Lowly New Mexico State beat New Mexico in what ESPN writer Andrea Adelson termed "The Land of Disenchantment" bowl. It will likely be the only bowl game either team plays in. But what does this mean for college football? Many would say, not much. One of those teams will not feature in ESPN columnist Mark Schlabach's bottom 10 feature this week, but otherwise this was a pillow fight extraordinaire.
For those who follow the BCS, however, this game revealed a lot. Oregon opened its season against New Mexico, still winless, and as a result of their victory, moved up four places in the AP poll. Boise State played New Mexico State in their WAC opener, had their starting team in less than half the game, and won 59-0. They moved down a slot to Oregon in the same week. Why the disparity?
The answer, which is very simple really, is that Boise State is held to a different standard than other teams when it comes to competing for national recognition. Many BCS homers think Boise has an easier time of it, but actually, life is much tougher for the Broncos. They are penalized for a weak schedule they cannot control, while the Ducks are rewarded for scheduling out of conference games that many FCS teams could win.
To make matters worse, Boise needs to go undefeated every year in order to have even a chance (50%) of a BCS bowl game. Teams from the AQ conferences, including the perennially weak Big East can get in with three and in one instance even four losses! Such are the privileges that come with rank.
This is hardly the only instance in which the Broncos are subject to a double standard. The teams that are bold enough to schedule them face the same nonsense.
Oregon State, to date, has played the most difficult schedule in college football. They opened against TCU and lost 30-21, they beat Louisville, a Big East school, and then went to play Boise State in Boise! They lost 37-24, but despite being out gained on the ground and through the air, they played well and hung in the game. What was their reward for playing a tough schedule? PAC 10 writer Ted Miller ranked them ninth out of the 10 teams in the PAC 10. What nonsense. He also encouraged them to play an easier schedule.
Obviously, Oregon State was not the ninth best team in the PAC 10. They just beat Arizona, previously ranked No. 9 who, unlike Oregon, had actually played someone in their out-of-conference schedule (Iowa) and were rewarded for it by being ranked below the Ducks. Obviously the No. 9 team in the country was nowhere near as good as Boise or TCU, but that is almost beside the point.
Do you see the pattern? Major conference teams who schedule light are rewarded for doing so. Those who take a chance and schedule difficult opponents are punished. Indeed, the lightest conference schedule is found in the Big 10, and guess who now has the top rankings?
The bottom line is pretty simple. Boise is penalized for a "weak" schedule in the WAC. The fact that the WAC is nowhere near as weak as many assume this year, and the fact that some (not all) of the power conferences are nowhere near as strong as many assume is irrelevant. Boise will have to do significantly better than other programs to have a shot at a BCS game. And they will have to do despite the double standards that voters judge them by.
Happily, at least one-third of the BCS components are the computers. They simply crunch numbers and do not include the biases that hamper the voters. Not all of the computers have yet released their results, but as of the end of Week 6, Boise State is No. 1 in the BCS component of Sagarin's rankings. Look for voters, specifically the coaches, to make sure these results are invalidated at the end of the season.