Mid Majors Update

At the beginning of the season, I wrote a piece on the Mid Majors. With the college football regular season completed for the most part, I felt it was time to revisit these teams and throw in a couple new ones.

Louisville, Boise St., Pittsburgh, Fresno St., Utah, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), UTEP, and Wyoming were the teams that received votes in the preseason polls. In addition, TCU has gotten a good deal of praise this year, and Toledo received some consideration as well.

Clearly, unlike last year when Utah, Louisville, and Boise St. were causing BCS headaches, none of these teams have the record to warrant BCS bowl consideration although Fresno State was close until last week. Since the BCS bowls are out of the question for all of these teams, its worth looking at whether these teams would be even mid tier in a BCS conference. How would these teams fare against a BCS conference schedule? For reference, the teams below hold the middle of the pack in the BCS conferences (once again the Big East’s status as a BCS conference has been revoked).

SEC – South Carolina/Tennessee
Big 10 – Iowa
Big 12 – Nebraska/Missouri
ACC – Clemson/NC State
Pac 10 – Arizona St./Stanford

Louisville – with wins over 3 BCS teams (Kentucky, Oregon State, and North Carolina), the Cardinals have the best resume of this group. However, upon closer inspection, those 3 teams have combined for 13 wins. The blowout win over UNC does look impressive on paper even though the Tar Heels were only 5-6 on the year. On the other hand, the 31 point loss to South Florida negates any quality points Louisville might have gained from that win. Bottom line: Although Louisville was 1-2 versus teams with winning records, they are a decent team, and might be competitive with the group of teams in the middle of the BCS conferences. However, even bad teams in BCS conferences wouldn’t get blown out by South Florida.

Boise St. – Quite a few people thought the Broncos would come out from between the hedges with a quality win over a “rebuilding� Georgia team. While Georgia was replacing several superstars, they embarrassed an experienced Boise St. team 48-13 with a season high scoring total. Boise St. also lost to a marginal Oregon St. team before eking out victories over Hawaii and Portland St. by 3 and 7 points respectively. Fresno St. then throttled the Broncos a few weeks back. Bottom line: A loss to Georgia is excusable; however, that game exposed the immense talent gap between a good BCS team and a top mid-major. Further, no decent, or even bad, BCS conference team would let Portland St. within 7. Boise St. would fall near the bottom of any BCS conference.

Pittsburgh (5-6) – This team has one win over a team with a winning record (USF). Losses to Rutgers and Ohio are bad and downright inexcusable. Bottom line: This team would be near the bottom of any BCS conference.

Fresno St. (8-3) – Everyone got really excited about this team early, and it was tough to figure out why. FSU’s first 8 games include one win over a team with a winning record (Toledo), 5 wins against teams who finished this season with 4 or fewer wins, 1 win over a IAA team, and a loss to Oregon. After watching the USC game, I’ll acknowledge that this is a well coached team; however, the talent gap was also extremely obvious in the game, and no respectable BCS conf. team would lose to Nevada. Bottom line: The Bulldogs are probably good enough to get out of the cellar in a BCS conference, but wouldn’t finish in the top half of most BCS conferences. Side note: Before anyone jumps on the Nevada bandwagon, the other Wolfpack lost to Washington State, Colorado St., and Boise St. by an average of 30 points.

Utah (6-5) – Many people thought Meyer had built a program here; however, with one win, in overtime, over a team with a winning record, the Utes aren’t exactly impressive this year. Bottom line: A victory of a 3 – 8 Arizona team may be the best win, but this team would be at the bottom of any BCS conference.

Bowling Green (6-5) – Another huge disappointment. This team is just bad. One victory over a winning team (Toledo) in overtime and losses to powers Western Michigan and Akron. Bottom line: This team may be as good as Kentucky or Indiana, but would finish near the bottom of any BCS conference.

Miami (Ohio) (7-4) – Losses to Central Michigan and Northern Illinois are bad, but a one point win over Eastern Michigan may be even more telling. Bottom line: When your best win is over Akron, you’ve got problems.

UTEP (8-3) – Mike Price and the turnaround last year, pumped this team up. An overtime win over Houston and loses to Memphis, UAB, and SMU, bring these guys back down to reality. Bottom line: Even Duke, who is likely the worst BCS team in the country, would fare better against those four opponents.

Wyoming (4-7) – That record in the Mountain West pretty much says it all.

Toledo (8-3) – This team’s schedule is very sad, but they still only went 8-3. Best win: Bowling Green; worst loss: Central Michigan. Bottom line: This is clearly not a BCS conference worthy resume.

TCU (10-1) – TCU is 10-1 and beat Oklahoma at home. Over the next three week’s they lost to SMU and needed overtime to beat both Utah and BYU. They then beat some pretty bad teams by a bunch of points before sliding by a bad SDSU team by 3 points. Bottom line: TCU is better than Duke, Kentucky, and Mississippi State, but would likely have trouble with Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, or Baylor, and certainly wouldn’t fair well against a bad Texas A&M team who pummeled SMU 66-8.

One more team should be added to this group. O’Leary’s Central Florida Golden Knights. This team is 8-3 on the year and on its way to the C-USA Championship game against Tulsa. (Side note: it’s really too bad UTEP lost its last two games, O’Leary/Price in a battle of humiliated coaches would have been a great storyline.). UCF lost its first to games to decent South Carolina and South Florida teams. Following its trend of difficulties against other southerly named schools, they also lost to USM mid season. While none of the teams UCF beat won more than 6 games, O’Leary should be commended for a great job and huge turnaround of this team. Bottom line: Their resume is no better than the other “mid-majors�, but its no worse either.

Where does West Virginia fit into all this? As a Big East team, they don’t qualify as BCS quality. Of the team’s listed here, they clearly have been most impressive with their only loss coming to Va Tech and a win over Maryland. They’ve also swept the Big East and won their last three games by an average margin of 34 points. Seemingly, WVU’s 115th ranked passing offense is pathetic; however, they still rank 42 in passing efficiency (4 spots above Penn St.). With the quality of competition WVU has faced, the jury is still out. Bottom line: The questions here will be answered in the Sugar Bowl. So for now, I won’t lump WVU in with this group.

While the jury is still out on WVU, none of these teams is BCS bowl worthy, and only Louisville and Fresno St. would even have a chance at finishing in the middle of a BCS conference. The rest of these teams would be battling the Vandy’s and Wake Forests of the college world to stay out of the basement. Even 10-1 TCU has done little to indicate that they could compete with any BCS team outside the state of Mississippi.

It should be quite telling that these teams combined for exactly one win over a BCS team with a winning record.


2 Responses to Mid Majors Update

  1. Jeff 11/30/2005 at 7:06 AM #

    Dude…you know football.

  2. BJD95 11/30/2005 at 1:43 PM #

    This was a very bad year for mid-major performance. Then again, you can say the same about the Big 12 North (or the whole damned league in general) and the Big East (again). I don’t think it’s a reason to permanently dismiss them. I still think Fresno could clearly compete in an elite league – they just had a classic letdown game after letting a road win against USC slip through their fingers.

    It is rare that a mid-major is really capable of doing damage. It’s a pity we didn’t get to see last year’s Utah team play Auburn instead of Pitt. I’m not saying that Utah definitely would have won, but it would have been a damned fun game to watch.

    And I do think the likes of Fresno State and TCU would add a bit of spice to a 16-game playoff (assuming they make a quality cutoff – i.e., Sagarin or some other objective Top 20-25 benchmark and win their league). Would they lose in the first round most years? Probably. But not every year. Their presence would make the event better, just like in the NCAA tourney.

Leave a Reply