Turns out that Southern California actually does have a chance to become a consensus national champion.
The USA Today editor who administrates the coaches poll told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that he will count first-place votes for USC if they are sent in for the final poll.
The 63 coaches voting in the poll are bound by their professional organization, the American Football Coaches Association, to award their final first-place vote to the BCS title-game winner.
The AFCA has maintained that the coaches can only vote on Nos. 2 through 25 after the bowls. But Jim Welch, USA Today deputy manager of sports who oversees the poll, said if enough coaches vote the Trojans No. 1, the coaches poll will reflect that in its final poll.
"We value our relationship with the AFCA," Welch told the Times. "But at this particular moment our interests diverge."
Obviously, that could be a problem this year because No. 2 (in the human polls) LSU is playing No. 3 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl for the right to be the BCS No. 1. To some, the math doesn't add up.
The Sugar Bowl winner expects to be a national champion, but of what? If Southern Cal rules both polls, then the Oklahoma-LSU will have a BCS title and the ADT Trophy.
USC will have the national championship in the traditional polls. A phone message left for Welch by SportsLine.com was not immediately returned.
"If Michigan tends to business, it may be a moot point," Mel Pulliam, the AFCA's director of marketing and development, said from the headquarters in Waco, Texas. "We're in contact with them (USA Today) occasionally, just reminders. Especially this, when coach gets back from New York we'll send a memo to remind them what they agreed to."
Pulliam was speaking of AFCA executive director, Grant Teaff who could not immediately be reached. He is in New York for awards presentations. But Teaff released a statement Monday saying the coaches agreed by an "overwhelming majority" five years ago that they would abide by the final poll rules.
The coaches voted in 1998 to hand their final No. 1 vote to the BCS title-game winner. It has been a niggling part of the BCS ever since, whether it is criticized by the media or debated at the AFCA Convention.
"Everybody understands, every coach in that room," Pulliam said. "Nobody stood up and demanded and debated harshly, 'We need to change.' I would say (there was) virtually unanimous consent. The general consensus was, what else is better? I thought Pete Carroll handled it well. If there's a split champion, there's a split champion."
Fiesta Bowl officials asked BCS commissioners in the past to do away with "stratification" of the polls.
"You've got the coaches and the AP and the Maxwell and the Maxwell House and whatever it is," said Fiesta president/CEO John Junker. "It's better to say we've got the BCS trophy and if somebody wants to be aligned that's their business.
"So many years it's cut and dried it's fine, (but) you're always going to have the possibility that voters in the East think a two-loss team in the East deserves consideration over a one-loss team in the South. Why try to artificially create something? Let the marketplace handle it."
Coaches actually call in their votes to USA Today. All it would take, in theory, is for them to name a No. 1 team instead of starting with No. 2. As Welch said, that vote will count.
A few coaches who vote in the poll have said in published accounts this week that they would like to vote for USC if it won. It's not clear, though, now how many will follow through on that desire and how many will stick with the AFCA edict.
This is the first time in BCS history that the No. 1 in both polls has been excluded from the BCS title game. Oklahoma stayed No. 1 in the BCS despite being beaten by four touchdowns in the Big 12 Championship Game. LSU jumped over USC to No. 2 in the BCS after beating Georgia in the SEC title game.
If USC beats Michigan in the Rose Bowl it would get at least a split national championship by finishing No. 1 in the Associated Press media poll.
Teaff said in Monday's statement that the winner of the Sugar Bowl is the credible winner of the ADT Trophy.