Boise State Wins Titanic Mid-Major Battle, Offered Small Trophy
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This is not going to break down into another “we need a playoff system in College Football” rant, because, quite frankly, that’s the very last thing college football needs, in my opinion. In a four-team playoff system (for example) the NCAA can still force Boise State to go play at Alabama, and TCU to play at Texas and they would still likely end up with an Alabama at Texas final.
What the NCAA, more specifically, the big-time conferences themselves need is an attitude adjustment. The idea of conference disparity is as much an issue between the “Big Six” conferences as it is between those conferences (collectively), and the other conferences that create the environment that is Division 1 College Football — Bowl Subdivision.
The Fiesta Bowl ended up being a very exciting game between two very good teams, and Boise State’s defense and coaching was just a little bit better at the end of it, and in the greater sense, Boise State become the very first team to win 14 football games in a Bowl Subdivision season. It’s a fantastic accomplishment when you think about what that means. Every additional game played, no matter how strong the opponent, decreases the chance of a team going undefeated by a much larger chunk than most would comprehend. Sure, Boise State will probably beat Utah State every time they play, but their chance of winning every game they play gets MUCH greater if they just don’t put that game on the schedule. 14-0 is either a mistake, or an excellent capsule of the dominance of this team, one that beat two BCS teams this year, Oregon being the other.
The other thing that came from this game is just how great a team like TCU can play for a whole season, and then they can actually not be the best performing mid-major come the bowl season. Last year, Boise State was probably more lauded for their season, but it was TCU that won the bowl match-up between these teams while Utah beat up on Alabama in the BCS bowl, going undefeated.
What it seems about time to realize is that–EVERY YEAR–some of the best teams in college football come from mid-major conferences. Admittedly, it’s a lot of the same suspects: either Utah, or Boise, or TCU. Eventually, these programs will become part of the major conferences because it will be necessary to maintain conference superiority over the mid-majors. I don’t think there will ever be a college football season where the Mountain West will catch the Big Ten. It’s very close right now, but it won’t continue to trend in that direction. It will go back the other way.
This “attitude adjustment” I’m proposing would eliminate the need to have conference parity. It’s an easy punchline to point out that these teams from mid-major conferences do not play anyone, but, honestly, who does? ACC teams? SEC teams? The only teams who play really tough schedules are the teams in the conferences who also schedule good out of conference opponents. That leaves: Alabama and Virginia Tech, who play each other. Notre Dame still plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and they do not play a schedule anywhere near as hard as they used to. No team in the Big Ten besides Ohio State even attempts to schedule a difficult opponent, and even with them, it’s hard to say that the conference is still challenging enough to suggest that a 2 loss Ohio State season can possibly stand up to TCU’s season, or Boise’s season. Penn State’s schedule since they last played Notre Dame in 2007 has been a joke.
What could have been said had Oregon beaten Stanford and finished 11-1? The only reason that they would have missed out on playing for a National Title would have been because they scheduled against Boise State…and lost on opening night. In reality, it wouldn’t have mattered, but the potential lesson would have been that the way to reach the title game is to schedule lighter. In essence, the BCS conference teams need to schedule more like those jokers in the mid-major conferences…who, remember, can’t make those decisive championship games because they play mid-major competition.
I’ve never had a problem with a system that tries to pair up the two best teams in college football to play for the national championship. I think it’s more optimal than a playoff system, although it’s a utopian ideal to ever have a system objective enough to perfectly select the two most deserving teams for the championship game, it’s just as impossible to determine the team that most deserves a shot at the title as the 8th seed in a playoff system. My solution lies in the bowl system, but without the notion of a national championship game. I think mid-majors should be allowed to win the National Championship without having to go into a BCS Bowl against the number one team.
To me, if Boise plays in the Sugar Bowl next year against Texas (for example), and beats them, and has another undefeated season, there should be an objective system in place to weigh their relative merits against the winner of the other BCS bowls in determining the College Football Champion. The thing that’s wrong with the bowl system right now that needs to be corrected is that the system has become so reliant on the BCS’ predictive ability, that eight teams every year play in BCS bowl games with zero opportunity to win the championship. Some of these teams have three loses, others have zero.
My solution: all teams that win BCS bowls are eligible to be the national champion. This includes any mid-major that goes undefeated in any given year. The gap has closed far enough where we can look at a 13-0 or 14-0 Boise State team and compare them to a 12-1 Florida team and suggest that yes, the more impressive of the two teams is the Broncos. And this can be done with a mathematical formula based on things that happen on the field, not based on polls that consider the opinion of only those who watch from the couch.
I think it was insulting to college football fans that, in a historic year where two mid-majors made the BCS, that instead of watching two different teams take on the BCS conference champions, we were treated to a pair of undefeated at-large teams matched up against each other. For what exactly? These two teams delivered us a great football game. The only thing better than that: two great football games.
But, hey, at least we get to see Iowa play in the BCS against Georgia Tech. It’s good that the bowl selection committees saved that game for last.