Welcome to another edition of the non-AQ mailbag. For all those who have asked, I am still your non-AQ point person. So keep those questions and comments coming.
Paul in Denver writes: After a decent first season, then two straight 3-9 seasons, Coach Steve Fairchild seems to be in a must win position. What are your thoughts on Colorado State's upcoming season, the overall state of the program and their sophomore QB Pete Thomas? How does he rank against other non-AQ QB's?
Andrea Adelson: I absolutely agree that Fairchild has got to win this season. He is one of the top non-AQ coaches on the hot seat going into 2011. When you look at the Rams' schedule, you have to figure this is the year to get back to a bowl game. I can see seven wins (New Mexico, Northern Colorado, Utah State, San Jose State, UTEP, UNLV, Wyoming). I think Pete Thomas is in line to have a terrific season. He was thrown into the fire immediately as a true freshman and handled himself as well as one could expect. I anticipate he will have an even better year this year especially with a group of receivers that will be much more mature. As for where he ranks against other non-AQ quarterbacks, I still think he is in a tier below Kellen Moore, Case Keenum, G.J. Kinne, Austin Davis, Dominique Davis, Kyle Padron and Bryant Moniz to name a few. But if he has a good sophomore season, he could be one of the top tier non-AQ quarterbacks in 2012.
Hiovenni in Meridian, Idaho, writes: Boise State has been really good and gone undefeated a lot of times but they won't always win them all. With the move to the MWC TV deal, do you see Boise going to obscurity if they only win 10 games per season in the next few years or have they establish their brand enough to still have credibility?
Adelson writes: A lot has been made about the move to the Mountain West and what it means for television exposure, since the league does not have a contract with ESPN. Let me ask you this -- did TCU go into oblivion? Did Utah? BYU? If you are good, then people will notice whether you are on The Mtn. or ESPN. Boise State has enough of a brand right now that folks are going to want to know how the Broncos do every week.
Manu in Houston writes: Houston is now a Tier 1 research university. Take that Baylor and Texas Tech. Do you think it helps them get into Big East in any way?
Adelson writes: The academics certainly help, but what the Big East is looking for first and foremost is a team that will help boost the money it can get in its future TV media rights deal. Houston is a big-city market, but do the Cougars offer enough to make the Big East get many more extra millions of dollars when it sits down to negotiate with television networks? It is a question that remains under review.
Jason in Chaplin, Conn., writes: There seems to be a bit of a buzz stirring around Air Force this year. I hear they'll be favored in 9 games this year and nobody's writing them off in the other three. If the Falcons live up to the "dark horse" hype, could they be a BCS buster, or will the decision to schedule a second FCS opponent over Oregon come back to bite them?
Adelson writes: It certainly doesn't help strength of schedule when there are two FCS opponents on the slate. But looking at the schedule, it is going to be a Herculean task for Air Force to go undefeated and become a BCS buster. Specifically, look at this four-game stretch facing the Falcons: at Navy, at Notre Dame, San Diego State, at Boise State. What makes that stretch even more difficult -- the San Diego State game is on a Thursday night, five days after the game against the Irish. That is a tall order for any team. However, I do think Air Force has the potential to surprise teams this year. Tim Jefferson should have the best season of his career, and the defense returns eight starters. If the Falcons do go undefeated, they would have to be the highest ranked of all the non-AQ teams in the field and ranked in the Top 12 to get an auto berth into the BCS. I think the chances of that happening are low.