Florida's fine, but how is Michigan left out?
If you're Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, how do you explain to your players that they won't be in the BCS Championship Game? How do you tell the second-best team in the country to get pumped about playing USC in the Runner-Up Bowl? How do you resist the urge of wishing Nutcracker drills on every person who jumped one-loss Florida ahead of the one-loss Wolverines in the final polls?
Carr had to do what Auburn's Tommy Tuberville did two seasons ago. Tuberville's team finished the regular season 12-0, but was left out of the Tostitos BCS Championship Game in favor of undefeated USC and Oklahoma.
"It's hard," Tuberville said. "It's hard to look them in the eye. Heck, we're still not over it. You never get over it. It's like a question that's never been answered."
Carr is asking those same questions. And he'll get the same shoulder shrugs that Tuberville got.
Let me get this straight: Michigan, which was unbeaten against all teams on its schedule ranked lower than No. 1, isn't going to Glendale, Ariz., for the Jan. 8 national title game because
• It didn't win its conference.
No, it didn't. But did you see who did? Team by the name of Ohio State. Maybe you've heard of the Buckeyes? Undefeated. Ranked first in the country. Beat Michigan in Columbus by the grand total of three whole points.
And feel free to show me in the BCS handbook where it says you've got to win your conference to play in the championship game.
• Nobody wants to see a rematch.
Just asking, but how did Ali-Frazier II and III work out? Or that Georgetown-Villanova Final Four?
I know Florida's Urban Meyer doesn't want to see a rematch, but he's not exactly an impartial observer, is he? And if Meyer were in Carr's Nikes, I guarantee you his objections to a second Ohio State-Michigan game would have disappeared.
A rematch, this time on a neutral field, would have been a game for the ages. And if you threatened to take away his precious sweater-vest if he didn't tell the truth, I bet you Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel would rather play Florida than have to face the Wolverines again (Tressel declined to vote in the final coaches' poll).
• Florida played a tougher schedule.
Agreed. But strength of schedule is part of the equation, nothing more. Tuberville's 2004 team had the strongest strength of schedule, but didn't make it.
You want to give the Gators the edge based on scheduling? Fair enough, though you could argue that Florida didn't exactly beat vintage Alabama, Georgia and Florida State teams this year, and Central Florida and Division I-AA Western Carolina were dreadful.
And look at the one loss each suffered by Florida and Michigan on their schedules. You tell me which defeat was more impressive: the Gators' 10-point road loss to an Auburn team that finished the season No. 9 in the BCS standings? Or the Wolverines' three-point road loss to an Ohio State team now favored to win the national championship?
And the BCS penalized Michigan twice for being on the wrong end of the calendar: once when USC moved to No. 2 after beating Notre Dame (even though Michigan beat the Irish worse), and now, when Florida overtook the Wolverines (even though U of M's season ended two weeks ago).
How can you call this a "system" when Florida belongs to a league that plays a conference championship, and Michigan doesn't? How can you call it a quasi-playoff when Michigan drops twice in the standings without losing a game?
• Florida has earned the right to play Ohio State.
Absolutely true. But so has Michigan.
Ask the coaches at Vanderbilt (the Commodores played both Michigan and Florida this season) who is the better team, and the consensus pick -- privately, of course -- is the Wolverines. Florida has more speed and a handful of players to die for, they say, but Michigan is more physical, would control both sides of the line of scrimmage, has wonderful wide receivers, and is led by a quarterback who doesn't make many mistakes.
Ask them who would give Ohio State the better game, and you'll get the same answer.
Tuberville voted Ohio State, Florida and then Michigan on his final ballot.
"But I watched Michigan this year," he said. "Heck, I think they could beat anybody. But that's the way the system is. It's a screwed-up system."
But none of that matters now. Instead, Carr is taking his Wolverines to the Rose Bowl presented by Citi to face a USC team that had one loss on Saturday -- and controlled its own BCS destiny -- but two losses by Saturday night.
Michigan never had that chance. It was 11-1 on Nov. 18. It was 11-1 on Dec. 3. But between then and now, the Wolverines apparently became the cellulite queens and somehow lost the swimsuit portion of this ridiculous BCS beauty pageant.
Michigan didn't do a thing wrong. And yet Carr was the one who had to console his team Sunday night. He did it, but here's guessing he wasn't Mr. Congeniality.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.