Since the ‘90s began there have been three split national championships in college football. Last year’s split decision between Michigan and Nebraska topped it off.
Nothing is worse for players and fans alike, than playing a whole season and having more than one champion. The bowl alliance that promised to have the No. 1team vs the No. 2 team playing on the same field has only one flaw.
This year, there could be three undefeated teams in college football in the end. With very few tests remaining, Kansas State, UCLA and Tennessee all have very realistic chances of finishing with no losses.
In their first year, the Bowl Championship Series rankings have done little to help solve the confusion. The rankings combine the Associated Press (AP) Poll, the Coaches’ Poll, strength of schedule and Jeff Sagarin’s power rankings. In previous years, bowl games were decided by conference commitments, the AP and Coaches Polls.
This year, the only rankings that matter are the BCS rankings. The two teams that are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 will meet in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4 for the National Championship. There is no fair way to judge who is the best team between these three undefeated teams. They all deserve at least a chance to play for the national title.
The inaugural BCS rankings had UCLA, No. 1 and Ohio State, No. 2. The Bruins barely escaped the Stanford Cardinal at home. They also squeaked by Oregon State on the road, dropping them to No. 2. The Buckeyes lost the top spot after being embarrassed at home by a sub-par Michigan State team. This left the No.1 slot open for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Since college football has no playoff system, the only ways to decide who plays for the national title is with the BCS rankings. However, an entire season of football should not be decided by a computer.
Instead, if history shows us anything in college, to play for the National Championship has two stipulations. First, the teams that have taken the hardest road to get to the top. Second, as Michigan showed last year, the two teams that sport the best defenses in the country. With this being the measuring stick, only one team has shown themselves above the rest. The Fiesta bowl berth is a toss-up between the other two schools.
Neither UCLA nor Kansas State has shown that they are more deserving than the other to play for the national title. Both teams are missing one of the key elements that is needed to play for the crown.
What UCLA lacks in defense, Kansas State more than makes up for with a cupcake schedule. The Bruins own the country’s most high-powered offense, led by Cade McNown. In recent weeks, the Mark Brunell clone has made himself the front runner for the Heisman Trophy. He has also shown that he is the most clutch quarterback in the nation, leading the Bruins to fourth-quarter comebacks against Arizona, Stanford and Oregon State.
However the defense is a different story. All-American Larry Atkins is about the only impact player the Bruins have on defense. A defense, that in the last two weeks has given up over 30 points to the two worst teams in the conference.
Conversely, Kansas State has a great defense, consistently one of the best in the nation. The linebacking core is one of the best in the nation led by Butkus Award candidate Mike Kelley.
The problem is that the Wildcats have spent most of the season running up the score against such ‘powerhouses’ like Northern Illinois. Entering the matchup with Nebraska, the BCS ranks Kansas State’s schedule the 78th toughest in the nation. The next three games will decide if Kansas State is worthy of playing in Tempe.
First, Kansas State must defeat Nebraska at home, then hit the road to take on No. 12 Missouri. After that, a possible matchup with the No. 6, the wrecking crew from Texas A&M.
The team that most deserves to play for the national title is the Tennessee Volunteers. First-year starter, QB Tee Martin is improving every week that he can win the big game. The defense is always one of the fastest in the nation. This year, they are led by Butkus Award nominee Al Wilson, who was spectacular in the Florida game recovering two fumbles.
No team, of the top three teams in the rankings has played a tougher schedule. Tennessee has already defeated a ranked Syracuse team on the road in its first game. If the Vols make it through the season unscathed that means they would have through the toughest conference undefeated.
Two wins were against Top-10 teams: Florida at home, then high-powered Georgia on the road. This weekend, Tennessee is at home against No. 10 Arkansas. The Vols could have three Top-10 victims to present on their resume to the officials at the Fiesta Bowl.