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Michigan is a Better Team, But Florida Right Choice For BCS

By Travis Johnson

The people who vote in college football polls have an impossible job.

It’s not even clear what they’re supposed to do. Rank the teams from best to worst in a neutral site game? Rank the teams by the quality of their season? Rank the teams by the size of their mascot?

Even knowing what they’re supposed to do, how can you compare teams from different conferences that have rarely played common opponents, never mind each other?

This year, the voters chose to rank them as follows: 1) Ohio State, 2) The-Team-I-Want-to-See-Play-Ohio-State, and 3) Michigan.

Writers, coaches, and the state of Michigan are outraged at the system, and have started the annual calls for a play-off system. But play-offs will never happen, and I think the current Bowl Championship Series system is about as good as it can be.

The reason the BCS was created was to pit No. 1 versus No. 2 in a season-ending game that determined an undisputed national champion. But this year was a special case: we already had a No. 1 versus No. 2, and Ohio State won by a field goal.

Keeping in mind the goal of finding an undisputed champion, the BCS game shouldn’t be a rematch. Michigan will never be the undisputed No. 1, since it has already lost to Ohio State, the would-be No. 2. A No. 1 that has lost to No. 2 is a definitely not a clear winner.

Just think about a Michigan-Ohio State National Championship game. If Michigan won, it would be “champion” but the legitimacy of the title would certainly be disputed. If Ohio State won, it would be a clear champion, but we’d never really know if the SEC was such a good conference that Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennesee could all beat OSU.

As it stands, either Ohio State will complete its undefeated run or Florida will win and prove just how difficult the SEC was. But in both cases we will have an undisputed champion, exactly what the BCS was designed to provide.

There are some changes that would really help and are more plausible than the playoff system we all dream of. The final poll votes were made public this year, and they shouldn’t be next year. There’s a reason ballots are usually secret; we want voters to express their true feelings without worrying about what friends, family, and bosses might think.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel abstained because, “we felt it was somewhat of a conflict of interest,” but it’s clear he didn’t want to have to answer the question: “Did you vote for team X because you think they’d be easier to beat?” I wouldn’t either.

It should be a rule that only conference champs play in the title game. This year’s voting made it clear that this is an unwritten rule, but making it official allows voters to make Michigan the No. 2 ranking it deserves, while still setting up a national title game that determines the best team.

I know my last suggestion invites the unpopular No. 1 versus No. 3 national championship game, but if No. 2 lost to No. 1 in the conference, they shouldn’t be national champs and therefore shouldn’t play for that designation. The only exception would be if the two teams haven’t played, which can happen in goofy conferences like the Big Ten.

And while I’m dreaming, the polls should tell voters exactly what criteria they should use: “Please list the top 25 Division I-A in order of how successful they’d be in a real post-season system.”