Up the poll: Does schedule favor Boise or TCU?

September, 9, 2010
It's been well-chronicled the past few days: TCU and Boise State are pretty darn good.

No argument there. But, national-championship good? The voters, in this case the reporters who cover the teams and the games, think so. When this week's AP top 25 poll revealed that TCU had leaped the Longhorns, bouncing from No. 6, over No. 5, and to No. 4, it put the Horned Frogs bumper-to-bumper with its BCS-buster nemesis, No. 3 Boise State.

Those poll positions, for the first time since the creation of the BCS, mean not just one, but two "non-automatic qualifying" teams are legitimate contenders to bust on through to the national championship game.

Boise has the edge over the Frogs if both sweep their respective schedules -- for a second consecutive season. But, if Boise bumbles just once and TCU stays true, the Frogs would be in position to possibly get the chance to color in the tip of coach Gary Patterson's famed pyramid of goals. It reads: No. 1, National Champions.

But, when push comes to shove, would an undefeated Boise or TCU really get the nod over, say, a one-loss Florida or Oklahoma?

"I don't think we'll know until we get to the end of the season," Patterson said.

If Boise or TCU -- or both -- don't lose, the coaches that vote in the USA Today top 25 poll will have to think long and hard. (Patterson, by the way, will not be casting votes this season. With a slight smirk, he said he's glad.) The Harris Poll voters will also have to think long and hard. Then it will all come down to a formula and a computer will spit out No. 1 and No. 2 and the national championship matchup is born. (The AP poll is not part of the BCS formula, but the other polls, logically, would be in close step.

So does TCU or Boise have the more difficult path to perfection? And what about No. 1 Alabama? And No. 2 Ohio State? Does either have an early loss lurking? And what about No. 5 Texas? Could Bevo push from behind if it builds a head of steam?

Two of three face stiff tests Saturday: Alabama welcomes No. 18 Penn State, and Ohio State plays No. 12 Miami at home. Texas should get an easy, crowd-pleasing win in its home opener against the Mountain West's Wyoming.

Meanwhile, TCU will be heavy favorites in each of its games, starting Saturday at home against Tennessee Tech and leading into the Nov. 6 showdown in Salt Lake against big-in-its-britches Utah, soon-to-be Pac-10-bound. The Utes broke into the rankings this week at No. 20.

The Broncos face the Beavers at home on Sept. 25. Two late-season WAC games, fortuitously at home against Fresno State and Oklahoma-stunner Utah State, stack up as Boise's most challenging obstacles.

If Boise and TCU continue to win, how voters weigh overall strength-of-schedule, an edge the "major conference" teams will win every time, will be an interesting study.

But, who knows? Anything is possible.

Here's a look at the key areas of the remaining schedules for the nation's top five teams:

No. 1 Alabama
Ranked teams defeated: None
Ranked teams left on schedule:6 (No. 18 Penn State, No. 14 Arkansas, No. 8 Florida, No. 24 South Carolina, No. 19 LSU, No. 21 Auburn)
Others close to being ranked: None
Trap game: at Tennessee

No. 2 Ohio State
Ranked teams defeated: None
Ranked teams left on schedule: 4 (No. 12 Miami, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 18 Penn State, No. 9 Iowa)
Others close to being ranked: Michigan
Trap game: at Minnesota

No. 3 Boise State
Ranked teams defeated: 1 (No. 10 Virginia Tech)
Ranked teams left on schedule: None.
Others close to being ranked: Oregon State, Fresno State
Trap game: at Idaho

No. 4 TCU
Ranked teams defeated: 1 (No. 24 Oregon State)
Ranked teams left on schedule: 1 (No. 20 Utah)
Others close to being ranked: BYU
Trap game: at Colorado State

No. 5 Texas
Ranked teams defeated: None.
Ranked teams left on schedule: 2 (No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 6 Nebraska)
Others close to being ranked: None.
Trap game: at Texas Tech



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