Ever since the Utah Utes beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, fans -- many aided by a message-board form letter -- have been e-mailing like mad to convince the journalists who vote in the Associated Press Top 25 to reward the only undefeated team in major college football with at least part of the national college football championship.
But don't expect it to happen.
Though the Utes have a legitimate claim on the AP national championship, and figure to receive at least an unprecedented handful of first-place votes in the final poll, a survey of about a quarter of the 65 poll voters suggests most of them will vote for Florida, Oklahoma or Texas ahead of the Utes. Voters in the rival USA Today coaches poll are compelled to vote for the winner of the Bowl Championship Series title game between Florida and Oklahoma.
"I won't vote them No. 1 unless Texas loses to Ohio State and the Florida-Oklahoma game is a complete debacle," said Adam Van Brimmer of the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. "I will vote them either 2 or 3, however. If this were a year ago, when there were no national title-worthy teams in the title game, I would have voted for Utah. But not this year. Florida and Oklahoma are just too good and played too good of schedules."
That sentiment appears fairly widespread, but the Utes have supporters among the pollsters.
Many voters acknowledged they are "seriously" considering a vote for the Utes as the top team, and one -- who did not want to be named until his final ballot is cast --?said he "definitely" will vote the Utes No. 1.
"They are the only undefeated team, beat six bowl teams, including Alabama in its own backyard," he said.
Some voters found flaws in the argument that the only unbeaten team should be named national champions. "What if Ball State had beaten Buffalo and then Tulsa?" said Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette . Others agreed that the teams meeting in the BCS title game appear to be too good not to claim the top spot if they win on Thursday night.
That game "could still make a difference when it comes to my vote," said Molly Yanity of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . "But, if I were to vote today, it'd be for Utah."
Yanity was among the voters who pleaded for Utah fans to stop bombarding her in-box with e-mails urging her to vote for the Utes. Most of the messages were nearly identical, voters said, suggesting they originated with the form letter that had been posted on the UteFans.net message board, along with the e-mail addresses of many of the voters.
The letter and e-mail addresses have been removed, after some voters complained.
Most voters said they were not interested in making a point about the fallibility of the college football championship system by voting for the Utes and potentially creating a split national championship. Rather, they simply want to reward the best team.
"I am leaning heavily toward voting Utah No. 1, and I definitely will put the Utes ahead of USC," said Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal . "I want to try to keep an open mind with BCS games still to be played, and if Florida or Oklahoma wins in a rout, that could sway me the other direction. But my belief is I'll go with Utah. Getting it done on the field has to count for something, and it's hard to deny the Utes after what they just did to Alabama. That was no fluke victory."
The Utes' shot at the No. 1 ranking in the final AP poll will depend in part upon the fates of the teams ranked around them. A look at the top eight teams in the last AP poll and how they have fared in their bowl games:
Team Bowl result
No. 1 Fla. (12-1) vs. No. 2 Okla., BCS National Championship, Thursday
No. 2 Okla. (12-1) vs. No. 1 Fla., BCS National Championship, Thursday
No. 3 Texas (12-1) beat No. 10 Ohio State 24-21, Fiesta Bowl
No. 4 Alabama (12-2) lost to No. 7 Utah 31-17, Sugar Bowl
No. 5 Southern Cal (12-1) beat No. 6 Penn State 38-24, Rose Bowl
No. 6 Penn State (11-2) lost to No. 5 Southern Cal 38-24, Rose Bowl
No. 7 Utah (13-0) beat No. 4 Alabama 31-17, Sugar Bowl
No. 8 Texas Tech (11-2) lost to No. 20 Mississippi 47-34, Cotton Bowl
» Many voters are "seriously" considering the Utes as the No. 1 team in the final AP poll.
» Fans are using an unwelcome e-mail campaign to urge support among voters.
» Most voters are awaiting the result of Florida vs. Oklahoma before casting ballots.