Saturday night's 38-7 home loss to TCU bounced BYU from the Top 25 polls and the BCS Standings after a lengthy streak of poll appearances dating back to November 18, 2007.
BYU had appeared in every AP and Coaches' poll and BCS Standings tally from that date until yesterday, when BYU was no longer counted among the nation's elite. BYU's poll streak ends at 29--the school's second-longest run, behind a 35 week streak (from 1984 through 1986).
BYU had also appeared in 12 consecutive BCS Standings lists--the last three lists of 2007, all eight releases in 2008, and the first of 2009.
The path is cleared for TCU to play in a BCS bowl game; all the Frogs need to do is run the table to finish the regular season. Four of the Frogs' five remaining games are against UNLV, SDSU, Wyoming and New Mexico, but the game with Utah is the red flag in Fort Worth.
While TCU clearly gets up for BYU and puts an incredible amount of time, effort and focus into beating the Cougars, the Utes are the Frogs' achilles heel.
TCU is 1-3 against Utah since joining the MWC, with the one win a disputed overtime affair in 2005. The Frogs have lost three in a row to the Utes, and last year's game in Salt Lake City was one the Frogs had seemingly won, yet somehow lost. You would think if TCU plays against Utah the way it did against BYU, the Frogs would beat the Utes. But clearly, the Utes are in the Frogs' heads right now--if it's a close game, Utah could stage the upset.
And don't look now, but Utah has an outside shot at playing in a third BCS bowl game this season. It could be as simple as the Utes running the table and Boise State losing a game. It's unlikely the Broncos will lose, but should they slip up, Utah wins over a top ten TCU team and a potentially ranked BYU squad would bolster a resume that is already well-recognized by the BCS computers (Utah's average computer rank is 15th currently).
It's a serious longshot, but at 16th in the BCS Standings, the Utes only need to move up four spots and pass two teams (TCU and Boise State) to qualify for a second-consecutive BCS bowl bid.
With BYU's BCS bowl hopes dashed for another year, the Cougars are all but a lock for the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. Assuming TCU qualifies for a BCS bowl, Utah would be ticketed for the Las Vegas Bowl, leaving the Poinsettia people to bring the Cougars back to San Diego for their first bowl game there since the Holiday Bowl of 1993.
MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson more or less stated that the Las Vegas Bowl would look elsewhere after having BYU play at Sam Boyd in four consecutive December games; Utah would be the likely alternative.
While anything but a BCS bowl bid would be a letdown for TCU, if the Frogs fail to run the table, their December destination would come down to the typical consideration of geographic and economic factors.
As of today, here are my MWC bowl projections:
BCS Bowl: TCU
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU
Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force
New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State
Humanitarian Bowl: Colorado State
I'm not a huge advocate of the current bowl system--not since bowl games proliferated to a point at which practically every half-decent team in the country is ticketed for a holiday destination.
Despite the desire to reward some of these teams for not finishing under .500 ("Congratulations, you managed to avoid a losing season!"), many of these honored teams "don't want to be there," and that in and of itself is perhaps the most unfortunate by-product of the bowl bonanza.
Even teams playing in certain BCS bowls lack proper motivation (see Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl), underscoring the convoluted nature of college football's postseason.
College football suffers from the contrast with college basketball, a sport in which literally every team has a shot to play for something truly meaningful, in part by virtue of conference tournaments and postseason tournaments.
In these playoffs, the best teams usually prove themselves, the lesser lights often shine for days or weeks, but the games always mean something.
Most college bowl games function as little more than exhibitions, coming weeks after the regular season's end--a truly unusual element not present in any other major sport, especially when asking teams to perform at an optimum level.
And lately, most bowl matchups are so rigidly contracted by conference and region, that even the bowl games' previous appeals of novelty and competitive excellence have been diluted.
Now, you often get tie-ins pitting familiar leagues, placing six-win teams in regularly-visited venues, and there is little variety and less anticipation involved in playing or covering that kind of game.
The BCS and upper-tier bowls are still attractive games, and there are certain matchups that really do "move the needle" with teams, fans and media alike.
Indeed, bowl games can be beneficial--especially to teams and conferences cashing BCS bowl checks, and for coaches with bowl bonuses in their contracts. Additional practice time is granted bowl teams, and players get a chance to have some bowl-related fun and pick up a few nice gifts from the game's sponsors.
Clearly, communities and charities benefit from these games, and the games themselves are often very entertaining. I just think that if you're going to go through the process of organizing these contests, it would be nice to attach come significance to them--and not just some of them, but all of them.
The easiest way to do this would be to incorporate the existing bowls into a playoff system, but no one seems willing to even explore, let alone promote that idea.
So, we are stuck with a sport that stages its exhibition season after its most meaningful games, instead of before--which is kind of an annual letdown, as intriguing as a potential meeting of Rutgers versus Central Florida in St. Petersburg might otherwise appear.