System won't pick true champion

Associated Press
Georgia's Knowshon Moreno (24) and Reshad Jones (9) celebrate after Georgia's 31-17 win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007.

There are two teams in this country better than all of the rest right now.

Here's the problem: They won't be playing each other in 2008.

Georgia and Southern California are the top teams in the country and deserved a chance to find out which team was better.

Instead, the Trojans are bound for the Rose Bowl, their annual getaway destination. Georgia is headed to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl, the stepchild bowl of the BCS this year. Hawaii is the opponent; acquiring tickets should be a breeze.

Georgia and Southern Cal were unquestionably the hottest teams at the end of the season. But did the Bulldogs and Trojans deserve a slot in the BCS Championship game?

Not under the current system.

LSU, as well as Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, hurdled Georgia in the final BCS polls Sunday because coaches in the USA Today poll and voters in the Harris Interactive poll deemed that winning a conference title was tantamount to playing for the national championship. Georgia, of course, didn't even play for the SEC title.

As much as coach Mark Richt lobbied for the Bulldogs late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, he couldn't disguise the fact that Georgia was in a lose-lose situation without a league title.

He continually pointed out the BCS had no guidelines stipulating that a team had to win its conference to play for a national title. The voters decided to police it themselves, though, and helped prevent what happened with Nebraska in 2001 and Oklahoma in 2003.

It's a shame, too. The way Georgia played the past six games, LSU's chances of beating the Bulldogs would've been as good as Kirk Herbstreit reporting accurate information about Les Miles.

Blame college football for the most flawed system of how to determine a champion in sports. But also blame Georgia for not making the most of its opportunities. The only way a team can put itself in position to win the SEC is by putting a high priority on its division games. Georgia slipped against South Carolina in September and didn't show up at Tennessee a month later. If Georgia wins one of those games, and wins the SEC, the Bulldogs would've been a bona fide BCS No. 1.

The Bulldogs lost both and suffered the consequences. Playing for and winning a national championship consists of being at the right place at the right time. Georgia was there two weeks ago by beating Georgia Tech. LSU was there this past Saturday. That's what counts in a what-have-you-done-lately college football world.

A playoff is the only way to determine which team is No. 1. Until that happens, there will be more teams such as Georgia and more debate about who actually is the nation's best.

Reach John Kaltefleiter at john.kaltefleiter@onlineathens.com.

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