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Wednesday, July 8, 2009
There was no way for Perlman to reason with BCS foes

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman was in the uncomfortable position of trying to argue against one of the most difficult and cunning forces in all of public speaking Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Namely, how do you reason with a grandstanding politician who is shamelessly pandering to his electorate back home?

Such was the challenge for Perlman as he tried to answer the pointed questions of U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who should have been wearing a Utah sweatshirt as he spoke with BCS proponents at the Senate Judiciary subcommittee's hearing.

Obviously, the current system has been good to Perlman and other Big 12 schools. The conference has a guaranteed berth to the BCS and often has landed a spot in the national championship game. Sometimes, Big 12 teams have qualified for that game when it could be argued there are more worthy teams outside the BCS' convoluted and arcane mathematical formula.

But like their other brethren from BCS-affiliated conferences, if any teams would deserve those breaks it would be the teams from the biggest conferences. The reason is because of the week-in, week-out scheduling gauntlet these teams consistently face in their conferences.

Central to Perlman's argument is that teams like Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Florida and Ohio State routinely face a tougher schedule than schools like Utah, Boise State or Hawaii.

And he's right.

En route to the national championship game last season, Florida finished with a run of seven bowl teams in its last nine games -- including a brutal finish of games against Florida State, Alabama and Oklahoma.

Texas' nonconference schedule didn't match the Gators', but the Longhorns had a closing run of six bowl teams in their final eight games. There's no doubt the competition wore on them at the end of an especially difficult four-game swing during conference play when Texas faced Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in consecutive weeks.

And Oklahoma faced nine bowl teams over the course of its schedule, ending with a difficult stretch of Oklahoma State, Missouri and Florida.

I particularly found it interesting during the hearings Tuesday when Hatch asked Perlman what Utah could have done last season to make its case better to play for a national championship. Perlman responded that the Utes could have played a schedule like Nebraska's.

That comment elicited a quick response from Utah president Michael Young.

"I do appreciate the tremendous football team that Nebraska fields," Young told Perlman. "And I wish that they would play us."

What Young and Hatch seem to be conveniently forgetting is that Utah had an opportunity to play one of the so-called "big-boy" schools from the Big 12 last year. Namely, a game against Texas that the Utes backed out of several months before it was scheduled to be played.

For all of the accomplishments of the Utah team last season, I'm betting its argument for a shot at the national championship as an undefeated team would have gained a lot more credibility if it had beaten Texas rather than Utah State or Weber State.

Instead, Utah played two regular-season BCS opponents with a combined record of 12-13 --  Oregon State at home and the worst Michigan team in 46 years on the road. Toss in a collection of Mountain West schools dotted with home games against Utah's biggest conference challengers in TCU and BYU. The Utes' opponents' combined regular-season record was 63-69.

That's no comparison to the big boys in college football.

And it's the big reason why the mid-major teams can't really argue about why the BCS is set up like it is.

The rich do keep getting richer, but only because they face greater challenges along the way to make sure they keep their position.