There's a scene from the first season of Eastbound and Down where Kenny Powers meets his new boss, Terrence, and Terrence tells him that he's an athlete, too.
Terrence: You're not the only athlete here at Jeff Davis. I happen to be training for a triathlon right now. Doing a lot of running, and cycling, swimming... You know all about that.
Kenny: No, actually, I don't. I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising.
And for some reason, that scene comes to mind whenever I hear people rambling on about how much Boise State or TCU deserve a title shot. Because there are degrees of competition. And if you want to be politically correct about it, then yeah, a triathlete is the same as a pro baseball player. But if you want to be honest about it, we're talking about apples and oranges.
Same with comparing an SEC or Big Ten team to a team like Boise State, whose toughest game of the year came against Virginia Tech, a team that lost to James Madison a week later.
Ohio State president Gordon Gee was just being honest:
"I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there's some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame."
It's easy to recoil at this exclusionary logic, as our own Holly Anderson did when writing about this topic earlier, but... What if he's right?
The great challenge of college football isn't necessarily winning the big game. Nobody's saying that Boise State or TCU would get run off the field by one of these bigger schools. But the challenge facing a team like Ohio State (or LSU or Wisconsin or Auburn or... Any of 'em, really) is winning week-in and week-out against teams for whom it's the biggest game of the year, and the difference in talent isn't that dramatic.
Surviving that gauntlet, even if the teams aren't that amazing on paper, is what makes a team worthy of the National Championship. The close calls rarely come in the biggest games. The throwaway games, like when Auburn played Kentucky this year, are often the biggest tests of a team's mettle. When people say BCS Conferences are "a whole different ballgame" it's often dismissed as condescending horses**t from the college football establishment, but it shouldn't be.
There are very real challenges in the SEC and Big Ten that just don't exist for Boise or TCU.
For instance, the past seven games for Boise State have come against New Mexico State, Toledo, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, Idaho, and Fresno State. In the same time frame, LSU has beaten Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss, and Alabama, with their only loss coming at Auburn, the top-ranked team in the country.
This week, LSU plays at Arkansas, and Boise State plays at Nevada.
So who really deserves to get more credit than they're given by the BCS?
I like real college football. Not trying to see who's the best at beating horrible teams.