Boise State and Houston remain at the head of the pack. →]" />
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BCS Buster Power Rankings: 2011 Week 8 Rankings

Several teams dropped by the wayside in their hunt to remain somewhere among the BCS standings as the 2011 season finished its eighth weekend on a crisp October Saturday. And while all the news has centered around the demise of national title hopes for Oklahoma and Wisconsin, several BCS Busters also found themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard and ruing their missed opportunity.

In the Conference USA showdown between SMU and Southern Miss, one team was destined to drop off the radar based on the result. The other two contenders still somewhere in the chase, on the other hand, suffered inexplicable losses just when they were starting to hover on the cusp of greatness.

And then several people put themselves back on the radar, or even further up the radar, with spectacular showings that forced the establishment to perk up its collective ears in a pique of interest.

A couple of teams also played their way back into the public consciousness. Between the polls and the computers, six different non-AQ schools earned at least one point to register somewhere in the BCS race. Here they are with human and computer grades as follows:

 

 

BCS

Harris Poll

USA Today

RK

 

CONF

REC

TEAM

AVG

RK

PTS

%

RK

PTS

%

4

↑1

MWC

7-0

Boise State

0.8302

5

2410

0.8383

5

1213

0.8224

17

↑2

C-USA

7-0

Houston

0.3676

18

975

0.3391

17

519

0.3519

27

↑8

C-USA

6-1

Southern Miss

0.0546

27

135

0.0470

25

128

0.0868

30

↑9

MWC

5-2

TCU

0.0171

t28

83

0.0289

28

33

0.0224

36

NR

IND

6-2

BYU

0.0045

34

21

0.0073

34

9

0.0061

37

↓8

C-USA

5-2

SMU

0.0032

35

14

0.0049

35

7

0.0047

 

 

BCS

Computer Rankings

RK

 

CONF

REC

TEAM

AVG

AVG

A&H

RB

CM

KM

JS

PW

%

4

↑1

MWC

7-0

Boise State

0.8302

6

5

4

4

6

8

6

0.830

17

↑2

C-USA

7-0

Houston

0.3676

18

9

36

9

17

28

11

0.420

27

↑8

C-USA

6-1

Southern Miss

0.0546

29

24

30

22

32

38

27

0.030

30

↑9

MWC

5-2

TCU

0.0171

45

45

41

42

53

46

43

0.000

36

NR

IND

6-2

BYU

0.0045

48

41

49

41

54

55

47

0.000

37

↓8

C-USA

5-2

SMU

0.0032

36

39

38

37

39

32

28

0.000

 

So we say goodbye to some teams, say hello to one that was expected to be here all along, and break down a six-pack of Buster contenders in this week’s Power Rankings…

 

 

1. Boise State Broncos (MWC/7-0 — Last Week: 1st)

  • W @ Georgia (@ Georgia Dome) 35-21
  • W @ Toledo 40-15
  • W v. Tulsa 41-21
  • W v. Nevada 30-10
  • W @ Fresno State 57-7
  • W @ Colorado State 63-13
  • W v. Air Force 37-26

So Mountain West competition wasn’t as easy as expected? Managing defensively against an old-school triple-option offense isn’t the easiest thing in the world? It didn’t matter for the Broncos, who rolled to their FBS-leading 65th regular-season victory at home. (For all those that said Oklahoma’s 39-game streak was the FBS leader, stand counted wrong. Boise hasn’t lost on the Smurf Turf since before 9/11, the last loss coming to Washington State in a 41-20 defeat on September 8, 2001. To be fair, though, the Broncos have lost once on their home turf — to Boston College on December 28, 2005, in the MPC Computers Bowl.) Kellen Moore had his obligatory day where he threw at least three touchdowns (the 30th game of his career where he threw as many), tying Colt McCoy for the all-time lead in FBS history with 45 victories. Doug Martin boosted his top-20 scoring total among FBS leaders with his third 100+ yard game of the season, showing that the running game is still an integral part of the Boise State offense. And with the heart of the Mountain West schedule — bookended by gimme games against UNLV on the road and New Mexico at home is a triumvirate of TCU at home, San Diego State on the road and Wyoming back on the blue turf — still left to navigate, nothing is guaranteed. But with at least one national publication projecting the Broncos into the national championship game, there is a groundswell rising proclaiming their legitimacy in a way that is a true detriment to all for which the BCS stands…

