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Four-down territory: Now can Auburn enjoy its national title?

Plus, is the Big East AQ-worthy, Wazzu's Tuel gets cleared and IU faces the beastly Badgers. Dave Miller

Print This October 13, 2011, 08:00 AM EST

Let's take a look at what's happening across the nation on this Thursday morning...

• Following a year-long investigation into its football program, Auburn was cleared of any major violations by the NCAA on Wednesday, finally allowing Gene Chizik and Co. to rest easy and enjoy its BCS national championship from last season. Questions swirled around the football program because of the Cam Newton pay-for-play allegations as well as the four former players alleging on HBO's Real Sports that they received impermissible inducements and extra benefits during their time at the school. The NCAA conducted more than 80 interviews before ultimately closing the book on the probe. And while the NCAA noted that the case could be reopened if any new evidence pops up, it appears this nightmare is over. Auburn will still have its naysayers, and many will cite that the NCAA does not have any subpoena power, thus potentially limiting its ability to conduct a more thorough probe. However, Newton still has his Heisman and the school still has its crystal football. So let's return our focus to the games this weekend, shall we?

Chris PetersenICONWould bringing in Chris Petersen and Boise State even be enough for the Big East to retain its AQ status?

• With the Big East in midst of such an unfortunate makeover, the question has been raised whether the Big East could hold onto its AQ status for BCS purposes. The league is in no danger of losing it over the next two years, but the current cycle ends after the 2013 season. And that's when the league's makeup will be incredibly different with so much turnover, including Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC and TCU being entrenced in the Big 12. As it stands right now, the six AQ conferences netting automatic BCS bids have to meet certain criteria to maintain that status. CLICK HERE to read more about the standards. This criteria must be met by conferences like the Mountain West, which hopes (more strongly before conference realignment became all the rage) to gain AQ status in 2014. Currently, the Big East has a good enough mark in the cumulative ranking of all the teams in the conference. However, it lacks in two of the other criteria: average ranking of the highest-ranked team each year and the number of teams ranked in the Top 25. This problem makes gaining Boise State even more imperative. But would the Broncos be enough? It's not easy to find Top 25 teams willing to bolt to a league on shaky ground. Air Force, Navy and Temple don't really help. UCF remains a good option. But are the Knights good and consistent enough? This situation remains fluid because there's nothing specifically in the BCS language in regard to losing AQ status. But it doesn't look good for John Marinatto's league moving forward.

• It's great to hear that Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel has been cleared to play on Saturday against Stanford after recovering from a fractured left clavicle suffered in the season-opening victory over Idaho State. However, head coach Paul Wulff made no guarantee that Tuel would return to the starting lineup because Marshall Lobbestael has been so good in his place. Wulff noted that Tuel’s role against the Cardinal will be a game-time decision. Keep in mind that being medically cleared doesn't mean a player is quite back to 100 percent. And with Wazzu enjoying a 3-2 start, Lobbestael looks like the best option for the Cougars this weekend.

• First-year Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson wasn't leading the team last season when the Hoosiers were annihilated by Wisconsin 83-20, as IU allowed the most points in team history and tied for the largest losing margin in team history. The Badgers' 83 points were the most scored in a Big Ten game since Ohio State scored the same amount against Iowa in 1950. The Hoosiers return to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, and it's not the best scenario for a team sitting at 1-5. While they may not be playing up the revenge card, the Hoosier players were flat-out embarassed by the Badgers last fall. And they would like nothing more than to come out and stick it a little bit to Bret Bielema's squad. While an IU upset is not in the cards, this could be the most important game for Wilson in the 2011 season. The groundwork to eventual respectability could be laid with a solid showing in Madison.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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