Boise State, TCU deserve better

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This should feel like a just reward for an offseason where the non-automatic qualifiers extolled their virtues in front of Congress, then reached unprecedented heights in the BCS era on the field.

It can't be understated that for the first time, two teams from outside of the major conferences have been granted access behind the BCS' velvet rope as No. 3 TCU and No. 6 Boise State will meet in the Fiesta Bowl.

"I think the Fiesta Bowl, to their credit, is putting two very, very deserving teams on the field against each other," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said.

It's a statement, no doubt, but maybe not the one that this landmark moment should deliver, because the Broncos and Horned Frogs are having to play each other.

The Fiesta Bowl has created a matchup that seems more like a cop-out than an achievement; denying the two unbeatens a chance to validate their seasons against the big boys on the sports' biggest stage and opening up an entirely new chapter of BCS bashing/collusion allegations.

Should TCU, ranked fourth in the final BCS standings, have played fellow unbeaten Cincinnati or Florida, which spent 12 weeks ranked No. 1, and won handily, it could have made a case for a share of the national title in the AP poll, which isn't contractually obligated to crown the winner of the BCS Championship Game. But instead, we have a rematch of the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, only with a much more lucrative payday -- and just like last year's Poinsettia Bowl, it offers no tangible reward, because no matter what Boise State and TCU do in that game, it will be met with, "Yes, you went undefeated and won a BCS game, but look who you played."

I'm reminded of the opening scene of Animal House, when Kent Dorfman and Larry Kroger knocked on the door of Omega Theta Pi during rush. After being quickly paraded around and given a glimpse of all the beautiful people, they're summarily banished to sit on the couch with Mohammet, Jugdish, Sidney and Clayton, a motley crew deemed more on their level.

By welcoming two non-AQ teams and putting them on that proverbial couch, the BCS appears to be playing damage control and trying to avoid a trial in the court of public opinion and, whether it's the real reason or not, further pressure from congress.

Since last January, the BCS came under fire like never before, drawing the ire of House and Senate panels during an offseason hearing, called after unbeaten Boise State was snubbed for the second time in five years and Utah was denied a chance at the national title.

While giving Boise State an at-large bid shows -- from the BCS' standpoint -- that, to quote Bob Dylan, "times they are-a changin'," but isn't taking these teams and casting them off actually more damning than the act of allowing only one non-AQ team in?

But let's give the Fiesta Bowl selection committee some credit. Remember, the bowls have the right to select any team they want for an at-large bid, so long as they meet the rules established by the BCS, and the Fiesta will host a matchup that appears to be a huge gamble.

The Frogs, which earned an automatic bid, have had trouble selling out home games, recording their first in three years on Nov. 9 against Utah. But the Fiesta, which had first pick of the at-large teams after losing Big 12 champion Texas to the national title game, selected the Broncos because it wanted a matchup of unbeatens. While the Broncos did sell their allotment of tickets for their 2007 appearance, that was against Oklahoma. The Fiesta is banking on fans from both teams making 15-hour trips in this climate to see their teams play after they drew just 34,628 fans last year in San Diego? There couldn't be a worse scenario for Glendale's local economy.

"We really looked at only trying to arrange the most compelling matchup possible and we were delighted," Fiesta director John Junker said. "When you have the chance to match two undefeated teams, it was a very compelling story and one that we think will be of great interest to the country."

But will it be? The four BCS games featuring non-AQ teams have been among the eight lowest-rated BCS bowls, which makes you wonder if the Fiesta Bowl is biting the bullet and taking the lowest-rated game for the greater good. Of course, given that the entire motive of these committees is to generate the most amount of money, fans and TV ratings, that's the stuff of conspiracy theories. Junker said the committee "talked to our partners at Fox Sports and we had very sound advice from them and we think that they like the matchup."

It's a compelling matchup when you simply look at the numbers: the nation's top-ranked defense (TCU) vs. its highest-scoring offense; two teams that have been in the top 10 for 13 weeks. But it's also a matchup that makes little sense on so many levels for all the parties involved.

Boise State and TCU have made history, but they deserved better than being stranded together in the desert.