Hlas Column on Utah Lobbying Me for a No. 1 Vote in the AP poll

I know what its like to be the guy on the left - well, not really

I know what it's like to be the guy on the left - well, not really

The “colorful” governor of Illinois appointed a former attorney general of his state to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

If you were Roland Burris, you might have been torn between two reactions when Gov. Rod Blagojevich called. “No thanks, it’s not worth the aggravation,” comes to mind. So does “I have the chance to help steer this nation I love to a safer, smarter path. It’s my obligation as a citizen to say yes.”

Those were the two reactions I had in November when the Associated Press asked me to be a replacement voter in its college football rankings.

OK, it’s not really how I felt at all. What I thought was, “I should be able to get some easy column and Hlog material out of this, and it shouldn’t cause any real problems.”

After all, AP’s rankings no longer factor into the BCS championship formula. To its credit, AP wanted nothing to do with being involved in that masquerade.

Besides, don’t you just go with whoever wins the BCS title game, and make that your No. 1 team, anyway?

Uh, not necessarily.

Let’s backtrack. AP called me, for some bizarre reason, when Eric Page left the Quad City Times to work for a college near his home. You can always spot the young sports writers who won’t make a career of it. They get lost thinking about other things, like life and stuff.

Page was Iowa’s representative on the 65-member AP football voting panel. When he abruptly fled to academia, AP decided it wanted to continue to have an Iowan who covers college football participating in its poll. It was for the same reason the Senate still wants two representatives from Illinois, I guess.

So, AP came to me. Maybe it was because I voted in its poll in the mid-1990s. Or maybe it’s because they don’t vet their candidates very well.

It was only for a few weeks, I thought, so why not? But I didn’t see what was coming. Namely, an avalanche from Utah.

Know that the AP championship remains a legitimate national championship unto itself and isn’t beholden to FedEx, Tostitos, or the rest of the BCS cabal. The voters are media people, not coaches. The AP voters actually watch games and pay attention. The coaches are preoccupied with trivial matters like, well, coaching.

But more years than not, the winner of the BCS title game is the slam-dunk pick for No. 1 in the final AP poll. No controversy, no worries.

That will be the case again Thursday if the winner of the Florida-Oklahoma game has a decisive victory, or prevails against an opponent that gave a very determined battle.

But what if those two teams slog around like Texas and Ohio State did for much of Monday’s Fiesta Bowl? What’s to stop a voter from jumping Utah, the lone unbeaten team, to No. 1 on the heels of the Utes’ impressive Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, which had been ranked No. 1 for five weeks during the season?

If Oklahoma wins, it would be very hard for me not to tab it No. 1 with its wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas, TCU, Cincinnati, and finally, Florida. Look, the Sooners have scored 58 or more points in each of their last six games. Their 45-35 October loss to Texas in Dallas is a scratch, yes, but not a gash.

But don’t use the “strength of schedule” argument with me if Florida beats the Sooners. The Gators trailed Alabama for three quarters before winning in the SEC title game, 31-20. Utah jumped on the Crimson Tide for a 21-0 first-half lead, fought off a staunch ‘Bama rally, and put away the Tide with authority, 31-17.

Florida, for all its dominant wins over the likes of Georgia and LSU and Florida State, lost at home to Mississippi. Ole Miss had a really good team, as it turned out. But it lost four games.

As for USC fans, don’t even chime in. Your Trojans lost to Oregon State. Utah beat Oregon State.

And Texas Longhorn people should know deep in their hearts that their 12-1 team didn’t pass the eyeball test for No. 1 in its 24-21 Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.

Utahans and others have spent the last few days making their feelings known to AP voters.

“Make a statement against the failure of a system we call the BCS and give the Utes the recognition they deserve,” one e-mailer urged me.

“It has to be Utah. No question,” wrote someone else.

“Choose from an exclusive collection of replica watches,” offered another e-mailer. But that was just spam.

So here’s the deal, Florida and Oklahoma: Show me something Thursday night.

Not that I’ll see most of it. I’m covering the Minnesota-Iowa men’s basketball game Thursday.

But since when did you have to be a totally informed voter to participate in the democratic process?


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