Blog ... Who is this year's Hawai'i?
Three of the last four years a Non-BCS (NBCS) school has played against one of the BCS big boys in a BCS bowl, and not to mention winning two out of the last three. Despite the national media acting as if it never happens there is a good chance it will happen for a third straight season.
However, before you start thinking that Non-BCS programs have gained respect from the BCS big wigs and the national pundits, there was a common thread between Hawai'i, Boise State, and Utah. They all played very eye pleasing football, and, of course, they were all unbeaten.
Going 12-0 is a must to play in a BCS bowl. That could change one day, but until it does we'll assume that going unbeaten is a prerequisite.
Unfortunately going 12-0 doesn't guarantee a BCS bowl invitation since it doesn't even guarantee a shot at the National Championship. Obviously the schedule has to be playable to go unbeaten. Since several very good Non-BCS schools littered the early part of their campaigns with big payday powerhouses, they now have to hope for big upsets on the road to get a chance for an even bigger BCS payday. When these games were scheduled these schools likely weren't even thinking BCS.
Let's look back at Hawai'i. The Warriors 2007 schedule was very playable with WAC powers Boise State and Fresno State coming to Honolulu, and the toughest non-conference tilt against Washington. They left the islands five times, and their toughest non-conference game was at UNLV. It was a good thing they didn't have a tougher non-conference road game since they had a hard enough time in conference. Two wins came in overtime (LA Tech, San Jose State), and the win at Nevada went down to the wire. This isn't taking anything away from a great Hawai'i team, but it proves just how difficult it is to go 12-0.
So who has a schedule that that could produce a third straight 12-0 season? BYU has the most favorable schedule, but nearly every team who has a chance to land in a BCS bowl has at least one dangerous game that could end the dream. Here's who has the best chance to go BCS bowling:
Should be the favorite in every game:
Games that could end the dream: @ Utah, @ TCU, @ Washington, vs. UCLA
The Cougars should be able to avenge last season's road loss in Pasadena. The Bruins are in transition, and it's unlikely they will have offensive guru Norm Chow's system down pat that early. The game at Washington is very winnable, but winning on the road against the PAC-10 is never easy. The two most dangerous games are conference tilts. TCU is going to be very tough, and the Cougars beat the Frogs by only five last year in Provo. If they survive these games they still have the Holy War in Salt Lake City to end the season. This game may very well decide who will reach the Mountain West summit, and one caveat is that if everything works out there is an outside chance of two 11-0 teams playing on November 22nd.
These schools need at least one big road upset:
Games that could end the dream: @ Michigan, vs. Oregon State, vs. BYU, vs. TCU
If this game was in November Utah would be further down the list. Since Michigan will still be learning new Coach Rich Rodriguez' spread offense this could be the perfect storm for the Utes to steal one in Ann Arbor. If they beat Michigan the schedule certainly gives Utah a good shot with their three toughest games at home. Oregon State and TCU will be tough, but the Utes should win both leaving the Holy War with BYU. Utah lost to the Cougars the last two years late in the fourth quarter, so there will be plenty of motivation, and maybe a BCS berth on the line with a win.
Games that could end the dream: @ Arkansas, @ Houston
Tulsa's chances for an unbeaten season would be much better if the visit to Fayatteville was in September. Unlike Utah, the Golden Hurricane play the Hogs in November which is plenty of time to learn Bobby Petrino's offense before he takes another coaching job. The Houston game will be a war, and we will have a good idea if the Cougars miss Art Briles or not.
Games that could end the dream: @ Auburn, vs. Boise State, vs. East Carolina, @ Central Florida
This Golden Eagles team is very good, and Auburn is a national title contender, but if the Tigers overlook this game Southern Miss could pull the upset. They get Boise State and East Carolina at home, but the early November clash with defending champs UCF will be huge game. The schedule is easy, but it's not impossible.
Games that could end the dream: @ Oregon, @ Southern Miss, vs. Fresno State
Autzen is a nightmare no matter when you play there, but the Ducks are replacing Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield. The Broncos are going there at the right time if there really is one, and this is a very experienced team. The game in Hattiesburg pits two of the best NBCS teams in the country, and Fresno State coming north to close out the season will likely decide the WAC champion.
Others receiving consideration:
Fresno State, Ball State, Central Michigan, and Florida Atlantic are all very good football teams, but their schedules are too tough to give them a realistic shot at immortality.
@ Rutgers, vs. Wisconsin, @ Toledo, @ UCLA, vs. Boise State
@ Indiana, vs. Navy, @ Toledo, @Central Michigan, @ Miami (OH)
@ Georgia, @ Purdue, vs. Western Michigan, vs. Ball State
@ Texas, @ Michigan State, @ Minnesota, vs. Troy
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