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Archive for Sunday, November 5, 2006

BCS powers want no part of playoff

November 5, 2006

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Pat Hill can be sworn in as an expert witness. He can testify on behalf of teams that operate outside of the Bowl Championship Series, aka The Millionaire Boys Club.

Hill, the Fresno State coach, makes a habit out of playing non-conference games against BCS schools. His team plays in the Western Athletic Conference, one of five leagues that fight for scraps remaining after BCS teams finish their seven-course bowl meals.

Fresno State has lost to BCS teams Oregon, Washington and LSU this season. Wednesday night the Bulldogs were drilled by fellow WAC team Boise State, 45-21.

In this week's coaches' poll, Hill said he voted Boise State No. 8. He believes the Broncos are better than any of the BCS teams. One would expect that sort of boosterism for a team from Hill's conference.

But Boise State is in prime position to earn an at-large invitation to a BCS bowl. If the Broncos follow the footsteps of Utah in 2004, they will be considered - in BCS circles, at least - one of the nation's 10 best teams.

The BCS system has been tweaked, in Rube Goldberg fashion, to increase opportunities for the non-BCS conferences. That tweaking headed off antitrust hearings in Congress.

There are two additional at-large berths available, plus the qualification criteria has been softened.

Boise State (9-0) was No. 14 in this week's BCS standings.

It needs to finish 12th or better in the final BCS standings to automatically qualify, or finish 16th or better and be ranked higher than the lowest-ranked champion from a BCS conference.

The Fiesta Bowl would likely be Boise State's BCS destination, probably against Texas (or the team that wins the Big 12 championship).

This is where the Dirty Little Secret gets out. Arguments against a multiteam Division I-A playoff are varied. Some are flimsy; some make a bit of sense. In my mind, there's a Fear Factor among the BCS schools.

A playoff, like the NCAA Tournament, would be one-and-done.

Teams from BCS conferences can argue their rugged league schedules equal a seasonlong playoff.

Could Boise State go undefeated in the Pac-10? Could Louisville or West Virginia go undefeated in the Southeastern Conference?

Rhetorical questions would get on-the-field and, perhaps, upsetting answers in a playoff.

In 1992, Fresno State beat Southern California in the Freedom Bowl. USC's program was mired in the muck for the next decade.

Hill, who became Fresno State's coach in 1997, has, to no avail, campaigned for a game against the Trojans. USC has no reason to schedule a game where's nothing to gain and everything to lose.

In a playoff, anything can happen. Let's say Boise State beats Texas in the Fiesta.

Sure, it would be stunning. Certainly, Texas A&M fans would have an off-season of joke writing. But this year's results in the four BCS nonchampionship bowls are meaningless.

Now consider the impact of Boise State beating Texas in the first-round of a 16-team tournament. Or TCU beating an Alabama or an Auburn. Or Tulsa beating Michigan.

Even if those upset winners lost in the next round of this playoff fantasy, consider how meaningful those first-round triumphs would be.

Major basketball programs such as Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut have moved past their knockout losses during George Mason's Final Four run.

The Millionaire Boys Club of college football has no desire to open its membership to similar upset scenarios.

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