In the Interest of Fairness: Boise State and the BCS

There is an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where our absorbent, yellow, porous hero attempts to gain membership into the exclusive “Jellyspotters” — a group of jelly spotters  (I have kids; what do you expect?).  In that episode, the leader of the Jellyspotters — a snooty sea cucumber named Kevin — makes Spongebob go through many different “tests” in order for Spongebob to be proven worthy to be in the club.  But the point of the tests is not to allow Spongebob to join.  As the sea cucumber states,

“Look, I won’t let the guy join the club.  I just want to see how many times he can get stung before he goes runnin’ home like a baby!”

Of course, Kevin thinks he is smart and the tests are only there to humiliate Spongebob.  But, the yellow sponge is able to pass each test before the sea cucumber devises a test that Spongebob cannot overcome.  This test requires him to catch a “queen” jellyfish, which really turns out to be a machine.  As Spongebob is cowering before the trick jellyfish, it is revealed that Kevin and his fish friends are controlling it.  Spongebob, taken aback by this, asks “What about my final test?”  To which, the sea cucumber replies

“Hahahaha!  Did you actually think we would let you join the Jellyspotters!?”

Who would have thought that a mindless episode of Spongebob Squarepants would explain the elitist mentality of college football?

Boise State’s defeat of Virginia Tech on Monday night should have served as proof that the Broncos were worthy of their high preseason praise and that they deserve to be in the discussion for the BCS title game.  However, the result simply left critics of “the little guy” searching for more “tests” for Boise State to endure in order to prove they belong.

From national sports writers to local callers to sports talk shows, more criticism poured onto Boise State as though they had just beaten Virginia Military Institute rather than Virginia Polytechnical Institute.  Callers to a local radio station here in Alabama continued to berate Boise State’s schedule and their conference — a point of criticism that I have deconstructed elsewhere.

And message boards have filled with hate over Boise State and their victory.  Observe (NOTE: all comments taken from Tidesports.com):

  • [Boise State] wants the glory without paying their dues. The traditional powers have built up their programs, fan bases, stadiums, etc. through decades of hard work.  Come see me in 30 – 50 years after BS has done that then we’ll talk.
  • Bunch of lame-ass pretenders that only have to get up for one game a year.
  • I’m all for the small schools trying to play with the big boys, but they have no right whatsoever to demand the same respect without earning it on the field with a respectable 12 game schedule.
  • …they are not a title contender. The stress and rigors of playing in a big boy league is what makes teams like Bama, Texas, [Ohio State], etc…the big boys.

In addition to this, people refused to give Boise State any credit for the win.  Many blamed Virginia Tech for losing the game.  To some of the same posters, Virginia Tech gave away the game.  Again, observe:

  • They [Boise State] are a good team but they beat a VaTech team that did everything in its power to lose that game.
  • Bosie (sic) played a very over ranked VA tech team that has a very young D, turned the ball over on Sp teams and for some odd reason did not line up and play smash mouth football.
  • Boise was not the best team I saw . . . and had to get lucky to beat VA Tech
  • Va tech’s defense was very average.  . . . Taylor is a scrappy arhlete (sic), but his decision making is questionable.
  • The ONLY reason Boise State was even remotely in this game is because VA tech played like S*** in the first quarter!!! how many penalties did they have?? how easily did their D wear down?? how many times did VA tech have a chance to blow the game open but couldnt come through??
  • The refs def helped the media’s sweet heart team, bosie (sic) state, pull that W out the hat.

So, what does all of this mean?  Simply put, the elitists do not want to give Boise State credit for overcoming their latest test.  It is either Boise needs to pass another test to prove their worthiness, or Boise was simply the benefit of playing an overrated team, or a combination of both.

For these critics, Boise State could pass 100 tests, but they are not looking for Boise to pass; they are waiting for that one test where the Broncos fail.  And when the Broncos do fail, it will be all it takes for the critics to come running out and scream, “See, they are not any good.  I told you so!”

