FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It has taken a while and you probably haven't noticed, but this is the most contentious end to a season in the BCS era. It has taken time, space and Utah, but here we are: four teams with four different agendas, four different cases for being No. 1.
Utah, Texas, Southern California and the winner of Thursday's Orange/BCS/FedEx bowl rave-up between Oklahoma and Florida. All of them are right -- and all of them look sillier than Red Skelton in clown makeup.
"What else do you want us to do?" asked Utah athletic director Chris Hill. "Is there some kind of secret handshake?"
Well, no, but beating New Mexico by more than three points might help.
"I don't think anybody can beat us. I think we can beat anybody we play," Pete Carroll said after his team's Rose Bowl victory.
Oregon State might disagree.
"It's funny to see these teams get on TV after their bowl games and say nobody can beat them and they've been beat," Brian Johnson said Tuesday afternoon.
Those words are from the quarterback of Utah, the only team that hasn't been beaten.
Grant Teaff actually made this statement to USA Today this week:
"This (coaches) poll is not, since 1998, to select the national champion," said the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.
Huh? That's exactly what the coaches poll is, and has been since Teaff helped mandate that the final coaches poll vote goes to the BCS title-game winner.
Except at least two of his rank and file aren't voting for Thursday's winner. Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Texas' Mack Brown have stated publicly they will vote their teams No. 1 in the coaches poll.
"I wasn't sure before, but Friday morning I'm going to vote Texas No. 1 because I think this is the best team in the country," Brown said.
|The vote to give the crystal ball to the BCS title-game winner might not have a unanimous result. (AP)|
The winner of Thursday's game is guaranteed Teaff's Trophy just, well, because. Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis tried his best to legitimize the game: "Utah, Texas, USC? The national championship is being played here in Miami. That's what I think. They got it right. Two best teams in the nation."
Yeah, Travis, but ...
• Texas beat you, by 10, head-to-head. The only reason you're here is a decade-old Big 12 tiebreaker and some computer love that pushed you past the Longhorns by .0128 of a point in the BCS.
• USC has the same number of losses as you and Texas and Florida. Until further notice, the Pac-10 is still a member of the BCS and playing major-college football. (OK, Washington and Washington State don't count.)
• Utah, again, is the nation's only undefeated team, playing in a league (Mountain West) that was essentially a BCS conference in 2008.
While the glass football will go either to the Gators or Sooners -- unless some other coaches defy Boss Grant -- there are other options for the Frantic Four, some more obscure than others. Ever hear of the MacArthur Bowl? It goes to the No. 1 team as determined by the National Football Foundation.
The Associated Press poll remains gloriously independent. No. 3 Texas has a shot there, especially if Oklahoma wins Thursday. After Utah's giant goose egg, the 'Horns might have the best argument in AP, or anywhere, having beaten OU by double digits in October.
This keyboard is being hit by a soul with vote in the Football Writers Association of America poll. Don't dismiss our Grantland Rice Trophy that goes to our national champion. It is big, bulky, impressive and suddenly more valuable to some team than a Donald Trump engagement ring.
Ask Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson. They played on the 1964 Arkansas team that proudly claims the Grantland Rice as a sign of the school's only national championship.
Friday's day-after news conference here, then, could resemble an awards show rather than a coronation of the consensus national champion.
"Texas couldn't be here this morning so accepting the MacArthur Bowl on behalf of Mack Brown is ..."
Just remember, there are 10 to 15 of us FWAA hacks who vote in the one-time, end-of-season poll. And we can be bought.
Whittingham just signed five-year contract extension. That is very good news.
"He might have to cash it out (for you)," Johnson said.
Columnists who haven't seen a game in person this season are jumping on the bandwagon, not so much because of Utah but because of what the Utes represent, the anti-BCS. That, and they need a column idea during these sports days of early January.
Players who don't know what BCS stands for have it shaved into their head. Check out Florida defensive back Joe Haden. He has "BCS 1" carved into the left side of his scalp. Haden told reporters he doesn't know what the initials stand for. Apparently, he doesn't know where his team stands, either. Florida is No. 2 in the BCS.
There has been plenty of that controversy to go around for more than a decade. Auburn in '04 was one undefeated team shouting in the wilderness. Former Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville actually made the rounds of the press box at Dolphin Stadium, trying to drum up votes from AP voters. Meanwhile, USC was trouncing Oklahoma on the field. Teaff and USC won that night. Auburn didn't get a sniff.
USC in '03 was rescued by the AP. It was happy to grab a share of the national championship after finishing the regular season first in both major polls.
But nothing compares to what is before us now -- four teams each with a legitimate and rightful claim at No. 1. Whether you're a drunk on a stool at the corner bar or a voter in some poll or another, you have some serious soul-searching to do because there is no "right" answer.
However, there is a scapegoat. If Texas defensive back Blake Gideon hadn't dropped that interception Nov. 1 in Lubbock, we'd be living in an alternate universe. Most likely, Texas would have won the game (instead of losing it with one second left), the 'Horns would be undefeated and Colt McCoy would have won the Heisman.
Oh, and Gideon wouldn't be in the federal witness protection program.
There will be plenty of arguments and maybe some fights break out before it wraps up around midnight ET on Thursday. There will be hubris, especially on the part of the SEC, which can't get over itself on a daily basis. But there still will be those four sitting there like those dorks on stools on the Dating Game. They're giving stupid answers to stupid questions about what might be a stupid system, especially to the team(s) that doesn't/don't claim a national championship.
"I think they (all) have a leg to stand on," Johnson said. "I just think our leg is a little stronger."
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