By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team is back in the Bowl Championship Series chase.
A run of upsets this week in college football have given Boise State, Kent State and Northern Illinois a chance to earn an automatic berth in a lucrative BCS game.
The seven teams ranked immediately in front of the Broncos all lost this week: Nos. 15 (Oregon State), 16 (Texas), 17 (UCLA), 18 (Rutgers), 19 (Michigan), 20 (Louisville) and 21 (Oklahoma State). Also, Nos. 24 (Arizona) and 25 (Washington) lost.
Boise State (9-2) is No. 22. Kent State (11-1) is No. 23. Northern Illinois (11-1) unofficially is No. 26.
Any of those teams can earn an automatic bid by finishing in the top 16 in the BCS standings and ahead of a BCS-conference champion. The losses by Louisville and Rutgers of the Big East make it a virtual lock that one of those three teams will finish ahead of the Big East champion.
To qualify, Boise State also must win the Mountain West. San Diego State and Fresno State have won shares of the title, but the Broncos will be the champion for BCS purposes if they beat Nevada on Dec. 1 to earn a share. That’s because that three-way tie can’t be broken with head-to-head records. The next tiebreaker is highest BCS ranking.
Looking at the results so far, it’s likely Boise State, Kent State and Northern Illinois would settle at 16, 17 and 18 in Sunday’s BCS standings — at worst. One or all of them also could pass Oregon State.
The biggest problem for Boise State, other than beating Nevada next week, might be holding off the Mid-American Conference champion. Kent State and Northern Illinois play for that title Friday. The winner will be 12-1 and close the season with a victory against a ranked team. Boise State has a big edge over those teams in the polls, but the computers (one-third of the BCS formula) have Kent State at No. 22, Northern Illinois at No. 27 and Boise State at No. 30. Kent State could be hurt by Rutgers’ loss, because that was its best win. Kent State also was blown out early in the season by 2-10 Kentucky, which could hurt as voters take a closer look at the candidates. Northern Illinois lost to Iowa by one point in the season opener. Its best wins are against Toledo and Ball State.
A non-BCS team that gets into the BCS likely would go to the Orange Bowl. However, Boise State could land in the Sugar if that game would rather have the Broncos’ high profile than the Big East champion.
No non-BCS team has qualified with a loss. Since the current rules were put in place in 2006, there was an undefeated team available in 2006 (Boise State), 2007 (Hawaii), 2008 (Utah), 2009 (Boise State and TCU) and 2010 (TCU). Last year, Boise State would have made it with one loss if it had won the Mountain West. TCU finished No. 18 with two losses.
Fresno State whipped Air Force 48-15 and San Diego State rallied to beat Wyoming 42-28 on Saturday. Those wins secured a share of the Mountain West title for the Bulldogs and Aztecs, who finished 7-1 in conference play.
Boise State is 6-1 going into the Nevada game.
The Mountain West awards trophies and the co-champion title to all teams that tie for the title.