- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The “little guys” have the national spotlight this week, but none of that should come as a major shock. TCU, Utah and Boise State should be household names by now.
The three programs have won and won often over the course of the past several years. They each have at least one undefeated regular season since 2004. People can argue strength of schedule all they want, but if you think it is easy to win every game no matter the opponent or conference, perhaps you should get into coaching too.
All of these teams have had their time in the spotlight, and have not cowered in the corner. All have played in BCS games. Utah has won two, including a victory over Alabama. Boise State has won two, including a memorable game over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
That game launched the Broncos into national consciousness. But many refuse to give them credit for the win because they resorted to trick plays, in what must be a sign they cannot win the good old fashioned way. But trick plays are en vogue this season -- Michigan State used two to pull out wins. LSU used a fake field goal to beat Florida. Penn State used a fake punt last week.
But that is how it is when you are a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference. Credit cannot be given because you cannot be that good when you feast on weak competition. The only reason for winning those big games is the opposition simply had nothing to play for and did not care about the game. How often have you heard that about Utah beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?
The fact is these teams win consistently, and are the only three of the non-AQs that are able to say that. Boise State has won 21 straight games, tops in the nation. If it was so easy to go undefeated every season, then perhaps more non-AQ teams would do it. TCU, Boise State and Utah have the right combination of players and coaching and have scheduled top opponents to prove their worth.
We could go through the list of teams they have played and beaten over the course of the past five years: Oklahoma, Oregon, Alabama, Virginia Tech and Michigan to name a few. Utah, for example, has 21 wins against AQ opponents since the BCS began in 1998, tied for the most by a non-AQ school with Navy. However, Utah is 21-11 (.656) in games against BCS teams, while Navy is 21-44 (.323). Sixth-year head coach Kyle Whittingham is 12-4 against BCS schools.
Here are some other important stats to remember:
Since 2004, when Utah became the first non-AQ team to play in a BCS game, the three squads have a combined 186-43 record. TCU is averaging 9.6 wins a season. Utah is averaging 9.8 wins a season. Boise State is averaging 11.5 wins a season. TCU has the lone losing season between all three in that span, going 5-6 in 2004. Their BCS record is 4-1 – the lone loss belongs to TCU at the hands of Boise State.
As for the strength of schedule argument, none of these teams is going to claim it plays a tougher schedule than an SEC team. If the national championship was about rewarding the power conferences, then why are teams like Boise State, TCU and Utah in the equation?
All they want is consideration. If everybody else played such a tough schedule, then how to explain the No. 3 computer average TCU has in the BCS standings? Two computers have TCU at No. 2. That figures to improve if the Horned Frogs beat Utah this weekend.
Several commentators have suggested that perhaps college football fans should judge the teams based on their talent and not on their schedule. Take that perspective if you tune in to TCU versus Utah or Boise State versus Hawaii on Saturday.
These are not one-hit wonders, but teams with a history of winning, and winning big games. The national spotlight should be on them this week as they try to shatter the odds and make history.
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