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TCU-Boise battle for BCS No. 3 far from done

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The clear winner in the weekend's release of the BCS ratings is TCU. The Horned Frogs were also the big winner on the field, beating Utah 47-7.

TCU won over a lot of voters who were holding last year's Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State against it. The Frogs went from 69 points down to the Broncos in the coaches poll to ten points ahead. TCU trailed Boise by 106 points in the Harris poll going into the weekend, but now, the Frogs lead by 35 points.

Those aren't huge margins. I'm sure everywhere you look, people are telling you TCU is next in line should one of the top two lose. That's not as definite as it appears.

TCU has a whopping 4.00 lead in the computer average over Boise State. That's why the Frogs are so far ahead overall, but the Broncos only need to be 0.50 ahead with the current poll margins to pass TCU overall. You might think that's impossible. You would be wrong.

Boise has four conference games left, including two against the other contenders in the league, Fresno State and No. 21 Nevada. TCU has a game against San Diego State, which is pretty decent, and New Mexico, one of the worst teams in I-A. That one will hurt.

How their respective non-conference foes fare also will matter. Both teams have played Oregon State, so the Beavers don't mean anything. TCU has played Baylor, which is having a surprisingly good year, despite the pounding the Bears took from Oklahoma State on Saturday. How Baylor responds now will be a key for TCU. The Frogs also played SMU, which is a .500 team, and Tennessee Tech, which is a below-average FCS team.

Boise State has played the MAC's Toledo, which is 6-3 and likely to finish 8-4. The Broncos also played Virginia Tech, which has won seven straight since the loss to James Madison, and has to be considered the favorite, albeit a shaky one, in the ACC. It would help Boise considerably if the Hokies were to win the ACC at 11-2 or 10-3.

The Broncos also played Wyoming, and even though also the Cowboys are on TCU's schedule, how the Cowboys perform matters. Wyoming wins are a wash for TCU, because they would come over other TCU Mountain West opponents. But Boise only gets credit for Wyoming's win or loss. Unfortunately for Boise, Wyoming is having a terrible year. The Cowboys' only FBS win so far came over Toledo, another Bronco opponent.

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Each league, the Mountain West and the WAC, has two remaining non-conference games which also matter, including one game between the two leagues (UNLV at Hawaii).

So, in the race for No. 3, every game counts. I ran a simulation of Wes Colley's ratings based on my end-of-season bowl projections. I don't put any significant upsets into that projection. In his ratings, Boise finishes two spots ahead of the Horned Frogs. Right now, Colley has the Broncos three spots behind TCU.

Now, that's only one example of one computer, and they are all different, but it does show that it is possible for Boise to not only make up a lot of ground in the computers. And that it doesn't require a miracle or a slew of upsets to make it happen.

So, the Horned Frogs should not be making plans for Pasadena or Glendale just yet. It may happen for them, of course, but they would do well to watch their backs.

Boise State and TCU don't have to watch as far behind them as they usually do though. Not after LSU beat Alabama 24-21, ending the Crimson Tide's BCS title hopes. Also, Oklahoma lost at Texas A&M 33-19. Those two were the biggest threats among the one-loss teams to jump undefeated Boise State and/or TCU. They had the brand recognition to get some support from the voters (especially in Alabama's case -- voters looooved Alabama), and the computer strength to pull it off. I don't think any of the remaining one-loss teams has the cache to pull it off.

The best LSU can realistically hope for is to finish 11-1 and be the tiebreaker loser in the West division. Voters do love them some SEC, but they also love conference champions, and barring a miracle, LSU won't be that.

Maybe -- MAYBE -- 12-1 SEC champion Auburn could do it, but the Tigers don't have the Q rating Alabama does and that loss would come pretty late in the season. They'd have to earn voter support just for being the SEC champ. I don't think I'd count on that.

So, at least it looks like TCU and Boise are only battling each other and not their status.

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