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January 30, 2008There may be dissenting opinions in Georgia and California, but after a convincing victory over Ohio State, there was little doubt LSU deserved the national championship.
But skeptics, detractors and just plain ol' haters might point to LSU's two losses - including a home defeat at the hands of Arkansas in the final regular-season game - and question the legitimacy of the Tigers' crown. After all, LSU is the first national champion with two losses since Minnesota in 1960, when champions were crowned before bowls were played.
Though some teams could make a strong case for supremacy, no team this season could make stronger case than LSU. But over the years there have been numerous disputed national champions. Perhaps a team won without playing a difficult schedule or was the beneficiary of controversial calls.
And in some seasons, there might have been teams with superior records that didn't pull enough votes. All that is fodder for debate that can - and has - spanned decades.
With all that in mind, here's one person's top five of the most disputed national champions. And, please, try to refrain from profanity and other vulgarities in your ensuing hate mail.
1. BYU in 1984: Yeah, the Cougars were the only undefeated team in '84, but consider the company they kept. BYU's regular-season opponents were a combined 55-79-3. The Cougars then had to come from behind - yeah, yeah quarterback Robbie Bosco was hurt - for a 24-17 Holiday Bowl victory over 6-6 Michigan, which had tied for sixth place in the Big Ten. By comparison, No. 2 Washington finished 11-1 and defeated 9-2-1 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Huskies' only loss was on the road to 9-3 USC, which defeated Big Ten champion Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
2. Colorado in 1990: Before LSU this season, Colorado was the most recent champion with two blemishes on its record - a loss to Illinois and a season-opening tie with Tennessee. So that's one - or, really, two - strikes against them. Furthermore, the Buffaloes avoided a second loss only because of one of the greatest officiating gaffes in history when they scored a "fifth down" touchdown to defeat Missouri 33-31. Later, their 10-9 Orange Bowl victory was secured only after a potential game-winning punt return by Notre Dame's Rocket Ismail was called back on a questionable penalty.
3. Notre Dame in 1966: Ever wonder why Alabama fans hate Notre Dame? Here's your answer. Not only did the Irish finish in a 10-10 tie with Michigan State on Nov. 19 1966, but Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian didn't even try to win when the Irish took possession at their 30 with just over a minute remaining. He chose to run out the clock. Alabama finished 10-0 that season and destroyed 9-2 Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. How could an unbeaten Alabama team that Bear Bryant once called his best ever finish third, also behind Michigan State?
4. Notre Dame in 1977: Admittedly, it's hard to include a team quarterbacked by Joe Montana, but hear me out on this. The Irish went into New Year's Day ranked No. 5 and Alabama was ranked No. 3. Both won their bowls by significant margins - Notre Dame 38-10 over No. 1 Texas and Alabama 35-6 over No. 9 Ohio State - but the Irish leaped over the Tide. Notre Dame's supporters will maintain they deserved the crown because Texas was ranked No. 1. But Notre Dame lost that year to Ole Miss, which went 5-6 and lost 34-13 to Alabama. The Tide's loss came to 9-3 Nebraska on the same day Notre Dame lost to Mississippi.
5. Florida State in 1993: Sometimes Notre Dame gets hosed, too. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is a super guy, and his amiable personality may have been a bigger factor in Florida State's '93 championship than was the Seminoles' performance. Yes, Florida State finished the season with just one loss, but so did Notre Dame. And Notre Dame beat Florida State 31-24 late in the regular season. If teams finish with the same record and played each other, shouldn't the team that actually won on the field be considered better? Instead, the AP vote seemed to come down to a popularity contest between Bowden and Irish coach Lou Holtz, which of course was no contest at all.
TRIVIA QUESTIONWhen was the last time three teams from the same conference finished first, second and third in the final AP poll? (Answer at the end of the column.)
ANOTHER TREEThe coaching "tree" started by former Iowa coach Hayden Fry may have set a standard, with former assistants Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Kirk Ferentz, Dan McCarney and Jim Leavitt going on to become head coaches.
But another tree appears to be growing ... or should we say Groh-ing.
Virginia coach Al Groh has four former assistants who now are head coaches: Kansas State's Ron Prince, Temple's Al Golden, Division I-AA Liberty's Danny Rocco and Mike London, who last week was named coach at Division I-AA Richmond.
Trivia answerThe Big Eight boasted the top three teams in 1971. Nebraska won the national championship, while Oklahoma finished No. 2 and Colorado was No. 3.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.