Arash Markazi
Wednesday January 9th, 2008

College football is more like politics than any other sport in America. Think about it. This year's national champion, for instance, wasn't decided so much on the field but in the filibustering done by coaches, pollsters and assorted talking heads leading up to the game.

It's safe to say most of the nation wasn't moved by the two candidates that made it in to the final, but in this big party ... er ... conference system we live in there was little choice. After all, it's much easier to have two popular sides face each other rather than choosing between four, eight or 16. Primaries are one thing, playoffs are quite another.

In the end, the BCS, much like the Electoral College, will crown whoever the winner of this battle is regardless of the popular vote.

We can't do anything about college football, or the current political landscape for that matter, but we can hold a debate. Yes, we know that would be as likely as a playoff deciding an actual champion, but play along with us.

Moderator: Welcome to the first ever college football national championship debate. While the BCS has already crowned its champion for this season, America has not and that's why we are here. We have brought together the top candidates for this season's championship and will ask them to address the question on the minds of college football fans everywhere: Who should be the national champion?

From Louisiana State University coach Les Miles, from the University of Georgia coach Mark Richt and from the University of Southern California coach Pete Carroll. Gentleman, thank you. We will begin with an opening remark from each candidate, beginning with Coach Miles.

Miles: Thank you. With all due respect to the gentlemen to my left, I don't know what I'm doing here. We have a system in place that everyone in college football agreed to. It's called the Bowl Championship Series. It may not be perfect, but it's what we got, and I think we need to respect that. Everyone here plays for that crystal football at the end of the season, and you know what? It's in Baton Rouge right now, sitting right beside the one this school won in 2004. You can call it what you want, but at the end of the day, we own the crystal ball and pardon the pun, that's about as crystal clear as it gets.

Carroll: It's far from crystal clear. You may have the crystal ball from 2004, but we finished that regular season as the No. 1 team in both the coaches and AP polls and got shut out of even playing for a national championship. Now, you tell me how that's fair? Thankfully the AP poll, unlike the Coaches', wasn't forced to vote for the second-best team that year, and I was hoping that would have been the case this year. Unfortunately, it wasn't. The bottom line is we are the best team in the country right now and there's no doubt in my mind or the minds of many that we would beat any team on a neutral field.

Richt: The only thing that's clear here is that we are working under a system that is flawed and needs to be changed. In the words of our school president, Michael F. Adams, the BCS has become a "beauty contest largely stage-managed by the networks." He has proposed an eight-team playoff to decide a national champion. This, after the ACC and SEC commissioners stated that they are willing to discuss a "plus-one" game to decide the champion. Clearly, they, along with the American people are not satisfied with this season's result. LSU lost at home to an unranked team after Thanksgiving and should have been knocked out contention. We haven't lost since Oct. 6, USC hasn't lost since Oct. 27. How can you crown a true national champion when the two hottest teams aren't even playing in the title game?

Moderator: Each one of you candidates has two losses; there are six two-loss teams in the nation, as well as two one-loss teams. Tell us why you think you should be considered the best team in the country? We will start with Coach Carroll.

Carroll: This is the most talented team I've ever coached from top to bottom and it is playing about as well as any team I've ever had here at USC -- and that's saying something. I know everyone wants to point at the Stanford game, but all I would ask the American people to do is give this team the eyeball test. Look at how we finished the season. Look at the way we dominated our opponents over the last five games when we were finally healthy. It's no fluke. We began this season as the best team in the country and finished it the same way. Had it in not been for John David Booty's broken finger, we might have been undefeated, who knows. All I know is that I wouldn't bet against this team right now.

Miles: I'm sorry but I can't get over that Stanford loss, Pete. You play in a weak conference and lose to the weakest team in that conference at home and want us to forget about that? Sorry, not happening. And Mark, you guys lost to Tennessee 35-14 in October. Maybe you watched the SEC championship -- we beat them, 21-14. Listen, I we've lost twice as well, but I can take some solace in the fact that our two losses came in triple overtime. That's right -- we're the only team that went undefeated this season in regulation. That's saying something, considering our schedule was the toughest of anyone on this panel. We played eight ranked teams, going 7-1 in those games, and had a 3-0 record against top 10 teams. I dare anyone to top that.

Richt: Yeah, that's impressive, but you never played us. You can throw out all the numbers and results that you want, but at the end of the day you can't really believe you're the best when you didn't even play the best team in your own conference. We have the longest winning streak and we were ranked the highest going into the last week of the season of any team on this panel. We've been blowing out teams since October, and I don't think anyone who has watched us play would pick us to do anything less against anyone else.

Moderator: Unfortunately, we're going to have to end the debate there. While LSU celebrates its second BCS national championship, it's clear that the debate will rage on about which team is truly the national champion. The only thing that seems certain at this point is that anything short of a playoff will result in a similar debate this time next year.

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