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BCS voters provide Gator aid

Times Staff Writer

After a month of wild upsets in college football, after all the voters cast their ballots and the computers finished computing, the Bowl Championship Series produced a touch of nostalgia to go with the usual controversy.

The final BCS standings had Florida leaping over Michigan for the No. 2 spot on Sunday, sending the Gators to face top-ranked Ohio State in the title game on Jan. 8.

As a consolation prize, Michigan gets USC in the Rose Bowl, giving Pasadena a traditional Big Ten vs. Pacific 10 matchup.

That means the bowl lineup is set, even if the debate over whether the BCS got it right has only begun.

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Florida entered the weekend with one loss and was No. 4 in the BCS standings, behind Ohio State, No. 2 USC and No. 3 Michigan. But the Trojans’ upset loss to UCLA on Saturday scrambled the picture.

Florida Coach Urban Meyer had openly campaigned for his team, which finished the regular season by defeating Arkansas for the Southeastern Conference championship on Saturday night.

The score of that game was 38-28, but the truly important numbers did not emerge until nearly 24 hours later.

In Sunday’s BCS tally, Florida edged Michigan by .01, .944 to .934. The Gators jumped over the Wolverines in the two “human” polls -- the USA Today coaches’ survey and the Harris Interactive poll -- and the teams finished tied in the third component of the BCS formula, the computer rankings.

“It’s well-deserved, and I’m proud of it,” Meyer said of the Gators’ selection.

Michigan, which had occupied the No. 2 spot for much of the season, also has one loss. But that defeat came against Ohio State last month.

It was a close game -- 42-39 -- and was played at Ohio State, so the Wolverines thought they deserved an invitation to the title game in Glendale, Ariz.

However, the Wolverines’ grasp on No. 2 slipped last week when, sitting idle, they were passed by USC.

Then came the Trojans’ stunning loss to UCLA on Saturday. There was renewed hope in Ann Arbor, Mich., but once again the BCS standings appeared to confirm that voters did not want to see an Ohio State-Michigan rematch.

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

On the other hand, as Florida receiver Percy Harvin said this weekend: “Michigan already had its chance.”

The comparative schedules also favored the Gators.

Florida defeated three top-25 teams this season, Michigan only two. Florida played nine opponents that finished the regular season bowl-eligible; Michigan played six.

The coaches’ poll gave the Gators an early vote of confidence, putting them at No. 2 on Sunday afternoon. The Associated Press media poll, which does not participate in the BCS, did likewise.

Then came the Harris poll and a compilation of six computer indexes that round out the BCS standings.

In other major games, Big 12 champion Oklahoma will meet unbeaten Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, Big East champion Louisville will play ACC champion Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 and Louisiana State will play Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3.

USC, which had a clear path to Glendale before running smack into a determined UCLA defense, dropped to No. 5 in the BCS standings.

“We’ll deal with the frustration of it,” Coach Pete Carroll said of bringing his team back from the loss. “You have to put it in its proper perspective ... and start marching again.”

The latest BCS controversy is likely to spark more calls to junk the system and go to a playoff, something Meyer has advocated.

“It’s an imperfect system,” he 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,” he said -- but Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said he wasn’t sure he saw the need for a playoff.

“With a 12-game season, it would be next to impossible to have a 16-team playoff,” he said. "... As you look at it over the past few years, it has gotten better and better.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

david.wharton@latimes.com


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