Regular season play comes to a crashing thud, and the AP voters pussy out to rescue the reputation of a BCS system that should have been flushed long ago. We can understand the coaches ranking Florida ahead of Michigan: coaches are compelled to bow to the almighty status quo. But what happened to the AP voters? The AP poll has no bearing on the BCS formula anymore, but they were once willing to stand apart from the conservative coaching poll--in 2003 they even split the National Championship, favoring USC over the BCS-designated LSU.
Maybe the voters think that the only way to preserve Michigan's #2 status is to keep them out of the title match. Ohio State skins the Gators, the Wolverines pummel USC, and the Big Ten stands astride the football world at 1 and 2. More likely their motivations were less calculated.
So how did Florida get better than Michigan in a week?
Before we get into that we have to understand how UCLA got better than USC in a week. USC, the same team that beat the tar out of an Arkansas team that would go onto the SEC title game, the same team that bullied Notre Dame last week, the same team that held Cal's prolific offense to one offensive score the week before, the same team that looked like a lock for National Championship contender for a fourth straight year, fell 13-9 to a UCLA defense that had teased us all year with their potential but finally delivered. Never underestimate those rivalry games. In a mediocre season, at a school which before the Karl Dorrell era was expected to compete for the Rose Bowl every year, this was a huge win for the Bruins. The Emerald Bowl never tasted so sweet. Quarterback Pat Cowan has done a decent job of keeping his team afloat, but there really shouldn't be any quarterback controversy for when Ben Olson gets healthy. UCLA's defense proved that they are capable of greatness, but the Bruin offense is still a few steps behind. If not for Arizona's improbable win over Cal, Pete Carroll would be heading to the Holiday Bowl. Maybe he should send Mike Stoops a card.
So again, how did Florida get better than Michigan in a week? They did win the SEC title game, and maybe that surprised many voters. Florida has slogged out a stunning 12-1 season--stunning because they were within spitting distance of a 7-5 season. Many football pundits are now saying that Florida played the toughest schedule in the country. Florida's non-conference schedule included the difficulty of such powerhouse programs as Southern Miss (8-5), Central Florida (4-8), and Div.1AA dynamo Western Carolina (2-9). To believe that Florida won out the nation's toughest schedule one must also believe that the SEC's absolute dominance trumps candy apple non-conference play. Our own rankings have 4 SEC teams in our top ten, and we stand by those rankings, but the Gator schedule can't hold a candle to what USC had to endure this year. While Florida beat some highly ranked opponents on the road this year, they also barely farted out wins against undistinguished opponents. We suppose the fact that Florida also lacks any identifiable superstars also clouds any championship shine for us. But they did win out the SEC, and they finally solidly beat a solidly good opponent in Arkansas. That doesn't make them better than Michigan.
Missing in all of this National Championship discussion is Louisville. Their only loss this year is attributable to an offsides penalty. The Cardinals have certainly had their ups and downs this season, but they've been plagued by injuries that would have buried lesser teams. Now they're back in rock solid form and their struggles against Kansas State (who would later beat Texas) and Cincinnati (who would beat up Rutgers) are actually starting to look very respectable. Louisville caps off their regular season play with a 48-17 shellacking of UConn and win their first BCS berth to the Orange Bowl. Despite a remarkable season, Louisville won their trip to Miami with a little help from West Virginia, whose triple overtime win against Rutgers was the best game of the week.
The ACC title game was the absolute worst game of the week, possibly the worst game of the season, and conceivably the worst game ever nationally broadcast. We love the underdog, so Wake Forest gets our passing respect, and pulling off 11 wins in a regular season is an amazing accomplishment for anyone, but that schedule of theirs helped out quite a bit. Georgia Tech, dare we say it, is the worst team to play in any of the BCS conference title games. Their modest success this year is due mostly to the demise of Miami and the haplessness of North Carolina, who GT barely beat in a 7-0 snorefest. So, with these two mediocre teams, who represent how badly the ACC has slipped since their acquisition of the best of the Big East, is it any wonder that you get a game where neither team really breaches the 10 yard line, let alone the endzone? And for a kickapalooza game none of the five field goals was particularly impressive. If we wanted to watch a 9-6 game we'd be fucking soccer hooligans.
The Big XII title game wasn't much better. Oklahoma bested Nebraska 21-7 in a frustrating contest which rested not so much on defense as on offensive ineptitude. Bill Callahan has proven to be a great coach this year, but his players don't match up with their coach's ambitions. Sadly, we didn't see the kind of daring play-calling out of Callahan in this game that he had peppered the season with. However, like Nebraska's other 3 losses, the offense's inability to execute dragged them down in a game that they should have won. Hats off to Bob Stoops for winning the Big XII again. We're not quite sure how he did it, but a great offensive line and killer defense has gotta help. What a sad year for the Big XII. They've sent the Big XII champion to the national title game in 5 of the last 6 years, and Texas even won it last year. This year, Texas is off to the Alamo Bowl. Let's not underestimate the Sooners. They'll head off to the Fiesta Bowl this year to face Boise State. Why did the Orange Bowl choose Wake Forest over Oklahoma? ACC tradition? We're just old enough to remember when the Big 8 owned the Orange Bowl; what about that tradition?