My final BlogPoll of 2008 is duly submitted, and I have chosen Utah as number 1.
It wasn’t easy, despite my pledge to do so after Utah beat Alabama. I was truly torn between the Utes and my own Gators. And, for the record, I think the Gators are the “best” team in college football right now. But Utah has the best resume, if just barely. Certainly when we compare their head-to-head opponent – Alabama – Utah had the edge.
Moreover, Utah played a credible schedule in 2008 that ranked 32nd according to the NCAA.
Most importantly, they won all of the games in front of them, something no other school can claim. While I believe Florida would beat Utah head-to-head a majority of the time, my Gator’s own loss to Mississippi in the Swamp is just enough of a stain to give Utah the slim edge.
As for all the usual arguments, there are two I would like to dispel –
1. Why don’t they “join a real conference”?
First of all, who to say the Mountain West isn’t real, despite their non-BCS status? 5 of the 9 MWC teams went to bowl games, or as many teams that went to bowls from the 10 member Pac Ten. And while we are comparing them to the Pac Ten, according to the BCS computer component the Colley Matrix the two conferences had similar strengths when you compare teams by rankings -
Mountain West Colley Standings
47. Air Force
53. Colorado State
89. New Mexico
111. San Diego State
Average of teams Utah played - 63.9
Pac Ten Colley Standings
16. Oregon State
73. Arizona State
108. Washington State
Average of teams USC played - 60.5
The Utes supplemented their schedule with Michigan (blech) and Oregon State, who beat USC. If you would average in Oregon State to the Utes schedule as a “9th” conference game Utah actually played a harder “conference” schedule than USC, averaging a 58.6 Colley ranking.
Of course USC, with a NCAA schedule ranked worse than Utah at 38th, would have gone to the BCS title game if they won every game. It is manifestly unjust to hold Utah, with an arguably harder schedule, to a stricter standard.
As for joining a “real” conference, it isn’t necessarily that easy. Utah actually tried to join the Pac Ten in 1978 but was passed over (along with BYU) for Arizona and Arizona State by the then Pac Eight. People act as if teams like Utah are somehow “ducking” competition by not joining the big conferences, when it is pretty obvious they would love to – after all that’s where the money is.
Finally, in regard to this argument, if BCS conference teams can play these non-BCS teams – and count them as wins – it is absurd they can’t compete for the same titles. Florida was willing to play Hawaii for the first game this year, and that same Hawaii team is part of our 13 win record. Yet Hawaii was denied any chance to play for a national title just last year.
2. Alabama wasn’t motivated against Utah.
And that’s Utah’s fault, even if true?
First of all I don’t believe it is, but if true, it is a damning statement about Alabama football, and the bowls in general. Are we really playing top bowl games, BCS level bowl games, among teams that don’t give a damn?
I can’t think of a more compelling argument to destroy the current bowl system than this. If only one bowl game “counts”, why in the hell do I have to watch 34?
As for the game itself, think for an instance how close Alabama was to playing for the BCS title. No one would have questioned Alabama as an undefeated team in the title game. And, say had 1- loss Oklahoma played Alabama and won as convincingly as Utah, they would have been the consensus “national champion”. Utah’s argument is no different than USC’s was in 2003, when the 12-1 Trojans beat a 2-loss Michigan team to claim the AP title over 1-loss BCS winner LSU. Hell, Utah’s argument is better.
As for the rest –
Finally, congratulations to my Gators for a fantastic season. We are BCS Champions and, most importantly, SEC Champions.
As for “national champions” - perhaps one day. But I’m an adult, so along with the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, there are certain things adults just can’t believe in.