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BCS Championship Projection: Boise State-Texas

by Dave Congrove
August 12, 2010

There is no denying that Boise State has arrived. The Broncos are considered a legitimate contender for the 2010 BCS title by every reputable poll and preseason magazine, and are the computer's pick to accomplish the task.

"The computer" is the Congrove Computer Rankings which I developed in 1993, five years before the BCS was established. My purpose was to create a "true" ranking of teams through a mathematical formula that contained no personal opinion or preconceived bias.

The very first year, the computer correctly predicted the national championship matchup and game-winner. Furthermore, it correctly determined the exact matchup for 7 of 19 bowls that were in existence at the time. It put 27 of 38 teams in the correct bowls before a single snap of the season was taken, and it then went 14-5 in picking bowl winners.

My rankings began as a personal experiment but the first-year results were so astounding, even to me, that I continued my annual rankings as a hobby.

In 1999, collegefootballpoll.com was born and the website is now beginning its 12th season. It seems like such a short time ago that I literally put pen to paper to work on the formula, but this will be the 18th season of the Congrove Computer Rankings.

The formula has predicted 10 BCS title game participants in 11 BCS seasons.

This year, the computer says Boise State meets Texas in Glendale for the big game, and the Broncos are a 5.95-point favorite to bring home the Waterford Crystal football.

It's the first time since 2006 that the computer does not project an SEC team playing for the BCS title game.

A Boise State national championship would be a history-making event as no team from a non-"Big 6" conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-10, SEC) has ever made it to the BCS Championship tilt, yet alone won it. But the Broncos have been working their way to the top throughout the past decade and have won two BCS bowl games in the last 4 years, dispatching Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and less-spectacularly downing TCU 17-10 last year in a return visit to the Fiesta.

For Texas fans, a loss to Boise State would be eerily reminiscent of their loss to a then-upstart Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl after the 1995 season. Most considered the Hokies unworthy of that opportunity, but Virginia Tech prevailed 28-10.

Ironically, the Broncos have to get past Virginia Tech in their season opener to even dream of a shot at Texas, so we will know after opening weekend if this matchup has any chance of taking place. Longhorn faithful may want to root for the Hokies as any other BCS Championship game opponent for Texas is a preseason underdog by at least 3.23 points.

The odd situation is that the next team in the BCS pecking order could be TCU out of the Mountain West. The Horned Frogs are projected to be 0.31 power points ahead of Alabama at the end of the regular season, but an Alabama win in the SEC Championship game could add enough points to the Tide's power rating to knock TCU out of the picture and give us a rematch of last year's game.

Texas' run to the Big 12 title shouldn't be considered a lock. Not only does it have to get past Oklahoma, but it also has to win a regular season game at Nebraska the very next week before it even gets a second crack at the 'Huskers in the conference championship game. The Longhorns are only a 6.98-point favorite in Lincoln.

The rest of the Texas schedule is fairly unimposing and the computer favors Texas by more than 23 points in 9 of its 12 contests. A trip to Texas Tech and new head coach Tommy Tuberville is the only other game that should cause any concern at all.

Boise State, meanwhile, has no real competition in the WAC. That's why, for awhile, it was exciting to learn that the school would enter the Mountain West and add its football strength to a league that already had Utah, TCU and BYU in its stable. That excitement only lasted for a few days before Utah announced it was headed to the PAC-10.

A move to the Mountain West is still an upgrade. Boise State has so dominated the WAC that sportswriters and broadcasters still withhold credit, or offer it begrudgingly to the Broncos - even when they have proven their mettle with two Fiesta Bowl victories and a 4-1 record in their last five meetings against teams from the "Big 6" conferences.

In a way, it's understandable. Boise State's performance in the WAC has been gaudy, and I've documented it in the "Streaks" section of these pregame articles for what seems like an eternity. Boise State enters 2010 on a 14-game winning streak - tied for longest in the nation with Alabama. The Broncos also have streaks of 25 regular season wins, 26 home wins, 56 regular season home wins, and 42 straight conference home victories. BSU has never lost at home to a fellow WAC member (36-0). The Broncos' last home loss to a conference foe occurred in 1998 when they were a member of the Big West (a league that no longer sponsors football) and fell to Idaho in the final regular season game.

Boise State's opener with Virginia Tech at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, is one of just two high-profile games that the school has on its 2010 schedule. The other comes nearly three weeks later when the Broncos are a preseason computer favorite over Oregon State by 22.21 points. Their most formidable foes in the WAC - Nevada and Fresno State - are respective 21.90 and 29.66-point underdogs.

Convincing wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State, and total annihilation of its WAC brethren, is probably what Boise State will need to make the computer's ultimate projection come true.

Make no mistake, the window of opportunity is small. It must defeat Virginia Tech and Oregon State to have any realistic chance at a national title game.

While TCU and Alabama are next-in-line to ascend to the top two in my rankings, seven teams altogether are forecasted to go undefeated. In order of the rankings, they include one team each from the WAC (Boise State), Big 12 (Texas), Mountain West (TCU), SEC (Alabama), Big 10 (Ohio State), PAC-10 (Oregon) and ACC (North Carolina).

