Commentary

BCS-busting field narrowed after Week 2

Originally Published: September 12, 2007
By Adam Rittenberg | Special to ESPN.com

It was a weekend when glass slippers shattered on the manicured fields of BCS-conference teams, when the forecast quickly turned gloomy for college football's underclass.

Gary Patterson
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesGary Patterson and TCU gave up a 10-point lead in their loss to Texas.

Boise State, the flag bearer for the non-BCS bloc, had its 14-game win streak snapped at Washington. TCU, widely considered the Boise State of 2007, fumbled its way out of a game at Texas. BYU's 11-game win streak ended at the Rose Bowl, most likely denying the Cougars a return trip to one of the four BCS bowl destinations. Fresno State went down. So did Southern Miss.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson hasn't lost hope for a BCS repeat, confirming his faith in the selection process.

"Any undefeated team outside the non-guaranteed five conferences, will end the season ranked in the top-12," Benson said Monday. "The system will reward a 12-0 team regardless of their strength of schedule. That's a belief that I'm going to hold onto until proven wrong."

The question is, will any teams back up Benson's statement?

Entering Thursday night, only six non-BCS teams -- Hawaii, Wyoming, Air Force, Tulsa, Central Florida and Ohio -- have undefeated records. Only one, Hawaii, owns a national ranking (No. 24).

In a cruel scheduling twist, three flawless teams could be blemished by their non-BCS brethren, as Wyoming visits Boise State, Tulsa hosts BYU and Air Force hosts TCU.

Central Florida must survive a visit from sixth-ranked Texas, and Ohio needs to pull an upset at No. 18 Virginia Tech. If Hawaii stumbles at UNLV, which nearly upset seventh-ranked Wisconsin last Saturday, the search for this year's BCS buster could be called off before October.

"Realistically, it is hard to expect that every year," Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak said. "Things have to happen right, the schedule's got to be right."

Scheduling is the greatest puzzle for non-BCS teams, including the troop's new kingpin, Hawaii. Many question whether the Warriors' nonconference slate -- Northern Colorado, UNLV, Charleston Southern and Washington -- is strong enough to merit BCS selection even if the team goes undefeated.

Benson notes that Hawaii tried to schedule bigger-name opponents and was wiling to leave paradise to play.

"Hawaii was willing to open the season at Michigan," Benson said. "They talked to Nebraska, they talked to Southern Cal, West Virginia, Indiana. Hawaii was willing to go on the mainland to open the season against a high-profile opponent but didn't get any takers."

Colt Brennan
AP Photo/Ronen ZilbermanColt Brennan and Hawaii might have the best chance of making a BCS bowl -- if people overlook their nonconference schedule.

Despite the scheduling stonewall, Benson is confident that Hawaii will earn BCS selection with a 12-0 mark. The same scheduling doubts surfaced last year with Boise State, which had a nonconference lineup of Sacramento State, Oregon State, Wyoming and Utah.

"Boise State showed clearly that despite an average schedule or what some people may have even said a soft schedule, they got there easily," Benson said. "They ended up No. 8 [in the final BCS standings]. Remember, they started the season outside the top 25.

"Hawaii today is No. 22 in the Coaches' poll. If a team keeps winning, they will move up."

A considerable move down the rankings rankled TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team dropped from No. 19 to out of the AP poll. TCU's tumble weakens the prospect of a one-loss non-BCS school earning a BCS selection and raises questions about scheduling inequity.

To recap: TCU led Texas 10-0 at halftime before two fumbles sparked a Longhorns surge.

"Down deep, I don't think anybody that watched the game thought it was a 34-13 ball game," Patterson said. "It's a lot different than Michigan losing to Appalachian State. We're talking about losing to a seventh-ranked team in the country and then dropping out of the polls. So what are we teaching?

"What we're trying to do is give people good ball games and also have measuring-stick games to see where you're program is. … If somebody else in the Big 12 lost and they were ranked already and they lost in that kind of a ball game to Texas, would they drop out of the polls also? That would be my question."

The perception, Patterson said, effectively slams the door on the one-loss hopefuls. The possibility does exist -- Fresno State visited USC in November 2005 ranked No. 16 with only one loss -- but it's slim.

"The loss probably has to come later in the year than earlier in order for it to occur," Benson said. "But I certainly wouldn't rule it out."

The lingering question for non-BCS teams is how to schedule. Boise State once again avoided super heavyweights with this year's schedule and, in Benson's view, would have earned a BCS berth with an unblemished record.

Fresno State, meanwhile, continues to advocate its "Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere" philosophy, getting mixed results. The MAC has a strong partnership with the Big Ten, producing annual matchups with teams like Ohio State and Purdue. But the MAC went 1-16 against the Big Ten last season and is 1-6 this year.

"It's really getting hard for a team from our league to think they're going to have a real legitimate chance [at a BCS selection]," Novak said.

This year's few remaining BCS hopefuls aren't looking too far ahead.

Wyoming is 2-0 for the first time under coach Joe Glenn, but Glenn is 0-4 in road openers with his team falling to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Florida and Virginia.

"That's getting down the road, BCS-busting already," Glenn said. "We'll see if we're a pretender or a contender."

Hawaii coach June Jones doesn't concern himself with his team's BCS qualifications, choosing to focus on what he can control. But after a 45-44 overtime escape last Saturday at Louisiana Tech, Jones couldn't help but recall the recent past.

"Boise had two or three of those type games last year, one against San Jose [State] that they hung on and won at the end," Jones said. "That does wonders for your team."

Adam Rittenberg covers college football for the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.

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