Boise State takes heat for schedule, but is Nebraska's any better?
Nebraska's slate was highlighted as gold standard at 2009 congressional hearings
With Boise State's schedule strength under fire, it's worth revisiting the comment
In 2010, the Broncos wouldn't prove anything more by playing Huskers' schedule
|CollegeBCS.com ratings in parentheses.|
|* For South Dakota State, a hypothetical ranking of 121 -- one spot lower than the lowest I-A team -- was used.|
At a 2009 congressional hearing about the BCS, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, whose home-state Utes had finished the previous season 13-0 but had no shot at playing for a national title, asked Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman (then chairman of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee) what more Utah could have done to prove its merits.
"They could have played the schedule Nebraska played," Perlman replied.
Condescending as the comment was, few could have disputed the notion that a team from the lesser-regarded Mountain West didn't play the same level of competition as a team from the Big 12 like Perlman's Huskers. Certainly not in that 2008 season, in which the Big 12 produced five teams that finished in the top 20.
But is that still the case in 2010?
With debate raging over Boise State's schedule and merits of playing in the BCS championship game, it's worth revisiting Perlman's statement. Would the Broncos -- or TCU or Utah, for that matter -- really prove that much more by playing Nebraska's 2010 schedule?
So far, No. 3 Boise State has beaten two ranked foes (Virginia Tech and Oregon State). If No. 25 Nevada continues its torrid play over the next two months, the Broncos could well face a third ranked team on Nov. 26. Meanwhile, the sixth-ranked Huskers could feasibly end up playing ... none.
Having opened the season with wins over heavyweights Western Kentucky (0-4), Idaho (2-2), Washington (1-2) and FCS member South Dakota State, the Huskers open Big 12 play next Thursday at 4-0 Kansas State, which is currently listed among the "others receiving votes" in both major polls. Nebraska's marquee game figured to come the following week against Texas, but the Longhorns' disastrous 34-12 loss to UCLA last week may have ruined that possibility. Texas plummeted from seventh to 21st in the AP poll, and it's fair to assume the 'Horns will drop out completely if they fall to No. 8 Oklahoma this weekend.
The Sooners, mind you, do not appear on Nebraska's regular-season schedule. Nor does any other team currently ranked in the AP Top 25. Missouri (which visits Nebraska on Oct. 30) and Oklahoma State (which the Huskers visit the week before) check in at Nos. 23 and 24, respectively, in the coaches' poll. If the Huskers run the table, they'd almost certainly face a ranked foe in the Big 12 title game. Beyond that, however, there are no guarantees.
Boise State's strength of schedule currently ranks 30th according to Jerry Palm's formula on CollegeBCS.com. Nebraska's ranks 96th. Obviously, that will change dramatically over the coming months when the Broncos face six WAC teams currently ranked lower than any of the Huskers' remaining foes. In terms of "body of work," there's little chance Boise will finish with a higher SOS than nearly any BCS-conference team, which is precisely the point Perlman was making and which so many fans of power-conference teams are using to discredit the Broncos' title merits.
But let's not kid ourselves. Nebraska, which most would assume a shoe-in for Glendale should it finish 13-0, is hardly staring down the same gauntlet as a team like Alabama, which has faced two ranked foes already (then-No. 18 Penn State and then-No. 10 Arkansas) and will face at least four more presently ranked teams (No. 7 Florida, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 12 LSU and No. 10 Auburn) by season's end; or Ohio State, which previously beat then-No. 12 Miami and has No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 22 Penn State, No. 17 Iowa and No. 19 Michigan still ahead. Boise State would have no realistic argument over either team if all three finished undefeated.
A popular argument among Boise detractors is that while the Broncos may be capable of beating any given team on any given week, they wouldn't survive the eight-week grind of a major-conference schedule. That may be true, but it's entirely hypothetical. The only thing we can say with reasonable certainty is that Boise would be at least a touchdown favorite against every team on Nebraska's schedule, save Texas.
Fortunately for Nebraska, this may be the last year it ever has to worry about detractors of its schedule. Upon joining the Big Ten next season, the Huskers will be assured of at least two to three (if not more) games against ranked opponents, particularly if they reach the league title game. In future years they have home-and-homes with UCLA, Miami and Tennessee.
In the meantime, Boise will deal with the unavoidable reality that, despite what Perlman said, it doesn't have the option to play Nebraska's schedule. This year, at least, it really shouldn't need to.
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