Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
The world nearly came to a standstill in July when it was revealed that Florida’s Tim Tebow was not a unanimous selection in coaches’ voting for the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team.
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier eventually ’fessed up, saying he was the only coach who didn’t vote for Tebow, but the message was clear: The 2009 season belongs to Tebow and anyone questioning this shall be condemned to eternal damnation. Just ask Spurrier, who had to face the wrath of the Gator Nation.
But when Tebow announced in late July that he was a 22-year-old virgin saving himself for marriage, a spiritual tone cloaked the season. Good things happen to those who believe and a scrappy bunch of kids on the Brigham Young team are ready to follow Tebow to the promised land in Pasadena and a spot opposite the Gators in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Don’t bet against it.
Brigham Young plays six of its last 10 games at home, including the three toughest ones: Saturday against Florida State, Oct. 24 against Texas Christian and Nov. 28 against rival Utah. The rest of the Cougars’ schedule consists of the Wyomings and San Diego States of the world.
The first BCS standings won’t be released until next month, but an undefeated BYU will likely fall somewhere between Nos. 5-10. This essentially will allow the Cougars to be drafting for much of the season while the big boys crash into each other. As the theory goes, teams ahead of BYU will lose and the Cougars will inch their way up, eventually snaring one of the top two spots needed for a berth to the BCS title game.
Don’t think for a second that BYU hasn’t considered the possibilities. That’s why Saturday’s game against Florida State, one of the highest-profile opponents to ever play in LaVell Edwards Stadium, is so huge. The Cougars are 7-point favorites.
It’s pressure, but BYU’s roster is full of mature players who can handle it. Thirty-six Cougar players are married, and many of these men have completed Mormon missionaries abroad.
Critics say BYU has an advantage with so many players leaving for two-year missionaries that don’t count against their eligibility. When they return, the players are often more physically developed and mentally stronger. This allows the Cougars to field a team full of players who are 22, 23, 24 and sometimes 25 years old against opponents with a roster of 19-22 year olds.
Unfair? Perhaps, but if you’re wagering on the Cougars, it’s an edge to consider, especially Saturday.
Chris Petersen has been nothing short of remarkable at Boise State. He has a 37-4 record since taking over for Dan Hawkins after the 2005 season. Of his four losses, only one — a 39-27 setback in 2007 at Hawaii — has come in Western Athletic Conference play.
On Friday night, the Broncos are on the road to play league rival Fresno State. Boise State is a 7-point favorite.
Much like BYU, the Broncos have only a handful of hurdles to clear if they hope to complete an undefeated regular season for a possible berth to a BCS game. After Friday, there’s an Oct. 14 trip to Tulsa that will be dangerous, and a Nov. 6 game at Louisiana Tech could be troublesome. Otherwise, it should be clear sailing.
Fresno State’s Pat Hill, whose team is coming off a heartbreaking two-overtime loss at Wisconsin, lives for games like this. The Bulldogs are imploring fans to wear white to help wipe out Boise State.
“We’re looking forward to coming down that ramp to a sea of white taking over Bulldog Stadium,” Hill said. “It will be a great atmosphere for college football.”
Hill has had no success beating Petersen. He’s 0-3, with the Broncos outscoring the Bulldogs 140-52.
He’s likely to strike out again on Friday. Boise State, in a tough environment, should pull away late and cover the number.