BCS opponents have cited three programs as the poster children of the system’s fault: Boise State, Utah and TCU. Two went the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” route, and the third is rumored to do so.
But the folly of the BCS predates these three past-and-current Mountain West members reaching two of the upper tier bowls. A little mentioned casualty of the system, all the way back in its first season, was Conference USA member Tulane. Quarterback Shaun King led the Green Wave to a perfect 11-0 regular season, yet were snubbed for one of the then-four prestigious bowl berths, instead facing BYU in the Liberty Bowl (Tulane rolled, 41-27). Since, C-USA has yet to produce an unbeaten and thus fallen off the radar.
Kevin Sumlin’s Houston Cougars have blasted one opponent after another in compiling a 10-0 record. While quarterback Case Keenum has garnered plenty of individual attention, UH’s run has been treated with more of a quaint, “well isn’t that nice?” kind of attitude. Anti-BCS indignation has remained reserved for BSU. No longer. If the Cougars become the first C-USA program to reach the BCS, November 12 should be a prominently displayed date in the program’s historic annals.
An off-Saturday after the Cougars rolled Tulane Thursday night, the day began with announcement UH would host ESPN College GameDay. Such an occasion is monumental in C-USA Country, both because the league has rarely had what would be considered a nationally marquee match-up, and due to its partnership with FOX. As if the national exposure wasn’t big enough, the Cougars will be playing for BCS eligibility when SMU comes to H-Town. An interesting coincidence: SMU’s June Jones is one of five coaches to lead a non-automatic qualifier to a BCS game (Hawaii in 2007).
UH can thank Lone Star State neighbor TCU for its added GameDay significance. Though UH could conceivably end the season with two wins over ranked teams, it had an arduous climb to BCS territory with another non-AQ dominating the mountain. In something of a rubber match though, BSU was knocked off that mountain, as well as the Mountain by Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs. Patterson bested Chris Petersen — both part of that elite group of five — for a second time in the last four seasons. TCU can take credit for two-thirds of the blemishes on Boise’s resume in that same timeframe.
Little stands between the Frogs and a third straight Mountain West Conference title, and winning on Boise’s celebrated Smurf Turf must be doubly satisfying for Patterson as he exits for the Big 12. Much was made of the conference’s decision to move this game from Fort Worth to Boise after TCU’s announced intention to leave for the Big East. Patterson and quarterback Casey Pachall, who outplayed Heisman Trophy candidate Kellen Moore, leave the MWC with a D-X style crotch chop of defiance.
TCU will not reach a third consecutive BCS bowl — a pair of September losses to in-state foes Baylor and, coincidentally, SMU ensured that. But the Frogs made the sack forcing the fumble, and all UH must do now is ran it back for a touchdown.
The field ahead isn’t clear, however. SMU is stumbling, but in the regular season finale UH travels to Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane is on the opposite trajectory of SMU. Tulsa is unbeaten since September, and all but one of its wins are by double digits. The Golden Hurricane is one of the two teams that could conceivably be ranked when UH faces it — Tulsa was a top 25 team to close out 2010 and its six-game win streak is one of the nation’s 10 longest.
One of the few teams with a run longer is C-USA East leader Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are the presumed conference championship game opponent of the Tulsa-UH winner and currently ranked. USM hasn’t just been winning, but rolling off scores that would seem outrageous were UH not scoring a little bit more out West. Were it not for a shocking Week 2 loss at Marshall, Larry Fedora’s bunch would be in the BCS bowl conversation.
Certainly the path to daylight isn’t without potential tacklers, but now UH can run its own way to the promised land.