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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Champion crowned tonight; Utah, USC, forget about it

BATON ROUGE - Texas was No. 1 in my final regular season Associated Press poll based on the Longhorns' 10-point win over BCS No. 1 Oklahoma at a neutral site, and the fact that Texas' only loss was at Texas Tech in the final moments at the end of the toughest four-game schedule in college football this season.

But Texas Tech finished not so great and at 11-2 with a loss to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl, and Texas finished not so great with a last-seconds, 24-21 win over Ohio State (Egad! A Big Ten team!) in the Fiesta Bowl. Texas, which finished 11-2, looked average against a borderline top 10 team.

This brings us to Utah, which finished 13-0 and with an impressive flourish in a 31-17 victory over BCS No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Utah was only No. 6 in the BCS going into the game, however, and No. 9 in my final regular season poll. A team has to beat a team ranked higher than No. 4 to make that much of a jump to No. 1, and this No. 4 Alabama team barely beat LSU. The Utes could well beat Florida or Oklahoma, but unfortunately they won't get the chance much like Auburn - 13-0 in a "real" BCS conference - didn't get the chance in 2004 to play USC or Oklahoma.

It's just the way it fell. Utah admirably scheduled real BCS teams this season such as Michigan and Oregon State and won those games along with an impressive victory over TCU, but it wasn't quite enough.

Utah is a fashionable argument of late, but it doesn't have enough meat. Alabama, in the end, was not an elite team this season and not nearly as good as Utah has been making it out to be. Most of the teams Alabama beat this season were not nearly as good as they were supposed to be - Clemson, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn. Now had Utah defeated Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, which would have been a better pairing, then Utah would have a legitimate argument.

This brings us to USC, which is again a fashionable argument from national media without the time to get past the cosmetics. For the third straight year USC's loss to a bad or average team knocks it out of the conversation period. When a team plays in such an easy conference, it has to be perfect. It doesn't matter how hot it is at 2 a.m. The Trojans were not getting past their ridiculous loss to 4-8 Stanford last season, and they're not getting by their silly loss to Oregon State this year.

Oregon State ended up 9-4 after a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl. (What, 3-0?) But Oregon State is obviously not as good as the two teams that have wins over the BCS championship game combatants. Florida's loss to Ole Miss looks much better now as the Rebels finished 9-4 with a 47-34 win over Texas Tech, and Oklahoma's only loss is to Texas, which will likely finish No. 3 in the nation. Florida and Oklahoma each were able to redeem itself after each loss with impressive wins over impressive opponents, whereas USC played mostly easy teams until its nice win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Another nice season for USC, but not elite. Schedule better, put Utah in the Pac (it in) -10 or win them all.

As for tonight, I see Oklahoma in an upset. The Sooners have nearly as much speed as the Gators. Remember, Oklahoma is not Ohio State, and the Big 12 was the best conference this regular season. Florida will score early and often, but Oklahoma will score more. Tim Tebow is a great player, but in the Big 12 he really would be No. 4 as a passer.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought FL would win because of their defense, not to mention Tebow and Harvin, as well as "medium game Bob". Maybe the AP will vote Utah # 1, as they did w/ USC in Jan. '04.

9:32 AM  

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