Thursday, December 2, 2010
Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 14
By Andrea Adelson
Come one, come all for your top 5 non-AQ storylines for Week 14:
1. How does Boise State respond? The Broncos lost last week for the first time since Dec. 23, 2008, against TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. So it’s safe to say this team doesn’t have much experience when it comes to playing a game following a loss. Still, Boise State is at home against Utah State with plenty to play for -- it’s Senior Day and the team's home-winning streak is on the line. The Broncos have won 61 straight at home, and have never dropped a WAC game. They could finish 40-0 in league play at home before bolting for the Mountain West next year.
2. How does Nevada respond? The Wolf Pack face the opposite scenario on Saturday -- they have never had a win as big as their victory over Boise State, so you wonder whether there will be any sort of emotional letdown against Louisiana Tech. Coach Chris Ault and quarterback Colin Kaepernick say they have already put the Boise State win behind them. The Bulldogs' offense presents yet another challenge for a defense that is much improved this year. Key No. 1: stopping Lennon Creer.
Chandler Harnish has passed for nearly 2,000 yards and has a 17-to-5 TD-INT ratio.
3. Can Northern Illinois make it 10 in a row? The Huskies are one of the hottest teams in the country, having won nine straight en route to the MAC title game Friday night. They are riding their first BCS ranking since 2003, at No. 25, and have been an offensive machine the last three games. Miami (Ohio) needed help to get into this game, but the RedHawks boast MAC Coach of the Year Mike Haywood and the best turnaround in college football. Still, Northern Illinois has two of the best offensive players in the league in Chandler Harnish and Chad Spann, while Miami must play without starting quarterback Zac Dysert.
4. SMU run game vs. UCF run defense. Even though the Mustangs play the run 'n' shoot on offense, they have the best running back in the league in Zach Line, averaging 108 yards a game. He is the only runner averaging over 100 yards a game in Conference USA. But he will face a difficult task in the C-USA title game against a UCF run defense that ranks No. 1 in the league. The Knights have given up a league-low nine rushing touchdowns. For more on this matchup, stay tuned for my preview video later today.
5. Do Louisiana Tech and/or Middle Tennessee go bowling? They are the last two teams with bowl hopes from the non-AQs, and both face difficult tasks against conference leaders. Louisiana Tech (5-6) hosts WAC co-leader Nevada and Middle Tennessee (5-6) plays at Sun Belt champion FIU. The Sun Belt has three bowl tie-ins but only two bowl-eligible teams, so a win here would get the Blue Raiders in. If Louisiana Tech wins, it would need help to find a bowl spot, but something could be worked out if Boise State doesn’t play in a WAC tie-in game.