Broncos better bring their ‘A’ game

The three remaining BCS Busters took different approaches to boosting their stock this weekend, with Notre Dame barely sneaking by BYU, Boise State dominating UNLV and Ohio not playing at all. As a result, No. 21 Boise State and No. 24 Ohio improved their standings, while Notre Dame maintained the status quo at No. 5.

For the Irish going forward, the focus will be on beating two BCS championship contenders and not falling victim as heavy favorites against three other BCS conference foes — no small task, indeed — while Ohio and Boise State will continue to race for No. 16 in the BCS standings, provided the Big Ten doesn’t have a resurgence over the final few weeks.

If the Big Ten champion stays out of the top 16 and Ohio or Boise State wins out and gets there, the higher-ranked team of the Broncos or Bobcats could steal a BCS spot from Notre Dame if the Irish were to slip up and fall out of the top 8 (so it’s no wonder I consider them among the “BCS Busters” if they get in).

All of that said, there is still way too much football left to assume any of that will or won’t happen. So without further ado, here are the BCS Busters after Week 8:

The Favorites

NOTRE DAME (Why Irish belong here): Saddled between the win over Stanford and the showdown at No. 8 Oklahoma, the Fighting Irish’s matchup against BYU on Saturday was a trap game if there ever was one. Notre Dame (7-0) nearly fell victim against the Cougars, as BYU led 14-7 at the half and 14-10 after three quarters. In the end, however, Notre Dame’s 270-yard rushing performance, paced by 143 yards from Theo Riddick and 114 from Cierre Wood, was too much to handle.

The Irish remain at No. 5 in the BCS standings after the win with Oklahoma, Pitt, Boston College, Wake Forest and USC left to play. They seem to be a good bet to bust the BCS, but success can be fleeting — as West Virginia certainly can attest.

BOISE STATE: Boise State’s defense stole the show on Saturday, holding UNLV to just 210 yards of offense in a 32-7 win. But the Broncos (6-1) didn’t see much of a boost in the BCS standings as a result, moving up just one spot to No. 21.

It’s still likely a race to No. 16 for Boise State — and the other mid-major teams — but upcoming games against Wyoming (1-6), Hawaii (1-5) and Colorado State (1-6) won’t do the Broncos any favors, regardless of how lopsided the scores are.

That leaves conference showdowns against vs. San Diego State (5-3) on Nov. 3 and at Nevada (6-2) on Dec. 1 as Boise State’s only opportunities to make a statement to voters. The Broncos needs to show up big in those games and hope they don’t get passed up by the Big Ten teams on their tail.

The also-ran (for now)

OHIO: A bye week (and losses by Cincinnati, TCU and Iowa State) seemed to do the Bobcats (7-0) a favor, as they appeared at No. 24 in this week’s BCS standings after previously being unranked — now it’s just a matter of catching Boise State and getting into the top 16.

Ohio already has knocked off the bottom three teams in its division, and the challenge gets tougher going forward, with games against Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green and Kent State. A win over the Golden Flashes (6-1) would be huge for Ohio’s resume, but a presumptive Mid-American Conference championship game may be an even better opportunity for the Bobcats to show their worth.

Northern Illinois (7-1) and Toledo (7-1) are outstanding teams in the MAC West, and both would be potential BCS Busters if not for Week 1 losses to Iowa (18-17) and Arizona (24-17 in OT), respectively. A win over whichever team advances to the MAC title game likely would be a valuable top 25 victory, should it happen, but still may not propel the Bobcats past Boise State.

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