Non-AQ power rankings

This could be an exceptional year for non-AQ teams. With Boise State and TCU already in the national mix, several other teams could make some noise this season.

Here is a look at the 10 hottest non-AQ/independent teams going into the season:

1. Boise State. Broncos went 14-0 last season and return 21 starters.

2. TCU. Only loss last season was to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Most starters return, including QB Andy Dalton.

3. Houston. QB Case Keenum is one of the best in the country. If the defense improves, watch out.

4. Navy. Ricky Dobbs should be a household name. The easy schedule could make this a record-setting season for the Middies.

5. Utah. Jordan Wynn returns, but the defense must be rebuilt.

6. Notre Dame. Brian Kelly should bring improvements to the Irish, but they are one year away from being a Top-25 team.

7. Middle Tennessee. Dwight Dasher makes Middle Tennessee a team to watch.

8. SMU. The Mustangs were one year ahead of schedule last season. Kyle Padron is back, and the offense should be high flying once again.

9. Temple. Bernard Pierce and the Owls are coming off a historic season, and the Owls shouldn’t have a letdown in 2010.

10. Northern Illinois. Fifteen starters return, including first-team All-MAC RB Chad Spann and most of a defense that ranked No. 30 in the nation last season.