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BCS buster ranks are thinning

Sharpen up
Ohio (5-0) is the best bet to finish the season undefeated.
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Sam Gardner

Sam Gardner is a general assignment writer for FOXSports.com. Originally from Orlando, Fla., he previously covered the Orlando Magic for FOX Sports Florida and has also covered the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs. Follow him on Twitter.

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Perhaps the most challenging thing about being a “BCS buster” is that doing so often requires more of a team than just simply winning every game it plays. For a non-automatic qualifying school to join the elite BCS club, it has to be overwhelmingly impressive in victory, too.

Unfortunately, not all of the potential BCS busters seem to be getting that message and some are playing themselves out of the discussion simply by virtue of not being dominant enough when they win. None of the top non-AQ contenders for a coveted BCS spot lost on Saturday, but the favorites have certainly begun to separate themselves from the also-rans.

Here’s a look at the state of the BCS busters race after Week 5:

THE FAVORITES

Notre Dame: The Irish (4-0) finally got a weekend off after a month-long stretch that included a trip to Ireland and back-to-back matchups against top 20 competition from the state of Michigan. Up next is a “Catholics vs. Convicts” meeting with Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday before a tough three-game stretch that includes home games against No. 18 Stanford and BYU and a road game at No. 17 Oklahoma. The Hurricanes (4-1) might be one of the most underwhelming four-win teams in the country, with its only convincing victory coming against FCS Bethune-Cookman, and Notre Dame should improve to 5-0. But the Irish would be wise not to overlook Miami, because a loss to the ‘Canes could crush their BCS hopes.

Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs (4-0) may have lost star running back Tevin King for the season with an ACL injury against Illinois in Week 4, but so far they’ve made a seamless transition to the second and third guys on the depth chart without him. Freshman Kenneth Dixon carried the ball 16 times for 78 yards and senior Ray Holley had 14 carries for 69 yards and two scores on Saturday as Louisiana Tech used 34 straight points to beat Virginia 44-38 in Charlottesville. The Bulldogs now have two wins over BCS teams this season, and Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in Week 7 may be the only thing standing between them and the BCS.

THE ALSO-RANS (FOR NOW)

Ohio: The Bobcats (5-0) are the best bet in college football to finish the season undefeated, but they’re not going to endear themselves to the voters in the national polls or to the BCS committee if they keep struggling with sub-par competition. Earlier this season, Ohio scraped past Marshall 27-24, giving Bobcat loyalists mild cause for concern. But a 37-34 win on Saturday over an 0-4 Massachusetts team in the Minutemen’s first year at the BCS level raises a serious red flag. Coach Frank Solich has said his team isn’t good enough to start looking too far down the road, and it seems he might be on to something. If the Bobcats don’t make some significant strides against the rest of their weak MAC East slate, they may find it challenging to finish unbeaten, much less earn a spot in the BCS.

WHO SETS THE CURVE?

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Boise State: The Broncos’ sterling reputation may allow for a little wiggle room when it comes to sneaking into the BCS with a loss, but like Ohio, Boise State (3-1) can’t afford not to dominate week in and week out. On Saturday, Boise State nearly blew a 25-0 halftime lead in a 32-29 win over New Mexico, and the AP voters took notice, dropping the Broncos from the latest rankings. A cross-country visit to Hattiesburg, Miss., for a brutal noon ET start next Saturday against 0-4 Southern Miss could prove challenging, but it’s also Boise State’s last chance to flex its muscles before it gets into the meat of the Mountain West schedule. If the Broncos overlook the Golden Eagles — and they shouldn’t; Southern Miss nearly upset Louisville on Saturday — they could be in trouble.

STILL IN THE MIX (TECHNICALLY)

Texas-San Antonio: Somebody break up the Roadrunners! UTSA is now 5-0 on the season with a 35-14 win over New Mexico State, showing that Larry Coker’s team can beat FBS competition, too — but they still haven’t played anyone worth their weight in footballs. UTSA’s five opponents this year (including three from the football championship subdivision) have a combined record of 0-12 against FBS competition, so forgive me if I’m not sold on UTSA just yet. Next up is a visit to Rice before a three-game stretch against San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech that is all but certain to produce three losses and give the Roadrunners the reality check they deserve.

You can follow Sam Gardner on Twitter or e-mail him at samgardnerfox@gmail.com.

Tagged: Boise State, Ohio, Louisiana Tech, Tevin King

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