The "national championship" of college football is, despite the protests of BCS royalty, a mythical championship. Without a true playoff, it will always be a distinction that is bestowed, not earned.
To be fair, a bowl win by players and coaches is earned but a national championship is simply given to them by scribes, a few fellow coaches, computer data, and others who vote in the various rankings.
Many years the team which deserves the mythical title is as clear as a fall Saturday in Austin, Texas. This year there are several one-loss teams which will have a legitimate claim to the final number one ranking but three, Oklahoma, Florida, and Texas are nearly unanimously ranked in the top three spots in the polls.
The Oklahoma-Florida winner will stake its claim, so if Texas defeats Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, they should be awarded a share of the mythical title through the number one ranking in the AP poll.
The Associated Press poll has a history of giving its title to a different team than the other primary poll, which in years past has been the UPI or the Coaches Poll in various incarnations. In 2003, AP split with the BCS to take USC over LSU. In 1997, it split with ESPN/USA Today to choose Michigan over Nebraska. In 1991, the AP voters chose Miami while USA Today went with Don James and Washington.
It doesn't stop there. In 1990, AP voted Colorado the top team in the land while UPI went with 11-0-1 Georgia Tech. In 1974, AP gave its votes to Oklahoma and UPI took John McKay and USC. The year before, Alabama and Notre Dame split the vote to share the mythical title.
So, for nearly the entire modern era of college football, we have had years that resulted in a split decision. This year, the AP voters may want to cast a glance to the Arizona desert to see if Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns are worthy to be national champions.
There is never going to be a playoff in FBS (Division I-A) college football. As frustrating as the BCS is, most years it works pretty well. In 2008, however, it has not worked and a split decision would be the best course of action.
If Florida beats Oklahoma, the Gators will have a 13-1 record. The lone blemish on their record is a loss to Ole Miss. If Oklahoma beats Florida, their one loss will have come at the hands of Texas. Regardless, either team has a justifiable claim to the title.
Texas, having beaten Oklahoma, also would have a justifiable claim to the top spot, particularly if Oklahoma should prevail. It was, after all, only Big 12 fine print that put the Sooners in the league championship game against Missouri and disregarded the convincing head-to-head match up between OU and Texas in Dallas.
While Mack Brown and Co. lost on the last play at Texas Tech, I believe that a 10-point victory over the Sooners should count for something. After all, with no playoff, every game counts, right?
There are no easy answers and this year there will be no clear national champion. The AP voters can do college football a great service by naming Fiesta Bowl champion Texas as its choice for number one.
Here is to 2009 bringing an undisputed, undefeated, college football champion.