Unappreciated. Overlooked. Undervalued.
Boise State knows all of the above. Utah, TCU, BYU, and many others often find themselves thinking along the same lines as well.
The landscape is growing as numerous mid-major programs are making their way up the totem pole of college football. Not only do some of these teams rank among the elite in the weekly polls, but their facilities and fan bases compete with the major programs as well.
The big fishes in the little seas have done their job and have made names for themselves. Is that name big enough in order to earn them a promotion to the elite classes of the game-a BCS conference invitation?
Let's take a look at which of those same mid-majors are worthy of future consideration for major-conference expansions.
The Broncos might be the most obvious pick to join a BCS conference.
Behind support from most of the nation, Boise State has become one of the hottest names on college football. Not only have they lost one regular season game in the past three seasons, but they also play on a blue football field—a perfect recipe for success.
Putting themselves on the map with the biggest BCS upset win to date, Boise State deserves to play amongst the big boys as they are one of the best programs in the nation at the current time.
If I had one vote, it would support the Broncos' quest in joining BCS conference. And then maybe they will get that national championship appearance that they have always dreamed of.
Utah seems to be the team no one talks about until the last few weeks of the season when they are sitting in the top 15 of the polls year in and year out.
Thanks to Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham, the program has become second to only Boise State in the mid-major department. Although they aren't the most popular team, anyone that can give Alabama a beating in a BCS bowl (31-17) deserves to be in a major conference.
Besides the high winning percentage and proven success, Utah has facilities that surpass plenty of Pac-10 teams. With a stadium that holds close to 50,000 (more than Oregon State and Washington), the Pac-10 should be opening their arms to the Utes.
Along with the Broncos, TCU has become another hot commodity around college football.
With back-to-back top 10 finishes (No. 7 in '08, No. 6 in '09), the Horned Frogs have proven themselves, and therefore, deserve the chance to play elite competition. These guys shouldn't be playing opponents like New Mexico and UNLV in conference.
Instead, they should be facing teams like Clemson, whom they faced off against early in '09, beating the Tigers 14-10. TCU is ready for bigger and better things.
Although they don't have the proven big-time success like the TCU and Boise State's of the world, Houston is a decent sized name around the game.
It might be in large part due to Case Keenum's mind-blowing box score statistics, but they have made their way onto the national scene. Heck, any mid-major with Heisman-winning alumni (Andre Ware) should at least be given given consideration for a promotion.
Even if the records don't show it, Houston has gathered a rather large following down in the heart of Texas. If everything really is bigger down there, then why not make the Big 12 a little bigger as well?
When talking about the recent best non-BCS teams, BYU is usually the first mentioned. Even if they are strict Mormons, they have a fantastic football program.
With a stadium that holds roughly 60,000 screaming fans, questioning their facilities is out of the question. They rank up there with some of the best in the Pac-10.
Not to mention, the following of BYU is tremendous. A bigger following combined with a highly-profiled BCS promotion could mean only one thing: even more money.
Yeah, BYU can't play on Sundays. We get it. However, if the NCAA tournament can make exceptions for the Mormons, than why can't the Pac-10?
With a little help from their athletic department, Nevada is a future candidate to move to a major conference.
A program accustomed to change, as evidenced by the transition from 1-AA to division one, it has taken little time for the Wolf Pack to catch up to it's opponents. Notorious for their stat-happy rushing attack, Nevada has moved to the top of the WAC alongside Fresno State.
Thanks to Colin Kaepernick under center, the name of the program is starting to get noticed. However, a stadium of only 30,000 and a fairly new name in division one football is holding them back at this current point in time.
With consistent winning records and a commitment from the school to improve it's facilities and fan base, Nevada is a perfect fit to make a move into the Pac-10 in the distant future. As of now, however, they will need to make some changes themselves before they get the call.
Slowly and quietly, Hawaii has become a common name throughout the mid-major world.
Put back on the map under June Jones and behind Colt Brennan's savior of an arm, Hawaii has a reason to cheer again. Recent success has raised the interest on the island even higher.
The records might not be on par with teams like Utah and Boise State, but there is no questioning the large amounts of money would be made by adding Hawaii to a major conference. With lots of interest and a whole state backing their lone football team, it would be interesting to see how far the program would be able to climb with a big-league move.
Fresno State is an intriguing option for BCS-conference expansion.
The Bulldogs don't have the notoriety of the bigger name mid-majors, but they have a proven head coach, a proven program, and a proven fan base. They isn't much more you could ask out of a BCS prospect.
Pat Hill has taken his program to new heights, beating major-conference teams like Rutgers and Georgia Tech in recent years. In addition, they have beat down on other prospects like Hawaii and Boise State in the past five years.
Now that they have moved to the top of the WAC, it may be time for the Bulldogs to take the next step. If the school makes a commitment to the program, you might see it happen in the distant future.