2009 Spring Preview - Potential BCS Busters
Boise State QB Kellen Moore
Boise State QB Kellen Moore
Posted Mar 2, 2009

Ready to get fired up for the 2009 season that's still six months away? As spring ball kicks in, here's part two of the 20 big off-season questions continuing with the Potential BCS Busters.

Spring Preview 2009

The 20 Big Questions ... No. 19

By Pete Fiutak 

Spring Preview 2009
20 Big Questions

- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1 to 10)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11 to 20)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21 to 30)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31 to 40)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41 to 50
With spring ball underway, it's time to start diving into the 2009 season ... no, it's not way too early. Here are the 20 Big Questions to start off the offseason.

19. Who's Going To Be This Year's BCS Buster?

The non-BCS conference team that crashes the BCS party needs to be 1) unbeaten, 2) have a signature win against a BCS team, and 3) a lot of luck. Boise State had the first two parts of the equation last season but was unceremoniously blown past by a two-loss Ohio State team on the way to the Fiesta Bowl.

The BCS bowls want the big names and the big teams, and while Boise State, Utah, TCU and BYU are just a few of the (don't use the term around fans of the non-BCS teams) "mid-majors" who have more than earned their stripes, they still need every break in the book to get one of the cherished ten spots. Remember, six of the ten spots are automatically gone to the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 10, and SEC champions, leaving four spots open. Outside of a complete and utter disaster, the SEC and Big 12 are 99.9% certain to get a second team in. The Big Ten, mainly because of great records in the suddenly mediocre conference, is also almost certain of getting a second invite. Realistically, that leaves two open spots available each season.

One of those spots has to go to a non-BCS team that finishes in one finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS rankings, or if a team finishes in the top 16 and is higher than a team that gets an automatic berth. For example, if Boise State finishes 16th in the BCS rankings and Virginia Tech 11th, but Florida State wins the ACC Championship and finishes 18th in the BCS rankings, Boise State would automatically be in along with FSU.

Why does this matter so much? As is, the little guys (the non-BCS conferences) receive nine percent of the net revenues, just under $10 million total, to divide up 51 ways as part of the overall deal. Each team's share of the pie is tip money for a program like Florida or Oklahoma. With Utah getting in last year, that meant an additional nine percent (around $9.5 million) went to the Mountain West. Meanwhile, each BCS league got $18 million to divide up among its teams for having a team automatically in the show. When Ohio State got the invite to the Fiesta Bowl over Boise State, that meant the non-BCS leagues missed out on an extra $4.5 million that ended up going to the Big Ten, not to mention the difference in dollars for Boise State and the WAC for going to the Poinsettia Bowl instead of the Fiesta.

Got it? It's this simple. The non-BCS teams want to get in because they need the money a whole bunch more than the big guys do. So it all comes down to how good the teams are and the schedule's they play. With that in mind, here are the five most likely BCS busters.

5. Nevada
The Wolf Pack have a potential perfect storm of things that could happen to be a BCS buster. First things first, there has to be a win over Boise State and a WAC title. There can't be any slip ups, and that's hardly going to be easy considering the nation's worst pass defense of 2008 still has to improve and the receiving corps needs major replacements. However, QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, and the nation's third best running game returns all the key parts and potentially gets another star, RB Luke Lippincott, back for a sixth year of eligibility. And then there's the non-conference schedule. It's not a stretch to think the Wolf Pack could get on the national map with an opening day win at Notre Dame. Missouri, who has a ton of rebuilding to do, has to come to Reno to give the Pack yet another high-profile game.

4. Utah
The respect is there after the unbeaten season and the win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but it'll be tough to repeat the feat with so many major losses on offense along with the departure of star kicker Louie Sakoda. The Utes should increase their 14-game winning streak to 16 games, starting out the year against Utah State and San Jose State, but the strong defense will be put to the test with a trip to Oregon. There's also a date against Louisville and trips to TCU and BYU. Utah will have to be unbeaten to get back in and if it's on a 26-game winning streak, there will be more to discuss than a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

3. TCU
It would've been an interesting late-season debate had TCU held on to beat Utah. Would an 11-1 TCU team, with the one loss coming at Oklahoma, gotten into the BCS over an unbeaten Boise State? The Horned Frogs beat the Broncos in an entertaining Poinsettia Bowl, and now they want to finally get over the hump and get the national spotlight game. The defense is always strong, but there's rebuilding to be done on the front seven around Jerry Hughes. The offense should be just good enough to get by, and it'll need to come up with a strong September with road trips to Virginia and Clemson. It's one thing to lose to Oklahoma, and it's another to lose to Clemson. TCU has to be unbeaten to get in.

2. BYU
The Cougars will be the most interesting major BCS buster contender because of the non-conference schedule that could be both a good and a bad thing. BYU might be able to survive a loss to Oklahoma to start the season and still be in the BCS hunt, but it can't be a blowout. Of course, an upset win would change the dynamic of the season and get the national title talk going instead of just searching for a BCS spot. But this year's BYU team has holes (mainly on the offensive line) that will be exposed in the season opener. The Mountain West should be good enough to give the Cougars the needed respect if they can get through it unscathed, and a home win over Florida State would likely provide the national attention needed to put an 11-1 team in.

1. Boise State
The Broncos got hosed last year after being passed over for Ohio State despite being ranked one spot higher (Boise State was ninth, the Buckeyes tenth) in the final BCS standings. They weren't even close to getting the automatic spot that Utah claimed by finishing sixth. While the Poinsettia Bowl loss to TCU ended any valid argument that the Fiesta made the wrong choice, Boise State still has proven itself time and again worthy of the big stage. The WAC will be better than it was last season, but Boise State will still be the class of the league. The non-conference schedule had layups like home games against Cal-Davis and Miami University, along with an interesting trip to Toledo, but the make-or-break moments will be on September 5th when Oregon comes to town and on October 3rd with a trip to Tulsa. Realistically, if Boise State can beat the Ducks and the Golden Hurricane, it'll take a major upset to prevent a second trip to the BCS in four years.