College Football Rankings: Why Houston Should Play for a National Championship

Liz Youngblood@@lizyoungmoneyContributor IIINovember 23, 2011

College Football Rankings: Why Houston Should Play for a National Championship

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    In this year’s BCS Championship game, the SEC’s representative from the Western Division (whoever that may be) should face…the Houston Cougars.

    That’s right, Houston. That tiny little school in the Conference USA that no one has ever heard of. 

    The school whose last great player was David Klinger, 21 years ago.

    In the spirit of honesty, I’ll just put it out there. The Houston Cougars will not get an invite to the BCS Championship game in January. The BCS has fallen hopelessly in love with the SEC and the Big 12, and no amount of winning (or losing, for that matter) will pull them out of their spell.

    However, just because Houston has likely already been eliminated from championship discussions does not mean that is fair, or correct, or even reasonable. 

    And lest you think Houston is not worthy, consider this: The Cougars are in the midst of an undefeated season, have a record-setting quarterback and would pull off the upset of the year if they could win the BCS Championship game.

    Houston has one Heisman-winning player in their history—Andre Ware. That number ties them with the Alabama Crimson Tide, one of the most storied college football programs in the country.

    In addition to those reasons (as if you needed any more), allow me to further explain why Houston is deserving of a chance to play for a national championship.

Most Wins

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    Last I checked, the teams with the most wins were the ones who got to compete for championships. But then the BCS strolled in with its computer rankings and game analysis and everything went haywire. 

    All the Houston Cougars have done is win game after game, yet the team is getting no love from the super-scientific BCS.

    Houston is currently 12-0. It has more wins than any team in the BCS standings except LSU.

    It did not lose to Iowa State, TCU or NC State. Sure, it has not played any of those teams, but the point is, Houston has not committed the one cardinal sin of college football: the single-game letdown.

    Ask the Boise State Broncos how hard it is to get up for game after game against middling opponents. Boise State had a chance to sneak into the last two BCS Championship games, and each year they faltered.

    Houston has not suffered a letdown. They have not even come close. The Cougars have beaten their last six opponents by at least 30 points per game. Their peak was a 73-17 demolishing of Tulane two weeks ago.

Ranked in the Top 10

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    Strength of schedule, strength of schedule, strength of schedule. That is all anyone—especially the BCS—seems to say about the Houston Cougars.

    But if the Cougars’ schedule is that atrocious, why are they ranked in the Top 10? Because they win games.

    Putting Houston in the championship game would not be like picking up the 70th-best team in the country and pitting them against an SEC powerhouse.

    The Cougars are fully deserving of their eighth-place ranking. Furthermore, how many teams outside of the Top 10 have upset ranked teams so far this season? Every team is vulnerable, no matter their ranking and no matter their opponents' ranking. Houston has just as much of a chance as anyone.

BCS Formula

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    What exactly is the BCS formula again? It combines strength of schedule, divides that by margin of victory, multiplies it by the color combination of the opponents’ uniform and…

    No one understands the equations that the BCS powers-that-be use to calculate their rankings. There is some combination of numbers, some mathematical formulas and then some often questionable results. 

    Why should we let this one formula dictate college football’s most important game of the season? What if Houston really is good enough to play with LSU or Alabama, but because they are stuck in a bad conference, we will never find out? 

    BCS, hear my plea. You can basically make those numbers do whatever you want them to.

    Make Houston the No. 2 team in the country. If LSU loses, make them the No. 1 team! Keep them the No. 8 team, but still give them an invite to New Orleans in January. I don’t care, just do one thing right for the poor mid-major who just keeps winning.

Case Keenum

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    If there is a better, more successful quarterback in college football right now than Case Keenum, I would like to see him play.

    Jordan Jefferson plays on a team where the defense does most of the heavy lifting. He also didn’t play in the first four games of the season.

    Kellen Moore has done some amazing things for the Boise State Broncos, but has not been perfect in the last two years.

    Andrew Luck looked positively average against a very mediocre Oregon Ducks defense two weeks ago. He looked a little better against the California Golden Bears, but definitely not Heisman material.

    Case Keenum leads the nation in passing yards, yards per game, touchdown passes and the touchdown-to-interception ratio. He is the NCAA’s all-time leader in total offense and career completions. 

    Keenum is the real deal, and he deserves a chance to showcase his skills on the biggest stage possible.

No College Football Playoff

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    This is the only chance the Houston Cougars have. Even if they are given a bid to a BCS Bowl and win, Houston will merely prove that they are deserving of their ranking. That is not enough. 

