Brigham Young University has a big problem today: Michigan wasn't impressed.
The top-ranked Cougars, who came from behind to defeat Michigan, 24-17, Friday night in the Holiday Bowl, have to wait until Jan. 2 to find out what voters in the Associated Press poll thought of their victory.
The central issue, of course, is whether BYU's 13-0 record shines bright enough to blind the pollsters' already dim view of the Cougars' weak schedule.
Despite a dramatic comeback led by gimpy quarterback Robbie Bosco, chances are it does not.
A Dallas Morning News survey of all 60 AP poll voters found that if BYU did not win by at least 10 to 14 points, the Orange Bowl game between No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 4 Washington on Jan. 1 likely would decide the national championship. No. 3 Florida is awaiting NCAA probation and was not allowed to go to a bowl.
But why wait for the polls? The Wolverines, whose 6-6 record is the worst in Coach Bo Schembechler's 16 seasons, know a good team when they lose to it. Every team Michigan lost to is playing in a bowl game.
What's more, the Wolverines played three No. 1 teams this season. They upset Miami, 22-14, and lost to Washington, 20-11, and BYU.
The envelope please . . .
"I think I would have to vote for Brigham Young on the basis of their winning so many games," Schembechler said.
"They're better than we are, I guess," Michigan wide receiver Gilvanni Johnson grudgingly said. "But Washington was stronger . . . better defense, better coverages, better . . . "
Linebacker Rodney Lyles said he "didn't know" if BYU was No. 1. "This couldn't have been BYU's best performance," he said.
Strong safety Ivan Hicks lumped BYU with Washington, Miami, Ohio State and -- get this -- Wisconsin, and called them all equal.
"They're as good as those teams," he said.
And tight end Sim Nelson: "I'd have to say Washington had better balance on offense and defense."
In Norman, Okla., someone else vitally concerned with the No. 1 question, Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, said he believes the Cougars "obviously . . . will be ranked No. 1, but I think Nebraska is better than they are."
This may be the national championship with an asterisk; i.e., "We don't think they played anyone, but we'll give it to BYU on heart."
BYU's players admitted they did not play well against a laborious, unranked Michigan team, but they seem to have a very good reason.
Bosco strained ligaments in his left knee and sprained his left ankle in the first quarter and could barely run. Although he played a magnificent game, completing 30 of 42 passes for 343 yards, one has to wonder what would have happened if he were healthy.
"My injury hampered us some," he said. "We had to drop some plays and we went to drop-back passes."
Perhaps poll voters will take that into account. Then again, they cannot overlook that Bosco did indeed have a spectacular game, injury or not, yet BYU still had trouble with Michigan.
That's because BYU had trouble with itself. The Cougars committed six turnovers that cost them at least seven more points (when Bosco fumbled into the end zone in the second quarter), and also had a 52-yard field-goal attempt blocked.
All of Michigan's points were the result of BYU's mistakes. A field goal by the Wolverines turned into their first touchdown on a roughing-the-kicker call against BYU; the second Michigan touchdown came after the blocked field goal; and Michigan's final field goal was the result of a BYU fumble at the Cougars' 11-yard line.
"It was kind of satisfying to think we played that bad and came back," said BYU defensive tackle Jim Herrmann. "The score didn't reflect how we dominated the game."
Do total yards tell the story? BYU had 483 to Michigan's 202. Or, does time of possession? Michigan, behind fullback Bob Perryman, who gained 110 yards, held the ball 31 minutes to BYU's 29.
BYU Coach LaVell Edwards, fed up with questions about the prospects of not finishing No. 1, will stake his claims on precedence. No top-ranked team has ever dropped after winning a bowl game, he said.
"If you're No. 1 going in and you win," he said, "you should be No. 1 going out."