I admit to being torn by the state of college football proclamations of a "national champion."
I am as frustrated as everyone else by the current system. I was as inspired as everyone else by Utah's performance. I too find the idea that the Florida-Oklahoma winner is definitively "better" or the "champion" ahead of Utah or USC or Texas to be at odds with what I see with my own eyes.
There are two strong arguments, both articulated this weekend by CFB's leading blog voices:
EDSBS: Atomize the notation "champion" into enough pieces to fit the myriad teams worthy of wearing the label. (But what if you think that Utah has a clear resume advantage over USC?)
Doc Saturday: Continuously dismiss the current system. (And I don't say that to dismiss the way Hinton is approaching it -- to the contrary: I think his hammering is entirely valuable.)
Here's the reality: We all buy into a ranking system. Both Orson and Matt force themselves to rank the top teams each week as part of the BlogPoll. There is no split vote for any of us.
We could, in theory, anoint hundreds of national champions: The EDSBS Champ, the Yahoo Sports champ, the DanShanoff.com champ, etc.
Instead, we have decided to cede this responsibility to the college football coaches and to the AP.
We collect so-called "experts" and aggregate individual ballots. Sometimes these voters disagree, but everyone agrees to buy into the aggregate.
Now, the BCS system is rigged -- coaches aren't allowed to vote: They automatically vote for the BCS game winner.
The AP has -- at times -- served as a counter-balance, most notably in 2003 when they gave USC the national title (although USC went into the bowls as the AP's top-ranked team -- this year, Florida and Oklahoma are 1-2; to have Utah or USC or Texas jump them, the AP would have to nullify its own existence... unlikely).
So the obvious solution is to create more "recognized" champions outside of the BCS and the AP. There are a few problems with that:
(1) The AP isn't exactly about to cede its position, despite the fact that it pulled itself out of the BCS system because it didn't want to "make news itself." Yeah, right.
(2) The BCS and its partners -- coaches, conferences, media companies, sponsors -- have a vested interest in promoting the "unified champ...our champ" theory.
(3) Even if you created multiple outlets to crown a champion, would they really divide it as easily (and appropriately) as Matt does: Fla-Okla winner (BCS); USC (Media); Utah (People's); Texas (Aggrieved).
Here is one test: Bloggers are as "counter-culture" as anyone out there, and the BlogPoll is the closest thing to a recognized poll with any sort of traction.
Do you think the BlogPollsters will vote Utah as our national champ -- not as a protest, mind you, but because they actually think the Utes are the best team in the country? How about USC? How about Texas?
There can only be one "best," one top-ranked team, one No. 1. As a poll voter or as a fan, you take in as much information as you can, put it through your filter and make your determination.
You don't get to split your own personal vote 4 ways. You can be frustrated at not having an on-the-field way to decide between the contending teams. But you gotta make your choice. We do it every week during the regular season. Ideally, as Matt does, you weigh the resume; it's no different after the bowls than it is after Labor Day, except you have more information.
The BCS has already made its choice. The AP voters will make their choice. You will make yours.
If you legitimately believe that Utah or USC or Texas or Florida or Oklahoma is the best team in the country, vote them No. 1. Make your case to others, and maybe you will convince enough people to agree with you that you create legitimacy for your position.
But you still lack the credibility and self-fulfilling validity of an awards platform.
There is a model for this: College football's many awards, particularly "Player of the Year" awards -- as evidenced this past season, when Bradford won the Heisman, Tebow won the Maxwell, McCoy won the Camp, etc.
There is another model for this, one that aggrieved college football fans and bloggers should look to: Movie awards. What is the "Best Picture" in any given year? Like college football, there is a lot of debate -- and it's not like there is a tournament to pit them against each other.
(Hmm: "Benjamin Button" as Florida? "Milk" as USC? "Slumdog Millionaire" as Utah? "Frost/Nixon" as Texas? I digress....)
But we have the Oscars, which is/was the standard. But then the foreign press wanted to have their influence, so they created the Golden Globes. Then the actors wanted a say, so they created the SAGs. And each regional film critics' association created their own.
And, this weekend, I'm watching CBS and I see a promo for the People's Choice Awards. Now, I'm as populist a sports fan as there is, but this awards show is ludicrous.
However, some genius came up with it and now it is as legitimized as the Oscars, complete with nationalized voting, a red-carpet show, a primetime broadcast and Queen Latifah as host.
For more than a decade, I have been pushing the notion of a nationalized "Fan Poll" as the closest thing there is to a counter-balance to both the BCS and the AP's hegemony. I usually get scoffed at -- you'd think fans would be more inclined to support something that empowers them and breaks up the tyranny at the top.
That's why I'm such a huge fan of the BlogPoll -- if you buy the atomized, offsetting rooting interests of the participating bloggers and also trust that each voter/blogger listens to their readers, adjusting their ballot as is appropriate, the BlogPoll is as close to a Fan Poll as we have.
There is no reason that we BlogPollers can't anoint our own No. 1-ranked team as national champ. If it isn't the BCS or AP champ, I guarantee you that the school will display that status as prominently as a BCS trophy. Schools are smart about their marketing like that.
Here's the rub: When we do finally bring together the 150 BlogPoll voters and their represented millions of fans who consume them, will the group really reach a consensus that the champ is NOT the winner of Florida and Oklahoma? That it is Utah or USC or Texas? I doubt it.
Though I'd like to see it.
But it will take a critical mass of individuals acting and thinking rationally enough to independently see it that way -- and not just as a knee-jerk protest vote, but because you look at the resumes and you legitimately believe that your alternately proposed No. 1 team is the best.
You will not break up the BCS, no matter how loudly you protest. You will not convince the cloistered AP to stop making news itself and running its poll and proclaiming its champ.
But there IS room for more voices at the table identifying and proclaiming their own champ. All it takes is the organizational power to create it, then demand it be recognized.
Yes We Can.*
(* - But there is no guarantee that the result will be any more enjoyable or high-minded than what the BCS or AP comes up with. However, if you would like a Heisman-Maxwell-Camp scenario among national-title teams, we can probably figure out a way to make that happen.)