Screw the Bowl Championship Series. Utah should be Number One.
Sure, there was that BCS National Championship game played in Miami last night. And yes, Florida defeated Oklahoma, 24-14
, to give coach Urban Meyer and the Gators their second BCS title in three years. Good for them; they were a good team.
But as far as I'm concerned, Utah, not Florida, deserves to be crowned the best college football team of the 2008 season.
The reason is not because I think Utah is a better team athletically than Florida; if the Utes and the Gators played each other tomorrow, the Gators would probably win. (Of course, that's not going to happen, so we'll never know for sure.) The reason I think Utah deserves to be national champion is simply because they did everything they were supposed to do in order to be national champions.
Namely, they went through the entire season undefeated, something that no other Football Bowl Subdivision in the nation - Florida included - was able to do. Moreover, they topped off their perfect season with a convincing 31-17 beatdown of #4-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The fact that Utah is not the 2008 National College Football Champion today, in fact, simply shows how pernicious, inequitable and defective the BCS system really is.
One of the most persistent arguments I hear BCS apologists give in opposition to a playoff is that the current arrangement gives a unique importance to college football's regular season that does not exist in any other sport: that the regular season, in effect, acts as a "playoff" of its own, where every week teams knock each other out of national title contention. If that is the case, then Utah is the only school to get through this "regular season playoff" undefeated. Oklahoma lost to Texas, and Florida lost to Mississippi State. Texas and USC, who have also made arguments in favor of them being #1, lost to Texas Tech and Oregon State, respectively. Shouldn't making it through the entire season without a single loss - and being the only team out of a field of 120 to do so - count for something?
Of course, when one brings up the fact that Utah went through the regular season undefeated, the typical response is something along the lines of "yeah, but they played a relatively weak schedule." Yes, Utah plays in the non-BCS Mountain West Conference while Florida plays in the powerful SEC and you certainly won't get any argument from me that the SEC is, from top to bottom, a better conference than the MWC. But that doesn't mean that the MWC doesn't have any good teams of its own; TCU and BYU both ended the season ranked in the top 25 and Air Force and Colorado State had winning, bowl-bound seasons as well. Utah can't do anything about the performance of other schools in their own conference; it's not the Utes' fault that San Diego State and Wyoming suck any more than it is the Gators' fault that Tennessee and Arkansas both had disappointing, losing seasons. They can only beat their opponents, and they did. All of them.
This brings me to another common refrain heard from BCS apologists, which is that, in order to be in consideration for a national title, non-BCS schools need to "compensate" for a weak conference schedule by playing out-of-conference games against tough BCS opponents. Well, Utah took that advice to heart and signed a deal with one of the premier programs in all of college football: Michigan. And then Utah went up to Ann Arbor on the first weekend of the season and beat them. Why is it Utah's fault that the Wolverines somehow managed to have their worst season in the history of their storied program? These out-of-conference contracts, after all, are signed years in advance and the Utes should be commended for accepting the challenge. For good measure, the Utes also scheduled - and defeated - an Oregon State team from the Pac-10 that upset the top-ranked USC Trojans the previous week. Okay, so the Utes also scheduled games against Weber State (who actually had a good season, advancing to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs) and Utah State (whom they play every year anyway). Fine. Florida scheduled the Citadel.
And last but not least, the Sugar Bowl. Alabama, who spent several weeks of the past season ranked as the top team in the nation, was heavily favored in this game. But the Utes thoroughly defeated them, jumping out to a 21-0 lead and holding on for the 31-17 victory
. That's a 14-point margin; for comparison's sake, Florida beat the Tide by 11 in the SEC Championship Game last December.
And please, don't give me the "but Alabama wasn't playing at full strength" excuse. Yeah, they were playing with a few injuries and a makeshift offensive line that was missing suspended LT Andre Smith. But Alabama is so loaded with talent that it really shouldn't have mattered. Moreover, I'm not convinced that Alabama would have won even if they were at full strength, especially given the way the Utes were playing in that game. In any case, the "team X would have won if player Y was playing" argument is speculative, unprovable and irrelevant (not that it will ever stop those annoying Chicago fans from continuing to claim that the Houston Rockets would not had won NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995 had Michael Jordan not "retired," but that's a different story).
So let's recap:
The Utah Utes won all their games - the only FBS team in the entire nation to do so. They beat four teams - Alabama, TCU, Oregon State and BYU - that ended the season ranked in the top 25. They bolstered their schedule by playing teams from the Pac-10 and Big Ten. They won their bowl game in convincing fashion. In short, they did all they were asked to do.
Although the USA Today Coaches Poll
is bound to declare the winner of the BCS game their National Champion, the sportswriters of the AP Poll had the opportunity to give the Utes their share of glory by awarding them their top spot. Unfortunately, only 16 of the AP's 65 voters
Joseph Duarte among them) had enough manhood to do so. As msnbc.com's John Tamanaha writes:
Following the 2003 season, the AP voters had the guts to look past the BCS version of a pseudo national championship game between LSU and Oklahoma, and awarded their trophy to one-loss USC.
This time around, it's too bad that so many of them got caught up in the story that the BCS was selling.
At the end of the day, all of this national championship business is mythical. Why not share the wealth and possibly take another step toward a more equitable solution?
Exactly. The fact that Utah, in spite of its accomplishments, did not even get to play
for the national championship, let alone win it, under the BCS system simply shows how utterly cynical, unfair and flawed the BCS system is. Little wonder, then, that State of Utah's Attorney General is looking into antitrust action against it.
Therefore, I reject the BCS as well as its determination of which team deserves to be crowned the best in the land. Mean Green Cougar Red hereby declares coach Kyle Wittingham and Utah Utes to be college football's 2008 National Champions.
To be fair, Utah wasn't even on my radar screen when I wrote my season preview
back in August. I was also wrong, at least as far as the BCS game goes, when I said that the Gators didn't have a "championship caliber defense." Finally, I erred at season's beginning when I picked Ohio State to win it all. Truth is, I'm not even sure the Buckeyes deserved their Fiesta Bowl berth (where they were edged by Texas, 24-21
). On the other hand, it turns out I was right to be skeptical about Georgia's chances at a national title, I did predict that USC would stub their toe
somewhere along the course of the season, and I did foresee that the winner of a Big XII Championship Game against Oklahoma and Missouri would go on to play in the BCS title game. So maybe my powers of pigskin prognostication aren't too bad after all...
Finally, let me say that I will be very happy after the upcoming season ends and FOX's rights to televise the BCS bowls expires. FOX's coverage of the bowls has simply sucked. Last night's commentators, in particular, were among the worst I've had endured all year. The play-by-play guy's overbearing adoration of Florida QB Tim Tebow as as annoying as it was embarrassing; by the end of the game I wanted him to quit talking about him and just walk out on to the field to actually give
Tebow a blowjob.
There should be a rule: if you don't broadcast regular season college football games, you shouldn't be allowed to bid for the rights to postseason broadcasts.
Anyway, on to the offseason.