Texas A&M’s win at Alabama shook up the BCS landscape in over very obvious way. The ripple effect the previously No. 1 Crimson Tide’s loss created opened numerous BCS possibilities — one of which is Louisiana Tech becoming the first one-loss, non-automatic qualifier to reach one of the prestigious bowls.
Louisiana Tech’s one defeat came Oct. 13 in a make-up of what was scheduled to be the season opener for both it and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs were undefeated with two routs of BCS conference foes to their credit once A&M came to Shreveport. Gone was the element of surprise La. Tech might have had on Aug. 30. Also gone were the first game jitters of a freshman quarterback who won the starting job just a week before the season. That freshman, Johnny Manziel, began cultivating the Johnny Football mythos on Oct. 13, but Louisiana Tech went toe-to-toe with him and the rest of the Aggies.
Louisiana Tech rallied from a four-touchdown-two-extra-point deficit to nearly force overtime. The 59-57 loss seemingly wiped out any opportunity Sonny Dykes’ team had at reaching the BCS — the odds were already stacked against Louisiana Tech, playing in a depleted WAC. But the truth was, the 59-57 loss was just the beginning of what could be the most improbable BCS path ever taken.
Texas A&M bounced up seven places in the most recent BCS standings. The Aggies face Sam Houston State and Missouri at home to close the 2012 regular season, and while neither is going to aid A&M’s point total, a 10-2 final record will buoy it. By proxy, a 10-2 SEC opponent on the schedule bolsters Louisiana Tech’s overall resume.
Also giving Tech an unlikely boost are its final two games. WAC football is on its deathbed, but three of the conference’s teams decided to give it a proper send-off. Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Utah State have a combined 24-5 record. The latter two are the final hurdles waiting the Bulldogs, and both must come to Ruston.
USU is 8-2 with single digit losses to BYU and Wisconsin, as well as a win over Utah. SJSU took Stanford to the brink in the season opener and beat Mountain West-leading San Diego State. The Spartans host BYU this Saturday with a chance to move to 9-2. USU and SJSU have already played each other, thus eliminating the possibility of a guaranteed for either. Louisiana Tech would benefit tremendously from both finishing 9-3.
Another Tech opponent Bulldog faithful should cheer on is Virginia. As one of two BCS conference opponents Louisiana Tech defeated, the Cavaliers could bolster Tech’s BCS score by completely an improbable run to bowl eligibility. Virginia slipped to 2-6 with a loss to Wake Forest, but has since rallied with wins over NC State and Miami. The Cavaliers play North Carolina tonight and close with a decidedly down Virginia Tech.
Virginia winning out not only improves Louisiana Tech’s resume, but a Cavalier defeat of Virginia Tech hurts Cincinnati’s, and thereby the Big East. And that’s a golden ticket for Louisiana Tech into the BCS.
The system’s bylaws declare that a non-automatic qualifier is eligible if it finishes in the top 12; Louisiana Tech cannot possibly climb that high. But it can reach No. 16, with the added caveat an automatic qualifier ranks below it.
The Bulldogs’ best case scenario is Cincinnati defeating Rutgers this week when the Bearcats host the Scarlet Knights in Big East play, then Rutgers knocking off Louisville a week from Saturday. That would leave all three of the Big East’s top teams with at least two losses, and presumably below an 11-1 Louisiana Tech in the BCS standings. At No. 20, Tech already leads Rutgers (22) and Cincinnati. Louisville is just one game ahead of the Bulldogs.
Louisville is the most likely team leading Louisiana Tech for the Bulldogs to leapfrog. That would leave two more teams Tech must surpass to reach 16. That makes the populace of Ruston big fans of favorites in the weeks to come, namely UCLA and Notre Dame. The Bruins and Fighting Irish both play USC, and a pair of losses would drop the Trojans, currently at No. 18. No. 16 Oregon State must face Oregon in the Civil War — expect the ‘Dogs to be quacking for that one.
Bulldog fans should also cheer on Kansas State when it faces Texas. The Longhorns are one favorite La. Tech will not back though, because come Thanksgiving Day, Sonny Dykes and Co. need a TCU win to knock some points away from No. 15 Texas. Another upset that would benefit Louisiana Tech is Cal knocking off Oregon State this Saturday on its trip to Reser Stadium.
It’s an unlikely path to the BCS, with numerous potential detours. But the unlikely has benefited Louisiana Tech to this point; just ask Texas A&M.