U-M WRONGED BY BCS VOTERS

Well at least, after all the games, the rankings, the computers, the controversy, at least the college football world finally reached a conclusion:

The system stinks.

That’s the only conclusion we can agree upon. All else is chaos. Did Michigan get jobbed? Sure it did. There is no way, in a logical world, that a big time, second-ranked team, whose only loss is by three points to the top-ranked team, should fall behind anyone with at least one defeat in a poll. Anyone. Southern Cal. Florida. Anyone.

Instead, it happened twice in the past two weeks. First, USC beat Notre Dame, and a wave of hype, forced logic and selective memory made voters forget that USC struggled often this season and blew a game to mediocre Oregon State – and instead they leapfrogged USC over Michigan for the No. 2 spot. The USC Trojans are the strongest contender! Look at them!

Then, over the weekend, USC was exposed, losing to unranked UCLA, and, oops, guess the hype was wrong. So instead of restoring No. 3 Michigan to where it belonged, a new wave of hype, forced logic and selective memory made voters leapfrog the Florida Gators over the Wolverines and into the national championship game next month. Hey, they’re the strongest contender! Just look at them!

You can spin this thing any way you want. It was strictly about fresh versus familiar. In the end, Ohio State will play Florida on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz., because people with votes want to see that game more than they want to see a rematch of Michigan-Ohio State. This was all about the line of thinking that says: “Give someone else a chance.”

But if the system were about giving everyone a chance, they wouldn’t call it a poll, they’d call it a donkey ride.

So much babbling

Which is not to say there hasn’t been some donkey-like behavior. Consider Urban Meyer, the braying coach of the Gators. When asked by ESPN about Michigan on Saturday night, Meyer said: “They had their shot.”

Thank you, Judge.

Meyer is not only rude, he’s confused. Nowhere in the Bowl Championship Series system is “having their shot” supposed to determine anything. The system is supposed to rank teams, not manipulate them. It’s supposed to set up a national championship game, not cast it.

Ask yourself this question: If we were in the fifth week of the season, and Michigan and Ohio State had played their game and were idle – do you think Florida would have jumped up two spots to wedge between them by beating eighth-ranked Arkansas?

I don’t.

In the final BCS tally, Michigan and Florida tied in the computer rankings, but the Gators finished No. 2 because they passed the Wolverines in the USA Today coaches and Harris Interactive polls. How did they pass ’em? Because numerous voters flip-flopped.

The truth is, Meyer is wrong. Michigan didn’t have its shot. Not at a national championship game – which is all the BCS is supposed to determine. And now it won’t get its shot. Why? Because Florida is somehow a superior choice since it doesn’t play in the same conference as Ohio State?

Meyer acts as if the SEC is Broadway and all the other conferences are summer stock. He talks as if you have to survive germ-warfare to win an SEC game (conveniently excusing his close scores against some lesser teams) while suggesting that other conference champs should be blowing out their opponents.

Hey, if Ohio State is as great as everyone says it is, and most of its victories are against the same Big Ten teams Michigan faces, why does it work FOR the Buckeyes and against the Wolverines?

That’s fair?

“Florida belongs,” Meyer told reporters Saturday night. “The other team had a shot. We went 12-1, and I think the country wants to see the Southeastern Conference champion against the Big Ten champion.”

Well, it’s nice to have Lord Meyer tell us what we want to see. Apparently “the country,” in his view, doesn’t include huge parts of the Midwest. His first name may be Urban, but it should be Parochial.

Yes, people can say the same thing about Michigan fans. And in Florida they probably are.

Before Sunday night, the Gators were No. 2 once before – in the poll of Oct. 8 – and they promptly lost. The Wolverines were No. 2 for almost a month.

Michigan, having not touched a football in two weeks, has to wonder why it was dropped – while Florida was vaulted. Michigan has to wonder how losing on the road to the only team ranked ahead of it – and losing by three points – is somehow less worthy than Florida losing by 10 points to Auburn, a team not even in the final Top 10.

Playoff system needed

And with that, another rankings mess mars a college football season. Michigan’s Lloyd Carr, who was far more graceful than Meyer, optimistically called it, on his TV show, “a great controversy.”

