The hypothetical question? What IF the University of Cincinnati Bearcats finish the 2012 football season undefeated?
First, let's look at recent history. In 2009, the Bearcats accomplished this goal, running the table 12-0 and winning the Big East automatic bid outright. Cincy finished the regular season ranked third in the BCS standings and fourth in the AP Top 25. Alabama and Texas finished at No. 1 and 2, both undefeated as well and having won their conference championship games, a game not hosted in the Big East at the time.
UC literally did everything in their power in 2009 to reach a BCS championship. They beat every team, some games close, but most pretty handily. No championship shot, though. The Sugar Bowl is in fact a big deal, of course, but it wasn't for it all. Tim Tebow instituted his final farewell with a 54-21 victory over the Bearcats, but many were still upset that perfect was not good enough.
Obviously, the BCS isn't going to be fixed this year. The four-team playoff bracket would have likely lent Cincinnati at least the opportunity to reach the championship game, but this new provision won't take place until 2014.
In 2009, UC defeated three ranked BCS teams: No. 21 South Florida, No. 25 West Virginia, and No. 15 Pittsburgh. This season, with seven weeks remaining, no ranked teams have been faced and only No. 16 Louisville and No. 15 Rutgers lie ahead.
Alabama defeated five ranked teams in 2009: No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Ole Miss, No. 22 South Carolina, No. 9 LSU, and No. 1 Florida. This season, the Crimson Tide have already defeated No. 8 Michigan and have No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 6 LSU, and No. 18 Texas A&M in upcoming weeks. If they can successfully drop all these teams, they will again reign No. 1.
IF Cincinnati were to go 12-0, then yes, they would be guaranteed a spot in one of the five BCS Bowl games. But the championship? For all the marbles? The grand-daddy of them all? Forget about it.
What am I saying? Cincinnati is perfect five games in and is only No. 21 in the BCS rankings. Nine undefeated teams are ahead of them, while 10 with a single loss and even Stanford with a pair of "L"s also find themselves above the Bearcats.
Considering strength of schedule, conference, maybe. But only just maybe.
What is it to strive to perfection if such an achievement is not rewarded? What if perfect is not good enough?
The sad truth is, under the current format, UC will likely never see a shot of the championship, no matter how many seasons they remain undefeated. Look at Boise State and its struggles, now joining the Big East in 2013 to fight for the chance at it all.
Good luck, Broncos. The Bearcats have been playing that same tune for seasons now.
This is all hypothetical, of course. One loss on the UC schedule, and the black mark will keep them playing in some Car-Parts-Chips-Insurance-Sporting-Apparel Bowl with the stadium half full.
That, is not hypothetical. That is reality. The BCS reality. And without a true Division-I playoff system, it will remain the sad truth for those in select few in the red and black that achieve perfection.