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Post Who are the best two teams?

Tuesday December 4, 2007

For all the talk of parity this year, the two teams playing for the national title are a participant in last year’s title game versus a team picked #2 at the beginning of this year. Four of the six BCS conference champs were preseason favorites, and Oklahoma and Ohio State were hardly out of left field. The traditional power is still alive and well.

I understand the sentiment that this was an incredible season with upsets and turbulent polls and a cliffhanger of a final weekend. It was. Still, I admit that I prefer to see the triumph of excellence. I don’t know if we’re going to see a championship game of the quality of the 2006 Rose Bowl any time soon, but that’s what does it for me.

It’s a lot easier when excellence makes the decision obvious, but that wasn’t the case this year. There are several teams with impressive accomplishments and a few blemishes. I don’t envy the job of those who had to sort them out. Were the best teams the ones who were strongest at the end? Do you subscribe to Les Miles’ "body of work" criteria? If the regular season is our playoff, what does it mean to lose?

You hear it repeated often that Georgia is playing the best football of any team in the nation right now. It might well be. At the very least they’re among a group of strong teams that includes Virginia Tech, LSU, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, and Ohio State.

I will say this: I think that a healthy LSU and Oklahoma were the two best teams I saw at any one point in this season. That’s not an argument that those two should play for the title, but if we’re talking about which teams blew my socks off, I think it’s those two. Southern Cal and Georgia aren’t far behind.

Of course trying to rely on anything but results can lead us astray. Last season the case was made for an Ohio State – Michigan rematch because the "best two teams" should meet for the national title. Florida backed into the title game only after Southern Cal fell to UCLA. After Florida humiliated the Buckeyes and Southern Cal dispatched Michigan, it’s possible that everyone was talking about the wrong two teams. Fans of most BCS teams probably feel that their team could beat Ohio State if given the opportunity. Don’t bet the house on that.

Could even an 8-team playoff solve this problem? A playoff of the BCS conference champs plus, say, Georgia and Hawaii, leaves out an arguably worthy team like Kansas. A favorite solution, the "plus-one", would leave out Georgia if based on the final BCS rankings. You’re always going to have someone pissed off and jilted, and engineering a solution to fit the outcome of a specific season won’t mean that all other potential problems are solved.

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