I know the fans of the big boys cringe at the thought of handing a WAC team any sort of hardware, but there really shouldn't be a debate on this one. The fact that the writers and coaches only voted the Broncos 5th and 6th, respectively, in their final polls shows just how little said groups understand the realities of college football.
The common argument against the undefeated Broncos comes down to schedule. According to Wes Colley's rankings, Boise ranked 81st in overall SOS. This would seem to preclude any possibility of their earning a title nod, but take a closer look at the numbers: Wisconsin was 75th, and Virginia was 71st . If Wisconsin had beaten Michigan earlier in the year, would there have been any doubt that they deserved a shot at Ohio State? If Virginia had gone undefeated, would they have been shut out of the championship game?
The truth is that Boise State had just as many genuinely meaningful wins as Louisville, and went into bowl season with one less loss—and still the national consensus had Louisville pegged as the the far superior team.
Easy: Louisville comes from a BCS conference. Louisville has NFL prospects. Louisville rubbed shoulders with two other undefeated teams in the Big East for most of the season, which not only boosted the Cardinals' strength of schedule but also put them in the national spotlight on multiple occasions.
Of course, both of those undefeated teams turned out to be grossly overrated: West Virginia lost to USF and then barely beat Georgia Tech in their bowl game; Rutgers lost to Cincinnati and was cast off into the Insignificant Bowl, where they drilled a mediocre Kansas State team. By comparison, all of Boise State's bowl-eligible opponents won their postseason games, with the highlight coming when Hawaii blew out the same Arizona State team that nearly knocked off USC.
And then we come to the most disturbing reason Louisville was consistently ranked ahead of Boise State in 2006: prognostication. Louisville, you see, was ranked 13th to start the season, while Boise State received a mere 23 votes. Poll logic generally works so that if a team wins, they either march in time or move up—which means that Boise State started the season looking up a mountain.
Don't want to believe that the preseason polls matter? Imagine a world in which every writer in the country thought Boise State was the number one team before the first coin toss. Would they have ever moved down? Make no mistake, they'd have been playing for all the marbles on Monday night—or the national media would've had a fit. The fact of the matter is that too much in college football boils down to gridiron groupthink, reformulated on a weekly basis in an effort to validate preseason biases.
And if this bowl season proved anything, it's that those biases need to get tossed out the window once and for all. Florida's players not only fought for themselves on Monday night—they fought for Boise State too, and every other team who was victimized by low expectations. After all, if the Gators can go out and wallop the previously-invincible juggernaut of Ohio State, how can anyone in his right mind claim that the Broncos wouldn't be able to do the same thing?
Football has never been a game of certainty: From the bounce of the ball to the vicissitudes of a season, the game is unpredictable. Schedules are often arbitrary and set years before any of the present players strap on a helmet. In any given moment, the best athlete on the field could go down with an injury.
The bottom line: You just never know.
And yet this week we've handed out a trophy to one team and denied it to another on the false assumption that we do know. Boise State would certainly lose to Florida, the conventional wisdom goes, even if Chris Leak or Percy Harvin or Brandon Siler or Derrick Harvey got injured in the first quarter.
In truth, our actions here are based on nothing more than prejudice: We've punished Boise State for the conference they play in, and for not scheduling better competition five years ago. Some of the bigger schools refused to play them? Oh, too bad, we conclude—that's just the way it is. They are, after all, Boise State, and we know how mid-majors play. They're just in an entirely different league.
(And by the way: Is this a good time to mention that everyone was fine with then-WAC representative Brigham Young winning a national title in the 1980s after beating a 6-5 team in the bleeping Holiday Bowl? My how times change...)
The cold, hard reality is that, because of the hellish system we've created and the silly beliefs that accompany it, Boise State was eliminated from championship contention before the season even started. And please, spare me the BS that the national title is "mythical," or that it somehow doesn't matter. I don't care if the NCAA doesn't recognize an official champ; I don't care if the trophy's an expensive crystal ball or an outsized pot of gold—it's a national championship, dammit, especially when every media outlet in the country acknowledges it as such.
And the Broncos never had a chance.
Which means what, exactly, for Division I-A football? As I see it, those who want to deny Boise State a share of the title this year have to live with the fact that they're excluding a third of all teams in the country from title consideration before the season even starts. Forget this "it was a great win" stuff—that's just plain wrong. And I refuse to be complicit in the system.
Me, I can't find a blemish on Boise State's resume. In Florida's case, it's easy: a 10-point loss to an Auburn team that got blown out by both Arkansas and Georgia.
Now, if you like your champion decided by years-old schedules and historical reputations and the mindless conjectures of the same people who told us Troy Smith was God, go right ahead and hand the Gators the title.
I, for one, like sticking to the game itself.
And that's why Boise State is my number one team in the country this year.