How quickly a big win can turn into a big loss -- without even playing a game.
That is the situation confronting Boise State today, now that Virginia Tech lost to James Madison this past weekend. That last thing the Broncos needed was for Virginia Tech to lose to an FCS school, particularly because the Hokies are one of the few teams on Boise State's schedule with national cache.
Boise State will absolutely take a hit to its strength of schedule, a schedule that is the weakest among the top-ranked teams in the country. Four of the six computer rankings that are used to tabulate the BCS standings release their rankings every week. Check out the disparity among them between Week 1, after the win over Virginia Tech, and Week 2, after Virginia Tech lost. These rankings have been adjusted for what the BCS will use in October.
After Week 1
Kenneth Massey: No. 42
Richard Billingsley: No. 1
Jeff Sagarin: No. 1
Colley Matrix: Tie-1, strength of schedule: 82
Massey compiled a collection of 51 college football rankings, and Boise State ranked No. 2 behind Alabama. TCU was at No. 4.
After Week 2
Massey: No. 54
Sagarin: No. 1
Billingsley: No. 2
Colley Matrix: No. 47, strength of schedule: 153.
Of 48 computer rankings Massey compiled, Boise State fell to No. 6. TCU has moved ahead, to No. 5.
“Because of the weakness of the WAC portion of the schedule, the computer element was already going to be the Achilles’ heel for Boise State in the BCS formula,” said ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards, who also coordinates college football research for ESPN. “After last weekend, it's now going to be even harder for an undefeated Boise State to be ranked ahead of major one-loss teams in the computers.
“Virginia Tech losing to James Madison was a tough break for the Broncos, but the problem was compounded by the ACC having such a miserable rest of the day on Saturday. As bad as the ACC has been out of conference so far, even if Virginia Tech bounces back and wins the league, it'll mean more to the voters than it will to the computers.
“Some humans have a short-term memory and might forget what happened in September. The computers won't.”
Boise State lost some ground to Alabama and Ohio State in the coaches' poll, which also counts one-third in the BCS standings, but remained at No. 3. The Broncos play at Wyoming this weekend and do have five games against bowl teams left on their schedule, including a game against Oregon State next weekend.
But only Oregon State is ranked, at No. 25. We all knew an undefeated Boise State team would face hurdles to getting into a national championship game over a one-loss team from an AQ conference, but now it does appear they are even greater. Add to that the growing national perception that Boise State doesn’t belong, and the Broncos can’t seem to win.
Even when they do win.
“To discount a win against a team like Virginia Tech that historically has proven that it’s a top-10 team just because they got upset … teams get upset all the time,” said WAC commissioner Karl Benson, fighting for his marquee team. “I think the experts that are now claiming that Virginia Tech win is tainted -- it’s ridiculous.”
For his part, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said he chuckled when he heard the news that Virginia Tech lost because “that’s college football.”
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” Petersen said. “People from the outside put wins and losses in the boxes before the games are completed. As a coach you know what can happen and that’s a great example of it.”
The season is two weeks old. Boise State has played one game. Nobody knows whether the Broncos will have a chance to play for a national championship. Nobody knows if Boise State will win out. Nobody knows how many teams will be undefeated at the end of the year.
No question, the odds look grimmer for Boise State today than they did a week ago. But as it stands, it should not be eliminated from national championship contention based on a loss that it had nothing to do with. Sure, it feels better to know what will happen, but at this point, all we can do is continue to guess.