The Road to Pasadena: A Simple Process of Elimination

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The Road to Pasadena:  A Simple Process of Elimination

Spring practice has started or will start soon for the 120 teams that make up college football's FBS sub-division.

Let the speculation begin.

Over the course of the next several weeks, B/R will be inundated with predictions and guesses at what teams will make up the elite of 2009.

There will be well researched and smart, educated guesses and there will blind stabs in the air.  Neither mean anything in the grand scheme of things.  Why?

Whether you choose to believe it or not, there is a way to narrow the field much more simply.

Every one of the 120 FBS teams fall into one of six categories; depending on what category the team falls into determines whether they have a legitimate chance of winning the BCS National Championship.

Teams aren't locked into any one specific category, although for the most part there isn't a whole lot of change from season to season.

For the 2009 season, this is how the categories break down:

 

CUT 1—The Non-BCS Schools and the Independents Not Named "The Irish"
The truth is the BCS just isn't that into you. 
Fans from the Mountain West will especially find this news difficult to swallow, but if it didn't happen last season it isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Utah, the 2008 non-BCS darling, finished the season undefeated with wins over two ranked conference foes, an Oregon State team that was the Pac-10 runner-up, and an Alabama team that spent most of year at No. 1. 
Yet, all they could manage was a No. 2 finish, despite being the only FBS school to finish undefeated.
There have been four non-BCS teams to crash the big party and three of those teams finished the season undefeated, but none of them even sniffed the National Championship.
Why?
The most common reason is the strength of schedule argument, but that theory holds no water for teams like Utah who make it a point to schedule BCS opponents.
Another popular reason is that over the course of a conference schedule a non-BCS school would lack the depth to compete on a week to week basis in a BCS conference.
But, the real reason is the almighty dollar and until the six BCS conferences relinquish control of the Bowl Championship Series things will remain the same.
It isn't just the championship game, but it trickles down to the other BCS bowls as well. 
Just last season, an arguably more deserving and undefeated Boise State team was left in a December bowl, while two loss Ohio State played under the lights on prime-time in the Fiesta Bowl.
Was Boise State left out because Ohio State, in the eyes of the selection committee, was the better team?
Perhaps.
Was Ohio State selected because the University and all of their thousands of fans would bring a ton of money with them?
Most definitely.

CUT 2—They Play Football?
The title of the category says it all. 
These schools may have been a power that has fallen on hard times in recent history and seem to stuck there.
Maybe they have had a successful season here or there, or maybe they are historically the basement dwellers, the cupcakes in their conferences.
Is it possible for them to break out of the slums?  Certainly, but the truth is that none of these teams has done it consistently enough recently to merit any change in status.
The teams who belong in this category are:
Baylor (Big XII), Duke (ACC), Indiana (Big Ten), Iowa State (Big XII), Kansas State (Big XII), Kentucky (SEC), Maryland (ACC), Mississippi State (SEC), NC State (ACC), Stanford (Pac-10), Syracuse (Big East), Texas A&M (Big XII), Virginia (ACC), Washington (Pac-10), and Washington State (Pac-10)

CUT 3—The "Rebuilders"
This is the largest category.
These programs are in college football limbo. 
They are teams that have moved up from category two and are actively attempting to build their programs.
They are also programs that just need a little more time to develop players or bring in the right players to not only be competitive, but actually win those battles against the upper echelon schools.
The teams who belong in this category are:
Arizona (Pac-10), Arizona State (Pac-10), Arkansas (SEC), Auburn (SEC), Boston College (ACC), Clemson (ACC), Connecticut (Big East), Colorado (Big XII), Kansas (Big XII), Miami (ACC), Michigan (Big Ten), Michigan State (Big Ten), Minnesota (Big Ten), Missouri (Big XII), Northwestern (Big Ten), Oklahoma State (Big XII), Pittsburgh (Big East), Purdue (Big Ten), South Carolina (SEC), Tennessee (SEC), Texas Tech (Big XII), UCLA (Pac-10), Vanderbilt (SEC), Wake Forest (ACC), West Virginia (Big East), and Wisconsin (Big Ten)

CUT 4—The Long Shots
These teams have a shot, but are just missing that extra something special.
Maybe they are just a player or two away or maybe they just need someone to make an impact.
These are the kinds of teams who typically make up the bottom of the top 25.
The teams who belong in this category are:
California (Pac-10), Cincinnati (Big East), Illinois (Big Ten), Louisville (Big East), Florida State (ACC), Georgia Tech (ACC), Nebraska (Big XII), North Carolina (ACC), Notre Dame (Independent), Oregon (Pac-10), Oregon State (Pac-10), and Rutgers (Big East)

CUT 5—The Contenders
These teams are close, but have something holding them back.
It could be their strength of schedule (good or bad) or it could be replacing a key loss with an unknown commodity.
The teams who belong in this category are:
Alabama (SEC), Georgia (SEC), Iowa (Big Ten), Ole Miss (SEC), Penn State (Big Ten), South Florida (Big East), and Virginia Tech (ACC)
 
The Front Runners
These are the elite teams in college football.
These teams have shown a level of consistency for years and are in the hunt more often than not.
They all have high-profile coaches, gigantic fan bases, elite players, a specific and known brand, and most importantly the ability to make a lot of cash.
Before the season even starts it is hard to imagine the BCS games without the majority of these teams playing in them.
And, mark it down now, at least one half of the championship game will come from this category.
The teams who belong in this category are:
Florida (SEC), LSU (SEC), Ohio State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Big XII), Texas (Big XII), and USC (Pac-10)
So there you have it.  120 teams narrowed down to six, using logic and history as a guide. 
You may not like it, and you probably shouldn't, but it is true.  Fair or not, all men are not created equal in the world of college football. 
It all comes down to a simple process of elimination.
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