Thursday, October 22, 2009
What to watch from the non-AQs, Week 8
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
1. BCS busting on the line: Boise State had a tough test against Tulsa last week and now it's time for TCU to face one of its fiercest foes on this year’s schedule. The Horned Frogs trounced BYU a year ago and the Cougars haven’t forgotten about that defeat and what it did to their season. It should be a tough battle in Provo, Utah, where the Cougars haven’t lost a conference game since 2005.
2. Boise State live: Boise State has had a huge advantage over the Mountain West in terms of nationally televised games, and while Saturday’s game against Hawaii will begin when most people are going to bed, most voters will be up watching and the Broncos will have a chance to continue to show voters that they’re deserving of their high ranking.
3. No holds Barnes: There’s hasn’t been a more dynamic player in the country in the past two weeks than Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes. In that span, Barnes has 32 catches for 438 yards and six touchdowns. Central Michigan has cracked down in the secondary, but the Chippewas, winners of five straight, have yet to see a playmaker like this.
4. Surging in the Sun Belt: This is a bad time for Louisiana-Monroe to step out of conference and play a tough Kentucky team, especially with a pivotal game against Troy coming up next week. Troy has an opportunity against North Texas this week to break the tie atop the conference with the Warhawks and hold first place alone when the teams meet on Halloween. A tough loss to Kentucky could break the Warhawks' momentum.
5. I don’t know Idaho: There’s been no better feel-good story this season than the Idaho Vandals, but their game might suffer a setback this week against a Nevada team that’s been playing its best football the past few weeks. The Idaho rushing defense is stout, allowing just 95.57 yards per game hasn’t faced a running attack like the Wolf Pack’s.
6. Life without Locksley: For a little over a week, New Mexico has practiced without the services of head coach Mike Locksley, who was suspended for 10 work days and Saturday’s game against UNLV. It will be interesting to see how the 0-6 Lobos, the only winless team in the Mountain West, respond. Saturday’s game against a struggling UNLV team is a winnable contest.
7. Someone has to win: Either Ball State or Eastern Michigan will get their first win this weekend when they face each other. EMU is 0-6 while Ball State is 0-7. Other than being winless, the two teams also share the dilemma of losing their starting quarterback. EMU lost Andy Schmitt early in the season and Ball State announced Tuesday that starter Kelly Page will have season-ending thumb surgery.
8. Don’t forget about us: While the TCU-BYU game will get the bulk of the press this week, the Utah-Air Force game is equally important. Neither one of those teams is out of the race for the Mountain West title. Air Force has just one conference loss while Utah is undefeated. This will be a close contest that, at the very least, might determine second or third place.
9. It’s Ohio’s to lose: As the MAC East heads into the second half of the season, Ohio seems to have the most favorable road to the division title. Currently, the Bobcats are tied with Temple, but the Owls face a tough Toledo team this week, which could give Ohio a one-game advantage before the two teams meet at the end of the season.
10. Highly offensive: SMU is 2-0 in Conference USA, but those wins came against East Division teams. This weekend, the Mustangs take on a Houston team that was predicted to win the division and the conference title. Both of these teams have good offenses, and while Houston hasn’t been great in conference play, it does have more big-game experience.