I don't know if Michigan's better than Florida, and honestly, I don't know that anyone can know that. I have maintained this since the end of the Ohio State game, that Michigan was as good as any one loss team in the nation, but we had no way of knowing which one was, in fact, the best of them. Many favored USC, only to see the Trojans implode in the Rose Bowl for the second time in as many games there (which, as a side note, I would hope would bode well for Michigan, but by the same token, you know what they say, third time lucky.) That basically left two teams in the argument, Michigan and Florida. So, let's look at what the computers say…The computers say it's a statistical dead heat! So that leaves it in the hands of the voters, and voters are biased. Voters are easily swayed. Voters are susceptible to "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-itis". But the voters are still given major sway over who would be #2 in the final poll.
The worst part was this: they let themselves be swayed.
Now, perhaps this stems from the fact that they genuinely felt that Florida was the second best team in the country at the moment. Certainly that case can be made they are a fine team: they won the SEC, they only have one loss to a good Auburn team in a game on the Plains, they have an interesting quarterback platoon system that seems to be working for them. They may even give tOSU a game in Glendale. These are all facts, and they are indisputable.
However, a large part of me suspects that because Urban Meyer spent the last two weeks so openly "campaigning" for Florida to get a shot, the voters allowed themselves to be swayed. The worst part about this is, in my mind, is that Urban Meyer basically spent the last two weeks whining and he got his way, he got his team into the national championship. Lloyd Carr, for his part, generally stayed above the fray, refusing to take potshots at Florida, refusing to campaign for Michigan's benefit, save to point to what Michigan had done on the field this season and to note that he was not thrilled with some of the assertions made about Michigan by Coach Meyer. In the end, which was rewarded? The "campaigning". What kind of lesson is this for the youth of America? If you "campaign", eventually you'll get your way, and if you stay above the fray, you'll be penalized for looking aloof and disinterested, lacking passion and fire. This just seems very wrong to me.
(As a quick aside, this is at least the second time in the last decade where a prominent college football figure's campaigning on behalf of another team has screwed Michigan. I remember very distinctly "an urgent plea from Peyton Manning" after the 1998 Orange Bowl which, I am convinced, help sway the coaches poll voters to give their #1 to Nebraska. I'm sorry, that still bugs me. Even though he is the funniest athlete right now in terms of his commercial appearances, that still bugs me.)
I also really hate the whole notion that has come out of this that the Southeastern Conference is the greatest football conference ever and no other discussion about this topic can be broached. The SEC is tradition rich (as is the Big Ten.). The SEC has many great teams (and some lesser ones, just like the Big Ten.). The SEC teams are battle tested (as are the Big Ten teams.). College football has many things that are right about it, but this parochial and provincial attitude that only "my" conference plays real football really needs to be rethought (by all of us. I have a Big Ten bias, but I recognize it.)
The simplest argument here is that Michigan should have beaten tOhio State if they wanted to be in Glendale and their failure to do so is completely on them. On the most basic level, I agree with that. That said, it's clearly Michigan's fault that they didn't win their conference, even if they play in the conference that has the #1 team in the country among its members. I mean, how horrified would we be if a basketball team, let's say, I don't know, Florida, won the NCAA Tournament despite not winning its conference during the regular season? Oh, that's right, that's what happened last year, Florida didn't even win the SEC East and while they did win the SEC tournament, they were a #3 seed going into the tournament, below Tennessee, who had the best record in the SEC in the regular season. So, to be clear, you must win your conference championship in order to play in the national championship game? In that case, Florida, if you could be so kind as to please return your 2006 NCAA basketball title and we'll be all good. OK, you're not, well, we'll just have to move on then, won't we? (I know, apples and oranges, but I don't like the idea that it's OK over here, but not OK over there. Just like Florida argued for no rematch in the national title game, and yet won their national title because of…wait for it...a rematch in the national title game)
The end of the whole thing is that Florida has forced me to root for Ohio State to win 55-0 and I hate that they are making me do that. There are those that even say I shouldn't do that, as tOhio State is our mostest hated rival. But, I think most Michigan fans are smart enough to realize that we're not pulling for the Buckeyes as much as we're rooting against politics. tOhio State earned its right to be in Glendale. tOhio State played a tremendous season and came through unscathed. Florida had a great season and then "campaigned" its way into the national championship. The latter is so bile inducing, it makes rooting for tOhio State a bit easier. But it still won't feel right, just like it didn't feel right rooting for Notre Dame eight days ago.
So let's focus instead on what is…Michigan should be a great match-up with USC in the Arroyo Seco. It should be a tremendous game and means that in the last four years, only three teams have played in the Rose Bowl, Michigan, USC, and Texas. I find that somewhat humorous. I'll have more on that as we go forward, after all, we have a few weeks to fill.