Monday, November 30, 2009

A Little Football

As it stands today in college football, undefeated TCU is almost certainly going to get an automatic bid into one of the prestigious (and monetarily very rewarding for their participants) BCS bowl games at the end of the year. Should Boise State go undefeated by beating a pathetic NMSU team next week, they will probably be left out of the BCS.

For the second year in a row.

By the way, these two teams played last year and TCU won by a single point, 17-16. There's not a lot of difference between them.

BSU gets knocked for its strength of schedule. Its signature win this season is over the University of Oregon, who are on the verge of winning the PAC-10 and who currently sit at 7th in the AP and BCS polls, one spot behind BSU.

But I think it's a little sketchy to say that TCU beat 3 Top 25 teams, which is what they get credit for doing by beating Utah, BYU, and Clemson. Currently, only BYU and Clemson are ranked in the AP Top 25 (Clemson by the skin of its overrated teeth, at 25th), and only BYU is in the BCS Top 25. Oregon is much better than any of those teams.

TCU benefits heavily from the fact that the Mountain West gets vastly more respect than the WAC, based largely upon the current reputations of the trio of TCU, BYU, and Utah.

Those three teams are a combined 31-5 this year. By comparison, the top three teams in the WAC (BSU, Nevada, and Fresno State), are 27-8. And those 8 losses include losses to BSU twice (ranked 6th), Cincinnati (Ranked 5th), Wisconsin (ranked 20th at one point), and Notre Dame (back when they were ranked 23rd). The MWC ranked losses include TCU twice (ranked 4th), Oregon (ranked 7th), and BYU (sitting at 14th right now).

Marque wins? Aside from playing each other, you have BYU's fluke win over a stunned Oklahoma team minus its quarterback, TCU's win over Clemson (uh, okay), and Utah's win over . . . well, nobody. Utah didn't have a signature win over a ranked team this year.

Of couse, neither did Nevada or Fresno State.

Still, that's not a tremendous separation. Moreover, Utah lost to the two ranked teams it played--which happened to be BYU and TCU in its own conference. Nevada began the season in a coma and then went on a tear. I'm not convinced that the current Utah team is any better than Nevada in terms of talent; their wins this season are no more impressive. The Utes are largely living off of the buzz of their bowl win over Alabama.

But this perception of the MWC as being a far superior conference lets TCU play two ranked teams in conference, and that's a huge edge for them in the BCS calculations.

Those who say, "The Broncos should just schedule tougher teams" have no idea how difficult that is for a good mid-major type school.

BSU would gladly move into the MWC, and the topic comes up every season. But the MWC commissioners run away from that suggestion like it was on fire. They like the little niche they have somehow carved for themselves without adding any other competition.

Since a merger is unlikely, perhaps we could solve this perception issue by having BSU play BYU and Utah in nonconference every season? Home and away? It surely doesn't involve much in the way of travel and makes great regional sense. That way BSU can get the same schedule benefits that TCU enjoys, while leaving open a nonconference date to try and score a higher profile opponent. And if BSU loses those games, then the argument over relative quality is settled on the football field.

That being said, I think TCU is probably a little better than BSU this season and I hope they do well in whatever BCS matchup they are rewarded with. I have no dislike for the Horned Frogs. It's the system that gives out automatic berths to unimpressive ACC champs (and weak Big East champs, most years) that is flawed.

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