And then there were two. With the battle between Utah and TCU capturing the nation’s attention live from Salt Lake City, it was a weekend where the field of five undefeated teams was guaranteed to be pared by one.
It also meant that it was inevitable we’d have just two BCS Buster potentials left from the field of dozens of non-AQ schools that dream of someday breaking the mold.
But there is more shuffling yet to be done. Both the last two non-AQ schools without a loss to their names put in punctuating performances against top conference opponents who have each previously tasted BCS success. Both put up massive offensive numbers, scored over forty points and allowed just a garbage-time touchdown apiece.
Yet there was something different about the swagger with which Gary Patterson left the enemy turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium which was a microcosm of this 2010 TCU team. They came into the season highly rated but ceding all the accolades to Boise State.
And with fair reason, too. The Broncos won their head-to-head battle in the Fiesta Bowl last year. They returned two-deep starters at pretty much every position. They had a huge high-profile game on the east coast to kick off the season.
But with each passing week something about Chris Petersen’s team just looks a little less crisp, as though they allow themselves to play down to their competition rather than keeping the throttle on early. It’s a funny statement to make about a team that is 8-0 and has done it with its starters all pulled by the third quarter in most games.
So a new number one stands atop the BCS Buster Power Rankings, and its defeated rival falls by the wayside. Let’s take a deeper look at our last two candidates — at least one of which will be BCS bound barring catastrophe…
1. TCU HORNED FROGS (MWC/10-0)
- Last Week: 2nd
- Last Game: W @ Utah 47-7
- Next Game: November 13 v. San Diego State
Why did I now choose to move TCU ahead of the Boise State team it lost to last season when both matched up as BCS Busters against one another? Well, for one, it’s a new season. And these are Power Rankings, subject to change depending on how well a team is performing currently. I considered two factors:
- TCU and Boise State have honestly been running 1a and 1b for me most of this season. Boise State has had the benefit of the doubt so far, but the Horned Frogs’ win over the 8-0 Utes on the road was a bigger statement than the Broncos’ win at home over 7-2 Hawaii. That deserved some recognition.
- Their comparables are damn near identical. They both beat Pac-10 middleweight Oregon State in what was effectively a home game. They both trounced Wyoming, last year’s New Mexico Bowl winner, by 45. And they both beat a team which has been in the running to compete in its BCS-conference championship (Baylor for TCU, Virginia Tech for Boise State).
So I decided it was simply time to acknowledge the truth: the Mountain West is better than the WAC. Beating Air Force, San Diego State and Utah is bigger than beating Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii. (There’s a reason the Broncos are towing Nevada & Fresno over effective next year.)
And this performance against Utah… oh, what a show! There was no better time to shine in such emphatic fashion. All they have to do is win out their last two against San Diego State and the closer at New Mexico and the Horned Frogs are at the very least Pasadena-bound.
But the losses of Oklahoma and Alabama also leave slim pickings amongst one-loss teams with the potential to surpass the Horned Frogs for a title shot. So win and it just might be Glendale where they head…
2. BOISE STATE BRONCOS (WAC/8-0)
- Last Week: 1st
- Last Game: W v. Hawaii 42-7
- Next Game: November 12 @ Idaho
So just why did the Broncos take a plunge in this week’s Power Rankings? Nothing has changed. This is the same team I’ve been high on all season long. And they only spent their Saturday just keeping the nation’s top-ranked passing offense bottled up for less than 200 yards on the day.
But they still have looked sluggish at times this season. The Louisiana Tech game was a sloppy blowout. They’ve had a couple of those less-than-fully-crisp performances that make you scratch your head this year. This isn’t 2009, and Boise can only ride last year’s hype for the preseason positioning so long.
Now if the Broncos look impressive in a tough finish that includes trips to Moscow, Idaho to face the Vandals and to Reno to face #21 Nevada sandwiching a home game against Fresno State. They also have to close against Utah State.
The Aggies gave Oklahoma fits, but the Sooners are nowhere near the level of Boise. If they close out strong and/or teams above them keep falling, there’s still a remote chance Boise squeaks into a title-game slot.
But how about this for injustice? It’s quite possible that one of the BCS-conference champions could keep the Broncos from earning an at-large bid. Nothing guarantees the BCS handing out two at-large bids to non-AQ schools a second straight season. It is entirely possible that a three-loss Big East or ACC champion could leapfrog Boise into one of the big bowls and relegate the WAC champ to obscurity.
It’s not unimaginable that it happens. For a system that was designed to match the best teams in tlhe best bowls, “best” means greatest traveling fan base or greatest potential ratings or greatest pedigree in the annals of college football history. If there was justice in this world, a Virginia Tech team that lost to Boise would not be going to the Orange Bowl ahead of them. Don’t depend on justice this year…
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN…
(3.) UTAH UTES (MWC/8-1)
- Last Week: 3rd
- Last Game: L v. TCU 47-7
- Next Game: November 13 @ Notre Dame
Adios, Utes, it was fun getting to take one last ride with you on the BCS Buster gauntlet. Sure, they couldn’t survive the onslaught that is TCU, but this is still one hell of a Utah team. While they found themselves absolutely obliterated by the Horned Frogs, this is still a top-ten school — and once they’re in the Pac-12 next year, 11-1 could easily be enough to get them in.
But that’s small consolation this year for a school that already had two BCS Busts to its name and was hoping for another. That’s the real next frontier for non-AQ schools — getting enough respect that one loss isn’t an automatic disqualifier…