TCU, Boise State jockey for position

Boise State and TCU have been locked in a fight for non-automatic qualifier supremacy for two years now with no signs of letting up. So what exactly does TCU have to do to overtake Boise State this season if the two teams continue to go undefeated?

There has been a lot of chatter about potential scenarios. Last season, TCU finished ahead of Boise State in the final BCS rankings, so one could believe the same would happen this year if the teams go undefeated.

But there is a flaw to that line of reasoning. ESPN.com BCS guru Brad Edwards points out a few factors that could keep Boise State ahead of TCU.

1. The Broncos are ranked higher in both polls. The coaches’ poll counts one-third in the BCS standings, so first ask yourself what would make anybody vote Boise State down and TCU up should the two teams keep winning? Unless the Broncos have a string of really close victories against mediocre competition, it’s most likely not going to happen. Boise State has the advantage of having beaten TCU last season in the Fiesta Bowl. The Harris poll counts another third in the BCS formula. While that doesn’t come out until October, those voters are media members as well. If Boise State is No. 3 in the AP poll, one can guess it would stay in the same position in the Harris poll. That is just a guess, of course.

2. The Mountain West schedule would not necessarily give TCU the push that it needs to make up for being behind in the polls. Remember, the polls account for two-thirds of the formula. Right now, TCU does have better rankings than Boise State in three of the four computer rankings that publish their standings. (The first BCS standings will be released Oct. 17, with all six computer rankings listed). But the WAC has not embarrassed itself this season, and in fact is putting together a pretty decent showing. The WAC is 3-7 against teams from AQ conferences; the Mountain West is 4-8.

The WAC has an advantage in head-to-head competition against the MWC so far this year, going 3-1 in those games. Three more WAC-MWC games are on tap for this weekend. The highlight of those: Nevada at BYU. That game could end up being a gauge for where the WAC stands. Both Nevada and Fresno State have wins over AQ teams. If they continue to play well, the WAC has the potential of having three teams ranked in the Top 25. The Mountain West has two right now in No. 4 TCU and No. 13 Utah. The Mountain West is ranked ahead of the WAC in the latest ESPN.com conference power rankings, and both are ahead of the Big East and ACC.

3. How about Utah, you ask? Some have wondered whether Utah has what it takes to leap Boise State should the Utes be the ones to go undefeated from the Mountain West. Because Utah started the season ranked so low, it is going to be difficult for the Utes to leap frog into a Top 2 position.

Of course, we still have the bulk of the season that needs to be played. Boise State has its big game against Oregon State this Saturday (8 p.m. EDT, ABC). TCU has a challenge at SMU on Friday night (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN). The Horned Frogs have already beaten the Beavers, so at least that game will give us a point of comparison between the two squads. But it is going to get harder and harder to judge each team and figure out who is best should they continue to win.

TCU has been impressive simply because the Horned Frogs had to replace their best players on defense. Yes, they and Boise State returned the bulk of their starters, and having veteran leaders at quarterback is always a huge advantage. But TCU lost Jerry Hughes, Daryl Washington and its veteran cornerbacks Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders. Yet there the Horned Frogs are, ranked No. 4 in the nation in total defense. Boise State is right behind at No. 5.

Nobody can say for sure who is going to end up ahead of the other come December. But for right now, it is certainly a debate worth discussing.