COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team made a move last week that could dramatically improve its chances of making a Bowl Championship Series game in the coming years, and it had nothing to do with the commitment of five-star recruits, big-name coaching hires or a secret pact with BCS bowl officials.
Rather, the Tigers announced a partial future schedule of their nonconference opponents that included more cream puffs than a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Beating down on inferior schools will certainly devalue the Tigers’ future schedule, but it’s the perfect recipe for success in the flawed BCS system.
The Tigers announced on Dec. 12 that they will host Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) McNeese State in 2010, fellow FCS-er Western Illinois in 2011, and play a home-and-home series against Toledo, a team in the non-BCS Mid-American Conference, in 2013 and ’14.
In addition to those college football juggernauts, the Tigers are also slated to play powerhouses like Southeast Missouri, Nevada, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Southern Methodist University and Wyoming over the next five years.
Two years ago, teams of this caliber might have posed a problem for the Tigers (they lost to New Mexico in 2005 and Troy in 2004), but if this year is any indication, Missouri has reached a new level and should be good enough to avoid stumbling against lesser foes.
The only team from a BCS conference that the Tigers play in their future nonconference schedule is Illinois, which the Tigers are contracted to play the first week of each season until 2010. If MU officials would have known that the Illini were going to be as good as they were this season (9-3 and playing in the Rose Bowl), it’s likely those officials would have never signed on the dotted line.
That’s because the BCS system rewards teams based on the bottom line rather than the body of work. Why risk the possibility of losing to a great Georgia team, which the Tigers flirted with scheduling a home-and-home series with earlier this year, when you can trounce Buffalo by 30 and get that sure W?
Beating down on overmatched opponents will be exactly what the Tigers need to make sure they aren’t again left out of the BCS in the coming years.
Think that’s crazy? Just look at how the BCS games shook out this year.
Kansas finished the year 11-1 but beat just one ranked team (then-No. 24 Kansas State), lost to the Tigers on a neutral field and played flimsy nonconference opponents that combined for a 17-31 record.
Ohio State also finished 11-1, but played an equally lousy nonconference schedule against Youngstown State, Akron, Washington and Kent State. The Buckeyes’ only loss came at home to Illinois (who Missouri beat on a neutral field), and they didn’t have to play in a conference championship (the Big Ten doesn’t have one).
Missouri, meanwhile, played two BCS-conference schools in its nonconference schedule (Illinois and Ole Miss), beat then-No. 2 Kansas to win the Big 12 North Division and had to play Fiesta Bowl-bound Oklahoma twice. The Tigers finished the year 11-2, with their only losses coming to the Sooners.
Based on head-to-head wins and quality victories, it’s clear the Tigers should have been invited to a BCS bowl game. But when the BCS made its selections, MU was left out in the cold like a lost dog while KU was filling out its RSVP to the Orange Bowl.
And while two-loss teams like USC, Oklahoma and Georgia played a much harder schedule, Ohio State got the nod to play in the national championship against LSU.
So why did Missouri get the shaft? The reason is simple, according to Larry Wahl, the Orange Bowl’s vice president of media and public relations.
“With Kansas, we had an opportunity to take one of only two one-loss teams,” Wahl told the Missourian on Dec. 4.
That, coupled with Missouri’s three-touchdown loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference championship, convinced the Orange Bowl to pick Kansas over the Tigers, even though the Jayhawks lost to the Tigers and finished two spots lower than Missouri in the BCS standings.
The BCS is flawed for many reasons. Picking all of them out is like trying to pinpoint where Britney Spears’ career went wrong, there’s just too many to choose from.
The BCS contends that each week in the regular season is like a playoff, but when teams play patsies to avoid losing, the regular season becomes almost as big a joke as the BCS bowl games themselves.