Power Ranking Potential BCS Busters

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

Power Ranking Potential BCS Busters

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    Over the 14 year history of the BCS, 19 non-AQ (automatic qualifier) teams have technically been in position to be BCS “Busters,” with only a mere seven making it to an actual BCS bowl.

    Of the seven who actually were lucky enough to receive an at-large bid to the big money dance, four were Mountain West members and three came from the WAC.

    This means that no team from the MAC, C-USA or the Sun Belt has ever made it to a BCS-sanctioned postseason game.

    Additionally, no independent squad other than Notre Dame (the Irish are 0-3 in BCS play) has ever garnered a BCS bowl bid.

    All this fascinating data leads us to the provocative question of which non-AQ teams—if any—can smash through in 2012-13 and be the first BCS Busters since TCU went to the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season.

    This is a question that becomes obviously more difficult to answer with Boise State already at one loss and regular busters TCU and Utah now members of BCS-AQ conferences.

    And the situation becomes decidedly more fraught when you add in the fact that after only two weeks of football there are no undefeated teams remaining in C-USA or the Mountain West.

    The following slideshow pinpoints and then power ranks (for your pleasure) seven squads that have a potential BCS party crash on the cards this season.

    But, no matter how you slice it or dice it, these teams will have one of the steepest slopes in all of sport to climb to make it.

    Yes, let’s keep in mind that of the 124 teams who have participated in the BCS festivities since its inception in 1998, only seven, or five percent, have been non-AQ teams.

     Yikes.

7. UTSA

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    The least likely of our potential busters comes via the WAC’s newest member, the University of Texas at San Antonio.

    UTSA has only been lacing it up as a college football entity since 2011 and only moved up to the FBS ranks this season, but still their 2-0 start as a non-AQ team puts them on our list.

    The Roadrunners (coached by former Miami Hurricanes head man Larry Coker) knocked off fellow new FBS member South Alabama (hailing from the Sun Belt) in Week 1 and then beat FCS Texas A&M-Commerce in Week 2.

    With games remaining against New Mexico State, Rice, Utah State, Louisiana Tech and Idaho it’s unlikely that UTSA will run the tables, and even if they did it’s hardly the type of slate to compete with a one loss team from the ACC or even Big East.

6. Louisiana-Monroe

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    College football’s newest David, ULM reached the ranks of the unblemished via their stunning upset of top ranked Goliath-esque Arkansas last Saturday night.

    Warhawk fans would probably be well advised to soak up every moment of joy during the seven days that separate last Saturday’s shocking victory and this week’s game as the road ahead is anything but smooth.

    Yes, ULM returned 15 starters from their 4-8 squad a year ago and beat the No. 8 ranked Hogs to go 1-0, but up ahead is a road trip to Auburn, that is 0-2 and not happy about it, Baylor and then the meat of an improving Sun Belt field.

    The Warhawks own rights to one of the most astonishing upsets in college football in the last five years, but it’s highly implausible that perfection lies anywhere on the Monroe horizon.

5. Louisiana-Lafayette

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    First year ULL head coach Mark Hudspeth led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9-4 record and first ever bowl appearance and win in 2011, which makes 2012 seem promising relative to a decade of .500 or below results.

    But, with only two returning starters on defense and a schedule that includes a Week 3 visit to Oklahoma State and a Week 10 trip to the Sunshine State to face the Gators, a perfect run seems like a football version of Fantasyland.

    ULL is 2-0 after handling FCS Lamar in Week 1 and then knocking off perennial Sun Belt power broker Troy on the road in Week 2, but a 12-0 finish and an at-large BCS bid seem monumentally out of reach.

4. Utah State

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    Another non-AQ squad that is undefeated through two weeks of ball via a huge upset, Utah State knocked off Utah for the first time since 1997 last Friday night to reach the land of 2-0.

    The Aggies posted their best finish in a decade last season by going 7-6 and garnered a bowl bid for the first time in 15 years, but like other teams on this list, it’s their schedule that will likely be the reason they don’t reach the Promised Land.

