The Sweep

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The Gators received the crystal football as BCS champs, but are they the most deserving team of the No. 1 ranking?
Damian Strohmeyer/SI

OK, so you saw Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators raise the crystal football tonight in Miami after beating Oklahoma to win the BCS National Championship, but are they really the national champions? The only thing that seems undisputed after this season's bowl games is that we have a clear-cut Final Four that would make for a nice little playoff (but we all know that's not going to happen any time soon). So who is the national champion in your eyes? Here are the top four candidates and the case for and against each one:

Florida Gators (13-1)


Why They Should Be No. 1:
Well, first of all, they're holding the almighty crystal football after winning the BCS National Championship and will likely take home the AP and any other national title as well. No team in the country finished the season stronger against quality opponents than the Gators, who beat six ranked teams, including two No. 1s to finish the season. The Gators, who averaged more than 40 points during their 10-game winning streak, hadn't had a team come within single digits of them since their lone loss of the season in September to Ole Miss and proved their defense might be just as good as their offense after they shut down the highest-scoring team in college football history in the title game.     
 
Why They Shouldn't Be No. 1: The Gators are the only team in this foursome (and the BCS top nine) to lose at home. And not only did they lose at home, they lost to an Ole Miss team that was unranked and 3-4 through its first seven games.

Utah Utes (13-0)


Why They Should Be No. 1: The only undefeated team in the nation. Need we say more? Not only did the Utes go unbeaten, they began the year by going to The Big House and beating Michigan (you can laugh now, but that's how you schedule nonconference games, folks), beat Oregon State (which, as we all know beat, USC), beat TCU (which beat Boise State and will finish the year in the top 10), beat BYU (who most thought would be this year's BCS buster) and finished the year off by dominating an Alabama team that was the No. 1 team for a good portion of the season before losing a classic SEC title game to Florida.
 
Why They Shouldn't Be No. 1: There's no question that playing in the Mountain West helped Utah go undefeated for the second time in five years. The MWC was rated the seventh best conference in college football, just ahead of the Mid-American, by Jeff Sagarin, and according to Sagarin and CollegeBCS.com, Utah played by far the easiest schedule of any of the national-championship contenders. It's hard to register on national radars when you're beating up on UNLV, Utah State, Air Force, Weber State, Wyoming, Colorado State, New Mexico and San Diego State.

USC Trojans (12-1)


Why They Should Be No. 1: They were nearly the unanimous No. 1 team in the country early in the season and many would argue they are the best team in the country now after beating up on Penn State in the Rose Bowl, which was over at the half (31-7). They only played one bad half this season back in September and recovered by winning 10-consecutive games -- a streak longer than any team outside of Utah and just as long as Florida. They won their conference outright and qualified for a BCS bowl game for a record seventh-consecutive season. Also, according to most sports books, they would be favored to beat any team in the country on a neutral field. They also boast the stingiest defense in recent college football history, giving up just more than a touchdown a game. 
 
Why They Shouldn't Be No. 1: USC was gift-wrapped the No. 1 ranking after blowing out Virginia and Ohio State and all it had to do was run the table against a weak Pac-10 to get to Miami, but the Trojans couldn't do it. USC lost to an Oregon State team that was unranked and began the season 2-3 and gave up 65 points at home to Oregon in its season finale. The Trojans couldn't even score a point in the first half against the Beavers, falling behind 21-0. While the Pac-10 may have gone 5-0 in bowl games this year, there is no question that the conference had a down year, eliminating any chance USC had of winning any "quality games" down the stretch.

Texas Longhorns (12-1)


Why They Should Be No. 1: If the college football regular season truly is a playoff, then the Longhorns eliminated the Sooners when they beat them 45-35 on a neutral field in the Cotton Bowl. That win should have been enough to send the Longhorns to the Big 12 title game and -- with a win -- the BCS National Championship Game. No team in the country played a harder four-game stretch than Texas did when it took on Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, losing the final game on a last-second play after a freshman safety dropped an easy interception.     
 
Why They Shouldn't Be No. 1: The Longhorns can talk about Oklahoma all they want, but at the end of the day they were knocked out of the Big 12 title game and the BCS National Championship Game because they lost to Texas Tech. If they had just beaten a Red Raider team that got blown out by Oklahoma (65-21) and lost to Ole Miss (47-34) in the Cotton Bowl, they would have controlled their own destiny. They also didn't win many people over with a sloppy last-second win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, a game in which they only scored three points in the first half.
 
So, who do you got? We know who won BCS national title, but who wins your national championship?

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