One team just keeps extending its lead on the BCS Buster pack as teams jockey for position in the hunt for a big-game berth. Once again that team didn’t even receive the most votes from the polls among non-AQ schools. Once again it can’t even get love from the computers, ceding ground on that front as well.
Once again the honor of BCS Buster favorite — as far as the projected BCS standings go — is handed to the team that has been there and done that before. Boise State, less than a season away from becoming a Big “East” team, is hoping they can outjockey the WAC and MAC leaders to become the first one-loss BCS Buster in its fifteenth season of existence.
Louisiana Tech and Ohio will continue to have something to say about whether or not that is even possible. If either makes it to the end of the regular season as an undefeated conference champion, they will pip the Broncos in the standings. Whether or not they would get into a top-12 position (or top-16 ahead of a BCS conference champion) is another question.
But that’s not our worry. We’re not here to settle that final answer today, but merely to rank the best teams among the non-AQ schools. To reiterate, as there was a question from a reader last week, this includes all schools from Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC. It also includes independent schools not named Notre Dame.
(The Irish are excluded from this ranking because, while independent, they have been a signatory member of the BCS since its initial conception as the Bowl Coalition in 1992. They have a separate agreement for their entry into a BCS bowl that is independent of the non-AQ qualifying standards. Thus they are for all intents and purposes a BCS school.)
So who is the best right now? Who looks like the most promising candidate to bust the BCS in 2012? What one-loss teams not named Boise State have even an outside shot at working their way up the ladder in an apocalyptic scenario? Let’s answer those questions and more in this week’s BCS Buster Power Rankings…
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 29th (0.0642)
- LAST WEEK: W 44-38 @ Virginia
- NEXT WEEK: v. UNLV
Midway through the second quarter of their game in Charlottesville, the Bulldogs were losing by two touchdowns to the Cavaliers. Then Louisiana Tech ripped off 34 straight points — off three rushing touchdowns, field goals of 40 and 45 yards by Matt Nelson and a 32-yard interception return by Chip Hester. Virginia scored two late touchdowns on their final two possessions, but time ran out for the ACC school playing on its home turf. Sonny Dykes’ team is now 2-0 against BCS schools with another chance down the road in two weeks against Texas A&M in Shreveport. The Bulldogs can’t look ahead, though, because they face a UNLV team that took Minnesota to triple overtime and lost by just eight to Mike Leach’s Cougars. If they get too focused on the Aggies, the Rebels could haunt them. But Louisiana Tech has the deepest team, the deepest resume and a fun backstory as the front-runner to be the final conference champion in the storied and rich history of the Western Athletic Conference. If they do all that and arrive at December 12-0, all of the pieces could add up to a BCS bowl to write a fantastic finale for the league’s five-decade run.
2. BOISE STATE BRONCOS (MWC/3-1)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 26th (0.1005)
- LAST WEEK: W 32-29 @ New Mexico
- NEXT WEEK: @ Southern Miss
The Broncos hold on to this spot mainly due to the fact that Ohio didn’t play well enough to steal it back away from them. In Albuquerque it was a tale of two halves for Boise State, who played well offensively throughout but saw its defense go from hot to cold after halftime. Joe Southwick (24-of-34, 311 yards, 3 TD/0 INT) was quietly efficient, and freshman RB Jay Ajayi (6 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD) looks like the next overlooked coup at tailback for Chris Petersen. But while they had a 25-0 lead at halftime, the defense allowed rushing touchdowns on four straight Lobos possessions in the second half to make the score much closer than expected. Time ran out on New Mexico, but while Boise State prevailed it raised more questions than the performance answered. The defense is supposed to be the unit that stabilized this team while Southwick and a young offense matured into their roles. If the Broncos can’t keep teams like New Mexico in check, this could be a long final season in the Mountain West for the boys from Boise.
3. OHIO BOBCATS (MAC/5-0)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 36th (0.0292)
- LAST GAME: W 37-34 @ Massachusetts
- NEXT GAME: v. Buffalo
Ohio won their first conference game of the season, and they did it on the road in an NFL stadium to boot. But their 3-point win over Massachusetts (in their inaugural FBS season) did little to inspire confidence in this team’s ability to remain undefeated. The MAC is looking deeper this season than it has in the past few years, and there could be more close calls on their schedule. A BCS Buster candidate, remember, has to impress human eyeballs as well as teams that factor in the strength of schedule through their various algorithms. Penn State’s resurgence after an 0-2 start makes Ohio look better by comparison, but too much tough treading through the MAC will dull the shine of that victory even should the Bobcats go 13-0. Tyler Tettleton, Beau Blankenship and the rest of a veteran offense needs to pick up the pace and start doing more to impress those pollsters if they want to jump out of the “Others Receiving Votes” category of the polls and work their way into real BCS legitimacy.
