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Archive for Sunday, January 11, 2009

Feel sorry for Utah, but not Texas

January 11, 2009

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Ultimately, the Texas Longhorns turned out to be right. A 10-point loss on a neutral site meant that the Oklahoma Sooners were not championship-worthy.

Of course, it had to happen a second time, not just in October in the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners, who showed defensively in the BCS title game exactly why they were worthy of a championship game appearance, fell in a BCS game for a fifth straight time to the national champion Florida Gators, 24-14.

I have no problem with how another classic college football season reached a conclusion through the often muddled and always maligned bowl and BCS system.

The championship game was a thing of greatness simply because it was precisely not what we had come to expect.

Oklahoma had scored 60 points or more in five straight games. The Sooners had the most deadly red-zone offense in college football.

Florida had pretty much picked its number to score after an early-season 31-30 loss to Mississippi, thanks to the unmatched leadership of quarterback Tim Tebow.

So for these teams to be tied, 7-7, at half and to be tied, 14-14, early in the fourth quarter is exactly why the Sooners and Gators deserved to be matching defensive wits for a title.

After having to rally in the final minute against an Ohio State team that is far from title-game-worthy, the Longhorns don’t have an argument about how this season ended.

Texas finished fourth in the AP poll, third in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, and quarterback Colt McCoy probably enters the 2009 season as the No. 1 candidate for the Heisman Trophy as a result of his 400-yards-plus passing night against the Buckeyes.

I don’t feel for USC, either. If the Trojans would just not lose a Pac-10 game they are favored to win every year, they would be in position to pile up much BCS hardware and not just one BCS title in the Pete Carroll era. Their 38-24 victory over Penn State was inspired, but not world-beating.

The team I do feel for and respect is Utah. The Utes’ 31-17 whipping of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was the only performance that was as impressive as what Florida did to Oklahoma on Thursday night.

When another non-BCS unbeaten team, Boise State, knocked off Oklahoma two years ago in one of the most entertaining bowls in history, I thought it was the perfect ending to Boise State’s season.

After seeing the miraculous finish — the Broncos winning on a Statue of Liberty play, and the running back who scored on the play proposing marriage to a cheerleader — I didn’t see a need for Boise State to move on in a tournament and lose the following week.

But Utah’s dismantling of Nick Saban’s team, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation for more than a month, was something different.

Here’s the good news for the Utes.

The media paid attention to the Sugar Bowl. Utah finished No. 2 in the AP poll, with 16 first-place votes.

Coaches are contractually bound to vote for the BCS title game winner, so only Utah’s Kyle Whittingham voted for the Utes in the USA Today Coaches’ poll. Utah finished fourth.

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