Monday, November 01, 2010

BlogPoll Monday: 1 Auburn, 2 TCU

I feel compelled to keep saying this: I'm a huge fan of Boise State. Back in January, I had them pegged as my preseason No. 1 team. Back in August, I gave them my very first No. 1 ranking.

In a one-game situation, I think Boise State could would beat any team in the country.

That does NOT necessarily make them the No. 1 team in the country. And, based on what they have done so far this season, that does NOT make them one of the Top 2 teams in the country this week, as the AP would want you to recognize. For the record, I have Boise at No. 4 -- most notably: behind TCU, but ahead of Alabama.

Who you play matters. And it isn't just a function of putting multiple wins over Top 25 teams on your resume -- as others have, certainly Auburn and Oregon.

It is the week-in-week-out grind. I said this over the weekend: It is entirely speculative, but if Boise had to play an SEC or Big 12 or Big Ten or Pac-10 schedule, they would do very well. But the chances of walking through it without a single loss is unrealistic.

I don't begrudge Boise their place as BCS outsider and they certainly are doing everything they can with the schedule they have, rather than the schedule the rest of us would want them to have.

But -- specifically at this point of the season -- any voter who puts Boise at No. 1 or No. 2 either is doing it to spite the BCS or is unfairly discounting strength of schedule; either is a violation of the kind of sincere intellectual commitment fans expect from a poll voter.

(You may now laugh at that last statement.)

The point is this: If Alabama runs the table -- which would include upcoming wins over LSU and Mississippi State (both ranked), then Auburn (a Top 2 BCS team), then the SEC title game (presumably against the team that beat them -- also a Top 20 team) -- they will have earned a spot in the national title game ahead of an unbeaten Boise State. At the very least, we are going to have a vigorous debate about that.

We have talked about this before: If unbeaten Boise takes a BCS title-game spot from 1-loss Alabama, I could absolutely see SEC commish Mike Slive seceding from the BCS, as early as this coming offseason. (And he probably should.)

You could make a similar case for a 1-loss Oregon or a 1-loss Big Ten champ or a 1-loss Big 12 champ.

The team I feel worst for? TCU, which finally vaulted Boise State in the BCS rankings -- as they should, given their superior strength of schedule -- but has the chance of being shut out of the national championship game in favor of Boise, even after TCU beats Top 5 Utah on the road next week. I really hope the Horned Frogs win and voters are hit with a sledgehammer that TCU has earned more rankings respect this season than Boise.

Strength of schedule should matter -- a lot, actually. I'm not talking about for differentiating between teams ranked No. 5 and No. 20. I'm talking about as it is incorporated in picking the Top 2 teams, the teams that in our wacked system, get to play for the national title.

This is hard, because I want to see Boise get a shot. And I certainly want TCU to get a shot -- probably even more than Boise. At at least one of them won't.

But I'm left feeling like this: You can want to see the BCS implode or "die," but if you think Boise making the BCS title game ahead of a team with a more worthy resume is somehow a net-good for college football, you are compounding the BCS's original sins. The BCS will have not only corrupted the sport, but they will have corrupted the media and fans who support it.

That said: If you want to see the BCS implode, root like crazy for Boise to make the title game ahead of a 1-loss SEC champ Alabama. But that doesn't make it right.

The problem with my logic is wondering where it stops: Does unbeaten Boise have a better resume than a 2-loss team? The same reasoning would apply about Boise's unlikelihood of making it through a top conference schedule unscathed.

At the very least, it helps tilt the debate, make it a little more palatable.* You want Oregon to lose vs. Arizona or Oregon State. You want Alabama to lose to LSU, then beat Auburn, then have Auburn lose to a mediocrity like Florida (!) in the SEC title game. You want Wisconsin to lose to Northwestern. You want the top of the Big 12 to collapse under the weight of its own transitive property.

Because all things being equal, strength of schedule has to matter. It should matter. It's why TCU-Utah next weekend is so important: Here are two Top 5 teams, playing each other, giving the winner the kind of elite, signature win that so many other contenders can't match. Especially Boise.

-- D.S.

*This is all moot if Oregon and Auburn run the table. For better or worse, no matter how Boise and TCU finish, they will finish behind unbeaten Oregon and Auburn, and at that point, you can only hope that Boise gets a shot in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama and TCU gets a shot against a 1-loss Big 12 champ in the Fiesta. Or, frankly, playing each other, with the AP actively giving their half of the national title to that game's winner. That is the only kind of "jury nullification" that matters -- mid-season protest votes with Boise ranked ahead of Auburn, when the resumes are so clearly differentiated, are lame.

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