That number is due to significantly thin down over the coming weeks. Next week the stock of unbeaten teams will fall by at least two, when Ohio State heads to Illinois to face Northwestern and Maryland takes on Florida State in Tallahassee. And that’s just the direct result of two undefeated squads facing one another; we’ve seen plenty of teams inexplicably fall from the unbeaten ranks over the past few weeks after enduring upsets.
Over the next six weeks, only one team among the Pac-12 quartet of Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington will still be undefeated after they all play one another — if one manages to survive unscathed at all. The same thing will happen with the Big 12 trio of Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech, unless they all sustain losses before they face one another. And after UCF’s loss at home to South Carolina, only Houston and Louisville remain unblemished in the AAC.
This might be a year like 2007, where the BCS was forced to pick from a list of two-loss teams to fill the spot opposite one-loss Big Ten champion Ohio State in the battle for the national title. The only team to make it through the regular season undefeated that year was Hawaii, which earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl as the WAC champion but found itself outmatched by Georgia 41-10 once they took the field in New Orleans. There are plenty of opportunities for seemingly unbeatable teams to throw away a chance at perfection, and it would be entirely fitting for that chaos to open the door for a one-loss or even two-loss BCS Buster in the final opportunity ere the College Football Playoff takes over next year.
Of course, it’s also possible that both Fresno State and Northern Illinois run the table, end the year undefeated, and completely get passed over by the BCS… or, conversely, both could be playing in a January headliner. While we don’t know yet which teams will tumble over the next few months, we do know which Cinderellas have the best chance of capitalizing on any chaos. Let’s see how the hopefuls rate in this week’s BCS Buster Power Rankings…
1. Fresno State Bulldogs (MWC/4-0)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 1st
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win at Hawaii 42-37
- NEXT GAME: Oct. 5 at Idaho
After emphatically grabbing hold of the top spot last weekend with a win over Boise State, the Bulldogs nearly threw away a big lead in Hawaii to survive in a five-point win over the Warriors. Up 42-3 midway through the third quarter, Fresno State allowed the hosts to score the final 34 points of the game — and Hawaii had the ball with two minutes remaining and a shot at the victory before Bulldog defensive back L.J. Jones iced the contest with his second interception of the game. Now that Tim DeRuyter has seen his team rest on its laurels in the second half only to nearly cough away a victory, he and his assistants must wean those habits out of Fresno’s players if the Bulldogs hope to stay undefeated in Mountain West play. For Fresno State to bust the BCS, they will have to reach the MWC Championship Game; a rescheduled game against a Colorado team that fell 44-17 in Corvallis this weekend would probably serve to weaken Fresno’s strength of schedule.
2. Northern Illinois Huskies (MAC/4-0)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 3rd
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win at Purdue 55-24
- NEXT GAME: Oct. 5 at Kent State
As I said last week, the Huskies have opened their season much like they did in 2012, winning close contests and generally looking like anything but a world-beater. That team had the benefit, too, of flying under the radar until November rolled around and other MAC teams hogged the headlines until the very end. Last Saturday, though, NIU finally unleashed the offensive onslaught everyone knew them capable of achieving when they crushed Purdue on the road. By beating the Boilermakers after already downing Iowa on opening weekend, Northern Illinois became the first MAC school to win two games against Big Ten opponents in the same season. For a team playing against the benchmarks set in last season’s BCS run, NIU is ahead of the curve and now ranked in the BCS race. What the Huskies cannot afford to do, though, is to continue courting catastrophe; NIU must continue to pull away in its contests if it hopes to join TCU as the only repeat Buster during the BCS era.
3. Texas State Bobcats (Sun Belt/3-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 6th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win vs. Wyoming 42-21
- NEXT GAME: Oct. 5 at Louisiana-Lafayette
The Bobcats did to Wyoming what the Blackshirts could not, holding the Cowboys to their lowest offensive numbers of the season both in yardage and in points. While the team has yet to play a conference game in the Sun Belt, Texas State is the team to beat in the league after a 42-21 beatdown of the Pokes. Lightning might have played a part, but running backs Robert Lowe (30 carries, 138 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Chris Nutall (11 carries, 62 yards, 2 touchdowns) battered Wyoming’s defense on the ground and quarterback Tyler Jones (14-of-18 for 196 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception; 7 carries for 56 yards) did enough to keep the Cowboys off balance all night in San Marcos. Dennis Franchione, who won his 200th game as a head coach on Saturday, has his team looking even more dangerous than expected ahead of its Sun Belt schedule.
4. Ohio Bobcats (MAC/3-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 5th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: idle
- NEXT GAME: Oct. 5 at Akron
Ohio benefited this week from inaction, jumping a spot in the poll thanks both to the non-conference showdown between Texas State and Wyoming and also the loss by Navy to Western Kentucky (see next page for more on that). The Bobcats finally begin MAC play next week when they travel to Akron. The Zips might be 1-4 so far in 2013 — but they nearly knocked off Michigan in the Big House, led Louisiana-Lafayette in the fourth quarter, and made Bowling Green engineer a second-half comeback this week. Frank Solich must make sure his squad isn’t caught overlooking its hosts lest the Bobcats plummet like so many teams already have this season. With only a +1.2 point differential per game, Ohio has little to no margin for error against any opponent, even against four October opponents that posted a combined 3-15 record in September.
5. Bowling Green Falcons (MAC/4-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 7th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win vs. Akron 31-14
- NEXT GAME: Oct. 5 vs. Massachusetts
The Falcons might be behind Ohio in the BCS Buster Power Rankings this week due to the quality of their loss (42-10 at Indiana versus 49-7 at Louisville for the Bobcats), but in the MAC East they have a two-game head start in the division race. Bowling Green should move to 3-0 in conference play this week when they host 0-4 Massachusetts ahead of their last big non-conference test. After taking on the Minutemen, the Falcons head to Starkville for a showdown against SEC opponent Mississippi State. The Bulldogs could come into that contest beat up after playing LSU the Saturday before, leaving the door open for a potential statement victory. After falling to the Hoosiers, Bowling Green needs to make its mark if it wants to set itself apart from the rest of the bunched group of contenders in the MAC and BCS Buster races.