BCS Buster Power Rankings: 2012 Week 3 Rankings

At the quarter pole of the 2012 regular season, just two contenders remain* in the hunt to nab an elusive and prestigious place in BCS Buster history. After a weekend of massive attrition, the field was winnowed from the seven hopefuls that survived through the first fortnight of the season to this dichotomy.

* I know that there are technically three undefeated non-AQ schools. But UTSA, in their transitional season from FCS to FBS competition, is ineligible for a bowl appearance thanks to a hybrid schedule that sees them playing as much I-AA competition as I-A. Thus, for all intents and purposes, we’re down to two teams left that can legitimately challenge the power structure as it presently exists.

What’s most notable about the list, though, is not who remains but who isn’t in the chase any longer. Last year’s darlings, Boise State and Houston and Southern Miss, are a combined 1-6 so far this season. TCU is now a member of the Big XII. Neither the Mountain West nor Conference USA, the two dominant non-AQ conferences of 2011, has an undefeated team left after just three weeks of play.

Even the league that has created the most buzz this September, the Sun Belt, no longer has a horse in the race. Louisiana-Monroe, who nearly went 2-0 in SEC West play, couldn’t pull off a second straight overtime road upset at Auburn. Louisiana-Lafayette never had a chance at Oklahoma State. And the one team that did pull off the BCS-conference upset, Western Kentucky with a 32-31 overtime thriller at Kentucky, had already lost the previous weekend to top-ranked defending national champ Alabama.

The preeminent powerhouse small school of the past forty years, BYU, couldn’t get a field goal to go through the uprights as they lost the Holy War to Utah. Their in-state rival, Utah State, missed their own field goal that would have finished off the upset in Camp Randall Stadium against Wisconsin.

Two conferences remain. One, in its swan song of operation, has been here before. The other, healthier than ever, has been jilted in the past. Neither were expected to be in this position, but as the second quarter of the season commences they are the dueling contestants for the honor of becoming the next BCS Buster…

LOUISIANA TECH BULLDOGS

CONFERENCE: WAC
RECORD: 2-0

CURRENT BCS POSITION:
41st

SIGNATURE WIN:
9/8 – 56-49 @ Houston

BIGGEST TESTS TO COME:
9/22 @ Illinois
9/29 @ Virginia
10/13 v. Texas A&M

SEASON TO DATE:
The Bulldogs, due to move to Conference USA next year when the WAC disintegrates from its Jenga-wobbled foundation, are hoping to follow in the footsteps of teams like Boise State and Hawaii, other former Busters from the WAC.

Their opening weekend, a game against SEC newcomer Texas A&M in Shreveport, was rescheduled due to the hurricane. Louisiana Tech has thus been able to hone its skills ahead of three BCS-conference games against Houston and Rice.

The first game was closer than expected, as a green Houston team exposed Tech’s defense (currently ranked 120th out of 120 categorized teams in the FBS in total yardage allowed). They improved against Rice, allowing “only” 477 yards.

NEXT TESTS:
This is the make-or-break section of the season for Louisiana Tech. They can place themselves on the national radar if they can beat teams from the Big Ten, ACC and SEC. One slip-up, though, and they cede the chance at immortality and are left competing for the funereal WAC title.

Illinois is next on the docket. The Bulldogs travel to Champaign to face an Illini team exposed by Arizona State as beatable in Week 2. The roadshow continues on the last weekend of September, when the Cavaliers welcome Tech to Charlottesville.

They return home to face UNLV before the rescheduled Texas A&M contest on October 13. Get through that gauntlet undefeated, and all they’ll need to do is run the WAC table. Getting Utah State at home further helps an imminently-possible cause.

ACHILLES HEEL:
DEFENSE — If they manage to survive their BCS-conference roadshow and reach WAC play undefeated, the Bulldogs will certainly have a legitimate body of work to lean upon. The question is whether their defense can buttress the case.

Returning six starters from last year’s top-50 unit hasn’t helped one whit. The team is ranked dead-last among classified FBS teams in yardage allowed, 117th out of 120 in points allowed, and dead last in passing defense. Colby Cameron and Tevin King can’t bail out the Bulldog D in ever contest.

OHIO BOBCATS

CONFERENCE: MAC
RECORD: 3-0

CURRENT BCS POSITION:
39th

SIGNATURE WIN:
9/1 – 24-14 @ Penn State

BIGGEST TESTS TO COME:
10/6 v. Buffalo
11/14 @ Ball State
MAC Championship (if applicable)

SEASON TO DATE:
The Bobcats were a trendy preseason pick to make waves in the BCS Buster race. They returned a veteran offense, led by senior QB Tyler Tettleton, and a defense that could ostensibly stifle every opponent on the schedule.

Opening weekend played out like a dream for Ohio, as they went to Beaver Stadium and helped kick off a new era in Penn State football with an upset of the Nittany Lions. They followed it up last weekend with a clinical dismantling of New Mexico State.

Then they traveled to Marshall to face the Thundering Herd in their final out-of-conference game before beginning MAC play. Marshall led in the 4th quarter before Tettleton guided the offense to 10 unanswered points and the victory.

NEXT TESTS:
For the Bobcats, getting through their season opener was the biggest hurdle. The game against Marshall was the second obstacle. After reaching the conference schedule undefeated, Ohio now must guard against complacency as they try to reach another MAC Championship Game.

Ohio managed to avoid both Northern Illinois and Toledo, two of the biggest contenders in the MAC West, on their regular-season schedule. The biggest test in conference will likely be their showdown at Ball State on November 14.

As long as they don’t defeat themselves, Ohio should reach the MAC Championship as an undefeated favorite to knock off whichever team emerges from the West. Win there and a 13-0 team will have an argument for BCS inclusion.

ACHILLES HEEL:
SCHEDULE — The Bobcats have a skilled offense, a better-than-mediocre defense… but just how good are both units? Ohio’s showcase test of the season was against a Penn State team with a depleted roster thanks to NCAA-permitted defections.

While winning is the prerequisite for any potential BCS Buster, a dearth of credible competition has hurt teams in the past. Ohio can look at teams like Tulane (1998), Marshall (1999) and Boise State (2004, 2008) and see how schedule strength has impinged on a team’s BCS dreams.

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