Consensus on national champ is polls apart AP: Colorado

UPI: Ga. Tech

N.Y. Times: Miami

January 03, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

MIAMI -- The question remains: Just who is No. 1?

According to the 60 sportswriters and broadcasters who vote in the Associated Press poll, it's Colorado.

According to the 59 college football coaches who vote in the United Press International poll, it's Georgia Tech.

And to make matters more confusing, according to The New York Times' computer, it's Miami.

In the AP poll, Colorado received 39 first-place votes and finished with 1,475 points, and runner-up Georgia Tech had 20 first-place votes and 1,441 points. The 34-point margin was the fifth-closest since the AP went to a permanent postseason poll in 1968.

In the UPI poll, Georgia Tech got 30 first-place votes and finished with 847 points, and runner-up Colorado had 27 first-place votes and 846 points. The one-point margin was the closest vote in the 40-year history of the UPI poll.

Colorado (11-1-1) defeated then-No. 5 Notre Dame, 10-9, in Tuesday night's Federal Express Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech (11-0-1) beat Nebraska, 45-21, in the Florida Citrus Bowl on Tuesday afternoon. The Buffaloes and the Yellow Jackets were ranked 1-2 in both polls heading into the bowls. Colorado's fall marked the first time since 1974, when UPI began conducting its final ratings after the bowl games, that a team ranked No. 1 after the regular season won its bowl and dropped from the top spot.

Miami (10-2) finished third in both wire-service polls. The Hurricanes got one first-place vote and 1,388 points in the AP poll, falling just short of becoming the first team to finish first or second for five consecutive seasons. In the UPI poll, Miami got two first-place votes and 763 points.

"Right up until I got the results [of the AP poll], I was sweating it out," said Colorado coach Bill McCartney. "We didn't have any guarantees. What a tremendous moment it is for our school, our kids, the state of Colorado and the city of Boulder."

McCartney said Georgia Tech made a "strong case" for the title but added his his team deserved to win even though the Buffaloes barely beat Notre Dame.

"We played the most difficult schedule in Division I-A, and Notre Dame played the second-toughest schedule," McCartney said. "No one should have expected us to beat them decisively. They're just too good. But we won, and that's what counts."

After hearing of the UPI ranking, Georgia Tech quarterback Shawn Jones said he felt vindicated.

"I felt that even though Colorado won, we should have been No. 1 because of the way we beat Nebraska," he said. "I'm happy to see the coaches feel we should be No. 1 also. This erases the disappointment we had from the other polls."

Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross didn't know about UPI's vote when he conducted a national telephone interview from his father's Williamsburg, Va., apartment. Ross flew to Williamsburg on Tuesday night to be with his 80-year-old mother, Martha, who suffered a stroke Dec. 21.

Ross opened the late-afternoon teleconference by saying he would be brief because "I have some things I'm trying to take care of before I leave Williamsburg."

"I'm disappointed that we weren't named No. 1, but I'm not waving a flag, or criticizing, or anything of that nature," Ross said. "I think the closer I got to it, the more disappointed I got. I thought the win over Nebraska would keep us in the hunt. I thought it would be enough, but obviously not.

"I was pretty certain, if Colorado won, they would be first. I guess that has to do with precedent. If a team goes into a bowl No. 1 and wins, they hold that position."

Later, after UPI's poll was announced, Ross said: "I'm very pleased about it. Having your peers see you in this kind of light means a great deal to me, and it's also very meaningful for our program.

"After I heard about the Associated Press poll this morning, I was a little more disappointed than I thought I would be. But this makes up for it."

Colorado is only the second team to win the championship with a loss and a tie since the AP started its poll in 1936. Alabama won the title after the 1965 season with a 9-1-1 record.

No team has been voted national champion with two regular-season losses.

The Buffaloes started slowly at 1-1-1 and didn't seem likely to be in contention for the national title. But Colorado then won 10 straight, including the fifth-down victory over Missouri when officials inadvertently allowed Colorado an extra down, on which it scored the winning touchdown on the game's final play.

"The fifth-down situation did have some impact in my voting, plus how Colorado struggled to beat Stanford," said Bill Benner of the Indianapolis Star, who voted for Georgia Tech in the AP poll. "Plus, Notre Dame had five turnovers. They kind of handed the game to Colorado."

Georgia Tech was not ranked in the AP's preseason poll and didn't break into the rankings until the fifth week, when it was No. 23. The Yellow Jackets made the top 10 the 10th week, reaching No. 7, and got to No. 2 the next-to-last week of the regular season.

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