New BCS Blood: WAC/Mountain West Champion Should Have BCS Bid

Ken BraunCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2008

Rather than take the slow fade to professional suicide that is the ultimate fate of all who coach the Detroit Lions, Darryl Rogers elected instead to crash and burn in a memorable fireball. Embroiled in what would become a dismal 4-12 season, he committed to honesty by asking, "What's a guy got to do to get fired around here?"

Of course, the answer didn't take long.

I have begun to wonder the same thing about Notre Dame and the BCS. What must Notre Dame do to lose its special status in the BCS?

In the last half-dozen seasons (2002-2007), Notre Dame has finished in the top 25 just twice. Given the ongoing streak of landing in bowl games that they cannot win, even those rankings (No. 9 in 2005 and No. 17 in 2006) are debatable. Early evidence makes a strong case for this being another year outside the rankings tent.

Put another way: Notre Dame must finish the regular season ranked in the top eight to secure a trip to a BCS game, but in the entire history of the BCS has NEVER finished that high AFTER the bowl games are over.

Yet the Irish retain their special status at the BCS table. Like a decrepit hereditary monarchy in a world of Western democracies, it is time for their inheritance to be cut off and the wealth put where others can earn it.

At minimum, if Notre Dame belongs in the tent, then there are many others who have earned it more.

During the '02-'07 period, TCU (Mountain West) has finished four times with a top 25 ranking. Boise State (WAC) has done it three times. Brigham Young (Mountain West) and Utah (Mountain West) have done it twice each. Fresno State and Hawaii out of the WAC have done it once each.

Boise State and Utah have each gone to and won a BCS game for their respective conferences over that period. Counting the Hawaii loss last year, these two conferences are 2-1 in BCS games.

Notre Dame's record? 0-2.

Collectively, there are 18 teams in these two conferences. The best of them have done their part to earn BCS entry.

Like the other BCS conferences, at least one team from this group of 18 should get a BCS bid each year. But how do you give a single bid to two different conferences?

Here's an easy solution: Create a MWC/WAC Championship game featuring the champions from each conference playing one another at the end of every season. The winner goes to the Fiesta Bowl or, like any other BCS conference, the national title game if ranked high enough.

I don't propose a merger, as each conference would retain their full independence from one another. But for BCS purposes, these two conferences would be considered one BCS conference, with all the rules of membership, most particularly the money and the automatic BCS bowl game for the joint conference championship game winner.

What would this have looked like in those prior years?

2002

No. 18 Boise State (11-1) would have played No. 23 Colorado St. (10-3)

2003

No. 25 Utah (9-2) vs. No. 18 Boise State (12-1)

2004

No. 5 Utah (11-0) vs. No. 10 Boise State (11-0)

2005

No. 14 TCU (10-1) vs. Nevada (9-3)

2006

No. 19 BYU (10-2) vs. No. 9 Boise State (12-0)

2007

No. 19 BYU (10-2) vs. No. 10 Hawaii (12-0)

Three times, an unbeaten team would have faced a top 25 opponent. In one case, 2004, two unbeaten top 10 teams would have squared off against one another.

During half of these seasons, the winner of this game could or would have been a higher ranked BCS team than what was sent by one of the current BCS conferences.

For 2004, when two unbeaten top 10 teams would have met in the MWC/WAC showdown, the Big East sent No. 19 Pitt (8-3) to a loss in the Fiesta Bowl.

A clearly mediocre No. 22 Florida State (8-3) won the ACC in 2005 and then lost the Orange Bowl to Penn State.

Either Boise State or BYU in 2006 would likely have come out of that game more highly ranked than No. 15-ranked ACC champ Wake Forest (11-2), which got beat by Louisville in the Orange Bowl.

While individually the two Western conferences do not always fully match the quality of the other BCS members, together they nearly always produce at least one champion worthy of at least equal mention.

Often they have produced better teams than at least one of the existing BCS members, and in nearly every case they have produced a better team than Notre Dame.

Furthermore, add one last scenario: 2006 Boise State and 2004 Utah more than showed that they were equal to the BCS task by beating their BCS bowl opponents. What if they had been given one more game against solid competition before playing in their BCS game? Might that have elevated them to even higher pairings?

Had 2004 Utah been given the chance to play and beat then-unbeaten No. 10 Boise State, they might have gotten more than mediocre Pitt as their BCS opponent. Imagine pairing unbeaten Auburn against unbeaten Utah in the Sugar Bowl.

After USC destroyed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, the unbeaten winner of a Utah/Auburn Sugar would have had an even stronger claim on a co-championship.

Likewise, No. 9 Boise State in 2006 could have moved up a notch or two had they been given the chance to play and beat No. 19 BYU to end the regular season. Beating No. 7 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl that year ultimately left Boise sitting at No. 5 in the final poll. Every single team above them had at least one loss—two of them had two.

With the whipping that Ohio State took against Florida in the title game, it's reasonable to wonder how much higher Boise would have gone if given the chance to demonstrate more in the regular season.

The BCS should be about giving the best teams a shot at the title each year, and this expands the opportunity to deserving competitors.

This year, BYU and Utah may clash at the end of the year as a battle of unbeatens with a BCS bid on the line. Boise State, having just defeated Oregon, may also finish the regular season undefeated with a nice resume to argue for a BCS game of its own.

Realistically, only one of the two conferences will get selected. In a just world, they'd settle it on the field.

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