Boise is unique from any other championship contender, for obvious reasons and it's that there a midmajor. Unlike TCU in the Mountain West, they're not even in a quality conference with teams who can compete with the BCS schools up and down the board. On the flip side, if they complete the regular season undefeated, that's four perfect seasons in the last five, plus having met every challenge they've been given against power conference schools. How much longer can they be denied a chance at the ultimate prize?
If we hold to a strict view of the selection process, there's really no way to argue Boise into the title game. Say what you will about the wins over Virginia Tech & Oregon State--winning one good game against a good team, and another against a mediocre one would never fly if they weren't a good Cinderella story. Who they've beaten on the field in 2010 just doesn't match up to anyone else, and a one-loss power conference team would be worthy jumping over them. In most situations this is the view I hold to. But this is not jut any situation.
Boise's wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State are less about who they are against, but what they signified, and that's this--the Broncos will take on anyone who will give them a chance. When you add these to other wins in their incredible five-year run--the epic 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, last year's win in the Fiesta over TCU, we have to say that Boise has done everything they can reasonably be expected to do. The only problem is their conference--what's next, will Boise coach Chris Peterson be told to help recruit better talent to his WAC rivals so they can beef up his schedule?
Casting a vote for team based on a multi-year body of work is not ideal--players at Oregon, Missouri, Michigan State and even powers like Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State weren't a part of their teams' storied histories and it's tough to tell them they have to compete against another team's five-year record, while their own doesn't count at all. It's not fair. But it's less unfair than Boise continually being told they have no shot whatsoever. Just as importantly, it's not unprecedented. In 1993-94 the national championship voting was turned into a maudlin sympathy-fest for Bobby Bowden ('93 Florida State) and Tom Osborne ('94 Nebraska) whom had endured long careers without winning a crown. What's good for the power conferences is good for Boise.
The argument is also made that even when Boise beats Virginia Tech or Oklahoma, it's just a case of them showing they are good enough to gin it up to win one big game. But how would they fare if they had to take on a tough sequence of games? It's a legitimate question. But again, there is precedent for ignoring this and I'll stick to 1994 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers played a two-game season that year--Colorado had a great team in the old Big Eight (the current Big 12 minus the four Texas teams in the South) and the rest of the league was awful. Then they played third-ranked Miami in the Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, 1994 was a year when the Big Ten could still compete in bowl games, and Penn State faced hard tests each week and went undefeated. The pollsters went for Nebraska. If it was good for the '94 Cornhuskers, it's good for the '10 Broncos.
Finally we come to the concern that if everyone's worst fears are confirmed, Boise will get embarrassed in a national title game. You mean like Oklahoma was embarrassed by USC, 55-19 in 2004? Or how Ohio State spit the bit for two straight years in 2006-07? We can cross sports and pick World Series that were uncompetitive sweeps and Super Bowls that were over by halftime. We should be less concerned about Boise being embarrassed, and more concerned about college football being embarrassed if they can keep being denied a chance.
This is not the opinion of a mid-major apologist. In the '06 Fiesta Bowl I rooted for Oklahoma, just so the simplicity of the power conference structure where everyone could be evaluated on the same terms and we wouldn't have to consider these extraneous issues. But Boise has upended the applecart on the field. If the season ended today, my vote would be for a Boise-Auburn national title game.
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily MLB playoff coverage and game analysis in college football and the NFL. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.