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December 3, 2006 Well I guess I lied about columns being complete, as "Championship Saturday" brought up one of the most compelling BCS issues of all time. The country and the experts are split following USCís loss at UCLA as to who should play Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game. On one side is the freshly-minted SEC champ Florida Gators at 12-1. On the other is Big Ten runner-up Michigan at 11-1. Never one to shy away from a BCS debate, I am here working overtime on a Sunday to share my opinion, and that is the only team that truly deserves a shot at OSU is Michigan.

Florida seems to have some hard facts going for them. UF has played 13 games to Michiganís 12, and the SEC is clearly a better overall conference than the Big Ten this season. Florida is scoring 29.6 points per game to Michiganís 30.2, and Florida is only giving up 12.7 points per game to Michiganís 14.6. The Gators have played the toughest schedule in the country, but Michigan played the third-toughest. Florida is ending on a roll, and there will be a sympathy vote for the SEC after Auburn at 12-0 got left out of the BCS title game in 2004. Seems fairly compelling on this side...

Michigan, though, can point to the fact that the numbers above are basically equal between the two teams, and there are three more reasons to pick the Wolverines. Michigan has the much better loss (3 points at Ohio State, the undisputed #1) and better wins against their premier opponents (26 point win at Notre Dame and a dominating 14 point win at Wisconsin). Floridaís loss is not as impressive (10 points at Auburn) and their premier wins are also not as good (21-20 at Tennessee and 23-10 vs. LSU in the Swamp).

The second reason is that everybody was ready to have a rematch two weeks ago if USC did not win out after the OSU-UM classic, and that was when Arkansas and Notre Dame were also in the mix with Florida. Florida has not been the third best team in the country over the past two months. If USC had lost two weeks ago to California, Michigan would have a deadlock on number two and nobody would debate this as much as now. Florida had a chance to play two more games at the end of the year, and the public perception is so fickle. Michigan was our number two after losing to Ohio State, why not now?

The third and perhaps most compelling reason the BCS should have a rematch is that Michigan (and Ohio State) would absolutely run Florida out of the building on the field. Michigan does not make mistakes, and they were the first team to capitalize on an Ohio State mistake on November 18. Michigan has a much better defense and running game, so the domination of tempo and lineman play would make a huge difference. Even if Florida minimized the mistakes and kept it close, the Gators have terrible special teams, including a top kicker who is 3 of 12 on the year on field goals. I wish this could be decided on the field, as then Michigan could prove to everyone that the SEC Champion is a fraud. If the BCS is to match the best two teams in the country for the national title, there is no doubt Michigan is that second team. Donít be fooled by OSU fans voting their preference to play Florida, as the Buckeye nation is truly afraid of what UM could do in a rematch as opposed to Florida.

In the end this debate should not matter as either team will probably be taken down by Troy Smith and company, but Michigan certainly is the better team and will have a better shot than Florida of knocking off the juggernaut Buckeyes. Florida says Michigan already got their chance, but I wonder if the Gators would feel the same if they had played on November 18 in the Horseshoe against OSU. Florida makes too many mistakes and gets lucky too often to be considered a legitimate national title contender. For those who think this is blasphemous from an OSU fan who saw the 2002 Buckeyes get the same kind of breaks in many games before they knocked off heavily favored Miami for the title, there is one critical difference you are missing. OSU was undefeated and the only other undefeated in 2002, whereas Florida did not take care of their business against Auburn and therefore has to debate with Michigan.

This is indeed where I could make the case for a playoff system, but I think the fact that this debate has to take place is enough proof. Some very deserving team will get left out of the Glendale dance, and that is a shame when every other college division is currently through week two or three of a 16-team playoff. Returning to my playoff system from a couple articles ago, this is what you could be looking forward to if I had my way.

2006 National Championship Playoff
#1 Ohio State vs. #8 Wake Forest
#2 Michigan vs. #7 USC
#3 Florida vs. #6 Oklahoma
#4 Louisville vs. #5 Boise State

Can you imagine this beautiful scenario? The Cinderella Wake Forest gets to test their mettle against the undefeated Buckeyes. Michigan and USC play a traditional Rose Bowl type battle. Florida and Oklahoma would be a showcase of teams on a run at the end of the season, and Louisville vs. Boise State would be a very high-scoring, entertaining affair. This system would also put the importance on the regular season like today because teams pretty much either have to win their conference or go undefeated to get in. Winning the conference would truly mean something, and the national champion would be undisputed. Well enough dreaming for now, as I will give you my final BCS bowl projections (and since the UM-UF issue is too close to call and might require a recount, I give you both contingencies, even though I think UM should play for the title).

BCS Bowl Projection #1
BCS TITLE: Ohio State vs. Michigan
SUGAR: Florida vs. Notre Dame
ORANGE: Wake Forest vs. Louisville
FIESTA: Oklahoma vs. Boise State

BCS Bowl Projection #2
BCS TITLE: Ohio State vs. Florida
SUGAR: LSU vs. Notre Dame
ORANGE: Wake Forest vs. Louisville
FIESTA: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
ROSE: USC vs. Michigan

As you can see, the Florida/Michigan controversy also affects where LSU will be spending bowl season. The Bayou Bengals will either play in their first ever Rose Bowl against USC or stay closer to home in the traditional Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame. The bowls might surprise and wreck this if Boise State is selected over Louisville, but they have been fairly predictable (and these matchups seem correct to me).

No games to preview this week, but now a final season record can be put into perspective.

2005 GOTW (Regular Season) Record: 26-17, 60.5% wins
2006 GOTW (Regular Season) Record: 30-12, 71.4% wins

2005-06 Bowl Season Record: 17-11, 60.7% wins
2006-07 Bowl Season Record: TBA

Fitzyís Top 10 Ė Final Regular Season
1. Ohio State (12-0)
2. Michigan (11-1)
3. Wisconsin (11-1)
4. Florida (12-1)
5. LSU (10-2)
6. Louisville (11-1)
7. Oklahoma (11-2)
8. Boise State (12-0)
9. USC (10-2)
10. Auburn (10-2)

Well you may not be reading this until after the BCS and total bowl lineups are announced, but nonetheless I wish you a great holiday season. Come back in a couple weeks and see the staffís take on all the bowl games, and good luck to all the people still in contention at the end of the year in the Pick'Em contest. As always, feel free to email me with opinions or comments. Thanks for reading!

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