In a decade that might well be the best ever for Southeastern Conference football, it is a great irony that the best team of all, the only one to go through a season unbeaten, didn't get a chance to play for a national championship.
For most of the season, the Gators won by a hook, a crook or a bounce of the ball. They lost to Auburn. They could have lost to Tennessee, Georgia and even Vanderbilt. They should have lost at home to South Carolina.
But, save their trip to Auburn, they found a way to get by every Saturday. They got their biggest break of all when Southern California lost to UCLA. And when they got their chance, they made the most of it against a drastically over-hyped Ohio State team.
That Florida got that chance this season, that once-beaten LSU got the chance in 2003, and the 2004 Auburn team didn't is all about fate.
Florida didn't do all it could do because it lost Auburn. LSU didn't do all it could do in 2003 because it lost to Florida at home. Auburn did all could in 2004.
But Auburn had the misfortune of doing all it could in a season, the only season, when two other BCS conference teams did the same. One had to be left out, and Auburn drew the short straw.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, the BCS coordinator, is talking like there might be a move toward the "plus-one" system when the current contract expires in 2010. That's good. That won't be perfect either, but it will pretty much guarantee a team that goes undefeated in a major conference won't be left out like Auburn was.
The truth is, like it or not, fate has a lot to do with who plays for and wins the national championship most seasons.
Florida was clearly the best team on the field in the championship game. Was Florida the best team over the course of the season? I don't think so...
Speaking of going undefeated, Boise State was a wonderful story. Its victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was spectacular. But the idea that the Broncos should have been in national championship consideration is silly.
They won the biggest game in school history with a bushel of trick plays over an Oklahoma team that finished with three losses. If they'd played Florida's schedule, they wouldn't have been in the Fiesta Bowl. They might not have been in any bowl at all...
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit ought to be ashamed. How in the world could he vote an Auburn team that went 11-2, beat the No. 1 team and the No. 3 team and won its bowl game, No. 18 on his ballot for the Associated Press poll?
I once thought that Herbstreit was the most level-headed of all the talking heads on ESPN. There wasn't anything level-headed about that vote. Chris Fowler wasn't much better, voting Auburn No. 14...
Auburn's young basketball team didn't do itself proud against Kentucky on Wednesday night in Lexington.
The Tigers, frankly, weren't tough enough to deal with the environment at Rupp Arena. And if something doesn't change in a hurry, they'll have an even more miserable time at LSU on Saturday.
The Kentucky team that crushed Auburn 84-57 is nothing special. In fact, I'd say it is the most ordinary-looking Kentucky team I've seen in a while.
The Tigers don't have championship-level talent, but they have enough talent to compete in the SEC. What they don't seem to have is the toughness--physically or mentally--to compete with the best teams in the SEC.
Can that be fixed? If it can't be, it's going to be another long and unhappy season...
Until next time...