My blog post on Utah's chances of getting to the BCS last week has started a nice discussion on which team has the best shot of crashing the BCS this year. Dawg Sports decided to post a poll question on the matter and also spurred a debate with this post, asking his readers to interject their opinion, and some already have.
Over at Pitch Right, Mr. A lists why he thinks Navy has a shot at crashing the BCS by using the formula I devised last week. And the Fresno State Football Blog asks whether the Bulldogs are worthy of crashing the BCS, while his sister blog, MDGCollege Football has a non-BCS top-15 (Utah's #1!).
In 2004 Utah became the first team from a non-BCS conference to make a BCS bowl game. They further solidified their spot in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl with a thrashing of the Big East Champion, Pitt Panthers. Like every year, the inevitable question will circle around the non-BCS and their ability to crash the BCS like Utah did in 2004.
Now it seems since Utah has finally done it, expectations have been set for another team from outside of the BCS to find their way to the party. So who's it going to be? Which team will be the next Utah and how will they do it?
Last year TCU made national waves when they stunned top-10 ranked Oklahoma on the road. The Horned Frogs followed that win up by laying an egg against hated rival SMU. That lost proved to be very costly, as it kept TCU from an undefeated season and a back-to-back appearance for a Mountain West team in a BCS bowl game. How do things shake out this year? Well I've done my best break down the top non-BCS teams and whether they have a realistic shot at crashing the BCS.
Non-BCS teams with the best shot at making a BCS Bowl:
TCU - TCU is the obvious choice based on what they did last year. They have a favorable schedule to do it, especially with how they get Texas Tech at home. However they must go on the road to play Utah, which could ultimately kill their shot at a BCS bowl, especially if Utah goes undefeated. Last season TCU barely got out alive against Utah and BYU, while winning other close games almost solely on turnovers. Their near flawless execution was a big reason for their undefeated conference season. TCU will need a repeat performance, which might be asking too much.
Utah - They did it in 2004, and after a season of transition, the Utes might be ready to do it again. Like TCU, they have a favorable schedule, except they must play UCLA on the road. The opening game against the Bruins will be crucial for the Utes to not only build momentum, but turn national heads much like their victory over A&M did two years ago. The Utes do luck out with Boise State, TCU and BYU all at home.
Boise State - In 2004 they made a lot of noise, but suffered some setbacks last year. The hype surrounding BSU heading into the '05 season was completely lost after a blowout loss to Georgia in the opening game. This year, BSU has a new coach, but a relatively easy schedule. Their toughest game is probably going to be at Utah, though there are two rough road games against Wyoming and Nevada. They do however play Fresno State and Oregon State at home.
Navy - In the last 3 seasons Navy has gone 8-5, 10-2 and 8-4. That's pretty impressive for a program that had struggled mightily prior to Paul Johnson's arrival. Navy has a fairly easy schedule, with their toughest game coming against Notre Dame. With the way the game is positioned on the schedule -- played in the second half of the season -- it's not likely Navy can climb to the 12th spot needed to play in a BCS bowl. So that means they will need an upset win over a Fighting Irish team many are prediciting to play for the national championship. While the odds are stacked, I wouldn't say they're insurmountable. And Navy does, outside of Notre Dame, only play two teams that went to bowl games last year (Tulsa and Rutgers).
BYU - Brigham Young is the original BCS busters. Ok, they've never actually made a BCS bowl game, however they did shake things up with their 1984 national championship. Since then, BYU made noise in 1996 and 2001, yet have not done much since. The Cougars have a pretty difficult schedule to overcome, however, with road games against Arizona, Boston College, TCU and Utah. It's pretty unlikely that they can get through that schedule with fewer than 2 losses.
Fresno State - They constantly rank toward the top as a non-BCS program, but have failed at getting things done when they count the most. Last year Fresno State made national waves with their near upset of then #1 USC. However, that loss would spark a 4-game losing streak, which cost Fresno State another WAC championship. This season Fresno has probably one of their toughest schedules in school history. Road games against Washington, Boise State and LSU and a home game against Oregon does not bode well for the Bulldogs and will most likely kill any hope of making a BCS bowl game.
Non-BCS teams with a small chance of making a BCS Bowl:
UTEP - Mike Price is doing good things at Texas-El Paso, and he may make some noise this season. That said, UTEP still is not a good enough team to sustain the success needed for a BCS bowl berth. They do have a favorable schedule with their toughest game at home against Texas Tech. However road games against New Mexico, Tulsa, UAB and Marshall might do them in.
Tulsa - Tulsa had an amazing season last year which culminated in a Liberty Bowl win against Fresno State. With that momentum, Tulsa will look to continue their success and parlay that into a possible BCS bowl this season. They certainly have the schedule to do it, though their two toughest games are BYU and Navy, both on the road. Tulsa will have no games against BCS opponents, so that might hurt their strength of schedule and kill any chance at a BCS bowl bid.
Nevada - Nevada last year stunned the WAC by winning a share of the conference championship. This year they'll look to do it again, however they have a fairly difficult early schedule. They open up against Fresno State on the road, then travel to Arizona State. Both games are realistic losses and home games against CSU and Northwestern aren't to be taken lightly, either.
Other teams that could make some noise: Miami Ohio, Toledo, UCF.