The Doc, Holly Anderson and Doug Gillett wrap up the week with our written equivalent of tossing a beach ball around the office. This week's topic: What mid-major darlings will crash the BCS dance this fall?
Holly: Nothing much came of that whole Congressional campaign to make the Mountain West an official-like member, but Utah's run at the BCS last year was at least pretty entertaining for everyone of non-Alabamian extraction. The stars aren't quite as neatly aligned for a second monster bowl upset this year, but that doesn't mean we'll be lacking for surprises. Who do you like out of the mid-majors to make some poll noise in '09?
Doc: I think Boise State gets an autobid to the top of this discussion at this point, doesn't it?
Holly: Ho-hum, Boise State, welcome back. If the Broncos get by Oregon on opening night they're pretty much golden. Hawaii and Nevada are as tough as it gets the rest of the year. But who's your darkhorse?
Doc: Considering I think BYU is the best team in the Mountain West and they'd have to get by Oklahoma and Florida State, on top of TCU and Utah, I'd say Boise State is about as dark as I'm willing to get.
Doug: Is it completely crazy to think that a team could come out of C-USA to grab a BCS bid for the first time? Southern Miss's toughest non-conference game is at Kansas, which they could still win. East Carolina has to play at West Virginia and UNC, but if they win both of those, their biggest remaining challenge is a home Thursday-night game against Virginia Tech, whom they beat last season. Va. Tech is usually money on Thursday nights, but that game is on Nov. 5, right around the point in the season when more than a few Hokie teams of recent vintage have started coughing up head-slapping losses.
Holly: And East Carolina's at least something of a known quantity to the at-large punditry, after their knocking off their only two ranked opponents to open the '08 season. People would pay attention in a hurry if they got another streak going. Plus, pirate mascots and Holtz spawn always make for good television.
Doc: I would not bet on Houston by any means, but I would bet on UH before I'd bet on East Carolina, not because Houston is better because of the schedules: The Cougars have an offense just crazy enough to keep up (theoretically) with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in September. Again, though, that's probably more true on paper than it's likely to be on the field in both cases. As with East Carolina, BYU and most of the teams in this discussion, I'll buy one big upset, but I'm not giving anybody two.
In fact, if you gave me the exact same Utah team as last year with the same schedule -- Michigan, Oregon State, TCU and BYU as the obvious stumbling blocks -- I still wouldn't take them to run the table again. The odds are always against it. That's really the main reason Boise State is so appealing, especially when its big night comes at home: Lightning only has to strike once.
Doug: Yeah, even with their 13-0 squad, Utah had enough trouble getting by Oregon State and the worst Michigan team ever. It's certainly not going to happen again this year, not with an almost completely revamped passing game and TCU and BYU both on the road.
Holly: I'll take the complete opposite tack, myself, consider no math or odds, and say that I like TCU to run the table, for the simple fact that their mascot squirts blood from its eyes, and that's crazy, just like Utah pantsing a Saban squad in the Sugar Bowl. I stand by this unapologetically.
Doug: The Horned Frogs intrigued me -- no truly impossible out-of-conference games (the toughest one is at Clemson, which is a tossup as far as I'm concerned), and they get Utah at home. The biggest thing keeping me from endorsing them is only four starters coming back on defense, but then maybe a Gary Patterson defense deserves a lot of benefit of the doubt.
It comes back to Boise State for me -- the top of the MWC just looks like too much of a circular firing squad at the moment. None of them really seem to have any reason to be considered head and shoulders above anyone else.
All this entire discussion means, though, is that of course someone we haven't mentioned at all is going to blow up out of nowhere and go undefeated. Is it the MAC's time? Is Dan "Baby Tebow" LeFevour going to go out with a bang, beat Arizona and Michigan State, and lead mighty Central Michigan to the BCS promised land?
Holly: Let's hope not. The onslaught of LeFevour/Fever puns would suck the fun right out of the whole thing.