We’re a little late here this week, so rather than expounding at the top let’s just dive right in to this week’s BCS Buster Power Rankings!
1. Northern Illinois Huskies (MAC/2-0)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 1st
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win at Idaho 45-35
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 21 vs. FCS Eastern Illinois
This should never have been this difficult for Northern Illinois. Against a winless Idaho team in Moscow, the Huskies played from behind for the entire first half. Northern Illinois would take a lead in the third quarter, but the Vandals leveled the score at 35-35 with 14 minutes remaining. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch was competent but not otherworldly, completing 17-of-29 through the air for just 152 yards (but three touchdowns and nary an interception). His real damage came on the ground, where Lynch outgained his arm with 159 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. With an FCS opponent this weekend, the Huskies should manage a more comfortable victory; the defense will need to use this opportunity to shore up its coverage after allowing 28 first downs and 442 offensive yards to Idaho before traveling to Purdue on the last weekend of September.
2. Fresno State Bulldogs (MWC/2-0)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 4th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: postponed at Colorado
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 20 vs. Boise State
The Bulldogs were supposed to play in their second BCS-conference test of the season, but massive floods in Boulder prevented Fresno from taking on Colorado at Folsom Field on Saturday. Instead, Fresno State enjoyed a bye week before their anticipated showdown against Boise State this Friday, safe and idle on the sidelines as chaos wreaked havoc on the teams below them in the standings. The battle with the Broncos will go a long way toward determining Mountain West supremacy this season, with Fresno State best positioned to become this season’s BCS Buster from the league. If the Bulldogs win, they’ve got the inside track on the West division and increase their national standing. If they lose, they’re not completely out of the race — but they will be in an uphill battle against the other one-loss teams of the MWC.
3. Navy Midshipmen (IND/2-0)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 7th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win vs. FCS Delaware 51-7
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 28 at Western Kentucky
No team has rushed for more yards per game than the Middies, but Navy might also have finally found a passing game against the Blue Hens this weekend. Against the FCS squad, Navy’s Keenan Reynolds had 233 passing yards — the first 200+ yard passing game by a Midshipmen quarterback since Ricky Dobbs threw for 227 against Duke on October 30, 2010. And after Bowling Green was walloped by Indiana, Navy’s earlier win over the Hoosiers looks even better. Already on their second bye week, the Midshipmen won’t be tested again until the last Saturday of September, when they head to Kentucky to face a Hilltoppers team that suddenly finds itself in disarray.
4. BYU Cougars (IND/1-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 6th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: idle
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 21 vs. Utah
Brigham Young was able to ride the publicity of their Texas stomping for another week as other teams around them in the BCS Buster Power Rankings suffered their first losses of the season. Now situated in the top five, the Cougars host Utah this weekend for the 95th edition of the Holy War. After this season, the two rivals will not meet again until 2016, interrupting the series for the first time since World War II, so both teams will be eager to claim three years of bragging rights. For BYU, this game affords them a third straight chance to match up against BCS-conference opposition, and a victory would only further entrench them as the one-loss team to beat in the BCS Buster race.
5. Texas State Bobcats (Sun Belt/2-0)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 10th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: idle
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 21 at Texas Tech
Surprisingly, only four undefeated non-AQ teams remain in all of college football after just three weeks of the 2013 season. Even more surprising than that, that fourth team is Sun Belt newcomer Texas State. After beating Southern Miss and FCS Prairie View A&M, the Bobcats took a break this weekend and bumped up into the top five by default. Dennis Franchione’s team will get its first legitimate chance to bolster that position when they travel to Lubbock this weekend to face a ranked Texas Tech squad. Beat the Red Raiders, and Texas State will quickly become the team everyone else is gunning for in the Sun Belt.
6. Utah State Aggies (MWC/2-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 11th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win vs. FCS Weber State 70-6
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 21 at USC
Utah State made short work of FCS opponent Weber State over the weekend, scoring on each of its first seven possessions and scoring 70 straight before allowing the Wildcats a garbage-time fumble recovery touchdown in the final minute. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton went 19-of-25 for 249 yards and five touchdowns, while the defense held the Weber State offense to 138 total yards. Their competition ramps up this weekend when they travel to California to face USC, the Aggies’ second Pac-12 opponent of the season. A win in the Coliseum would go a long way toward erasing the painful memories of the season-opening loss to Utah and put Utah State in solid position to potentially bust the BCS.
7. Boise State Broncos (MWC/2-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 14th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win vs. Air Force 42-20
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 20 at Fresno State
After falling flat in the season opener against Washington, this year’s Boise State team was something of an enigma. But after pulling away from Air Force to move atop the Mountain Division standings on Friday night, that opener in Seattle proved more about the Huskies’ quality as a team than about any dropoff in Boise. In the victory, quarterback Joe Southwick set a new team accuracy record by going 27-of-29 for 287 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Running back Jay Ajayi put up 125 yards in just seven carries, piling up four touchdown runs on the night. They can restore themselves atop the MWC pecking order in a second straight Friday showcase with a win in Fresno.
8. Wyoming Cowboys (MWC/2-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 12th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: win vs. FCS Northern Colorado 35-7
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 21 at Air Force
Like Utah State, Wyoming has followed up a close loss to BCS-conference competition with two straight victories, the most recent coming against overmatched FCS opponent Northern Colorado. The Cowboys, who were ranked 99th in the nation last year in rushing offense, now boasts top-40 passing and rushing attacks and is in the top third of the country in scoring offense and scoring defense. Leading tailback Shaun Wick is just 52 yards away from last season’s total yardage on the ground, and quarterback Brett Smith offers Dave Christensen a true dual-threat option. They head to Colorado Springs this weekend for a MWC showdown against Air Force, looking to keep pace with the Aggies and Boise State in the Mountain Division.
9. East Carolina Pirates (C-USA/2-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 5th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: loss vs. Virginia Tech 15-10
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 28 at North Carolina
This was a game that was thoroughly in East Carolina’s grasp. Hosting Virginia Tech in Greenville, the Pirates jumped out to a 7-0 lead, needing just 99 seconds on their opening drive to take the initiative. But the Hokies would hold them to just a field goal for the other 58 minutes on Saturday, as Shane Carden threw three interceptions and ECU faltered against VT’s stout defense. It is an opportunity lost, but Ruffin McNeill’s crew will get another right away when they travel to North Carolina this weekend. A win over the Tar Heels would give the Pirates a signature BCS-conference victory and help dull the sting of losing what was an imminently winnable game against Tech.
10. San Jose State Spartans (MWC/1-1)
- LAST WEEK’S RANKING: 13th
- THIS WEEK’S RESULT: idle
- NEXT GAME: Sept. 21 at Minnesota
San Jose State mercifully received a break after its loss to fellow Bay Area school Stanford, watching on Saturday as other teams above them suffered their first losses of the season. It gave the Spartans an extra week to prepare for Minnesota. The Gophers, unbeaten at this point, offer San Jose State a second chance at claiming a BCS-conference victory to bolster the Buster credentials. David Fales, one of the most accurate passers of 2012, has seen his completion percentage plummet to just 60% after tossing at a 72.5% rate last season. He’ll have to be the catalyst for the Spartans if they’re going to knock off Jerry Kill’s squad in the Twin Cities and make a serious run in their first season of Mountain West play.