BOWLING GREEN - They are one of just four unbeaten Division I-A football teams left in the country. Their game highlights are shown every week on ESPN. One of the national polls lists them ahead of such traditional powerhouses as Florida, Penn State and Florida State. And maybe, just maybe, there is a bowl game in their future.
For the 8-0 Bowling Green State University Falcons, that is where they are, and they are happy to be there. Any discussion about their potential to crack the top 10 is at the very least quite premature, while talk of a possible Bowl Championship Series berth is unrealistic.
BG coach Urban Meyer said yesterday that his team is pleased to be ranked and playing for the lead in the Mid-American Conference's West Division this weekend when the Falcons visit Northern Illinois. Both teams are 5-0 in the MAC. In Meyer's mind, a dream season would include a divisional title and the right to play in the MAC championship game and earn a shot at going to either the Motor City Bowl or the GMAC Bowl.
“I can't tell you how proud we would be to represent the MAC, if things work out that way,” Meyer said. “We would be very thrilled to get the opportunity to go to either the Motor City Bowl or the GMAC Bowl. But this is going to be tough duty. We can't get ahead of ourselves. We have to concentrate on the difficult games we have in front of us, and be very humble and respectful as we do that.”
Meyer said that while the BCS formula that decides who plays in the national championship game and the three other BCS bowls will in all likelihood prevent a Mid-American Conference team from taking part, it is the best means available for sorting things out at season's end.
“The BCS system is the fairest way to crown your national champion,” Meyer said. “Unless you go to a playoff, which I am not in favor of, the BCS is the fairest method we have. I'm a big fan of college football bowl games, and the only regret that I have is that not more of them are available to more teams.”
Almost all of the bowl games are locked into contracts with certain conferences. The MAC has tie-ins with the Motor City and GMAC bowls.
“There is some language in the BCS format that allows for an at-large team, but it is driven by the polls and formulas that emphasize things like strength of schedule, making it highly unlikely that an Air Force, a BYU or a Bowling Green, a Marshall or a Louisville could get it,” said Bowling Green athletic director Paul Krebs, who has worked at BCS members Ohio State and Oklahoma in the past. “I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where one of those schools would be able to crack into the BCS picture.”
The BCS was set up to virtually exclude more than half of the Division I-A teams from the start, concentrating the eight bids to the highest-profile bowls in the six BCS conferences, and with independent Notre Dame. The Irish get in if they are ranked in the top 10 in the BCS and have at least nine wins, while the champions of those six major conferences are guaranteed slots. If a team from a non-BCS conference should slip into positions 3-6 in the BCS rankings, which is highly unlikely, they would qualify for a guaranteed spot.
Meyer said the BCS is something the Falcons can aspire to be a part of in the future, but not in the present.
“Are we a BCS team? We have some BCS-caliber players, but are we a BCS program? No, not yet,” Meyer said. “Are we working to get to that end - absolutely. We have great visions for this program. Are we there now? Absolutely not. I'm awfully proud of who we are, but also very aware that we have to grow as a program. We have some very good coaches here and some very good players who are playing their hearts out right now, but that's about as far as you can take it. We know who we are, and we are very proud of this conference and of who we are.”
Krebs said that Bowling Green, which has not played in the postseason since the 1992 Las Vegas Bowl, would consider a trip to the Motor City Bowl the crowning moment in what has been its best season, to-date, since 1985. The BCS discussion is as implausible as considering a MAC basketball team being awarded a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“We're not there yet,” Krebs said. “Our desire is to get as good as we can be, but we're not there yet. We love the Motor City Bowl, and if we were fortunate enough to go there, we would be thrilled to have the privilege.”