It's easy to pile up wins against soft competition, but it's a whole different thing to do it against some of the best teams. Let's have a look at two 4-0 teams, Florida and West Virginia. If Florida runs the table, they will have beaten Tennessee, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, and LSU, all of whom are currently ranked. If West Virginia does it, arguably their only two quality wins will have come against Louisville and a upstart Rutgers team. The rest of WVU's conference schedule is comprised of Cincinnati, USF, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut. These teams are not exactly powerhouses, nor are the five non-conference opponents that they face this year.
Although West Virginia is a talented team and Steve Slaton is one of the best players in the nation, if they run the table, will they have truly earned a national championship bid if Florida and another team with a tougher road like Ohio State go undefeated? Some might even argue that UF and OSU finishing the season with one loss is just as significant of an accomplishment as WVU going undefeated. TCU could play a part in this mess as well if they run the table, with possibly their only win against a ranked opponent coming in the 12-3 victory over us. (I'm not saying that these teams don't have what it takes to play with good opponents in the top bowl games, I'm just questioning whether they deserve to.) Regardless, if some or all of the above scenarios happen, it's a recipe for a BCS disaster.
Our Red Raiders have witnessed the benefit of an easy non-conference schedule. Last year, we went undefeated for six games and jumped in the ratings. Conversely, this year, we had a tough non-conference schedule, and as a result, are now 3-1 and unranked in some polls. Texas A&M wins the patsy-scheduling award for this year, and they are currently 4-0, but just barely. Oklahoma State had a soft non-conference as well, but they couldn't even handle that. Usually, Big 12 play is tough enough to offset even the weakest non-conference schedule, but that may not be the case with this year's struggles throughout the conference. However, the poor play by the conference thus far will likely not be the case by the end of the year, as we'll probably field six legitimate bowl teams.
However, the question remains. Is it worth it to play the good teams? If you are in a usually-tough conference such as the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, or Big 12, then the answer is probably not. Many of these teams beat themselves up and take each other out of contention in conference play, so why make things tougher on yourselves in OOC play? From their perspective, these teams with one of two losses to good opponents have a legitimate reason to feel disdain towards the TCUs and WVUs of college football. Conversely, if you are in a sub-par conference such as the Big East or MWC, then it's probably worth it. Otherwise, the pollsters have a legitimate reason for exclusion of these teams when it comes to bowl selection time. From their point of view, these teams have a legitimate argument of their own that they deserve a shot at the big boys if they don't lose a game all year. I guess it depends what side of the fence that you are on. The only thing that a team can do is play to their potential and take pride in that, no matter where the bowl selection decides they should go.
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)