Jim Cowsert/Icon SMI
As this is election day, it seems only fitting that we consider votes and polls ... as they pertain to college football, of course. No matter your political affiliation -- and believe me, I'm not interested -- I think we can all agree that while polling irregularities can be disastrous to presidential politics (Bush v. Gore, anyone?), they are the lifeblood of college football, igniting regional feuds and inspiring passionate debate in a sport that is, in many ways, all about regional feuds and passionate debate. As evidence, I offer up the bitter feelings engendered by the rivalry between LSU and USC -- a rivalry that dates back not to an actual football game, but instead to the rightful claimant to the 2003 national title. There is injustice in college football, to be sure, but happily it comes without any constitutional crises. Give me the BCS over an electoral-popular vote split any day.
I've been thinking about this stuff today because for the first time in recent memory, there's a chance that this year we could confront a unique BCS scenario. In preparing a piece for next week's magazine on the upcoming Thursday night tilt between TCU and Utah (currently ranked No. 12 and No. 8, respectively, in the latest BCS standings), I was surprised to see no fewer than five mid-major schools (No. 10 Boise State, No. 15 BYU and No. 17 Ball State are the others) that rank ahead of the top teams in both the ACC (No. 19 North Carolina) and the Big East (No. 25 West Virginia). Might we see more than one mid-major team eligible for a BCS bowl at the end of this season?
To answer my own question: yes, we might. Indeed, I think we will, but that doesn't mean that more than one of them will make it to the Big Dance. As the rankings stand today -- and assuming they are predictive of conference championships -- these teams seem guaranteed one of the 10 BCS slots: Alabama, Texas Tech, Penn State, Texas, USC, North Carolina and West Virginia. That's seven, and assuming that No. 5 Florida and No. 11 Ohio State are also probably going to get in, that leaves room only for one mid-major, no matter that there are more that might deserve to go.
The injustice here, of course, is that the ACC and the Big East aren't much better than, say, the Mountain West this fall. And in scouting the Horned Frogs and the Utes -- and having covered plenty of games in the Big East and ACC in 2008 -- I feel comfortable saying that the MWC is, at the very least, home to the more entertaining brand of football. Not only that, but the top teams in the West, with their high-scoring offenses, just seem much less inept than the teams from the East, where inconsistency is the order of the day. South Florida, Pitt, Wake Forest, Florida State -- these teams can only dream of running through their conference schedules the way Boise State seems to do every year. Are the teams in the ACC and the Big East better top to bottom? Perhaps, though the MWC especially has been strong so far.
If the BCS were about more than just money -- and that's all it's about, believe me -- then somebody might step in to correct this situation. But that's not going to happen. Whoever wins on Thursday, I know this: I would rather see the loser of that game in, say, the Orange Bowl than I would either the ACC or the Big East champion. My biggest problem with the BCS isn't that it occasionally fouls up the national championship game. My problem is that, by its very design, it is set up to reward mediocrity. And fellow citizens, there's nothing "championship" about that.