When the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee last month approved a four-team playoff that will begin after the 2014 season, the sand began running out of the hour glass that is the BCS.
The presidents' decision means the much-criticized postseason format has just two seasons left, and hardly anyone is shedding a tear. Still, there was some intrigue each season in wondering if a school from a non-automatic qualifying conference could find a way into the BCS.
That will be the case this season, too, though the list of potential BCS-crashers this fall looks to be extremely short. Here is a peek at the five teams that appear to have a chance, listed in order of their likelihood to crash the party.
Games vs. Big Six opponents: One (at Michigan State on Aug. 31)
Home games: 6
Overview: This does not have the look of a vintage Boise State team. The Broncos have just one fulltime starter back on defense, and while there are five returners on offense, Boise has to replace a first-round pick at tailback, the winningest quarterback in major-college history, its best lineman and its leading receiver. Still, Boise has become a program that simply reloads, not rebuilds, and its cause will be helped in that the Mountain West looks extremely weak this season. TCU, which won the league last season, now is in the Big 12. The league has added three teams from the WAC. And each of the conference holdovers from last season has at least one serious flaw. There are tough non-conference games against BYU (at home) and Southern Miss (on the road). If Boise State wins its opener at Michigan State, it easily could go unbeaten. And an unbeaten Boise State team – even if it did play a weak schedule – would get into the BCS. But it would be extremely difficult this season (much harder than usual) to make a case that an unbeaten Boise team would deserve a shot at the national title.
Projection: Las Vegas Bowl as conference champ.
Games vs. Big Six opponents: One (at Penn State on Sept. 1)
Home games: Six
Overview: The Bobcats look to be the best team in the MAC; they have the best combination of offense and defense in the league. Tyler Tettleton is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, and Ohio has a solid defensive line and a good secondary. The schedule isn't overly difficult, either. If Ohio wins the opener at Penn State – it's not a stretch to think that can happen – it almost certainly would be favored in every game the rest of the way. There also are games at Marshall, Miami (Ohio) and Kent State. But this team should be able to navigate those trips. Ohio won 10 games for the first time in its history last season and seems a lock to do so again.
Projection: GoDaddy.Com Bowl as conference champ.
Games vs. Big Six opponents: Three (vs. Texas A&M in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 30; at Illinois on Sept. 22; at Virginia on Sept. 29).
Home games: Six
Overview: Louisiana Tech will be as prohibitive a favorite in its league as any team in college football this season. The WAC is horrible, and if the Bulldogs don't go 6-0 in the league and win each of their league games by double-digits, it will be surprising. Tech won the league last season, and three teams that would've challenged for the title this fall (Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada) have bolted for the Mountain West. The back half of the schedule is a breeze; it's September that is the issue. In addition to playing the three Big Six opponents in September, the Bulldogs also have to travel to Houston. Tech had the Cougars beaten last season until collapsing in the fourth quarter and losing 35-34. Louisiana Tech's offense gives them a chance against A&M, Illinois and Virginia. But is a rebuilt defense, specifically the front six (the Bulldogs use a 4-2-5 set), going to do the job? The toughest matchup is the opener against A&M, which will be played less than an hour from Tech's campus. That's an A&M team, remember, with a new coach, new schemes on both sides of the ball, a new quarterback and a rebuilt defense.
Projection: A fill-in for a bowl that has lost one of its contracted teams. The WAC champ is supposed to go to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but look for Tech (and bowl officials) to work around that to give the Bulldogs a better bowl opportunity.
Games vs. Big Six opponents: 5 (vs. Washington State on Aug. 30; at Utah on Sept. 15; vs. Oregon State on Oct. 13; at Notre Dame on Oct. 20; at Georgia Tech on Oct. 27).
Home games: Six
Overview: The Cougars' second season of independence will end up in the Poinsettia Bowl unless they make it into the BCS. BYU, which also plays Boise State, has a tough schedule, but there are not any outlandishly tough games. The defense again should finish in the nation's top 20, and the offense should be better than it was last season – assuming the Cougars can find some competent tailbacks. While five of the first seven games are at home, the Cougars play in Provo just once after Oct. 13. It is going to be difficult for this team to go unbeaten against that schedule.
Projection: Poinsettia Bowl (BYU has a deal with the bowl whereby if it is bowl-eligible and not going to the BCS, it will be in the San Diego-based game).
Games vs. Big Six opponents: Two (at Ohio State on Sept. 8; vs. Missouri on Sept. 29)
Home games: Six
Overview: Conference USA flirted with having its first "BCS-buster" last season, only to see Houston get hammered in the league title game by Southern Miss. UCF has the best chance this season to be the first C-USA team to break through (this is UCF's final chance as a C-USA member; it is moving to the Big East next season, along with league foes Houston, Memphis and SMU). UCF annually has one of the best defenses in the league, and this season, the offense has a chance to be among the three or four best in the league, which should be enough for a conference title. Whether it's enough to go unbeaten, though, is a different question. The trip to Ohio State is early in the season, so everyone should know by that night if C-USA is going to have a team that has a legit shot at the BCS.
Projection: Liberty Bowl as conference champ.
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