LSU, Alabama are two best teams
Barring an unlikely, last-minute change of heart by a significant number of voters, LSU and Alabama are going to play for a national championship next month, and this would probably be the case regardless of what system we used to get there.
The so-called “Plus-one?” An eight-team playoff? Even with a 16-team playoff, LSU and Alabama have been so far ahead of the pack in college football that they would almost certainly be on course for a rematch in the season’s final game no matter what.
With the system we have, of course, we’ll never know for sure whether LSU could beat, say, Boise State and Stanford in successive weeks to get a championship game or whether Alabama could survive Clemson and Oklahoma State in a one-and-done playoff.
But the flawed Bowl Championship Series is what we have, and it’s what will give us LSU and Alabama for a second time this season on Jan. 9 in New Orleans unless Oklahoma State’s impressive win over Oklahoma last night swung enough poll points to knock out the Crimson Tide. More likely, the computers will crunch the numbers and spit out Alabama-LSU, which will add a brand new element to the never-ending controversy that is the BCS.
Don’t like seeing SEC teams playing for the national title, including one that didn’t even win its division? I understand. Don’t want to see a rematch of a regular-season game, and a fairly inartistic one at that? I get it.
But don’t call it unfair. Not this year. The best teams in college football are LSU and Alabama, and it hasn’t been particularly close. With the BCS, we can only draw conclusions from the evidence we’ve got, and from Day One the evidence has strongly suggested the only teams capable of beating LSU and Alabama are each other.
Deal with it.
LSU erased any doubt with a second-half surge in the SEC Championship Game, beating Georgia 42-10. But for a while, as LSU fell behind 10-0 and looked completely unmotivated in the first half, it appeared some BCS chaos might be brewing. An LSU loss would’ve put the voters that determine a large part of the BCS formula in a difficult position, especially with Oklahoma State blowing out Oklahoma to clinch the Big 12 title.
Could voters really reward LSU for losing and Alabama for sitting out yesterday by pitting them against each other in the national championship? On the other hand, in a year when Oklahoma State lost to 6-6 Iowa State and Stanford blew its chance with a home loss to Oregon, what was the alternative?
With an overwhelming second half, LSU prevented any kind of argument about its worthiness. Nobody can knock a 13-0 SEC champion with non-conference wins against Oregon on a neutral field and West Virginia on the road. And yet, the other half of the championship equation — though hard to argue on merit — will leave many unsatisfied about the ending to this season.
LSU, after all, already beat Alabama on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa — 9-6 in overtime — and there’s a strong faction of college football fans and media who oppose rematches on principle. It’s a compelling argument. Should LSU have to beat Alabama a second time to win a national championship after already beating it on the road? Probably not, and the fact that Alabama didn’t even win its division of the SEC only fuels the notion it shouldn’t be eligible to play for a national championship.
But when you’re in the business of handing out mythical titles — which is exactly what the BCS does — those common-sense rules don’t really apply. The only requirement of the BCS is to match up the best teams in the championship game under a mathematical formula that includes both human polls and computer rankings. Nowhere in the rules does it say the teams have to be from different conferences or that only conference champions are eligible.
And under those broad requirements, Alabama-LSU is the game that fits best in this particular year — despite Oklahoma State’s dominant performance last night, which probably won’t swing enough opinion to get them a shot at the title.
Admittedly, a rematch will be largely met with a yawn outside of SEC country. Though the first meeting was competitive and generated huge television ratings nationally, it wasn’t a particularly entertaining contest. Neither team was able to score a touchdown. Both offenses scuffled along with conservative game plans. The key players turned out to be LSU’s punter Brad Wing and Alabama’s pair of field goal kickers, who missed a combined 4-of-6 attempts. It wasn’t necessarily a game you’d want to see again.
But if that’s the case, let’s hope this is the breaking point for the BCS and the demand for a legitimate playoff finally reaches critical mass. My sense is that Alabama and LSU would meet in the championship of any system, but wouldn’t we all feel a lot better about it if both teams had to win at least two games to get there?
Imagine an eight-team playoff that included the champions of the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 along with three at-large selections. Under that system, we’d be getting ready in a couple weeks for the following national quarterfinals: LSU-Boise State, Alabama-Oregon, Oklahoma State-Stanford and Michigan State-Clemson.
Instead of a forced rematch and a championship game many don’t accept, we’d have playoff mayhem far exceeding the NCAA basketball tournament and perhaps even rivaling the NFL. If it was Alabama and LSU again — as it probably would be — not only would it be impossible to argue, but getting there would be a whole lot more fun.