No BCS Guarantee At 12-0

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - October 24, 2007
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Five games, six weeks and six positions separate UH from the biggest game in its history. Even if the Warriors finish 12-0, it could still be close. If they go 11-1, it’s over.

Whether or not UH athletic director Herman Frazier or anyone else close to the program wants to admit it, Hawaii’s schedule has been its Achilles heel. Through seven weeks of the season, its opponents have a combined 11-35 record, which includes two Div. 1-AA schools that have won only three of 13 games. UH wasn’t ranked 18 in the first BCS poll because there were 17 better teams, but because for all their talent and ability to pull out late-game victories, the University of Hawaii has not proved itself against quality opponents - that and the fact that the BCS polling is a witches’ brew of the bizarre and unknown. Somewhere in their final four games - New Mexico State is not going to help - UH will need a signature victory to convince voters and computer programmers that there is more to the team than blowout wins vs. weak opponents.

A year ago Boise proved that a team from the lowly WAC can make it into a BCS bowl so long as they are held to a higher standard than the automatic qualifiers. The Broncos’ defeat of Oregon State in the second week of the season gave notice that Boise was more than just a good little football team - to steal a line from the Illinois coaching staff prior to the 1992 Holiday Bowl versus Hawaii. Boise’s cause was also helped by the Beavers’ wins over No. 3 USC, Oregon and No. 24 UH. If Hawaii can produce a sound victory against Boise State Nov. 23 at Aloha Stadium, it will virtually guarantee the Warriors a berth. Unfortunately for UH, Boise has only Fresno State ahead to help pump up its schedule. Hawaii, however, would get an added bump with a win over Fresno, especially if the Bulldogs can defeat Kansas State the following week.

The Warriors are going to need help, and they just might get it as the teams from 17 to 10 will have a hard time maintaining their positions. (rankings as of Oct. 18).

Auburn (No. 17) plays Alabama at home and finishes with Georgia on the road while Missouri (No. 16) has Texas A&M sandwiched between two road games against Colorado and Kansas State. Florida - the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country - could slip out of BCS contention with road games against Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina. With three games remaining against top 12 teams, USC (No. 14) has the toughest road to the BCS. No. 13 Kansas has the easiest with only A&M in their path. Cal has Arizona State (No. 10) and USC, Virginia Tech (No. 11) comes out of the gate with Boston College (No. 3) and finishes against Virginia (No. 19) and No. 10 Oregon must get past USC and Arizona State. Things could get even more interesting once the conference championships come around.

Even with all the speed bumps ahead for the competition, Hawaii will not just walk into a BCS game. Just as UH has been hurt by the weak teams it has had to play, its chances will also be hampered by its recent inactivity that will see the Warriors play once in a 28-day period. With only one game in three weeks, it is not inconceivable that Hawaii could drop in the polls, making reaching the top 12 even more difficult. The best case scenario would have Hawaii moving up two slots during that time, leaving the Warriors four spots back with four to play. Aone position bump or the status quo is more likely.

Common sense would suggest that it is the big-time schools from the power conferences that stand as Hawaii’s biggest hurdles. Sadly, that role is reserved for the BCS itself. The Bowl Championship Series is a exclusive organization whose purpose is to maintain the economic power of the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10, SEC, ACC, Big East and Notre Dame. Part of the process is to award a mythical national championship to member conferences by writers who have not played the game, coaches who don’t watch the games and computers that, well, who knows what they do.

The BCS uses six computer-based ranking systems that take into account a number of factors to determine who is better than whom. According to Jeff Sagarin, UH is the 31st best team in the country. Anderson & Hester rate the Warriors at 28, Richard Billingsley 30, Colley Matrix 20, Kenneth Massey 57 and Dr. Peter Wolfe believes that there are only 11 teams better than UH. Feeling confident in the system yet?

Regardless of the opponents or where they finish in the polling hierarchy, an undefeated University of Hawaii should be granted a berth in the BCS. But nothing is guaranteed, and showing love to the university has never been a big priority. The 1992-93 Wahine basketball team was left out of the NCAAtournament even with a 28-4 record and first place finish in the Big West. Things weren’t any better in 2001 when a 9-3 Warrior football team was shut out of bowl participation, nor in 2002 when UH was stripped of its national volleyball title.

If Hawaii is going to follow in Boise State’s footsteps, it’s going to have to play better and get a bit lucky. They’re also going to have to be perfect. New Mexico State, Fresno and Washington shouldn’t be too much trouble, but Boise and Nevada will be a test. The Broncos have dominated the WAC since their induction and Hawaii has never won in Reno. Plus, Colin Kaepernick was simply terrifying with his Vince Young-type performance against Boise, and one has to wonder if Hawaii can slow him down.

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