Hawaii coach June Jones wanted his football team to open the season at Michigan. The Wolverines wouldn't play the Warriors and instead hosted Division I-AA Appalachian State, which beat Michigan 34-32 in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
Hawaii was scheduled to play Michigan State this season, but the Spartans paid $250,000 to cancel the game. Jones tried to replace the Spartans with Southern California, but even the Trojans wanted no part of quarterback Colt Brennan and the Warriors' high-octane offense.
"We offered to play everybody," Jones said. "No one wanted to play us."
With two weeks left in the regular season, Hawaii is one of only two unbeaten teams left in major college football. The Warriors are 10-0 and ranked No. 15 in the BCS standings. Hawaii has to finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings to receive a lucrative at-large berth in a BCS bowl game, or in the top 16 and ranked higher than one of the champions of the traditional BCS conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC).
Even if Hawaii beats No. 19 Boise State on Friday night (ESPN2, 9 ET) and Washington on Dec. 1 to finish the regular season at 12-0, the Warriors aren't guaranteed of playing in a BCS bowl game. It will be up to the voters in the Harris Interactive Poll and coaches' top-25 poll, two of the main components in the BCS formula, to put them there.
"We knew before the season started that we had to win them all to get any respect," Jones said. "We've kind of focused on one at a time and it's worked for us. All I know is we beat Arizona State in a bowl game last year and we've won 20 of our last 21 games. We'll line up and play anybody."
Kansas is the only other unbeaten team left in major college football. The Jayhawks are 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings. Kansas is in its lofty and unprecedented position because it scheduled wisely, to say the least.
The Jayhawks didn't play Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech, three of the strongest teams in the Big 12, during the regular season. The Big 12 office, and not the Jayhawks, set the conference schedule.
But Kansas' nonconference schedule -- home games against Central Michigan, Division I-AA Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and winless Florida International -- was created to make the Jayhawks eligible for a bowl game.
The soft schedule might end up being Kansas' ticket to the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.
If Kansas beats No. 4 Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Saturday and then beats No. 10 Oklahoma or No. 13 Texas in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 1, it will probably play for the national title. Certainly, the Jayhawks' last two victories would suggest they're worthy of playing for the national championship.
But Kansas' first 11 games suggest otherwise. In fact, if the Jayhawks didn't play in the Big 12, the Jayhawks would be in the same boat as Hawaii. They have played only three teams with winning records -- Central Michigan, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are each 6-5. Furthermore, the 11 opponents Kansas has played so far have a combined record of 47-75.
Hawaii's 10 opponents, including two Division I-AA foes, are a combined 34-76.
The Jayhawks haven't been penalized for playing a soft schedule; the Warriors have been penalized heavily.
During the past five weeks, when Kansas beat two teams that are close to firing their coaches (Nebraska and Texas A&M), two teams with losing records (Colorado and Iowa State) and one of the most inconsistent programs in the country (Oklahoma State), the Jayhawks climbed from No. 13 in the BCS standings to No. 2.
During that same time frame, when Hawaii beat San Jose State (in overtime), New Mexico State, Fresno State and Nevada (they played mostly without the injured Brennan in that game), the Warriors actually fell from No. 14 to No. 15 in the BCS standings.
"It wasn't like we didn't try to go out and schedule good teams," Brennan said. "We tried to play everyone. We couldn't get anybody to take the offers. This is what we've dealt with and this is our schedule. I know we've won some close games and it's been a crazy year, but this team knows how to win. That's what's scary about us -- this team is used to winning."
And the Warriors can beat only the teams that are willing to play them.
