What a win for TCU over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO. The Horned Frogs proved -- once again -- that the non-AQ teams have what it takes to beat teams from the power conferences in BCS games. Their win marked the fourth in five tries for non-AQ teams over teams from automatic qualifying conferences, with Hawaii posting the only loss.
So where does this one rank? I have been going back and forth debating that question in my mind this weekend. What has struck me is the way TCU has been given full credit for this win. As coach Gary Patterson said during the week leading up to the game, most of the non-AQ BCS wins have been discredited. The winners have been called lucky, and the win simply came as a result of an uninterested opponent.
He is absolutely right on that front. I have maintained the same in my posts throughout the season, believing that a win would do little to change the minds of average fans. I think this win does in a small way, because there is no way anyone can say Wisconsin did not want to be there. The Badgers gave it all they had. People may want to discredit the victory because the Big Ten went 0-5 on Saturday, but Wisconsin did everything it could to win that game.
Yet I am not ready to put this win at No. 1 in my non-AQ BCS bowl win rankings. Here they are:
1. 2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT. The iconic win that really put the non-AQs on the map. Ask anyone about Utah beating Pittsburgh and you may get a puzzled look. Ask the same about Boise State and Oklahoma, and you get the familiar refrain about the Statue of Liberty play and the Broncos taking down mighty Adrian Peterson and the Sooners. While critics discredit this win because Boise State had to resort to "trick plays" to win, this one more than all the others set the stage for the others to follow. Would TCU have made it into the Rose Bowl had things gone differently? Perhaps. But it's important to remember that the work the collective non-AQs have done in the last five years helped TCU get into that game. Both Boise State and TCU started the season ranked higher than any other non-AQ team ever had. That contributed heavily to the outcome this season. A loss to Oklahoma, and perhaps the non-AQs are not taken as seriously as they are today.
2. 2011 Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19. No doubt this is a game that became an instant classic, the way the two teams fought through four quarters, the way the TCU defense held at the last possible moment despite giving up chunks of yards on the ground. The way Andy Dalton found redemption for last year's loss in the Fiesta Bowl, playing a near-perfect game. TCU was not lucky. TCU was good, and deserved that victory. That has been evident in the postgame chatter. Finally, a non-AQ is getting credit for a victory. But what is the ultimate meaning of this game? TCU is leaving in 2012 to join the Big East and will no longer be considered an outsider. Taking down the Big Ten is every bit as laudatory as taking down the Big 12, especially because many people believed Wisconsin was one of the best teams in the country. But the non-AQ needle has already been moved. And TCU leaves Boise State alone to fight the good fight in just one season.
3. 2009 Sugar Bowl: Utah 31, Alabama 17. Incredibly, an undefeated Utah team went into this game ranked No. 7 -- further proof that the non-AQs before TCU helped pave the way for this season (undefeated TCU went into its game ranked No. 3). This one counts as a monumental win because it came against the big, bad SEC. But perhaps out of all the others, this one has been relegated to the pile of "Alabama did not care about the game." That argument is garbage to me. There is no question this one stands as a gigantic win and set the stage for TCU. Why not rank it ahead of the Rose Bowl, then? After all, nobody gave Utah much of a shot, going in as 9.5-point underdogs. TCU was favored. But the Rose Bowl was a better overall game, and came on a much grander stage, against a co-conference champion. It was the most anticipated game behind the BCS National Championship Game. For that added significance, the Rose Bowl gets the nod.
4. 2005 Fiesta Bowl: Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7. The original BCS busters played a heckuva game. Unfortunately for Utah, it came against Pittsburgh. And, no offense to Pittsburgh, but nobody really bats an eyelash when the Big East loses. This one is important because it was the first, but the opponent sends it down the list.
5. 2010 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State 17, TCU 10. Terrible statement for both teams simply because they were forced to play each other rather than a team from an automatic qualifying conference. The BCS can defend the decision all it wants, but this one was done on purpose to keep two undefeated non-AQs from potentially upsetting a team from an AQ conference. At least that's what all of us conspiracy theorists believe.