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Boise State and TCU: BCS Busters Week 7

| by Sports Nickel
This question posed by a reader after last week’s edition came online was made even more relevant with the release of the first BCS standings on Sunday:

The question is whether or not BSU or TCU will get a shot at the BCS title game even with Alabama out of #1. It seems doubtful unless (or even if) OSU somehow is knocked out of the #1 spot in the following weeks. Is it possible there will be a BCS buster or is this a pipedream for the “Midmajor” teams you have listed above?

 We’re finally seeing some real respect coming from the BCS for teams outside their six-conference power structure… and inexplicably it hasn’t originated from the computers, the one creature in the equation that has no taste for prior history or a program’s name. The pollsters have finally turned their thinking on the merits of non-AQ teams – just look at where the following BCS Busters of the past have been ranked after the seventh week of the season as compared to the three BCS Buster candidates still alive now:

2004/Utah 11th 10th
2006/Boise State 18th 17th
2007/Hawaii 18th 17th
2008/Utah 14th 13th
2009/Boise State 6th 5th
2009/TCU 10th 7th
2010/Boise State 2nd 2nd
2010/TCU 4th 4th
2010/Utah 9th 9th

Two top-five teams? And a BCS Buster as the immediate understudy in the first standings of the season? This would be unthinkable even two years ago. While Utah’s win over Pittsburgh as the first BCS Buster in 2004 and Boise State’s eye-opening OT victory over Oklahoma in 2006 started earning enough credibility that Hawaii made their overmatched way to the Sugar Bowl and were routed by Georgia. That could’ve set back the movement for a decade, but then Utah came right back and throttled Alabama the next season and finished #2 in the final polls. That’s what allowed Boise State and TCU to become the first BCS Buster tandem last season, and makes it likely we’ll see the Mountain West and WAC champions back in the big show again this year.

A national championship, though? As long as the pollsters keep buying it — and while strength of schedule will shift as the season moves on, the conferences are getting closer and closer in quality and the hard numbers no matter how you crunch them have been bearing that fact out. So yes, dear readers, the chances of a BCS national champion emerging from outside the auto-qualifying conferences are only getting better and better as the season rolls on to its apex. In that respect, we’re going to have an edition heavy on analysis of the comparables from this week’s games…


  • LAST WEEK: 1st
  • LAST GAME: W @ San Jose State 48-0
  • NEXT GAME: October 26 v. Louisiana Tech 

This was the week where the stars were supposed to converge to recognize Boise as the top team in college football. Instead it is Oklahoma, having been beaten four years ago in that legendary Fiesta Bowl upset by the Broncos, who befuddled the computers into handing them the top spot. We all know who the real class of the game is, though — it’s hard to imagine Boise having such a hard time with Utah State as did Oklahoma, but we’ll see on December 4 how the two teams really compare against a common opponent. But after seeing what they did against San Jose State, we at least have some comparables to other notable teams throughout FBS. After all, the Spartans played four top-25 teams out of conference and on the road before Boise State ever came to town for their WAC duel. So here goes, how each team’s offense did against one of the dozen worst defenses in college football:

@ Alabama 48-3 71 591 8.32 30:42 30
@ Wisconsin 27-14 68 403 5.93 31:54 22
@ Utah 56-3 64 427 6.67 31:03 22
@ Nevada 35-13 69 640 9.28 28:05 30
v. Boise State 48-0 71 535 7.54 31:36 28

The most telling statistic, though? How each defense fended off San Jose State’s defense. So here’s the reverse numbers, the Spartans offense versus each of these defenses:

@ Alabama 48-3 48 175 3.65 29:18 7
@ Wisconsin 27-14 50 307 6.14 28:06 13
@ Utah 56-3 45 172 3.82 28:57 7
@ Nevada 35-13 73 372 5.10 31:55 21
@ Boise State 48-0 52 80 1.54 28:24 6

So how much more does that validate Boise’s standing? Well, they’re the top defense in the land, having allowed half the yardage of vaunted units such as Alabama and Utah against the Spartans. The offense can put up points with the best of them, balanced between the multifaceted running game and the underappreciated skill of QB Kellen Moore. And they were thoroughly hosed by the computers, which for some reason saw their performance against San Jose State and moved them down from the previous week’s projections. Perhaps the Oregon State double-overtime loss hurt, perhaps Nevada’s fall to Hawaii… but then again, Boise State has to play both the Wolf Pack and the Warriors, so that should’ve washed out as Hawaii’s strength improved. Regardless, the Broncos are in prime position to swoop in and take a spot in the title game.


