Fight over who's No. 1 is welcome one

December 16, 1993|By Phil Jackman

The Bowl Coalition, after a couple of years of construction and rumor, got its shove into reality when two years running college football ended up with co-national champions. First, it was Georgia Tech and Colorado in 1990, then Washington and Miami in 1991.

What started out being called the bowl alliance comprised the Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences, alias Florida State and Miami, the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta bowls and the ace of trumps, Notre Dame.

When you have a hand like that, you can bid it up against anyone and win, right?

The intent of the alliance was twofold: to restore some order to the out-of-control selection process of the bowls, some of which were tending invitations as early as the Fourth of July, and as an aid in determining a (one, uno, single) national champ.

The chances of achieving these stated goals were precarious at best because two rather large and influential conferences, the Big Ten and Pacific-10, wanted to remain true to a lucrative Rose Bowl contract and there were so many other bowls, conferences and opinions not included.

Right off, the coalition was successful, Miami belting Nebraska, 22-0, in the Orange Bowl and finishing 12-0 to take the Associated Press version of the mythical title while Washington was thumping Michigan, 34-14, for a 12-0 record and the vote of the coaches and National Football Foundation.

With two unbeaten powerhouses, as opposed to once beaten and once tied Colorado and once tied Georgia Tech the year before, who could argue? Half a loaf was better than none.

The situation was even better last year when Miami dominated the weekly polls right up until the Sugar Bowl when Alabama laid one on the Hurricanes, 34-13, and wrested the hardware. Truly, it was a case of the title being decided on the field and everyone appeared happy.

However, the reign of peace and contentment was short-lived, and (thankfully) we're back where we should be entering the bowl season: ARGUING.

As a result of what the coaches (USA Today/CNN Poll) have given us, we have Nebraska on the hot seat as No. 1 and host team in the Orange Bowl. Fortunately, cooler heads (belonging to writers and broadcasters) prevailed, and the Cornhuskers are going to have to prove their mettle against the AP's top gun, Florida State.

This isn't to suggest that the oddsmakers know everything (it just seems that way), but they've installed the Seminoles as a 17 1/2 -point favorite, and the line hasn't wavered in days.

There's something to be said for going undefeated, yes, but maybe a few other things should be factored in, too; otherwise, why have we arrived at a situation that sees No. 1 such an embarrassingly large underdog?

A lot of apparent disregard for Nebraska no doubt stems from the fact it hasn't been what you'd call a solid postseason performer lately. Besides losing to Florida State last New Year's Day, 27-14, they were smashed by Miami in the 1991 and 1988 Orange bowls, 22-0 and 23-3. In addition, what team do you think it was Georgia Tech pummeled, 45-21, in the Citrus Bowl a few years back to assure the Yellow Jackets a piece of the title? Yep, the very same.

Obviously, Florida in January doesn't agree with a bunch of corn-fed mastodons from Lincoln who play in a league that is top-heavy and doesn't provide strong week-to-week training against tough and different type teams.

Outside its option, pass-only-on-third-and-47 league, the Huskers played just one toughie in four games, and it crept by UCLA, 14-13.

It would be convenient if Nebraska won and an undefeated team was crowned the champ. Some people think that's the way it should be, and it has been a half-dozen times in the past nine years. It takes the pressure off the voters. But many more aren't content to be hog-tied by records and want to know which is truly the best team.

Coaches usually contend winning all one's games should be enough, but then every so often a situation arises like the one in 1984. Recall, Brigham Young skated through its Western Athletic Conference schedule behind quarterback Robbie Bosco unbeaten and, because of contractual obligations, headed for the Holiday Bowl.

All the folks in San Diego could come up with for an opponent for the top-ranked Cougars was Michigan, which didn't have a ranking. The game was played amid the commotion of four days before Christmas, went largely unnoticed and tossed a huge wet blanket over New Year's Day.

Talk about a cost-ineffective situation.

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