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The poll system

Since the start of college football, there have been many individuals, publications and organizations that have selected their national champions. Some carried more weight than others. Also, some organizations have gone back and researched those early seasons and retroactively constructed rankings and determined recognized champions of major college football. Some examples of these type of polls include the National Championship Foundation, the College Football Researchers Association, and the Helms Athletic Foundation. Other systems, such as the Dickinson System, used statistical analysis to determine a ranking.

One of the first major media poll was the AP Poll released in 1936, which is still in use today. This poll utilizes a vast network of sportswriters to determine its rankings. Although modified slightly, another poll still in use today is the Coaches Poll, which polls a random selection of 62 collegiate football head coaches to determine its rankings.

The tradition, and the controversy, is carried on today with the Bowl Championship Series ("BCS"), created for the 1998 season, and its predecessors the Bowl Coalition from seasons 1992 to 1994, and the Bowl Alliance from seasons 1995 to 1997. The AP and Coaches' polls, computer rankings, strength of schedule and performance against other top teams were combined into a formula, with the top two teams meeting in the BCS National Championship Game. But the system has not been without controversy.

Most recently, in 2003 USC did not play in the BCS title game, despite finishing the regular season as #1 in both the AP and coaches polls. Under the BCS formula, Oklahoma was ranked #1 at the end of the regular season with LSU #2. Under the BCS agreement Oklahoma played LSU in the championship game. LSU won the BCS title game, giving it the BCS title and #1 ranking in the coaches' poll, while the sportswriters voted USC #1 in the AP poll. The resulting "split" national championship introduced more tweaks to the BCS formula for the 2004 season. This season ended in more controversy with three teams contending for the championship game and Auburn University being left out of the game in which the University of Oklahoma lost to USC. Another controversial BCS title game was the 2007 National Championship Game in which the University of Michigan was left out of the game where the University of Florida defeated the Ohio State University.

On two occasions, the BCS formula has worked ideally. In both 2002 and 2005, there were only two undefeated teams at the end of the season. In 2002, those teams were the Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Miami Huricanes, while in 2005, those teams were the University of Southern California Trojans and the University of Texas Longhorns. For the 2002 title, Ohio State defeated Miami in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to claim the BCS title, while in the game for the 2005 title, Texas defeated USC in the Rose Bowl to claim the BCS title. The use of the Bowl Championship Series formula, however, has fostered debate amongst those college football fans who are proponents of a playoff system. The term Division I-A was not used until 1978, and before that the term 'major college champion' was often used.



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