Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Maybe Florida Can Pull a Southern Cal

I really hate to “put the cart before the horse”, which is what all of us are doing when we speculate how Florida might just find its way to the BCS title game. I especially hate doing so when we still have our arch-rival to play at their home field, and a high quality Arkansas to face in the SEC Championship game.

But here it goes anyway.

Many Florida fans have been lamenting that it appears virtually certain that UF cannot get into the BCS title game regardless of how the Gator’s final two games go. Even if USC loses, a one loss Michigan is likely to stay ahead of the Gators in the BCS poll.

There is, however, another way to win the national title. The Southern Cal way.

The scenario goes like this – either Southern Cal wins out, or Michigan edges Florida in the BCS polls after USC loses to either Notre Dame or UCLA. Florida ends up 3rd or 4th ranked in the BCS, on the outside, looking in.

Florida then defeats FSU, and wins the SEC Championship. Florida then goes to the Sugar Bowl to face (likely) either West Virginia or Notre Dame. Florida then wins comfortably.

Meanwhile, a week later, in the BCS title game, Michigan, or USC, narrowly defeats Ohio State.

Under this scenario, I believe Florida would be crowned the AP National Champion.

This very scenario has happened before, and just recently. In 2003, there were three 1 loss contenders for the title – Oklahoma which lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game, LSU which lost to Zook’s UF team at home, and Southern Cal which lost on the road to Cal in the middle of the season. The BCS poll matched LSU against Oklahoma.

LSU won, and was crowned national champion in the coaches’ poll per agreement. USC, however, beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl 28-14, and got the AP voter’s national championship award.

Michigan, in 2003, although the Big Ten winner, was a two loss team when facing USC, much as Notre Dame would be facing Florida, or perhaps even West Virginia with one loss. The AP voters in 2003, as they were not beholden to the agreement with the BCS to crown the title game winner champion, decided that a USC team that lost, narrowly, on the road to a conference rival was more deserving than an LSU team that lost at home to Florida, and then won narrowly over Oklahoma.

Why would the AP go with Florida this year? Well, if Ohio State loses, they certainly would not go with them, and perhaps they would be unlikely to take a team that either narrowly won over them while losing before (Michigan), or lost to an unranked team on the road (USC).

However, the real reason the AP might likely pick Florida – to stick it to the BCS. The AP poll was in place long before the other current polls, human or otherwise. In fact, the AP began the tradition of anointing college football “national champions” back in 1936, before the bowls were even played (a story for another day).

Starting last year, however, the Harris Interactive poll replaced the AP as one of the two human polls in the BCS formula. So, presently, the AP has nothing to do with crowing a national champion per the BCS scheme. Do you think it bothers the AP voters that their venerable poll is being pushed aside by the “new order”? I bet it does.

Plus, the AP has always had an independent tradition, whether in 2003 or the numerous other times it has created a "split" national champion.

So, Florida can still be national champion, if they win out, BCS be damned. And if the AP national championship isn’t good enough, tell all the media types and USC fans to stop bragging about their back-to-back titles in 2003-2004, because in 03’, it was good enough for all of them.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me - quite correctly - that it was the AP that demanded their poll not be used in the BCS standings. From the AP newswire, December 21, 2004 -

"The Associated Press has told the Bowl Championship Series to stop using its college football poll to determine which teams play for the national title and in the most prestigious bowl games.

The AP said such use was never sanctioned and had reached the point where it threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of the poll.

The AP sent BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg a cease-and-desist letter, dated Dec. 21, stating that use of the poll is unlawful and harms the AP's reputation. "

It is pretty clear from this language that the AP guards very jealously their staked domain - the right to crown a national champion. All the more reason, in fact, that they would be willing to go with someone else should Ohio State lose the BCS title game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between the 2003 situation and this year and therefore this scenario will not take place:

USC was ranked No. 1 in both AP and coaches poll going into the bowl game.

AP voters never move down the No. 1 team if it wins the bowl game. And in this year's scenario, Florida would be ranked No. 3, at best, in the AP poll going into the bowl game. If the second-ranked AP team beats No. 1 Ohio State, that team will win the AP title, no matter who Florida beat, by how much, etc.

The AP route is not open to the Gators this year. The BCS is their best hope.