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BCS Busting: TCU vs. Boise State

Crunching the numbers to find the best non-BCS team in the country
By Eric Schmoldt and Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
November 9th, 2009

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With two teams from non-BCS conference schools still unbeaten and the college football season winding down, it looks like another BCS buster will come into play.

Both TCU and Boise State enter this weekend 9-0 and rank in the top six in both the BCS and in our most recent power rankings, still hoping they can find their way into the national championship game. They'll need some help to get there, but it's increasingly likely that either the Horned Frogs or the Broncos will earn a spot in a BCS Bowl. And despite the fact that they both rank within their current rankings, the other will almost certainly be left out.

Which one will be left out?

We won't be able to find out which team is more worthy with a head-to-head matchup on the field before the bowls this season (TCU defeated Boise 17-16 in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl). But we can put the two teams up against each other in a computer simulation. And we did - 10,000 times. We will get to the results of neutral field matchup, but let's first look in-depth at the matchup.

Relatively untested since a 19-8 season-opening victory over Oregon, Boise State moved to 9-0 on Friday with a victory over Louisiana Tech by a score of 45-35. It was the Broncos' second-lowest margin of victory this season, but all signs point to Boise State running the table. Their toughest remaining test will likely be against Nevada on Nov. 27. In fact, according to simulations of the rest of the season, Boise State has a 82.6% chance of remaining undefeated.

Led by quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Jeremy Avery, the Broncos have one of the top 20 offenses in the country. Against the 82nd toughest schedule to-date, they average more than 181 rushing yards per game, but more impressively they pick up just under five yards per carry. Moore has thrown for more than 2,200 yards with 27 touchdowns and just three interceptions. And Boise State averages 8.21 yards per pass attempt.

Defensively, the Broncos rank even higher. They give up just over 100 yards per game on the ground, though they allow 3.71 yards per carry. High-scoring games have led teams to go to the air more and Boise State has passed that test with flying colors, allowing just 5.05 yards per pass attempt. Only Florida has a better number at 5.0.

TCU has passed every test that has come its way as well, earning non-conference road victories against Clemson and Virginia - teams in BCS conferences - and then adding a dominating 38-7 win at BYU during Mountain West Conference play. Their toughest remaining hurdle to an undefeated season will likely come this week when the Horned Frogs host nationally ranked Utah (view our pick for that game). According to the simulated season, TCU has a 74.6% chance of finishing the regular season unbeaten.

TCU junior quarterback Andy Dalton has helped lead a well-balanced offensive attack that the Horned Frogs have sometimes lacked in previous bids to bust into the BCS. Facing the nation's 45th toughest schedule to-date, the Horned Frogs average more than 240 yards per game on the ground, but more impressively are one of few teams averaging more than five yards per rush. TCU ranks just 66th in passing yards per game, mostly because they haven't had to rely on their aerial attack. When they do throw, the Horned Frogs are averaging an impressive 9.28 yards per pass attempt.

Their defensive presence has been much less surprising as it has been a TCU mainstay. Not only are the Horned Frogs giving up less than 100 rushing yards per game, they give up less than three yards per carry. And TCU ranks right behind Boise State at third in the country, allowing just 5.15 yards per pass attempt.

But with all the impressive numbers, it's almost certain that - even if TCU and Boise State remain undefeated - only one team from a non-BCS automatic-qualifying conference will burst onto the BCS scene.

Based on the numbers and the teams' performances through nine games, TCU produces the best argument to be that team. In 10,000 simulations between the Horned Frogs and Broncos, the offenses come alive as TCU wins 73.7% of the time and by an average score of 34-26.

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Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in NCAA Matchup analysis and college football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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