For all of us college football anarchists, all of us BCS-hating, fair play-loving folks who long ago cursed the way the sport crowns its champion and slants its playing field, there is no question who to root for on Thursday.
The TCU Horned Frogs.
It's not often TCU is referred to as a fan favorite. It didn't even sell out its 46,000-seat home stadium once all season.
But the Frogs will have plenty of people pulling for them when they march into Southern Mississippi with a 10-0 record and the Conference USA title on the line. Defeat the Golden Eagles and a perfect season is just a single victory over winless SMU away.
The rub, of course, is that even 12-0 probably won't be enough for the Frogs to get invited to a big payday BCS bowl. That's because the BCS formula makes it almost impossible for any team outside the old boys' club of power conference football to qualify for such a game.
To earn a BCS slot, TCU will have to finish in the top six of the standings. Right now the Frogs are eighth. Barring numerous collapses above them, they won't climb any higher.
Even at 12-0.
In a wonderful twist of rivalry irony, SMU (0-11) is almost certain to end its archenemy's BCS dreams, not by springing an upset but by being so feeble that it inflicts irreparable harm to the Frogs' strength of schedule.
Almost everyone agrees college football will be a better sport when the BCS is dead and, eventually, a playoff is instituted. The BCS was designed to make money for, and protect the power of, major conferences. That's it.
In doing so it has eliminated the underdog while causing chaos for the USCs, Ohio States and LSUs of the world.
Everyone knows this system is a disaster. All you can do is hope the disaster strikes someone else's favorite team.
Whether TCU actually is one of the best six or eight teams in the country hardly matters. A poster child is needed to fight the system that screws teams at the top and the bottom. Especially the bottom.
"For me not to be able to recruit a kid because we're not in a BCS conference just isn't fair," TCU coach Gary Patterson says.
That's how the big six conferences want it, though. What, you think the Big 12 is interested in having Metroplex kids staying home to play ball? With the BCS the recruiting pitch is simple, if decidedly un-American.
Even if you win every single game, you'll never even compete for a title.
Name another sport where that happens.
The five Division I-A conferences outside the BCS can't. Neither can the attorney general for the state of Utah or the United States Congress. That's why school presidents are complaining, the A.G. is drawing up litigation and lawmakers are threatening action.
An unbeaten, untied Frog team with its nose pressed up against the BCS window helps advance all of those causes. It alone won't force the BCS to fall, but it will strike another small blow against a rigged process.
Which is why every fair-minded American, every USC fan, every LSU backer, every Big East follower, every 16-team playoff dreamer should be rooting for the Frogs. No offense to the fine folks in Hattiesburg, but in the long run this benefits them, too.
"The BCS issue is not big to me," Patterson says. "I have no solutions or alternatives to the BCS. I think changes will be made to the system after the season is over, and they will be for the better."
Hopefully. But that is only because of the pressure being applied. It is only because the system is so obviously broken, not even BCS apologists can defend it with a straight face. Here is to TCU continuing to expose the hypocrisy. USC and LSU, too. The sooner things are fixed, the sooner we get a playoff, the better.
Sorry, Southern Miss, but you have to love those Horned Frogs on Thursday.
- TCU Horned Frogs