4. LOUISIANA-MONROE WARHAWKS (SUN BELT/2-2)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 41st (0.0018)
- LAST GAME: W 63-10 @ Tulane
- NEXT GAME: @ Middle Tennessee
The WarHawks finally played competition at their own level after three straight weeks of BCS competition yielded an overtime victory at Arkansas, an overtime loss at Auburn and a 5-point loss against Baylor. Against Tulane in New Orleans, the offense lit up the scoreboard. QB Kolton Browning had three touchdown passes while going 15-of-21 for 253 yards, adding 13 more yards scrambling. RB DeVontae McNeal got just ten carries, but took them for 114 yards and a touchdown; his backfield partner, Jyruss Edwards, carried 11 times for 55 yards and two scores. But it was the defense that showed the most spark. The battle testing against the SEC and Big XII obviously paid dividends as ULM intercepted D.J. Ponder three times (one of which was taken back for a touchdown), a fumble recovery in the endzone for another defensive score, and held the Green Wave to negative-nine yards rushing. Next up is a Middle Tennessee team coming off a BCS beatdown of its own, winning last weekend at Georgia Tech by three touchdowns. It won’t be a laugher this year if ULM reaches the end of the season 10-2 as the Sun Belt champion.
5. WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS (SUN BELT/4-1)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: NR (0.0000)
- LAST GAME: W 26-13 @ Arkansas State
- NEXT GAME: @ Troy
Western Kentucky failed to garner any points from the pollsters or the computers after appearing last week at the fringes of the BCS projections. This happened despite the Hilltoppers winning their first conference game on the road against an Arkansas State team that began the season as a Sun Belt favorite. WKU stays under ULM in this week’s rankings for two main reasons. First, the fact that the BCS likes the WarHawks more than the Hilltoppers must be taken into account. But, more than that, Western Kentucky is more one-dimensional on offense, largely ignoring the pass in favor of an abundance of carries for RB Antonio Andrews. It is an offense that cannot be sustained for an entire season, even with a defense that (despite its beating at Alabama) ranks #14 in the nation in total yards allowed (290.8/game) and gives up only three touchdowns a game. Willie Taggart’s crew is going to be in the thick of the Sun Belt battle all season long.
6. SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS (WAC/4-1)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: 43rd (0.0009)
- LAST GAME: W 12-0 @ Navy
- NEXT GAME: v. Utah State
San Jose State picked up a couple of votes from the coaches after shutting out the Midshipmen in Annapolis last Saturday. An unheralded but stifling defense held Navy, who came into the game among the top ten rushing teams in the country, to just 70 yards on the ground in the 12-0 victory. Junior QB David Fales has quietly emerged as an efficient team leader, ranked only behind Louisiana Tech’s Colby Cameron in WAC passing efficiency and 21st nationally. The defense, though, has been at the heart of the Spartans’ turnaround from going 8-29 the past three seasons. Ranked 19th in yards allowed (309.2/game) and 28th in opposition scoring (17.4 points/game), San Jose State has emerged as a surprise contender for the final WAC crown. Next week’s game at home against Utah State will serve as a virtual elimination contest between two 4-1 schools that are headed to the Mountain West together next season.
7. TOLEDO ROCKETS (MAC/4-1)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: T-46th (0.0002)
- LAST GAME: W 37-17 @ Western Michigan
- NEXT GAME: v. Central Michigan
Terrance Owens took the starting reins from Austin Dantin and has the Rockets flying even higher than they have the previous few seasons. If not for an overtime loss at Arizona in the season opener, we would be talking about Toledo in the same terms that now head the MAC’s way thanks to Ohio. The Rockets are aiming for their first MAC championship game appearance since 2004 this year, and still have a BCS showcase game against Big East darkhorse Cincinnati on October 20 to offer another poll-boosting performance. If Toledo wins the MAC West and faces Ohio for the championship this December, the Rockets could very well be a spoiler.
8. TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE (C-USA/4-1)
- CURRENT BCS PROJECTION: T-46th (0.0002)
- LAST GAME: W 49-42 @ UAB
- NEXT GAME: @ Marshall
Tulsa is leaning on their running game more than they’ve had to do the past few years with G.J. Kinne under center. It has yielded an offense ranked among the top dozen rushing teams in the country. Despite a loss in Ames against Iowa State to open the season, the Golden Hurricane are the top team in the Conference USA standings as the only team with just one loss. They survived a tough test at UAB last weekend (ask Southern Miss or Ohio State how tough the Blazers can be), and have to travel again next Saturday to face Marshall (who Ohio can attest isn’t an easy out). With C-USA down this season, the conference is Tulsa’s to lose… and they even get to face BCS Buster punching bag Arkansas in November.
NEXT IN LINE: Nevada (MWC/4-1), Utah State (WAC/4-1), Northern Illinois (MAC/4-1), Louisana-Lafayette (Sun Belt/3-1), Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt/3-1), Kent State (MAC/3-1)
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