Non-BCS Top 15
Fresno State is widely considered the "giant killer" of college football with their 10 wins over BCS schools since 2000. However, Utah might have something to say about that considering the Utes have beaten 11 BCS schools in that same time span; including eight BCS wins in the last three years.
TCU's win at Oklahoma last year is considered by many the most impressive win over a BCS school by a non-BCS school in recent years. However, OU finished a disappointing 7-4 in 2005. Fresno State's near upset of USC gets the 'Dogs a lot of respect but it still was a loss. Utah has whipped top 25 teams in its last two bowls games, Pitt and Georgia Tech, and was the first and only school to finish in the top six of the BCS standings.
Yet, everyone seems to forget N. Illinois' amazing run in 2003 when it beat No. 15 Maryland, Iowa State and No. 21 Alabama. What about Boise State? The Broncos have gone an impressive 45-7 the last four years, but who have they beaten? BSU has knocked off only two BCS schools in those four years, Iowa State and Oregon State. Both schools were unranked and both were beaten on the blue turf.
This year the road to the BCS gets a little easier for the “little” guys of major college football. The BCS has been like the Da Vinci Code for the five conferences without an automatic bid. Since its inception in 1998, only Utah has been able to crack code and share in the riches of a BCS bowl payout.
The BCS has decided to spread the love in 2006 by adding a fifth BCS bowl. The six BCS conference champions still get their automatic bid. After those six, any team ranked in the top 14 in the final BCS standings will be eligible for an at-large bid. The highest ranked non-BCS conference champion will receive an automatic bid if it’s ranked in the top 12 of the BCS or ranked higher than any of the six BCS conference champions. Let's not forget Notre Dame, who just has to be ranked in the top eight to get an automatic bid.
Who has the best chance to crack the BCS this year? The formula to be a BCS buster is simple. First a school must start the season ranked in the preseason top 25 or beat a highly ranked BCS team early in the season. After that is accomplished, that team must run the table. In theory, a non-BCS team could lose one or two games and still finished ranked in the top 12, but it’s highly unlikely. These are top 15 non-BCS teams with the best chance to get an automatic bid. Please keep in mind; these are not the top 15 teams in terms of talent. These are simply the top 15 teams with enough talent, luck and have the schedule conducive to finishing ranked in the top 12 of the BCS when it is all said and done the first week of December.
1. Utah- The Utes did it once before and my money is on them to have the best shot to do it again. The have a good shot to start the season ranked in the top 25. If not, knock off UCLA on September 2 and the media will already pencil the Utes in the Fiesta Bowl for the second time in three years.
2. Boise State- Do these guys ever play a real schedule? Oops, I forgot they tried last year and got their ass handed to them by Georgia. This year BSU is back to their old ways, Oregon State at home, at Wyoming and their toughest challenge is (drum roll please), at Utah. BSU's best chance to get the early season hype is to knock off a top 25 Ute team in Salt Lake or hope for Fresno State to beat LSU the week before the Bulldogs travel to Boise.
3. TCU- The 'Frogs had their chance last year, and if this year's formula would have been in place, their loss to SMU wouldn't have mattered. This time TCU will probably be ranked in the preseason top 25, thus all they have to do is run the table. Unfortunately, games at Baylor, vs. Texas Tech, at Utah and against BYU all come before mid-October. TCU has the talent to win all four, but after last year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the 'Frogs stumble against BYU or Utah after upsetting the Red Raiders.
4. Tulsa- The Golden Hurricane came out of nowhere to win the conference title their first year in Conference USA. This year Tulsa replaces games against Minnesota and at Oklahoma with games at BYU and at Navy. It could equal an unbeaten season, but hardly enough to get voters to believe in you. Yeah, you beat an uninspired Fresno State team in the Liberty Bowl, but what have you done for me lately.
5. UTEP- The Miners could easily finish 7-5, but also could run the table if Jordan Palmer is able to distinguish jersey colors this year. The schedule comes down to two games, Texas Tech at home and at Tulsa. If the Miners can upset the Red Raiders, then it could be a magical season. But I am getting ahead of myself. If Palmer is still color blind, then the season will end August 31 at San Diego State.
6. Fresno State- My alma mater likes to take on the big boys. FS gets respect from the national media by doing so, but also gets boned in the ass by losing to some random WAC foe. It happens every year, and there is no reason to think it will not happen again. However, every dog has its day, and FS just might have enough moxie to finish in the top 12 in 2006. If the 'Dogs can beat Oregon, a close loss to LSU still may not be enough to keep them out of the BCS. However, this team has not been able to win in Boise, and Pat Hill has already flushed away one sure fire BCS berth in 2001 by losing to the Broncos. My guess it happens again this year.
7. Navy- If Notre Dame wasn't so freakin good; the Middies would be No. 1 on this list. Sure Navy has some semi-tough games at Stanford and at home against Tulsa and Rutgers. But Navy has enough talent to bury all three of those teams on a good day. The Irish are a different story. If Notre Dame was its typical overrated self, I would give Navy a good chance to finally smack around the Catholic boys. However, Notre Dame will beat Navy, thus no BCS.
8. Toledo- There is better teams in the MAC, but the Rockets have the "easiest" schedule. If Toledo can win at Iowa State and at home vs. Kansas in its first three games, the season could get interesting. Only games at Pitt and Northern Illinois will stand in the way of BCS glory.
9. Colorado State- The Rams have had better teams, but this year's team is still capable of winning the Mountain West. Coach Sonny Lubick has been on hard times in recent years and CSU is not expected to make a national splash anytime soon. Yet, the schedule says otherwise. Colorado is the big name on the plate, but at Fresno State will be tougher. Win those two and CSU could be ranked in the top 25 heading into the MWC schedule.
10. Northern Illinois- The Huskies have two daunting road games, at Ohio State and at Iowa. Honestly, this team has no chance to beat Ohio State, but I give NIU a puncher's chance against the Hawkeyes. 11-1 with a win over Iowa is BCS worthy.
11. Nevada- How good is the Wolfpack? We will all know by Sept 9. Nevada has to travel to Fresno State and Arizona State in back-to-back weeks to start the season. It has a slight chance to win both, and more than likely, those wins will give the Wolfpack that coveted top 25 ranking. 12. Hawaii- The Rainbows can score with anyone, but their defense can't stop anyone. They must win at Alabama September 2 to have any chance at the BCS.
13. San Diego State- New coach Chuck Long's Aztecs are a long shot to win the MWC, but he inherits enough talent to make the season interesting. At Wisconsin will be tough, but not impossible. The week after the Badgers, Utah comes to San Diego, but games at BYU and TCU will be just too much later in the season.
14. SMU- No this is not a joke. The Mustangs beat three bowl teams last year, and were just a win away from winning CUSA's West Division. Only one game this year can be classified as a "sure" loss and that is the opener at Texas Tech.
15. Houston- Only if the Cougars didn't have to travel to the Orange Bowl. Games against Oklahoma State and at Southern Miss will be difficult, but I would bet good money on Houston finishing 11-1.