Does Conference Realignment Shut Out Non-BCS Conference Teams?
Commissioners from BCS conferences have reached a consensus on a postseason but all of the details have not been made public. Among the criticisms of the previous system, is that it made it nearly impossible for deserving teams from non-BCS conferences (think Utah, Boise State, and TCU) to compete for national championships. But now that the three best examples of worthy teams outside BCS conferences have joined BCS conferences, what might that mean for a playoff?
Phil Steele has had a particularly good track record (if he does say so himself) in recent years of identifying the best teams outside of BCS conferences. This year he predicts that Central Florida will be the best team playing outside of a BCS conference. He has the Golden Knights going undefeated in their conference, but doesn't spell out whether the team will win nonconference games against Ohio State and Missouri. Chances are the school will neither be undefeated nor competing in the national championship game next year. If UCF is prototypical of what non-BCS conferences will have to offer in the future, then what level of respect or inclusion should they be entitled to under the new playoff? Put another way, is it possible to have a legitimate playoff that doesn't include schools like UCF?
It's not hard to concoct a scenario where another Boise State is born that sits outside a BCS conference. But will it happen in the next five years? Hawaii is still in the Mountain West, and they earned a Sugar Bowl bid in 2007. Of course, they were blown off the field in that game. Could BCS schools get away with adopting a proposal that entirely leaves out the non-BCS schools? Will it matter if they do?
This will likely all be determined before teams like UCF get to prove their mettle on the field. And the Golden Knights have a fair amount to prove as publications like Athlon give UCF a preseason ranking of 66, behind even Minnesota. In any case, the games against Missouri and Ohio State should be of interest early in the year to see whether or not leagues like Conference USA have any more Davids that can hang with the Goliaths within BCS conferences.