If college football truly is a metaphor for life, and if life truly is unfair, the University of Toledo Rockets have learned a valuable lesson: sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
The Rockets' bad luck is that they play in the Mid-American Conference, which is wrongly regarded by the empty suits on post-season bowl game committees as the football backwater of college athletics. So the Rockets, who won 10 games this year and lost just once, do not get a bowl game, while the Arkansas Razorbacks, who lost five times and won just six, barely qualifying for a bowl game, are in hog heaven. Other 6-5 teams that got bowl bids: West Virginia, Boston College, Minnesota, and Virginia. The Rockets would have stomped on them all.
This is a UT football team that served notice of its greatness early on when it knocked off the Big Ten's perennial national power, Penn State, on the road. This is a team that scored 400 points in 11 games and yielded just 125, an average victory margin of 25 points. This is a team that clobbered Marshall, the only MAC team that will go to a bowl, 42-0.
But because UT lost to division rival Western Michigan, the MAC's screwy divisional rules and the myopic attitude of the bowls keep the league's best team home.
Perhaps the most disgusting aspect of all this is the fact that the Rockets finished the season as the nation's 25th best team in the final Associated Press poll. That means that 25 of the 50 teams getting bowl bids are ranked somewhere below UT, and 40 of the 50 have worse records.
It is an absurd situation, and as with everything related to sports, it comes down to money. The bowls want schools that have a national following and television recognition. So Boston College goes and Toledo sits.
The Rockets' victory over Penn State helped keep the Nittany Lions from a winning season and out of a bowl game themselves. But at this point, that's not much consolation.