Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Boise and the BCS

Boise didn't play this past weekend, and yet their hopes of playing in the BCS National Championship Game took a big hit when their marque scalp, Virginia Tech, fell at home to a IAA (FCS) foe in James Madison. Fear not Boise fans, all hope is not lost. While their chances are certainly dimmer than they were at this time last week, Boise's WAC opponents still have ample time to earn some solid wins and position themselves as more than juts typical WAC fodder. While New Mexico State and San Jose State once again appear to be among the worst teams in IA football, the rest of the WAC can do Boise some favors over the remainder of the season. Here's how they can help.

Louisiana Tech appears to be rebuilding under first year coach Sonny Dykes. The Air Raid that Dykes brought to Ruston has yet to catch hold, as the Bulldogs were only able to score 20 points in their opener against Grambling and were then pummeled by Texas A&M. However, they still have non-conference home games remaining against Navy and Southern Miss. Both those teams will likely qualify for bowls, so if the Bulldogs could somehow manage a split, the permutations would inflate Boise's strength of schedule ever so slightly.

Idaho played in a bowl game last season and while never really a threat to beat Nebraska in Lincoln, only lost by 21 points last weekend. The Vandals have non-conference games remaining against UNLV, at Colorado State, and at Western Michigan. UNLV and Colorado State appear to be prime contenders for the Mountain West basement. Idaho needs to avoid a bad loss to both those schools. The long trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan presents the Vandals with an opportunity to win a road game over a potential bowl team and MAC contender. Boise State definitely needs the Vandals to avoid a loss to either Mountain West outfit, and a road win over the other Broncos from Western Michigan is not out of the question.

Utah State played Oklahoma tough in their opener, losing by 7 against a team that thrashed Florida State by 30 the next week. The Aggies have a pair of Mountain West teams remaining on their schedule, but unfortunately, they are not UNLV and Colorado State. The Aggies travel to San Diego State and host in-state rival BYU. While they will likely be underdogs in both games, competitive losses to both or a split would do wonders towards proving their game in Norman was not a fluke.

Hawaii lost on the opening Thursday to Southern Cal in a game that was closer than many predicted. They followed that up with a road win at Army. The Warriors play at Colorado this week before returning to the islands to host Charleston Southern. The Buffaloes are no longer a Big 12 power, but any road win over a BCS conference foe is good. The Charleston Southern game is one the Warriors should (and must) win handily. Hawaii close out the regular season by hosting UNLV. Anything less than 2 blowout home wins and a competitive road loss will only hurt the Bronco's esteem in the eyes of the pollsters and the computers.

Fresno State has already done Boise a big favor by beating Cincinnati at home in their opener. They have another pair of opportunities to beat BCS conference teams when they travel to Ole Miss and host Illinois. While Jacksonville State has won in Oxford, proving it can certainly be done, Fresno State will probably be an underdog in that game. They need to be competitive in defeat and avoid a home loss to an Illinois team that will likely be playing for pride in the season finale. Their other non-conference game comes against IAA Cal Poly, so they need to avoid a slip-up there.

Nevada, the likely biggest threat to Boise's WAC supremacy, is 2-0 with IAA Eastern Washington and aforementioned Mountain West basement dweller Colorado State. The Wolfpack have the opportunity this Friday to grab the biggest non-conference scalp for the WAC outside of the one Boise already has (Virginia Tech) and is likely to get (Oregon State) when they host Cal. The Golden Bears are not thought of as Pac-10 contenders in the same esteem as say Oregon, but they are a perennial bowl team. While the Wolfpack don't have to win to help the reputation of the WAC, they certainly need to perform better than they have against BCS conference teams the past 5 seasons.After Cal, Nevada also plays a pair of Mountain West road games against BYU and in-state rival UNLV. BYU lost at Air Force last weekend and may be fielding their worst team in a half-decade or so. Meanwhile, Nevada has not lost to UNLV since 2004, and for Boise's sake, does not need to end that streak this season.

So there you have it. Boise was certainly not helped by this past weekend's results, but if their WAC brethren can step up, the rest of their schedule can be stronger than initially thought. Plus, don't forget, Oregon State, a potential Pac-10 contender as well as Wyoming (bowl team last season), and Toledo (potential MAC contender) remain. It's a long shot of course, but don't go throwing dirt on Boise's national title dreams just yet.

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