Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The time is now

Last in a series on the “National Championship”

On January 8th, neither Florida nor Ohio State is going to win "The" National Championship.

There. I said it, and it feels better.

Before we address my statement, let’s first look at the “gift-from-the-gods” we playoff proponents were handed last night from Idaho.

The Boise State Broncos, they of lesser conference and of dazzling blue field, beat Big 12 Champion Oklahoma in a BCS bowl.

The Broncos beat the Oklahoma by scoring 43 points (35 in regulation) against the 16th best scoring defense in the nation, which was averaging only 15.3 points surrendered per game in Big 12 play this year. No one scored 43 points, or even 35 points, on Oklahoma this year. The closest was the highly suspect 34 points scored by Oregon State against the Sooners (on a play the referees later admitted they got wrong).

Consider the following season stats for Boise State –

Total Defense – 14th nationally at 274 yards per game
Scoring Defense – 18th nationally at 15.6 points per game
Total Offense – 11th nationally at 424 yards per game
Scoring Offense – 2nd nationally at 39 points per game

Boise State deserves to be called “National Champions” every bit as much as Ohio State or Florida will.

Don’t believe that? Well, believe that those offensive statistics above are considerably better than either Ohio State’s or Florida’s.

But it was against lesser competition, right?

Well, yes and no. Certainly Boise State showed they could handle the best the Big 12 had to offer. Boise also played and beat Oregon State - the same Oregon State that beat USC 33-31.

Oregon State lost to Boise State 42-14. In that game, Boise rushed for 302 yards, while holding OSU to only 58 rushing yards. Yet, when they need to they can throw, getting 267 yards through the air against an Oklahoma team that is ranked 7th nationally in passing efficiency defense.

Boise State ends the season 13-0, winning the Fiesta Bowl. At the very least, they deserved a chance at better.

The virulent feelings against the Boise States of the world in college football amaze me. Teams like Boise, or Utah a few years ago, are nearly always dismissed as “undeserving”. Contrast this with the glory piled upon the “Cinderella’s” of the NCAA basketball tournament. The George Masons of NCAA hoops are praised, welcomed and even encouraged. In football, they are told they are irrelevant, that they are undeserving of attention, and that they don’t in fact even have a chance to play for a title.

Such an attitude is, on so many levels, unjustifiable.

There are around 120 teams in Division I-A football, and roughly half of those teams are not considered eligible for the mythical “National Title”. Oh, teams like Florida and Ohio State will play them for homecoming, and count those wins towards their own totals, but on the rare occasion they are good enough to crash the party – they find the door closed.

If Florida wins, we can count that some of the selectors will choose Boise State as “National Champs”, and perhaps even a few if Ohio State wins. And so the farce will march on.

Let us return now to my original statement, that neither OSU nor Florida is playing for “The” “National Title”. Certainly, neither is playing for the NCAA title, as it does not exist.

In my previous posts on this topic, I have received messages and comments strongly defending the idea that the writer’s various teams have indeed won a “National Championship” sometime in the past. Mostly these comments come from the fans of the traditionally better schools – like Miami or Alabama. People seem to love the lore of past “National Championships”, no matter how ridiculous the claim may be (see here for examples).

If you are happy with the current forty-some selector process, then perhaps you can believe in those “National Championships” of old. But as I pointed out in my original post on this topic, Florida has a very solid claim to the 1984 National Championship, a claim far more solid, in fact, than many of Alabama’s 12 so-called titles.

If you want to be a believer in the current system, Florida is playing for its 3rd “National Championship” on January 8th. In fact, under this belief system there are a multiple of national title holders for every year college football has ever been played. I would estimate that, going back to 1900, there are over 300-some “legitimate” claims of “National Championship” for 105 years of college football.

If that is what you want to believe, nothing I can say will change your mind.

I submit this however – either you believe in all 300-some “National Titles”, or you believe in none. Picking and choosing which are “real” is an exercise in subjective dishonesty.

I choose that there have been none. Florida has never won the National Championship in football, and is not about to. I am willing to say this, though I cherish the memories of 1996, because I want better. For my small part as a fan, my small contribution to a better future, I am willing to let go of this false past.

Because I want to believe that the term “National Champion” has resonance – that it actually means something. I also think the time for change is upon us.

And that time is now.

With Boise State’s win, and more importantly, the messages about the need for a playoff that came both from Coach Meyer and Florida President Bernie Machen (as well as FSU’s President), the time may never be better than now to make the change.

What I want Meyer and Machen to do is act with the conviction and courage of their prior words – I want them to say, especially if Florida wins, that the BCS title is nice, but a PLAYOFF should still be implemented.

I want them to say that it is time for this ridiculous beauty contest to end. Most of all, I want them to do it from the position of authority that can come from playing in, or hopefully winning, the current mythical national championship.

Do the courageous thing – do the right thing – and denounce the system if our beloved Gator’s win, coach Meyer. Because in doing so, you will do more for the future of college football than any single “National Title” could ever do.

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