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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Five early questions in the non-BCS


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

1. Is there another BCS-buster in our midst? Seems like the cool thing to do with the non-automatic qualifying schools is try to figure out which will be the illustrious BCS-buster. Boise State always seems to be in the mix, but teams such as TCU, Utah and East Carolina have a chance to emerge as contenders as well. It's possible, with the schedules for both TCU and Boise State, that we could have a situation like last season where a couple teams are fighting for the lone BCS spot as the year winds down.

2. Will Boise State's schedule be strong enough? Yet another question that arose last year and could surface again this year. Oregon is the toughest game on the Broncos schedule and unfortunately for the Broncos it's at home and it's early in the season. The games against Mid-American Conference teams probably won't carry much weight in the national rankings, but the game against Tulsa should help. It's conference play that tends to hurt Boise State the most. The WAC will be stronger this year, but if the Broncos have to go head-to-head with the Mountain West again for a BCS spot, it's probably going to lose out.

3. Who is this year's sleeper? There are a lot of teams that could make some conference races interesting as the year treks on. Conference USA is the most intriguing because there's a lot more competition in the East than there was a year ago. Teams such as Memphis and Southern Miss will challenge East Carolina, and I wouldn't discount UCF. The West will be equally as tough with Tulsa, Houston, Rice and UTEP all making their case for the division title. My early picks are ECU and Houston, but I think it will be close.

4. What about the Sun Belt? Never want to leave the Sun Belt out, especially this year where teams such as Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State have strong teams that could challenge Troy for the title and the one guaranteed bowl berth. I also wouldn't discount Middle Tennessee and Florida International as sleepers. Both teams showed flashes last season and could surprise a couple teams this year.

5. Who will emerge from the bottom? Teams such as San Diego State, New Mexico State, SMU and North Texas were big disappointments last season, which prompted a couple teams to change coaches. North Texas needs to show progress this year for coach Todd Dodge to feel safe. I also think SMU needs to put up some sort of fight in Conference USA. Both San Diego State and New Mexico State will struggle this year under new head coaches. Both teams lost a couple players in the transition and there wasn't a lot of talent and depth on those rosters to begin with. The team I think will show the most progress from the bottom of the pack will be Idaho.