College Football: Now, how about that playoff?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2009

By Chris Dufresne
Los Angeles Times
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ó Was it really that bad?
Didn’t it all, in the end, after six months, a thousand howls and 34 bowls, work out for the conspiracy theorists, playoff advocates and, most of all, Florida?
Gators Coach Urban Meyer, sleepless after a night of celebrating his team’s Bowl Championship Series victory against Oklahoma, spent Friday morning posing with national title trophies presented by the USA Today voting coaches, the Associated Press and the Football Writers Association of America.
Meyer put his hands on something called the MacArthur Bowl, given out by the National Football Foundation since 1959.
Meyer acted like the guest of honor a bridal shower.
What’s in that box?
He wasn’t even sure what the MacArthur was.
“I’d like to read about this because our name is on it twice,” Meyer said. ” … to think that our name is forever etched on that great trophy, it’s my responsibility to learn more about it and make sure our players learn it because they’re on it.”
This is what makes college football so insanely fantastic … and frustrating.
You would have thought Friday that Florida, the movie, swept the Academy Awards.
Except, backstage, there was this massive food fight.
There were no final BCS standings to blame ó there never is; the standings simply help set up the bowl matchups ó only the final renderings of the USA Today coaches and AP indexes.
Florida finished first in both polls ahead of three schools ó USC, Texas and Utah ó who thought they deserved some of Florida’s hardware in a year where controversy was the real No. 1.
Utah, the only 13-0 team, got a nice pat on the head from the media members, who acknowledged the Utes may have gotten a raw deal here by voting them No. 2, ahead of USC and Texas.
Utah received a nice parting gift: 16 first-place votes.
Utes Coach Kyle Whittingham was moved … almost.
“The word `national’ champion is really a relative word,” Whittingham said on a teleconference. “That’s only an opinion. Until there’s a playoff, that’s all it’s going to be.”
USC finished No. 2 in the coaches’ poll ó why didn’t the coaches just poke the Trojans in the eye with a stick?
“I don’t think you know who the best team is,” Trojans Coach Pete Carroll said. “You just know which team got the most votes.”
Texas thought it should have played for the national title instead of Oklahoma. The Longhorns finished No. 3 in the coaches’ poll and actually dropped one spot, to No. 4, in the final AP index.
It was great to be a Florida Gator this year, but not a Longhorn or a Trojan or a Ute.
You can argue USC and Texas were just as deserving as Florida or Oklahoma in the end, maybe more, but the Trojans and Longhorns controlled their own fates.
USC would have been in the title game had it not lost to 25-point underdog Oregon State, and Texas would have been in South Florida had it not lost to Texas Tech.
There’s no good answer for Utah. The Utes won all their games against a legitimate schedule that included Michigan, Oregon State, Texas Christian and Brigham Young. They beat an Alabama team that spent weeks at No. 1.
A playoff this year would have solved everything, of course. It would have been just as equitable as the NFL system where San Diego won the AFC West at 8-8 this year but New England got left out of the playoffs at 11-5.
Yell and scream all you want for change. President-elect Barack Obama, a powerful voice, did again Friday.
“That’s why we need a playoff,” he said.
But what can be done until, oh, 2026?
Like the weather, you can talk about the BCS but you can’t really change it.
University presidents and commissioners have all but ruled out any sort of playoff until 2014.
The only thing USC and Texas can do until then is win all games in which they are favored and not leave their one-loss hopes to Jeff Sagarin and the coach at Akron.
Until playoff “justice” is done, voters involved in the BCS formula need to take their jobs more seriously. They need to discard old-boy-network biases that keep schools such as Utah from rising all the way to the top.
“Utah is a much better program than most BCS programs,” said Meyer, who left for Florida after coaching the Utes to a 12-0 season in 2004.
A team from a “non-BCS” conference can get to the title game ó if the voters make it happen.
A 13-0 team from the Mountain West may not have been denied this year had it been Brigham Young, which started the season at No. 16 in the polls.
Utah got penalized because it started the season unranked.
However, the Utes didn’t get jobbed by the BCS. The Utes got snubbed by the members of the American Football Coaches Assn., whose voters still seem unwilling to promote a team from outside the six major conferences.
The AP, in the end, at least lifted Utah to No. 2.
“I think we’re incrementally gaining respect,” Whittingham said. “Yeah, I was a little disappointed we were No. 4 in the coaches’ poll. But Pete Carroll’s got his argument. Mack Brown. There are a lot of guys out there with legitimate arguments. That’s really the problem with the system. Too many unsatisfied people at the end of the year.”