Inspired by the new social game ESPNU College Town, here’s what I would select from around the non-AQs to build the best program in the conference.
Academics: Rice. The top-ranked academic school among the non-AQs according to U.S. News & World Report.
Athletic director: Gene Bleymaier. Say what you will about Bleymaier, but he has led an athletic program that is now on the national map. It was his idea to put the blue turf in at Bronco Stadium, and he led the move to the FBS level as well. Plus, have you seen his coaching hires for the football program? The guy does not miss.
City: San Diego. How can you go wrong with one of the most beautiful cities in America right in the heart of a recruiting hotbed?
Coach: Gary Patterson, TCU. This is a close one between Patterson, Boise State coach Chris Petersen and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. You could go with all three and not lose. But Petersen took over a program that was already on the rise. Patterson has resurrected TCU. Slight advantage there.
Facilities: Notre Dame. The Irish have to have the best among the schools not affiliated with a conference.
Fans: BYU. Boy do those Cougars fans have passion. Sure the expectations are high, but they are high everywhere. This is a loud and proud fan base, no arguing that.
Game-day atmosphere: Boise State. What the fans did when "College GameDay" came to town last week was pretty awesome, jamming the stadium in the wee hours, then showing plenty of enthusiasm throughout the game against Oregon State.
Mascot: Ohio Bobcat. Did you see his sneak attack on Brutus? Love it or hate it, you have to appreciate his mentality.
Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium. Do I need to say more than the home of Touchdown Jesus?
Strength and conditioning: Air Force. The football players are never the biggest guys, but they compete with anybody in the country.
Considering the five non-AQ conferences and three independents are all candidates here, all of these topics are up for debate. Be sure to sound off, and have some fun!