BCS Rankings Week 4: Will the TCU-Utah Winner Stay Ahead of Boise State?

Pete MisthaufenAnalyst INovember 3, 2010

TCU plans on stuffing Utah once again, even without Jerry Hughes
TCU plans on stuffing Utah once again, even without Jerry HughesRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The college football world got a huge surprise on Sunday night when three of the top five teams in the Week 3 BCS standings were from non-automatic qualifying conferences.  Utah jumped three places to fifth overall and TCU leaped over Boise State to claim the third spot.

With TCU traveling to Salt Lake City this Saturday, the winner of the Frog-Ute battle will be looking for a BCS bowl berth, if not a possible spot in the BCS title game should Oregon or Auburn stubble.

Many Boise State supporters and so-called BCS experts were surprised to see TCU jump Boise State, given that TCU played the very weak UNLV Rebels last week, but I was not one of them.  Instead, I predicted that TCU would move ahead and get closer to a possible BCS title game shot. 

Last season, many were surprised by TCU passing Boise State in the BCS ranking and thought it was a short-run thing, but I was again right on.

Now, Boise State supporters and so-called BCS experts have argued that the Broncos may hop back over TCU and that the Utes have no shot of jumping the Broncos even if they win Saturday.


The Case For TCU Staying Ahead

TCU has only three games remaining on its regular season schedule, giving the Frogs only a little room to make points with voters and computers.  But with a matchup against a top five team, TCU has a sucker punch that should knock Boise State out of the running. 

A win over Utah will power TCU to an strong lead in the computer rankings.  More importantly, many voters will move TCU over Boise State in the human polls, giving the Frogs a BCS score close to Oregon and Auburn.

While Boise State has two decent opponents remaining (Hawaii this week and Nevada on the day after Thanksgiving), neither one will seriously move either the human voters or the computers. 

Moreover, Boise State also has two contests against subpar teams, Utah State and Idaho, and a game with a very mediocre Fresno State, which has been living on a long-deceased reputation of being a giant killer.

Meanwhile, TCU has another game versus a highly competitive team on par with Hawaii and Nevada, when San Diego State travels to Fort Worth.  San Diego State is just two controversial calls away from being undefeated.

And while TCU has a game against one of the worst teams in college football, New Mexico, to end the season, it will have little impact on the computers as just one of 12 games.

As such, TCU should remain ahead of Boise State in the BCS computers and should gain  enough human voters to slam the door shut on Boise State.


The Case For Utah Jumping Boise State

Utah has a very different situation than TCU and Boise State. Unlike those two schools, the Utes did not receive the benefit of the doubt from the previous season and have a high ranking, but rather received the typical non-AQ treatment and started at No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and unranked in the AP Poll.

And while the Utes are 8-0 for the third time in the last seven seasons, most of the wins have come against lightweight competition.  Names such as New Mexico, San Jose State and UNLV really do not strike fear in any team and do not lend much weight for the computers or human voters.

However, among those wins are some important ones.  Utah started off the season defeating Pitt in a very ugly game.  Pitt, after some early-season issues, is now leading the Big East, even if the Big East is having its worst season ever.

Utah also went to Iowa State and destroyed the Cyclones, 68-27.  Now Iowa State has little national reputation, but recently went to Austin and beat the Longhorns and is still in control of its own destiny in the Big 12 North.

Utah also just had a tough win over a very gritty Air Force team that pushed Oklahoma to the limit in Norman.

After the TCU battle, Utah still has games at Notre Dame and at San Diego State, as well as the Holy War against BYU.

While Utah's overall BCS computer ranking is currently ninth, the Utes should jump to the top five in the BCS computers should they beat TCU.  Utah's computer numbers should also greatly improve each of the weeks left in the season.

Likewise, wins over TCU, Notre Dame and BYU carry a lot more weight with the human voters as well, even if BYU and Notre Dame are struggling to even become bowl eligible.  And while Boise may have a week or so above Utah in the human polls, Utah should be firmly above the Broncos if Utah reaches 11-0.

Ultimately, Boise is moving to the Mountain West Conference to avoid situations like these.  But with BYU and Utah already gone and TCU possibly on the way out, Boise might only face harder competition without enough respect to get the Broncos into the BCS with a loss, let alone get a shot at a BCS title.