Hail, hail, Mountain West Conference.
College Football’s biggest little league continues to steal headlines from the big dogs of the BCS.
First, there was Utah’s 2005 Fiesta Bowl triumph over Pitt. Then came the Ute’s 2009 shocker against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Now, the Mountain West Conference presents TCU. And the fourth-ranked Horned Frogs aren’t just looking to pull a Utah and get into the best BCS bowl possible.
No, this team wants to play for a championship. A national championship, that is.
And the best part is: they’ve got a serious chance.
TCU finds itself ranked fourth in the BCS standings, which is the highest any non-BCS conference team has ever reached in those rankings.
And with only weeks left on the 2009 regular season, the Horned Frogs are no longer forced to hope and pray for extensive help from the teams above them.
The number one and number two-ranked teams, Florida and Alabama, will play each other in the SEC championship game, meaning at least one of them will finish the regular season with a loss.
Texas, ranked number two by the BCS, still has trap games against Kansas and at Texas A&M on the schedule, followed by a likely match-up with Nebraska in the Big 12 title game. Nebraska beat Oklahoma last weekend.
And it seems highly unlikely that any team behind the Frogs could, pardon the reference, hop over TCU in the standings. Neither Cincinnati nor Boise State has the strength of schedule to make that big of an impact on voters (or computers).
So, the fate of TCU may just lie in the hands of... TCU. Win out-and win impressively -and a trip to the BCS title game is a legitimate possibility.
It is fitting, of course, that the last major test for the Frogs would come against their Mountain West predecessor to BCS glory, the Utah Utes, in this weekend’s showcase game.
The Mountain West Conference continues to prove itself to be the best of the non-BCS conferences, even if most college football fans have failed to recognize it.
This bowl season, TCU may make it may be impossible to miss.
On to Week 11…
Five games you can’t miss this weekend:
What an intriguing situation the Bearcats find themselves.
For most of the season, they had an outside Heisman candidate at quarterback in Tony Pike. Then, a Pike injury opens the door for Zach Collaros, who just happened to put up just as, if not more, impressive numbers than Pike.
Both QBs are expected to see action tonight against the Mountaineers, which makes for some interesting drama. How will the team – or the two players – react to the two-quarterback rotation?
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, West Virginia 21
As long as we’re giving some love to non-BCS match-ups this weekend, you’ve got to take a look at this game from the WAC. Everyone knows about Boise State’s season, of course, but Idaho may just be the most impressive story from the WAC this season.
The Vandals have undergone a remarkable turnaround this season, going 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the league. But Idaho may have to play without starting quarterback Nate Enderle, who is out with a rotator cuff injury.
Prediction: Boise State 42, Idaho 23
This game likely qualifies as the Gators’ toughest test left on their regular season schedule. The OId Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, would love to stun Urban Meyer and Co. in Columbia. And the Gators have been less than perfect lately, suddenly displaying weaknesses no one thought they would this season.
Whether South Carolina can pull the upset will likely be determined by the play of the Gamecock’s offense, which has averaged just over 12 points in their last four contests. South Carolina will have to score more points than that… Florida may be showing areas of weakness, but not that many.
Prediction: Florida 23, South Carolina 14
What a wild year in the Big Ten. Just when it looked like Penn State was the class of the conference, they got beat by Iowa. Just when Iowa looked like the team to beat, they get beat by Northwestern. And now, the class of the conference is a two-loss Ohio State team that lost to… Purdue?
Whatever the case is, this game suddenly determines the Big Ten champion and hands the winner a ticket to the Rose Bowl. If that’s not enough reason to watch the game, you can focus on the storyline of Iowa freshman quarterback James Vandenburg starting in place of injured starter Ricky Stanzi. How will Vandenburg handle the Horseshoe?
Prediction: Ohio State 28, Iowa 20
The only thing wrong with this game is that you might have some difficulty finding it on your television set. The unfortunate placing on CBS College Sports Net makes little sense for a game that deserves a true national TV audience.
While everyone seems to be, with good reason, jumping on the Horned Frogs’ bandwagon (they enter the game as 16-point favorites), it’s important to remember that they are playing a very good Utah team, whose only loss came at Oregon in September.
Freshman Jordan Wynn will get the start at quarterback for Utah against one of the nation’s top defenses. But Wynn was impressive last week against New Mexico. Both defenses should have success, and whoever establishes a successful running game is likely to come out on top.
Prediction: TCU 21, Utah 17
This will be a motivated Cal team, playing a week after losing a tough game to Oregon State and star running back Jahvid Best to a frightening injury. Arizona has proven it is for real, but this is the Golden Bears’ last chance to win a marquee game at home in 2009. Plus, the Wildcats have lost three straight in Berkeley. This weekend, Cal makes it four.
Prediction: Cal 29, Arizona 27
For your viewing pleasure:
Tennessee at Ole Miss (Sat. 12:00 EST, CBS): Ole Miss 20, Tennessee 13
No. 7 Georgia Tech at Duke (Sat. 12:00 EST, ESPN2): Georgia Tech 28, Duke 21
Michigan at No. 20 Wisconsin (Sat. 12:00 EST, Big Ten Network): Wisconsin 33, Michigan 22
No. 2 Texas at Baylor (Sat. 12:00 EST, Fox Sports Net): Texas: 45, Baylor 19
No. 14 Miami at North Carolina (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC): Miami 30, UNC 27
Nebraska at Kansas (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC): Nebraska 19, Kansas 16
Stanford at No. 9 USC (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC): USC 28, Stanford 24
Auburn at Georgia (Sat. 7:00 EST, ESPN2): Georgia 21, Auburn 17
No. 2 Alabama at Mississippi State (Sat. 7:00 EST, ESPN): Alabama 24, MSU 14
Texas Tech at No. 19 Oklahoma State (Sat. 8:00 EST, ABC): OSU 34, Texas Tech 28
Notre Dame at No. 12 Pittsburgh (Sat. 8:00 EST, ABC): Pitt 36, Notre Dame 24
Arizona State at No. 13 Oregon (Sat. 10:20 EST, ESPN): Oregon 29, ASU 20
East Carolina at Tulsa (Sun. 8:15 EST, ESPN): Tulsa 35, ECU 23
Toby Gerhart (RB -Stanford)
Haven’t heard of this guy yet? You haven’t been paying attention. Gerhart is second in the nation in rushing yards (1,217), second in rushing touchdowns (17) and is first in the country in total rushing attempts (233). The dude gets the rock a lot, and does a lot of good things when he does. This weekend, Gerhart gets a chance to show off his skills at the Coliseum against a solid USC defense (Sat, 3:30 EST, ABC ).