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Friday, October 13, 2006 - Page updated at 12:30 AM

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Bud Withers

College Football | Making a run at the BCS

Seattle Times colleges reporter

On Labor Day, Florida State played Miami, a game deemed big enough that The Associated Press delayed the release of its second college football poll by two days.

So on a conference call the other day, Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson was asked whether the poll would be delayed to accommodate Sunday night's Boise State game at New Mexico State.

Uhhhhh, no. The world might wait for Miami-Florida State, but it doesn't slow down the trolley for the Western Athletic Conference.

Thus is the continuing plight of the so-called non-BCS leagues like the WAC, which beats its chest and bellows loudly, only to find that, usually, nobody's listening.

Sunday marks the release of the first 2006 Bowl Championship Series standings, and even with this year's format expanded to include 10 teams playing in five BCS bowls, there are nervous twitches in WAC precincts. The dark fear is that Boise State (6-0) will go undefeated and still be left out.

"It's dependent on those teams in front of them and what they do," Benson says, referring to the Harris Interactive and coaches polls and the computers. "I think there will continue to be attrition. There are six or seven weeks left. They only have to move one or two spots a week.

"I'm confident they'll get there if they win out."

In the expanded format, a team from a non-BCS league must be in the top 12 of the final standings, as opposed to the top six under the old formula.

Boise State is ranked 21st this week in the Harris poll and 19th by the coaches. Benson and others have argued that preseason polls are flawed and work hardships against teams that start out of the top 25.

He's right, of course, although you can't prove it by the Harris poll, which waits until near the end of September for its first ballot. Harris began with Boise State at No. 22 (mirroring AP that week). Of course, it's likely many Harris voters use the AP and/or the coaches' poll as a template.

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Benson says the WAC will intensify efforts to get out the message of Boise State.

"Earlier today, we identified all the AP writers, and we're making sure they're getting contacted on a weekly basis," he says, adding that the league will also lobby with television partner ESPN.

In the end, if Boise State goes unbeaten, it shouldn't have a problem; it has moved up 12 spots from No. 31 in the preseason coaches poll. Still, if some of those teams in the teens — think Oregon, Georgia Tech, Iowa — stay solid, it could get dicey.

Halfway through, I'm willing to buy half of Benson's argument — that Boise State looks like a BCS-worthy team, but not because the WAC is so much better.

The league does have three victories over BCS-conference teams, but those are against Stanford (by San Jose State), Oregon State (Boise State) and Northwestern (Nevada).

Think about this: In its next three games, Boise State plays New Mexico State (2-3, wins over Southeast Louisiana and Texas Southern); Idaho (3-3, but a combined loser to Washington State and Oregon State by a 94-10 score) and Fresno State (1-4 after a 13-12 loss to an awful Utah State team, and 1-8 dating back to 2005).

If you're putting Boise State in a BCS game, that means it could play Florida, which is going through an LSU-Auburn-Georgia crucible at roughly the same time.

Still, the Broncos may be very good. They play at a fast, confident tempo. They have the No. 7 rushing offense in the country with tailback Ian Johnson, they're 13th in total defense and they have a plus-seven turnover margin.

Oh, and don't bring up the BCS to Boise's first-year coach, ex-Oregon assistant Chris Petersen. He'd sooner invite NFL agents to training table.

"There's no talk about getting into the BCS," he says. "We talk every single week about one game at a time."

Grisly in Greeley

Can we officially call it a circus at Northern Colorado?

In about a month, this is what's happened at Division I-AA UNC, which hosts Eastern Washington on Saturday:

• Starting punter Rafael Mendoza is stabbed in the leg, allegedly by backup punter Mitch Cozad.

• Last week, head coach Scott Downing delivers defensive-line coach Craig Robinson's office belongings in boxes to Robinson's home, after the assistant coach was tied to unauthorized spring workouts.

• Sunday night, UNC player Jacob Carlson is cited for disorderly conduct outside a Greeley bar.

It all makes the games positively mundane for the Bears (1-5). Last week, Downing switched quarterbacks in mid-game, and you had to love his explanation to the Greeley Tribune: "I could sit here and give you a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about why I did it, but I just decided to put Brian Weideman in to see how he'd do."

Seething coach

South Carolina's 24-17 victory over Kentucky didn't mean Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was happy about his secondary's play. Quizzed about some breakdowns, Spurrier directed his sports publicist to go get secondary coach Ron Cooper, and Spurrier, still at a microphone, grilled Cooper himself.

High-end Huskies

Five Connecticut players weren't completely focused on last Saturday's game at South Florida. Friday night, they walked across the street from their Tampa hotel to a gas station and bought two six-packs.

Coach Randy Edsall booted the five from the team, ignoring their good taste. The Hartford Courant reported they purchased Heineken and Corona.

And what's more ...

• Michigan's (6-0) battle at Penn State (4-2) features two of the top-rated QBs in Pennsylvania from the 2004 recruiting class, Penn State's Anthony Morelli and Michigan's Chad Henne.

• It wasn't a happy weekend for Louisiana State QB JaMarcus Russell. His 2002 Chevy Tahoe SUV was stolen and stripped in Baton Rouge before the team left for Florida, where it lost 23-10.

• Guess who's showing up on the NFL Network? Why, Rutgers president Richard McCormick, former president at Washington, who was interviewed as he appeared at a Knights practice. He left UW in 2002.

• Washington State's best win might be over Baylor (3-3, 2-0 Big 12). The Bears lead the nation in takeaways with 19, but Saturday, they play Texas, which has shut them out four times since 1999.

• Wisconsin has the successor to its running tradition — freshman P.J. Hill, who leads the Big Ten in rushing.

• Kansas State's first-year coach, Ron Prince, was scorned for a depth-chart shake-

up last week that saw seven new starters — until KSU upset Oklahoma State 31-27.

• Impress your friends with the answer to this trivia question: Which schools have graduated both a U.S. president and a quarterback who won the Super Bowl? They're Michigan (Gerald Ford, Tom Brady), Navy (Jimmy Carter, Roger Staubach), Stanford (Herbert Hoover, Jim Plunkett/John Elway) and Miami of Ohio (two Bens, Harrison and Roethlisberger).

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Boise State schedule
A look at the Broncos' results and remaining schedule

(with opponent's current record listed):

Date Opponent Result
Aug. 31 Sacramento St. W, 45-0
Sept. 7 Oregon St. W, 42-14
Sept. 16 at Wyoming W, 17-10
Sept. 23 Hawaii W, 41-34
Sept. 30 at Utah W, 36-3
Oct. 7 Louisiana Tech W, 55-14
Date Opponent W-L
Oct. 15 at New Mexico St. 2-3
Oct. 21 at Idaho 3-3
Nov. 1 Fresno St. 1-4
Nov. 11 at San Jose St. 3-1
Nov. 18 Utah State 1-5
Nov. 25 at Nevada 3-3

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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