College Football 2011: Top 10 BCS Busters for the 2011 Season

Matt Sheehan@@MattSheehan333Analyst IJune 7, 2011

College Football 2011: Top 10 BCS Busters for the 2011 Season

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Wide receiver Tyron Carrier  #35 of the Houston Cougars carries the ball against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    As if the BCS isn’t confusing enough, there are always a few teams that cause a disruption in the BCS picture. Last year it was Nevada when it kept Boise State out of the BCS, and in years before Hawaii has pulverized the BCS outlook.

    In 2011 we introduce some teams that are new to playing the “buster” role and even a few teams that are used to having to worry about being busted. Whether it’s the chance of knocking elite teams off their pedestal or going undefeated, these 10 teams have a legitimate shot at making their mark in college football.

Air Force Falcons

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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 18:  Quarterback Tim Jefferson Jr. #7 of the Air Force Falcons dives across the goal line to score a touchdown against the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium November 18, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Air Force won 35-20.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The Falcons have both the talent and the schedule to make a splash in college football this season, period.

    Air Force kicks off its season by playing TCU in its second game of the year, and while it will still be the underdog, it will make for a great game nonetheless. The Falcons also have two more opportunities to wreak some havoc later in the season against Notre Dame and Boise State, two teams that will be vying for a BCS berth in 2011.

    The blue and white return six starters on offense and seven starters on defense, two of which got all-conference credentials last season. The offense also returns its top quarterback, running back  and receiver, and having top experience back is certainly a key component in dethroning BCS hopefuls.

East Carolina Pirates

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    BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Dominique Davis #4 of the East Carolina Pirates runs with the ball against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Last year the Pirates carried a very prolific offense that ranked eighth in the nation for passing, which is great considering their quarterback, Dominique Davis, is coming back for his senior season.

    The downside is their defense that let up 44 points per game this year, but maybe there’s a shot of turning the ship around with seven defensive starters returning.

    ECU has a very competitive non-conference schedule, squaring off against South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina within its first four games. Odds are it will keep at least one of these games close if it can get its offense moving again, and it could possibly be a team that will change the BCS picture.

Miami RedHawks

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 04:  Quarterback Zac Dysert #4 of the Miami University RedHawks runs against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Miami RedHawks kick off 2011 with a very formidable opponent in Missouri, but if they can hang with the Tigers then, Miami will be a BCS buster for sure.

    The Red Hawks return a total of 17 starters, four of which were named to the MAC all-conference team last year. Miami will return its 32nd-rated passing offense since QB Zac Dysert will be behind center again.

    Miami not only has a chance to repaint the BCS picture by beating Missouri, but it also has the chance of BCS talk if it can complete an undefeated season. The first game is by far the biggest challenge for Miami, and from then on it has to face a weak MAC schedule in which it is a heavy favorite to win again.

    They may not seem scary right now, but if they can topple the Tigers in Week 1, which they have the potential to, look out for the mighty RedHawks.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 30: Head coach Todd Graham of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane talks to his team including (L-R) Alan Dock #11, Milton Howell #19, Bryan Burnham #88 and Donnell Hawkins #43 during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Da
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Stock up on canned goods and bottled water, because the Hurricane is coming through the BCS picture.

    Tulsa, which went 10-3 last year and beat its only Top-25 opponent, returns 19 starters as it looks to win the Conference USA West division again. Tulsa has an abundant offense that ranked in the top 20 for passing yards, rushing yards and points for. We know that defense wins championships, but having a Cadillac offense doesn’t hurt either.

    The Golden Hurricane have a chance to demolish the BCS outlook right off the bat as they face Oklahoma to start off the year. Even if they can’t come out on top over the Sooners, they have a shot to beat Oklahoma State and Boise State in the next three weeks.

    You may not know where Tulsa is from (Oklahoma, by the way), but by the end of the season fanbases may be wishing the Golden Hurricane never left their city.

Southern Methodist Mustangs

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    DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Kicker Matt Szymanski #6 of the SMU Mustangs misses a field goal in the fourth quarter against the Army Black Knights during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on December 30, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Finally the Southern Methodists Mustangs are getting over the death penalty given to them back in 1987, and they can have a big-time rally with a big-time season in 2011.

