Why The Undefeated Broncos Still Get No Respect

BIFF! POW!! BANG!!! Like Batman going after the bad guys, the Boise State Broncos football team throttled another opponent Friday night. This time it was Idaho, 52-14. Boise State is undefeated. It's won 23 games in a row — the best record in the nation — and yet is still a long shot to play for the national championship. Host Scott Simon talks about the unfairness of it all — along with a little NBA and NFL — with NPR's Tom Goldman.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Biff. Pow. Bang. The Boise State Broncos football team throttled yet another opponent last night, Idaho, 52-14. Okay, Boise State is undefeated. It has won 23 games in a row, by far the best in the nation. Why is it still a long shot to play for the national championship?

NPR's Tom Goldman joins us this morning. And Tom, my friend, you are a real Doubting Thomas when it comes to Boise State.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM GOLDMAN: No, I'm just a realist, Scott, like many people are.

SIMON: What more did they - theyve all but beaten the Russian army. What more do they have to do?

GOLDMAN: They have to give the BCS - the Bowl Championship Series - some really nice Christmas gifts. No, what, you know, youre right...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: That's probably true. But, yes.

GOLDMAN: Theyve won, they've won emphatically.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: They're hurt by a weak schedule, unfortunately, that they can't get around. Most of their opponents have been deemed not tough enough. That matters a lot to the computers and the polls that determine the team rankings in the Bowl Championship Series - the BCS. Boise State is ranked fourth in the nation. There are three teams ahead it: TCU, Auburn, Oregon - all are undefeated and all have tougher schedules. And at least one of them has to lose to let Boise State leapfrog up to the championship game. Now, if number one Oregon and number two Auburn win their remaining games, they'll be placed in the national championship game because they're from power conferences - the Pac-10 and the Southeastern Conference.

SIMON: They both play today. Do you foresee any upset?

GOLDMAN: There's always a chance. Oregon plays at Cal, which is undefeated at home. Auburn hosts Georgia, which is on roll. Georgia has won four of its last five. The bigger obstacle for Auburn is the fate of quarterback Cam Newton, of course. He's a Heisman Trophy favorite, he's wildly talented, and oh yes, he is perhaps ineligible. A number of allegations have emerged recently, including one that Newton's dad was shopping his son for money while Cam was being recruited to another university before he landed at Auburn. The Newtons are denying that they committed NCAA violations. If they did and Cam Newton is declared ineligible before the season ends, there goes a potential dream season and the Heisman Trophy.

SIMON: Yeah. That potential scandal aside, as is often pointed out, the item that could remedy the confusion, Boise State, you know, would be a playoff.

GOLDMAN: Of course.

SIMON: And?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: And?

SIMON: Is that any closer to coming - is that any closer to coming about?

GOLDMAN: No. No. At least not this year, certainly, and next year, and who knows when. You know, it is an annual college tradition these days to talk about the need for a playoff and why the BCS is evil. Sports Illustrated weighed in with a very interesting cover story this week. It's a must read for college football fans. It peels back the layers of BCS, which has been in existence since 1998, and which adamantly opposes a playoff. The article details this kind of sordid money trail with the current BCS system of bowl games. According to authors, university athletic departments that are already losing money, they lose even more through the bowl games, and a lot of that money ends up in the pockets of coaches and athletic directors and bowl officials who are making hefty six figure salaries.

SIMON: Well, let's move to an honest professional sport.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Oh yeah.

SIMON: National Basketball Association. Of course it's very early in the season, but should they be called the Miami Tepid?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Rather than the Heat. Very good. That's a tad premature. The hype was so over-the-top going into the season. The fact that Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh haven't won every game, that the Heat have been outclassed twice already by the Boston Celtics, that does have the basketball media hyperventilating. There are some problems. Miami's head coach was seen on camera admonishing his players to check their egos at the door, and we thought they'd already figured that one out. Lebron and Dwayne Wade don't seem to be in sync when they're on the court together. The good news, Scott, you never pass final judgment on any team in mid-November. Check back next spring.

SIMON: Sad news, finally. Jim McMahon, you know, known for high spirits, the captioned headbands on the '86 Super Bowl Bears, revealed this week he suffers from memory loss. He blames all the head bangs in football.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And if that's true, it's not a new story. We've been hearing about lots of NFL retirees battling brain disease. If there's any silver lining to this, these stories have prompted the NFL to take a hard look at the issue of head injuries and how best to protect the players. We're certainly not all the way there with remedies, but moving in a better direction.

NPR sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: Youre welcome.

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