Boise State brings No. 5 ranking in UPS Index to Vegas, looks to continue bowl run
By BRETT HUSTON
(AP) -- The BCS standings didn't give Boise State the respect necessary to send the Broncos to one of college football's marquee bowls for a third time in seven years.
The UPS Team Performance Index has quite a bit more love for coach Chris Petersen's program.
Boise State is the index's highest-ranked team that will be playing in a December bowl, with its intriguing MAACO Bowl Las Vegas matchup against Washington one of four games this week as college football's postseason heads toward the holidays.
Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 120 FBS schools.
From there, balance is measured for all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas and overall winning percentage.
By that measure, the Broncos (10-2) ended up fifth among BCS schools in the regular season - significantly higher than their No. 20 spot in the AP poll and 19th-place ranking in the BCS standings. As a result of that BCS ranking, they were unable to surpass Northern Illinois and crack the top 16, which they would have needed to do in order to crash yet another Bowl Championship Series contest.
That means Boise State - which has won at least 10 games in each of the last seven seasons - will have to settle for a third straight bowl appearance in Las Vegas.
If history is any precedent, however, that fate is not so bad.
It cruised past Utah - a future Pac-12 team - 26-3 in 2010, blasted Arizona State 56-24 last season and will get another crack at the Pac-12 against Washington.
If exceptional balance is any indication of power, the matchup could be a mismatch. The Broncos trail only Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Northern Illinois in the UPS Index. All of those schools will be playing in the BCS, while Washington is just 64th.
Boise State had a top-10 offense in each of the last three seasons, but this year Petersen's team is just 77th (390.0 yards per game) when it has the ball. No longer armed with quarterback Kellen Moore, who finished with an FBS-record 50 wins in a career that ended last year, the Broncos' strength has carried over to the other side of the ball.
It ranks ninth nationally overall (304.7 ypg) and has forced 33 turnovers, tied for the third-most in the FBS.
"The defense has been so stellar all year, and has carried us for most of the way," Petersen said.
The Huskies figure to have trouble moving the ball with their 101st-ranked offense (347.4), but could stay in the game with a defense that's 31st (353.3) and forced just one fewer turnover than Boise State. Washington has consistently hurt itself, though: Its 106 penalties are the second-most in the nation behind UCLA's 123.
While imbalance kept Washington from being involved in many of the shootouts the Pac-12 has become renowned for, another of the conference's eight bowl representatives produced a high-scoring affair in the sport's postseason opener. Arizona rallied from 13 points down with under a minute left to beat Nevada 49-48 in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl in a game that featured 1,237 yards of offense.
"It's not easy to come back from that situation," Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott said. "You're not necessarily going to think the most positive thing at the time, but we went out there and took care of business."
That was enough to put Arizona on top of the UPS Index for the teams playing in the first weekend of bowl season, though there wasn't much competition with just a pair of games. Utah State racked up 582 yards in a 41-15 Idaho Potato Bowl win over Toledo in Saturday's other contest, but only led by four with less than seven minutes to go.
While Boise State will get a chance to give the Mountain West a bowl win Saturday, San Diego State can get the conference its first postseason win of 2012 in Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl - against a former conference rival, at that.
The Aztecs, co-champs of the MWC along with the Broncos, are 29th in the index largely on the strength of a running game that's 15th in the nation (229.2 ypg) behind sophomore Adam Muema (6.4 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns).
Muema had 255 yards and four TDs in San Diego State's 42-28 win at Wyoming on Nov. 24, but he'll have his hands full against a BYU rush defense that's second in the FBS (84.3) and has allowed only five scores this season.
The Cougars' defense is third overall, but BYU - which played in the MWC until becoming independent last season - is just 56th in the UPS Index.
The other two bowl matchups this week are a bit less enticing. East Carolina (UPS No. 60) squares off against Louisiana-Lafayette (No. 39) in Saturday's New Orleans Bowl, which pits a pair of woeful pass defenses against each other. The Pirates are 110th defending the pass (272.9 ypg) while the Ragin' Cajuns are 115th (283.9).
UCF (No. 25) and Ball State (No. 33) play Friday in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl with the Cardinals riding a six-game winning streak behind the nation's 22nd-ranked offense (471.3 ypg). That could spell trouble for the Knights, who surrendered 501.0 yards per game in dropping two of their last three.
Updated December 17, 2012