Update: We were completely unaware that Ole Miss was capable of putting a hurtin' on Texas Tech. This did not figure into the following post. Proceed accordingly and with great benefit of doubt.
Boise State's loss to TCU cost the Broncos a spot in the Top Ten of the final polls, but it shouldn't cost them much more than that. Except for pride.
Afflicted with an insatiable urge to manufacture Bronco news, we spent a good portion of our holiday poring over the penultimate AP poll in anticipation of where the Broncos might land when bowl season is over. Fortunately for us, there was good news. We wish we could say the same for Cincinnati fans.
There were eight teams ahead of the Broncos when bowl season kicked off back in early December. By our count, seven of those teams should stay that way:
- Texas Tech (provided they beat Ole Miss today)
The only one on that list that could be iffy is Utah, if the Utes get completely annhilated by Alabama in tonight's Sugar Bowl. We'll call it "the Hawaii factor." A Utah embarrassment might be enough to convince voters that the Utes' season was a sham and that they are not worthy of the high ranking they have achieved. It should be noted that this was our point exactly when the BCS pairings came out last month.
One noticeably absent team from that list is Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a curious case thanks to the way that USC convincingly dominated them in the Rose Bowl. Will voters assume that USC was simply unstoppable and there was nothing that Penn State could do about it? Or will they instead choose to believe that Penn State was overrated and drop the Nittany Lions down several places in the polls? It is conceivable that the Broncos could surpass PSU. It is also conceivable that the Broncos could have beat Penn State on a neutral field in, say, the Fiesta Bowl.
After this first group of contenders, you have to factor in what happened to the teams immediately behind the Broncos in the polls.
- Ohio State: Lost badly to Texas. Correction: WILL lose badly to Texas. We would be apoplectic if an Ohio State loss moved the Buckeyes ahead of Boise State.
- TCU: Let's not discuss this. The Horned Frogs will pass us.
- Cincinnati: If voters could separate Tony Pike from the rest of the Bearcats, it might be Pike taking the plunge down the polls and the Bearcats holding steady. Of course, voters can't do this. They can hardly even separate Oklahoma from Texas. Cincinnati will fall, and considering the three-spot cushion that the Broncos had, Boise State should keep an advantage.
- Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech: We're getting into the territory where any team past No. 13 or so shouldn't have a chance to pass the Broncos with a loss. This would apply to the Cowboys and the Yellow Jackets, although OSU's Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon was hardly one to complain too much about. If either of these teams has a chance of moving ahead of Boise State, it would be Oklahoma State. And if it were to happen, you can expect a OBNUG to throw a tantrum press conference in which we state, "We're a young adult! We're 24!"
The next portion of the polls is where it gets most complicated. How far up do the winning teams behind the Broncos move? If we were in charge, we would say, "Not much." This is why we are not in charge.
- Oregon: At No. 15, you would have to believe that the Ducks will be at or near the Top Ten by the time all is said and done. They will certainly pass Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, and Georgia Tech, and they're likely to pass a 10-3 Ohio State as well. Boise State will wave awkwardly as they go by.
- Georgia: It's not like the Bulldogs were world-beaters in their win over Michigan State, but as Georgia's preseason No. 1 rank indicated, the pollsters love them some overrated SEC teams. The Bulldogs will climb right behind Oregon, and we imagine it will be enough to pass Boise State, too.
- Virginia Tech: The Hokies finished the year 10-4, and Boise State finished 12-1. Is there any way in God's green earth that VaTech moves ahead of the Broncos? If there is, the USA Today Coach's poll will find it. Hopefully, the AP is wiser and more benevolent.
- Ball State: First off, a Ball State bowl win is no guarantee. But a W would put the Cardinals with an identical record to the Broncos, and a well-timed Jason Whitlock column might help move the MAC's BSU up a few spots. It really shouldn't be enough to overtake the Broncos.
- Oregon State and Iowa: For either of these schools to jump more than 10 spots in the polls, they would have had to a) scored more than three points in their bowl game, or b) defeat a team not coached by Steve Spurrier. Too bad for both of them.
After taking all of these teams into account, you have to like the Broncos' chances to stay in the top fifteen. If you keep the Nittany Lions ahead of BSU, and if you don't have Ohio State or Oklahoma State moving in front of them, Boise State should finish the season at a remarkable No. 12.
Let's hope they begin next season around the same place.