BCS Misses Major Opportunity To Clear Up Minor Conference Debate

Matt WellsCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester #10 of the Utah Utes celebrates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 31-17 during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The regular season ended in college football, the Heisman was awarded, conference championships were played, and the final top 25 would be used to determine the bowl matchups.

And here was our Top 6.

  1. Alabama (13-0)
  2. Texas (13-0)
  3. Cincinnati (12-0)
  4. TCU (12-0)
  5. Florida (12-1)
  6. Boise State (13-0)

You see the problem? Five undefeated teams and only two slots to play for a national championship.

Now I'm not here to make the case for a playoff system (although this year presents a perfect argument for it), but you'd think the BCS would have learned from past mistakes.

Minor conference teams, specifically TCU, Boise State, and Utah, have all been dominating their conferences recently. Utah finished the 2008-09 regular season at 12-0, earning the sixth spot behind five one-loss teams. Clearly, their strength of schedule (or lack thereof) kept them from getting the respect an undefeated team deserves.

Instead of a chance to play for the national championship, they were forced to settle for a date with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Utah handed the SEC powerhouse a 31-17 shocker that seemed more lopsided than the final score revealed, opening up the great debate: Should undefeated minor conference teams be given a chance to play for the national championship?

This year did not present such an opportunity, with five teams finishing undefeated, two from minor conferences, one from a "major" conference that really plays basketball but doesn't compete as well in football, and two from football powerhouse conferences.

But that's not to say there wasn't an opportunity to try to end this debate. 

Classically, the Sugar Bowl matches the SEC champion with an at-large team. This year, however, the SEC champion is playing in national championship, giving the chance to take two at-large teams.

In recent history, the bowl takes the SEC runner up as one team (Florida) to match up with its at-large pick. The bowl picked undefeated Cincinnati, which, under normal circumstances, would be a perfectly fine choice.

The Fiesta Bowl pits the Big 12 champion with an at-large pick. With Big 12 champion Texas in the title game, the bowl selects two at-large teams to play. They selected undefeated teams TCU and Boise State, which, under normal circumstances, would also be a perfectly fine choice.

But these aren't normal circumstances.

Minor-conference teams are dominating and looking like they belong with the big dogs. Utah proved last year that these teams aren't so far below the top teams in major conferences.

So when given a situation that really affects the crowning of the national champion, shouldn't the BCS try to solve a problem instead of passing on giving smaller but perhaps just-as-worthy teams?

Another alignment, which is just as reasonable as the one the bowl committees came up with, would be this:

Pit Tim Tebow and his Gator dynasty against undefeated TCU, who has the fourth-ranked offense (third scoring offense) and the top overall defense (sixth scoring defense) in the Sugar Bowl. The best college football team of the past four years against one who has dominated every aspect of the game this year.

Send Cincinnati to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Cincinnati, who also didn't play against top-end competition in the Big East, against Boise State, who first really made headlines when Ian Johnson scored the two-point conversion on the Statue of Liberty play to beat Oklahoma 43-42 in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, would be great.

This way, the two minor-conference teams are playing major conference teams, which would help give some more basis into the debate of whether or not minor-conference teams can match up with big ones. There was an opportunity to test the playing field so once and for all see if these smaller teams should be considered for the national championship.

But instead, the bowl committee pitted minor-conference teams and major conference teams against each other, proving nothing. This debate will go on until the BCS finds a way to figure out if minor-conference teams can compete, and they just missed out on the perfect chance, one that doesn't put a national championship at stake.