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Brad Rock: Dream is so close, yet so far

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 24 2008 12:19 a.m. MDT

Last week I had this amazing dream. I was in a world far different from our own. A world where all people lived in equality.

There were no social classes, and it didn't matter where a person came from. Everyone, great and small, had a chance to make it in life.

That's where the dream ended because, thanks to the BCS's exclusionary policies, origins still matter. And not everyone has a fair chance.

Still, there was part of my dream that actually did come true. BYU, Utah, Boise State, Fresno State, TCU and East Carolina are in the Top 25. ... A quarter of the ranked teams belong to so-called "mid-major" conferences.

So in that sense, it's a dreamy new world. Traditional powers have been laid low, while former nobodies are on the rise. Missouri, traditionally among the Big 12's table scraps, is ranked sixth and undefeated. Vanderbilt, the lipstick-smeared pig of the SEC, is ranked No. 21.

Tennessee, UCLA, Nebraska — some of the traditional big shots — are Top 25 road kill, as are Miami, Michigan and Texas A&M.

Who ever dreamed Missouri vs. Nebraska would be a huge game — for Nebraska? Or that the day would come when South Florida would be ranked, but Syracuse and West Virginia wouldn't?

Say what you will about the foibles of the NCAA — including it's refusal to stage a true national championship — but at least it has facilitated some semblance of parity.

Nowadays, Michigan can't get caught napping against Utah, or it's goin' down, which it did three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, the Mountain West went 4-0 against the Pac-10, with BYU embarrassing UCLA, UNLV shocking Arizona State, TCU stopping Stanford and New Mexico shaming Arizona.

Kinda made you wonder why the MWC bothers to play those tools.

The MWC is a combined 6-0 against the Pac-10 and Big Ten.

Florida State is thinking a win this weekend against Colorado might vault it into the rankings. Notre Dame can only dream of being where BYU (11), Utah (17) and TCU (24) are.

Aim high, little Irish, aim high! One day you, too, can play with the big boys.

What caused all this is the 1990s mandate that trimmed the number of scholarships a school could offer from 95 to 85. No longer could big schools afford to stockpile players so nobody else could use them. That sent a lot of fine players elsewhere to seek their fortunes.

But there are other reasons non-BCS teams are steadily creeping into the rankings. Thanks to the proliferation of TV sports, players can go almost anywhere and still be seen by family back home. All it takes is subscribing to the right cable network.

It used to be if you went to Boise State, the only way your family could see you play was by going up there.

Then there's the "feisty little guy" factor. Lately, being a small-fry with attitude is cool. You think most of America didn't love watching the Utes beat the corn chips out of Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl? Better still was Boise State's sleight-of-hand Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma in 2007.

Like cell phones and wallets, small is in.

The BCS system has improved, but smaller teams still must jump through hoops to get into a major bowl game. If they do such-and-such, and somebody else does this-and-that, and they're ranked here and rated there, and the moon is in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, they get their shot.

I say put 'em all together and hold a playoff.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get my bearings. I can't fully envision a world where Utah is favored over Notre Dame (they meet in 2010), but it could happen. As for the days when lower-tier teams from the big conferences could beat the best of the MWC. ...

In their dreams.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com

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