Butler May Not Be Only Mid-Major to Play for a Title This Year

I've got a confession to make: I don't hate Duke. Nope. Not at all.

I know what you're probably thinking. "How is that possible? Well, it would figure a Florida fan wouldn't hate another obnoxious and arrogant school..." But stop right there. I have two good reasons for it.

First, the only Duke fans I've ever known are good people, and I've never met one of the stereotypical Blue Devil fans that everyone seems to complain about. Second, I knew some FSU fans growing up who, when they found out Michael Jordan went to UNC, decided to become Tar Heel fans during basketball season. Rooting for one college in a sport and another in a different sport without having attended either is repulsive, so I began hating UNC as I did the Seminoles. If you're against UNC, you're bound to root for Duke in some context.

So while I am disappointed that Butler didn't pull off the upset last night (because I love an underdog as much as anyone), I'm not sad that Duke got another title. There. I said it. Let's move on.

Butler being in the title game of course has spawned a lot of anti-BCS talk. About how Butler would have been in perhaps the Fiesta Bowl instead of the title game. About how mid-majors in basketball have the ability to play their way into the national title game. About how it's too bad it could never happen in football.

Well slow down there cowboy, because this could be the year. No, really.

I know these things are generally meaningless, but take a look at some of the "way too early" top 25 polls out there. Here's six of them from a variety of sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). You'll notice a few trends. Alabama and Ohio State are perhaps the two favorites. Several folks like Iowa as a darkhorse. They all published these lists before Oregon's legal problems came to light. Stuff like that.

More importantly, all of them have Boise State in their preseason top five. There seems to be a rising tide of sentiment that this will be the year that everyone will give the Broncos a shot if they run the regular season table. BSU has gone undefeated in the regular season four times in the last six seasons, and with two BCS bowl wins to its name, people are increasingly willing to consider them as legit title contenders this fall.

And why not? The 2010 schedule is the toughest since 2005, the last time the Broncos had two AQ conference teams on the slate. The big difference is that the 2010 squad should be much better. The '05 team lost at Georgia 48-13 and fell by a field goal at Oregon State on the way to finishing 9-4. This year's team returns nearly every starter from last season's 14-0 team.

Boise State's game east of the Mississippi (against Virginia Tech in D.C.) in 2010 is easily the biggest on the schedule. I mean, they're all big because any loss knocks BSU out of the title hunt. But despite their wildly successful run in Division I-A, Boise State is just 15-11 in the Central or Eastern time zones. Only four of those wins were over teams that finished above .500 on the year. Of the five occasions that BSU has gone on the other side of the Rockies to play an AQ conference team, all five were losses and three contests were bloodbaths: a 32-13 loss to South Carolina in 2001, a 41-14 loss to Arkansas in 2002, and that 48-13 drubbing at Georgia in '05.

Boise State has eschewed the anyone-anytime-anywhere scheduling that independents used to use to get national recognition (like FSU and Miami in the '70s and '80s). That's a major reason why they haven't been in a national title game already. The cry of "but we can't help that the WAC sucks" rings a bit hollow when the program has been lining up I-AA opponents every year but one since 2003.

From a national perspective, things would seem to line up well for BSU if it can go undefeated. Just take a look at some of those teams at the top of those way too early polls. Alabama loses almost its entire defense from last year. Ohio State has some tough in-conference road games, and no one knows if Terrelle Pryor has turned the corner for good. Oregon is in disarray after all the legal issues. Texas is losing its Heisman candidate and a slew of important players. Iowa's MO is MacGuyvering wins however possible. VT would take a loss from an unbeaten Boise team.

None of those things guarantee that those teams can't make the national title game, but it does make it harder for them to go unbeaten. No matter what the national sentiment is, I highly doubt that Boise State is going to play for it all if there are two undefeated major conference teams available. That's what the Broncos have to root for: no more than one AQ conference team matching their unblemished record.

Of course, VT could just put an end to all of this by winning on Labor Day weekend. Good Lord, football season can't come soon enough.

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