College Football Halfway Home: Separating the Pretenders From the Contenders
The college football season is at its halfway point for most teams, and only a handful of unbeatens remain. Out of these 13 teams, who is really going to make a realistic run at the BCS title game?
Let's take a look at all 13 unbeatens, and even a one-loss team or two, and look into our crystal ball to determine if they will be in it to win it all.
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The Buckeyes are halfway home at 6-0, but the hard part of their schedule remains with trips to Iowa City and Madison. Also never count out the Michigan game to be a tough one, despite it being played in Columbus.
Bottom line, the Buckeyes are going to be in it until the very end. Pryor has shown that he can do it with both his arm and his legs, and the front seven is making it tough for opponents to run the ball.
Unless they slip up on the road at Iowa or Wisconsin, the Buckeyes are in a very good spot to be heading to Glendale.
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The Oregon Ducks are also 6-0 and have an inside spot at the BCS title. LaMichael James and the offense has been putting up points left and right, while the defense has proven to be one of the best the Pac-10 has to offer.
Will they stay in it?
For a while, but there are just too many teams that are too talented for Oregon to escape the Pac-10 slate.
Trips to USC and Oregon State appear to be the toughest, and all eyes are on the Civil War to possibly be for the conference crown once again.
Look for Oregon to drop at least one, leaving them outside of the title picture.
Boise State Broncos
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The Broncos have one of the most interesting situations in the nation. Boise appears to be headed towards an unbeaten season, at least until they get to the Nov. 26 trip to Nevada.
Even if they win out, many think they will need some help. The question is, will they get it?
Even if they win out, I still think the BCS will find a way to screw the Broncos over by taking a one-loss SEC team or Big Ten squad.
Boise is a contender, but it will all come down to how the voters and computers feel about them.
Nevada Wolf Pack
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Another interesting at-large candidate is Nevada. But can they make a run at the whole shebang?
Unfortunately, I don't think an unbeaten Nevada team, at 13-0 nevertheless, will get the respect they deserve.
Once again the BCS is more likely to pass them up for a one-loss power conference team. Instead they would send them to the Fiesta Bowl to play the other at-large instead of giving them the BCS conference team they deserve.
No matter how good they are, they are a pretender.
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Mizzou is 5-0 and will be undoubtedly bowling come New Year's. But are they a real threat to the BCS crown?
They have a shot to finish with 10 or 11 wins, but winning in Lincoln is easier said than done. So far, the Tigers have beaten a group of nobodies and a mediocre Illinois, which means the five wins is a little slanted.
Missouri should hope for a Holiday Bowl at the best.
Oklahoma State is yet another pretender from the Big 12. They have beaten basically nobody, which means their 52 ppg average is weighted.
Kendall Hunter is a very good back, and their QB Weeden can make some throws. The bottom line is that Bill Young's defense cannot stop anybody, and in a South division with teams that can put up points, that is not a good thing.
The Cowboys win nine at best and are BCS pretenders.
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Our first of two Big 12 contenders hails from Lincoln. The Cornhuskers made believers out of everyone with their beatdown of Kansas State in front of a national TV audience.
Taylor Martinez may soon be getting some Heisman talk, and the Huskers will be entering title talk as long as they take care of Texas, OK State, and Mizzou in the next three weeks.
Nebraska is a huge title contender, and the Big 12 title game may decide more than just the conference.
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On paper, the Sooners appear to be ready to be penciled into the Big 12 title game. Their two toughest games are at Mizzou and Bedlam.
The big question is which team and which Landry Jones shows up each week. They have seemingly played up or down to opponents, which could lead to an upset by an Iowa State or Baylor.
For now pencil them in as a contender, with the Big 12 title game being their shot at making Glendale.
Michigan State Spartans
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Sparty is going to start to enter the "big picture" talks, but it will not be for long.
Although Michigan State is playing tough, hard-nosed Big 10 football, they have a past that includes falling flat down the stretch.
Games at Iowa and Northwestern will be huge if they are to make a run. Not playing Ohio State is also a plus.
Sparty is heading to a nice warm weather bowl game, but just not a BCS bowl game.
TCU Horned Frogs
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The picture on this slide is pretty, but the Horned Frogs chances at a title breakthrough is not as pretty.
Just like their friends in Boise, they can run the table and expect to be left out to a one-loss SEC, Big Ten, or Big 12 squad.
TCU is for real. Their defense may be just as good as last year's unit, and QB Andy Dalton is the type of guy you want leading your offense.
Unfortunately they will probably be heading to the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl to play..... Boise again. Wouldn't that just show how flawed the system really is?
Utah finally appears to have their offense going after putting up nearly 70 on Iowa State. Utah will continue to roll until they get to the TCU game, the MWC title game, where anything could happen.
As mentioned before, even if they win out expect them to get passed over by the voters and computers.
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Nothing comes easy in the SEC, especially in the West. Auburn is already through three games unscathed, but can they find a way to beat both LSU and Alabama?
They get LSU at home, which is a plus, but have to travel to Tuscaloosa to face what will be an upset and nasty Bama team.
Auburn is a contender for now, but not as solid-looking based on who they still have left on the schedule.
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LSU is all about winning and losing games in the final moments. So far this season it has been for the better, but sooner or later their luck will run out.
LSU is definitely a contender now with four wins in the SEC. However they still have to go to Auburn, beat Bama at home, and if that isn't enough, travel to Fayetteville for a rivalry game to end the season.
It will be tough, but LSU has a realistic chance of making a BCS title run.
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So who else has a shot you ask?
Well Iowa, FSU, Stanford, and maybe Arkansas still have shots, but they are long shots.
Alabama is and will always be the one-loss team that stays in the drivers seat. Look for the Tide to mimic the 2008 Florida team and mercifully beat teams down the stretch.
Also if South Carolina can keep it together and win out, you never know if the Ol Ball Coach and company have a chance.
The bottom line is, just as in other years, the SEC will put a one-loss team in there, and the Big Ten will provide the opponent as long as they are unbeaten. If not the Big 12 gets the other spot.
Once again the Boises and TCUs get shut out of the big prize.