The criticisms levied towards Boise State and other so-called BCS busters have been scrutinized here at Uncle Popov both in the aforementioned article on conferences, as well as this sarcastic piece demanding Boise to move out of the way.  But I am going to lay these out one last time in order to incorporate the criticism from the Virginia Tech game.

Prior to the game, anti-Boise State morons across the country prayed that Virginia Tech would beat down the Broncos.  There was talk about how superior a team of the Hokies’ caliber is and how their physical nature and speed would kill Boise State and send them home “crying like a baby.”

After the game — after Boise State lined up and not only took Virginia Tech’s punches, but also punched back — the sentiment change.  Now, Virginia Tech is “overrated” and their defense is soft and young.  Funny, Alabama’s defense was supposed to be young two years ago and they went undefeated in the regular season.

Boise State played with the big boys and played the big boy way.  Boise State did not dial up any fancy trick plays; they simply lined up and punched Virginia Tech in the mouth.  They proved that they could not only pass the ball with Kellen Moore, but they could also run the ball.  The proof is in the stats.

  • Total Yards: Boise 383; Virginia Tech 314
  • Passing Yards: Boise 215; Virginia Tech 186
  • Rushing Yards: Boise 168; Virginia Tech 128
  • Penalties: Boise 11 for 105 yards; Virginia Tech 7 for 55 yards

Boise State outgained the Hokies in all aspects of the game.  Boise ran the ball better and they threw the ball better.  And the reason I list the penalties is because some have claimed that the officials aided the Broncos, despite that they were called for more penalties.  Yes, maybe the late hit penalty on the go-ahead TD drive was picky, but so was the roughing the passer call against Boise State in the second half.

Additionally, for all the talk about the Hokies running game, Boise State shut them down.  Virginia Tech averaged only 2.9 yards per carry (versus 7.0 for Boise State), and much of that was thanks to the scrambling ability of Tyrod Taylor.

And speaking of Taylor, he play quite well, going 15 of 22 and two touchdowns; he also ran for 73 yards to lead the Hokies in rushing yards.  But, of course, he sucks according to the elitists.

What is interesting is that people called it a sloppy game and stated that Kellen Moore was unimpressive, or at best mediocre.  Well, if Boise State can still beat a quality opponent by simply putting forth a mediocre effort, imagine what they will do when they are hitting on all cylinders.

Oh shit, my bad.  I forgot; Virginia Tech is overrated, remember.  The same Virginia Tech team that is favored by many to win the ACC.  Last year, Alabama dominates Virginia Tech in the first game of the season, winning at a neutral site that was clearly anything but given the proximity of Tuscaloosa to Atlanta.  No one claimed Virginia Tech was overrated then.

So why the claim now?  Is it just because Boise State beat them?  Remember, while this was a neutral site, it was clear that the fans at FedEx Field were predominately pulling for Virginia Tech.

The facts are that the Hokies are STILL a high quality BCS-conference school, they are STILL a talented team, they are STILL a physical team and Boise State STILL lined up and took the game to Virginia Tech.  No Statue of Liberty plays or “gimmicks”; Boise State took it to them and did what they needed to do to win the game.

The other aspect that I do not understand is that Virginia Tech “spotted” Boise State 17 points.  Really?  So Boise State did not earn their points?  Last I checked, Boise State forced the turnover and blocked the punt themselves.  And, they still had to put the ball in the end zone.

If that argument can be made, then the same can be made about many of Virginia Tech’s points.  Virginia Tech scored 14 points off of turnovers.  The second of those two turnovers was a result of silliness when Moore bumped into his own lineman and fumbled the football.

Later, Virginia Tech missed a 51-yard field goal.  But the play was negated by a running into the kicker penalty.  That penalty (a clear mistake and lack of discipline by Boise) resulted in a shorter fourth down attempt.  Virginia Tech took advantage and threw for the first down.  Taylor hit Jarret Boykin with the pass, who then spun free of a tackle attempt and scored a touchdown.

