Is Connecticut the worst BCS participant ever?
I ask the question not as any kind of insult -- the Huskies won the Big East and therefore deserve their bid as much as any one else -- but merely to try and settle the issue. After all, several critics have already called UConn the worst BCS team ever. Let's take a closer examination and see whether that title is accurate.
At 8-4, the Huskies are just the fourth team ever to make a BCS game (the first year of the current BCS system was 1998) with that many losses. The others are all, not surprisingly, from the ACC:
2008 Virginia Tech: 9-4 (Orange)
2005 Florida State: 8-4 (Orange)
2002 Florida State: 9-4 (Sugar)
Here are some other teams with shaky records who made BCS games:
2007 Illinois: 9-3 (Rose)
2004 Pittsburgh: 8-3 (Fiesta)
2000 Purdue: 8-3 (Rose)
1999 Stanford: 8-3 (Rose)
1998 Syracuse: 8-3 (Orange)
Of course, Connecticut is the first team to make a BCS game while not being ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings. The other lowest-ranked teams to make it are:
2005 Florida State: 22nd
1999 Stanford: 22nd
2001 Pittsburgh: 21st
2008 Virginia Tech: 19th
So let's use those four as our main comparisons. A closer look at the debits and credits of each:
2005 Florida State: The Seminoles lost three of their final four regular-season games but still got the ACC bid. To their credit, they beat three ranked teams -- Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech -- before losing to Penn State 26-23 in three overtimes in the Orange Bowl.
1999 Stanford: The Cardinal averaged more than 40 points a game in Pac-10 play. They also lost by 42 to Texas in the opener, dropped a home game to San Jose State and beat one ranked team: UCLA. The Pac-10 was weak that year. Stanford scored just nine points in losing to Wisconsin 17-9 in the Rose Bowl.
2004 Pittsburgh: Big East fans remember the Panthers winning a four-way tie in the Big East, watered down by the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech the year before. Pitt beat one ranked team: Boston College, in overtime. The Panthers lost 35-7 to Utah in the Fiesta Bowl.
2008 Virginia Tech: The Hokies opened with a loss to East Carolina and dropped three of four during conference play. But they won their final three regular-season games, knocked off a ranked BC team in the ACC title game, then beat Cincinnati 20-7 in the Orange Bowl.
Conclusion: UConn doesn't have much to hang its hat on, but it doesn't look too much different than that 2004 Pitt team, or much less accomplished than the 1999 Stanford team. Like that Pitt team, Connecticut won a multi-way tiebreaker in a mediocre Big East, and its lone win over a ranked team came in conference play in overtime (the Huskies beat West Virginia). Like Pitt, UConn is going to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, too.
Ultimately, the case may be decided by the BCS bowl performance. If UConn is more competitive in its BCS game than that 2004 Pitt team, the Huskies will have a strong argument for being better than those Panthers.
Now here comes the bad news for Connecticut: Of the eight other teams mentioned in this post, only one (2008 Virginia Tech) won its BCS game -- and the Hokies did so while beating a Big East team to boot. History is not kind to the Huskies' chances against Oklahoma.