Boise State. Kansas State. Michigan State.
That’s the list of eligible teams ranked ahead of Michigan in the latest Associated Press Top 25 who did not receive a spot in a BCS bowl.
Add Baylor and TCU to that list and you’ve got all the teams ahead of Virginia Tech who were dealt the same fate on Sunday.
Yet No. 13 Michigan and No. 17 Virginia Tech (ranked 13th and 11th respectively in the BCS standings) were selected at-large to meet in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 in New Orleans.
The Hokies’ selection came as a surprise, one day after they were drubbed 38-10 by Clemson in the ACC Championship game — their second lop-sided loss to the Tigers this season. Meantime the Wolverines didn’t even make the Big Ten title game after road losses at Michigan State and unranked Iowa earlier this season. But both teams know how to sell tickets and travel, and at the end of the day, that plays a major role in which teams bowl committee’s select.
Every year the BCS system leaves one or two deserving teams outside its exclusive party. This season there are several.
Here’s a look at the teams who just missed the cut and their respective cases against the BCS...
[AP (BCS) rank precedes each team, bowl destination/opponent follows]
No. 7 (6) Arkansas (10-2) - Cotton Bowl vs. Kansas State
Sure, they’ve got two losses, and (as commentor cthokievex correctly points out) they’re not eligible for an at-large bid based on Alabama’s selection for the BCS Championship. But the Razorbacks still have reason to be miffed with the system. Their two losses came against the top two teams in the country, according to the BCS. So you could make the argument the Razorbacks — who had to play Alabama and LSU on the road, mind you — are the third best team in the country. Shouldn’t the third-best team in the country earn a BCS bowl bid? Try this transitive property calculation on for size: Arkansas beat South Carolina 44-28; South Carolina beat Clemson 34-13; Clemson beat Virginia Tech 38-10. So, in theory, the Razorbacks should beat the Hokies 65-0. But at least the BCS was following its own rules with Arkansas.
No. 8 (7) Boise State (11-1) - MAACO Bowl vs. Arizona State
The Broncos declined the opportunity to lash out at the BCS for keeping the little guy down yet again. After all, they’re used to it after being denied shots at a national title despite undefeated seasons in 2006 and 2008. Their only defeat this season came by a single point to fellow frequent snubbee TCU. Boise State won’t pout, so let ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit do it for them: “I mean, Kellen Moore, one of the most prolific QBs in the history of college football ... and we can’t get Boise State into a BCS at-large?”
No. 11 (8) Kansas State (10-2) - Cotton Bowl vs. Arkansas
The Big 12 just couldn’t get any love from the BCS this season. The Wildcats improved by leaps and bounds from last year’s 7-6 campaign with their only losses coming in consecutive weeks against Oklahoma and at Oklahoma State. They notched top-25 wins over Baylor and Texas and went on the road to beat Miami out of conference (it’s not the Wildcats’ fault that the Hurricanes were in utter disarray). If you’re looking for an entertaining team, Kansas State won’t shy away from a shootout — which means no 9-6 field-goal-fests would have resulted from their inclusion.
No. 10 (9) South Carolina (10-2) - Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska
(Also fall under the “no three teams from one conference” rule.) They finished in the top 10 and closed the regular season with a 34-13 rout of Clemson. But the Gamecocks benefited from playing in the much weaker SEC East and avoiding Alabama and LSU. Kind of like how Michigan made it through the Big Ten without playing Wisconsin or Penn State.
No. 15 (12) Baylor (9-3) - Alamo Bowl vs. Washington
With three losses on their resume, the Bears probably didn’t deserve to be in the BCS, but their wins against TCU, Oklahoma and Texas should not be overlooked. Led by Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III, Baylor boasted the nation’s second most productive offense (in terms of yardage) and was held below 30 points only twice all season. Compare that to Hokies who struggled to get past East Carolina (17-10) and Duke (14-0) and managed 13 points total in two losses to Clemson.
And we can’t leave off the team with the biggest gripe of all: Oklahoma State. Outside of an overtime loss on the road at Iowa State (on the morning after two women’s basketball coaches were killed in a plane crash), the Cowboys did everything they needed to do to get into the national championship. Their demolition of Oklahoma on Saturday night at least gave voters some pause before signing up for a second showing of that 9-6 classic back on Nov. 5.
It’s quite possible that Alabama is the second best team in the country. But they had their chance against LSU on their home field and blew it. Oklahoma State and the rest of the non-SEC football world won’t get that chance.
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