Dawgs: BCS a "very, very imperfect system"

ATHENS – For the record, Georgia head coach Mark Richt thinks teams should have to win their conference championship to be eligible to play for the national title game.

"I think there is value in winning the conference championship," Richt said. "I'm not saying that shouldn't be a rule."

What he is saying is it's not a rule now but still was held against his team by the national media.

"I do believe that all the media who had the ears of the nation and the voters, they basically disqualified us and Kansas," Richt said. "They said, ‘Well, they're out because they didn't win their conference championship,' which I thought was wrong. I don't think we ever really got compared with the other teams on the true merit of our season."

Georgia's players jumped right on the conspiracy theory being floated by Bulldogs fans that ESPN is to blame for besmirching the team's reputation. Most of the anger is focused on college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who backed LSU this year after supporting Michigan for a spot in the national title game last year even though the Wolverines didn't win their conference.

"It just seemed like they did a real good job of pumping LSU," senior center Fernando Velasco said. "They didn't show us any respect."

"I got aggravated as soon as the (Oklahoma-Missouri) game was over," senior safety Kelin Johnson said. "There was no talk about Georgia whatsoever. You knew there was a possibility of Georgia playing for the national championship when you made us No. 4. You knew what could happen when you made us No. 4. It was hard to sit there and listen to all that."

Even on the merits, Richt acknowledges, his team might not have earned a spot in the BCS title game. Georgia (10-2) lost 16-12 on Sept. 8 to a South Carolina team that finished the season 6-6 and 35-14 on Oct. 6 to the Tennessee team that LSU beat 21-14 last week in the SEC title game.

Both of LSU's losses came in triple overtime, a fact Tigers head coach Les Miles pointed out more than once during the week, but one of those came to unranked Arkansas at home in the final week of the regular season.

BCS coordinator Mike Slive, also the commissioner of the SEC, said the BCS may need to communicate its rules better to its voters.

"We've kept our distance from the voters," he said. "We don't really communicate, but I think that's an interesting question. I think it is one I will take to the table in April, whether or not there are some fundamental principles or concepts we would expect voters to think about when they make their decisions.

Georgia didn't get much help from Richt's friends in the coaches' poll. Auburn's Tommy Tuberville and Clemson's Tommy Bowden voted LSU No. 1 in their final poll. Tuberville, whose team fell 45-20 to Georgia three weeks ago, voted the Bulldogs fifth.

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, Richt's former boss, voted LSU No. 2 and Georgia No. 3. Howard Schnellenberger, Richt's coach at Miami, voted Georgia No. 8, lower than all but two coaches.

The worst news for the Bulldogs came on the ballots of New Mexico State coach Hal Mumme and Wyoming coach Joe Glenn, who voted the Bulldogs ninth and 10th, respectively.

The Bulldogs didn't get any No. 1 votes but got seven second-place votes – from UAB coach Neil Callaway (a former Georgia assistant), Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, Tulane coach Bob Toledo, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and Richt.

In the Harris poll, Georgia received votes ranging from No. 1 (from Navy play-by-play announcer Bob Socci) to No. 10 (from the Bobby Aillet, a member of the Louisiana Tech athletic advisory council, and Irwin Smallwood, the former sports editor of the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina).

Smallwood dropped Georgia from No. 6 to No. 10 in his final ballot, he said. He did that in part because he doesn't believe a non-conference champion should play for the national title and in part because he doesn't believe the Bulldogs are any better than that, he said.

"You don't have to win your conference championship, but it helps to at least win your division," he said. "That's what you play for. It's a long held tradition that distinguishes superior performance."

The computers were less kind to Georgia than the voters. The Bulldogs average computer rank was tied for sixth, behind Virginia Tech, LSU, Ohio State, Missouri and Kansas, in that order. Richt dodged several chances Sunday night to bash the BCS system, although he has said this week that he would be in favor of an eight-team playoff.

"It's a very, very imperfect system," he said. "It becomes a beauty contest after a certain point, and that's just the way it is. I'm just going to keep my mouth shut."

Richt felt it was his duty to campaign publicly for his team but he's not offended his words didn't sway enough people, he said.

"It's just one of those wacky years and everybody got a chance to filibust a little bit, and we just didn't have enough to stand on," he said. "Anybody getting in with two losses is a near miracle, and that's what happened for LSU."

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