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…
- 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)
Tiny URL for this post: