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Are there any BCS busters left?

Louisiana-Monroe QB Kolton Browning scores the winning TD vs. Arkansas.
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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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With TCU now a member of the Big 12 and Utah struggling again in its second season in the Pac-12, college football’s pool of potential BCS busters has taken a huge hit — much to the delight of the BCS committee, which faces enough controversy elsewhere, as it is.

Heading into this year, Boise State, in its final season in the Mountain West Conference before heading to the Big East, seemed like the most probable non-automatic qualifying candidate to contend for a BCS bowl, as usual, but a loss to Michigan State in Week 1 likely leaves the Broncos out of the picture.

So who does that leave to carry the torch? Are there even any non-AQ teams left to burst the BCS bubble? If a mid-major team does join the fray, it certainly will come as a surprise, but it would certainly be a welcome one for fans around the country.

In any case, here’s a look at the potential BCS busters after Week 2:

THE FAVORITES

Notre Dame: Some might say the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish (2-0) hardly qualify as a BCS-buster because, well, they’re Notre Dame. But Brian Kelly’s squad, which narrowly squeaked by Purdue on Saturday, doesn’t have a conference tie-in, so it’s up to the Irish to earn their way into one of the big-money bowls for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Unlike the other schools on this list, however, Notre Dame has the luxury of being able to withstand a loss or two while still getting into the BCS (just as they did to earn that spot in the 2007 Sugar Bowl against LSU) — which is good, because upcoming meetings with Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma and USC would seem to guarantee that a perfect season is out of the question.

BYU: If the No. 25 Cougars (2-0) are going to make their first-ever BCS appearance this season, their best bet is to go undefeated. But that’s asking a ton of BYU in its second season as an independent, considering that games against Utah, Boise State, Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech still loom large.

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Bronco Mendenhall’s team has won at least 10 games in five of the past six years, and double-digit wins seem probable again this year. Unfortunately, history normally dictates that a 10- or 11-win BYU team gets rewarded with a spot in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Ohio: The only unbeaten left in the Mid-American Conference, the Bobcats (2-0) might be the mid-majors’ best bet at running the table. Ohio has already played its toughest nonconference game, a Week 1 win over Penn State, and the Bobcats were the unanimous selection to win the MAC East division, so a perfect run through conference play is certainly not out of the question.

Unfortunately, even if the stars align and Ohio finishes undefeated, it might find that its schedule doesn’t pack enough punch to get into the BCS, and it seems possible that even a 13-0 Bobcats team would meet the same fate that Tulane (1998), Marshall (1999) and Boise State (2004, 2008) have and be forced to settle for a non-BCS bowl.

STILL IN THE MIX (TECHNICALLY)

Louisiana’s directional schools: Louisiana-Monroe (1-0) shocked Arkansas in Little Rock on Saturday, but meetings with Auburn and Baylor await in the next two weeks, and it’s tough to see quarterback Kolton Browning’s Warhawks opening conference play unscathed. Louisiana-Lafayette (2-0), meanwhile, has opened with wins over Lamar and Troy, but Oklahoma State should burst the Ragin’ Cajuns’ bubble in Week 3.

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The WAC’s top three: Utah State (2-0), UT-San Antonio (2-0) and Louisiana Tech (1-0) are all still unbeaten, but they will play one another in Western Athletic Conference competition, so even in a best-case scenario, only one could emerge unbeaten. UTSA is in its first year at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, has wins over South Alabama and Texas A&M-Commerce (yes, Commerce) and will certainly take its lumps later on. Louisiana Tech and Utah State were picked in the preseason poll to finish first and second, but neither is likely to go undefeated in conference play — much less overall. Don’t count on any of these teams to make a push.

OUT OF THE PICTURE

Conference USA: It has been a disaster thus far for Conference USA in the season before the league’s mass exodus for the Big East. Two weeks into the season, and each of the conference’s 12 teams already has a loss, with 10 of those coming in Week 1. East Carolina and Central Florida entered the weekend as the league’s only hopes to crash the BCS party, but both came up short against top-15 competition, with ECU getting stomped 48-10 by South Carolina and UCF losing 31-16 at Ohio State.

Mountain West: Like C-USA, the Mountain West is already out of undefeateds after Nevada and Air Force lost heartbreakers to South Florida and Michigan, respectively; Fresno State and New Mexico got blown out by BCS powerhouses at Oregon and Texas; and Colorado State lost 22-7 to reigning Football Championship Subdivision national champions North Dakota State. The MWC’s perennial favorite, Boise State, lost in Week 1 to Michigan State. Although there’s still a distinct possibility the Broncos go 11-1, no one-loss non-AQ team has ever played in a BCS bowl.

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

Tagged: Michigan, Michigan State, Boise State, Notre Dame, Utah, Ohio

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