This lack of respect has been a consistent theme that dates all the way back through the history of college football. But let’s take a more recent approach to this discussion and start with the BCS era. It all begins with the forefathers of the “Cinderella story” which are the Utah, TCU and Boise State.
Utah became a national name out of the Mountain West in 2004 with their undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl win over Pittsburgh, they would again rise up in 2009 to topple Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. TCU like Utah was in the Mountain West and rose back to being a national name with appearances in the Fiesta Bowl and a win against Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the prestigious Rose Bowl. However, one of these teams were not like the others. The first two were in the right place at the right time. TCU and Utah were unusually let in the club and have transitioned themselves into power five conference mainstays, the Pac 12 and Big 12 respectively. They’re the exception but definitely not the norm.
The team that was left behind? That would be the Boise State Broncos and for a number of silly reasons really. Silly reasons like being in a bad TV market or what color their field turf was and no matter who they scheduled or who they beat (Oregon and Georgia) they would be passed on. The Broncos would knock off blueblood program Oklahoma in a Fiesta Bowl appearance and then the BCS even had TCU and Boise State play each other in the Fiesta bowl which is still a head scratcher. Boise State won that game by the way.
The Broncos were the first but certainly not the last outsider to get the cold shoulder. They were however the first to get the “aw that’s cute” treatment.
Teams like Houston, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan have also made BCS and New Year’s Six appearances and in all honesty were rightfully placed in their bowl games so earning that spotlight should not be seen as a comeplete negative. This isn’t what I’m saying but what happens when that’s not enough anymore?
Insert the UCF Knights who really rose to some national respect in 2013 with their Fiesta Bowl shellacking of Baylor. They currently sit at number 10 in the country by most polls and ride a twenty game win streak. For those not keeping tabs, that’s an undefeated season in 2017 that included a Peach Bowl win over SEC West champion Aubrun, a self proclaimed National Championship and now they’re currently unbeaten in 2018.
Putting the Knights at #10 after all of that is the same “aw that’s cute” dismissive treatment that the Broncos received a decade ago. Even when the Knights beat a power five team it’s never the “right” power five team. Their fans have been called annoying and while some of that is true even their athletic director has taken to twitter to defend the program and fight for national attention.
This doesn’t just go for UCF right now either. We have Appalachian State while finally getting some love at number 25 in the country is still treated as an afterthought. USF? Undefeated but not winning by enough. Fresno State? Not ranked and often overlooked. Utah State? Barely on the radar. These are all really good football teams that on any given Saturday can hang with anyone, just ask teams like Penn State, UCLA and Michigan State and Georgia Tech.
Strength of schedule seems to be the sticking point of many detractors and some of that criticism is fair. But when you’re in the Big Ten and you’re playing teams like Rutgers and Illinois or in the Big12 where Kansas is on your yearly schedule or about the ACC which isn’t exactly murderers row for their top contenders the argument falls flat. Just this year, Buffalo (of the MAC) pounded Rutgers (of the Big Ten.)
This isn’t a conspiracy theory, it is a fact that for the people in charge of college football change comes about as easy as... (here comes the cliche’) pulling teeth. Would these programs do as well in the week to week grind of some power five schedules? It’s tough to say for sure but a select few have earned the chance to see how they stack up. The people that run college football are saying is there isn’t enough room at their table. They’ve decided to thumb their nose and direct the rest of college football to the kids table.
So when next Tuesday rolls around you know where teams like UCF will be sitting. The conference logo next to their name forces them there no matter what they do, just like they always have. What does CFP chairman Bill Hancock have to say about it?
Well at some point the kids grow up and all I’m asking is that someone slides over and makes room at the big table for one more chair. Just one.