The College Football Notebook

December 5, 2010 5:56 AM

Do TCU & Michigan State Have A Gripe?

TCUFootball.jpgThere won't be a lot of drama for tonight's unveiling of the final BCS rankings and bowl matchups on ESPN. About all that's really up in the air for the big bowls is how Stanford and UConn end up slotted, between the Orange and Fiesta. I doubt that's going to draw too many viewers away from the Pittsburgh-Baltimore NFL game on NBC. But there are a couple things we should clear up and that's hearing the arguments of TCU to reach the national championship game and Michigan State to make it to a BCS game ahead of either Wisconsin or Ohio State. Should there be shouting in Forth Worth or East Lansing?

I won't engage the debate of what the postseason system should be here, so even though TCU did everything a football team could be asked to do--going 12-0 for the second straight year--we'll just look at it on the merits and ask whether they should go in over Oregon (Auburn's body of work is so impressive that anyone who suggests they don't belong should be subjected to immediate psychiatric evaluation). The Mountain West has generally matched up pretty well with the Pac-10, both in bowl games and regular season games over the years and there will be a few more ahead of us in December. TCU beat Air Force, Utah and San Diego State, all decisively, even if State made the final score look respectable with late touchdowns. They also beat 6-6 BYU. The Frogs also went out in non-conference and beat Baylor and SMU. While that's not on a par with Boise State challenging Virginia Tech in the nation's capital, it is wins over two quality bowl teams and neither game was close. Oregon's body of work has wins over USC & Arizona, plus three 6-6 teams in Tennessee, Arizona State and Washington. What separates Oregon from TCU is that they pounded Stanford by three touchdowns, the only time either of these teams was really faced with a national championship test. On that basis, I would vote for Oregon #2, but I think laying out their schedules shows that this topic deserved more debate than it got.

The BCS has a rule that no conference can send more than two teams to a major bowl, so it was inevitable that of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State, somebody was going to get robbed. All three finished 7-1 in the conference and 11-1 overall. Michigan State and Ohio State didn't play, so a head-to-head tiebreaker was out and it comes down to BCS ranking. Wisconsin was holding a lead last week and there's no reason to think it will change, so that would put them in the Rose Bowl. I think that's fair and not just because it's where my fan loyalties are. The simple fact that Ohio State and Michigan State didn't play each other, while UW had to play both, means the Badgers had a tougher row to hoe. It won't matter much to Ohio State, who still gets a share of the title and will still get a BCS bid, almost certainly to the Sugar to play Arkansas. The Buckeyes also didn't have to play Northwestern, while Michigan State missed the guaranteed win that is Indiana. On that basis, doesn't that make Michigan State's schedule a little tougher? I believe it does. Buckeye partisans can argue that both teams would have won those games anyway so it makes little difference. But the facts are Ohio State missed an upset spot against a bowl-bound team, while Michigan State missed the easiest spot on the Big Ten schedule. Ohio State can't fall back on non-conference--now that the season is in the books their win over Miami is no more impressive than Sparty's win over Notre Dame. Mark Dantonio's been gracious during this whole process, but he's got reason to be pitching a fit. His program deserves the Sugar Bowl bid over Ohio State and as such, has the biggest reason for griping tonight.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. 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.

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