Don't rule out Florida, either. The Gators are Alabama's projected opponent in the conference title game and a 4.07-point regular season loss in Tuscaloosa is the only forecasted blemish on their regular season resume. The Crimson Tide are a 1.06-point preseason favorite over the Gators in the rematch.

If multiple teams do go undefeated and an SEC representative is one of those, it's difficult to fathom that it wouldn't get a national title shot, but it has happened before - just ask Auburn about its 2004 experience. The Tigers were one of three unbeatens at bowl selection time but were passed over in favor of USC and Oklahoma. That season, five teams went into the 2004 championship week with unblemished records.

Just last year, six teams went into championship week with perfect records - Alabama, Florida, Texas, TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati. Four teams managed the trick in 2008.

Essentially, the computer is saying that the top-ranked team has a slightly better chance than the No. 2 team of actually completing the season unbeaten. The records are only projected through the regular season and exclude conference championships and bowl games which are unknown matchups.

When you consider that each FBS team only plays about 10% of the 120-team field, the argument could be made that multiple teams should go undefeated each and every season.

That's not to suggest that a team has to go undefeated to get to the BCS Championship game. LSU's 2007 championship squad lost two regular season games.

TCU opens the 2010 season in Cowboys Stadium at Arlington when they take on Oregon State on September 4 as a 10-point computer favorite. Since 1999, TCU has won or shared five conference titles in three different leagues - WAC (1999, 2000), CUSA (2002) and Mountain West (2005, 2009). This year's group is a double-digit favorite in every game on the schedule, except the journey to Utah where they are favored by 7.87.

Ohio State, the preseason No. 5 team, is picked to claim its sixth straight Big Ten title. The Buckeyes' toughest games appear to be conference trips to Wisconsin and Iowa. Ohio State is favored by 7.08 at Madison, but by less than 4 at Iowa City. Ohio State is an 8.41-point choice over Penn State at home, though Joe Paterno's bunch won the last time they played in Columbus.

No. 6 Oregon's run at a second straight PAC-10 title doesn't have many possible stumbling blocks in the way, either, until it gets to the season finale at Oregon State. There, the Ducks are favored by just 0.10 points. The computer favors the Ducks by less 13 points in only three other games - at Cal (-5.41), at USC (-6.41), and at home against Stanford (-9.36).

North Carolina is the lowest-ranked of the seven teams projected to go unbeaten. Five of their forecasted victories have margins of less than 5 points, including the season-opening clash with LSU in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff Classic in Atlanta. The Tar Heels haven't won an ACC title since 1980 and are currently shrouded in the clouds of an NCAA investigation that could leave them without the services of a pair of star players - DT Marvin Austin and WR Greg Little - and possibly others.

The computer also offers an impressive list of one-loss teams that includes Florida, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa and Utah. And the two-loss group features Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, BYU and Wisconsin.

Of course, there's also a chance that this year's championship pairing will come from somewhere totally unexpected. And that's why I can't wait for the games to begin! The playoffs start September 2nd.

PRESEASON ACCURACY:
Before a single snap was taken in the 2009 season, the Congrove Computer Rankings' preseason projections correctly identified 54 of the 71 bowl eligible teams - including Temple.

The computer also projected the exact regular season record of 23 teams (up 1 from 2008) and came within one victory on 34 others (8 more than in 2008).

The computer's preseason rankings correctly tabbed the winners of the Big Ten (Ohio State was forecasted co-champ), MAC, Sun Belt and WAC conferences. It also nailed the winners of both SEC divisions, MAC West and CUSA East. Four more conferences or divisions were won by teams that the computer picked to finish second.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams went 89-5 (.947) against FCS schools last year and are 464-42 (.917) since 2003.

This year, 85 FBS teams play a total of 90 games against FCS foes. Five schools play two such games - Arizona State, Ball State, San Jose State, Syracuse and Virginia.

STREAKS:
Boise State has 14 straight wins after defeating TCU 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos also have streaks of 25 regular season wins, 26 home wins, 56 regular season home wins, and 42 straight conference home victories. BSU has never lost at home to a fellow WAC member (36-0). The Broncos' last home loss to a conference foe occurred in 1998 when they were a member of the Big West and fell to Idaho in the final regular season game. The Broncos are 4-1 in their last five matches against BCS conference schools.

Alabama has 14 straight wins overall and 24 straight regular season wins.

Cincinnati has won 18 straight regular season games.

Oklahoma has 29 straight home victories.

Utah has 17 straight home wins.

Western Kentucky has lost 20 straight overall and 25 straight to FBS teams.

Eastern Michigan has lost 12 straight overall.

Washington State has lost 9 straight.

Colorado State has lost 9 straight.

NEW COACHES:
23 teams have a new college football coach in the FBS ranks this season. Last season saw 22 new head coaches, 17 of whom matched or exceeded the W-L record of their predecessors' final season.



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