Hello, everybody, and welcome back to college football's Groundhog Day, version 2010.
You know how the story goes. Utah, TCU, Boise State — the best of the unwashed, unworthy non-BCS teams — produce perfect or nearly perfect regular-season records, but are denied a spot in the BCS national championship game and, in most cases, a BCS bowl. This is immediately followed by nationwide outrage, weeks of talk-show fodder, threats from Congress, lame defenses from BCS lackeys, World War III, blah, blah, blah.
Then we start all over again next season and take it from the top.
So here we are again. TCU, Utah and Boise State are unbeaten deep into the regular season and have had the audacity to climb into the top five of the national rankings, ahead of bluebloods Alabama, Oklahoma, Nebraska and the rest of them.
The pinheads of the BCS must be wringing their hands. The Big Three of the non-BCS crowd just won't go away, sort of like Cher. They've never had three non-BCS (NBCS) teams in the top five EVER. What if they are forced to admit not one, but THREE teams from college football's peasant class? The horror, the horror! It would be like inviting the Clampetts to a black-tie dinner at the White House.
Well, the BCS pinheads must be doing cartwheels this week because all of that is about to change. No. 3 TCU will play No. 5 Utah in a nationally televised showdown in Salt Lake City Saturday afternoon.
That means one of the Big Three is going to go away. One of them is going to knock off one of its own and eliminate that team from contention because, as everyone knows, it's one and done for NBCS schools. Meanwhile, Alabama, Nebraska and Oklahoma each have one loss, but they've already climbed back into the Top 10, waiting for one of the Big Three to stumble.
The Utah-TCU game is one of the biggest regular-season games in Utah history, and no one — not even the understated Ute coach, Kyle Whittingham — is trying to say otherwise. But that was also the case when the teams met two years ago and Utah claimed a 13-10 win and went on to qualify for the Sugar Bowl. And that was the case when the teams met last year and TCU claimed a 55-28 win and went on to qualify for the Fiesta Bowl.
Now the teams have climbed higher into the regular season rankings. A win this time could pave the way for the most serious national bid for a berth in the national title game ever by a NBCS team.
You know Saturday's game must be huge because the Utes are breaking out a new uniform ensemble for the second time in three years for their game against TCU — an all-black outfit in 2008 and this year's camouflage duds. "They're fun," one player told the Salt Lake Tribune. Fun?
Fashion statements aside, Utah — and TCU, for that matter — needs a game like this, a game against a highly ranked opponent. It's just unfortunate it has to be against a brother from the non-BCS crowd.
Let's call it like it is: Utah and TCU are Unknowns. We know they are good, but how good? They haven't been tested yet. They've played a weak schedule. OK, they've played a lot of dogs. The season opening win over the 15th-ranked Pitt Panthers seemed like a strong win at the time. Pitt is now 5-3. The Utes proceeded to defeat UNLV (1-7), New Mexico (0-8), San Jose State (1-8), Iowa State (5-4), Wyoming (2-7), Colorado State (3-6) and Air Force (5-4).
The combined record of Utah's opponents: 22-47. In their most recent outing, the Utes beat a solid Air Force team on the road by just five points with the benefit of four Air Force turnovers deep in Ute territory.
The combined record of TCU's opponents is better, but not good: 34-42. They can claim wins over Oregon State, Baylor and Air Force.
Finally, Utah and TCU face their first real test some 10 weeks into the season — each other.
Along with Boise State, they are the super powers of the non-BCS crowd. Only six times have "outsiders" qualified for a BCS bowl and the Big Three are responsible for five of them (Hawaii is the other). Boise State and Utah are both 2-0 in BCS bowls, and TCU is 0-1, with a loss to Boise State. In the past six years, Utah has produced two unbeaten regular seasons, Boise State four of them, and TCU one.
Now Utah and TCU are set to square off. In the BCS's version of Groundhog Day, Saturday's game is a must-win for national title contenders. There are no second chances.