The good Senator is wrapping the season up like all good pollsters, by tallying one last round of votes. Here’s mine:

National Champion

Florida(13-1)

Cry, bitch, or applaud, but they won it. For all of you who refer to the national championship as mythical, the Gators hoisted a real crystal football last night. Regardless of what any other team (or pundit) says that claims a share of it, it doesn’t get any more real. Who cares if you don’t acknowledge it. The history books won’t have an asterisk by this one and even more importantly when Florida stumps to recruits they don’t have to say, “we should have won it that year”. That’s because they did… win it.

Top Four:

Oklahoma(12-2)

Texas(12-1)

USC(12-1)

Utah(13-0)

I believe USC to be the best out of that group. There is no doubt in my mind that they could beat Florida, but that conference plays such bad football – at least from the perception standpoint – it’s hard to forgive the loss. Had the Trojans had better competition down the stretch and the benefit of a conference championship game it could have been different. Were there a playoff they would be the favorite. Bottom line: USC’s loss to the Beavers looked much worse than Florida’s, or Texas, or Oklahoma’s then and now.

Texas probably would have fared as well against the Gators but to me there still is not that much difference between the two reps from the Big XII South. I don’t believe their road to accolades was any tougher than Utah’s – going 1-3 in bowl games somewhat reaffirms my belief that the Sooner’s and Longhorn’s division was overrated – but they have the perception. I would predict semi-final losses for either of those teams in a playoff scenario. On the whole though, a pretty good body of work.

Utah had a tremendous season and deserves much credit. If you look at the paradigm that says, based on the “body of work” view, Alabama’s bright season was dimmed by a poor showing in the bowl game, but they still fared well overall, then Utah, despite their tremendous showing in the bowl game still has a very mediocre season based on their relative body of work. Mainly, barley beating a bunch of mediocre teams. Meaning, if we cannot deflate a team too much fore poor showing in a bowl then we cannot elevate a team too much either.

I still think Utah is a good but not great team. They would have not stayed on the field with either of those teams last night. USC would mop the paint off the turf with them. They would easily be out in the first round of a playoff – in essence they should be loving the bowl system because it kept them form being exposed this year.

The Utes deserve much credit for a good year, but they didn’t beat the Alabama team that beat Georgia at home, or LSU. They beat the team that put up 188 yards on Tulane in contest that meant little more. That’s not their fault, I’m just saying they did not take the best shot of a great team, all year, and therefore in no way, shape, form, or fashion are they the best team in the country.

Sorry for the tangent, but that’s my problem with playoffs. Not that Utah did, but teams will dumb down their schedules to make their records look good and then get put out in the first round, laughably. That’s not good football. Cinderella’s are great in basketball. They suck in football. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

Finally, I believe Alabama to be, overall, a better team than Utah. Just like I believe Florida to be a better team than Ole Miss. The better team does not always win.  I ranked Utah ahead of Alabama.  They deserve it and that’s what rankings are about – somewhat. Florida obviously had the better body of work than Ole Miss. Utah had about the same as Alabama but the head-to-head makes it a no-brainer.

That’s the thing about this sport; series aren’t played and thus you will never get a true picture of who the best team is. It’s always going to be an “on this day” kind of thing. Thus a team that is better than yours might be ranked lower and a team that is not as good could be higher – even a team you beat. Just don’t act like a playoff will solve all of that. Hell, if it weren’t for debate this sport wouldn’t be half as fun.

Next Seven:

Alabama (12-2)

Penn State (11-2)

Boise State (12-1)

TCU (11-2)

Georgia (10-3)

Oregon (10-3)

Virginia Tech (10-4)

That’s my group of the rest. As always a few of those could be interchanged with a few others. More might be garnered from who I left off that list. I’ll say though that Virginia Tech is the only four-loss team I had. They finished the season strong with a bowl and a championship win, just the opposite of their ’09 season opening opponent, Alabama (see what I did there). Ole Miss (9-4) finished strong too, but the 10 in the W column for the Hokies looks better than the 9. Plus if I included Ole Miss that would be giving credit to Texas Tech (11-2).

If you take away the two FPS teams that the Red Raiders played in the pre-season (which in the Big XII South this year was anything prior to conference play) then they would not be at ten wins. The overrated standing of the Big XII South and Missouri makes the body of work not near as impressive. The biggest Red Raider win was against Texas but had Ohio State not allowed Texas to do the same thing to them that Texas Tech did against the Longhorns then they would be even less impressive. Which doesn’t say much for Texas.

Ohio State (10-3) was not impressive all year. Now that Notre Dame won in the post-season, will the Buckeyes take the mantle of the team that can’t get it done after November?

Cincinnati (11-33) and Georgia Tech (9-4) both had tenuous holds on the polls in my last ballot and bowl losses didn’t help that much.

There you have it. This was a lot of fun and certainly made me think through the process of who I voted for – for better or worse. Having my team in the mix all year helped with the motivation – I believe that my voting was fair all the way through. Plus, I’ve learned that when a person votes there will be some bias. That’s OK. There are many voters and the more there are the more bias works itself out.

Also, I really enjoyed the block voting aspect of this. I typically ranked teams as I put them down, but in the end the debate over a couple of positions – who should be ahead or behind someone else – is eliminated when you vote in groups.

Finally, I learned that polls are not about a direct correlation of who beat who (see above). Those are the domain of conference standings. With the size of the pool of teams, that would be impossible to keep up with and justify. Polls are based on perception (a strictly human trait) of record. The biggest factor of that is wins and losses. But record also has a component of the competition that was involved in compiling those wins ans losses. No matter what your formula, the opinion of that competition is going to vary form person to person.

I’ll close with this:

Football is not a type of race where there is a finite measuring point to determine victory. There is a winner of each contest, but even that comes into debate from time to time. It is also not a match or meet type of competition where a tally of many factors, including form and technical abilities, are recorded and exercised into a formula for determining champion.

It is a mixture of both.

It probably is most closely analogous to a boxing match.

Some rounds are clearly won by one of the opponents. Some are too close to accurately determine. Sometimes technical aspects come into play and while they may detract from the physicality of the contest, they are fatefully crucial to determining the outcome. Sometimes one opponent is clearly superior to the other and the knock-out only underscores that.

The blow that finishes it all is always the preferred method. There is little to argue then. But a winner is determined nonetheless (usually – a draw serves no one). And, just because the ending blow wasn’t delivered and the contest ends with questions, the promoters and patrons rush to deliver and view the next match.

But if the fighters are somewhat closely matched, the competition is fierce and the fight goes the distance. At the end of it all a winner is crowned. He is not always the favorite or the clear winner, but he walks away from the ring with some type of satisfaction. His fans are ecstatic and will defend his victory.

For the loser there is always the “what could have been thoughts”. He may fell cheated and begrudge the judged victor. His fans cry, “foul” and bemoan the system, the competition, and the judges. But for him there are two options; quit or preferably return to the gym to prepare harder and do everything in his power to not only earn the right to that fight again but to vanquish his opponent so badly that no one can say he doesn’t deserve the victory.

However you describe it, I’m hooked.

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