Picking a Champion: Humans vs. Computers

First, a disclaimer: I don't believe computers should be used in any way to judge the relative merits of teams in college football or any other sport. When Auburn supporters even care whether Toledo beats Bowling Green, something is amiss.

But, if I was writing a computer program (that'll be the day) for the BCS, I would do it like this: I would give points for beating nationally ranked teams and fewer points for beating competitive unranked teams. Games against teams with no chance would all count the same--whether it was Auburn vs. The Citadel, Oklahoma vs. Houston or USC vs. Colorado State.

The truth is that, short of a full-blown playoff, there is no good way to decide which two teams should play for the championship. If I had a vote this year, I would vote for Auburn No. 1. But I've seen the Tigers play 11 times. I saw them almost every day during spring practice and every day of two-a-days. I've seen little of USC or Oklahoma. A fan who sits at home and watches games on television every Saturday sees more than most of those who vote.

Barring a loss by one of the three teams at the top, the end of the college football season is not going to be satisfying. There will be a national champion, but there will be at least one team that can claim it could have won if given the opportunity.

It would have been that way last season when USC was ranked No. 1 and left out of the title game, but the Trojans were voted No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and everybody was happy. USC players have championship rings and LSU players have championship rings. Personally, I think that's terrific.

In the old days, before the BCS, Auburn would have gone to the Sugar Bowl, USC to the Rose Bowl and Oklahoma to the Orange Bowl. All would have gone in believing that, if things fell right, they could win it all. There was actually some drama in the bowl selections in those days.

But, alas, the old days are gone. This is the system we have. Personally, I think it would be better if they'd ditch the computers, programmed by guys who have proclaimed themselves experts, and go with the human polls. Humans can watch games and make judgments. Computers can only count numbers, and they count them in the way their programmers tell them to count them.

For Auburn, there is nothing to do now but get ready to play Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game and hope. The truth is, in some ways, the next game is bigger for the Tigers than even the Orange Bowl would be.

Certainly, winning the national championship is the ultimate prize. But the Tigers will be playing against Tennessee for their place in Auburn history. They have gone 11-0 in the regular season, and they haven't won anything but the SEC West Division championship. A loss to Tennessee would leave them alongside a lot of other teams that came close but didn't get over the top. A win would make them 12-0, SEC champions, the winningest team in school history, and perhaps the greatest team in school history, regardless of what happens in the bowl game.

Moving on.…

For those who have asked: My book, The Auburn Experience: The Traditions and Heroes of Auburn Athletics, is due to be ready for distribution late next week. It is a large coffee table book with 336 slick-paper pages and weighs some seven pounds. It includes the stories of the top 13 football teams in Auburn history (other than the 2004 team) and profiles of more than 60 football players and coaches. It has stories of Auburn's greatest teams, athletes and coaches in every sport. It includes the stories of the administrators who built the program and the voices who told Auburn's story on radio and television.

Anyone interested in learning more or ordering the book can go to our web site at www.theauburnexperience.com. The site includes an order form, as well as excerpts from the book and a list of the athletes, administrators, coaches and teams included in the book.

I'll be happy to answer anyone's questions about the book or anything else. Email me at pmarsh9485@msn.com.

On to this weekend's games...

Your fearless picker was 5-1 last week, missing only Florida's win over Florida State. For the season, the record is 56-18.

LSU at Arkansas: It's been a strange season for LSU. The Bayou Bengals have seldom been impressive, but they have lost only to Auburn and Georgia. They are going into a hornet's nest Friday when they play Arkansas in Little Rock, where they have never won.

Arkansas can claim a bowl bid with a victory, but LSU has the better team. LSU 24, Arkansas 20.

Georgia Tech at Georgia: Georgia is the second best team in the SEC. Georgia Tech is, at best, the No. 6 team in the ACC. Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 14.

Kentucky at Tennessee: The woeful Wildcats managed to pull one off at home against Vanderbilt two weeks ago, winning 14-13. They close their season Saturday at Tennessee, who they last beat in 1984.

The Vols have already clinched the East Division championship and are playing with their third-team quarterback. Kentucky will be without former offensive coordinator Ron Hudson, who left in a huff earlier this week. Tennessee 35, Kentucky 13.

Mississippi State at Ole Miss: The Egg Bowl doesn't have much meaning this year outside the state of Mississippi. The two teams have three wins apiece and will sack up the equipment after Saturday.

The Rebels are 3-7 and miserable, having told the world they wouldn't miss Eli Manning after a 10-win season in 2003. The Bulldogs are actually feeling pretty good about themselves in Sylvester Croom's first season as head coach. They have improved as much as anyone from the beginning of the season to now. Mississippi State 27, Ole Miss 21.

Until next time…

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