Here's what this college football season comes down to: The right two schools are playing for the national championship - the voters and computers combined to get it right yesterday, picking Ohio State and Louisiana State - but are you really convinced that these two are the top two?
Remember, both schools lost their last home game.
This college football season full of crazy results will end with an asterisk - national champion*. (We think.)
Maybe if nobody watched the title game - maybe the agenda-filled powers preventing college football from having a season-ending tournament like every other sport would change their minds if this game drew the same rating as your average MLS soccer game outside of Ohio and Louisiana.
But if you're a football fan, you'll watch.
You won't watch as many games, though. With no dominant team, the old bowl system would be a lot more interesting than this setup. If Ohio State played Southern California in the Rose Bowl with LSU playing later that night in the Sugar Bowl - what if they both lost and Oklahoma won the Orange Bowl? We'd have some intrigue. We're not recommending going back to that, but in 2007, it would be just as valid as what we have.
Defenders of a non-playoff like to say that the regular season is the playoffs. But think about it: Ohio State may be in the national-title game because the Buckeyes came up with a nonconference schedule devoid of content. Youngstown State, Akron, at Washington, Kent State. That's it.
If Virginia Tech and Ohio State had flipped nonconference schedules, the Hokies would probably be in New Orleans on Jan. 7. They made the mistake of scheduling a game at LSU early in the season and weren't ready for it. If they had played Youngstown State, Akron or Kent State that week, they would have one loss - against a Boston College team they later beat - and would be playing for the title.
At least LSU was good enough to schedule one real opponent, and smart enough to schedule it in Baton Rouge La.
Since the Tigers are in the title game despite two overtime losses, the landscape is littered with fans saying "if only we hadn't . . ."
If only Oklahoma hadn't lost to Colorado.
If only Southern California hadn't lost at home to Stanford.
If only Georgia hadn't lost at home to South Carolina.
If only Florida had pulled out that game at LSU.
If only West Virginia hadn't blown Saturday's home game to Pittsburgh, or committed all those turnovers at South Florida.
We can't go so far as to say undefeated Hawaii should be in the title game, like one coach who voted Hawaii No. 1 yesterday in the USA Today poll apparently felt. If Hawaii thought itself capable of winning it all, it needed to schedule somebody better than Northern Colorado for its opener. Its other nonleague games: UNLV, Charleston Southern, Utah State and Washington. Gonzaga gets to be Gonzaga in hoops because there's a playoff. Hawaii still gets to be Boise State, which turned out to be priceless last season.
Although they lost their last home game - Ohio State to Illinois, and LSU to Arkansas - at least those two actually won their last game. That wasn't a given in this system. Voters made sure 11-1 Kansas couldn't sneak in through the back door. Yesterday's coaches' poll had the Jayhawks ranked eighth, dropping from fifth even though they didn't play. USC jumped up from ninth to sixth merely by beating 6-6 UCLA.
Voters clearly had no desire to give Georgia a shot either, since the Bulldogs didn't win the SEC East. They were a distant fourth behind Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma in the coaches' poll, after being ahead of LSU and Oklahoma last week.
The other thing you hear all the time from defenders of the status quo is that all these complaints mean that people are talking about college football - as if nobody would care about a first-round playoff game between USC and Hawaii.
The bottom line is that not too many years from now, a lot of people won't remember who won it all. This season belongs to the underdogs, from Appalachian State to Pittsburgh. Only a playoff could have changed that.