You know why we’re here. A non-power team is undefeated and looked good against what an Ohio State admin once called the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Since the advent of the BCS and the College Football Playoff, allegedly meant to ensure everyone in FBS can earn a title shot, the decision makers simply look at schedule and see that the mid-major/non-AQ/Group of 5 nobody has only faced fellow nobodies.
If the undefeated nobody then beats a somebody in the bowl that follows, the landmark victory gets explained away, so we can start all over.
The Green Wave put up a whole heapin’ helpin’ of points, being held under 28 only once. This season put head coach Tommy Bowden and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez on the map — albeit while beating nobodies.
They didn’t crack the top 10 in either the AP Poll or the BCS that year. Tulane’s president at the time was pissed.
When Tulane was not invited to a Bowl Championship Series game after its perfect season, university President Scott Cowen made it his mission to reform college athletics, holding lectures and press conferences and writing opinion pieces on the matter. He formed the Presidential Coalition for Athletics Reform, aiming to eliminate the BCS and move to a playoff system so teams like the Green Wave, a Conference USA member, would have the opportunity to play for the national championship.
Our Bill Connelly re-ranked all the teams in 1998 by S&P+, and Tulane came in 25th. So while this team wasn’t exactly awesome, it still never got the chance to play anyone of merit.
Chad Pennington’s Thundering Herd beat a hapless Clemson to open the season and lambasted every other team, besides a close shave in the MAC title game. This would be the second time in a row BYU would be torched by the undefeated mid-major in a bowl.
But unfortunately, they played nobodies too, so they could only get as high as tenth in the BCS standings.
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden, who watched his Tigers lose to all three of the undefeated teams during the regular season, had a unique take on the Herd’s position on the outside looking in at the big-time bowl berths. “Well, they’d be competitive against either one of those teams,” Bowden told Berkow for the article a week before the final BCS selections. “Do they have the depth of talent to win? I’m not sure. It would be fun to see, though, wouldn’t it?”
Look, it’s not my fault that when Marshall came up to FBS (then Division I-A) in 1996, they couldn’t immediately join a power conference.
Before Urban Meyer was at Florida or Ohio State, he was leading Utah almost into the top 5 with quarterback Alex Smith. The Utes would get to No. 6 in the BCS after beating a schedule of nobodies.
The Utes would actually crack the BCS bubble and make the Fiesta Bowl against Pitt. But the Panthers were an unremarkable Big East champ at 8-3. Utah beat them like a drum anyway, 35-7.
That means the Utes forced the BCS to let them play a somebody, but got a relative nobody, whom they treated as such.
2006 Boise State
The champion of beating nobodies, the Broncos ran through their schedule undefeated, but in a twist, got somebody in the Fiesta Bowl: a top-10 Oklahoma.
Instead of playing the Sooners with honor, the Broncos used underhanded trick plays to win in overtime. Clearly they had to resort to dastardly deeds to beat a somebody, unable to do so straight up.
The Warriors were fun against nobodies. They got to 12-0, the wild season’s only undefeated team, just like Boise State the year before.
But they got to the Sugar Bowl and played a somebody: a Georgia that very well could’ve won the national title. Guess what happened:
Georgia took a 7-0 lead on its first drive and got to 41-3 before a couple of garbage-time scores.
The Dawgs were better, and it showed. Their strength was clear on the defensive line, and they won the turnover battle. UGA pinned its ears back against an offense that was already pass-heavy, registering eight sacks and forcing six turnovers.
This result would be used for years to argue that nobodies should never get to play somebodies. Nevermind what happened the year prior and the year after.
No Alex Smith, no problem, as the Utes eked out an undefeated schedule with some close calls.
One win that wasn’t close? The 31-17 beating of Nick Saban’s Alabama. Right before Saban really got it cranked up, his team came within a game of going to the 2009 title game. Instead, its consolation prize was Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
This one established the other thing we say whenever nobodies beat somebodies: the somebody team just didn’t care. So media members who constantly overrate SEC teams gave Utah way too much credit for beating a snoozing Tide squad.
More shocking than the final score looks. The 9.5-point-underdog mid-majors cracked open a 21-0 lead as FOX Sports’ Daryl Johnston could only repeat, “Wow! Wow!” on air. The Utes leaped from AP No. 7 to final No. 2, with 16 first-place votes.
2009 Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State
The Bearcats did the unthinkable, getting to No. 3 in the BCS rankings. Right behind them were the Horned Frogs at No. 4. At No. 5 was Boise State.
The Bearcats got waxed by Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Losing coach Brian Kelly before the game would’ve been a fine excuse for a somebody, but nobodies never get to explain anything away.
TCU and Boise State were stuck playing each other, rather than getting to face somebodies. Congrats on winning the nobody national title, Broncos.
The Horned Frogs again trounced nobodies, but beat a big somebody in the Rose Bowl.
What’s the excuse for this one? I dunno. Maybe just make TCU a somebody and forget this happened.
2016 Western Michigan
Winners of the MAC with a 13-0 record, the Broncos got to the Cotton Bowl and became the first Group of 5 program to make a New Year’s Six Bowl undefeated.
Head coach P.J. Fleck was resigned to the Cotton Bowl fate and accepted gracefully his team’s snub. They could barely crack the top-15 of the Playoff rankings and then lost to Wisconsin, thereby proving forever that nobodies should never get to play for titles. Nevermind the the next entry on this list.
The 2017 Knights ducked a hurricane-scuttled game against Georgia Tech, thus not having to play a Power 5 opponent until the Peach Bowl. Standard excuse for the upset: Auburn didn’t care.
The Knights then had the audacity to call themselves national champs, all because of little things like “being undefeated” and “having a transitive victory over the entire National Championship.”
But the season was a blip on the radar, despite the fact that the program just a few years before won a Fiesta Bowl over Baylor. Scott Frost was the only reason UCF won, as revealed by his four victories in a single season at Nebraska.
Somehow, UCF went undefeated once more. But they did it with the 83rd-ranked schedule. It doesn’t matter that they had another Power 5 game nixed due to weather. They finished behind two-loss teams in the Playoff rankings again.
The evidence is clear: nobodies shouldn’t get to play somebodies, and if they do, the result either proves this correct or was a total fluke.
The bar should be sky high for these teams, because why should the sport be inclusive of all 130 teams despite having a system that claims to do so?
Hey, the non-powers signed up to be in FBS many years ago. When you think about it, maybe this is all their fault to begin with.