But controversies are rarely great. And college kids are supposed to study math, not be victimized by it. Yes, the Wolverines will go to a Rose Bowl and there is nothing bad about that. But there is a reason sports that determine things by voting – figure skating, gymnastics – continually result in anger, bitterness and missed chances.

And it is why this system remains a joke, while the obvious solution keeps getting ignored.

I’ll say it again. Add two games. Both on the same day. A four-team playoff. You take the Nos. 1-4 ranked teams and let them prove who belongs on the field for the championship.

Under that system, this year, Michigan would play Florida. And Meyer actually would have to coach his team past Carr’s, instead of trying to do it with his mouth.

Such a playoff would only affect four schools each year. It could be done using two existing bowls. As for when do you schedule it? Well, considering the national championship this year is more than seven weeks after Ohio State’s last on-field appearance … I’m guessing they can find some time.

But don’t hold your breath. It won’t happen – at least not soon. Instead, exhale that sigh that has been sighed for so many years in so many places since rankings were used in lieu of actual on-field battles. It was a popularity contest, in the end, what people wanted to see. And the new, exciting orange beat the same old maize and blue.

And if you’re wondering what that has to do with football, you are not alone.

SIDEBAR

PUBLIC OUTCRY!

Here is what readers said on freep.com about the final BCS standings that left Michigan out of the national title game in favor of Florida:

Why can virtually every other sport have a system of playoff games to determine a true champion, when college athletics is “stuck in the muck” of a totally broken system of biases and computer mumbo-jumbo.

Florida played a stunningly tough schedule, lost a poorly officiated game at Auburn, and won their conference. In this joke of a system that determines a mythical national champion, it’s the right decision to match these two teams, two champions, representing the two best conferences.

Adversity will be the mother of focus and determination come 2007. Watch out pretenders! There aint gonna be no questions next year. Put Florida on the schedule and invite Gary Danielson.

I hope they put in a larger scoreboard in the desert, because Ohio State may put up triple digits on Florida’s terrible defense. When all is said and done, it will be pretty clear that Florida had no business in the BSC title game. Urban Meyer may want to stop his campaigning next time. How about coming up to play a game in Ann Arbor next year?

It’s sad that the wolverines get punished for finishing their schedule before everyone else, which is the ONLY reason that Florida is going to Arizona to get their butts handed to them

How on earth can you punish a team for not playing for two weeks by having teams leap frog them. Why? Because their loss came late in the year rather than earlier? Because they are in a position to possibly play OSU twice and are being punished for already playing them? The BCS should have pushed U of M down lower in the poll if they did not intend them to play for the National Championship in the first place. The whole thing stinks.

Michigan had their chance to go to the national championship game, and they lost. Get over it, and be happy that you are going to the Rose Bowl, which is a great bowl game. The Big Ten (or big 2, small 9) was awful this year, and tends to be an overrated conference anyways.

Florida got what they wanted now the SEC will get what it deserves: the gators laying an egg in the wake of this absurdity and next year when this controversy rises again the BCS will again look past this overrated SEC conference to a team that actually can play and has proven it time and time again. At least the SEC won’t be stinking up the Rose Bowl.

I’ll be cheering for Boise St. Then I’d like to see what happens should OSU lose. One undefeated team and no national championship, now that should be a crime.

I gotta give it to Urban Meyer, he knows how to plead his case. Maybe he should become a politician instead of a football coach.

We have all seen Urban’s real side. He is a cry baby and everyone knows it. He has ruined any respect Florida may have had.

I was sure it would end up in UM’s favor, boy was I wrong. I never thought I would say this but, “Go Buckeyes!!!”

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). He will sign copies of his latest best-seller, “For One More Day,” at 7:30 tonight, Barnes & Noble, Bloomfield Hills; 8 p.m. Thursday, Barnes & Noble, East Lansing; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Borders, Toledo; 1 p.m. Saturday, Borders Express in Briarwood Mall, Ann Arbor; and 4 p.m. Saturday, Costco, Madison Heights.

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