Hawaii last year. Boise State the year before that. With rare exceptions, college football's after-party, the BCS bowls, excludes nearly half the sport's programs. If college football is one big subdivision — in fact, it is: the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) — then the BCS conferences are its gated community.
The 52 schools outside those six power conferences are, for the most part, on the outside looking in. Nor does the Bowl Championship Series make even a thinly veiled attempt to disguise that: "No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year," reads the BCS charter.
Although the Warriors were invited to the Sugar Bowl last season and the Broncos to the Fiesta Bowl before that, those invitations were tendered grudgingly. And although certainly every community has its upper crust and its bottom dwellers, the schools in the non-BCS conferences are not condemned to a street urchin's fate forever.
Eight of the 10-fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States are west of the Mississippi, in outposts such as Albuquerque, El Paso and San Jose. Cities that, coincidentally are home to non-BCS FBS schools (respectively, New Mexico, UTEP and San Jose State).
The state of Florida has just one more BCS school (four) than non-BCS and two of the latter -- Central Florida and Florida Atlantic -- went bowling last season. The Sunshine State is just one major program away from being able to form its own conference that is as large, and certainly more competitive, than the Big East.
As shifting demographics make this more of a sun-belt country (as opposed to the Sun Belt Conference), the 52 schools currently banished to the non-BCS ghetto will only grow in clout. Why can't UNLV be the next Miami? Or Fresno State the next Florida State?
Don't be surprised if in the next 10 years, the BCS finds itself opening doors wider and wider to accommodate schools, primarily those currently in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and Western Athletic Conference (WAC), who are every bit as potent as the traditional powers.
After all, there was a time when college football's axis of power was Army, Navy and the Ivy League. And if every last non-BCS school can finish ahead of Notre Dame (a program that gets a non-conference exemption into the BCS) in total offense in 2007, then just how undeserving can they be?
Six of the past 14 NFL MVPs played at one of the 52 non-BCS FBS schools (Steve Young, BYU; Brett Favre (3), Southern Miss; Marshall Faulk, San Diego State; and LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU). In last April's NFL draft, nine players from the non-BCS-FBS programs were taken in the first two rounds. That's as many players as the Big 12 or SEC had drafted, and more than the Big Ten or Big East. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin of Troy was the first defensive back chosen in the entire draft, and Boise State's Ryan Clady the second offensive tackle (after No. 1 overall pick Jake Long of Michigan).
Where is the next Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio), LT, or Randy Moss (Marshall) playing this year? Here are five players to remember:
1. Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan
As a sophomore last season, LeFevour finished fourth in the nation in total offense (364.2 yards per game) and became only the second player (Vince Young) to throw for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in a single season.
2. Gerald McGrath, LB, Southern Miss
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder averaged nearly 11 tackles per game last season and was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.
3. Dante Love, WR, Ball State
Only East Carolina running back Chris Johnson accounted for more all-purpose yardage last season than Love (206.92 ypg), but Love gained 14.7 yards per play to Johnson's 9.58. Scouts wish Love had better size (5-10, 180), but they love Love's playmaking ability (12 TDs).
4. Eugene Jarvis, RB, Toledo
Only 5-5, Jarvis finished fifth nationally in rushing a year ago by averaging 139 yards per game. The opposing front seven cannot see him, and the secondary can't catch him. He even gained 84 yards at Ohio State, the nation's No. 3 rush defense.
5. Rusty Smith, QB, Florida Atlantic
The best quarterback in the state not named Tebow. Also a junior, the 6-5 Smith had the same number of TD passes (32) as the Heisman Trophy winner last season but passed for 402 more yards. A gamer.
June in Dallas
After directing the nation's No. 1 scoring offense (43.4 points per game) last season at Hawaii, as well as making the Warriors just the second non-BCS school to play in a BCS bowl, June Jones must have figured that his stock could rise no higher. That, (and perhaps the prospects of losing Colt Brennan and opening the season at Florida) precipitated a leap to SMU.
The Mustangs finished 1-11 last season, though it was their defense that was more to blame. Should Jones be worried? Nah. This is the same guy who took over a winless Hawaii team and led them to nine wins in his inaugural season there, which is an NCAA record for a single-season turnaround.
Leaning Tower of Vizza
You have to feel for North Texas quarterback Giovanni Vizza. Last season he was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year after throwing for 2,388 yards. This year? The Mean Green have a new head coach, Todd Dodge, who was able to lure away a stud passer who had originally committed to Texas. Dodge's recruiting trick: he's the kid's father.
If Vizza can beat out Riley Dodge this autumn, you have to admire him. Actually, you have to admire him simply for not transferring.
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
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BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
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