That’s been the drawback this whole way for all the BCS Buster candidates. They can garner enough respect from pollsters to be right there in the thick of the national-title hunt… but they can’t get the push of a “tougher” conference schedule to bolster the human votes and launch up into the top two. But is the schedule that much weaker than Florida State? Or Cincinnati? Or (despite what the computers might try to tell you) Oklahoma?
Ask the Sooners who they’d rather face — Iowa State or Utah State? You might get the answer you weren’t expecting, even after the Cyclones took out Texas last weekend. When the best of the WAC come over to the Mountain West next year, we’re going to be left with a conference that demands BCS-level status and respect. Pollsters are finally realizing it. The computers have yet to come around — but then again, they have a hard time respecting anything that isn’t the SEC or Big XII. This season, that respect has repeatedly been exposed as overblown, thanks to teams like the following three…
1. BOISE STATE BRONCOS (WAC/6-0)
- LAST WEEK: 1st
- LAST GAME: IDLE
- NEXT GAME: October 26 v. Louisiana Tech
The Broncos continue to languish just outside the top two in the BCS standings, and sitting on the sideline this past weekend didn’t help their cause at all. But with a brutal stretch of conference games (and yes, this run of contests is brutal no matter who you are: v. Louisiana Tech, v. Hawaii, @ Idaho, v. Fresno State, @ Nevada, v. Utah State) coming up it was the perfect time to take the bye, especially since the first game against the Bulldogs comes tomorrow on a Tuesday-night showcase. LA Tech was a tough out for the Broncos last season, a second-half surge in Ruston pulling the home side within two before Boise broke things open midway through the fourth quarter.
The game will be on the Smurf Turf this year, though. Still, Chris Petersen must have his team alert and avoiding looking ahead to a showdown with Hawaii next week that suddenly has some bite to it. If the Warriors can beat Utah State this weekend, they’ll be in at least one poll when they come to Boise. They’ve already knocked off Nevada. Bryant Moniz has been making the island faithful start to tuck away their wistful memories of Colt Brennan in anticipation of new ones to be made. Any let-up and Hawaii — the only other WAC team to land a BCS Buster spot — could steal the upset right out from the team that started the defections to the MWC. You can expect that Kellen Moore will be playing more than just two quarters in this matchup…
2. TCU HORNED FROGS (MWC/8-0)
- LAST WEEK: 2nd
- LAST GAME: W v. Air Force 38-7
- NEXT GAME: October 30 @ UNLV
The Horned Frogs roared their way ever closer to Boise in the BCS standings, pummeling an Air Force team that had been ranked last weekend before their upset to San Diego State and boasted the nation’s most potent rushing attack. A 7-7 start to the game was soon a blowout as TCU was the beneficiary of the final five scores of the day, staying undefeated two-thirds of the way through its regular season.
Things are looking up for TCU right now. Gary Patterson’s team is the top squad in the Lone Star State at the moment, with the flagship Longhorns reeling and the Aggies their usual pretender selves. Their best competition for the mantle of best Texas team? That would be Baylor… the Big XII South leader who the Horned Frogs smoked 45-10 back on September 18. The strength of schedule only improves with each week in the Mountain West, as it plays tough teams and watches its BCS-conference opponents have decent seasons.
A voyage to Sin City to battle UNLV should provide little resistance. But they can’t get distracted, because once again the Mountain West crown (and a BCS Buster berth, in all likelihood) will all come down to one game, next week’s trip to Salt Lake City to square off against…
3. UTAH UTES (MWC/7-0)
- LAST WEEK: 3rd
- LAST GAME: W v. Colorado State 59-6
- NEXT GAME: October 30 @ Air Force
… the Utes, who unlike fellow mid-to-late-2000s powerhouses Texas and Florida have maintained their winning ways into 2010. The last year in the Mountain West before taking up position in the revamped Pac-12 was no write-off year for Kyle Whittingham’s crew, as he has the original BCS Buster on the path to both upset last year’s conference champion and steal its spotlight and make one last trip to the big show as a minnow before becoming the 67th member of the ruling class.
And now voters will get the chance to have a pretty telling direct comparison between TCU and Utah. After the Horned Frogs’ 31-point victory over the Falcons last week, Utah travels to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force. The triple-option, led by Asher Clark and Tim Jefferson, will be hungry to right its ship after back-to-back losses and claim bowl eligibility on their third try. The Utes must not let off the throttle lest TCU’s trip to Rice-Eccles next weekend lose some of its luster.
With wins over Pitt and Iowa State already, the Utes have decent results out of conference to this point and wins over three 2009-10 bowl teams so far. But a high-profile showdown with Notre Dame also awaits immediately after TCU, with San Diego State and BYU closing out the season, and a win over the Horned Frogs — as part of an undefeated season — could just give Utah something its 2008 predecessor inexplicably didn’t earn: a shot at the title.
- BCS Buster Power Rankings: Week 6
- BCS Buster Power Rankings: Week 7
- BCS Buster Power Rankings: Week 5