So, if anything, it would seem that Boise State was the one spotting points, basically “handing” Virginia Tech 20 points.  Not that I truly believe that points are just handed out, but if there is an argument for Virginia Tech giving away points, then the same can be said about the Broncos giving away points.

The last point is the one that continues to resurface — the question about their conference schedule.  Put aside the delirious notion that Boise State did not try to join a power conference during the recent expansion power grab [the Pac-10 chose not to invite the Broncos; not the other way around].  The argument that is made ad nauseum is that Boise State could not make it through the rigors of a power conference schedule.  And for this, I turn to WJOX sports talker and former Alabama QB Jay Barker.

Ignore for a moment his and his cohorts ridiculous notion that Vanderbilt would be favored against every team in the WAC (does that include Boise State??).  Barker tries to be objective, but his allegiance is too strong.  He insinuated quite sarcastically that it is “fair” to allow Boise State to play in the BCS title game.  His exaggerated use of the word “fair” made it clear that he is not for the concept that it is fair for every team to make it in. In other words, to Barker the BCS (and life) is not always about fair and thus Boise State should not be in the title game.

Tony Kurre, one of Barker’s co-host, has made it well known that he does not feel a team like Boise deserves a title shot simply because they are undefeated.  So, no entitlement.  I can dig that.  But, does this mean that just because a team plays in the SEC that they should be handed a shot at the BCS title?  Entitlement for some (the elites) but not others?

How far down do we have to go in the loss column for an SEC school to be bypassed so that an undefeated Boise State team can be allowed in the title game?  One loss?  Two losses?  Three losses?  Remember, Vandy would be favored against every team in the WAC, so it is not inconceivable that Barker and Kurre and their third co-host Al Del Greco believe that a 6-6 SEC team is still better than an undefeated Boise State team.

So, for Barker, it is simply too bad that Boise State plays in the WAC.  Life is not always fair.

Well, he is correct.  It is is not fair that Boise State plays in a weak conference and yet still dominates year-in and year-out.  It is not fair that they have a weaker recruiting base compared to the states of Texas or Florida and yet still get the athletes necessary for their schemes.  It is not fair that despite lacking the resources of the SEC (television revenue; giant stadiums; top-notch facilities; etc.) Boise State is still able to compete.

And, it is not fair that the Alabamas and Floridas of the world have to slug it out through the oh-so-tough SEC (the same conference that just saw a team lose to Jacksonville State!!!) while Boise State must face the WAC.  That’s just too bad, isn’t it?

For all of those that complain that the Broncos could not make it through an SEC or Big Ten or Pac-10 schedule, there is one small fact they are missing.  They don’t have to!  Boise State is not required to face an SEC schedule.  It is not written into the guidelines of the BCS that a team must face an SEC schedule.  They simply need to be in the top two come season’s end.  They play the hand that they are dealt.

And save the “they need to pay their dues” malarkey.  Boise State has three undefeated regular seasons in the past five years — 2006, 2008, 2009!  They were not given a BCS title shot in any of those years.  In fact, in 2008 the Broncos were not even in a BCS bowl game (they played TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl, for crying out loud!).  So, like Spongebob, what other dues must they pay in order to get in?

Well, critics are quick to point out that prior to the game against Virginia Tech, Boise was 6-7 versus BCS teams and 0-5 versus the SEC, including a massacre against Georgia in 2005.  But people fail to see the two major flaws in this argument.  First, this is 2010, not 2005.  It is no more fair to hold a loss in 2005 against the Broncos than it is that it is to hold the 2007 UL-Monroe loss against Alabama.

Hell, Alabama is 1-1 versus UL-Monroe, 1-1 versus teams from the Colonial Conference, and 0-3 versus Rice.  What does that mean?  Absolutely nothing to the 2010 season.  Different year; different teams.