On (and Off) the Mark On the Mark
Game-changing quarterbacks. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (47-for-72 for 420 yards with two touchdowns in a 34-27 upset of Oklahoma). Tulsa's Paul Smith (22-for-32 for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 49-39 win at Army). Arizona's Willie Tuitama (21-for-39 for 266 yards with two scores in a 34-24 upset of Oregon). Hawaii's Tyler Graunke (33-for-46 for 358 yards with two touchdowns in a 28-26 win at Nevada). Ball State's Nate Davis (265 passing yards and three touchdowns and two scoring runs in a 41-20 defeat of Toledo). Florida's Tim Tebow (25-for-34 for 338 yards and three touchdowns and one scoring run in a 59-20 rout of Florida Atlantic). Army's Carson Williams (26-for-38 for 328 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to Tulsa). Illinois' Juice Williams (220 passing yards and one touchdown, 136 rushing yards and two scores in 41-22 win over Northwestern). Missouri's Chase Daniel (28-for-41 for 284 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-32 win at Kansas State). Arkansas' Casey Dick (14-for-17 for 199 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 victory over Mississippi State). Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson (16-for-21 for 202 yards and two touchdowns, 144 rushing yards and two scores in a 45-14 win at Baylor). Boise State's Taylor Tharp (22-for-31 for 282 yards with four touchdowns in a 58-14 rout over Idaho). Tennessee's Erik Ainge (29-for-43 for 245 yards with three touchdowns in a 25-24 win over Vanderbilt). BYU's Max Hall (26-for-37 for 331 yards and three touchdown passes in a 35-10 rout of Wyoming). Michigan State's Brian Hoyer (16-for-21 for 257 yards with four touchdowns in a 35-31 win over Penn State). Western Michigan's Tim Hiller (26-for-45 for 367 yards with three touchdowns in a 28-19 upset at Iowa). Kansas' Todd Reesing (21-for-26 for 253 yards with four touchdowns in a 45-7 rout of Iowa State). Boston College's Matt Ryan (31-for-47 for 315 yards and one score in a 20-17 win at Clemson). West Virginia's Pat White (13-for-19 for 140 yards, 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 win at Cincinnati).
(Off) the Mark Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon's decision to play with a torn ACL in his left knee against Arizona on Thursday night was one of the most courageous and selfless acts by a player in recent college football history. Dixon injured his knee two weeks earlier against Arizona State. When the knee didn't swell, Dixon chose to play against the Wildcats wearing a heavy knee brace. He sacrificed his long-term health for a chance to keep the Ducks' national championship hopes alive. But should the Heisman Trophy candidate have been on the field? And shouldn't the Ducks have had backup Brady Leaf more ready to play, knowing Dixon's chances of finishing the game were slim to none? The 34-24 loss to Arizona ended Oregon's title hopes and Dixon's season. Here's hoping the senior is ready to go by the NFL combine.
On the Mark
Clock-eating tailbacks. Wisconsin's Zach Brown (29 carries for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-34 win at Minnesota). Ohio State's Chris Wells (39 carries for 222 yards and two scores in a 14-3 victory at Michigan). Washington's Louis Rankin (224 yards and one touchdown in a 37-23 win over California). Southern Mississippi's Damion Fletcher (211 yards and three scores in a 56-30 rout of UTEP). Tulane's Matt Forte (194 yards and five scores in a 45-31 victory over Rice). Florida State's Preston Parker (133 yards and one touchdown in a 24-16 win over Maryland). Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice (33 carries for 142 yards in a 27-25 win over North Carolina). Georgia's Knowshon Moreno (22 carries for 124 yards and one touchdown in a 24-13 win over Kentucky). Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall (124 yards and two scores in the win over Northwestern). Kansas State's James Johnson (22 carries for 172 yards in the loss to Missouri). Colorado State's Gartrell Johnson III (136 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-34 win over Division I-AA Georgia Southern). Indiana's Marcus Thigpen (140 yards in a 27-24 win over Purdue). Central Florida's Kevin Smith (20 carries for 177 yards and two scores in a 49-20 rout at SMU). Boston College's Andre Callender (22 carries for 75 yards, 11 receptions for 92 yards against Clemson). South Florida's Mike Ford (24 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 55-17 rout of Louisville). Eastern Michigan's Pierre Walker (31 carries for 149 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-45 upset at Central Michigan). Air Force's Chad Hall (19 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a 55-23 win over San Diego State), Jim Ollis (15 attempts for 163 yards and two scores) and Ty Paffett (seven carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns versus the Aztecs).
