Thursday night, Florida and Oklahoma will meet in Miami to play the BCS Championship Game. The winner of that game will be regarded as the national champion by their fans, by the NCAA, and by the coaches who are forced to declare them as such. Nobody else has to acknowledge their legitimacy, and nobody else should.
The reasons why you, the fan, shouldn't let the BCS tell you who the national champion is are many, but they all center around the same problem. The polls, both human and computer, have far too much say in determining who gets to play for this bogus national title which usually proves to be about as legitimate as a politician's apology. Sometimes the polls get it right; more often, the poll voters whiff it.
This year the pollers sent the Gators and Sooners to the title game. A few weeks back that seemed like a reasonable conclusion. The Gators beat Alabama, the #1 team in the country, in the SEC Championship Game. The Sooners made a little less sense, given that they'd lost to Texas, a team which seemed to have a pretty strong claim themselves. But two horrible miscalulations screwed everything up, just like always.
First of all, everybody overrated the Big 12 South, largely as a consequence of overrating Missouri from the Big 12 North. The Tigers didn't live up to their billing this year, but we didn't know that until late in the season. Thus, we gave too much credit to Oklahoma State for beating them. The Tigers were ranked third in the country at that time. Consequently, the Cowboys shot into the top ten and stayed there, even after losing to Texas, so that both the Longhorns and the Red Raiders were thought to have beaten a top ten OSU team. Even when Oklahoma schooled the Cowboys, Mike Gundy's squad was still ranked eleventh.
Because we overrated Missouri and then overrated Oklahoma State for beating them, we all failed to see that the Big 12 South wasn't as good as we thought it was. Bowl results have proved that. Missouri needed overtime to beat a Northwestern team that lost to Indiana. The once-beaten Red Raiders fell to a four-loss Ole Miss squad, while the Cowboys lost to Oregon, a team from a conference universally regarded as weak as recently as December 20.
That was the other miscalculation.
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The Pac 10 wasn't even five percent as weak as conventional wisdom held it to be. If you need evidence of this, look how Pac 10 teams did in bowl games. They didn't lose a one. And we, collectively, were wrong about USC's loss to Oregon State. "How can you take them seriously if they lost to a team that lost to Stanford?" Well, Florida lost to Ole Miss, a team that lost to South Carolina. And Oklahoma lost to a team (Texas) that lost to a team (Texas Tech) that lost to that very same team. Looks like it's a wash. Southern Cal fans have every right to say they were screwed over by the BCS strictly because the human voters badly underrated their conference.
There's a ripple effect to that second miscalculation. Utah won the Mountain West, a league that went 6-2 against the Pac 10 in head-to-head competition this season. Oh, and they also didn't lose a game, unlike Oklahoma or Florida. The Utes beat TCU, BYU, Oregon State (yup, them again) and Alabama, four teams ranked in the final poll before the bowl games. Oklahoma matched that record. Florida only beat two teams in that poll, Alabama and Georgia. Take out Utah's win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and the worst you can say is that the Utes are as about as qualified as Oklahoma and more qualified than Florida.
Given all this, what compelling reason is there to think that the two unquestionably best teams in college football are playing for the national title? USC and Utah can say they're just as good, if not better, than Florida and Oklahoma. But, for no legitimate reason, they weren't chosen. If the AP voters have any sense at all, they'll give their title to the Trojans or the Utes, and that title will be every bit as valuable as the BCS title. Which isn't saying much.