FOR CLARITY'SSAKE, it's probably a good thing that a week elapsed between Boise State'sastounding Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma and the deadline for voters tosubmit their final AP Top 25 ballot. Otherwise normally levelheadedsportswriters and broadcasters, caught up in the excitement of a game-tyinghook and ladder, a game-winning Statue of Liberty play and an on-field marriageproposal, might have ranked the Broncos, the nation's only undefeated team,right behind national champion Florida.
Taking emotion outof the equation, however, one is left to assess WAC champion Boise State(13--0) based also on a relatively weak regular-season schedule, which includeda seven-point win over Wyoming (6--6) and a three-point victory over San JoseState (9--4). Before the 43--42 overtime victory against the Big 12 championSooners, the highlight of the Broncos' season was a 42--14 rout of 10--4 OregonState on Sept. 7. Those were admirable accomplishments, but in addition to the13--1 Gators at least three other teams had better seasons than Boise, even ifthey didn't win every game.
Ohio State (12--1)whipped Texas in Austin and, in a battle of unbeatens, knocked off Michigan forthe Big Ten championship. SEC power LSU (11--2) played with Florida in thenation's toughest conference and won its last seven games, capped by ademolition of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. USC (11--2) had more regular-seasonvictories over teams that ranked in the top 20 in the final AP poll (Cal,Arkansas and Notre Dame) than any other team and ended its year with a rousingblowout of then No. 3 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. I ranked those teams Nos. 2through 4, respectively.
I placed theBroncos fifth on my final ballot, up four places from their No. 9 ranking inthe previous poll and just ahead of Louisville (12--1), whose Orange Bowlvictory over Wake Forest did not carry the same cachet as Boise's postseasonwin, and Wisconsin (12--1), which didn't have to play Ohio State because of theBig Ten schedule rotation and gained only 201 yards in its Capital One Bowl winover Arkansas. Fans of those schools would undoubtedly argue that I put theBroncos too high. Oklahoma fans, on the other hand, might say I had them toolow.