Gators win right to face Buckeyes in BCS title game

Associated Press

Associated Press

Florida beat Michigan on Sunday in the only game that mattered.

The Gators, who lobbied hard for this victory, were picked to play No. 1 Ohio State for college football’s national championship, ending any chance for the Wolverines to get the rematch they so desired and thought they deserved.

But Florida got in by a whisker – just a hundredth of a point in the Bowl Championship Series Standings.

The Gators had a BCS average of .944, and the Wolverines were just behind at .934. The teams were tied in the computer ratings, but Florida had a 38-point lead in the Harris poll and a 26-point advantage in the coaches’ poll.

All these factors were sure to set off renewed calls to scrap the BCS and go to a playoff. Count Florida coach Urban Meyer as supporter of that plan.

“We’re beyond the fact of do we need a playoff,” he said. “It’s now, can we get one.”

The BCS Championship Game is Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

“I don’t think they [Florida] would have moved ahead of us if USC would have won the game,” said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

When the Wolverines ended their regular season with a 42-39 loss to the Buckeyes two weeks ago, they talked about getting another swing at their Big Ten rivals.

While Michigan was left to wait and hope, the other contenders still had games to play.

As Florida padded its resume, second-year coach Meyer became very vocal about getting a chance to play Ohio State, especially when it appeared the Gators would be left out.

He called for a playoff and suggested the BCS should be imploded if the SEC champ again was left out of the championship game – the way undefeated Auburn was in 2004.

In the end, he said he didn’t think voicing his opinions about the BCS helped push his team into the title game.

“It’s an imperfect system,” Meyer said Sunday. “If you want a true national championship, the only way to do it is on the field.

Carr agreed: “I hope one day we have a system where all the issues are decided on the field.”

Carr chose not to publicly pitch for his team. It’s unclear whether that would have helped or whether Meyer swayed some poll voters. Maybe when faced with the possibility of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch, the voters, like Meyer, cringed.

At least one coach, who voted for Michigan, said the possibility of a rematch didn’t influence his vote.

“I don’t think coaches are, quite frankly, the best people to vote on that poll,” said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who had Michigan No. 2 and Florida No. 3. “But I take it very seriously. I know it’s important, because we’re dealing with people’s lives.”

Instead of the 104th meeting between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes, Florida and Ohio State will play for the first time ever.

The Buckeyes have been No. 1 since the preseason. Led by Heisman Trophy front-runner Troy Smith, they’ve run roughshod over their competition. Only Michigan and Illinois stayed within 17 points of Ohio State.

Florida, meanwhile, seemed to struggle almost every week. The Gators won at Tennessee by one in September, and none of their last five victories over I-A teams have been by more than 10 points.

The Gators relied on their defense, a unit ranked 10th nationally in yards allowed and sixth in scoring.

Florida’s senior quarterback, Chris Leak, entered the season as a Heisman contender but ended up sharing the job with freshman sensation Tim Tebow.

Tebow’s tough running has complemented Leak’s passing, but unlike the explosive Buckeyes, Florida’s offense has had its ups and downs. The Gators’ only loss came Oct. 18 at Auburn, a 27-17 setback that was a four-point game until the Tigers scored on the final play.