Back BCS Busters at the Betting Window
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 09/22/2008
With a change in the BCS rules and the seasons that Utah, Boise State and Hawaii enjoyed the last few years a new word has been added to the college football vocabulary - 'BCS buster'. It's the name for a team outside of the six BCS power conferences that is a threat to qualify for a BCS Bowl.
Teams from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference or the Western Athletic Conference can qualify for an automatic BCS berth by either finishing in the Top 12 of the BCS standings or finishing in the Top 16 of the BCS standings if a BCS conference champion is ranked behind them.
This season a number of teams are in contention for the automatic BCS berth. No. 12 BYU came into the season as the favorite to crash the BCS party and so far they have done nothing to change anyone's mind. They will have to face No. 17 Utah at the end of the season in what could decide the Mountain West champion. No. 15 ECU staked their claim as a front runner with upset home victories against Virginia Tech and West Virginia before falling on the road to North Carolina State this past weekend. Perennial threat TCU is also in the mix early and No. 19 Boise State has thrown its hat in the ring after an upset win on the road at Oregon.
Teams in the BCS buster role are often in a precarious situation. They have very little if any room for error and sometimes winning is not enough. They often have to win with fashion points, making sure no games are in doubt in the fourth quarter and they need help from teams above them in the rankings to lose. Since 1998 eight teams have been in similar situations throughout the season and looking how they handled the pressure of the situation and the point spreads gives good insight into how this year's crop of potential BCS busters will handle it.
In 1998 Tulane would have qualified for a BCS bowl if present guidelines were in place. The Green Wave went 12-0 SU and 8-4 ATS including eight double-digit spreads. In 1999 Marshall, a new Division 1-A program at the time, also ran the table, going 13-0 SU and 8-3-1 ATS with nine double-digit spreads.
Teams that come out of the offseason with the potential BCS buster tag often play a somewhat challenging out of conference schedule before entering play into their generally weaker conferences. They usually stare down spreads of upwards of 30 points while playing conference games.
In 2000 TCU made one of two promising regular season runs for the school. They went 10-2 SU and would have qualified for the BCS with today's guidelines as they would have in 2005. In 2000 they went 6-5 ATS facing all but one double-digit spread. In 2005 they went 11-1 SU and 9-3 ATS seeing five double-digit lines this time.
Miami (Ohio) in 2003 went 12-1 SU and 9-4 ATS while facing seven double-digit spreads. Since Tulane in 1998, the small conference schools that make a run to near the top of the BCS standings have had incredible success against the number. The eight teams that have been in the BCS buster scenario have covered at a 65 percent clip going 61-33-1. Against the double-digit spreads they are covering at 60 percent of the time with a 39-26 mark.
The only team in this situation to have a losing record ATS was last season when Hawaii went 4-7 ATS even though they were 12-0 SU during the regular season. Their only loss came in a Sugar Bowl thrashing from Georgia, 41-10. Two years ago Boise State went undefeated and 7-5 ATS to reach the Fiesta Bowl where they stunned Oklahoma in overtime as seven-point underdogs. The first BCS buster to actually reach a BCS bowl was Utah in 2004 when they covered 10 of 12 games including a 35-7 Fiesta Bowl win against the Big East representative Pitt. Utah was favored by 14 in that game and the lowest spread they saw all season was an opening week line of 8.5 against Texas A&M.
So far this season the non-BCS conference schools in the running have gone 11-5-1 ATS. The books jumped on BYU after their 59-point drubbing of UCLA. They set the line at four touchdowns when BYU hosted Wyoming and the BCS busters covered easily with a 44-0 win. TCU easily handled Southern Methodist 48-7 on Saturday, covered the 24 point spread by 17 points. The 65 percent trend for teams in these very situations is one of the strongest trends in college football right now.