    The Cougars should be able to prove that they are the best, and that having no losses in a season does qualify a team to do big things.

    Houston could be the George Mason Patriots or the Butler Bulldogs of college football—a small, mid-major team that is trying to prove to the sport's elite that not only programs rich in tradition can compete for national championships.

    College basketball knows they cannot get all the rankings right. The selection committee is aware that some teams are given the benefit of the doubt because of their conference, while some teams do not have the luxury of stiff competition night in and night out.

    In order to account for almost assured inconsistencies, college basketball created a playoff. Teams have a chance to prove themselves, raise their profile for future rankings and, most of all, mid-majors can show that they can compete with the traditional powers. 

    As I’ve said before, BCS, a playoff would remove the controversy, make huge amounts of money (you could still get companies to sponsor games. Picture the Chick-Fil-A First Round—it has a lovely ring to it), and it would ensure that two of the unquestioned best teams in the nation would play for a championship. 

    If there was a playoff, would Houston win? Who knows. But why not give them the chance?

No Rematch

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    Yes, the LSU Tigers playing the Alabama Crimson Tide would be one of the better national-title rematches in recent memory. Sure, the teams are very talented and could potentially be the best two in the country.

    But how biased would a rematch make the BCS look? Yes, both teams have had great seasons. Their defenses are among the best in the country and they have thoroughly dismantled almost every opponent they have faced.

    But their rankings (especially Alabama’s) have greatly benefited from their membership in the SEC. 

    I am not saying that LSU and Alabama are not the two best teams in the country. I am simply saying that they should have to do more to prove themselves.

    Wait, I think there is some way we could make this happen. Some solution that would force teams to work for their championship berth instead of just benefiting from their conference affiliation. A playoff! 

    That way, if LSU and Alabama really are the two best teams, they can storm through their postseason games, anger anyone doubting their greatness and force a rematch themselves.

    If, however, someone like the Houston Cougars can plow through their opponents as well, even knocking off one of the SEC giants, they would have the opportunity to do so! 

    I forget what this slide is about. I’ve gotten too caught up in how ridiculous the system is. Just please create a college football playoff, BCS. Please!

Offense vs. Defense

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    Is there a more classic matchup in college football? A stingy, in-your-face, grind-it-out SEC defense against a high-flying, take-no-prisoners, throw-for-the-end-zone-every-play style of the Houston Cougars.

    One team has to win, but which side of the ball will dominate?

    Furthermore, for all the talk of the incredible SEC defenses, neither LSU nor Alabama has played a particularly excellent offensive team. Everyone saw the 9-6 showdown in Tuscaloosa. These teams do not win games by trying to match their opponent point for point.

    Against a speedy, touchdown-heavy Oregon Ducks team, LSU gave up 27 points. That was the first game of the season for both teams, but it was also LSU’s only real test against a great scoring offense. 

    Houston, as previously mentioned, has also not been tested much. The team has seemingly scored at will so far, racking up over 50 points per contest. 

    Are the SEC defenses so great that they can stop the powerful Houston offense? Or will the Cougars passing be too much to handle? There’s only one way to find out.

Field Goals

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    Almost every Top 10 team that lost a key game down the stretch, thus ruining their championship chances in the process (unless the team was in the SEC—cough cough, Alabama), had one thing in common: missed field goals.

    Alabama missed four in one game. Boise State lost for the second year in a row on a missed field goal. Oregon’s comeback stalled when they missed a last-second field goal.

    Houston’s Matt Hogan has only missed two field goals on the season. Granted, he doesn’t have a slew of attempts, as Case Keenum and Co. usually find the end zone. Still, missing just two field goals, one of which was from over 50 yards, bodes well for the Cougars down the stretch.

Feel-Good Story

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    Would there be a better BCS Championship story than Case Keenum’s comeback? Keenum appeared on track to break almost every NCAA record two years ago. Then he tore his ACL while making a tackle after throwing an interception. It’s almost like Friday Night Lights in real life.

    Many wondered whether Keenum’s bad knee would be the end of his quarterbacking brilliance. Or, more to the point, whether the NCAA would grant him a sixth year of eligibility and he would even be allowed to play football again. 

    The NCAA caved and Keenum is making them grateful they did. His stats are absurd, his team is undefeated and, if given the chance, he could be the feel-good story of the National Championship game. 

    The only downside to Keenum’s story is that the media would not be able to stop talking about it. Each interview would begin with a question like, “Case, how important was it to you to show your team that you were still the same player after your injury?”

    Hopefully, the last question will be something along the lines of “How special is it to finally be playing in the National Championship game, given all you have been through?”