The Washington Times - August 6, 2008, 11:02AM

There are 120 major-college programs, 66 of them in BCS conferences.

Through the rundown of the bottom third of the country, only five of them popped up. So a little simple math shows there’s 61 left to fill in with just 80 teams to go.

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So now, the countdown will turn to plenty of more familiar programs, even if they’re familiar for not being especially good.

Well, that’s not entirely fair. There’s a couple bowl teams from last year in this interval. But these teams might not be especially good this year.

80. Air Force. Is there a team in the country that lost more valuable players off their offense than the Falcons.

Let’s see. Gone is the academy’s career leader in total offense (quarterback Shaun Carney), nearly 90 percent of its rushing attack (including Mountain West offensive player of the year Chad Hall) and both starting wideouts.

It was great Air Force reversed its three-year slide last fall. But the next step forward will probably come in 2009, not ‘08.

79. Vanderbilt. In any other league, Bobby Johnson would have prodded the Commodores into a bowl game by now.

But Vandy plays in the SEC, which will be as impossible as ever to navigate this year. Instead, the Commodores top the chart of longest postseason droughts among BCS conference schools:

School Last bowl season
Vanderbilt1982/Hall of Fame Bowl
Baylor1994/Alamo Bowl
Duke1994/Hall of Fame Bowl
Arizona1998/Holiday Bowl
Stanford2001/Seattle Bowl
Washington 
2002/Sun Bowl

 

78. Iowa State. The Cyclones couldn’t score, couldn’t return kicks or punts, committed a boatload of turnovers and were predictably not especially good in Gene Chizik’s first season in Ames.

But they did beat Iowa, which counts for something.

That should be the bottoming out for the Cyclones, who need to find a quarterback and improve their abysmal special teams before worrying about talent deficits elsewhere.

But the schedule is favorable. With South Dakota State, Kent State, Iowa and UNLV to start the schedule (the latter two on the road), it isn’t entirely ridiculous to think Iowa State could enter October unbeaten. And once in Big 12 play, the Cyclones avoid Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech – the same opponents Kansas missed last year.

Iowa State isn’t going to the Orange Bowl this fall. But if things break right and some holes are patched well, the Cyclones might just make the postseason without a particularly great team.

77. Stanford. No one thought Jim Harbaugh would squeeze four victories (including one at Southern Cal) out of the wreckage he inherited from predecessors Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris, but that’s precisely what happened.

The Cardinal still aren’t in great shape compared to most of their Pac-10 brethren, and could easily find themselves in an 0-3 hole to start the season.

Yet they should still be better, particularly on defense. Stanford might just not improve its record all that much to reflect the progress.

76. Kentucky. Perhaps this is a slight overreaction to the Wildcats booting a possible starting QB yesterday. Maybe Kentucky should be a wee bit higher.

But the reality is, Kentucky lost four NFL Draft picks off their offense. And unlike last year, when they dropped 40 on Louisville, 42 on Arkansas, 43 (including 27 in regulation) on Louisiana State, 37 on Florida, 50 (including 31 in regulation) on Tennessee and 35 on Florida State, the Wildcats won’t be able to score at will this time around.

Kentucky probably enjoyed its best season in 30 years last fall. But its leftovers are not going to be well-equipped to match the school record of three straight bowl berths set from 1949 to 1951.

 – Patrick Stevens