 

2. Houston Cougars (C-USA/7-0 – Last Week: 2nd)

  • 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

Coming into the game, Case Keenum was looking to write a piece of history as he needed just 130 yards to surpass Timmy Chang as the career FBS leader in total yardage from scrimmage. On Houston’s third drive of the game, a 30-yard pass to Justin Johnson sealed the deal. More noteworthy than history, though, was the plays after that record-setter — Keenum would go 5-of-5 for 71 yards, Tyron Carrier catching the last for a touchdown that made the game 14-7. Deadly efficient as usual, Keenum competed 24-of-28 overall for 376 yards and six touchdowns and was resting comfortably on the sideline for most of the 4th quarter. The pollsters have Houston pegged as the 17th or 18th best team in the country; the computers have no clue what to do with the Cougars, rating them anywhere from 9th (Anderson & Hester, Colley) to outside the top 25 altogether (Billingsley, Sagarin). The computers have loved Tulsa and SMU, though, despite their losses, so Houston’s regular-season finish against their two C-USA West rivals should help sway the computers further their way as long as they keep winning. And a final showcase in the C-USA Championship (likely against Southern Miss, another team the computer have valued highly) could be enough to push the Cougars into position to force the BCS’s hand with an at-large bid — especially if Keenum continues to shatter the record books…

 

3. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (C-USA/6-1 — Last Week: 5th)

  • W v. Louisiana Tech 19-17
  • L @ Marshall 26-20
  • W v. FCS SE Louisiana 52-6
  • W @ Virginia 30-24
  • W v. Rice 48-24
  • W @ Navy 63-35
  • W v. SMU 27-3

We ought to be giving mighty thanks to the Golden Eagles, for who knows how much getting to see this run of greatness up close by his alma mater has kept Brett Favre from trying to come back out of retirement yet again? All joking aside, the hurting that Southern Miss put on visiting SMU last weekend was no laughing matter. Their defense held the Mustangs’ 10th-ranked passing attack 160 yards below its season average, allowing just 173 hard-fought yards to J.J. McDermott on 16-of-32 passing while intercepting him twice. (The latter was taken 41 yards for a touchdown return by Marquese Wheaton.) Ranked 25th in the country by the coaches, they are just outside the top 25 in the Harris Poll as well and hovering dangerously at 27th in the BCS standings. The computers are also starting to love the Golden Eagles, their average standing among the six machines rising 15 places in the aftermath of their beatdown of SMU. With a potent mix of offense (18th in total yardage at 472.3 YPG and 21st in scoring with 37.0 PPG) and defense (35th in yardage allowed at 344.1 YPG and 19th in opponent scoring, giving up 19.3 PPG), Larry Fedora’s team is in prime position to remain dominant throughout the rest of its regular season to set up a showdown in the C-USA Championship with a chance to play spoiler against the Cougars and maybe even make history as the first-ever one-loss BCS Buster…

 

4. TCU Horned Frogs (MWC/5-2 — Last Week: 6th)

  • 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

It might just be residual respect from their past few seasons of dominance; it might be premature respect for their future conference home among their Lone Star rivals in the Big XII. Or maybe the voters just saw TCU, recognized the name, and were astounded enough by the 69-point drubbing to hand at least a token point or two over. Whatever it is that’s swaying the humans, the computers aren’t buying it. While receiving over a hundred points in the polls from the voters in the USA Today and Harris ballots, not a single computer thinks the Horned Frogs are within even the top 40 teams in the country. It would be hard to mistake this team for its recent incarnations, but there are several signs that TCU is starting to get back to its old self (despite the result coming against perfect patsy New Mexico). Casey Pachall has been better than most expected in replacing campus legend Andy Dalton under center for the Horned Frogs, currently ranked 8th nationally in passing efficiency. A tough running game has helped ease the load on the youngster as he acclimates to leading the offense. And the defense, despite their uncharacteristic position outside the top ten in the nation in every category, has locked down in every conference game so far in 2011 and is still 35th best in the country. If any team could become the first two-loss BCS Buster, it would be TCU in their final Mountain West season…

