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"Aloha" Means "Goodbye": Why Mid-Majors Need Not Fear a Hawaii Backlash

Since the ranks of the college football playoff opponents appear to be dwindling---among fans, if not among those with actual influence---I ordinarily am hesitant to criticize any expression of what I believe is the proper position. However, when Sunday Morning Quarterback recently cited a piece appearing at The Sporting News in which Parkov posted his reasons for being against a playoff, I couldn't help but find fault with this passage from an article with which I otherwise fundamentally agreed:

Yes, there were some blowouts. But blowouts do not mean that a team "doesn't deserve to be there". Remember that hindsight it [sic.] 20/20. There have been some blowouts in the Super Bowl. Just one stretch from '84-'90 included scores of 38-9, 38-16, 46-10, 39-20, 42-10, 26-20 and 55-10. Does that mean that the NFL playoffs "got it wrong" 6 out of 7 years? Does that mean that the losers of those Super Bowls "didn't deserve to be there"? Just a question. I've heard a lot of people say that Hawaii didn't deserve to be in the Sugar Bowl. Which is easy to say AFTER the game. If you're going to say that, then you have to say that Boise State didn't deserve to be in the Fiesta Bowl last year. And that turned out to be possibly the best game of football I have ever seen in my life.

The additional emphasis is mine and the sentiment is simply mistaken. It does not follow that those who say Hawaii shouldn't have gotten a Sugar Bowl bid (which I said) must also say that Boise State shouldn't have gotten a Fiesta Bowl bid last year.

Let's recap. Here is the Warriors' regular-season schedule for 2007, with the regular-season records of their opponents:

W 63-6 v. Division I-AA Northern Colorado
W 45-44 at Louisiana Tech (5-7)
W 49-14 at U.N.L.V. (2-10)
W 66-10 v. Division I-AA Charleston Southern
W 48-20 at Idaho (1-11)
W 52-37 v. Utah State (2-10)
W 42-35 at San Jose State (5-7)
W 50-13 v. New Mexico State (4-9)
W 37-30 v. Fresno State (8-4)
W 28-26 at Nevada (6-6)
W 39-27 v. Boise State (10-2)
W 35-28 v. Washington (4-9)

Here is the Broncos' regular-season schedule for 2006, along with the regular-season records of the teams B.S.U. faced:
W 45-0 v. Division I-AA Sacramento State
W 42-14 v. Oregon State (9-4)
W 17-10 at Wyoming (6-6)
W 41-34 v. Hawaii (10-3)
W 36-3 at Utah (7-5)
W 55-14 v. Louisiana Tech (3-10)
W 40-28 at New Mexico State (4-8)
W 42-26 at Idaho (4-8)
W 45-21 v. Fresno State (4-8)
W 23-20 at San Jose State (8-4)
W 49-10 v. Utah State (1-11)
W 38-7 at Nevada (8-4)

Based only on what we knew as of bowl selection Sunday in each of the last two college football campaigns, here is how the 2007 Warriors compared to the 2006 Broncos:
Division I-AA opponents faced:
Boise State: 1
Hawaii: 2

Division I-A opponents faced with two or fewer victories:
Boise State: 1
Hawaii: 3

Division I-A opponents faced with seven or more victories:
Boise State: 5
Hawaii: 2

Games won by seven or fewer points:
Boise State: 3
Hawaii: 5

Although that is just a cursory look, the point is plain: Hawaii was less dominant against a demonstrably weaker schedule. The Warriors won by a touchdown against a Pac-10 team with nine regular-season losses; the Broncos won by four touchdowns against a Pac-10 team with nine regular-season wins. B.S.U. won three road games against bowl-bound teams, winning decisively twice, while the Aloha State Adventurers did not play a single away game against a team with a winning record, yet the islanders only narrowly escaped with a victory in three of their five road trips.

Clearly, last year's Boise State squad did far more over the course of its regularly-scheduled slate to earn the Broncos' bid to the Fiesta Bowl . . . and that fact was borne out by the postseason performances of the respective W.A.C. champions' opponents. This year's Hawaii squad tangled with three bowl-bound opponents, who collectively posted a 1-2 ledger in the Hawaii, Humanitarian, and New Mexico Bowls, whereas last year's B.S.U. unit crossed paths with five bowl teams, who between them went 4-1 in the Armed Forces, Hawaii, MPC Computers, New Mexico, and Sun Bowls.

I give Boise State's 2006 schedule an 85. It's got a good beat and it's easy to dance to it.

There is, in short, rather a large gap between asserting (as I do) that this year's Hawaii team had no business being invited to a B.C.S. bowl game and arguing that so-called "mid-major" teams generally are undeserving. Boise State, which had been building its reputation steadily before making the breakthrough in 2006 that many had anticipated in 2005, had a case to make for national championship consideration based on the Broncos' resume. The Warriors played a schedule that entitled them to a spot in the Division I-AA playoffs, but little more than that.

Hawaii had a fine season, but the Sugar Bowl shellacking merely confirmed suspicions many had harbored previously about the Warriors. Boise State's detractors, on the other hand, were looking at the blue turf and ignoring the scoreboard. The knock on the islanders is entirely legitimate, but it is specific only to the Aloha State Adventurers. Reasonable distinctions between the two existed, and were discernible, before the last two rounds of B.C.S. bowls were played and the lesson to be gleaned from the results is not that non-B.C.S. conference teams may be dismissed out of hand, but that some undefeated mid-majors are nearer to dropping the "mid-" than others.

Go 'Dawgs!