(Off) the Mark It is time for Michigan coach Lloyd Carr to retire, after the Wolverines coach ended his 13th season the way it started -- with consecutive losses. But is the timing right for the Wolverines? If Michigan is truly interested in hiring LSU coach Les Miles, a former Wolverines player and assistant coach, shouldn't Carr have waited until after a bowl game to announce his retirement? With No. 1 LSU having to win two more games (against Arkansas on Friday and against either Georgia or Tennessee in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1) to secure a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, Carr's retirement figures to create a boatload of distractions for the Tigers.
On the Mark Big-play receivers. Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree (12 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown in the upset of the Sooners). Arizona's Mike Thomas (six catches for 125 yards and two scores in the upset of the Ducks). Hawaii's Davone Bess (12 catches for 137 yards at Nevada). Florida's Andre Caldwell (13 catches for 164 yards against Florida Atlantic). Georgia Tech's Greg Smith (six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns against North Carolina). Army's Jeremy Trimble (11 catches for 167 yards and two scores in the loss to Tulsa). Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes (10 receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown in a 31-17 win at Buffalo). Mississippi State's Jamayel Smith (10 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the loss at Arkansas). Utah State's Rob Myers (four catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-17 win at New Mexico State). Boise State's Austin Pettis (eight catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Idaho). Indiana's James Hardy (10 catches for 87 yards and one score against Purdue). Michigan State's Devin Thomas (seven receptions for 139 yards and three scores against the Nittany Lions). Kansas' Dexton Fields (11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa State). Missouri's Jeremy Maclin (nine catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns, six kickoff returns for 193 yards and a 99-yard touchdown and two runs for 8 yards in the win at Kansas State).
(Off) the Mark
Does Nick Saban owe Alabama a rebate on his $4 million salary? When Saban nearly led the Crimson Tide to an upset of LSU three weeks ago, we figured it was only a matter of time before he turned Alabama back into a national power. Once Saban upgraded the Tide's talent, it figured to be a marriage that would leave the rest of the SEC shaking. But Alabama's 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday suggests not even Saban can fix the Crimson Tide's problems quickly. Alabama has lost consecutive games to Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe heading into Saturday's Iron Bowl at Auburn. Who knew the return on a $4 million investment would be a 6-6 record and maybe a holiday trip to Shreveport, La.?
On the Mark State rivalries (Mississippi at Mississippi State; Texas at Texas A&M; Virginia Tech at Virginia; Georgia at Georgia Tech; Oklahoma State at Oklahoma; FSU at Florida; Clemson at South Carolina; Washington State at Washington; Alabama at Auburn). Game-winning field goals (Hawaii's Dan Kelly; Georgia Tech's Travis Bell; Indiana's Austin Starr and Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln). Temple's fourth win, the Owls' best mark since 2002. Utah State's first win, ending a 16-game losing streak. Air Force's running game (569 yards against San Diego State). Notre Dame's first home win. TCU defense. South Florida defense. Boston College defense. Ohio State defense. Harvard's 37-6 stunner over Yale in "The Game." Army-Navy. Seizing an opportunity (Boston College, Indiana and Michigan State). Bobby Bowden's 300th win at Florida State. Louisiana-Monroe cornerback Quintez Secka (two interceptions versus Alabama). Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston (three sacks against Michigan). Georgia safety Kelin Johnson (blocked punt, interception versus Kentucky). Central Florida's Khymest Williams (99-yard touchdown return on game's opening kickoff at SMU). Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop (16 tackles, 1½ sacks and three takeaways, including two fumble recoveries and an interception in the loss to Rutgers).
Off the Mark Squandering opportunities (Clemson, Iowa, Maryland, Purdue and Vanderbilt). 0-10 Florida International. 1-10 SMU. 1-11 Minnesota. 1-10 Duke. Miami. Louisville. California. LSU's defense. Michigan's offense.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.