Gators win something, but not national title |

Gators win something, but not national title

Chris Freud

Congratulations to Florida.

The Gators won the BCS Championship Game Thursday, but you can’t say they won the national championship.

Sure, Florida emerged from the big, bad Southeastern Conference, and finished off the Big 12 champs in the Sooners. The Gators are 13-1 and doubtless one of the best teams in the country.

By beating Oklahoma, Urban Meyer’s bunch seems to have belonged in the championship game, but we can’t say that the Gators played the right team. There were at least three other teams in Utah, the University of Southern California and Texas who deserved a shot at the so-called championship game Thursday night. At best, Florida is one of four champions for 2008-09, thanks to the Bowl Championship Series, which needs to go the way of the 8-track.

Perfect Utes

This just in ” football was not invented by the SEC and the Big 12. And football is played in many other locales and by other conferences.

This is somewhat important as Utah at 13-0 is the only perfect team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, aka Division I-A. Say what you will about the Mountain West, but nobody else is perfect.

The Utes also do what they can to schedule a strong nonconference slate. Utah knocked off Michigan in the Big House in a game which was likely scheduled when the Wolverines were still a college football power. Utah downed Oregon State in October, and that would be the same Oregon St. which beat Pac-10 champion, USC.

Throw in the Pac-10’s 5-0 record in bowl games, and Utah’s win over the Beavers looks better in retrospect.

And then there’s the Sugar Bowl ” Utah smacked Alabama, 31-17, in what was essentially a home game for the Crimson Tide. What’s more a supposedly-nothing program like Utah crushing Bama sort of debunks the theory of the SEC’s invincibility.

By the way, this was no fluke. Remember that the Utes did this in 2004-05, winning the Fiesta Bowl. As ESPN’s Rick Reilly pointed out in his column, it’s worth noting that Utah’s coach at the time was Urban Meyer.

Men of Troy

That USC didn’t get a shot is one of my causes. The only strike against USC is that the Trojans lost in freaking September at Oregon State, 27-21.

USC lost on the road to Oregon State, a ranked team, and the Trojans never get a chance to play their way back in? Florida lost to Ole Miss, a ranked team, at home and played Thursday night. Oklahoma lost to Texas, a ranked team, at a neutral site and got to play Thursday night.

And don’t you dare start with “USC plays in the Pac-10.”

The Pac-10 is not a weak conference ” see that 5-0 bowl mark. It is merely ignored because it’s on the West Coast ” see the surprise from the media after the Pac-10 went 5-0 in bowls.

What else does USC need to do? The Trojans had no patsies outside of the Pac-10 with Virginia, Notre Dame and Ohio State. It’s not USC’s fault that Virginia and Notre Dame have fallen off the map, and the latter makes up one half of one of college football’s most storied rivalries.

As for the Big 10, USC has demonstrated thorough mastery of that circuit, having trounced Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl, Michigan in the 2004 and 2008 Rose Bowls, and Illinois and Penn State, respectively in the 2007 and 2009 games in Pasadena, Calif. (USC also slapped Ohio State, 35-3, during the 2008 regular season).

When the Trojans are able to get out of their traditional date with the Big 10, they’ve fared superbly, crushing Oklahoma, 55-19 in the 2005 Orange Bowl and losing the epic Rose Bowl of 2006 to Texas, 41-38.

Each year they are at their best come January, and they are as athletic as any squad in the country, as indicated by the number of players drafted by the NFL.

It’s downright wrong that USC isn’t in the national title discussion.

Red River

USC and Utah don’t have a direct way of comparing themselves to Florida or Oklahoma. Texas does.

The Longhorns beat the Sooners, 45-35, in the Red River Rivalry, but were kept out of the BCS title game because of the inane ratings system. In a familiar scenario to USC, Texas lost out on a shot at the BCS crown because it lost on the road to a ranked conference foe, Texas Tech.

Playoff time

The solution is simple ” a 16-team playoff. It won’t happen through because the BCS’ six major conferences (ACC, Big East, SEC, Pac-10 Big 12 and Big 10) won’t let it. Also, the universities themselves like the current system.

Schools use the mind-numbing 30-something bowl games to wine and dine their alumni, and grab the donations that follow. The coaches like the bowls because 30-something of them get to say they ended the season on a win, as opposed to a playoff loss or not making the postseason.

A playoff likely makes too much sense. The champs of the ACC, Big East, SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, Big 10, Mountain West and WAC all get automatic bids as does Notre Dame if it gets to 10 wins ” provided that Charlie Weis or his successor fins a way to turn the Irish around.

That leaves seven or eight wild cards, depending on Notre Dame. The set-up allows for the Utahs and Boise States to have a true shot at a true national title. With the extra spots, there’s room for teams who don’t win the titles of their conferences (Alabama) or to adjust for strong conferences (the Big 12 South three-way tie) and a surprise team from the MAC like Ball State.

Then and only then, with apologies to Florida, we’ll have a true national champ.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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