Earlier in the week, I received an e-mail from Adam over at Pitch Right asking if I would be interested in joining him in ranking the top 10 non-B.C.S. conference teams from the 2006 football season. Also involved in this enterprise is JazzyUte from Block U.
I don't know whether I was asked along for the ride because I spoke well of non-B.C.S. conferences, their fans, or Adam and JazzyUte, but, whatever the reason, I'm happy to participate. These, in my estimation (which differs slightly from Adam's assessment), are the top 10 teams from non-B.C.S. leagues from the 2006 season:
1. Boise State (13-0): On my final BlogPoll ballot, I ranked the Broncos second and I tried---I really tried---to rank them first. Even though I couldn't see my way clear to slotting them ahead of the hated Gators, B.S.U. went unbeaten against a slate that included Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Oregon State, earning the Broncos the top spot among non-B.C.S. squads by a wide margin.
2. Brigham Young (11-2): The Cougars' resume was comparable to that compiled by Rutgers, earning them an overall No. 17 ranking on my season-ending BlogPoll ballot. B.Y.U. lost a couple of close road games to bowl-eligible B.C.S. league teams but succeeded in claiming a convincing victory over T.C.U. to edge the Horned Frogs for the second seed in this particular top 10.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis resents the suggestion that her alma mater's special 2006 season wasn't superior in every way to Brigham Young's . . . and, no, I don't know what the heck she's doing in that picture, either.
3. Texas Christian (11-2): Despite losing to the Cougars, T.C.U. earned 11 victories, most of which were by convincing margins. The Horned Frogs' overall strength of schedule was suspect, but their performance over the course of a campaign that included a win over Texas Tech indicated that Texas Christian was a team that would have fared well even against tougher competition.
4. Hawaii (11-3): The Warriors narrowly missed out on putting together a Boise State-like season. In fact, the Warriors narrowly missed out on beating Boise State, but Hawaii came up short in tight ballgames against the Broncos, the Beavers, and the Crimson Tide. Nevertheless, June Jones's squad defeated Arizona State, Nevada, Purdue, and San Jose State to earn a top five ranking among non-B.C.S. conference teams.
5. Houston (10-4): 2006 saw the Cougars attain a level of success last seen in their Southwest Conference days. The ones the Cougs lost, they didn't lose by much, but they weren't helped by coming up short against Louisiana-Lafayette. A win over Southern Miss in the Conference U.S.A. championship game helped to validate Houston's 10-win season.
6. Navy (9-4): A pair of one-point losses prevented the Midshipmen from having the special season they had hoped to have. Even had the U.S.N.A. managed to emerge victorious from its contests with Boston College and Tulsa, though, I still doubt that the Mids would have made it into my mid-major top five, both because their losses to Notre Dame and Rutgers were by convincing margins and because four of their eight wins over Division I-A competition came against Duke, Eastern Michigan, Stanford, and Temple . . . teams which went a combined 3-45. Nevertheless, Navy's option attack and impressive recent run legitimize the squad's credentials, so the Midshipmen's nine-win season earned them a No. 6 ranking.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis takes a much more favorable view of the preceding reference to the State University of New Jersey. Consequently, she elected to strike a much less bizarre pose.
7. Utah (8-5): The Utes' losses to Boise State, B.Y.U., and U.C.L.A. all were forgivable and Utah claimed a compelling victory over T.C.U. to bolster its resume. Although the Utes missed out on postseason play in 2000 and 2002, they have won their last six bowl games, dating back to 1999, and Utah's Armed Forces Bowl victory capped off a respectable season.
8. San Jose State (9-4): The Spartans played a couple of games that they'd like to have back, falling narrowly at Washington and against Boise State. Even so, San Jose State didn't suffer a truly shameful setback---their other two losses were on the road versus Hawaii and Nevada---and the Spartans had a win over a B.C.S. conference team (granted, it was just Stanford) and a New Mexico Bowl victory to their credit.
9. Nevada (8-5): Offensively, the Wolf Pack really got it going late last fall and Chris Ault's crew barely missed out on upset wins over Hawaii in Honolulu and over Miami in the MPC Computers Bowl. Even with those setbacks and three other losses at Arizona State, against Boise State, and at Fresno State, Nevada managed to beat Northwestern and San Jose State to put together a successful season.
10. Southern Mississippi (9-5): Rounding out my non-B.C.S. conference top 10 are the Golden Eagles, four of whose five losses came outside of Hattiesburg and two of which came against Florida and Virginia Tech. Despite coming up short in the conference championship game against a team U.S.M. defeated during the regular season, the Eagles were victorious over Central Florida, N.C. State, and Ohio (Ohio) in the GMAC Bowl.
I know he's been reduced to coaching at U.C.F., but I still enjoy watching this yutz lose!
Others Receiving Consideration: Troy and Tulsa . . . the latter much more so than the former.
Others Not Receiving Consideration: East Carolina, Ohio (Ohio), Rice, and whichever Directional Michigan it was that won 10 games.
That's my mid-major top 10. What's yours?