By Tony Softli and John Gerding
Is it strange, wrong or just downright disrespectful that Boise State and other small schools that have ranked high in both the BCS and coaches poll don’t get the respect they deserve? The Broncos are a prime example because they are shunned within the BCS computer system because of their strength of schedule. Keep in mind there are teams like Oklahoma who they beat, not to mention the Oregon Ducks who had a blemish on their record because the small powerhouse team manhandled them from the opening kickoff to the final play. It’s hard to forget that year, because LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State defender in the mouth.
Regularly, the “smaller conference” teams typically feel rejected at the end of the football season. Each year they try to make a BCS bowl but are often neglected due to the teams affiliated to them. For the Broncos, Cougars, Mustangs, Aztecs, and Knights, this could change very quickly in 2013.
Boise State is one of five schools that joined an automatic qualifying conference, the Big East. The other four are Southern Methodist, Houston, and Central Florida (each from Conference USA), and San Diego State (of the Mountain West Conference). These teams are all to be in the Big East for the 2013 season.
The additions of SMU and UCF are not as glamorous based on their record from this season: a combined 12 wins and 12 losses. However, the additions of Houston, San Diego State, and Boise State looks great with their combined record being 31-6. With these additions, the Big East becomes the first conference to span coast-to-coast through each of the four time zones.
The Big East took a major setback during this season with the losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Later in the season it looked to be on the verge of collapse with its most consistent college, West Virginia, headed to the Big 12. For now, the Big East looks safe with its five new friends.
The biggest story of the five is that the Broncos finally have found their automatic qualifying conference. Numerous years, the Broncos ended with a great record but missed out on a BCS bowl. It could be the perfect time with one more season of recruiting to go before joining the Big East. The Broncos could be in a rebuilding stage after losing senior stud quarterback Kellen Moore and strong but steady running back Doug Martin. This past season, the two of them accounted for nearly 60 scores and 5,000 offensive yards. For the players that will be freshmen next year, they’ll have one year facing Mountain West Conference opponents before turning their attention to Big East opponents. They do have one more game this season facing Arizona State in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22. Boise State is only joining with their football program.
Similarly, Houston must rely on sophomore Charles Sims’ legs to push their offense while their next quarterback takes over the offense. After they lose Case Keenum next season, they too could be in rebuilding for a year before competing in the Big East. Houston puts up a vast number of points each season. This year they played very well until their matchup against Southern Mississippi, their only loss of the season. That loss, however, cost them the opportunity to play in a BCS bowl this year. Their high octane offense should be interesting to watch against teams that are considered better on paper than their previous opponents. Keenum’s last showing will be on Dec. 22 against Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl. Houston will be joining with all their sports.
Another team losing their marquee weapon at quarterback is the San Diego State Aztecs. Ryan Lindley will head to the NFL this coming draft, and the Aztecs will look to young running back Ronnie Hillman to roll them to victory. Hillman will potentially be a well-groomed senior when the Aztecs make their first appearance in the Big East. When the Aztecs win the Big East (if they do), they’ll finally have a chance to play in a BCS bowl. The Aztecs struggled this season by allowing an average of 24 points a game on defense while posting only 30 points a game on offense. It did not slow them down however, as they will face Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 17 to finish their impressive season that currently sits at 8-4. San Diego State is only joining with their football program.
Over the past few years, Southern Methodist has consistently moved at about the same pace with seven- to eight-win seasons. With powerhouse offenses like the Broncos and Cougars coming to the Big East, there are lower expectations for the Mustangs. Hopefully this new home will help them recruit better against TCU, Texas A&M, and Texas. SMU faces Pittsburgh on Jan. 7 in the BBVA Compass Bowl. SMU will join with all their sports.
The University of Central Florida is the only team that had a losing record this year of the five entering the Big East. Last year, the Knights had an impressive win over the Georgia Bulldogs, 10-6. It was not a BCS bowl but the spirit in the stadium last year made it feel like one. The next time UCF has a season like they did last year it will be rewarded with a BCS bowl. Their team that only lost three games last year struggled to play consistent this season ending with a 5-7 record. The Knights will need to recruit players that are also looking at Florida State and Florida in order to compete. The good news is they will have two quarterbacks in their last couple years of college when they enter the Big East. Their season is over for this year. UCF will join in all sports.
The stage is set for a great show these next few years with conference realignments occurring (and doubtful that these are the last we’ll hear about). For now, everyone that follows college football will wonder if the BCS system will still be in place to make these changes relevant come the time they are set to occur in 2013.
Here is a recap of changes that officially occurred and will take place over the next couple years (Division 1 FBS).
ACC additions: Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Big 12 additions: West Virginia and TCU.
Big East additions: Boise State, Houston, UCF, SMU, and San Diego State.
MWC: Fresno State and Nevada.
MWC and MAC: Two will merge either in 2012 or 2013.
SEC additions: Texas A&M and Mizzou.
WAC additions: University of Denver, University of Seattle, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas State University-San Marcos.
These moves will make the college football landscape much different than in the past and will create exciting football from coast to coast. I look forward to watching these teams compete, and the BCS will not be able to shun them from the title game if they deserve to be in it.