The Bowl Championship Series broke in favor of Florida, sending Urban Meyer's Gators to the national championship game to play Ohio State.
Michigan was the odd team out in this year's college football controversy, getting passed by the slimmest margin in BCS history and denied a rematch with the Buckeyes.
Despite the results, Meyer and Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr found common ground Sunday night in bashing the BCS.
``It's an imperfect system,'' Meyer said. ``If you want a true national championship, the only way to do it is on the field.
Carr's take: ``I don't think there is any question that there are flaws in the system. I hope one day we have a system where all the issues are decided on the field.''
Maybe one day, but not yet.
Florida, which lobbied hard for the victory, got in by a whisker _ just a hundredth of a point in the BCS standings.
The Gators had a BCS average of .944. The Wolverines were at .934. The teams were tied in the computer ratings, but Florida had a 38-point lead in the Harris poll and a 26-point advantage in the coaches' poll.
Meyer spent more time answering questions about why voters finally saw fit to put the Gators ahead of Michigan than he did talking about how his team went 12-1 against one of the nation's best schedules to win the country's toughest conference.
``We're beyond the fact of do we need a playoff,'' he said. ``It's now, can we get one.''
Of course, Southern California could have made things simpler by beating UCLA on Saturday. Instead, the Trojans were upset 13-9, dropping in the standings and clearing the way for Florida (12-1) or Michigan (11-1).
The Gators leapfrogged idle Michigan by winning the Southeastern Conference championship game, 38-28, over Arkansas.
``It's well deserved, and I'm proud of it,'' Meyer said of the Gators' selection.
The championship game is Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.
Michigan's consolation prize is a Rose Bowl bid to play USC (10-2), a classic Big Ten vs. Pac-10 matchup of teams left to wonder what could have been.
``I don't think they (Florida) would have moved ahead of us if USC would have won the game,'' said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
In other bowls:
_ Big 12 champion Oklahoma will meet unbeaten Boise State in the Fiesta on Jan. 1.
_ Big East champion Louisville will play ACC champion Wake Forest in the Orange on Jan. 2.
_ LSU will take Florida's spot in the Sugar and play Notre Dame on Jan. 3.
When the Wolverines ended their regular season with a 42-39 loss to the Buckeyes two weeks ago, they talked about getting another swing at their Big Ten rivals.
While Michigan was left to wait and hope, the other contenders still had games to play.
As Florida padded its resume, Meyer became a very vocal critic of the BCS, especially when it appeared the Gators wouldn't get a shot at Ohio State _ and Michigan could get a mulligan.
Meyer suggested the BCS should be imploded if the SEC champ again was left out of the championship game _ the way undefeated Auburn was in 2004.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who is taking the Buckeyes to the BCS championship game for the second time in his six years in Columbus, isn't so sure about a playoff system.
``With a 12 game season, it would be next to impossible to have a 16-team playoff,'' he said. ``We'll continually improve the system. As you look at it over the past few years, it has gotten better and better.''
But Tressel wanted no part of helping decide which team the Buckeyes would face in Arizona.
A voter in the coaches' poll, Tressel declined to cast a ballot in the final rankings.
``We felt it was somewhat of a conflict of interest,'' Tressel said.
It's always something with the BCS. The system was created to make sure No. 1 and No. 2 played in the final game of the season, but rarely has there been a title game everybody agreed upon. If it's not too many unbeaten teams, which was the case in '04 when USC beat Oklahoma for the title, it's not enough, which has usually been the case. Last year, when USC and Texas were the only undefeateds, was an aberration.
``What we've got is an extremely exciting regular season that the BCS actually enhanced by making so many games important not only in the region that they were played but nationally,'' said Mike Slive, BCS coordinator and SEC commissioner. ``The next part is here we are with many deserving teams.
``We need to continue over the next few years to look at the postseason to make sure it works the way we want it to work.''
So instead of the 104th meeting between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes, Florida and Ohio State will play for the first time.
The Buckeyes have won four national championships, including the 2002 title under Tressel. Ohio State upset Miami 31-24 in an overtime classic at the Fiesta Bowl.
Last year, Ohio State beat Notre Dame 34-20 in the Fiesta Bowl, giving the country a taste of what was to come this season.
The Buckeyes have been No. 1 since the preseason. Led by Heisman Trophy front-runner Troy Smith, they've run roughshod over their competition. Only Michigan and Illinois stayed within 17 points of Ohio State.
Smith, a senior, capped his season with four touchdown passes against the Wolverines. He finished with 30 TD passes and five interceptions.
Florida, meanwhile, rarely had an easy game. The Gators won at Tennessee by one in September, and none of their last five victories over I-A teams have been by more than 10 points.
The Gators relied on their defense, a unit ranked 10th nationally in yards allowed and sixth in scoring.
Florida's senior quarterback, Chris Leak, entered the season as a Heisman contender but ended up sharing the job with freshman sensation Tim Tebow.
Tebow's tough running has complemented Leak's passing, but unlike the explosive Buckeyes, Florida's offense has had its ups and downs. The Gators' only loss came Oct. 18 at Auburn, a 27-17 setback that was a four-point game until the Tigers scored on the final play.
``They have a great football team,'' Tressel said. ``When you can win the SEC championship, you're a great football team.''