Party Crashers: Mid-Major CFB Programs With Potential To Win It All
Since the inception of the BCS, mid-major or non AQ (automatic qualifier) teams have been fighting to earn not just a bid to play in the championship game, but to earn the respect of the college football community. And for the most part when given the chance these teams have beaten the "big boys of college football." So here's a look at teams this season who could crash the BCS party.
The Broncos start this season ranked No. 3, the highest in program history, after going undefeated last season. Last year's Broncos capped off their second undefeated season in the past two years (along with three undefeated regular seasons). In 2008, the Broncos' sole loss came at the hands of TCU, by way of a 17-16 thriller. This season, Boise plays Va. Tech and Oregon State, while both teams are solid top 25 V-tech is the real contender. The Broncos' hopes rest on the capable shoulders of Kellen Moore, coincidentally, Moore's only game in which he threw more INTs than TDs was in the Broncos' loss to TCU in the San Diego Credit Union Bowl almost two years go. If Boise can come up big against VT, they may be finally receive an invite to the big dance.
TCU Horned Frogs
After losing their undefeated season in the Fiesta Bowl at the hands of Boise State, TCU comes into this season ranked No. 6 in the nation. Last season, TCU won all their conference games handily, the only exception being a three-point win over Air Force. Despite their recent success, expectations for the Horned Frogs should be tempered after the loss of star defensive end Jerry Hughes and leading rusher Joseph Turner. TCU starts the season against No. 24 Oregon State, and will test their metal the first week of the season. Even if TCU manages to beat Oregon State, their schedule isn't a cake walk, as they have to face two other perennial BCS busters in Utah and BYU. If the Horned Frogs can run this gauntlet unscathed, they will have earned the right to compete for the title.
The original BCS buster, Utah burst onto the scene with a 35-7 trouncing of Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Despite being the first party crasher, Utah is better known as the team that decimated the 12-1 Crimson Tide in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, 31-17. Last season the Utes went 10-3 and capped off the season with a big win over California. The Utes will take the field led by junior Jordan Wynn who came up big in the second half of last season going 4-2 while throwing eight TDs and four INTs. The toughest task for Utah will be replacing leading rusher Eddie Wide. The Utes begin the season against number No. 15 Pittsburgh and will face TCU mid-season. Throw in BYU and an undefeated Utah team will be battle tested and provide a great story line especially if they were to play Alabama.
Of all the potential BCS party crashers, BYU has the toughest route. The cougars play both the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs, and the No. 20 FSU Seminoles, both of them away. When you factor in the Utes, BYU will certainly have a fight on their hands if they want a chance at the big game, but if they receive the invite, they will most certainly be prepared.
When a college football fan thinks high-powered offense, one of the first teams that comes to mind is the Houston Cougars led by quarterback Case Keenum. While the Cougars don't face any top 25 opponents, their non-conference schedule includes Texas Tech, UCLA and Miss State giving an undefeated Houston more credit with the voters. While going undefeated won't guarantee the Cougars a spot in the title game, they would have a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl birth.
In the end only one if any of these teams will earn a chance to play for the title in Glendale, AZ the three most likely to crash the party:
Boise State is the most logical choice, as they start third and will most certainly be Glendale-bound if they can get by Va. Tech.
TCU starts sixth and play their toughest opponent early, meaning if they lose to Oregon State right off the bat the Horned Frogs will have 11 more games to make the voters forget.
Utah starts just outside the top 25 but has perhaps the most conducive schedule to going undefeated. If the Utes can beat a weakened TCU, and can best in state rival BYU they will make a strong case for a title invite; however, 28th may leave the Utes with to big a gap to breach.