With five undefeated teams fighting for the two available slots in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game, three schools were bound to be dissatisfied and disappointed that their perfect records have not bought them participation in the season's ultimate matchup.
Texas and Alabama will vie for national championship honors on Jan. 7. Though Boise State and Texas Christian will have to settle for a Fiesta Bowl rubber match, don’t throw a pity party for the Broncos and Horned Frogs just yet.
While Boise State (13-0, Western Athletic Conference) and Texas Christian (12-0, Mountain West) have a bevy of valid reasons to be upset at their championship snubs, their participation in the Fiesta Bowl isn’t a punishment—far from it.
Last year an undefeated Boise State team accepted an invitation to face TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. TCU won 17-16.
The payout for the Poinsettia Bowl was less than $1 million per team.
The 2009 Fiesta Bowl had a payout around $17 million per team.
That’s no shot against the Poinsettia Bowl, which has been loyal to the Mountain West Conference in seasons past (particularly to TCU, a two-time winner), giving the conference’s teams and their fans an opportunity to be featured in front of a national television audience in December in a warm locale.
But more viewers will get a chance to see Boise State and TCU in the first Monday night football game of 2010 than have seen either team all season long.
In seasons past, the teams would be headed to a lower-tier bowl game; in the BCS era, they are receiving the attention they deserve.
The game may not have the fanfare of the BCS national championship game, but it’s still a lucrative primetime faceoff of undefeated teams that should bring more exposure to both Boise State and TCU.
Both schools and their fans can celebrate the culmination of an excellent year and be proud of their accomplishments while justly reserving the right to complain about the system.
TCU boasts a rich football heritage, including NFL Hall of Famers Sammy Baugh and Bob Lilly, record-setting running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and Heisman Trophy winner Davey O’Brien; they pulverized their competition in 2009 on the road to a 12-0 undefeated season.
The statistics that TCU has posted on both sides of the ball are mind-boggling, indicating a motivation to succeed unmatched by any other team this season.
The Horned Frogs won by 27 or more points in their last seven games and scored 41 or more points in their last six. They topped 50 points four times and only allowed two challengers to break the 20-point barrier. Their offensive onslaught included 40.7 points per game while their equally impressive defense allowed just 12.4 points per game.
The rise of the Boise State football program has been one of the most amazing stories in college football this decade, whetting fans’ appetites for a Cinderella matchup in the Bowl Championship Series national title game. The Broncos, 13-0 this year, have won seven of the last eight Western Athletic Conference championships and are undefeated for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
In addition to their unrivaled dominance of the WAC, Boise State's well-earned reputation rides on their consistent vanquishing of major conference squads. The Broncos have already notched a BCS win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and are hungry for payback after last season's perfect record was marred in the one-point Poinsettia Bowl loss to TCU.
The general perception is that unlike the NCAA’s basketball tournament that gives schools from mid-major or smaller conferences a chance to shock schools from major conferences, the BCS system protects the big boys.
However, the BCS affects larger and smaller schools alike, and TCU and Boise State aren’t the first teams to get the shaft.
Just last year, Texas was left out of the national championship game after beating Oklahoma but losing a tiebreaker to the Sooners. In 2000, Miami beat Florida State and both teams finished with one loss, but the Seminoles faced the Sooners in the title game—in Miami!
Auburn was left out of the national championship game after an undefeated 2004 season. The same season an undefeated Utah team was similarly snubbed; the Utes were again shut out of the title game after another undefeated season in 2008.
The system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best one available. In any case, it's here to stay, as it is contracted for the next several seasons.
The BCS has helped teams from smaller schools play in high-profile bowl games for the biggest payouts available. With millions more dollars in play at the Fiesta Bowl, Boise State and TCU aren’t chopped liver—they're thick, juicy steaks.