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Sunday, October 5, 2008
What we learned from the Independents and non-BCS, week 6


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Undefeateds are tough: Week 6 opened with five undefeateds and five emerged, though some in grander fashion than others. There was some doubt about the strength of teams such as Tulsa and Ball State -- the two non-BCS undefeateds not in the Top 25 -- asserted their dominance this weekend over opponents Rice and Toledo. I've been saying for weeks that Ball State was for real, but Tulsa's beatdown of the Owls makes me wonder if the BCS pundits should be looking East of the Mountain West and WAC for the next BCS buster. Unfortunately for Tulsa, it won't play anyone tough enough to get a serious sniff at the BCS top 12. Ball State on the other hand will get to prove its worth against Central Michigan and Western Michigan.

UTEP on the rise: Mike Price said prior to the season that he believed his Miners would be a better team than the 4-8 squad a year ago, but I think the Miners strengthened that thought Saturday in an overtime win against Southern Mississippi. The Miners have matched their Conference USA win total from last year (two) and appear to be gaining momentum in a C-USA West that is loaded with offensive talent. UTEP did take a step back defensively by allowing 541 yards of total offense to the Golden Eagles, the highest total of the season. Prior to that, UTEP had allowed fewer yards than the week before it.

Fresno State's done: The WAC is yours for the taking, Boise State. After Fresno State struggled Saturday night in a 32-29 overtime loss to Hawaii, the Broncos will be the only WAC team in the Top 25 and the conference's last hope to keep the dream of sending its third consecutive team to a BCS bowl. What about Hawaii, you say? Well, credit to the Warriors, but Fresno State had six turnovers in the game and had to claw their way back from a 17-point deficit. Hawaii's win does, however, prove the statement that any team can beat anybody at any time. But I think we must except that any dream season imagined by Fresno State is now gone.

Notre Dame circa 2006: I wrote something about cautious optimism when talking about Notre Dame this year. Its schedule isn't the toughest in the country. But the last two games quarterback Jimmy Clausen has strung together have been brilliant. He's starting to show flashes of the quarterback many thought he would be coming out of high school, and he's only going to get better as he matures, his receivers mature, and he gets his confidence going. This week's game against North Carolina will be a huge test for the Irish because they need to prove that they can take the magic they've had at home on the road. North Carolina worked No. 24 UConn this week.

TCU's still kicking: If anyone had thoughts of writing off the Horned Frogs after they lost to the now-No. 1 Sooners, think again. TCU came out with a fury against San Diego State this weekend and blasted the Aztecs 41-7. TCU leads the Mountain West Conference in total defense and is second in total offense. It faces a Colorado State squad this week that is a bit of an enigma, but a beatable foe, setting up a clash against BYU in Fort Worth, Texas in two weeks. Utah State exposed some weaknesses and with TCU's new running quarterback Marcus Jackson, things could get interesting in the Mountain West earlier than most thought.