Tomorrow night, the Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners will meet in Miami to decide a national champion for Division 1-A college football. Obviously, the winner of this game has the right to declare themselves national champions.
But, as is the case with every other college football season it seems, two or three other teams will feel they have earned the same right as the winner of the BCS Championship Game to call themselves national champions.
The Trojans of Southern California finished the regular season ranked No. 5 and played the Penn State Nittany Lions, ranked No. 8, in the Rose Bowl. The Trojan defense stifled the Big Ten co-champions early, taking a 31-7 lead into halftime.
Penn State would score 17 points in the final quarter after a scoreless third, but this still would not have been enough to win even if USC hadn't scored a touchdown in the final frame as well. The final score was 38-24 and represented a game much closer than this one actually was.
Southern Cal's domination of a quality opponent in the Rose Bowl, and its domination of the Pac-10 Conference outside of Corvallis, Ore. gives them a legitimate claim to the national championship, at least in my opinion.
The Sugar Bowl champion Utah Utes can also legitimately stake their claim to the national championship. They took a perfect 12-0 record, the only remaining perfect record in 1-A college football, into their bowl game against previously top-ranked Alabama and came away with a perfect 13-0 record.
While Alabama's offensive line was missing key components, surely a team of its caliber who played in the "gauntlet-like" SEC should be able to handle a team that went undefeated through a meager Mountain West Conference schedule.
Since that didn't happen, fans, coaches, and, most importantly, players of the Utes get nothing more than a gold star and a pat on the back when many believe that they could win the crystal ball handed to the championship team.
Further, one of two more teams could also make a strong case for national championship consideration.
The Texas Longhorns, should the Sooners win the championship game, would become the only team to defeat the champions on the season. With a last-second touchdown drive to beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, the Longhorns proved that they are still one of the premier teams in the nation.
Similarly, if Florida beats Oklahoma, the Mississippi Rebels would be the only team to have beaten the Gators on the season. This combined with a throttling of once-respected Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl gives the Rebs a strong enough resume to warrant national championship consideration.
I say all that to say this: if four squads can make a convincing case to be the champion in any kind of league, something is wrong with how that league decides its champion, whether we're talking about basketball, lacrosse, college football, golf, or shuffleboard.
The bowl system would be like if the NCAA basketball tournaments got to the Final Four and just called the tournament at that point. We'd be left with four fan bases, four groups of reporters, and four teams debating who the champion is.
Take last year's tournament, for example. Memphis was the best team in the regular season, taking an unblemished record into the Final Four round. If college basketball narrowed its pool of teams down to four and left deciding a champion to a group of voters, Memphis likely would've been the champion.
Of course, college basketball doesn't do this. Memphis and Kansas played each other after winning their respective national semifinal games. This edition of the championship game was particularly exciting, and Kansas came out victorious, not Memphis, the likely champion had a vote taken place with the Final Four teams decided.
Wouldn't it be grand if Texas or Ole Miss played Southern Cal while the winner of the game tomorrow played Utah in national semifinals? Wouldn't it be even better that the two winners of those games played each other to determine an undisputed college football national champion?
The simple answer is yes. The just-as-simple answer to the question, "Will we ever get a system like this?" is, unfortunately, no.
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