2008 Spring Preview - BCS Busters & More
BYU OG Dallas Reynolds
BYU OG Dallas Reynolds
Posted Feb 28, 2008

Who are the likely BCS busters? What are the proposed rule changes? What conference, other than yours, should you pay attention to? These and more as the Spring Questions continue.

Spring Preview 2008

The 20 Big Questions - No. 16 to 19

By Pete Fiutak 

- 2008 Spring Questions
No. 20 - Top 40 Non-Conference Games

19. How good is this season going to be?

With the weekly twists and turns, the colossal upsets, the all-timer heartbreaks, Appalachian State, Missouri and Kansas playing for a shot at the national title, a two-loss team winning it all, the Les Miles saga, the Mike Gundy rant, the first sophomore winning the Heisman, Notre Dame going into the tank, Hawaii's unbeaten regular season, Illinois, Buffalo, Temple, Ball State, South Florida, Pitt over West Virginia, Navy over Notre Dame, Colorado over Oklahoma, UL Monroe over Alabama, and great story after great story ... how is it remotely possible to top that?

2005 was an all-time great season, mainly because USC and Texas were juggernauts, and then 2006 was a forgettable stinker. 2008 won't likely drop-off from last year's fun, especially with a wide open national title race, but there's no way the season can be any better unless there's a ton of parity throughout the conferences while the big boys have to quickly fill in the gaps. here's no team without an obvious flaw, except Ohio State, and the NCAA committee is still out deciding whether or not to allow the Buckeyes to play in another championship, so there are at least 15 teams that can go into the season seriously thinking about the national title.

There should be another interesting Heisman race, there's no sure thing in any conference chase, outside of possibly USC in the Pac 10, and the mid-major leagues, especially the MAC and the Sun Belt, loaded with enough experience to not only come up with great battles against the big boys, but possessing the teams to potentially screw up everyone's preseason picks.

How quickly can some of the big names, like Michigan, West Virginia, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Georgia Tech handle coaching changes? Will there be another Missouri who jumps up and shines after years of being decent, and will there be a Kansas who comes from out of nowhere and becomes amazing? The joy of last year was being unable to predict much of anything, and hopefully we'll all be in for the same wild ride.

18. What are the proposed new rule changes?

These are all proposed changes, and they'll all probably go through.

There will be a few automatic calls to protect the players with the NFL's horse-collar tackle, when a defender tackles an offensive player from behind by grabbing from inside the shoulder pads behind the neck, and a chop block rule whenever a block comes from below the waist on a player already engaged with a blocker. No biggie; no one can really complain about those. Also, the five-yard incidental face mask penalty has been done away with, so now there's no question about the call. A face mask call is 15 yards, and there's no other option. The other new automatic call comes when there's no room on the sidelines, when officials used to be able to call a sideline warning first. Watch for every team to get tagged by that for a few weeks before they figure it out.

The best and most fair new change revolves around replay. If a coach successfully challenges a call, he gets another. I've always said that a wrong call is a wrong call is a wrong call, and a coach should never lose the right to challenge as long as he's right. Now there will be a maximum of two challenges allowed, but it's a start.

The other nice change is on kickoffs with the receiving team getting the option of taking the ball on the 40 if the kick goes out of bounds. With kickoffs being moved back last year, and a major penalty given for inaccurate boots, there should be even more big returns.

Now with the change that'll cause the most stir: the play clock. In the continuing effort to shorten games, the new gimmick is to go the NFL route by starting the play clock on the snap of the ball after a runner goes out of bounds, outside of the final two minutes. The play clock will also go to 40 seconds, when it's not stopped, to get the offenses to pick up the pace. This likely won't be that big a deal, but it'll force teams to be a bit sharper and it'll force officials to be uniform across the country when it comes to declaring the ball ready for play.

17. Which "mid-major" team has the best shot of busting this year's BCS?

For a team from a non-BCS conference to get into the BCS it needs to either be really good and really creative (2006 Boise State), have an easy schedule (2007 Hawaii), or a combination of both (2004 Utah).

BYU has been on the verge of really big things under Bronco Mendenhall, going 11-2 in each of his last two seasons, and now he has his best team yet with almost all the key parts returning on offense and a strong defense that should be able to fill in the gaps in the back eight. UCLA has to come to Provo, and the big early non-conference game is at Washington; both are winnable.

An intriguing possibility will be Fresno State. Pat Hill's program has been a giant killer from time to time, and has always sought out the big names to play. This year, he not only has his one of his most talented teams, but he also has a schedule that looks like Tarzan, but will play like Jane. If the Bulldogs really are BCS worthy, they should be able to come up with wins at UCLA and at Kansas State in the first two weeks of the season, and they have to take advantage of getting Wisconsin at home on September 13th. Of course, the big issue has been getting through WAC play without a scratch, and that'll once again be tough if Boise State is able to come up with a steady starting quarterback this off-season.

16. What conference other than your own should you care about this year?

The MAC. If you're a die-hard college football fan who likes nice storylines and competitive battles, then give at least a little bit of love to the MAC. While there isn't a BCS buster in the group, just about every team is ridiculously loaded with experience while there several have killer offenses that'll be among the nation's leaders all season long.

Ask Minnesota (who lost to Bowling Green and needed overtime to beat Miami University), Nebraska, who escaped Ball State by the skin of its teeth, and Iowa, who saw its bowl dreams go bust in a loss to Western Michigan, how good the league can be. Now it's better.

The quarterbacks alone are worthy of notice led by Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour, the two-time MAC Player of the Year who ran for 19 touchdowns and threw for 27 last year. Ball State's Nate Davis is growing into a decent pro prospect and a playmaker good enough to pull off upsets by himself (after almost doing it against Michigan and Nebraska over the last few years). Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan is a bomber, Kent State's Julian Edelman will be one of the nation's top running quarterbacks, and Western Michigan's Tim Hiller is solid veteran.

For those of you who mostly care about the bigger leagues, here are the MAC's major upset possibilities. Guaranteed, the league will win at least three of these games.

Aug. 28 - Vanderbilt at Miami University
Aug. 28 - UTEP at Buffalo
Aug. 30 - Bowling Green at Pitt
Aug. 30 - Northern Illinois at Minnesota
Sept. 6 - Central Michigan at Georgia
Sept. 6 - Kent State at Iowa State
Sept. 6 - Connecticut at Temple
Sept. 6 - Minnesota at Bowling Green
Sept. 6 - Akron at Syracuse
Sept. 20 - Ball State at Indiana
Sept. 20 - Ohio at Northwestern
Sept. 20 - Fresno State at Toledo
Nov. 8 - Illinois vs. Western Michigan (in Detroit)