My vote for No. 1 wouldn't go to Colorado; the unspeakably lucky Buffaloes are 9-3-1 if they don't get a fifth down from one zebra, and an iffy clip from another. Neither would it go to Georgia Tech. For what? For beating the grossly overrated Nebraskas, 45-21, one game after Oklahoma whomped them, 45-10?
My vote would go to Miami, which thugged up 202 yards in penalties -- right, 202 yards in penalties, even more than Noriega -- and still bashed the No. 3 team, which was playing in its home state, by 43 points!
When you have a national tournament, nobody can argue with the results. The winner isn't necessarily the best team -- as Villanova proved in basketball -- but it is a legitimate champion. In the absence of a tournament, though, you should vote for who you think is The Best Team. Not the team with the best record.
Don't quote precedent. Precedent is an easy cop-out; it's a way to maintain a flawed system. Don't tell me Georgia Tech deserves my vote because it's the only unbeaten team, and polls were ever thus. Granted, Georgia Tech had a great season. But tell me honestly how many times in 10 games Georgia Tech could beat Miami. Three, max.
Pardon my stridence. I'm a shade wired after watching 13 consecutive hours of Bowl-O-Rama, beginning at 11:30 in the a.m. with Michigan and Ole Miss for the right to be No. 14 or so, and ending at 12:30 in the next a.m. with Matt Blundin having the worst series since the Oakland A's. I'm one of the guys Al Michaels was talking about when, after the Orange Bowl shut down and we turned to the Sugar, he said, "For everybody who's watched all the games so far, Hank Williams just called, and wants to know if you're ready for some fooootttball. And if you've watched them all, you should be committed."
Let's go to the highlight tape:
Chris Fowler, on ESPN, saying, "The Hall Of Fame Bowl is one that has been overlooked all year." No kidding. Who in his right mind would be looking at it? (Paul Maguire was, for NBC, standing on the sideline in shades like a vice cop from a Dirty Harry movie.)
The sideline reporter at the Gator Bowl was somebody named Dr. Jerry Punch. The first thing Dr. Punch did was give a weather report. I assume he's part of that new breed of sportscaster/meteorologist. Next year I hope they go after Dr. Timothy Leary to explain how teams really get up for bowl games.
Both the Gator and Hall of Fame disappeared forever from my screen once the Cotton and Citrus began. David McWilliams, the Texas coach, was positively scary. He was as ghastly pale as Jeremy Irons playing the bloodless Claus von Bulow in "Reversal Of Fortune." McWilliams's pet phrase for the Longhorns team this season was "Whatever It Takes." In his case, I'd say it takes about three transfusions.
It was a treat to see Brent Musburger and Dick Vermeil back together. For 30 seconds. Until I remembered why I hated Vermeil, the Viscount of Techno-Babble. Vermeil talked about "the mesh point," whatever that is, and how Nebraska had "a downhill offense," whatever that is. After one particularly convoluted analysis, Vermeil asked Brent, "Do you understand what I'm talking about?" When Brent didn't respond, Vermeil reiterated his obscure point about "rolling cornerbacks" twice more, and, of course, it still didn't make sense.
In his customary position as network shill -- this time around for ABC -- Brent personally awarded the national title to Georgia Tech, which, conveniently, was playing on his network; eventually, so did Vermeil. Over on CBS, Tim Brant was watching Miami crush Texas like a grape, and pushed the rating from G to PG-13 by enthusiastically calling one fierce hit "a butt-buster," the kind of coarse description that could get him work on "Married . . . With Children."
Routs were the rule. Every early game was a blowout. Not even Keith could make chicken salad out of the Rose Bowl. The biggest shock was in the devalued Fiesta Bowl, where Louisville obliterated Alabama, providing a return to grace for pipe-smoking Howard Schnellenberger, who disappeared from the radar screen six years ago after casting his lot with Mr. Big Shot Miami Hotel Man Woody "I'm Buying The Washington Federals" Weiser and the USFL. By the end of the first quarter, with Louisville already up by an alarming 25-0, Gene Stallings looked paler than David McWilliams. Nation's No. 1 pass defense, yeah sure. Tell that to Browning Nagle, the Norman Greenbaum of New Year's Bowls.
(Program note: How many promos for "Dark Shadows, The Movie" do we have to see? I'm already terrified.)
That got us to the big one, Colorado-Notre Dame, which will be remembered for two acts of great heroism: 1) The sublime decision to star Joel Grey (Joel Grey?) in the Orange Bowl's indescribable and often incomprehensible halftime; the huddle's a cabaret, old chum; 2) The Rocket's last-gasp punt return. I can still hear Bill Walsh insisting before the punt, "They have to kick it out of bounds. They can't kick to him." Smart coaching, Colorado. And then to see Rocket pull a Flutie and make a miracle. I don't care if it was a clip, they shouldn't have called it. As far as I'm concerned, Notre Dame won that game.
That's the problem, isn't it? Colorado's championship is twice tainted now. This is the year that yells and screams for a national tournament. Miami has those two losses, including the inexplicable (in retrospect) blunder at Brigham Young. Florida State and Washington have two. Notre Dame has three. Colorado should. Yes, Georgia Tech has a valid claim to No. 1, I can't deny it. They won the two games they absolutely had to win: Virginia and Nebraska. They won in great style. But are you truly satisfied Tech is No. 1, or is it a reluctant vote?
There has to be a national tournament. Given all the controversy swirling around Arizona and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the perfect time for the championship game is the Saturday closest to Dr. King's birthday, Jan. 15, the perfect place is Sun Devil Stadium, and the perfect name is The King Bowl. The day of the game will become, in effect, a national holiday, like Super Bowl Sunday. Let's see Arizonans vote no to that.