When TCU opened the season by beating mighty Oklahoma, college football's have-nots suddenly had hope: Could another mid-major rise to national prominence and crash the BCS?
Two months later, and they have their answer: Probably not.
It's shaping up as an otherwise down year for schools from conferences without automatic qualification into the Bowl Championship Series, and coaches are trying to figure out why.
Last year was huge for the so-called outsiders, who had 25 wins against teams from the BCS conferences. Utah became the first non-automatic qualifier to crash the BCS, finishing No. 4 in the national rankings after beating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, and four others were ranked in the final poll.
But this season, victories like TCU's 17-10 shocker over the Sooners in Norman have been rare.
Teams from the Mountain West Conference, Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and the Sun Belt have won just 11 of 94 games against teams from the high-revenue conferences. And there aren't any unbeatens among the mid-majors to seriously challenge for an at-large spot in the BCS.So far, the Mountain West is the best of the bunch with a 5-8 record against the BCS leagues. Conference USA is 2-17, the Mid-American Conference is 2-19, the Sun Belt is 1-15 and WAC schools haven't won in 13 games against Notre Dame and the power leagues. Independents Navy, Army and Temple are a combined 1-11.
Colorado State's Sonny Lubick is finding out why a college football team, with walk-ons, has 100 or so guys.
The injury concerns of Lubick's Rams didn't let up in CSU's otherwise uplifting 39-31 victory against Border War rival Wyoming on Saturday, with several prominent players going down.
The CSU career of starting linebacker Jahmal Hall might be finished after Hall re-injured his left knee on Wyoming's first offensive play.
Hall faces another surgery and already has used his redshirt year.
Freshman defensive lineman Shawn McGoveran will miss the game Friday night at New Mexico because of a concussion. Safety Lukas Davis (left knee), fullback Tristan Walker (left ankle) and defensive lineman Terrance Carter (left knee) also could miss the New Mexico game.
And sophomore linebacker John Nichols, who subbed for Hall in CSU's loss at Brigham Young, needs surgery on his injured right shoulder and will miss the rest of the season.Lubick hopes to get back two previously injured players nose tackle Delroy Parke (right knee) and center Albert Bimper (left hamstring) for the game Friday.
TCU, at 5-0 in conference games, can clinch at least a piece of the MWC title with a win over San Diego State on Saturday or a loss by Colorado State to New Mexico on Friday. A TCU win combined with a CSU loss would give TCU the outright championship this weekend. If the Horned Frogs the newest members of the MWC win an outright league title, it will be their first since they won the Southwest Conference in 1958.
As instant replay continues for the first season in the MWC, it remains clear that very few calls on the field will be changed. Last week there were seven game stoppages to look at instant replay. Only one ruling was changed. For the season, there have been 61 game stoppages (25 coaches challenges; 36 both stoppages). Of those, 49 have been confirmed with only 12 having the calls on the field overturned. Only two of the 25 coaches challenges have been overturned.
Early in the year it seemed the MWC defenses were ahead of the offenses. That seems to be changing, however. There have been 11 games this season when MWC teams have eclipsed 500 yards of total offense this season and four of those were last week. TCU (vs. Air Force), New Mexico (vs. San Diego State), Colorado State (vs. Wyoming) and Utah (vs. UNLV) all gained 500-plus yards. Not surprisingly, those were the four MWC teams to win Saturday.