Election Day in College Football

For college football fans, this is the election day that counts as voters decide whether Michigan or Florida gets the opportunity to face Ohio State for the national championship. Yes, for those who are unaware of how college football works, it comes down to a vote and not the playing field.

The BCS system is supposed to pit the top two teams against each other for the national championship. Previously we faced a system where, after the bowl games, there was not always unanimous agreement as to which team was best. The fault with the current system is that, prior to the bowl games, it isn’t always any clearer which teams are the top two. Some years, like last year when Texas and USC were the only undefeated teams, the system has worked. Other years, such as this, the choice hasn’t been clear.

Late in the regular season, most agreed that Ohio State and Michigan were the top two teams in the country. When the two played, Ohio State dominated for one half, and then Michigan came back to dominate the second half. If not for a late penalty which rescued a stalled Ohio State drive, Michigan would likely have won the game. In the end, Ohio State won by three points, with both teams having an equal number of scoring drives but Michigan settling for a field goal on one. (A two point conversion for Michigan narrowed the gap to there points.)

After the game, many agreed that Ohio State remained the top team in the country and Michigan the second best, and obviously one team had to lose if the two played each other. In looking at Michigan’s come back, many also felt that Michigan could win a rematch on a neutral field, while questioning whether any other teams would have a chance to beat Ohio State.

Michigan remained number two in the BCS for a week, but USC slipped ahead after beating Notre Dame, despite beating them less impressively at home than Michigan had beaten them on the road earlier in the season. Many voters simply did not want a rematch game for the national championship, defeating the purpose of having the two top teams meet.

Having seen USC already lose to an unranked team, I was not surprised to see them get upset by cross town rival UCLA yesterday. There was celebration in the State of Michigan but it might be short lived. Later in the evening Florida beat Arkansas for the Southeast Conference title. While Michigan has had a lead over Florida in the polls, there is now the fear that the same voters who previously did not want a Michigan v. Ohio State rematch will now vote to move Florida ahead of Michigan.

Both Michigan and Florida have a single loss, but Michigan’s single loss is by only three points to the number one team in the country while Florida lost by ten points to number eleven Auburn. Some claim Florida deserves to play for the national championship because they won their conference championship. I don’t find this a meaningful argument because if the two best teams in the country are really in the same conference then there is good reason for one not to win the championship. While an excellent conference, the top SEC teams just did not appear to be as good as either Michigan or Ohio State this year. In addition, one-loss Florida received an opportunity that Michigan didn’t have as their conference holds such a championship game. If the Big Ten also held a championship game which allowed one-loss Michigan another chance to win the conference title perhaps they would have won.

The old system from before the BCS might actually have been better. Ohio State would have played USC in the Rose Bowl. There wouldn’t be the same frustration on the parts of Michigan and Florida as neither would have expected to play Ohio State. Florida and Michigan would either play other conference champions or might even have played each other. If Ohio State won they’d be the national champion, but if they lost both Michigan and Florida could have been considered. Another advantage would be that more than one bowl game could have significance, while under the BCS system there is no real “championship series” but only the championship game really matters.

It is unrealistic for the old New Year’s Day bowl system to be scrapped in favor of a true play off, but it would be far more interesting if Michigan and Florida could play on New Year’s Day to determine who would have the opportunity to play Ohio State for the national championship. For whatever it means, the Las Vegas odds are that Michigan would beat Florida by six points in such a game. That is a strong reason why Michigan should receive a rematch against Ohio State, but I suspect the voters will defeat the purpose of the BCS by voting for Florida to avoid a rematch.

Update: ESPN Columnist: Michigan was Robbed

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