One week remains in the regular season. One BCS Buster has a direct path to one of the four lesser BCS bowl games. Another has a direct path if the other falters. Either way, no matter what transpires, Championship Weekend will provide a fascinating final set of showdowns to determine who might be this year’s Buster.
But while the rest of the country debates “Will they or won’t they?” about a rematch between LSU and Alabama that would ensure the SEC winning a sixth straight national title, we would be neglecting the BCS credo itself — “Every (AQ-conference) Game Counts” — if we didn’t mention that one BCS Buster in the making should be garnering more consideration for the championship game.
It’s funny how conference affiliation can either elevate a team to inevitable heights (as it has for Bama) or be used to invalidate a perfect season (if you’re outside the power structure like Houston). How else do you explain the fact that only two undefeated teams remain, and we’re sitting here debating the merits of a handful of one-loss teams against one another’s resumes while one of those unblemished schools gets cast aside as irrelevant?
If every game truly counted, the Cougars wouldn’t be getting ripped for winning every game on their schedule. If every game truly counted, we wouldn’t be reliving the Tigers-Tide nonsense that yielded a five-field-goal laugher of a “defensive battle” in early November. If every game truly counted, Bill Hancock and crew wouldn’t be threatening to replay that on a conference’s perceived strength. If every game truly counted, we wouldn’t be using the same arguments over and over from seasons past to justify inclusions and snubs.
But here we are, one week left in the regular season. Just two teams have a shot at busting the BCS at this point, and one holds fate in its own hands. But it isn’t a complete control, given that they can play as well as any other team in the nation yet get locked out of a chance at the crystal pigskin merely because their red helmets are a lighter shade and have a “UH” on them instead of a player’s number. And that’s the essence of when not every game counts…
Instead we’re left with the scraps. Once again the BCS Busters can be as dominant as any other team in the country (and in some cases be more dominant) and still get shut out. Welcome to college football circa 2011…
1. Houston Cougars (C-USA/11-0 – Last Week: 1st)
Overall: 6th (.7399) — Harris: 6th (.7468) — Coaches: 6th (.7431) — Computers: 8th (.730)
- W v. UCLA 38-34
- W @ North Texas 48-23
- W @ Louisiana Tech 35-34
- W v. FCS Georgia State 56-0
- W @ UTEP 49-42
- W v. East Carolina 56-3
- W v. Marshall 63-28
- W v. Rice 73-34
- W @ UAB 56-13
- W @ Tulane 73-17
- W v. SMU 37-7
- W @ Tulsa 48-16
It was supposed to be their toughest challenge of the season so far… and yet Houston rolled straight into Tulsa and, after a sluggish start that saw them down 10-6 to the Golden Hurricane after the first quarter was complete, scored the game’s last four touchdowns to run away in a 48-16 rout. A game that was essentially a division championship became a coronation waltz, as the Cougars rolled away with the game and the West Division.
Tulsa provides an interesting case study, given the hellish early-season non-conference schedule they played. With games at Oklahoma, at home against Oklahoma State and away at Boise State, they started 1-3 against three of the toughest teams in the country.
When you compare those team’s performances against the Golden Hurricane against Houston’s 32-point victory on Saturday, you see a Cougars team that looks even better by comparison. Then-#1 Oklahoma put up essentially the same scoreline (47-14), winning by one more point in a virtual wash (especially considering that the difference in margin is directly attributable to Houston having their first PAT attempt blocked). Except it isn’t a wash when you realize the fact that the vaunted Sooners defense allowed one more touchdown to Tulsa than did the Cougars. And Houston won in Tulsa, while Oklahoma got to play in their friendly Norman confines.
Oklahoma State was the only of the three to come to Chapman Stadium, winning a wild late-night thriller. They were the only team to score more points against Tulsa than the Cougars (59-33)… but they also allowed more than twice as many points to G.J. Kinne and crew, winning with a margin of victory one touchdown leaner than that of Houston. And the Cowboys allowed over 200 more rushing yards and nearly 150 more total offensive yards to the Golden Hurricane.
And Boise State — the team with which Houston was competing for so long this season for a BCS berth before the Broncos’ heartbreaking home loss to TCU — won by 12 fewer points, scored one touchdown fewer, and allowed three total touchdowns to Tulsa. They allowed fewer yards than any other team in this four-way comparison to the Tulsa offense, but they also produced less offense of their own than any of the other three teams.
What does this all say about Houston? Well, many are still apt to vote Oklahoma State to #2 if they can beat Oklahoma in the Bedlam game. But then again, before Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech and then Baylor, the pollsters were ready to anoint that game the second de-facto national semifinal along with the SEC championship and award #2 to either of the winning teams. And it still may come to pass that the Pokes end up playing the Tigers on January 9.