  • LAST WEEK: 2nd
  • LAST GAME: W v. BYU 31-3
  • NEXT GAME: October 23 v. Air Force

The Horned Frogs passed the first test of their wicked four-game stretch that sees them continue with games against Air Force and at a UNLV team that is better than the 1-5 record with which it opened the first half of the season — the Rebels have lost to 2009-10 bowl teams Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and West Virginia — before their showdown with Utah. Their opponent this weekend, BYU, was supposed to be a Mountain West threat in its last year before going rogue and turning independent. But they’ve played three teams that are ranked at this point, and here’s how their offenses fared against the Cougars along with TCU’s stats:

@ Air Force 35-14 78 477 6.12 36:59 22
@ Florida St. 34-10 65 427 6.57 34:06 19
v. Nevada 27-13 79 435 5.51 36:17 23
@ TCU 31-3 74 381 5.15 35:44 23

And then there was the way each team’s defense staved off what was  once a vaunted BYU offensive onslaught:

@ Air Force 35-14 59 309 5.24 23:01 15
@ Florida St. 34-10 70 191 2.73 25:54 17
v. Nevada 27-13 70 320 4.57 23:43 21
@ TCU 31-3 57 147 2.58 24:16 10

What does this mean for TCU and where they currently stand in the BCS standings? Well, Andy Dalton and the Horned Frogs offense wasn’t as prolific as any other BYU opponent in compiling statistics against the Cougars as their opposition. But what they did pull off is a third straight defensive display, with a defense that is second only to Boise State in yards allowed and is top in the nation in scoring defense. They couldn’t preserve a third straight shutout, but if defense wins championships one must look to TCU and respect the work Gary Patterson has done so far this year…

3. UTAH UTES (MWC/6-0)

  • LAST WEEK: 3rd
  • LAST GAME: W @ Wyoming 30-6
  • NEXT GAME: October 23 v. Colorado State 

Utah had perhaps the most interesting comparable of the four teams this week, as they played a Wyoming team that had already faced both teams ahead of them in the BCS Buster standings as well as Air Force and last year’s BCS finalist Texas. How did each offense do against a Cowboys team trying to get to a second straight bowl?

@ Texas 34-7 64 389 6.08 29:21 20
v. Boise State 51-6 86 648 7.53 37:33 32
v. Air Force 20-14 84 445 5.30 35:57 27
@ TCU 45-0 62 578 9.32 32:21 27
v. Utah 30-6 63 431 6.84 29:53 22

And how did the respective defenses hold up against a Wyoming offense masterminded by former Missouri offensive architect Dave Christensen and spearheaded by dual-threat QB Austyn Carta-Samuels?

@ Texas 34-7 61 257 4.21 30:39 13
v. Boise State 51-6 49 135 2.76 22:27 7
v. Air Force 20-14 45 240 5.33 24:03 12
@ TCU 45-0 45 191 4.24 27:39 8
v. Utah 30-6 55 183 3.33 30:07 10

This direct comparison allows us to see how each of the three BCS Buster candidates fare both offensively and defensively against a mid-level team. The Cowboys won’t blow you out of the water, but they can catch a team unaware in a tight contest. The most unseemly part about the game last weekend were the three interceptions tossed by the Utes — they can’t expect to roll through the Mountain West if they continue making sloppy mistakes.


  • LAST WEEK: 4th
  • LAST GAME: L @ Hawaii 27-21
  • NEXT GAME: October 30 @ Utah State

And then there was Nevada. With QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua back this season, it was supposed to be a legendary year in Reno. And through the first half of the season, it truly was as the Wolf Pack steamrolled their way to a 6-0 record. But then came a trip to Hawaii, a place that has caused even better teams to cringe. On a Saturday night on the island, Chris Ault’s team had absolutely no answer for their conference’s former BCS Buster.

There were no late heroics for the Wolf Pack on a day where favorites were falling all across the board. Unlike a team like Ohio State or Nebraska, however, the solitary loss dooms Nevada to the status of also-rans in the race to be the next Buster. Now the best they can hope for is to play the spoiler when they invite Boise State to town in November. While they won’t be going to the big show, running the table would give the school an outright WAC championship in its last year in the conference before heading to the Mountain West.

Still, it’s a shame to see them take the fall. Nevada looked like the real deal in other games, as the above comparables show. Their defense was still shaky at times, but the prolific offense masked that with yard after gluttonous yard until confronted with a team that could unholster their pistol in a shootout faster than the team which popularized the Pistol. So while Hawaii plays a different style of football, we’re also left with the reality that the WAC is far better than the computers allow. With potentially five or even six teams bowling this year — Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno State, Idaho, Louisiana Tech and/or Utah State all have a shot — this conference looks better than ever. It’s just a shame that they won’t exist as a viable entity following this year… so all that’s left for Nevada now is to spoil the going-away for Boise and taking the last WAC title in the league’s current form for itself.

BCS Buster Power Rankings: Week 7 is a post originally from: - In Sports We Trust


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  3. BCS Buster Power Rankings: Week 4