Saturday's match up between BCS No. 3 TCU and BCS No. 5 Utah is historic for a number of reasons. After all, the winner will likely be a very strong candidate to make the BCS title game should one of the top two teams falter.
Moreover, it marks the end of a mighty era for the Mountain West Conference, which came so close to breaking into the upper echelon of the BCS before realignment led to the conference losing Utah and BYU and likely TCU in the near future.
It is the second year in the row that the TCU-Utah game has been graced by the presence of ESPN's College GameDay, which is even more remarkable given that neither game has been carried by ESPN.
But it is even more historic for another reason—it marks only the 13th regular season match-up in the 13-year history of the BCS between two teams in the BCS top five.
Three of these games took place between Florida and Florida State in the first three years of the BCS, with the 'Noles winning all three.
Two took place between Nebraska and Oklahoma in 2000 and 2001, where the two traditional longtime rivals split the games.
In 2000, BCS No. 2 Virginia Tech fell to BCS No. 5 Miami.
2006 and 2007 saw a number of top match-ups.
There were three in 2006. BCS No. 3 USC took down BCS No. 5 Notre Dame. Undefeated BCS No. 1 Ohio State beat undefeated BCS No. 2 Michigan 42-39, only to see the SEC and Urban Meyer successfully lobby to get Florida into the BCS title game. BCS No. 3 West Virgina also lost to BCS No. 5 Louisville.
In 2007, then BCS No. 4 Arizona State lost to then BCS No. 5 Oregon, whose season then fell apart, ultimately losing to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. In the Border War, BCS No. 2 Kansas also lost to BCS No. 4 Missouri, but the Jayhawks had the last laugh as Kansas successfully lobbied the Orange Bowl to get the BCS berth instead of the Tigers.
In 2008, BCS No. 5 Oklahoma blew out undefeated BCS No. 2 Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders would finish their season out of the BCS, losing to Ole Miss at the Cotton Bowl.
2010 might be shaping up as a year with multiple games between the BCS top five, given that the Iron Bowl could very well feature two BCS top five teams.
In reviewing these games, the Big 12 is responsible for four of the 12 previous games. The Pac-10 has two. The Big East has two, even if one featured teams no longer in the conference. The Big Ten has one. Four games are traditional out-of-conference match-ups.
One reason for the relatively few number of games is the delay in producing the BCS standings. But even using the AP poll from the beginning of the season, there are only 14 more games during the entire BCS era.
So, through the entire BCS era, we are averaging only two top five regular season games per year, significantly less than the previous 13-year period.
Of course, back then, top teams like Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Florida State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma averaged about one such game at least every other year.
In comparison, no SEC team has played in a regular season game featuring two top five teams since the 2000 season and not one of the SEC's four recent national championship teams played in a marque regular season game similar to this.
So, Frog and Ute fans rejoice, you are part of something historic. Enjoy it. Rejoice in it. Remember it.
Sorrow in it as well, given that Utah decided to kill this rivalry in its quest for filthy lucre and prestige by joining the Pac-10, even earlier than Larry Scott had wanted.
TCU, if it does bolt the MWC as well, might have another shot at a top five match-up every year with Boise State, something that TCU must consider as it weighs a possible Big East invitation.
TCU is 18-2 all time in regular season games when ranked in the top five.
Utah has played only one regular season game ever ranked in the top five, a win in 2004 in the Holy War when the Utes were No. 5 in the AP.
Utah has only seven wins in its entire history against teams ranked at the time of the game, and only three in the last 16 years.
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