Every non-AQ conference is in search of a BCS buster. The WAC and Mountain West have had them. Conference USA is desperate to get one, to elevate the standing of the league. It is a talking point that has been reiterated year after year, but the league has not even come close. So who are the most likely candidates to be BCS busters in 2011? I will break down the top teams in C-USA this year and what it will take for them to bust into the system. Remember, a non-AQ team most likely has to go undefeated to have a shot at a BCS game.
First up: Houston Cougars.
Why they have a shot: The Cougars have Case Keenum back after he got a sixth season of eligibility, and he will pick up and try to set the NCAA career passing mark. He has his top receivers back (Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier) depth at running back (Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes, Chris Wilson, Charles Sims), and the nonconference schedule sets up for the Cougars to potentially begin 4-0 with games against UCLA, North Texas, Louisiana Tech and Georgia State. Houston does not have to play Southern Miss or UCF, and gets SMU and East Carolina at home. In the best-case scenario, it is conceivable the Cougars could be undefeated when they play at Tulsa to close out the season Nov. 26.
Why they won't make it: The defense has been a major problem for the past several seasons, leaving the Cougars in a position where they have to outscore teams to win. That could be the case once again this season, considering the lack of depth up front. The Cougars also have to replace several starters on the offensive line, which could impact the running game and how much time Keenum has to stand in the pocket. Houston always seems to drop a game it shouldn't lose, and though it does have most of its tough games at home, SMU, UCLA and East Carolina are going to be a big challenge. UAB should be better, so that could be a difficult road game as well. The opener is against the Bruins, the team that ended Keenum's 2010 season. The rematch is in Houston, but if UCLA wins again, you can kiss a BCS busting season good bye.