big and look impressive. Bad if you win somewhat big but do not look impressive.
2. Broncos or Horned Frogs in BCS standings? Since Oregon and Auburn are idle, they will remain atop the BCS standings. No. 3 TCU had its lead on Boise State cut in half, and many believe if the two win out, Boise State will be able to leap the Horned Frogs. But that depends on the human voters, who tend to be fickle. With TCU off, voters are going to be watching Boise State for a perfect performance. Their elevation is no sure thing where the polls are concerned. Remember, total poll points are tabulated into the BCS standings.
3. Does Utah stop the losing? Getting beaten 47-7 at home to TCU was one thing. But to go on the road and lose 28-3 to a struggling Notre Dame team is another. The Utes are officially reeling heading into a tough game at San Diego State. It is easy to say that Utah was completely demoralized after the TCU game, having gone from potential BCS busters to Las Vegas Bowl contenders. So they were not as focused as they should have been heading into South Bend. But how does any of that excuse the sudden hibernation of an offense that once averaged 45 points a game? Utah has lost three in a row just once under coach Kyle Whittingham – that happened in his first season in 2005. The third team in that streak Utah lost to – San Diego State.
4. How does Southern Miss respond following a trying week? The Golden Eagles have had a really tough week. Players Martez Smith, Deddrick Jones and Tim Green and were shot following a dispute at a club. Smith is paralyzed from the waist down, while Green can’t speak. Three teammates will wear the respective numbers of the injured players against Houston on Saturday. But you have to wonder how much of an emotional toll will show on the players, who have been taking turns shuttling back and forth from the hospital to school. Coach Larry Fedora acknowledges it will be a huge test to see how his players respond.
5. Can Army run at will on Notre Dame? A nostalgic scene is set to unfold in New York on Saturday night when Army and Notre Dame play at the new Yankee Stadium. The two were once bitter rivals from the 1920s to the post-World War II boom and played in some epic games at the old Yankee Stadium. Aside from the pageantry surrounding the game, the biggest question is whether Notre Dame has made enough adjustments to slow down the triple option. The Irish got gouged on the ground against Navy in a 35-17 loss to the tune of 367 yards. Army runs a version of the triple option and has vastly improved behind sophomore duo Trent Steelman and Jared Hassin.
6. Will Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua set another NCAA record this week? The Wolf Pack teammates are closing in on the career mark of most yards gained by two players. Eric Dickerson (4,450) and Craig James (3,743) hold the record of 8,193, set from 1979-82 at SMU. Going into their game against New Mexico State, Taua and Kaepernick are 241 yards away from the record. Taua has 4,108 career yards and Kaepernick has 3,855.
7. Does Northern Illinois clinch the MAC West? The Huskies need one win in their final two games to go to the league title game for the first time since 2005. They are on a huge roll, having won seven straight, and appear to be the favorites to win the entire league. Northern Illinois is a big favorite to win Saturday, too, against a struggling Ball State team. Coach Jerry Kill is set to become the first coach in school history to take his team to three straight bowl games.
8. Can FIU play as favorites? The Panthers find themselves in a position they have never been in before -- alone in first place atop the Sun Belt and the favorites to win the conference crown. They have win out to clinch the title and a first bowl appearance for the program, and the quest starts Saturday at Louisiana. The Ragin’ Cajuns have dropped three games by a touchdown or less, including a 24-23 decision to FAU last week. FIU coach Mario Cristobal is going to remind his players to stay focused and ignore the potential distractions that come with increased expectations.
9. Bowl-eligibility update. Houston, SMU, BYU and Troy all have five wins and an opportunity to become bowl-eligible this weekend. The Cougars travel to play Southern Miss, while SMU hosts Marshall, BYU hosts New Mexico and Troy is at South Carolina. SMU and BYU are the overwhelming favorites to win their games.
10. Elimination games. Several teams meet this weekend with their slim bowl hopes on the line. Western Michigan (4-6) hosts Kent State (4-6) and Idaho (4-6) travels to Utah State (4-6). Whoever wins will have to win next week, while the loser will be eliminated from bowl contention. Idaho needs to win three because it plays 13 games this season.