The big theme for Boise State and TCU after their “unconvincing” wins this past weekend was style points. As in: both earned big, fat zeroes.
Never mind that they both won their games to remain undefeated. TCU ended up dropping one spot to No. 5 because it beat SMU 41-24. Oregon moved into the No. 4 spot after beating Arizona State 42-31 on the road.
But how much will style points really help TCU and Boise State? I am inclined to believe the answer is: not at all.
Style points have long been a source of debate in college football. They have to be, since there is no fair way to determine a national champion. When your entire formula for deciding the champ comes down to a bunch of computers crunching numbers and humans voting, your body of work must be judged against another team. Several other teams, really.
That is where the beautiful style points come into play. But in this case, Boise State and TCU are already behind in perception because of their conferences and schedules, so style points are not going to put them into a national championship game.
Raise your hand if you think Boise State and TCU winning the rest of their games 100-0 will put them into the top 2 at the end of the season? My hand is down at my side, simply because there is the continuing perception that they play a weaker schedule than everybody else. There is a perception that a one-loss SEC team or a one-loss Big 12 team deserves a spot ahead of them in the rankings.
Several folks on my live chat Monday asked why Nebraska can get away with a close win over South Dakota State with nary a batted eye, but a win for Boise State over a team from the Pac-10 has folks believing it is not as good as advertised. The reason is twofold: this was the final game against an automatic qualifying opponent for Boise State. Then there is the perception that the Big 12 is somehow better. Even though one of its marquee teams just got smoked at home, another lost to an FCS team, and still another lost badly to TCU.
The WAC and Mountain West each have more wins (four) over automatic qualifying opponents than the Big East (one) and the ACC (three). Both non-AQ leagues are ranked ahead of the Big East and ACC in the latest ESPN.com conference power rankings. But it is the weak sisters of the conference who dominant the prevailing school of thought for those conferences.
That is why I am not sure style points matter. If TCU had beaten SMU 40-0, does it hold on to the No. 4 spot ahead of Oregon? Maybe. Maybe not. But Boise State and TCU are not moving up until another team loses, no matter how pretty they look on the field.
Neither coach much cares for the style point factor, so you will not see them running up the score this season. TCU coach Gary Patterson actually publicly apologized to Tennessee Tech after his team scored a late touchdown and won 62-7 earlier this month, saying, “I didn't mean to score the last touchdown. We don't do style points. We didn't throw the ball in the fourth quarter. That's not the program we are, period.”
Boise State had the ball late in the fourth quarter at the Oregon State 21 but called three straight running plays and settled for a field goal to go up 37-24.
I asked Boise State coach Chris Petersen Monday about the idea of needing style points and he said, “What we’re trying to do is win the game and really play at the highest level we can possibly play at. We’re not worried about style points at all. We’re worried about getting better and playing good football. Certainly not style points or things that we can’t control.”
He was asked a follow-up on whether there was pressure to put up style points, given the scrutiny that always follows his team. “I don’t know if it’s pressure but it’s just not what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’re trying to win the game and play as well as we can and after that it doesn’t matter.”
He is right about one thing -- it doesn’t matter, not for Boise State and TCU.