We all know about those “BCS Conferences”. The ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-10 and the SEC. And, yeah, technically the Big East is still a BCS conference. But what about teams from those “other conferences”?? Every year, one of those teams surprises and gets onto the national stage somehow. Whether it is a superior record [like Miami-OH last year], a Heisman hopeful, a high-octane offense, or a big-time upset of a ranked team [N. Illinois over Maryland]….teams can get a little ray of sun here-or-there.
Here is my little attempt to shine a light on some of these programs and players [note: I‘ve omitted Louisville, Cincinnati and So. Florida from the mix due to their move to a BCS Conference next year] .
MEMPHIS TIGERS. This offense is explosive…and their defense is routinely efficient. DeAngelo Williams is one of the top backs in the league and led the nation in all-purpose yards last year. Their C-USA schedule has NO TCU on the docket….with Louisville and So. Miss coming to the Liberty Bowl to play the Tigers. Other than an opener against Ole Miss, the non-conference schedule is easy.
TOLEDO ROCKETS. Their schedule is fairly tough….and the conference has its speed bumps. No doubt that the Rockets will start off kinda rocky. But Toledo historically is a good MAC team. They have excellent backs and QB Gradkowski throwing it to the game-breaking Lance Moore. Their defense isn’t that great….but they have talent there.
TCU HORNED FROGS. I know, this one is kind of cheat. We all are aware of TCU’s emergence to the top of the non-BCS crowd. But, this program will soon be in the fourth different conference in a decade [SWC, WAC, C-USA and Mountain West]. TCU isn’t as good as the quick 10-0 start team of last year. But TCU’s schedule is pretty favorable for them to be unbeaten [or just 1-loss] before Halloween. There, the schedule gets tougher. The offense is balanced…and in a good way. They averaged 200 yards running and 200 yards passing. Their top skill guys are all back and an cohesive offensive line.
UTAH UTES. The Utes should run thru the Mountain West Conference for the 2nd straight year. Aside from a roadie to New Mexico and one to San Diego State, they have all their tough tests [Texas A&M, Colorado State, BYU, Air Force] in Salt Lake City. Alex Smith is back as their all-MWC quarterback and an offense that will let him sling it around. The defense has 7 starters returning from a team that allowed ZERO points to BYU and Southern Miss COMBINED in their final two games of 2003 [of course, they did allow 43 to Air Force and 47 to New Mexico in consecutive weeks].
MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD. They’re leaving for the Conference USA after this season….and they leave a conference they have dominated. Now, the Herd’s record won’t be that great early one…but the team will be. This “mid-major” has games lined up AT Ohio State on September 11th….then AT Georgia the very next Saturday. They do have their two biggest threats to the MAC East crown, Miami-OH and Central Florida, at home. They also don’t have Toledo or Northern Illinois on the slate. The big question is whether QB Stan Hill can come back to his old self after a knee injury.
BOISE STATE BRONCOS. The Broncos has quietly developed into a juggernaut in the WAC. Don’t be surprised to see the Mountain West going after BSU in further expansion. In the WAC, only Fresno State and Hawaii threaten to take BSU’s crown which has seen them win 18 straight WAC games. They do lose Dinwiddie…the most efficient passer in the NCAA. Michael Sanford is a senior…and has been in the offense long enough to hold it warm until Zabransky is ready to take over. Overall, the team must replace a ton of starters….but they’ve been doing that for a few years now. Now, take a look at the schedule. They play only FOUR games away from Boise…with THREE of them against the worst teams in the WAC [San Jose State, Nevada and UTEP]. The lone “tough” game is at Tulsa. They get Fresno, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech at home. As far as non-conference: Idaho, Oregon State and BYU. All games the Broncos will be favored to win. By the way….this school may be the next BYU, as they now have a strong recruiting base in the Pacific northwest and have shown signs of being able to dip into California for talent…having signed 14 California high schoolers this year. It would be nice to see them play a bowl game away from home.