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Sunday, October 3, 2004
Party of five

By Brad Edwards
Special to ESPN.com

For the moment, there are five alive.

Now that Fresno State has fallen, only five teams outside of the BCS conferences enter this week still unbeaten: Utah (5-0), Boise State (5-0), Navy (5-0), Louisville (4-0) and Southern Miss (3-0). If you're hoping some Cinderella will crash the BCS ball this season, these teams are your only remaining hope.

Elitists turn up their noses at these undesirables from the proletariat, but the silent majority is hoping the glass slipper will fit one of them when the final BCS Standings are released on Dec. 5.

Almost halfway through the season, we can now make some educated judgments as to where each of these teams falls in the grand scheme of things.

Louisville
Busting into the BCS is a high risk, high reward proposition. Of the five teams, the Cardinals are probably the least likely to go unbeaten, primarily because they play Miami in the Orange Bowl on Oct. 14 (ESPN, 7:30 ET). But if Louisville successfully completes this improbable mission, the payoff could be huge. The Cards aren't currently the highest-ranked team in the non-BCS bunch, but they should be if they beat the Hurricanes on their turf. If Louisville runs the table, and Miami goes on to win the ACC, the Cardinals have a realistic chance to reach the top 6 of the final BCS Standings and earn a spot in a major bowl. If they don't quite climb that high, the Cardinals would still present a very strong case for inclusion as an at-large choice.

Utah
Let's be honest. The Bowl Championship Series might reluctantly invite one team from outside its order, but there's no way two will be included. It appears that Utah's signature conquest for the season will be Texas A&M, and at least for now, the Aggies aren't in the same category as the Miami Hurricanes. Therefore, the Utes probably won't win the public perception battle against an undefeated Louisville team. The folks in Utah should root against the Cardinals. Yep, it's every man for himself in the world of the BCS Busters. Unless A&M becomes a serious contender for the Big 12 title, it's doubtful that the Utes will get enough respect in the polls to gain automatic BCS entry (a top-6 finish), so the Utes need to hope no other non-BCS team climbs over them. The good news is they've already reached No. 11 in both polls, making them a virtual certainty to qualify for at-large BCS selection as long as they remain unbeaten.

Boise State
The Fresno State loss on Saturday really hurt the Broncos. Boise State doesn't have a significant road game this season, and there's only so much they can prove by holding serve on the blue turf. Even so, a game against an undefeated Fresno State team would have received a great deal of attention on the national level and would have been even more valuable if it had ultimately been the Bulldogs' only loss of the season. Now, Boise can only do something that Louisiana Tech has already done. Because of this, the Broncos' odds of even gaining at-large eligibility for the BCS are marginal at best.

Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles have a win at Nebraska, which would have warranted a special section in next year's media guide if it had happened in just about any other season since 1970. This year, however, it hasn't even been enough to help them crack the Top 25, although the BCS computers all consider them a top-16 team. Nebraska could still challenge for the Big 12 North title, but it doesn't appear the Huskers will be good enough to significantly help USM in the credibility department. Unfortunately, the same can be said for Alabama, which also remains on the schedule. Because the Golden Eagles don't face Louisville this season, the remaining hope is the home date with Cal, rescheduled for Dec. 4 because of Hurricane Ivan. Any chance USM has of reaching a BCS game is tied to the performance of Cal between now and then.

Navy
The Midshipmen cleared a huge hurdle with their win at Air Force on Thursday, but their most ominous task lies ahead. Notre Dame has beaten Navy 40 straight times and will be waiting at the Meadowlands in two weeks. The Mids have come very close to knocking off the Irish a few times in recent years, but close won't be good enough. BCS busting requires an undefeated season, so the streak must end. But now that Notre Dame has been blown out at home by Purdue, how much is a win over the Irish really worth? It would probably help Navy break into the polls, but there's not much chance for another big jump after that. Rutgers might be the best team on the second half of the schedule. America would love to cheer for an undefeated Navy team this season, but it won't be cheering for them at a BCS game.

Mock BCS Standings
The mock BCS Standings are starting to align more closely with the polls and should become even more defined at the top after this weekend's big games. Texas, California and Minnesota must act now if they hope to contend for the national title this season. The first official BCS Standings will be released on Oct. 18, and this will be the final issue of the mock standings. The computers must keep their ratings confidential until Mondays from now on, so the standings in this column will be a projection for the rest of the season.

Mock BCS Standings
Team AP points AP poll
percentage
Coaches poll
points
Coaches poll
percentage
Computers points Computers percentage Score
USC 1604 0.987 1507 0.988 47 0.94 0.972
Georgia 1491 0.918 1398 0.917 46 0.92 0.918
Miami 1409 0.867 1347 0.883 49.5 0.99 0.913
Oklahoma 1560 0.960 1462 0.959 27 0.54 0.820
Texas 1358 0.836 1283 0.841 37 0.74 0.806
Auburn 1305 0.803 1189 0.780 39 0.78 0.788
Cal 1180 0.726 1116 0.732 28 0.56 0.673
FSU 1149 0.707 1049 0.688 29 0.58 0.658
Purdue 1047 0.644 952 0.624 32 0.64 0.636
Utah 937 0.577 876 0.574 36 0.72 0.624
Virginia 1036 0.638 966 0.633 15 0.3 0.524
Minnesota 722 0.444 684 0.449 26 0.52 0.471
Boise St. 396 0.244 442 0.290 36 0.72 0.418
ASU 507 0.312 314 0.206 36 0.72 0.413
Tennessee 551 0.339 519 0.340 18 0.36 0.346
Florida 866 0.533 731 0.479 1 0.02 0.344
Ohio St. 547 0.337 643 0.422 13 0.26 0.339
Okla. St. 360 0.222 353 0.231 27 0.54 0.331
Michigan 666 0.410 644 0.422 8 0.16 0.331
Wisconsin 650 0.400 597 0.391 0 0 0.264

Brad Edwards is a college football researcher at ESPN. His Road to the BCS appears weekly during the season.