 

5. BYU Cougars (IND/6-2 — Last Week: NR)

  • W @ Ole Miss 14-13
  • L @ Texas 17-16
  • L v. Utah 54-10
  • W v. UCF 24-17
  • W v. Utah State 27-24
  • W v. San Jose State 29-16
  • W @ Oregon State 38-28
  • W v. FCS Idaho State 56-3

The other Cougars still in the chase for a BCS berth are hoping that their independent schedule gets them treatment more akin to a Notre Dame than the UCFs and Utah States of the college football world when it comes time to evaluate those two losses on their record. In their favor is the fact that they came against BCS-conference teams. The first was a tough one-point road loss against a Texas team that has proven to be pretty good this year. The second, unfortunately, was a 44-point beating at home against their former Mountain West rival Utah, which has proven to be merely mediocre in its first Pac-12 season playing with the big boys. Games routing Idaho State aren’t going to do much to sway pollsters’ minds, though they already have votes being cast their way in both human ballots. Next week’s showdown, their ninth straight game to open the season without a bye week, is one of those games that could sway the balance in their favor. Traveling to Fort Worth to take on a TCU team that appears interchangeable with the Cougars in the various computers, Bronco Mendenhall’s team has a chance to show why it ditched the Mountain West after years of coming oh-so-close to BCS Buster status only to have it yanked away again and again…

 

6. SMU Mustangs (C-USA/5-2 — Last Week: 3rd)

  • L @ Texas A&M 46-14
  • W v. UTEP 28-17
  • W v. FCS Northwestern State 40-7
  • W @ Memphis 42-0
  • W @ TCU 40-33 (OT)
  • W v. UCF 38-17
  • L @ Southern Miss 27-3

June Jones’ team was simply spanked in the Bobby Collins Bowl, their trip to Hattiesburg yielding just three points. That drive — which started with an interception of Southern Miss’ Austin Davis and ended six minutes later, 4th and goal on the 3, with a 19-yard Chase Hover field goal — was the white-flag surrender on a day where SMU’s other red-zone efforts amounted to a Hover ping off the left upright from 31 yards out and J.J. McDermott’s second interception of the game. Yet, due perhaps as much to the mystique of the old SMU legacy and good vibes about this phoenix arisen from the ashes of its death penalty 25 years ago as to any justifiable logic, their second loss did not prevent them from receiving nominations in both human polls. The computers, further, like the team across the board better than either TCU or BYU, the latter mostly due to the head-to-head victory and the latter because Conference USA is deeper than most humans want to acknowledge this season. Unless they can pull off an upset of Houston on the road in November and then get their vengeance in a championship rematch with Southern Miss, these votes will be purely academic. But like its neighbor and Iron Skillet rival across the Metroplex, SMU knows that its name-brand recognition can only do it favors if they can get back to winning…

 

DROPPING OUT THIS WEEK: Louisiana-Lafayette (6-2, L @ Western Kentucky 42-23), Temple (5-3, L @ Bowling Green 13-10)

OTHERS MERITING CONSIDERATION: Arkansas State (5-2, W v. FIU 34-16), San Diego State (4-2, idle), Wyoming (4-2, idle)



Zach is a writer and editor who covers a wide array of sports both traditional and non-traditional. Formerly the managing editor of Informative Sports before joining Sports Nickel, Zach has been covering events international and domestic for various publications since 2006. Find him @zbigalke on Twitter.

Zach Bigalke has written 289 posts for SportsNickel.com

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