Week 2 is almost here! With that, here are 10 storylines to watch among the non-AQ teams:
1. Can Air Force put pressure on BYU’s two quarterbacks? Part of the reason Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps were so successful last week against Washington was because their offensive line protected them so well, giving up no sacks. Air Force has experience up front, led by defensive end Rick Ricketts. If they can get to the young quarterbacks, the Falcons have a shot of breaking their six-game losing streak to BYU.
2. How does Wyoming handle the tragedy of this week against Texas? The Cowboys were facing a hard enough game as it was, but now they go into Austin after the tragic death of a teammate. Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident and three players were injured. The team has tried to maintain its normal routine, but coach Dave Christensen has no idea what to expect at kickoff. They will wear decals on their helmets with Narcisse’s initials.
3. Does Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn play against UNLV? Wynn is listed as day to day with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand and could be a game-time decision for the Utes. He got hurt early in the opener last week against Pittsburgh but still threw for 283 yards. Backup Terrance Cain is capable, having started the first eight games of last season. Cain had a good day against UNLV last season, going 17-of-24 for 174 yards with two touchdown passes.
4. Can Tulane pull a Jacksonville State? Ole Miss is going to go into its game against Tulane looking to make up for an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville State last week. Tulane was one of the worst teams in Conference USA last season and was not overly impressive in its opener. Southeastern Louisiana had more total yards (266-252) and more first downs (17-15) and Tulane had three turnovers but still won. Chances for an upset are unlikely, but hey, there is always Jacksonville State for inspiration.
5. How is New Mexico going to respond after losing 72-0 to Oregon last week? Coach Mike Locksley said his team isn’t dwelling on the terrible loss in which New Mexico gave up 720 yards of total offense and had five turnovers. But it’s not as if the Lobos get a break this week with a high-powered passing offense in Texas Tech coming to town.
6. Hawaii has a mighty looooong road trip. Hawaii is playing in the Eastern time zone for just the sixth time when it faces Army on Saturday. How will the Warriors respond when the game kicks off at 6 a.m. Hawaii time? The Warriors have been on the mainland since Wednesday to get used to the time change. Though they gave USC fits last week, Army can run the ball, and Hawaii had a hard time slowing down the ground game against the Trojans. But will Army slow down a passing attack that will have Bryant Moniz behind center?
7. Will UTEP RB Donald Buckram play against Houston? Buckram missed the season opener against Arkansas Pine-Bluff after bruising his knee in practice, and coach Mike Price doesn’t know whether his starting running back will be available this week. Without him last week, UTEP used Joe Banyard and Vernon Frazier, who combined for 183 yards rushing. Buckram gashed Houston for 262 yards rushing last year in the upset win.
8. Can Colorado State beat Nevada for the second straight year? The last time the Rams won a game was nearly a year ago, against Nevada last Sept. 19. They were able to slow down Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, holding him to 24 yards on the ground, and forcing him into three turnovers. But this year, they go to Reno with freshman starting quarterback Pete Thomas. The Wolf Pack are improved, but it’s unclear whether the Rams are after losing to Colorado last week.
9. Can Eastern Michigan win a road game? The Eagles go to Miami (Ohio) this week looking for their first road win since Oct. 4, 2008, a 24-21 win at Bowling Green. They played a good game against Army, losing with 38 seconds to play. Running back Dwayne Priest and quarterback Alex Gillett both ran for more than 100 yards, the first time two Eagles backs went over 100 yards since 2005. Miami played it very close to the Gators last week and presents a more balanced attack than Army.
10. Are we in store for another close game between Arkansas State and Louisiana? This is the first conference matchup in the Sun Belt between teams that have played it pretty close the past few years. Eight of the last 10 meetings have been decided by six points or fewer, including the last two. Last year, Arkansas State rallied to within three after trailing 21-3, but ended up losing in the final minutes. The Red Wolves haven’t won at Louisiana in 18 years, but their new offense put up 26 points last week against Auburn, their second-highest point total against a Top-25 opponent since 2002.