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Guest Post: Crowning a Different National Champ

7 January 2009

Today’s guest post by Chris Morgan deals with the fatally flawed BCS, and his choice to top this season’s college football polls.

It is safe to say that pretty much everybody hates the BCS. It is an unnecessarily complex system, and it leaves most college football fans unsatisfied as it does not seem to truly decide who the “best” team in the nation is. A playoff, even a plus-1 system, would be much more satisfactory, and has been clamored for now for years. Alas, we are still left with the BCS for the time being, with no end in sight. However, there is one way the process of abolishing the BCS and replacing it with a playoff can be hastened, and it could easily be brought to fruition this year. We need a split national championship. It’s possible, as the AP is not bound to name the winner for the BCS “National Championship” Game their national champion. They can name who they please.

Fortunately, there are a few options they could go with as their national champion, thus rendering the BCS National Championship Game a failure. The entire reason the BCS was created was to try and do away with split national champions, which is a very unpleasant thing in the world of sports, in which the entire purpose of the season is to eventually find out which team is the best. A split national champion at this juncture in time, with all the anti-BCS fervor out there, would strike a huge blow to the BCS, as it would fail to do the one thing it was designed for. As such, I implore the AP to take a stand this year and vote somebody other than the winner of the BCS national title game the champion of college football. If you do so, you will be heroes in the eyes of many sports fans worldwide. Here are three choices the AP could go with.

USC: First of all, allow me to say that I do not mean to disparage Oklahoma or Florida with this argument. They are both fine football teams who both certainly deserve a shot at a national championship. The problem is that they were given the shot via a terribly flawed system which left other deserving teams out in the cold. In a playoff system they would have just as much chance as these other teams and if they were truly the best two teams in the nation, they would have met for the title anyway. However, they would have had to get past a tough USC team first. The Trojans, who currently sit at fifth in the AP poll, finished their season with their annual New Year’s Day tradition: Trouncing a Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl.

This year’s sacrificial lamb was Penn State, who while a very good team in their own right, was no match for USC. The final score may have been 38-24, but the halftime score of 31-7 paints a better picture of how much USC dominated this game. In doing so, they end the year 12-1, meaning they will have as many losses as either Florida or Oklahoma after the national championship game. That one loss came to Oregon State in Corvallis, which at the time seemed like a huge upset and really tarnished Southern Cal’s stature in the polls. Little did we know as the time that the Beavers were actually a solid team, who proceeded to very nearly win the Pac-10 until they lost to Oregon to end the season without their star freshman Jacquizz Rodgers. However, without Jacquizz or his brother James, Oregon State went on to beat Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl, further solidifying themselves as a good team this season.

The big knock on USC had been that the Pac-10 was “weak” this season. While I will grant you that it probably wasn’t as good as the Big 12 or SEC, I think the bowl season has proven it was better than a lot of people thought and that it was probably the third best conference in college football. After all, only one conference went undefeated in bowl games and that is the 5-0 Pac-10. Oregon beat Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl, the Trojans beat the Ducks 44-10. Suddenly, Oklahoma’s big win over the Cowboys seems less impressive. USC went 3-1 against the other Pac-10 Bowl teams, and defeated both Ohio State and Penn State, two teams that played in BCS games. Yes they played some weaker teams, as did Florida and Oklahoma, but they absolutely destroyed them. The twisted pretzel logic of the BCS forces us to contemplate whose loss was “the best” in trying to figure out who the national champ should be. While Oklahoma losing on a neutral field to Texas is certainly not a bad loss, USC losing on the road to Oregon State and Florida losing at home to Ole Miss are probably neck and neck. If the Gators win the BCS title game, you could easily make a case that USC’s season was just as impressive.

The Trojans were as dominant as any team in the nation this year, and their defense may have been one of the best ever. Certainly the AP could jump them from #5 up to #1 without raising an eyebrow.

Texas: Now here’s a team that might actually benefit from Oklahoma winning the title. After all, as we heard ad nauseum while having to debate who “deserved” to be in the BCS title game, Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. However, this is indeed the case, and when deciding who the national champion is in the current system, such a thing cannot be overlooked. If Oklahoma has to eke by the Gators, the Longhorns could easily make a strong case. Their one loss was on the road to Texas Tech, on a last second play, the Sooners loss was, you know, to Texas. Even if Florida wins it does not preclude Texas from being the choice for champ. After all, if Florida doesn’t beat Oklahoma on a neutral field by more than Texas did, who’s to say which team is better? Granted the team that beat Florida (Ole Miss) beat the team that defeated Texas (Texas Tech) in the Cotton Bowl, but Florida lost at home, Texas lost on the road, and Texas Tech lost to Ole Miss on a neutral field with a banged up Michael Crabtree. Wow, the mess that is the BCS can make your head spin trying to decipher it.

Utah: Here is my personal favorite choice for whom the AP should make their champ. Yes, they currently sit at #7 in the polls, but let’s play the “whose loss was best” game for a second. OK, OU lost to Texas, Florida lost to Ole Miss, Texas lost to Texas Tech, USC lost to Oregon State, and Utah lost to… oh that’s right, nobody. They are undefeated. In fact, they are the only undefeated team in the FBS this season. They defeated every single opponent they had to play. That Oregon State team that beat USC? The Utes took care of them. TCU, who beat the previously undefeated Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl? Utah beat them as well. Air Force and BYU, both bowl teams handled by Utah, and Utah played Air Force on the road. So while they played in the Mountain West a “non-AQ” conference, they clearly still played a tough schedule. Then, to end the season they traveled down to New Orleans to take on Alabama, whose only loss this season came to Florida. Nobody gave them a shot. They then proceeded to win 31-17. Yes, people will make a big deal about Andre Smith, the Crimson Tide’s stellar left tackle being suspended, and while they certainly helped the Utes get pressure it had no effect on the Bama defense giving up 31. Florida, by the way, on a neutral field defeated Alabama 31-20.

So could you logically declare Florida a better team solely because they played in the SEC? No, you really couldn’t. So if the Gators squeeze by Oklahoma, who should be voted number one the team with one loss, at home to boot, or the team with zero losses? Utah took on their opponent every week and defeated them. No other team can say that.

While the notion of deciding a champion by voting is utterly insane, it is the system we have currently. In such a system, how can you not vote for a team with a flawless record whose schedule was just as tough as any of the other team vying for the title? You can’t. So, if the AP has any heart, they will help slay the monstrous beast that we call the BCS. Make Utah the national champion. Nobody can argue with you, their case is as valid as any teams. The national championship will be split, and the BCS will look like an even bigger joke. People will see these two national champions and think to themselves, “Two champions doesn’t make sense, if only there was some way to settle this,” at which point they will realize there is a way; a playoff. If the AP names Utah their national champion will it really have a huge impact? Realistically, probably not. The BCS has haunted us for this long, who’s to say anything can kill it?

However, one thing is for sure, a split national champion can only help our chances and give us hope. This is, after all, the year of hope and change, and what needs more change in the world of sports than the current college football system for naming their champ? So, to borrow a phrase from another man who believes in change: Utah Utes, 2008 National Champs: Yes We Can!

Chris Morgan writes about the class of the NFL, the Detroit Lions, for and covers college football for Rotowire, writing a start/bench article for the Big Ten as well as occasional blog posts for RotoSynthesis. He also covers the Nashville Predators, La Liga Soccer, and college basketball for them.

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