College football is tradition. Tradition is college football.
The two are so intertwined that we find ourselves continually raving about Penn State’s uniforms, and continually watching a 1-9 Notre Dame team on national television.
Tradition is special because it's ingrained in you. It’s rivalry; it’s fight songs; it’s watching Lee Corso don that dang mascot head each week.
For all the edifying traditions in college football, though, there's one that has to go:
The perennial overvaluing of traditional powerhouses in the national rankings at the expense of “nontraditional” teams.
There seems to be a general sentiment that nontraditional teams can’t really compete against the big boys of college football.
Not so in 2007.
Nontraditional teams like Kansas, Connecticut, South Florida, Kentucky, and even Boston College have made moves toward the top this year. Of course, those squads all play in BCS conferences—and thus have an inherent advantage in garnering national attention.
But what happens when a non-BCS team like Hawaii goes undefeated through 10 weeks?
The Warriors quietly climb to a No. 14 ranking...ready to be hammered by voters at the slightest slip up.
The best non-BCS dynamos can realistically hope for is a berth in the...hmm...Las Vegas Bowl, maybe?
That’s where your Mountain West Champ heads every year—to play the fifth best team from the Pac-10.
There are two distinct scenarios here:
If I’m Kansas and I rip through my schedule, a shot at a national title isn't far-fetched.
If I’m Hawaii, on the other hand, or Boise State, or BYU, or TCU, or any other team from a non-BCS conference...I rip through my schedule and the BCS slams its tightly-guarded door, throwing out a clichéd excuse of strength of schedule.
And that's a problem.
Who’s to say an undefeated team from a non-BCS conference couldn’t beat an unbeaten from the SEC or Big 12?
And how would we ever know?
The BCS "tradition" creates a grossly uneven playing field in college football. Until a playoff system is established, the only teams that have a legitimate shot at a title are those surrounded by the other BCS bigwigs.
Sorry, undefeated won’t cut it this year—nor will it ever cut it for any BCS outsider. The system just won’t allow it.
Seem fair to anyone?
But then again it doesn’t need to be fair. It’s just tradition.