TCU and Boise State could go undefeated this season and not earn a BCS Championship Bid this year.
What makes this news so troubling for TCU and Boise State fans is the fact that this will be the second straight season that their team will have gone undefeated for naught. What makes this news disturbing for TCU and Boise State fans is that their team may be passed in the final BCS poll by a team or teams with one loss.
In order to understand why perfection might not be enough for TCU or Boise State to earn a BCS Championship bid it is helpful to understand the lessons learned during the past two college football seasons and what is likely to occur this season.
The first lesson from last year that we learned is that even if TCU and Boise State run the table they are not going to pass any team ranked ahead of them in the first USA Today preseason poll that also goes undefeated will end the season ahead of them.
Alabama and Texas entered the season with a higher preseason ranking than TCU and Boise State. The Tide and the Long Horns both went 12-0 and ended the season with a sizable lead over both TCU and Boise State.
The second lesson from last year that we learned is that an unranked preseason team however can pass TCU and Boise State in the last BCS Poll if each of the teams finishes the season undefeated.
Cincinnati was not among the top 25 teams in the country at the start of last season yet by virtue of its strength of schedule, Cincinnati finished ahead of TCU and well ahead of Boise State. The difference in the final ranking in the BCS poll can be explained by the number of teams Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State played in the top 25.
Last year, the Bearcats defeated three top 25 teams in No. 21 South Florida, No. 25 West Virginia and No. 15 Pittsburgh.
TCU defeated only two top 25 teams in defeating No. 16 BYU in October and then a month later beating No. 16 Utah.
Boise State only had one marquee victory on its resume with a week one victory over No. 16 Oregon State.
The third lesson from last year that we learned is that even if you run the table, you can still get passed by a one-loss team from one of the major conferences.
In the final regular season BCS Standings, Florida with its one loss was ranked ahead of Boise State by a considerable margin. Florida’s composite score was .8637 whereas Boise State’s composite score was only.8106.
While Florida did not pass TCU, the margin was very close as the Horned Frogs composite score was .8836. Which raises the interesting question – would the Gators have passed the Horned Frogs if TCU instead of blowing out BYU by 31 points and Utah by 27 points had only won both games by 10 to 14 points?
My guess is that the answer is yes, Florida would have also passed TCU last season if the Horned Frogs would have taken a knee earlier in their games against BYU and Utah.
While the news from last year was bad for TCU and Boise State, the news from two years ago is even worse.
Two years ago, Utah was ranked No. 4 and Boise State was ranked No. 13 in the USA Today preseason poll. Utah and Boise State finished the season as the only two undefeated teams in the nation.
Despite what Utah and Boise State accomplished, neither team was rewarded with a high ranking in the final BCS regular season poll.
Utah finished No. 6 and Boise State finished No. 9.
The Utes not only finished behind five other teams with at least one loss, they were passed by two teams with at least one loss. Thus, the Utes lost ground from their initial preseason ranking despite not losing a game.
The Broncos slap in the face wasn’t as harsh as they started the season outside the top ten but it was still a slap in the face. The Broncos finished behind eight over teams with at least one loss and were almost passed by Ohio State who had lost two games on the season.
The culprit once again was the strength of schedule.
Two years ago, Boise State only win on the season over a top 25 team occurred on September 20 when they beat No. 17 Oregon 37-32 at home.
Utah’s schedule had two wins over quality opponents in No. 12 TCU and No. 14 BYU as well as wins over Michigan and Oregon State. Utah however failed to rack up style points as their margin of victory in the above games was less than a field goal except for the Cougars who they throttled by 24.
Florida and Oklahoma had much more difficult schedules than Boise State or Utah in that the Gators and Sooners each won five games over teams in the top 25 in the country. In addition, the Gators and Sooners likely picked up bonus points by winning several of their games against top 25 teams by more than 20 points.
Texas and Alabama got by Utah because they each had three wins against teams in the top 25 in the country and each team’s loss was to a team that was ranked as high as the No. 2 team in the nation.
USC lost to unranked Oregon State, the Trojans appear to have snuck past Utah because of the margin of their victories over teams in the top 25. USC won its three games over top 25 opponents by almost 27 points a game.
If this football season plays out similarly to the previous two seasons, Boise State and TCU will likely be on the outside looking in at the BCS Championship game once again.
Let’s start with No. 7 TCU since they have more ground to cover than No. 4 Boise State.
TCU opens the season with No. 22 Oregon State. BYU may sneak into the top 25 by the time the teams meet on October 16. TCU has a late season date with preseason No. 24 Utah on November 6.
TCU is likely looking at playing three teams in the top 25 teams but unfortunately none of those teams will likely be in the top ten.
TCU’s schedule on paper at the present time looks weaker than Utah’s schedule from two years ago.
Boise State’s schedule is definitely weaker than Utah’s schedule from two years ago.
Boise State opens the season with No. 6 Virginia Tech and then three weeks later plays preseason No. 22 Oregon State.
No other team on the Broncos schedule is a likely top 25 team and no other team on their schedule is a member of one of the major conferences.
The Broncos schedule while initially weak with will be on life support if TCU thumps Oregon State by a couple of touchdowns in the season opener, because then the only top 25 team Boise State will have faced this year is the Hokies in week one.
The last two years have clearly demonstrated that the BCS system will reward a team from one of the major conferences that finishes with the same record or even one loss over an undefeated TCU or Boise State.
This year will likely continue the trend as every team ranked among the top 20 teams in the preseason poll plays a demonstrably more difficult schedule than the Horned Frogs or Broncos.
If any team among the top 15 teams in the preseason poll goes undefeated that team will clearly end the season with a higher final BCS ranking than TCU or Boise State.
How likely is it that some team other than TCU or Boise State runs the table? Very likely, in seven out of the last ten football seasons, at least one team from one of the major conferences has gone undefeated.
Further, most of the teams among the top 15 teams in the preseason poll will leap frog both TCU and Boise State if they finish the season with only one loss.
How likely is it that all the teams from the major conferences will end the season with two losses except for one team? Extremely unlikely, in the last ten years it happened only once when LSU finished ranked No. 2 in the BCS poll with two losses during the 2007-2008 Season.
If No. 1 Alabama or No. 3 Florida wins the SEC Championship and finishes with only one loss this year, that team will clearly be far ahead of TCU or Boise State. The Tide and Gators will both have played at least four top 20 teams at the end of the season.
In the Big 12, you have No. 5 Texas, No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 9 Nebraska poised to win the spoils of the Big 12. If the Longhorns, Sooners or Cornhuskers win the Big 12 Championship game while finishing with only one loss, that team will also be ahead of TCU or Boise State because of the battles among themselves.
In the Big 10, you have No. 2 Ohio State, No. 10 Iowa, No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 14 Penn State. Whoever emerges from the Big 10 will likely only have one loss that means TCU and Boise State will likely fall just short of their ultimate goal.
Even if two of the above three traditional power conferences fail to produce a team with only one loss at the end of the season it is highly unlikely that the ACC or Big East will fail to deliver a team with only a single blemish on its record.
While it is too early to say never and under no circumstances that Boise State and TCU will play in the BCS Championship game it is painfully clear that they will need to be perfect this season and then get the benefit of some upsets of the preseason favorites within the major conferences.
The most likely scenario unfortunately for the Broncos and Horned Frog fans is that their favorite team is going to come up just a little bit short of the BCS Championship game even after they go undefeated.