Strange as it may sound, the Big Ten’s ethical shortcomings — and its deficiencies on the field — could pave the way for a mid-major’s inclusion in the BCS this season.
BCS rules dictate that a conference champion from a non-automatic qualifying conference is guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl if it finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. Boise State, TCU, Utah and Hawaii have benefited from this rule in the past.
However, if one of these non-AQ conference champions finishes the season ranked higher than a conference champion from a BCS league, the non-AQ school will only need to be ranked in the top 16 to guarantee a spot in a BCS bowl.
As of the latest coaches’ poll (which is used in calculating the BCS standings), there are no Big Ten teams ranked in the Top 25 for the first time ever. In the latest AP poll (which is not used in calculating the BCS standings, but is valuable nonetheless), 3-2 Michigan is the only bowl-eligible Big Ten team ranked, at No. 25.
Meanwhile, 5-0 Louisiana Tech and 4-1 Boise State are ranked in both polls, and 6-0 Ohio is lingering just outside the Top 25, perhaps a win or two away from joining the fray. Unless Big Ten teams not named Ohio State and Penn State have major resurgences over the second half of the season, these non-AQ teams will only need to finish in the top 16 of the BCS to automatically qualify for a BCS spot.
The bad news? The top-16 rule only applies to the highest ranked of the non-AQ conference champions, so only one of them could use it to get into a BCS bowl. But it’s still better than having to claw into the top 12 to make a BCS dream a reality.
Here are the BCS buster rankings after Week 6:
Notre Dame: Before I begin, I have gotten quite a bit of reader pushback for including Notre Dame in this feature each week, with many saying they don’t qualify as a BCS buster. Here is the best explanation I can give for their inclusion in my made-up rankings, for those who are so inclined to read it.
Now that we have that housekeeping out of the way, did you see what the Irish did to Miami this weekend in Chicago? Notre Dame gained nearly 600 yards of offense — including almost 400 on the ground — in a 41-3 pasting of the once-proud Hurricanes. The win moved Notre Dame to No. 7 in the latest polls, and after allowing just 12 total points in their past three games, the Irish have the No. 2 scoring defense in the country, behind only Alabama. Notre Dame earns an automatic BCS bid with a top-eight finish in the BCS standings, and while there’s still a tough road ahead, with games against Stanford, Oklahoma and USC on the schedule, the Irish are looking more and more like a BCS lock with each passing week.
Boise State: As I stated above, it appears likely that a non-AQ conference champion will only need to finish in the top 16 to get an automatic ticket to the BCS. Of the assumed league title winners, Boise State seems most likely to finish the season unbeaten and meet that requirement. The Broncos moved to 4-1 after pounding Southern Miss on the road this week, and they’ll be favored in every game the rest of the way. Boise State’s season-opening loss to Michigan State seemed like a death sentence, but as long as the Broncos win out, they should make their third-ever BCS appearance.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs (5-0) kept on rolling last week, with a 58-31 win over UNLV that propelled them into the Top 25 for the first time since 1999. The true test of this team’s mettle, however, will come this weekend, in a hurricane-delayed game against No. 22 Texas A&M that few expected would be a Top 25 matchup. Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel has been every bit as good as advertised this season, and he could pose some problems for a Bulldogs defense that is second-to-last in total defense among FBS schools. But should Louisiana Tech overcome that — and it helps that the Bulldogs also have the No. 3 scoring offense — it should win the next four and find itself 10-0 heading into a tough matchup against Utah State on Nov. 17.
THE ALSO-RANS (FOR NOW)
Ohio: The Bobcats moved to 6-0 on the season with a 38-31 conference win over Buffalo on Saturday, but like most of their wins lately, they did it with little flare. Beau Blankenship is the nation’s third-leading rusher at 140.5 yards per game and quarterback Tyler Tettleton has been the consistent leader of an offense that’s averaging nearly 37 points per game. Ohio is ranked just outside the Top 25 in both polls and will need to go undefeated in order to reach a BCS bowl — and even that might not be enough. And while there’s not necessarily a game that one might expect them to lose over the next six weeks, the team hasn’t exactly instilled confidence that it will win all of them, either.
NO LONGER IN THE MIX (SORRY)
Texas-San Antonio: Like Notre Dame, UTSA has incited some unrest among readers with their inclusion in this feature each week. But fear not! They’ll be gone next week, not because they lost, but because their conference made it so. Previously, the Roadrunners (5-0) were not technically eligible for a bowl because they are in the first year of a two-year reclassification process, but they could have been part of the NCAA’s approved contingency plan in the event that it fell short of the minimum number of teams required to fill the bowl slots. That scenario was never likely — though it was more likely than UTSA busting the BCS — but now it’s impossible, because the WAC and NCAA put the kibosh on that this week, ruling that UTSA would not play in the postseason, regardless of how it finishes the season. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.