All four of the teams with their shot at busting into the BCS are still alive in the race after winning over the weekend. Now is the time when it all comes down to nuance. After all, the BCS is as much about getting the job done in the battle of public promotion as it is keeping the wins coming on the field. Both are a must; no BCS Buster has ever emerged to play in the big show with a loss previously attached to their name, and only two have walked out with a loss afterward — Hawaii in the January 2008 Sugar Bowl, and TCU last year in an all-Buster showdown with Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The top dog of the pack this year once again, Boise State found itself dropping in both the AP and coaches’ poll on Sunday despite posting a blowout victory as demanded. Yet both they and TCU remain in the top ten, and both of the other two contenders are also ranked and undefeated. We’re looking at an effective semifinal here; the winners of the two conferences represented amongst the quartet of contenders will have a legitimate shot at a BCS berth this year, and if an upset or three falls here and there along the way we could even see a BCS Buster playing for the biggest title of all.
Still seem farfetched? It sure shouldn’t… after all, we’ve seen both the Mountain West and the WAC command a higher level of respect for themselves in recent years. That would merely be the next logical step in the progression, wouldn’t it?
1. BOISE STATE BRONCOS (WAC/4-0)
- LAST WEEK: 1st
- LAST GAME: W @ New Mexico State 59-0
- NEXT GAME: October 9 v. Toledo
One has to wonder just what it is the Broncos must do to elicit the kind of respect that will push them to top-two status. Suffering no hangover after their win over Oregon State, Boise headed to Las Cruces and obliterated New Mexico State. BSU scored on their first five possessions in rolling to their runaway victory. QB Kellen Moore was his usual effecient self, finishing 13-of-18 for 196 yards and three touchdowns in just over a half of work. They did everything they were supposed to do, yet they fell off voters’ radars and dropped to 4th in both polls. It is likely that only a few upsets at the top will push them back upward in the polls, so every week must look like this until the Nevada showdown to keep their longshot BCS national hopes alive.
2. TCU HORNED FROGS (MWC/5-0)
- LAST WEEK: 1st
- LAST GAME: W @ Colorado State 27-0
- NEXT GAME: October 9 v. Wyoming
The TCU offense looked anemic through the first half of their trip to Fort Collins, heading to the locker room clinging to a 6-0 lead. The touchdowns would come in the second half, three of them in fact — but on a day when the Horned Frogs defense allowed just 161 yards to their conference foe, Andy Dalton and the offense didn’t even need to score them to win. The most impressive (and shocking) part of their win was the shutout… despite all the top-shelf defenses Gary Patterson has had at TCU over his decade-long tenure as the coach, this win marked the first time the Horned Frogs had won a road game without allowing points in his career.
3. UTAH UTES (MWC/4-0)
- LAST WEEK: 3rd
- LAST GAME: W v. San Jose State 56-3 (Idle this week)
- NEXT GAME: October 9 @ Iowa State
The Utes had the weekend off before their trip to Ames to face surging Iowa State. With Utah set to head to the expanding Pac-12 next season, it’s easy to forget that this team still has one final shot to bust the BCS a third time before they join the big-boy echelon of the sport. Boise State and TCU might be garnering most of the headlines from the non-AQ world, but Kyle Whittingham’s team is dismissed at your own peril. For a third straight season their conference battle with the Horned Frogs will almost surely determine the MWC champion and settle which school earns what has become a de-facto qualifier into the big show. Next week’s test on the road against the Cyclones will be no pushover like it would’ve been in years past, but a win would give the Utes yet another statement against a BCS school and take them one step closer to a third BCS berth in school history.
4. NEVADA WOLF PACK (WAC/5-0)
- LAST WEEK: 4th
- LAST GAME: W @ UNLV 44-26
- NEXT GAME: October 9 v. San Jose State
Nevada is the wild card in the BCS Buster arena. While all the other three contenders have been in this position before and already busted the BCS previously, the Wolf Pack is a neophyte to national attention. But don’t let their inexperience at this game fool you… Chris Ault’s team is the real deal and fully deserving of a spot in the Top 25. A lot of ink has been spilled praising QB Colin Kaepernick, but against state rival UNLV last weekend the team’s deadly Pistol offense was fired by RB Vai Taua. The back paced the team with three rushing TDs, another scoring reception and 188 yards on the ground. Boise State is going to get at least one more statement game in Reno — and if the home team succeeds, they could be the Hawaii of this season, displacing the Broncos in the WAC and earning a trip to the Promised Land. But if they do get there, expect a more competitive game than the Warriors could muster in the Sugar Bowl.