    Utah State travels to Madison, WI next weekend to face a hostile Badgers team and then will have to hit the road to face a good BYU team in Week 6.

    Even if the Aggies shock the world and win those two uphill battles, the balance of their WAC schedule might hold at least one hiccup for what in reality is a fairly young team.

    Utah State is a program moving in the right direction and it will be intriguing to see how far they can climb, but a BCS bid remains wholly doubtful.

3. Louisiana Tech

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    Another football enterprise on the right track, Louisiana Tech is in a good position to repeat as WAC champions in the final gridiron season of the league.

    But, even 16 starters and a schedule Phil Steele says is the No. 111 most difficult (or 13th easiest) in the land won’t likely be enough for the Techsters to play in the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl in January.

    The Bulldogs are 1-0 after sinking a browbeat Houston in Week 2, but left on the seasonal table are Week 1’s make-up game with Texas A&M in October along with back-to-back visits to Illinois and Virginia at the end of September.

    If La Tech goes undefeated in 2012 they’ll make as good a case as anyone to be BCS busters, but that’s one of the biggest “if's” you’re likely to find this season.

2. Ohio

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    The other side of the story regarding Penn State dropping its 2012 opener to a MAC school is the fact that they were playing a very good team.

    Yes, Ohio’s win over the Nittany Lions was improbable, but alongside the storyline of what has gone down in not-so-Happy Valley since last November is the tale of a team that should be very good in 2012.

    And that team is Ohio University.

    Ohio returned 15 starters from their 2011 product that went 10-4 and fell three points short of their first MAC title since 1968, and as far as overall depth is concerned, Phil Steele branded the Bobcats the No. 11 most experienced team in the FBS for 2012.

    So the big question is—can Ohio actually run the tables on the rest of their schedule and make the people at the BCS headquarters nervous?

    Realistically, you have to think they can.

    From Week 3 onwards the Bobcats travel to Marshall, host FCS Norfolk State, visit UMass, host Buffalo and then Akron, travel to Miami (OH), welcome Eastern Michigan and then Bowling Green and finish up with trips to Ball State and Kent State.

    And, if that all goes as planned, the Bobcats will have to win the championship game against whomever wins the West.

    After beating Penn State in Week 1, Ohio may have the best chance of any MAC team in the BCS era to make it to the big dance.

    The million dollar question is if the Bobcats finish 12-0, will they get a bid?

1. BYU

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    The non-AQ team with the best opportunity to make it to the BCS in 2012 is BYU, a team that is currently independent from a football standpoint and free of conference ties.

    Though some might argue that Notre Dame also belongs on this list, don’t forget that the Irish actually have an automatic tie-in with the BCS that prescribes inclusion if the Golden Domer's finish No. 8 or better in the final BCS standings.

    BYU, Navy and Army have no such provision.

    What makes BYU’s case the strongest for making a BCS bust this season begins with the fact that they play a schedule that, if completed blamelessly, lends to consideration for ascension to the big leagues (i.e. they’re playing five BCS teams, not two or three).

    Secondly, the Cougars have the type of squad that could run the tables on the slate which is obviously an important factor.

    Add in the bonus that BYU won’t have to deal with a pesky conference championship game and things look even brighter for the guys with “Y’s” emblazoned upon their helmets.

    BYU returned 17 starters from their 10-win 2011 team this season and are 2-0 after beating Washington State and FCS Weber State in their first two contests.

    It’s also important to note that the Cougars are playing with a full cupboard and have, according to the Rivals.com comprehensive team rankings, recruited classes that ranked No. 21, No. 14, No. 10 and No. 22 over the last four years, respectively.

    BYU’s toughest tests on the road to perfection will come starting next week with a trip to Utah, a team that should be madder than a wet hen after losing to Utah State last week, followed by a road trip to a very young Boise State team in Week 4.

    The other big run comes via a Week 6 through Week 9 stretch that includes a Friday night game vs. Utah State, a visit from Oregon State and then road trips to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

    It won’t be easy, but if the Cougars are 12-0 by the end of November, then it will be difficult for the BCS to say "no" when Bronco Mendenhall drops to one knee and proposes.