Out of Offensive Slump, BYU Has Chance at Ranking

OK, so there's obviously no more "BYU in the BCS" talk this season. However, the Cougars can definitely finish strong this year. Finally, BYU looks like they're out of their offensive tailspin. If the offense can keep it up and the defense can find an answer to the vertical passing game, BYU can still finish the season as MWC champs and ranked.

BYU will do something this year that it hasn't done since 1998 – beat a ranked team. It is likely that at one, and probably two of our last four games, may be against ranked teams. How?

Our last four games are against UNLV, Boise State, Notre Dame, and Utah.

UNLV will have to win at Air Force and against Utah to be ranked before the face-off with the Cougars at Sam Boyd Stadium on Oct. 25. A win this weekend may get the Rebels into the Coaches poll (currently 30th) if enough lower-ranked teams lose.

If Utah beats SDSU this weekend, the Utes will be ranked in both polls at 5-1 with a win over ranked Oregon and their only loss at Texas A&M on the road.

Who would have predicted an October matchup of Utah and UNLV might feature two ranked teams? The winner of this game will be 6-1 and a solid top 20 team with wins over TWO ranked teams.

Remember, UNLV pulled the shocker @ Wisconsin? The voters seem to have a selective memory because Wisconsin is back in the Top 25 while UNLV isn't – despite the fact the Badgers haven't beaten any ranked teams this year. The poll voters can't claim a tougher SOS for Wisconsin as it currently sits at No. 91, compared to UNLV's No. 7 ranked SOS. It must be nice to always get the "benefit of the doubt" being a BCS team. However, the Badgers will finally get their chance to beat a ranked team this weekend at home against Ohio State.

With the UNLV over Utah scenario, the Utes would then need to win their next three games and come into LaVell Edwards Stadium at 8-2 and probably with a 19-25 national ranking.

Boise State is the most likely team to be ranked when we play them – probably just barely sneaking in to the Coaches poll, which is the one that matters because ESPN will be airing the game the week or two before. Their Broncos offense seems to be rolling again with Dinwiddie in control. Did anyone else notice the numbers they put up? Dinwiddie's line: 40-60 for 532 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus he rushed for two touchdowns as well. BSU has put up a school record 732 yards of total offense. They're currently 4-1 with their only loss on the road against now-ranked Oregon State by only two points.

The pollsters haven't been too friendly, listing them at No. 35 (coaches) and No. 42 (AP), right now. However, three more wins – shouldn't be too tough with Tulsa, SMU, and SJSU on the slate – and a 7-1 record may bring the Broncos into LES having barely broken the top 25 polls. I sure hope so. That would be just the motivation the Cougars need against a WAC team.

Additionally, if Notre Dame can pull a few miracles and win their next five games (including home games vs. Florida State and USC, and at Pittsburg – yeah right, I know, but let's dream), they will be 6-3 and ranked solidly in the top 20.

Even if the Irish win two of those three big games, they'll likely be ranked, even at 5-4 given their difficult schedule. Remember, they've already beaten ranked Washington State, and all their losses are vs. ranked teams (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. Pollsters have traditionally been kind to the Irish as well. I'll be at Notre Dame Stadium and would relish any kind of win at all. It would be so much sweeter if it were against a ranked Irish team.

Can you imagine finishing the season with four straight wins over ranked teams? Dreaming, I know, but what a season changing trend that would be! We would be in good shape to build off that momentum and make a run at the BCS next year.

Another good and more dramatic scenario is for the Cougars and Utes to both win their next five games and set the stage for a 9-1 Utah (with a national ranking from 9-14) to come into LES against a 8-3, and possibly ranked, BYU. What a joyous feeling it would be to play spoiler, win the MWC and secure a solid national ranking going into bowl time.

Upcoming MWC Weekend Preview

Colorado State at Brigham Young: Perennial conference favorites and champions face off in a must-win game to stay in the hunt for the conference title and salvage the season. The loser will have two conference losses and a 3-4 overall record; hardly the seasons' these schools had foreseen. The winner stands a great chance to finish strong and battle for the conference title. A win for the Cougars will put them a solid 3-1 in conference play. Assuming AFA loses at least once, the Cougars could then "control" their own destiny as far as the conference crown goes.

UNLV at Air Force: First conference game for the Rebels. UNLV has had a great non-conference season, but will be tested by the disciplined Falcons. AFA can go to 3-0 in MWC play with a win. Falcons in danger of losing the commander-in-chief trophy for the first time that I can recall. A UNLV win and they'll be 5-1, possibly good enough to make the Coaches poll.

SDSU at Utah: The Utes will be tested by Adam Hall's vertical passing game. If Utah can contain the Aztecs, they (along with AFA/UNLV winner) will be in the driver's seat for the MWC crown. BYU fans should hope for a Utah win as they'll be ranked and bring much needed and deserved national respect to the conference.

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

The MWC is having a solid season so far. The conference will not have a problem filling bowl slots this year. Only one team currently has a losing record (Wyoming). Three teams have only one loss thus far (Utah, AFA, & UNLV.)

A formulation from Jerry Palm's CollegeBCS website based on non-conference record, opponent's wins and opponents opponent's wins has the MWC ranked as the fifth best conference in the nation ahead of the SEC #6, ACC #7 and C-USA #8.

Also, this would have been a good year for BYU to go undefeated. The Cougars SOS currently ranks as 26th in the nation and projects as 28th. If this holds out through the rest of the season (especially if ND starts winning some games), we may end with the highest SOS of any non-BCS team since the BCS was created. CSU finished with a SOS of 26th in 2001. Maybe next year, eh?

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