What we learned among the non-AQ's, Week 2
September, 13, 2009
Posted by ESPN.com Graham Watson
1. Non-AQs are not a Week 1 wonder: The teams of the nonautomatic qualifying conferences followed up a stellar opening weekend of college football with yet another full of upsets, including Houston knocking off No. 5 Oklahoma State. What’s interesting is of all the upsets the first couple of weeks, only one has been by a ranked non-AQ team and two teams ranked in the top 5 have fallen. It's nice to see teams such as Toledo, Central Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette getting in on the action.
2. Baby steps: Last week the non-AQs notched three wins against the automatic qualifiers, this week they had six wins (6-20). Houston, Toledo, Central Michigan, Louisiana-Lafayette, Hawaii, and TCU all had wins against AQ teams and there were several games that went down to the wire. It’s not time to say that the playing field is leveled, but this season is off to an interesting start, especially for the Big 12, which has suffered the most losses of any conference at the hands of non-AQ foes.
3. BCS busting race gets interesting: Houston’s win over No. 5 Oklahoma State put the Cougars right in the thick of the race to bust the BCS with BYU, Boise State, TCU and Utah. All four teams won on Saturday, though Utah struggled mightily against San Jose State and nearly lost. Regardless, with the weekend's effort, five non-AQ teams were in the Top 25 this week. During the fourth week of the AP poll last season, six non-AQ teams appeared.
4. Hughes is still a beast: TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, who led the nation in sacks last year, got a head start on winning the title again this year with a career-high performance against Virginia on Saturday. Hughes had a career-high 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He led a TCU defensive effort that held Virginia to 177 total yards and seven first downs. Also, 104 of Virginia’s yards came in the final 4:39 of the game after TCU had built a 30-0 lead.
5. Conference races start to take shape: While many are talking about the upsets against nonconference foes, several teams are starting to assert themselves during early conference play, especially in Conference USA. SMU, which finished last season 1-11, has won it first two games, including a big win over UAB, to lead the West Division with Tulsa. Southern Miss is the divisional leader in the East. Although the other non-AQ conferences haven't played conference games, the MAC does not have a winning team after the second week of the season and the Mountain West only has one losing team (New Mexico). Louisiana-Lafayette is the only winning team in the Sun Belt and Boise State and Hawaii are the only winning teams in the WAC.