Boise State is still No. 1, and very few readers are happy about it

Author:
Publish date:

The very idea of Boise State in the national title game makes a lot of you angry. My e-mail told me that this week. In message after message, you told me that Boise State is a media creation that doesn't deserve to share a field with the likes of Auburn.

There will be no Disgrace to the University this week, because while those e-mails were overwhelmingly negative, most were thoughtful. No one drunkmailed or completely butchered the language. And I completely understand the points all of you made.

I just happen to disagree.

First, I rank Boise State No. 1 because I believe the Broncos would beat every other team in the country on a neutral field. Because there is so little overlap between conferences, I can't compare apples-and-oranges résumés. I use this standard for every team in the poll. Missouri is No. 14 because I think all the teams above the Tigers would beat them and all the teams below would lose to them. Boise State is No. 1 for the same reason. Boise State and the other powers from non-AQ conferences must deal with a perfectly acceptable double standard that I'll explain below, but for the most part, they are judged strictly on which teams I believe they would beat.

Second, Boise State's national title chances weren't created by the media. They exist because the fathers of the BCS left a gaping loophole in their system that they thought would never be exploited.

The BCS cartel of six conferences created this system to ensure the national title money and most of the postseason money went to the most powerful schools. Those schools are more than happy to share the Football Bowl Subdivision with schools such as Boise State -- just as long as the little guys know their place. They're supposed to be cupcakes that provide mediocre big-conference schools with easy wins so the big boys can become bowl eligible. They aren't supposed to compete for national titles.

But since human polls help determine who plays for the national title, the system has one vulnerability. If a team can begin the season ranked high enough, it might be able to sneak into the title game by going undefeated. When the BCS was created, no one imagined a program such as Boise State could earn enough respect to start the season in the top five. Certainly no one imagined a second minor-conference school (TCU) would start in the top 10 the same season.

But that's what happened. Boise State went 26-1 in 2008-09, losing only to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl. TCU went 23-3 over the same span, losing only to BCS title game loser Oklahoma and undefeated Utah in 2008 and to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2009 season.

That kind of success was impossible to ignore. Now, remember the dirty secret of any poll-reliant system: If a team starts with a lofty enough ranking, it doesn't really matter who that team beats during the season. Boise State wants to play better competition, which is why the Broncos are moving to the Mountain West. (Presumably, the Big 12 and SEC did not extend offers of membership.) But absent decent conference competition in 2010, Boise State officials made the most of their opportunity. They scheduled two teams that always have respectable seasons (Virginia Tech and Oregon State) and then added cupcakes to the already soft WAC schedule. It was brilliant.

On Friday, a dominant Boise State win against Nevada coupled with an Auburn loss to Alabama or an Oregon loss to Arizona probably will propel the Broncos into the top two of the BCS standings. This makes power conference fans angry and insecure. Privately, the people in charge of the power conferences probably feel the same way.

Which is absolutely hilarious.

The cartel designed the system to keep out the Boise States of the world. Now Boise State might exploit a flaw in the system to play for a title, and the cartel is crying foul.

The little guys couldn't just accept their place as the batteries that kept the bloated bowl system humming. (Sounds a little like the plot to The Matrix, doesn't it?) They had to fight for more. That tends to happen in any system in which a group feels oppressed. The highly intelligent, highly educated people who created the BCS should have known this. They shouldn't be surprised that a program figured out a way to obtain some measure of equality.

They could always fix the problem. Start a playoff just like every other NCAA football division. Make Boise State earn a national title by winning four consecutive games against elite competition. It's fair to the Boise States, and it's fair to the Auburns. It also might be the only solution now that Boise State and TCU have exposed the loophole. Some program in Conference USA might be the next to catch lightning in a bottle, and now it has the blueprint to infiltrate the BCS title game.

NCAA Football Power Rankings

Next five: Northern Illinois, Connecticut, San Diego State, Central Florida, Navy

Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.