Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Setting the record straight

Since this blog was started back in October, both Mergz and myself have maintained that there is no "National Champion" in Division 1A college football, at least not in the way there is a champion in college baseball or college basketball. Oh there is an endless list of people that award "national championships" and top rankings at the end of the season and there is no shortage of schools making claims of "national championships" but the NCAA does not award a championship in Division 1A.

The "national championship" the Gators won on January 8th is between quotation marks for this reason. We would prefer that there be a true national championship in the form a year-end tournament and what I'm about to post doesn't change that. But the something has got my goat. It's fans rivals of Florida (mainly FSU and Miami) trying to diminish the value of the Gators' two mythical national titles.

Backed in
Do over

Those are just some of the words these fans are using. Case in point is allCanes, a Miami Hurricane blog that took offense to a picture its author received via email with Urban Meyer looking in the rear view mirror at Randy Shannon and Bobby Bowden. Incidentally that picture was posted on this blog (but we didn't create it). The allCanes post about the picture is particularly venemous and I suppose I understand since Miami had a mediocre year and won a mediocre bowl. I understand how sports works and we, as Gator fans, are at the top right now but we also have a target on our backs.

Now I live in Miami and I hate the Hurricanes. Hate is a strong word and I really don't hate any of the players coaches or fans of the team in a "he shot a man just to watch him bleed" sort of way but in the way sports fans hate other sports fans.

A LOT OF MY BEST FRIENDS are Miami fans, which made watching Miami enjoy so much success especially painful for me. But I have never tried to minimize the accomplishments of that great program. Likewise for FSU. But allCanes does exactly that and takes it to another level. I'm not picking on him specifically because I've seen this sentiment elsewhere but it's not only irrational but it's wrong.

Was 1996 a mulligan and did Florida's participation in the 2006 BCS Championship game deny Michigan the same chance?

The short answer is no, although it appears that way. The reason is that there was a different system in place than currently. Under the old system there was no mandated matching of the top 2 ranked teams in the country to play for a championship. At the time, the winner of the SEC received an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl committee would then invite an opponent to play against that team. Top ranked Florida lost FSU in it's regular season finale. The Gators then won the SEC championship game in Atlanta and punched their ticket to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl committee selected top ranked FSU to play the Gators in a rematch. Remember under the old system the bowls tried to generate the best match-up based on their criteria whether that be TV interest, potential hotel room bookings etc. In short, Florida was just playing the team the committee lined up for them to play.

The Gators did need help in order for that game to become the de facto "national championship" game and they got it. OSU beat 2nd ranked ASU in an upset in the Fiesta Bowl. With nobody between Florida and Florida state the Sugar Bowl suddenly was for all of the marbles. The Gators, of course, beat FSU convincingly 52-20 and were named as champions by both the AP and Coaches polls.

Just because the Gators needed help to put them in a position to win the "championship" doesn't mean they backed into it. In every sport teams often get help on their way to championships. If you are behind in the standings, you need to not only keep winning but you need teams ahead of you to lose. That's the nature of sports. The Gators merely got an opportunity that many teams get and cashed in on it.

There's a lot of differences between that and what Michigan fans wanted to happen this past season. First of all, now there is a mandate for the top 2 ranked teams to play each other. Michigan lost to rival OSU in the last week of the season just like Florida in 1996 but it did not have a chance to redeem itself by winning a game against a ranked opponent like Florida did. Michigan dropped to 3rd in the human polls that are part of the BCS but remained 2nd in the BCS rankings due to the computer rankings. The thing is that the computer rankings change based on strength of schedule and that changes as games are played. In other words, with Florida and USC still having meaningful games to play, Michigan had nowhere to go but down in the computer rankings if those teams won those games.

USC lost, of course, and Florida finished ranked 2nd after beating Arkansas in Atlanta for SEC Championship. Michigan fans wanted to ride a one game losing streak into the national championship game to play the same opponent they had just lost to without any games in between.

Much has been made of the human polls moving Florida ahead of Michigan in the last week. So what? Florida had a game left to play and they won it. 3 of the computer polls had Michigan ranked 2nd but 2 of them had Florida ranked 2nd and one even had Florida ranked 1st. The AP poll that has no say in the BCS match-up also put Florida at number 2.

Florida went 13-1 and convincingly beat the consensus number 1 team in the country. How is that backing into a national championship? Unless you believe a team has to be undefeated to be the champion then it's not. Florida's sole loss came on the road in week 7 to an Auburn team that would finish the season ranked 9th in the AP poll and 8th in the coaches poll. They had the opportunity to climb the ladder again after being knocked down and certainly did get help. But like in 1996 they won the big game when they needed to.

In 1996 and 2006 the Gators finished ranked number 1 in both of the major polls. If I wanted to throw stones at Miami I could mention that that wasn't the case for all of their championships.

Miami is a great program with a great history and probably a great future under Randy Shannon. It doesn't make me uncomfortable to say that. The former is an obvious fact and the latter is an educated guess. I am jealous of their history. Who wouldn't be? But let's not pretend they aren't jealous of our present. They look for ways to discredit the bit of history we do have to make themselves feel better. Whatever floats their boat, I guess, but they aren't being honest with themselves.


Mergz said...

So, now we are to quibble over the quality of mythical national championships, Miami?

Like the "split" title you had?

Or in your first faux title in 1983 when you lost to Florida?

In my opinion, Miami and Florida have exactly the same number of "national championships".

And that number is zero.

Anonymous said...

Now you guys got me thinking your right in not taking the "national championship" to seriously. So if Michigan could have scheduled another game after the OSU game (and won like Florida did against Arkansas) then they would have been ranked higher than our Gators and played OSU again in Arizona. How long do you think it will take before they come up with a different system? I think Notre Dame should be forced into the Big Ten so they can have a conference title game that determines who'll play in the BCS title game. Until that happens you'll still get that Michigan/OSU game being the nations most hyped college game.

Henry Gomez said...

The problem with Michigan is that they didn't have a conference championship game to boost their strength of schedule after their late loss. If the big 10 were a 12 team conference, then depending on the divisional structure, Michigan still may have not made the BCS championship game and both teams would definitely not have made it.

Scenario 1: Michigan is in the same division as OSU. They wouldn't have made the conference title game because OSU with the undefeated record and the head-to head win would have been the divisional representative. Michigan would need OSU to lose the CCG and then hope the voters would put them in despite the fact they didn't play for the conference title.

Scenario 2: Michigan and OSU are in 2 different divisions. Assuming Michigan would have won its division with an 11-1 record they would have gotten their rematch in the conference championship game and not the BCS championship game. A rematch of the rematch would have been an unprecented 3-game series.

BTW Notre Dame is the obvious choice for the 12th team but will never join as long as big 10 teams continue to schedule them and ND can earn and keep all that cash they generate.

Anonymous said...

yeh your right man it will never happen, too much tradition up there cause they keep that last game special bo vs woody hayes started it all.

the dude was talkin bout that wolverine buckeye game, saw my man Derek Jeter on the sidelines at that game. how noisy that Ohio Stadium gets cause it's huge, two-tiered walls of fans reverberates on the field.
with those great bands high steppin, great fight songs, nothin like it in sports, that games so incredible.