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College Football Rankings: 5 Unranked Teams That Can Still Make the BCS

Ryne HodkowskiAnalyst IJune 25, 2016

College Football Rankings: 5 Unranked Teams That Can Still Make the BCS

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    It is already October (at least it will be come Saturday).  That means many teams' seasons are a third of the way done. 

    We've labeled the contenders (LSU, OU, Alabama) and the pretenders (FSU, Notre Dame, Georgia), but what about the teams that are playing really good football and flying under the radar?

    There are two qualifications to be on this list.  One, you must be unranked as of today.  And two, you have to have a legitimate shot at getting to the BCS.

    Apologies to a team like Mississippi State, who may be as good as the teams listed, but have a slim-to-zero percent chance of making it to a BCS game.

    Remember, all these teams are unranked, which makes them all long shots.  This isn't a list of teams that are definitely going to make the BCS, just underrated ones who provide a threat.

Ohio State

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    How many times do we see a team lose a game or two in a row and remain ranked (see Florida State)?

    Rarely does a team ranked in the middle of the Top 25 lose a road game and fall completely out of the rankings and out of people's consciousness, but it happened this year to Ohio State.

    Ohio State did not play well against Toledo. They played even worse against Miami. 

    That said, they have as much talent as anyone in the Big Ten, and are getting more talented as we speak.

    The Buckeyes have welcomed back their suspended players.  Jordan Hall has already rushed for 171 yards in two games; he provides a nice complement to Carlos Hyde.

    Most encouragingly, however, is how Luke Fickell has made the switch to QB Braxton Miller. The true freshman offers another running threat on the ground. 

    If OSU is going to turn it around, it needs to do so quickly.  The Buckeyes host Michigan State this week before traveling to Lincoln and Champaign.  After a bye week, the Buckeyes host Wisconsin.  A 3-1 record in that stretch and the Buckeyes will be right in the thick of things for the Big Ten title.

Utah

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    Utah came into their new conference as somewhat of an afterthought, despite having won 22 regular season games in the past two seasons.  Many experts considered them to be one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 South, on par with Arizona and UCLA.

    As it turns out, they may be one of the best.

    They traveled to the Coliseum and lost by only nine points.  They then took out their frustration on their intra-state rival, thumping BYU 54-10.

    They've had a bye week to refocus on Pac-12 play.  They have two huge games upcoming, both in Salt Lake, against Washington and Arizona State.  If they win those two games, they'll be in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 South title.

    A major reason for this is that they avoid having to play both Stanford and Oregon.  I'm usually not a big "look at the schedules" kind of guy, but it is important when ASU travels to Autzen, and Utah hosts Washington (who isn't a slouch themselves).

    Of course, it will most likely come down to the game against the Sun Devils next week, and Utah has a great chance to win.  ASU has been shaky so far, needing overtime to beat Mizzou at home (after Mizzou missed a field goal at the end of regulation), and losing to Illinois on the road.  It will be only the Sun Devils' second road game.

    The Utes have a proven winner in quarterback Jordan Wynn (pictured).  John White IV is an emerging running back, and the defense isn't too bad either (they forced seven turnovers against BYU).

    The next two weeks will tell the story.  If Utah defends their home turf, they will be in first place in the Pac-12 South and will have an easier schedule going forward.  After that, they can find themselves in the Pac-12 title game, and may finally get a chance to play Stanford or Oregon.

Cincinnati

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    Cincinnati gets bonus points because they're not only unranked, but they haven't received one vote in either poll.  Shame on the pollsters.

    The mainstream thought is that USF, Pitt or WVU are going to take down the Big East.  No one should sleep on this Bearcats though.

    QB Zack Collaros is a dual threat.  Last Thursday against NC State, he threw for 263 yards and two TDs, while adding 52 yards and two TDs on the ground.  Overall, the offense put up 44 points on 503 yards.

    The defense was impressive, too.  Two weeks after running into a buzzsaw in Knoxville, the defense responded with their best game.  They held the Wolfpack to 14 points and forced three turnovers. The defense has 10 returning starters from last year and they have shown they can play better than they did in Tennessee.

    The season will be defined with a three game stretch starting October 22nd.  The Bearcats travel to USF, then to Pitt, then play WVU in Paul Brown stadium. 

    It isn't an easy stretch, but they've shown they are as talented as Pitt and USF, and can compete with WVU. 

Kansas State

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    Bill Snyder is the fifth-longest tenured coach in FBS football.  His 20 years at K-State are behind only Paterno (46), Ault (27), Beamer (25) and Blakeney (21).  However, this is only his third consecutive year coaching the Wildcats, after he was out for three years from 2006-2008.

    That means that he finally has his players and has established the identity he wants in the program.

    Kansas State looked very impressive in their road win at Miami this past week.  They controlled the ball, ran for six yards per carry and didn't turn the ball over. 

    They have a dual-threat QB in Collin Klein.  On the year, Klein has thrown for 335 yards and added 310 on the ground.  Combine this with RB John Hubert's 286 yards and you can see that KSU has a formidable rushing attack.

    The defense has played great so far, allowing only 10.3 PPG (admittedly not to the toughest competition).  They should see their biggest threat so far this weekend when Baylor comes to town.

    I'm already on record for picking K-State to pull the minor upset (the spread is now Baylor -3.5).  If Kansas State can control the ball, run effectively and keep Baylor and Robert Griffin on the sidelines, they can pull the upset.  It will be Baylor's first road game.

    Under the new conference alignment, the Big 12 plays a true round-robin.  This means games at Texas A&M and Oklahoma State and home games against Texas and OU.  2-2 in that stretch would be incredible and would certainly make KSU BCS worthy.

Houston

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    Houston has a good chance of going undefeated this season.  Whether or not that's enough to get into the BCS is another story altogether.  Let's just focus on their team for now.

    We all know that Case Keenum is closing in on the all time passing record; he's 1,952 yards behind Timmy Chang, and is currently averaging 383 yards per game.  That said, what's most impressive is that despite throwing the ball 155 times this season, he's only been picked off twice.

    Houston has also shown the ability to run the ball when they want to.  Bryce Beall is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and Michael Hayes is averaging 5.2.  The only problem is that they've combined to carry the 75 times in four games.

    The Cougars have already had to sweat two close games.  They had a great finish to the first half against UCLA, putting them up 31-14, but they struggled in the second half before eventually winning 38-34. Two weeks ago, Houston fell behind 34-7 to Louisiana Tech with twenty minutes left before eventually winning 35-34.  The defense isn't great, but maybe—just maybe—it's good enough. 

    Clearly the Cougars aren't invincible.  They're not on the same level as Boise State, TCU or even a team like Hawaii in 2007.  That being said, they should be favored in every game here on out.  Their only road games are at UTEP, UAB, Tulane and Tulsa (in the regular season finale).  The first three shouldn't be a problem; Tulsa can be an instant classic.

    Houston has been in this position before.  In 2009, they started 3-0 with wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and they figured to be favored in the rest of their games.  Then, they lost at UTEP as 14-point favorites.  All that said, I think the defense has improved enough, and they are showing flashes of a running game. 

    Those two things should be enough for Houston to have a good shot at going undefeated, and therefore garner serious BCS consideration.

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