This is the life of a Top 25 college football team: start off by playing a bunch of verbosely-named schools, win several conference games, and end up with a glimmer of a chance at winning a football championship, but instead play someone else in the same boat as you in a 13th game.
Now this is the life of a MAC team: play one ranked team, get nipple-twisted by said ranked team, win a sufficient number of conference games, have a chance to win the conference championship, cross your fingers for an extra game against someone of slightly better ability and hopefully beat them.
Broadly paint me a small-town rube, but looking at the two ... I sort of like the MAC life better. By a lot.
I never adopted any of the large schools growing up. Actually, I wasn't a football fan until about, like, 15. Toledo was a battleground city; half Buckeyes, half Wolverines. (The retail stores accommodated this dichotomy.) Maybe this helped the numbness I feel toward large schools when 11-1 Michigan State doesn't to go a BCS game. Or why Ohio State doesn't have a chance at the national championship, even though they had one measly ol' loss. Or why someone — TCU, Oregon, Auburn — won't play for a championship. Even Boise State, with the one quality defeat, has no chance at a BCS game. Or Arkansas, or Stanford, or Missouri, or Oklahoma, or...
The football is insanely fun to watch from week to week. This is without question as a casual observer. And then once December rolls around, the same hand-wringing daisy-chain of fans and media heads with opinions regains its steam. This is why the MAC is blissfully enjoyable: no shit is given about the BCS, and in return, a lack of shit is provided by them.
Other than BCS engineeer Roy Kramer's 11 seasons coaching Central Michigan, there really is no tenable tie between the two bodies. Yes, the MAC is a "BCS conference," since theoretically an undefeated team could rank high enough such that they are given an invitation to one of the major bowls and a taste of the treasury. But the reality is that we're a paradigm shift away from seeing a great team emerge from the Hustle Belt and stand tall as a Top 10 team and be in the conversation. Ball State was close, but after starting 12-0, they lost the MAC Championship and the bowl game, dropping out of the rankings.
Defecate on the weakness of the conference all you want, but mediocrity has saved us from a greenhouse of perennial turd blossoms that is not just the BCS, but the sanctimonious conversation around it. I feel like I've already read Death to the BCS five times and Netflixed its movie adaptation. We get it. It's a bad system whose operators are hellbent on propping it up for obvious reasons. And yes, I'd love to read YOUR FRESH NEW PLAYOFF PROPOSAL IDEA. Just put it behind the radiator and I'll look at it once you're gone.
The Mid-American Conference has three guaranteed bowl bids: the Pizza Bowl, the GoDaddy.com Bowl, and the Humanitarian Bowl. You have no clue what they used to be called last year, although you could probably go for a pizza bowl right about now. These are not inherently memorable games to the national conscience. (Neither are the non-championship BCS games, but that's another post). But it's part of the MAC season that we anticipate.
Central Michigan was the champion last year; not the country's champion, but ours. Dan LeFevour rode off into the sunset, only to find himself in Mobile, facing the Sun Belt champions in the last-ever GMAC Bowl. And CMU beat Troy, although it took a couple overtimes to get there. It was a fantastic end to a football season that everyone else mostly shrugged off and wondered why the hell this game was the final matchup before the national championship. They then went back to their furious typing over undefeated Boise State and undefeated TCU playing each other in the Fiesta Bow.
Sufficient respect oughta be doled out to the Mountain West and the WAC for having teams that warrant national championship debate. That's pretty cool. But ... my God, guys, have watched ANY football in the last, ohidontknow, 120 years? It's always been like this. When many teams have identical or similar records, the more popular team holds the tiebreaker. Did you not realize this going in? Times have changed since the early 1970s, when it was strange to have a black quarterback, but when Toledo football went 35-0 from 1969-71 with Chuck Ealey under center, all they garnered were three straight Tangerine Bowl appearances. All for three undefeated seasons. Nobody wanted to play them during the season, nor in a bowl game. I wonder if this sounds familiar, our weary western friends.
So the MAC grew used to this. "Fine, we'll go undefeated and appreciate the accomplishment in our own way." And it doesn't even have to be a perfect season, although 1995 Toledo and 1999 Marshall definitely happened. Look at Miami in 2003: after getting smashed by Iowa in the first week, they won the next 13, basically putting up about 45 points per victory. Likewise, Northern Illinois also has a shot at "that one great year" this year. So does Miami ... again.
Winning lottery numbers, Virtual Boy game systems, and non-smushed Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are easier to come by than national championships these days. In fact, they're all acquired the same way; by good fortune. If a MAC teams wins the BCSNCG in the next 50 years (hey, it could happen), then that's going to be awesome. It will be the crowning achievement of the conference. But, see, this isn't our goal. Akron is currently barreling through the competition in the NCAA soccer tournament as the third overall seed. This is the only national championship MAC aficionados probably expect to be won.
The aspirations and dreams for MAC football lie within the printable schedule handed out to everybody before the season, and nowhere else. It's the way football should be, and it's the way it's always been for the conference. To the BCS, that's nothing. Well, the feeling is mutual about a football game to be held on January 10 in Glendale.