    The Mustangs ultimately have three chances to make a big splash in college football this year, and they have a strong chance to do it not one, not two, but all three of those times, and here is why.

    Texas A&M hosts its in-state opponent in Week 1, and June Jones returns 18 starters and six all-conference players that are looking to cause mayhem immediately.

    SMU also has two other shots to make its name against TCU and Houston, which some people say is a BCS dark horse. Bringing back Kyle Padron, who led the Mustangs' 21st-ranked passing attack, and running back Zach Line, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry, will make SMU’s offense feared.

Houston Cougars

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Running back Bryce Beall #25 of the Houston Cougars carries the ball against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Another Conference USA team is thrown into the mix, but for a different reason than its brethren. Instead of ousting BCS teams on its schedule, Houston actually has a very high possibility to take advantage of its weak schedule.

    The biggest team the Cougars will face is UCLA, and if they can get over that Week 1 hill, expect them to keep on rolling. The offense had as hot a season as just about anyone, throwing for a fifth-best 327 yards and averaging nearly 38 points per game.

    Senior Marcus McGraw will have to anchor their 4-3 defensive attack to give the Cougars a shot at immortality.

    By the end of the season, don’t be surprised to see Houston have a zero penciled in its loss column.

BYU Cougars

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    FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Jake Heaps #9 of the Brigham Young University Cougars throws a pass against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The Stormin’ Mormons are preparing for the independent life, and they could be doing it in a big fashion. The beginning of their schedule on paper looks very difficult, but once you dissect the games, they seem very winnable for the BYU Cougars considering the offensive weapons they bring back.

    The top skill players on the offense are all coming back, and the dual running back attack of Brian Kariya and J.J. Di Luigi will have defenses in a tizzy.

    The defense also gave up a respectable 21.6 points per game, and if it can get over early challenges in Ole Miss and Texas, then get ready for BYU football to get BYU basketball attention.

Texas Longhorns

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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 16: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert #7 of the Texas Longhorns during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Texas Defeated Nebraska 20-13. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Never thought that they would have to be classified as a “buster” team, but here they are.

    It may seem odd at first sight, but if you look at the preseason rankings, the Longhorns are nowhere to be seen. Texas not only has just about as good a chance as anyone to overthrow some BCS favorites, but also has a slight chance to become one late in the season.

    Quarterback Garrett Gilbert had a putrid season in 2010, throwing for only 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. If the winds don’t turn in his favor, Connor Wood will be ready to take the helm.

    Big 12 play opens up with the game of the year for the Longhorns when they face the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry. If Texas can get away with the “W” there, then the BCS should be ready to greet its presence.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats runs against the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    These guys may wear purple, but they are no joke. Dan Persa made his presence in the Big Ten known last year by nearly toppling Michigan State and leading his Wildcats past Iowa in the last game of the regular season.

    Since the Wildcats are coming off a decent season and returning 16 starters, it should be no shock to see the Wildcats change the layout in the Big Ten playoffs. Fellow “Legends” Michigan State and Nebraska are starting the season staring at BCS contention, but if there is any dark horse team that can obstruct that view, it’s definitely NW.

    The dual-threat quarterback Persa can use his arm and legs to separate a defense and break a game open, and the defense led by Vince Browne can bring offenses to a screeching halt.

Navy Midshipmen

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    PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 11: Safety Jordan Fraser #13 of the Navy Midshipmen listens to the Navel Academy's alma mater with teammates after a game against the Army Black Knights on December 11, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    The good ol’ Midshipmen. How can anyone disrespect a team that will eventually turn around and protect their country? I would certainly hope not, but this season they have more reasons to root for them.

    Returning 13 starters, the Midshipmen will start all upperclassmen, and that experience will give them a shot to blow by South Carolina and Notre Dame. Navy also has an advantage because all its running backs in the triple option offense it runs are back, and that will give the Midshipmen that extra surge they sometimes lacked in 2010.

    Other than South Carolina and Notre Dame, Navy has a very mediocre schedule and has potential to exceed last year’s 9-4 record. Military teams have a decreased chance of grabbing a BCS spot since they need to finish No. 1 or 2 to guarantee acceptance, but beating teams like SC and ND will make Navy a great “buster” squad.