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A common mid-season storyline throughout the BCS Era was the BCS Buster.
Hawaii, TCU, and Utah were a few of the mid-tier programs that broke through and competed against teams from power conferences in major bowl games. Both TCU and Utah emerged victorious, with the Utes winning more than once. Boise State was the most notorious BCS Buster. The Broncos reached two BCS Bowl games, posting a 2-0 record. Their biggest victory came against heavily favorite Oklahoma in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, a game still remembered as one of the greatest college football games ever played.
The BCS Buster doesn’t exist anymore, but its legacy lives on.
After back-to-back wins over teams from a Power Five conference, BYU is emerging as the playoff era’s version of a BCS Buster. Much of their success depends on quarterback Taysom Hill, currently ranked No. 10 in my Heisman Watch.
The BYU signal caller is a phenomenal athlete, averaging 107 yards per game on the ground. His development as a passer, however, will determine the Cougars’ long-term standing. He had efficient outings against Connecticut and Virginia, but he did throw three interceptions in the two games (Texas and Houston) in between. Last year, he threw 14 interceptions in 13 games.
Challenges lie ahead for BYU. The Cougars remaining schedule features road games against Boise State, California, and Central Florida. Each game will be tough.
Losing just once likely eliminates them from playing in a major bowl game. All eyes would then turn to the Group of Five conferences.
Under the new bowl rules, the highest ranked team from the Group of Five conferences (MAC, Mountain West, American, Conference USA, Sun Belt) receives an invite to a major bowl game, dubbed the New Year’s Six.
Marshall (Conference USA) is the team to watch. In my preseason bowl projections, I penciled them into the Cotton Bowl, in large part because it was difficult finding a loss on their schedule.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato, who is an under-the-radar Heisman contender, leads the Thundering Herd. Cato is on pace to account for 40 touchdowns (10 rushing) and 4,014 total yards (525 rushing). He’s directed Marshall’s offense to 40-plus points in each of their first four games. The defense is also potent, holding opponents to a combined 16.3 points per game. That’s good enough for 15th in the nation.
A good defense, soft schedule, and superb quarterback give Marshall all the tools to finish the season ranked within the top 20.
It also makes them the frontrunner to carry on the BCS Buster’s legacy.
Last Week: 3-2
Season Record: 16-6
No. 11 UCLA at No. 15 Arizona State
Time/TV: 10:00 PM EST Sept. 25, Fox Sports 1
Prediction: We know Arizona State will be without quarterback Taylor Kelly, who is nursing an injured foot. Backup Mike Bercovici will start in his place, and he’ll lean heavily on star receiver Jaelen Strong. UCLA head coach Jim Mora has yet to declare whether Brett Hundley will start, though signs point toward the potential first-round pick being under center. Part of what makes Hundley a unique player is his ability to make plays with his legs. He may be hesitant to take many chances coming off a nasty elbow injury. Playing behind a suspect offensive line doesn’t help matters, either. Nevertheless, big players perform their best while facing adversity. Hundley is a big-time collegiate player. Assuming he plays, I think he makes the difference in a close game.
UCLA 27 Arizona State 23
No. 1 Florida State at N.C. State
Time/TV: 3:30 PM EST Sept. 27, ABC
Prediction: The Seminoles look vulnerable. They struggled against Oklahoma State earlier in the season, and very nearly lost at home to Clemson last week. Last Saturday’s game may have been just what they needed, though. I think Florida State needed to prove they were more than just Jameis Winston. In fact, they needed to prove this to themselves as well as to Winston. It must’ve been somewhat humbling for Winston to watch his team claw back and beat Clemson without him. Head coach Jimbo Fisher did what a great leader does. He recognized a problem and put forth measures to correct it. This was a good learning experience for the team and Winston. Both should come out better because of it. We should begin to see the results of the team-building Fisher did this week against N.C. State. Expect a resounding Florida State victory.
Florida State 45 N.C. State 17
No. 16 Stanford at Washington
Time/TV: 4:15 PM EST Sept. 27, FOX
Prediction: Washington (4-0) struggled out of the gate, defeating Hawaii by just a point and Eastern Washington by seven. In the last two weeks, they’ve played well against Illinois and Georgia State. Neither is exactly a marquee program, however. Still, this is an intriguing game because Stanford isn’t as good as they’ve been in the previous years. I knew coming into the season that Kevin Shaw’s team would regress. How significant of a regression it is remains unknown. We should get a little clarity this week. Losing to Washington would signify a big step backward.
Stanford 27 Washington 20
Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina
Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST Sept. 27, ESPN
Prediction: Everything fell into place last season for Missouri. That doesn’t tend to happen in consecutive seasons. That notion was reinforced last week when Missouri loss to Indiana. The Hoosiers controlled the line of scrimmage, rushing for 248 yards on the ground. The Gamecocks should be able to duplicate what Indiana did last week. Look for running back Mike Davis to have a big day.
South Carolina 30 Missouri 20
Oregon State at No. 18 USC
Time/TV: 10:30 PM EST Sept. 27, ESPN
Prediction: Two weeks ago, USC suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of Boston College. They’ll look to bounce back against a team they’ve historically dominated.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is the key to the game. He’s good enough to find holes in USC’s secondary if he has enough time to throw. He’s also due for a big game. I suspect the Trojans will pull away in the fourth quarter, thanks to their stout defense and running game. However, because of Mannion, the Beavers may linger long enough to make this game interesting.
USC 31 Oregon State 22