— Always up to its neck in controversy, the Bowl Championship Series slithered off the hook once again. The charitable party allowing that to happen was surprisingly the BCS-bashing media itself ... more specifically the 65 journalists that comprise the Associated Press Top 25.
Handed a golden opportunity, gift-wrapped in the form of undefeated Utah, the AP poll turned its back on the nation's only perfect team and rubber stamped BCS champion Florida as its top dog as well.
This is not to say that the Gators, who defeated Oklahoma 24-14 Thursday to automatically earn the BCS title, don't deserve to be crowned. They certainly earned that right. But so did the Utes and a split national championship wouldn't have drawn any blood from anybody besides the much-maligned BCS.
In the very least, Utah deserved to get more than 16 of the 65 first-place votes available. There really is no legitimate rationale against the Utes being No. 1.
Winning is the name of the game and no one did that better than Utah. That 13-0 record got capped off with a convincing 31-17 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That's the same Crimson Tide team the AP voters had slotted in their top spot for all five polls taken during the month of November. Yet under 25 percent of voters found merit in the work the Utes put in while dominating an Alabama team that won all of its SEC games on the way to the Western Division crown and was 15 minutes away from playing for the BCS national title, coming from ahead to lose to once-beaten Florida in the SEC championship game, 31-20.
You'd think that the Crimson Tide would be well prepared to face a ferocious and speedy defense, but they had no answer to Utah's stop unit, mustering just 31 rushing yards on 33 carries (105 yards fewer than they had versus Florida).
Detractors will say that one bowl game shouldn't represent a full body of work and begin their argument against Utah with its membership in the Mountain West Conference. However, that doesn't resonate well. The MWC had an outstanding season with three teams in the Top 25 and compiled a 6-1 record versus the Pac-10 during the regular season, turning the tables on their regional big brother. A case could be made that the MWC was the nation's fourth-best, or even third-best, league in 2008.
Nick Saban still might not think that the MWC is a "real BCS conference," so it would be interesting to hear how he honestly feels about the Big East, ACC or Big Ten.
In addition to Utah, TCU and BYU would have competed quite nicely in any league in the nation. The Utes handled both of those stiff challenges within their own conference in impressive fashion. The Horned Frogs were ranked at No. 11 when they fell 13-10 in Salt Lake City on Nov. 6, and two weeks later, the Utes took down the No. 16 Cougars 48-24 in the holiest meeting of the "Holy War" series.
In non-conference action, the Utes beat Oregon State (31-28 on Oct. 2), which was one victory shy of representing the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl. Of course, one of the Beavers' 10 victories this past season was over then-No. 1 USC (27-21, Sept. 25).
Just by looking at the school names, the rest of Utah's 2008 slate might not knock your socks off, but upon closer examination nearly all of the teams — not just the four ranked ones — that were victimized by the Utes had at least something to hang their hats on.
Michigan somehow managed to beat No. 9 Wisconsin (27-25, Sept. 27). UNLV toppled No. 15 Arizona State (23-20 in OT, Sept. 13). Utah State upset Hawaii (30-14, Nov. 1), which finished second in the WAC. Air Force, a bowl team itself, beat a pair of bowl teams during the regular season (Houston and Colorado State). Weber State went 10-4 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. Trojan-slaying Oregon State shut out Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl. Wyoming won at Tennessee (13-7, Nov. 8). Colorado State outlasted Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl (40-35, Dec. 20). New Mexico shocked Arizona (36-28, Sept. 13). TCU beat a pair of No. 9 teams, battering BYU (32-7, Oct. 16) and edging Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl (17-16, Dec. 23). San Diego State ... umm ... okay ... the Aztecs only conquered Idaho and UNLV. Brigham Young eviscerated UCLA (59-0, Sept. 13). And Alabama made its bones by beating No. 3 Georgia (41-30, Sept. 27).
On top of all that, no matter what conference it's from, Utah isn't exactly a Johnny-come-lately. This is the Utes' second undefeated season capped by a BCS bowl victory in the last five years. No other team in the "BCS era," which began in 1998, has had a pair of undefeated seasons. In addition, Utah has now won eight consecutive bowl games, yet another claim that only it can make.
Following the 2003 season, the AP voters had the guts to look past the BCS version of a pseudo national championship game between LSU and Oklahoma, and awarded their trophy to one-loss USC.
This time around, it's too bad that so many of them got caught up in the story that the BCS was selling.
At the end of the day, all of this national championship business is mythical. Why not share the wealth and possibly take another step toward a more equitable solution?