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COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Denial, anger and, finally, acceptance for TCU, Boise


It seems clear now that Texas Christian and Boise State are not victims of an illegal cabal conspiring to keep them out of the BCS national-title game.

We know this because TCU at this moment might be one Texas defeat from playing in this season's national title game.

TCU and Boise State, after having fought for years for their rights, are now fully accredited, card-carrying members of the silliest system ever concocted to determine a champion.

The Bowl Championship Series might be dumb, but it doesn't seem (anymore) to be discriminatory.

TCU might end up on the outside looking in, for sure, if undefeated Florida or Alabama plays undefeated Texas for the BCS title in the Rose Bowl.

But TCU would be no different than Auburn, which went unbeaten and won the Southeastern Conference title in 2004 but got squeezed out by USC and Oklahoma. Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville ordered championship rings for his players anyway -- and everyone walked away unhappy.

Welcome, TCU and Boise, to the botched-up big leagues.

If five schools end up without a loss, and TCU and Boise State are two of them, chalk it up to the usual "what, are you kidding me?"

There were five undefeated teams in 2004.

It used to be argued by anti-BCS folks that there was a glass ceiling that would never allow a "non-BCS" school to rise to the No. 6 automatic qualifying spot afforded the "little guys."

Then, Utah busted through at No. 6 in 2004, and the BCS has since relaxed the qualification to a top-12 ranking.

TCU is a solid fourth in the latest BCS rankings with Boise State holding steady at No. 6.

If this was two years ago, when one-loss Ohio State played two-loss Louisiana State for the BCS title, there's no doubt an undefeated TCU team as good as this one would have been in the game.

It is likely that schools such as TCU and Boise State were not given their due by pollsters of the past, but that doesn't seem true anymore.

TCU and Boise State are first-class, top-six programs being subjectively judged on merit against other undefeated teams.

TCU has played at an incredibly high level this year, in a borderline BCS conference, the Mountain West, against a nonconference schedule that included wins at Virginia and Clemson.

After TCU's 55-28 win over Utah on Saturday in Fort Worth, Utes Coach Kyle Whittingham remarked of the Horned Frogs, "I've been a head coach for five years and that is the best team that I've faced."

Keep in mind Utah played Alabama in last year's Sugar Bowl.

Believe it or not, Orrin Hatch, TCU is knocking on heaven's door.

The Horned Frogs' national-title hopes now seem to hinge on Texas' losing one of its last three games, against Kansas, Texas A&M and against the Big 12 North champion in the conference title game.

An undefeated Cincinnati, with a win over Pittsburgh, could threaten TCU from the rear, but this is a year when voters need to mitigate the circumstances and put TCU in the game.

The chants in Fort Worth should be "Go Texas' opponent!" and "Go Pitt!"

The BCS has come a long way from 1998, when undefeated Tulane finished No. 10 in the final standings, and 1999, when undefeated Marshall finished No. 12.

"I think we made a big statement," TCU quarterback Andy Dalton said after Saturday's win over Utah.

We all saw it.

If respect had to be grudgingly earned through the years, TCU and Boise State have now, at long last, earned it.

Weekend wrap

* The postgame exchange. Pete Carroll clearly was not happy with Jim Harbaugh when the coaches met after Saturday's USC-Stanford game. A review of television footage indicated Carroll said something that ended with "are you all right?" to which Harbaugh responded, "I'm great, what's your deal?"

There was no doubt what Harbaugh said earlier as he walked toward midfield: "Hey, look at them all running in," he remarked of USC players fleeing the floor of the Coliseum, "Look at them all running in."

* Sliver of hope: Even the Pac-10 office thought USC was mathematically eliminated from Rose Bowl consideration until Bud Withers of the Seattle Times found a wacky scenario in which the Trojans would make it in a six-way tie at 6-3. It involves, among many things, Oregon State losing this week at Washington State.

* Arizona might be 6-0 in Pac-10 play if not for two fluke plays. The Wildcats lost at Washington on Oct. 10 when a Nick Foles pass bounced off the foot of his receiver into the arms of a Washington defender, who raced for the winning touchdown. Saturday against Cal, with Arizona driving for a possible game-winning field goal, Foles' third-down pass caromed off the hand of a Bears defender back to Foles, who threw an illegal forward pass that penalized Arizona out of field-goal range. "I've never seen two games like this, ever," Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes told the Arizona Daily Star after Cal's 24-16 win.

* According to a cursory records check, the last time USC lost a game by more than 30 points on the same day UCLA won by 30 or more was Nov. 20, 1954, when the Bruins defeated the Trojans, 34-0.

* Upside down: Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, which rank in the all-time top 10 for victories, are a combined 17-14. Meanwhile, Temple, Navy and Rutgers are a combined 23-7.

* Good thing he was born to run: Bruce Springsteen opened a concert in Michigan on Friday by mistakenly saying "Hello, Ohio!" Ohio State plays at Michigan on Saturday.

* Tough up the middle: The Pacific 10 has five schools ranked in this week's BCS standings but no team in the top 10. Oregon leads the way at No. 11, followed by Stanford (17), USC (18), Oregon State (19) and California (25).


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