BCS Buster Power Rankings: 2012 Week 4 Rankings

Two teams are still alive to be this year’s Cinderella, undefeated and harboring hopes of crashing the party, but neither is even the best-placed non-AQ team in the projected BCS rankings.

That honor goes to Boise State, who despite losing their season opener at Michigan State and struggling to a 7-6 victory over BYU is ranked as a top-25 team in this week’s BCS projections. The Broncos have the biggest name-brand draw of any potential BCS Buster. And while that blemish on the record would usually preclude a non-AQ team from the BCS discussion, Chris Petersen’s team could theoretically end up as the first 11-1 BCS Buster in history.

Of course, there are those two undefeated teams that would have a considerable and legitimate gripe should that occur. The first has shot up the polls and in the estimation of the computers. The latter has the easier path to an undefeated regular season… which also means their strength of schedule isn’t going to get any better moving forward.

This week we’re going to rank the six non-AQ teams that have received at least one point toward the BCS standings by the likelihood they might receive a bid should each team win out from here. Some chances are more legitimate than others; some teams are hanging on precariously to the slimmest of hopes, while others in the bunch could continue to make the big boys sweat all the way to December…

1. LOUISIANA TECH BULLDOGS (WAC/3-0)

  • CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 29th (0.0645)
  • LAST WEEK: W 52-24 @ Illinois
  • NEXT WEEK: @ Virginia

The Bulldogs began the meat of their non-conference schedule with a mind-melting 28-point victory on the road against a 2-1 Big Ten school. Louisiana Tech is a team being carried by their offense — the defensive unit ranks among the ten worst at the FBS level, allowing over 36 points a game and nearly 500 yards to opposing offenses. But with QB Colby Cameron (15-of-22 for 284 yards and 4 TDs against Illinois) playing efficiently under center, Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon providing a 1-2 rushing punch out of the backfield, and WR Quinton Patton crushing opposition secondaries, they merely need a few stops a game from their defense to keep winning. Up next is a trip to ACC country to face the Cavaliers. If the Bulldogs win out, they will have road wins against the Big Ten and ACC and a neutral-site win (in Shreveport) against the SEC. That would be more than enough to keep voters’ eyebrows raised and the computers pouring on the love; then it would be a matter of whether they can vault into the top 12 to force the BCS’ hand, or at least the top 16 ahead of a BCS conference champion.

 

2. BOISE STATE BRONCOS (MWC/2-1)

  • CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 24th (0.1209)
  • LAST WEEK: W 7-6 v. BYU
  • NEXT WEEK: @ New Mexico

The Broncos can’t change the past — they lost their season opener for the first time since 2005 and sustained a loss against a BCS-conference opponent for the first time since Washington beat them in 2007. But just as a loss for a BCS-conference team is better sustained early in the season than late, so too does the same theory apply to Boise State. Already the pollsters are giving Petersen’s crew the benefit of the doubt… the coaches have the team ranked 27th, while the AP thinks they’re the 24th-best team in the land. Two of the four computers also love them, with Richard Billingsley’s formula spitting them out as the 10th-ranked team in the nation. Why might Boise State get enough love despite the loss in East Lansing? They’re still winning with stout defense, which always sways pollsters. While the offense has regressed with the graduation of Kellen Moore and Doug Martin, the defense is still among the top dozen in the nation. That will help mask the growing pains of QB Joe Southwick and the rest of a young offense, and allow Boise to remain a contender in the Mountain West all season long.

 

3. OHIO BOBCATS (MAC/4-0)

  • CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 35th (0.0452)
  • LAST GAME: W 44-10 v. FCS Norfolk State
  • NEXT GAME: @ Massachusetts

There is no denying that the Bobcats are the team most likely to reach 4-0 this season. With their toughest matchups behind them, the States (Ball and Kent) look like the only teams who might challenge Ohio through the rest of conference play. They’d have to play the MAC Championship, which has presented problems for the conference’s BCS Buster hopefuls in the past, but Frank Solich’s team is in the best shape of his tenure to avoid disappointment should they reach that game. The Bobcats are the most well-rounded of the BCS Buster candidates, with an offense and a defense that both rank among the top 35 nationally. As long as neither unit plays down to the level of its competition (something that nearly derailed their hopes when they visited Marshall in Week 3), Ohio should by all rights be a 13-0 conference champion clamoring for a spot in a BCS bowl game once Championship Saturday ends in early December. Whether they will have done enough to impress the pollsters, who are still lukewarm on the team, or the computers, who seem unimpressed by the schedule, remains another matter.

