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Monday, January 07, 2008

All things considered, this is best pairing

NEW ORLEANS - I have no problem with split national championships. Considering how silly and arbitrary college football's postseason has always been, sometimes a single champion cannot be fairly crowned. USC clearly deserved a national championship for the 2003 season and got it by the Associated Press. LSU clearly deserved one, too, and got it from the BCS.

Those two teams should have played in the Sugar Bowl that season. That was the mistake - not the dual titles.

This season, regardless of how crazy it has been, will have a solitary champion, and that will be the winner of tonight's LSU-Ohio State game in the BCS title game in the Louisiana Superdome. The USC and Georgia arguments are sophomoric.

Before the bowls, there were other teams with solid arguments for being in this game other than Ohio State and LSU. Virginia Tech, for example, finished the season as strongly as any team. But it just lost its bowl game. Oklahoma also had a very strong argument, but it lost its bowl game and looked bad in the process. Georgia had a decent argument. It finished as one of the hotter teams in the country, but one cannot just excuse that huge blemish of Oct. 6 - a 35-14 loss to Tennessee. The Bulldogs looked great in beating Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, but c'mon it was Hawail.
(USC finished greatly as well and topped it off with an impressive win over Illinois, which beat Ohio State. But teams that lose to 4-8 teams like Stanford are not even in the conversation unless separated by parentheses.)

Ohio State had a questionable entry into this game. It has only one win over a team ranked in the pre-bowl BCS rankings - No. 18 Wisconsin. LSU had a questionable entry into this game to say the least as the first two-loss team to be in a game like this. It could become the first two-loss national champion since Minnesota in 1960.

In a normal year, LSU is not playing tonight. Usually, you can't lose a late November game and make it. LSU, though, has the best resume of the two-loss teams. It has an impressive list of four victories over teams in the pre-bowl BCS standings (Virginia Tech, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn). That's why it's here. And it was fortunate enough to be in a conference that has a championship game. LSU's win over Tennessee helped erase the loss to Arkansas on Nov. 23, and it erased Georgia, which lost to Tennessee.

It's bad system, but when you really look at it, no one other than Ohio State and LSU should be playing for it all. The way this season played out, though, does call out for a plus-one system and a four-team bracket as much as in any other crazy season. That needs to happen.

Over the next few days, you will hear about how USC or Georgia should be national champions. Don't listen. It's popular in the media to be a contrarian. It's cool to be a contrarian. It's fun, too. But that's not working this year.

Not long before midnight tonight, a single national champion will be crowned. Period.


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