January 03, 2009
I think Orson has the right approach to the national championship this year: The polls aren't out yet, but it's fair to say that regardless of what happens in the final AP ballot next Friday, this year's title is already fractured into at least three pieces. USC claimed one of the pieces Thursday (thanks to Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit's Trojan tongue bath from the second quarter on, let's call SC the "Media Champion"), and Utah (the "People's Champ") claimed another piece by finishing its perfect season Friday over Alabama. The Oklahoma-Florida winner (the "Corporate Champion") will claim the third piece next Thursday. And if it's impressive enough Monday against Ohio State, Texas (the "Aggrieved Champion") can draw and quarter the thing -- though the Longhorns' claim is at least somewhat dependent on a strong performance by Oklahoma.
Obviously, the AP can't ratify that much dissent by itself, and probably won't dissent from the OU-Florida result in the BCS Championship at all. But the basic message here is: Don't be a sucker. The BCS was created to declare a "true" national champion by matching the top two teams in the country, and clearly -- for at least the seventh time in ten years -- that mandate is impossible because more than two teams have a legitimate claim on one of those spots. The "championship game" is just another upper tier bowl game featuring two of those teams, the same as the Rose and the Sugar, however it regards itself. Whatever the polls say Friday, there won't be any better way to distinguish between this year's candidates than there was to distinguish between Colorado and Georgia Tech in 1990, Miami and Washington in 1991, Notre Dame and Florida State in 1993, Penn State and Nebraska in 1994 or Michigan and Nebraska in 1997 ... or, for that matter, between USC and LSU in 2003 or USC and Auburn in 2004.
So split 'em up. The game will survive -- it's endured split championships for decades. But once again, the BCS and the traditional polls are totally inadequate for the reality of the circumstances. If we can't play any more games to settle it, these are the circumstances: USC deserves the championship, Utah deserves the championship, either Florida or Oklahoma will deserve the championship and, in all likelihood, Texas will deserve the championship. There's no reason whatsoever to go about splitting hairs between these teams. The excellence of their seasons can't be defined or denied by voters, computers or any combination thereof; they stand for themselves, and there's nothing stopping anyone from regarding them based on their merit rather than the strictures of some cabal. If the trophy-makers can't give them all their due, we still can in the way we think, talk and write about them. They all deserve it. So split 'em up.