 

4. LOUISIANA-MONROE WARHAWKS (SUN BELT/1-2)

  • CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 46th (0.0009)
  • LAST GAME: L 47-42 v. Baylor
  • NEXT GAME: @ Tulane

The clock struck midnight on the Cinderella dreams of the WarHawks when they failed to prevail against their Big XII opponent on home turf last Friday night. After beating Arkansas and taking Auburn to overtime, Louisiana-Monroe had the trifecta within their grasp. Ultimately they played two SEC schools and last year’s Big XII media darling to a 1-2 record, neither loss greater than five points, two overtime thrillers and a Friday finale down to the wire. Does that mean they would have a shot at the BCS? No… with two losses, that would require every major-conference school to go three or four losses deep. EVERY BCS-conference school. And since that isn’t going to happen, Kolton Browning and Monroe’s finest are going to have to content themselves with what should be a surprisingly fierce competition for Sun Belt spoils this season.

 

5. WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS (SUN BELT/3-1)

  • CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 45th (0.0011)
  • LAST GAME: W 42-17 v. Southern Miss
  • NEXT GAME: @ Arkansas State

The Hilltoppers scored a historic win two Saturdays ago against big-brother state school Kentucky, beating the Wildcats for the first time and notching their first-ever victory against a BCS-conference opponent. They followed that performance this weekend by pouncing upon last year’s C-USA champion Southern Miss, jumping ahead early and rolling up the score in a 42-17 rout. The 3-1 start for Western Kentucky — their only loss coming to top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa — is the best for the school since its transitional season to I-A play in 2007. The rest of their schedule, all based in conference play, probably wouldn’t impress either the computers or the pollsters enough to get a BCS bid even if they went 11-1. But WKU should still manage to earn the first bowl berth in school history if they continue to play at least .500 ball in the Sun Belt.

 

6. SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS (WAC/3-1)

  • CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 47th (0.0005)
  • LAST GAME: W 38-34 @ San Diego State
  • NEXT GAME: @ Navy

San Jose State has long been a bottom-feeder in the WAC, with just two winning seasons since the team’s entry into the league in its 1996 super-expansion. But they have suddenly started to find success at the right time, coinciding with long-needed improvements to their athletic facilities and their impending move to the Mountain West next season. They’d actually be leading the MWC standings right now with a 2-0 conference record this year, having tallied back-to-back wins against Colorado State and San Diego State. With their only loss coming to Stanford, San Jose State is looking better and better every week that they keep winning. A season-ending home game against Louisiana Tech could prove to be a rousing climax to the WAC’s final year of existence as a football entity. While the league will rest in peace come January, there is still plenty to fight for now.

 

NEXT IN LINE: Nevada (MWC/3-1), Ball State (MAC/3-1), Utah State (WAC/3-1), Northern Illinois (MAC/3-1), Tulsa (C-USA/3-1), Toledo (MAC/3-1)

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Comments

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5 Comments

  1. Good blog. I like Ohio’s chances to go 13-0. That schedule is soft enough. Can a 13-0 team from the MAC get there? That’s the question.

  2. Okay, help me out here. Notre Dame is a BCS bowl winner but ONLY if they finish 8 or higher in the final BCS rankings. Is this not the same for these other BCS busters as well? I mean, they are not AQ’d so don’t they basically have to accomplish the same feat. And if that is the case, how is ND not considered a BCS Buster? I’m not criticizing, just trying to clarify.

  3. Technically they do automatically qualify, as the top-eight stipulation for them is independent of the rules regarding inclusion for top-12 teams from non-AQ conferences. They have had those stipulations in place since the 1998 inception of the BCS. Notre Dame holds a privileged position in the system, with a seat at the table alongside the six major BCS conferences in shaping all decisions. The Fighting Irish have had a voice in the process from the beginning; they were a founding member of the Bowl Coalition that preceded the BCS in the early 1990s, and have been instrumental in the system since. In that essence, while they are not of a conference they are technically a BCS school. As such, they are not included when we talk about “non-AQ” or “BCS Buster” schools for the purpose of these rankings.

  4. I think the Bobcats have a great chance to go 13-0 as well, EJ. But the same thing that makes it easier for Ohio to end the regular season perfect is the same thing that might keep them out of a BCS game. Given the strength of schedule (or lack thereof), the Bobcats could conceivably go 13-0 and still be shut out of the biggest games. Just like Marshall’s 12-0 season in 1999, it all comes down to voter perception — and the fact that the computers don’t even seem to like Ohio’s case right now. Hence why I have them behind both Louisiana Tech (who plays BCS opponents through mid-October to remain in the public eye) and Boise State.

  5. Okay, so technically when asked on the NCAAF round table who I though stood the best BCS Buster chance and I said ND I was incorrect.

    But, technically, they STILL have to finish in the final BCS standing at 8 or higher. They have not made a BCS bowl since 2006.

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