Second, while they were 6-7 versus BCS schools since 2002, the Broncos are 4-1 (now 5-1) against BCS-conference foes under Chris Petersen.  That matters more as it shows recent consistency and improvement against quality opponents.  Shouldn’t that record, as well as the fact that three times they were left off the big stage despite undefeated seasons prove that they have paid their dues?

Keep in mind that in the early 1900s, Southern football was considered inferior to football played in the Midwest and West Coast.  It took the likes of Alabama and Georgia Tech going out and beating the West Coast teams to prove that Southern football is legit.  Like Boise State, all they wanted and needed was a chance.  As Jim Rome noted, “How can you not say they are worthy when you won’t even give them a chance to prove that they are?”

The problem is people are still going to find excuses for why Boise State does not belong in the BCS conversation, let alone the title game.  Going back to the Spongebob episode, even after Spongebob has fended off an angry king jellyfish, the nasty sea cucumber says that it still does not matter.  It took the fish sidekicks stepping up and ripping off Kevin’s crown (actually his tentacles) to give Spongebob a place in the Jellyspotters.

Maybe Boise needs someone to rip that chance from the hands of the elite in order for the Broncos to get into the club.

Or, maybe that has already happened.  By virtue of their lofty preseason rankings, the voters in the coaches poll have ripped away a chance from a BCS-conference school and given Boise State the opportunity to work their way into the BCS title game.  People bitch and moan about this, but Boise State is simply using the same system that has kept them out of the big dance in years past.  Dan Wetzel makes this point clear, explaining how the BCS comes back to haunt itself.

Rather than settle the issue on the field, the BCS uses a combination of shaky opinion polls and unsound computer formulas (legitimate mathematicians and quantitative analysts have called for a boycott of the system) to determine the title game matchup.

If you finish in the top two of the standings you play for the championship. Unless at least two major conference teams finish the season unbeaten (which has happened just once in the last four years) a 12-0 Boise club is probably in the game.  . . .

Boise is just playing by the rules that were designed to keep teams like them down. This is a system that deemed Boise’s three perfect years since 2006 unworthy of a title game appearance. If it now claims 2010, which would be the team’s third consecutive 12-0 regular season, is good enough, why should they apologize?  . . .

Besides, not only did Boise not create the system, they’ve fought relentlessly to change it to something more equitable for everyone. They’ve complained publicly and worked privately.

Simply put, Boise State crossed a major hurdle and has an opportunity to play for a BCS title.  No one in their right mind should be putting Boise State in the BCS title game; it is far too early for that call, despite what Ivan Maisel thinks.

Perhaps the fans of elite schools think that Boise State is still an inferior team.  Strange that fans of the big programs are worried so much about a team they know their team would kill.

Perhaps the media does have a sickening love affair with the Broncos.  Strange that it did not seem to bother Alabama fans when the media was sucking up to them.

Or perhaps the elites are simply worried that they are losing their power.  And maybe, just maybe, they are upset that Boise State has found a way to work the biased system to their advantage and they [the elites] feel that it is unfair for Boise to be rewarded for playing a weak schedule while Alabama and Ohio State and Texas must play a tougher schedule.  Strange that they did not worry about it being “fair” that an undefeated Boise State team was not even invited to a BCS bowl game in 2008.

But then again, life is not always “fair.”

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2 thoughts on “In the Interest of Fairness: Boise State and the BCS

  1. Great Rant Mate As A Englishman The BCS does come across as a very strange way of determing who is the best team in college football.

    to be honest even playoffs seema bit strange as we dont tend to use them at all (we use the league system most points from wins ties etc wins simple!)

    i know it wont ever happen but i would love to see college football played in a system similer to our football with the 120 FBs schools divided up into national Divisions with promotion and relegation involved!

    i know wishful thinking has never won a nobel peace rpize but it dont harm anyone!

    keep up the drinking and the ranting your a credit to sport blogging!

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