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May 7, 2011

Which non-Big Six race will be most interesting?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in college football. This weekend, we will have two roundtables - one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Saturday we asked about the Big Six conference races. Today, let's find out what non-Big Six race you think will be the most interesting this fall.

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Tulsa, Houston, UCF, Southern Miss and SMU make Conference USA wide open and fun, and the WAC championship will be up for grabs with Boise State gone. But the Mountain West will be most interesting to me if only because TCU and Boise State are potential top-10 teams. It will be interesting to see if any other MWC team can knock them off before the square off in Boise on Nov. 12.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I'll be watching the Mountain West. Yes, Utah is off to the Pac-12 and BYU now is an independent, but Boise State is in the fold after leaving the listing WAC ship. That means it will be high drama to see if the Broncos can win the Mountain West in their first season, while TCU looks to claim one more conference crown before bolting for the BCS pastures of the Big East in 2012. (There are some BCS leagues that don't have two teams as strong as these. Yes, I'm talking about you, Big East.) These two non-Big Six super-powers will face off in what figures to be a de facto Mountain West title game on Nov. 12 in Boise. And a BCS bid may be on the line.

David Fox's answer:
Other leagues might be more balanced or more hotly contested, but the Mountain West race matters most thanks to one game, between Boise State and TCU. Those programs appear to be the only non-Big Six teams with potential to crash the BCS. Air Force and San Diego State are potential spoilers, so they should be able to put some fear into Boise State and TCU. The rest of the league is largely irrelevant, but there's enough intrigue with the top four in the Mountain West to make the conference race worth watching.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
With BYU and Utah departed, I think the Mountain West became a lot less interesting. It will be a two-team race this fall between newcomer Boise State and league lame-duck TCU. Indeed, I think that will be the most boring non-Big Six race of them all. In Conference USA, on the other hand, the West Division race alone is going to involve three teams (Houston, SMU and Tulsa), while Southern Miss and UCF are the teams that should vie for the East Division title. The West race should be quite entertaining. Houston QB Case Keenum is returning from a severe knee injury, and his return means all three division contenders are going to have high-powered offense. In the East, UCF lost a lot of defensive talent but still is going to be the best defensive team in the division and probably the league. The question is whether Southern Miss' defense continues to improve. The wild card is East Carolina, which has a potent offense but a highly suspect - a highly, highly, highly suspect - defense.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Whenever you look at the ever-changing nature of the Mountain West Conference, it's easy to wonder what could have been. What if the Mountain West had managed to keep Utah, BYU and TCU in the fold while also luring Boise State from the WAC? We'll never know how strong that conference lineup could have been, but we at least have the fun of watching Boise State and TCU square off as conference rivals for one year before the Horned Frogs head to the Big East. TCU and Boise State played two competitive bowls against each other in the past three seasons. I doubt Boise State and TCU will be quite as strong as they were last season. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore loses his top two receivers, while TCU must replace Andy Dalton and plenty of other key performers from its Rose Bowl championship team. But it will be interesting to see if one of these teams again emerges as a legitimate BCS contender. I also want to find out if Air Force or San Diego State can build on its recent momentum and prevent the Nov. 12 TCU-Boise State showdown in Boise from becoming a de facto conference title game.



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