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<font size=2>JASON WHITLOCK:</font><br>Forget the polls; national championship too close to call
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Forget the polls; national championship too close to call

Send e-mail to JASON WHITLOCK

Date: 08/05/00 22:15

It's inevitable. This is probably the year the Bowl Championship Series, the combination of polls and computers that decides the Division I college football national championship game, goes belly up.

My prediction?

No one goes undefeated in 2000.

Nebraska, the AP's preseason No. 1, won't escape Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas (Big 12 title game) without at least one loss. Florida State, the defending national champions, will fall to either Florida or Miami. The SEC is too good for Alabama to slip through unscathed. The same is true about the Big Ten and Wisconsin and Michigan.

I can see it now. We'll reach December and eight teams will have legitimate claims to play in college football's biggest game. Sports writers and talk-show hosts will clamor that the lack of a Division I playoff system is the cause of most forms of cancer.

Oh, it's going to be ugly. There's going to be moaning and groaning across the country.

Translation: It's going to be another great year of college football. Maybe the best year ever.

College basketball, even with its terrific postseason tournament, continues to wilt under the weight of early NBA defections. College football, despite a few high-profile defections, continues to get stronger.

Everyone underestimates the one unique aspect of Division I college football. It has one thing that no other big-time team sport has. Every game counts. Even Kansas State's collision with Ball State.

And with so many teams evenly matched that's going to be even more true this season. Seriously, when this regular season is over, the only thing that might separate a Kansas State from a Florida is the margin of victory for both teams over my Ball State Cardinals.

In college football winning isn't everything. Winning impressively is everything. That's how you stay in the race for the national championship.

The AP poll is the starting block. The BCS is the finish line. This season a good lane assignment is a must. Anywhere in the top 10 will do.

Nebraska shouldn't be ranked No. 1.

Florida State should be. The Seminoles held the No. 1 spot wire-to-wire a year ago, and yes, I realize they lost the country's most talented player in Peter Warrick. But why should a champion give up his belt before losing?

The Cornhuskers very well may be the best team in the country, but if I were an AP voter I would have waited until Florida State showed a crack before I dropped them from the top spot.

That's nitpicking.

The Cornhuskers are as good as any team in the country. Many people believed the Huskers were better than Florida State a year ago. If not for a four-point loss to Texas in the regular season, a loss the Huskers avenged in the Big 12 championship game, Nebraska would have met Florida State in the title game.

Quarterback Eric Crouch, playing behind a talented offensive line, will make a strong bid for the Heisman Trophy. Many have two quarterbacks, Purdue's Drew Brees and Virginia Tech's Michael Vick, as the preseason favorite for the Heisman. But when it comes to Heisman voting and quarterbacks, voters tend to go with the quarterback from the highest-profile team. It's not about razzle dazzle and big stats. It's about wins and losses.

That gives Crouch and 40-something Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke an advantage over Brees and Vick.

I digress. This column isn't about postseason awards. It's about who's going to win the national championship. There are a dozen candidates that all make sense. I like Michigan in a controversial photo finish. The Wolverines play in the toughest conference. They'll win the national championship with one loss.

Jason Whitlock's column normally appears Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. To reach him, call (816) 889-7827 and enter 7934 or send e-mail to jwhitlock@kcstar.com

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