National Columnist

Sugar isn't sweet when Georgia is left out and Florida is rewarded for losing

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Georgia should be going to the Sugar Bowl, not Florida, but Georgia is being penalized because on Oct. 27 it beat ... Florida.

Spin it any way you want, Florida fans. Tell me the computers have Florida ahead of Georgia, which is true. Tell me the Top 25 polls have Florida ahead of Georgia, and that Georgia has one more loss than Florida. Also true.

Just don't tell me Florida beat Georgia on Oct. 27, because you can't. Because that's not true.

But that Georgia win over Florida set into motion a series of events that have conspired not to reward the Bulldogs, but to punish them. That win over Florida gave Georgia the SEC East title and a spot in the conference title game. It gave the Bulldogs a chance at something far greater than a spot in the Sugar Bowl -- it gave them a shot at the national title game -- but it was a win-or-else sort of thing.

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Georgia's task was this: Beat Alabama to advance to the BCS title game ... or lose to Alabama and drop from the BCS bowls entirely.

Meanwhile, Florida was sitting there just as safe as safe could be. Ready to be rewarded for losing to Georgia on Oct. 27.

Alabama coach Nick Saban saw what was happening -- whichever 11-1 team lost the SEC title game would be screwed by a system that would take the 11-1 Gators instead -- and he didn't like it. A week before the SEC title game, Saban noted the unfair outcome awaiting someone.

"You play your way into the [SEC] championship game, which means you're the best team in your division," Saban said. "It doesn't seem quite right, but it is what it is. I don't really know what me commenting about it is going to do to change it. But I don't feel good about it."

Know who did feel good about it? Florida coach Will Muschamp. This is what he said in response to Saban's comments:

"Well, I can switch and go to Atlanta if he doesn't want to go to Atlanta and play the Dawgs," Muschamp said Monday. "Be careful what you ask for, Nick."

Be careful what you ask for?

See, that's the problem. That's it, right there, in a nutshell. People -- Muschamp, the Florida fans screaming at me right now, most people in most settings at most times -- don't care about fairness. They care about themselves. What's fair? Who cares. What's in it for me?

A conference title game should be like an extra-credit question on a test -- a reward for finishing with enough time left to try one more bonus question. Get it right and improve your score. But get it wrong and be penalized? That's nonsense. What kind of extra credit is that?

What kind of system is this?

The same thing happened to Missouri in 2007. On the final week of the regular season Missouri beat Kansas for the division title and a spot in the Big 12 title game, where it lost to Oklahoma. When the Orange Bowl picked a Big 12 team, it picked Kansas over Missouri.

Kansas went on to beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, so the point here is not that Kansas was a joke in 2007. The point is, Missouri deserved that bid ahead of Kansas by virtue of their head-to-head game -- and identical 11-1 record after the regular season.

Just like Georgia deserves the Sugar Bowl ahead of Florida now. Florida is no joke, and will likely beat Big East champ Louisville in New Orleans. Florida isn't unworthy -- it's just not as worthy as Georgia.

But BCS rules were written without the nuance to handle this situation or the foresight to correct the fallacy of human polls. BCS rules say the highest-rated non-champion from a BCS-level conference automatically qualifies if it's ranked third or fourth -- and Florida is ranked No. 4, ahead of Georgia at No. 6.

How could that happen? Because voters are stupid. Georgia was ranked No. 3 on Saturday night when it put a 32-28 scare into No. 2 Alabama -- reaching the 5-yard line in the final seconds, but running out of time when its player slipped to the turf -- and somehow that was cause to drop the Dawgs three spots in the polls, behind the Florida team they beat in October.

Don't extrapolate what I'm arguing into something I'm not. My point is not that head-to-head results trump all other results, at all times, in all settings. Texas A&M beat Alabama this season, but Texas A&M doesn't deserve a spot in the BCS title game because of that. Baylor beat Kansas State, but Kansas State is going to the Fiesta Bowl -- and deservedly so.

These things don't happen in a vacuum. One size does not fit all.

But in this very specific case, the case being Georgia vs. Florida for the SEC's second and final BCS invitation, we already know the result. Georgia vs. Florida? That was decided Oct. 27, when the scoreboard said Georgia won 17-9.

Turns out, Georgia lost that day. It just needed another five weeks to find out.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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