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Chris Dufresne ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

BYU could be a BCS-buster

This is the fourth in a seven-part series on story lines to look for during the upcoming college football season

August 01, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Brigham Young, step forward, it's time for your punt, pass and boot inspection.

BYU has been anointed the team with the best chance in 2008 to crack the bigwig's glass ceiling, which hasn't been as tough to crack as some trust-busters once predicted.

In other words, maybe college football's postseason isn't a total scam/sham/fraud/money grab/monopoly. Maybe it's only a mockery.

Since 2004, three schools from the so-called "non-power" conferences have earned access to major bowl games.

Utah of the Mountain West Conference started the procession in 2004 when it finished No. 6 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings and earned a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where it pounded Big East champion Pittsburgh.

Two years later, after access was relaxed to a top-12 finish, Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference finished No. 8 and shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Last year, Hawaii finished No. 10 and did not shock Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, but a 2-1 record against the big shots is impressive.

Undefeated won't buy BYU what it used to.

In 1984, long before the BCS, the Cougars actually won the national title by beating mediocre Michigan, in the Holiday Bowl, played on . . . Dec. 21.

The formula now used to select title-game participants makes it highly improbable -- but not, technically, impossible -- for a team outside the six power conferences to play for the national championship.

These days, you take what the commissioners give, and that's a guaranteed chance to play in the Rose, Orange, Fiesta or Sugar bowls.

In order, here's a look at the schools with the best chance to finish in this year's BCS top 12:

BYU. It makes sense. The Cougars return the important pieces of the team that capped last year's 11-2 season with a win over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl.

BYU should get a better running start in the polls than Hawaii, which last year began No. 24 in the preseason coaches' index.

BYU has a tough enough nonconference schedule to satisfy the power-ranking police -- Northern Iowa, at Washington, UCLA -- and a reasonable chance to win all its games.

Utah. Another Mountain West entry and the team that could supplant BYU for the BCS spot because . . . Utah hosts BYU on Nov. 22 in the regular-season finale.

Utah, 9-4 last year, has two chances to build trust with nonconference games at Michigan on Aug. 30 and an Oct. 2 home date against Oregon State.

Texas Christian. This really could be the Mountain West's year. TCU has flirted with BCS berths before, and could be in the mix if it goes unbeaten in conference.

TCU's big problem is Sept. 27 at Oklahoma.

Fresno State. Probably the best the WAC has to offer this year. The issue, as it is most years for Pat Hill's Bulldogs, is the schedule. Fresno State opens the season at Rutgers, comes home for Wisconsin and Toledo before a possible roadblock at UCLA. A 4-0 start against that schedule probably puts the Bulldogs in the top 10, and then it's only a matter of whacking everyone in the WAC.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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