This is another big week for non-AQs, with several huge non-conference matchups looming. With that, here are 10 storylines to watch among the non-AQ teams:
1. Can the non-AQs pull off some upsets in its high-profile nonconference games? Week 1 was a good one for the non-AQs, with big nonconference wins for TCU, BYU, Utah and Fresno State. Will the same happen in Week 3? That may not be as likely. Three of those four games were at home, and TCU played at the new Cowboys Stadium, so that was just outside of home. This week, most of the high-profile nonconference games are on the road: East Carolina at Virginia Tech; Air Force at Oklahoma; Houston at UCLA; BYU at Florida State; Tulsa at Oklahoma State.
2. Will Houston quarterback Case Keenum play against UCLA? Coach Kevin Sumlin has kept mum on the topic all week, but offensive coordinator Jason Phillips said the team is preparing as if Keenum will be ready to go. Keenum sustained a concussion last week against UTEP while attempting to make a block. If he can’t play, Cotton Turner will get the nod. Turner was effective in relief last week, going 9-of-10 for 69 yards with a touchdown pass.
3. Can East Carolina take advantage of a reeling Virginia Tech team? I guess the question could also be posed this way – do the Pirates have any shot against an angry, motivated Hokies team? Remember, East Carolina beat Virginia Tech in the opener in 2008, but that was a more experienced team than the one now. The Hokies had a very short week to prepare for James Madison following an emotional, exhausting loss to Boise State. You can bet they will be ready for this one.
4. How does Boise State respond following its emotional win? The Broncos had a week off and face their first opponent since the win over Virginia Tech on Labor Day night, traveling to Wyoming. The Cowboys haven’t been pushovers in this series. The last time they played, Boise State won 24-14 in 2007. In 2006, Boise State pulled out a 17-10 win in Laramie. It’s going to take larger margins of victory this year to begin convincing voters they are worthy of that No. 3 ranking.
5. How does BYU respond after its 35-14 loss to Air Force? Coach Bronco Mendenhall has already decided to change up how he rotates his quarterbacks, and that could perhaps lead to a decision to go with just one player. Going with two didn’t work against the Falcons, as BYU threw for a combined 88 yards. Now the Cougars are facing a team that handled them easily last year in Provo. Will two quarterbacks be able to do something Max Hall could not? That seems unlikely.
6. Can Air Force slow down the Oklahoma passing attack? The Falcons did an exceptional job taking away the pass from BYU last week. Now they face a similar challenge against the Sooners. Landry Jones went 30-for-40 for 380 yards and four touchdowns last week against Florida State. While Air Force does have an experienced secondary, slowing down Jones and Ryan Broyles is a must.
7. Can Colin Kaepernick run wild on California? Last week, Kaepernick became the ninth player in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 yards and pass for 3,000 yards in a career. But he is facing his toughest test of the season. The Bears have the No. 1 ranked defense in the country following a 52-7 destruction of Colorado last week. They have allowed just one touchdown in two games, along with an average of 44 yards rushing and four sacks. Not comforting numbers for the Wolf Pack.
8. Will Jerry Kill be on the sideline for Northern Illinois? The veteran coach has been hospitalized since Sunday with an undisclosed medical condition, and it’s unknown whether he will be able to attend the Huskies’ game against Illinois. If he’s unable to be there, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will be the coach in his place.
9. Can TCU shut down Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin? The Horned Frogs don’t usually play fast, mobile quarterbacks like Griffin, so this presents a unique challenge. You can bet defensive guru Gary Patterson has emphasized solid tackling and being able to get pressure up front. That should come from Wayne Daniels, who has 3.5 sacks this season.
10. Who gets their first win ULM or Arkansas State? Somebody has to win, right? Arkansas State has a prolific passer in Ryan Aplin, who has 716 yards on the season. But the Red Wolves would much rather have wins than their quarterback throwing for so many yards. Doing both? Double bonus! Arkansas State has won five straight home openers.