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Thursday, September 3, 2009
What to watch among the non-AQ's during week 1



Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson


College football is finally here and what a great set of games to kick off the 2009 season. The non-AQ schools are involved in several make-or-break games that could either propel a team into the spotlight or wipe it out of the BCS picture completely.

Here are a few things to watch this opening weekend:


1. Carrying the banner:
BYU says it’s not under any pressure going into Saturday’s game against Oklahoma, but even TCU coach Gary Patterson said the Cougars have to have a strong showing to keep the conference in a favorable light. Not an easy task against the No. 3 team in the country.


2. In the spotlight:
For the past couple of years, Nevada has been so close to notching that defining win and Saturday is yet another chance to live up to expectations. Nevada's running game is nails, but watch for quarterback Colin Kaepernick to show off his newfound passing skills.


3. One and done:
Whether Boise State wants to acknowledge it or not, Thursday’s game against Oregon is the Broncos' season. Win and a BCS bowl is the Broncos’ for the taking. Lose and it’s back to just defending the WAC. Boise State has a great home-field advantage, but it’s going to take a near-perfect game to keep a motivated Oregon team at bay.


4. Quarterbacking mystery:
Utah and Tulsa have yet to reveal their starting quarterbacks for the opening weekend, which has created some intrigue. Neither team has a tough first-week opponent, but considering both teams were among the top offenses last season, the new quarterbacks have a lot to live up to.


5. Beginning a brutal schedule:
Navy has one of the toughest schedules it's seen in quite some time and it kicks off against Ohio State. But don’t discount the Midshipmen in this game. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs brings a passing dimension the Mids haven’t had and it could be enough to keep the Ohio State defense off guard.


6. First BCS win:
Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour will try for his first win over an automatic qualifying opponent this weekend when the Chippewas travel to Arizona. LeFevour is 0-9 against BCS opponents since becoming the starter in 2006.


7. Stormin’ the Big House:
Western Michigan has defeated a Big Ten opponent in each of the past two seasons, and with Michigan rebuilding and going through some off-field turmoil, the Wolverines could be next. WMU is a sleeper to make some national noise this season.


8. Reunited and it feels so good:
Troy quarterback Levi Brown travels to Bowling Green to face his former head coach, Dave Clawson. Clawson coached Brown at Richmond before Brown transferred. Brown made a name for himself with Troy last season when he stepped in for Jaime Hampton, and he should put up stunning numbers with a strong offense around him.


9. In-state rivals:
The game between Utah and Utah State could be a lot better than people expect. Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel will give the Utah defense a nice challenge with his dual-threat style, and who knows what to expect from the Utes' new quarterback during his first FBS start.


10. Shorthanded:
Florida Atlantic will be without 25 percent of its defensive line rotation when it plays Nebraska. Starting tackle Andy Czuprynski (ankle) and backup end Jamere Johnson (ankle, knee) are both out for the opener, which makes the chances for an FAU upset slim.