It's no secret that the college football landscape is slanted against those teams in non-BCS conferences. The BCS is where the money is, and even football programs that have succeeded with less money often see their accomplishments sneered at by those in power.
In the last four years, five non-BCS conference teams have run the table in the regular season, and none of them have been granted a shot on the national title, despite both Utah and Boise State winning their bowl games against major BCS powers.
It doesn't end there. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, many still seem to believe that the best athletes from schools like Boise, TCU, Utah and Houston can't compete with the big boys. In 2009, of ESPN's 19 recognized postseason awards, only one went to a player from a non-BCS team. (Jerry Hughes of TCU won the Ted Hendricks award.)
So in recognition of the little guys, here's how some of those 2009 awards would have gone if the BCS conferences were eliminated. (Along with Notre Dame. They have BCS-type money. And nobody likes them, anyway.)
Home Depot Award (Coach of the Year)
Actual Winner: Brian Kelly (Cincinnati)
Dustin's Pick: Chris Petersen (Boise State). Despite returning just 11 total starters, and having a sophomore quarterback, Petersen led the Broncos to a season-opening win over the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks promptly rattled off 10 wins in their next 11 games, winning the Pac-10. Boise State finished 14-0, including a Fiesta Bowl win over TCU. In four years in charge of the Broncos, Petersen has lost just four games.
2010 Favorites: Petersen, Kevin Sumlin (Houston), Gary Patterson (TCU), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy)
Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback of the Year)
Actual Winner: Colt McCoy (Texas-Austin)
Dustin's Pick: Case Keenum (Houston). Keenum led the nation with 44 TD passes, and threw for over 1,400 yards more than anybody else. So basically, every single game, he threw for 100 more yards than the next best QB in the country. Makes this pick kinda easy, doesn't it?
Doak Walker Award (Running Back of the Year)
Actual Winner: Toby Gerhart (Stanford)
Dustin's Pick: Ryan Matthews (Fresno State). After splitting carries for a couple years for the Bulldogs, Matthews became the guy in Fresno in '09. He responded by gaining 1,808 yards on the ground, scoring 19 times. For his effort, Matthews was drafted 12th overall by the San Diego Chargers. By the way, if you're looking for proof that non-BCS schools are as good as anybody else, look at the '09 Bulldogs. They won road games at two Big Ten schools, and lost by eight at Big East champs Cincinnati. Against so-called "lesser" competition, they had trouble. Fresno lost to Boise and Nevada by a combined 55 points and fell to Wyoming in the New Mexico bowl.
Fred Biletnikoff Award (Outstanding Wide Receiver)
Actual Winner: Golden Tate (Notre Dame)
Dustin's Pick: Freddie Barnes (Bowling Green). His 155 catches and 19 receiving TDs were easily best in the nation. His 1,770 yards were 11 shy of Danario Alexander of Missouri. Even when a good Idaho team had all the time in the world to prepare for Barnes in the Humanitarian Bowl, they couldn't stop him from hauling in 17 catches for 219 yards and three scores. Barnes went undrafted but was signed by the Chicago Bears.
Outland Trophy (Outstanding Interior Lineman)
Actual Winner: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska)
Dustin's Pick: Mike Iupati (Idaho). The guard didn't allow a sack all year, won numerous All-American awards and helped spark an incredible six-win turnaround for the Vandals. He was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the 49ers.
Ted Hendricks Award (Outstanding Defensive End)
Actual Winner: Hughes (TCU)
Dustin's Pick: Hughes. 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 5 TFL, Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, first round NFL draft pick. The resume speaks for itself.
Dick Butkus Award (Outstanding Linebacker)
Actual Winner: Rolando McClain (Alabama)
Dustin's Pick: Marcus McGraw (Houston). Go ahead, call it a homer pick. But McGraw was one of the few bright spots on defense for the Cougars this year, pretty much single-handedly improving their defense from "historically bad" to just "bad". His 156 tackles were second-best in the country, and he managed to add four sacks, despite UH's inexplicable aversion to the blitz.
Jim Thorpe Award (Outstanding Defensive Back)
Actual Winner: Eric Berry (Tennessee)
Dustin's Pick: Kyle Wilson (Boise). A second-team All-American and first-round NFL draft choice, Wilson is one of only two starters that the Broncos lose on either side of the ball. And did we mention they went 14-0 last year? Yikes. Still, don't underestimate what Wilson's departure will mean. Either you have a shut-down corner, or you don't. It won't be easy to replace Wilson, but Brandyn Thompson should fill in nicely for Boise.
Lou Groza Award (Place-kicker)
Actual Winner: Kai Forbath (UCLA)
Dustin's Pick: Kevin Goessling (Fresno). Hit 15-of-16 field goal attempts, including two from beyond 50 yards. Goessling showed off his leg as a freshman back in '08, when he nailed a 58-yard game-winner against Utah State. If Forbath weren't returning for the Bruins, Goessling would be one of the favorites to win the actual award this year.
The Heisman Trophy
Actual Winner: Mark Ingram (Alabama)
Dustin's Pick: Moore (Boise).
I know, I know. How can I pick against Keenum here, right? For better or for worse, the Heisman Trophy has always been as much about being on a winning team as it has been about being an outstanding player. The reality is that a player putting up exceptional numbers on a 14-0 team will win this award over a player putting up mind-boggling numbers for a 10-4 team. If Keenum wants to have a shot at the actual Heisman in 2010, his team will have to help him out. It'll take another 5,000+ yard season, and the Coogs making a run at a BCS bowl.
2010 Favorites: Moore, Keenum, Dalton.