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Boise State's toughest non-BCS competition in 2010? Definitely TCU, perhaps ... Navy?

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On the off chance that Armageddon happens and Boise State does not end up in the national championship game this season, will the Broncos still be BCS-bound? A lot may depend on how other non-BCS teams perform in 2010.

What fellow non-BCS teams pose the biggest threat to a Bronco BCS berth? After the jump get an obvious answer and several not so obvious ones, and share your thoughts on what team you think might pose the biggest challenge.

Boise State not in the NC? Who would dare make such a suggestion?

In two separate Wake Up Bronco Nation posts this week, I linked to a story about Boise State playing in the Rose Bowl. At the Gazette Online,  the Rose Bowl berth happened when two undefeated BCS conference teams wound up playing for the national championship (Ohio State and Alabama). At the Rivalry Esquire, Boise State was Rose Bowl-bound for other reasons:

My guess is that even with a loss to Va. Tech, 11-1 Boise State still finishes as the highest non-AQ (and in the Top 12).  That means that the Rose Bowl will have to take them.

A new Rose Bowl rule guarantees that a BCS eligible non-BCS team will take the place of a national championship participant from the Big Ten. Confusing? Maybe the official language will help.

For the games of January 2011 through 2014, the first year the Rose Bowl loses a team to the national championship game and a team from the non-automatic qualifier group is an automatic qualifier, that non-automatic qualifier team will play in the Rose Bowl.

So what if Boise State goes undefeated and gets shut out of the national championship?

The short answer: Boise State will be the top-ranked non-BCS school and earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl.

The long answer: See last season.

So what if Boise State loses a game?

If the loss is to Oregon State, Wyoming, Toledo, or any WAC team, the Broncos will almost certainly fall behind an undefeated non-BCS school by the end of the year. The BCS does not look kindly on sucking it up in WAC play.

So what if Boise State loses to Virginia Tech?

Would a one-loss Bronco team (with the one loss coming in Week One against a Top Ten opponent) be good enough to get into a BCS bowl? There are a lot of factors that will go into making that decision. First, how well VT plays the rest of the year. Second, how convincingly the Broncos win over Oregon State, Wyoming, and WAC teams. Third, how far the Broncos fall after the loss. And fourth, how well the rest of the non-BCS competition does throughout the year.

With the non-BCS teams in mind, here is a look at some of Boise State's biggest BCS competition for that coveted BCS berth.

Top Ten teams

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TCU: The Horned Frogs are obviously going to start the season as the consensus No. 2 best non-BCS team in the country. And deservedly so. If TCU had won the Fiesta and not the Broncos, the offseason storylines of each team could be reversed. TCU returns loads of starters, plays a decent schedule, and has a coach with his own pants meme. America loves pants.

How well does the Horned Frogs' schedule set them up for success? Here are the five toughest games on TCU's 2010 schedule:

  • vs. Oregon State (Texas Stadium)
  • vs. Baylor
  • vs. BYU
  • vs. Air Force
  • at Utah

TCU will only have to visit hostile territory for one of its five toughest games, a late-season trip to Utah to face the Utes. Ranked by many in the preseason Top Ten, TCU will definitely stay there if they keep winning, and their backloaded MWC schedule will likely earn them poll points late in the year when BSU's WAC schedule isn't doing the Broncos any favors.

Likelihood of going undefeated: Very good

Most likely loss: Oregon State

Chance at passing a one-loss Boise State football team: Very good

Top 25 teams

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Utah: The Utes will be sneaky good in 2010, partly because no one notices them in the bandwagon rush toward Boise State and TCU. But also because Utah is always good and a second year of QB Jordan Wynn can only mean good things. Assuming Utah starts in the Top 25, they could make some noise if they get past these tough games on their 2010 schedule:

  • vs. Pittsburgh
  • at Iowa State
  • vs. TCU
  • at Notre Dame
  • vs. BYU

The Utes also visit Air Force right before TCU and Notre Dame, making for quite the late season gauntlet (provided that Notre Dame is playing competent football by then). Playing their two biggest MWC rivals at home certainly helps. As does getting Pittsburgh in Utah. The schedule sets up nicely for the Utes. The only question left is whether they'll be good enough to take advantage.

Likelihood of going undefeated: Moderate

Most likely loss: TCU, then Pittsburgh

Chance at passing a one-loss Boise State football team: Decent, depending on where they start in the polls

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BYU: No Max Hall? Then who will sell tickets to the Las Vegas Bowl? The Cougars have some reloading to do, but they will still be one of the top teams in the conference. Whether or not they are still undefeated by conference play remains to be seen. Here are the five toughest games on BYU's 2010 schedule:

  • vs. Washington
  • at Florida State
  • vs. Nevada
  • at TCU
  • at Utah

A road game at Air Force shows up on BYU's schedule in Week Two, right after Washington and immediately before Florida State. The Florida State game didn't go well last year. Washington is going to be much better in 2010. And if good Nevada shows up, look out. BYU might have one of the toughest roads of the non-BCS contenders.

Likelihood of going undefeated: Not very good

Most likely loss: (tie) Florida State, TCU

Chance at passing a one-loss Boise State football team: Slim

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Houston: Case Keenum is back, and since he texts with Kellen Moore, he must be good. Houston will likely be much the same team that it was last year: scary good on offense, not as good late in the conference season. Here are Houston's five toughest games:

  • at UCLA
  • vs. Mississippi State
  • vs. Tulsa
  • at Texas Tech
  • C-USA championship game

You will notice that only one regular season conference game appears on this list, which is what happens when you play in CUSA. The possibility for a great season is there, but the Cougars have yet to show that they can finish.

Likelihood of going undefeated: Decent

Most likely loss: Texas Tech

Chance at passing a one-loss Boise State football team: Slim

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Navy: Though starting in the Top 25 might be unlikely, ending there is certainly a possibility for the Midshipmen. And a Navy team with late-season momentum may be hard to keep out of the BCS. From Mark Schlabach:

The Midshipmen didn't miss a beat in 2009 under second-year coach Ken Niumatalolo, who led them to a 10-win season for only the third time in school history. Navy pulled off a trifecta of impressive feats, sweeping service academy rivals Air Force and Army, winning at Notre Dame for the second time in a row and blasting Missouri 35-13 in the Texas Bowl. With seven starters expected to come back on offense and eight on defense, Navy could be even better in 2010.

QB Ricky Dobbs is one of the returners, and when he is on, Navy is tough to beat. Plus, a relatively easy schedule doesn't hurt. The five toughest games look like this:

  • vs. Maryland
  • at Wake Forest
  • vs. Notre Dame
  • at Air Force
  • at East Carolina

You'll notice no Ohio State on the schedule. Navy's biggest hurdle into a BCS bowl is likely to be their margin of victory. Navy runs a grinding ground attack, so scoring in bunches is usually the exception rather than the rule. Still, an undefeated Navy team at the end of the year would be tough for the BCS to ignore.

Likelihood of going undefeated: Good

Most likely loss: Wake Forest

Chance at passing a one-loss Boise State football team: Fair

Note: If anyone is aware of Navy being under different BCS rules than the rest of the non-BCS teams, please let me know. I found some at-large requirements for the Mids, but not much else.

Your turn

Which team do you think will stand in the way of a one-loss Boise State earning a BCS berth? What factors will play into final results? When would you start scoreboard-watching Navy games? Share your thoughts in the comments.