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Grit needed one more time

They asked for it.

They stumped for it.

They did everything but invite Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris to fix it.

So now that the Florida Gators have a spot opposite Ohio State in the BCS championship game, what are they going to do with it?

Because, I have to tell you, I have my doubts. I have my doubts that Florida can win, or even keep it close. I worry that, when it's over, half the country will be screaming that Michigan should have gone instead.

So, fellas, do everyone a favor.

Shock us again.

The same way you did when you came from behind on the road against Tennessee. And against Alabama, too.

Make us believe in your mojo the way you did when you survived against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks. And the way you let the conference title slip from your grasp, then snatched it back from Arkansas.

Because that's the only way you're going to make this right.

This BCS business is a perverse way to end a glorious season. One team will be a champion, one team will be a runnerup, and half a dozen others will have their noses pressed to the glass wondering about matchups that will never occur.

I'm not saying Florida does not deserve its spot. It does. I'm saying Michigan deserved a shot, too.

No matter how the BCS formula came out Sunday night, one team was going to get cheated. It was just more palatable to cheat Michigan.

The computers had Michigan and Florida in a dead heat, in the BCS standings, so it came down to the voters in the Harris Poll and USA Today's coaches poll. And when the human element was introduced, the Gators won.

I have no doubt that some voters went with their conscience. That they truly believed Florida was either better, or more deserving, than Michigan.

But I also have no doubt that some voters simply felt it was easier to snub the Wolverines because they had already had one crack at Ohio State.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr did not say it directly, but he insinuated that voters leapt Florida over Michigan in the polls specifically to avoid a rematch.

"I looked at USC's schedule and I thought they played an incredible nonconference schedule," Carr said. "So I fully expected and would have had no questions if they won (against Notre Dame and UCLA) and moved ahead of us.

"But, as I mentioned earlier, my statement is (Florida) wouldn't have moved ahead of us if USC had won the game (Saturday) against UCLA."

Carr seems to think he took the high road by not politicking as much as UF coach Urban Meyer in recent weeks. Good for him. And maybe bad for his team.

Meyer did absolutely nothing wrong. He supported his team, and he did it without being crass or pushy. If Carr wanted to be old-school, that was his choice.

Yet, in the end, it was Carr who came out sounding whiny.

When his team was passed by UF in the polls, Carr dismissed the possibility that it might have had something to do with UF winning its conference in a nationally televised game against Arkansas.

Look, I don't blame Carr for being unhappy. The system failed him, and now he has to explain that to 100 football players who just saw the opportunity of a lifetime pass them by because of a couple of polls.

But Carr is absolutely wrong in directing his anger toward Meyer. He should blame university presidents who approved this system. He should blame the Big Ten Conference, which has refused to have a championship game. He should blame fate for its role in UCLA's upset of USC.

And, yes, he can blame voters who may have moved UF ahead of Michigan because they were lukewarm on a rematch.

"I do believe that's a true statement," Meyer said, when asked if the rematch possibility helped Florida.

The Gators are a good team that had a great season. They are not overpowering, but they do have panache. They are not always disciplined, but they do have heart.

Which is why championships should be won on a field, and not set up by a system of computer averages and consumer opinions.

A computer cannot measure the fight of a competitor. A pollster cannot predict how an athlete will react under pressure.

The Gators did not look like a championship team for much of the season. On style points, Florida was not as imposing as Michigan. In fact, Florida is an eight-point underdog to Ohio State.

Yet, that's what made the Gators so special. No matter how much they messed up, no matter how much better an opponent might have been, the Gators found a way to win in 12 of their 13 games.

Survival was their greatest trait. And now, they'll need it more than ever.

John Romano can be reached at (727) 893-8811.

JROMANO@SPTIMES.COM

FAST FACTS

For tickets

The Gator ticket office began taking orders for the BCS national championship game on Sunday. Football season-ticket holders can order by calling (877) 428-6742 or (352) 384-3261.

The deadline for ordering championship tickets is 5 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $175 each, plus a $5 processing fee for each order. Those unable to purchase SEC championship tickets due to not meeting the minimum booster point requirement, will likely not be able to purchase national championship tickets.

There is no guarantee that all orders can be filled.

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