Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sunrise, sunset

Auburn's football team didn't beat Virginia Tech by the 97-point spread that it apparently would have taken for the Tigers to sway a few more Associated Press voters to bump them up to No. 1. Indeed, after dominating most of the game Monday night, Auburn surrendered a couple of late touchdowns that cut the Sugar Bowl's final score to a deceptively close 16-13 margin.

Oklahoma and USC, both undefeated, will play in the Orange Bowl tonight, and thanks to the Bowl Championship Series' contract with the coaches' poll, the winner will receive a crystal football that labels it the national champion. Unfortunately, AP voters will likely deny a share of the title to an equally undefeated and deserving Auburn team that had the misfortune of not being as highly regarded in the preseason as the Sooners and Trojans.

Sure, Auburn didn't blow Virginia Tech out of the water. I suppose you think you could have done better against the No. 9 team in the country. All undefeated teams have a down week or two at some point during their seasons, so it's unfair to punish Auburn for that, especially since its two closest calls came against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time. Remember, USC struggled mightily against unranked Stanford and UCLA, and Oklahoma didn't defeat Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, both 7-5, until the final play.

AP voters, whose poll withdrew from the BCS formula last month, could strike one final blow against college football's mockery of a postseason system by awarding the Tigers their first-place votes. Sadly, they'll probably march in lockstep with the BCS party line. For a few days, there will be much sound and fury in the sports world about how unfair the whole situation was to Auburn, and playoff talk will abound. In the end, the BCS formula will be tweaked again, and it'll work about as poorly as it has for the last couple of years. Other deserving teams will be deprived of title shots, and fans will continue to complain, and odds are that the sun will keep rising in the east and setting in the west.

The winner of the Oklahoma-USC game deserves a share of the national championship. So does Auburn. Until major-college administrators come to their senses and end the annual title disputes with a football playoff, any team that finishes undefeated in a major conference deserves to called "national champion."

Ignored in all of these discussions, of course, is unbeaten Mountain West Conference champion Utah, which just might be the best team in college football this year. But hey, we wouldn't want to let the little guys horn in on the action, would we?

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