But what we’ve seen is that, despite the presumed weakness of their schedule, the Cougars have done exactly what they’re supposed to do against that schedule — won, and won convincingly. They didn’t suffer their own letdown to Conference USA’s equivalents of the Cyclones and Red Raiders and Bears. They didn’t get Horn-Frogged at home. And they’ve got road victories over an AQ division champion (6-6 UCLA, to be fair) and the WAC’s first post-Boise State champion (8-4 Louisiana Tech) en route to their unblemished regular season finish.
If every game counted, every loss would mean something more. And every team who managed to go undefeated would be given their due respect. But alas, with just the C-USA Championship left to be played before bowl selections, Houston prepares for Southern Miss knowing that a victory yields three things:
- A Conference USA championship;
- the first BCS berth in school and conference history; and
- absolutely no chance to go higher than the Sugar Bowl, sent to New Orleans to play the undercard instead of the title game.
2. TCU Horned Frogs (MWC/9-2 — Last Week: 2nd)
Overall: 18th (.3310) — Harris: 17th (.3409) — Coaches: 17th (.3620) — Computers: 18th (.290)
- L @ Baylor 50-48
- W @ Air Force 35-19
- W v. Louisiana-Monroe 38-17
- W v. FCS Portland State 55-13
- L v. SMU 40-33 (OT)
- W @ San Diego State 27-14
- W v. New Mexico 69-0
- W v. BYU 38-28
- W @ Wyoming 31-20
- W @ Boise State 36-35
- W v. Colorado State 34-10
The Horned Frogs sat back this weekend with a bye, left to watch the rest of the developments unfold underneath them in the conference. All that stands between TCU and its fourth straight season with at least ten wins is a date with UNLV; winning that game would put the Horned Frogs in position as 10-2 outright Mountain West champion to pick up the pieces should Houston stumble.
So TCU now becomes a fan of the Golden Eagles, because if the Cougars stumble in the C-USA Championship it opens the door wide for a third straight BCS Buster appearance in the Horned Frogs’ last season as a non-AQ before jumping to Big XII status next season. Unlike the Cougars, they would have no argument this season for inclusion in the national championship… thus making a 10-2 TCU team earning the coveted auto-bid for non-AQ teams instead of a 13-0 Houston team grabbing it almost more attractive to the BCS cartel.
“WHY?” you might very well be asking yourself at this point. Well, think about it. Pitting 10-2 TCU and, say, 10-2 Michigan (the team garnering the most attention at the moment for that at-large slot) would leave no questions for the cartel. It would be a lucrative matchup of a fairly local team (Fort Worth is less than nine hours’ drive away from New Orleans on the interstate system) with one of the sport’s blue-blood powerhouses returned to prominence. And nobody would question the rationale of the pairing.
If Houston gets that spot, the proximity would get even closer… but then so would the heat. With a one-loss team playing in the national championship game at the same host site a week later, the questions would only escalate about why the Cougars had been shunted off into a fairly irrelevant bowl matchup despite being one of just two undefeated teams.
If Houston loses against Southern Miss and kills its conference’s dreams right as it is mulling a move Eastward, it would allow TCU to flip a lucrative finger at its conference on the way out the door and simultaneously leave it with a gift it thought was lost when they flipped that bird the first time over a fortnight ago on the Smurf Turf. The BCS would breathe easier, knowing the non-AQ obstacle to its national-championship argument had been sidestepped at the 11th hour.
Of course, TCU does still have to get through a 2-9 team before it can hope to claim that spot. But with kickoff in Fort Worth coming two and a half hours after the game starts down south in Houston, the Horned Frogs should know with relative certainty what kind of odds are at stake. Gary Patterson is a master at getting his team ready for both the big fish and the minnows, and he will be quick to point out that Southern Miss could easily be in their position had they finished business last week against UAB. Had the Golden Eagles won that game in Birmingham, this blurb about TCU would be moot — and the C-USA Championship would essentially be a BCS Buster play-in game.
So the Horned Frogs are lucky to be where they are right now. And just one stumble is all they need to write a final BCS Buster chapter in their historic run — should Houston lose, TCU is uniquely positioned to become both the first non-AQ school to earn three consecutive BCS berths, and the first to earn one of them with not just one but two losses on their record…
OTHERS RECEIVING BCS VOTES
- 3. Boise State Broncos (MWC/10-1 — Last Week: 3rd) 7th @ 0.7027
- 4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (C-USA/10-2 — Last Week: 5th) 32nd @ 0.191
- 5. BYU Cougars (IND/8-3 — Last Week: 6th) 33th @ 0.0111
- 6. Arkansas State Red Wolves (SUN BELT/9-2 — Last Week: 8th) 34th @ 0.0060
- 7. Northern Illinois Huskies (MAC/9-3 — Last Week: 7th) 35th @ 0.0058
- 8. Ohio Bobcats (MAC/9-3 — Last Week: 9th) 38th @ 0.0025
- 9. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (C-USA/8-4 — Last Week: 4th) 37th @ 0.0036