When Toledo was 11-0, 12-0 and 12-0 from 1969-1971, all they got were trips to the Tangerine Bowl all three years. That's it. Despite one of the best three-year performances in NCAA history, the Rockets could not land a spot in one of college football's major bowl games. It should have been a crime.
Toledo outscored opponents 385-160 in the first year of that streak. In 1970, the team raced past opponents 384-88 and with remarkable consistency outscored them 383-96 the following season. That's a cumulative score of Toledo, 852, their opponents 344. And yet, the Rockets couldn't get any respect.
Tulane was 12-0 in 1998, including a 41-27 win over BYU in the Liberty Bowl. But the Green Wave was left out of national championship talk. They had wins over current Big East Conference members Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers, but they could not get automatic inclusion into The Club and their big bowl games.
Utah was 11-0 in 2004 win wins over Texas A & M (41-21), Arizona (23-6) and North Carolina (46-6) and the Utes did get a berth in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, where they promptly trounced Pittsburgh 35-7. In 2008, Utah scored another unbeaten regular season, going 12-0. Utah defeated a 3-9 Michigan team 31-29 and edged 9-4 Oregon State 31-28 along the way. Utah was mentioned in national championship conversations but not seriously. Once again, the Utes received a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Bowl appearance opposite Alabama. Utah destroyed the Alabama myth with a 31-17 victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Just last season, fellow Mountain West Conference team TCU was 12-0 in the regular season, with a 30-14 victory over 3-9 Virginia and a 14-10 win over 9-5 Clemson in their resume. The Horned Frogs knocked a few holes in the glass ceiling and finished the year #3 in the BCS Standings. But only the top two have a chance at a national championship in the BCS format. TCU may have been the top team in the state of Texas, but it was the Longhorns that earned the title berth against Alabama. Yes, the same Alabama that was pounded by Utah the previous year.
That pretty much brings us up to date. Like today's Boise State opponent Toledo, the Broncos too have been a three-time snubbee. In 2004, Boise State was 11-0 with a 53-34 win over Oregon State on national television. The Broncos outscored opponents 587-308 that season but they too did not have a chance to play for a national championship. In fact, they did not even get a BCS Bowl berth.
In 2006, Head Coach Chris Petersen led his team to a 12-0 mark in his first season. This time, Ian Johnson led Boise State to a 42-14 win over an Oregon State team that was better than they were in 2004. The Beavers finished 10-4 that year. Boise State also defeated defending Fiesta Bowl Champion Utah 36-3 in Sat Lake City that year. The Broncos outscored their opponents 516-229 but it still wasn't good enough according to "the experts".
Boise State secured their third unbeaten season in five years in 2008 with a 12-0 campaign. You're not supposed to go into Eugene and win. But that is what the Broncos did. They downed the Ducks 37-32, the same Oregon team that was 10-3 that season. Petersen's team outscored their opponents 489-164. Once again, though, Boise State was snubbed when it came time to choose the "national championship game" participants.
In 2009, Boise State made it two in a row and four-out-of-six undefeated seasons. Once again, the Broncos shot down an Oregon team that was 10-3 on the season and averaging 36 points a game. But this time, it was a dominating defensive performance with Boise State shutting down Oregon's offensive machine 19-8. Boise State went on to outscore opponents 589-240 in 2009. They did get mentioned briefly in national championship talk but they, like TCU, were shut out of the big game. Boise State and TCU's reward was to play each other. In another world, it could have been a national championship game matching two undefeated teams. Instead, it was the 2010 Fiesta Bowl with Boise State beating TCU 17-10.
So as Boise State strives for its third consecutive undefeated season, its fourth in the last five years and its fifth in the last seven years, they are trying to blast that final hole in the glass ceiling.
They're doing it for Toledo. They're doing it for Tulane, Utah and TCU. And they're doing it for every team from a non-automatic qualifying conference (past, present and future) that could not get a shot at a national championship but clearly deserved it.