So now we're supposed to feel exhilarated. Now we're supposed to hit our knees, bowing in reverence to the so-called national champions of college football, the Auburn Tigers.
We're supposed to cave in, acknowledge that the Bowl Championship Series worked once again, delivering us a legitimate No. 1 team for the 2010 season.
Excuse me for not swallowing the Kool-Aid. Instead, allow me to throw up.
If you really thought that Auburn's 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS Championship Game on Monday night was, as one breathless radio throat called it, "an instant classic," then you probably should stop reading this now and move on to the nearest comic book.
Auburn-Oregon, as intriguing as the matchup might have appeared in advance, turned out to be a dull and unworthy finish to the college football year, even with the winning field goal on the final play. Instead of two teams showing off the prowess that carried them through the season, we saw quarterbacks making stupid mistakes, offenses sputtering throughout and defenses generally taking advantage, as usually happens with two teams unable to shake off the rust from not playing for more than a month.
Once again, we can confirm that such a long layoff, followed by a game with such monumental expectations, is not the way to determine the No. 1 college team in America.
Especially when several others might have been even better.
For instance, how about Texas Christian University, 13-0 after winning the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, arguably the nation's hottest team down the stretch?
How about Stanford, 12-1 after demolishing Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl? Or Ohio State and Boise State, both 12-1 with impressive bowl wins? Even Oklahoma, 12-2 but seemingly invincible at the end?
We'll never know, of course, because the system has failed us one more time.
In one sense, the uncertainty isn't fair to Auburn. All that the Tigers did was win every game, especially coming from behind to beat rival and defending national champion Alabama on the road. Monday night, they showed that an Oregon-style, wide-open offense doesn't stack up so well against a typical Southeastern Conference defense.
But could Auburn have beaten TCU or Stanford? Perhaps, but possibly not.
More to the point, which of the legitimate title contenders could have made it through a playoff tournament of three or four games? What if we could have seen semifinals of, say, Auburn vs. Stanford and Oregon vs. TCU?
Over the past few weeks, I made it a point to follow what was happening in college football's other divisions — all with national playoffs to determine their champions. In Division I-AA, Eastern Washington put together a remarkable second-half comeback from a 19-0 deficit to pull out a 20-19 victory over Delaware for that title. In D-II, Minnesota-Duluth turned an interception into a late drive and a field goal as time expired for a dramatic 20-17 win over Delta State. And in the nonscholarship D-III, Wisconsin-Whitewater's Levell Coppage ran for 299 yards and three touchdowns, the final one sealing a 31-21 victory over Mount Union.
Three playoffs, three championships with teams playing their 15th games, three great finishes. No rust, and zero controversies. Nobody whining about academics being affected, because the tournaments took place at the end of the fall semester.
Yet, the greedy BCS somehow manages to stay in control. And now we see it hurting a conference like the Mountain West, treated as a second-class citizen despite repeated national-level successes, to the point now that Brigham Young and Utah are leaving in 2011, with TCU departing in 2012. Sure, they'll be replaced by Boise State and Nevada, both of whom just finished in the top 11 (Boise ninth, Nevada 11th). But no matter what the Mountain West does, it's never enough.
One of these years, somebody like TCU or Stanford will have the power, the wherewithal and the anger to turn this farce into antitrust legal action and all-out war against the BCS.
Until that happens, we can't give in. We have to continue making these points. And perhaps someday we'll win.