Explain this one to me, BCS fans
As all the dominoes came tumbling down — first Oklahoma State and then Oregon and Oklahoma (not a good weekend for schools that start with O, was it?) — the BCS plunged into its preferred state, anarchy.
All of a sudden, the BCS standings look like the SEC West, teams like Virginia Tech and Stanford are thinking about playing for a national championship (seriously!), and here we are on the brink of the Game Nobody Outside Tuscaloosa Wants To See — Alabama-LSU II.
About now, you will be hearing about how wonderful the system is because, unlike the NFL, the regular season matters in college football. But what this season is really doing is exposing that BCS talking point as the Big Lie.
If the regular season matters, then LSU — if it wins out — can make a case that there shouldn’t even be a BCS title game this season.
The Tigers, if they beat No. 3 Arkansas on Friday and No. 13 Georgia the following week in the SEC championship game, should win by acclimation.
Consider not just that they have already beaten the most qualified contender, Alabama, on its home field.
But mull this over too: if LSU finishes the regular season unbeaten, it will have done so with victories against three teams that are quite likely to be in BCS bowl games (No. 2 Alabama, No. 9 Oregon and West Virginia, which has the inside track to the Big East title). None of those wins came at home.
The Tigers will play eight games against teams that were ranked when they met and only their 9-6 overtime win at Alabama has been closer than 13 points.
If the point of the BCS is to match up the two best teams in the country, then what’s the point? It already happened less than three weeks ago and we know who won. If LSU, as the visitor, had lost a tight game, then a rematch might have been in order. But not now.
And besides, it’s reasonable to ask if Alabama is all that good anyway. In the two games since losing to LSU, the Crimson Tide took a 10-0 lead into the fourth quarter against 5-6 Mississippi State and its top-ranked defense allowed 302 yards rushing against Georgia Southern.
(It would be interesting to see what the Associated Press voters would do if Alabama beat LSU in another tight slugfest. They could still vote the Tigers No. 1 — just as they did in 2003 when USC was shut out of the BCS title game despite being ranked No. 1 in both polls.)
The problem with arguing against Alabama is there isn’t anybody else.
Oklahoma State, fourth in the BCS rankings, has more holes in its defense than uniform choices, having allowed less than 24 points just twice in 11 games. In its marquee win, against Kansas State, the Cowboys surrendered 45 points. If only the BCS had a 7-on-7 division.
Virginia Tech is, rather bafflingly, fifth. This with a non-conference schedule of Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall and a thumping at home by Clemson. Two weeks ago, the Hokies squeaked past Duke, 14-10, getting shut out in the second half.
Stanford is sixth, not bad for a team that looks right now like the third best in the Pac-12. The Cardinal’s lack of speed was exposed in its triple-overtime win over USC, and it didn’t get any faster in getting blitzed at home by Oregon or a lackluster win over Cal.
While it would be interesting to see Andrew Luck and Stanford’s formidable offensive line against LSU, and the contrast in styles between Oklahoma State and LSU might make for some good theater, the Cowboys and the Cardinal would be there only because somebody has to go.
If reaching the championship game is really about merit, then the team with the best resume may be Boise State, which walloped Georgia in Atlanta back in September and whose only loss was 36-35 to 19th-ranked TCU, which may wind up in a BCS game itself.
The Mountain West isn’t much, but Boise State’s combination of a significant win away from home and an explainable loss is hard for any other contender to match.
But with such a lackluster cast to choose from, it might be reasonable to give Houston a shot. If the Cougars don’t have anything close to a marquee victory — a 6-5 UCLA team is as close as it gets — they at least have a Heisman Trophy contending quarterback in Case Keenum and they are the only other unbeaten.
They could be this year’s Utah (circa 2008-09 when the Utes bulldozed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl) or this year’s Cincinnati or Hawaii, unbeatens who were blown out by SEC teams in the Sugar Bowl. But there’s only one way to find out.
Of course, all this is folly with the way the BCS standings and bowl projections have been blown up the last two weeks. Alabama is capable of losing to Auburn, Notre Dame might doom Stanford, Virginia Tech has no gimmie at Virginia and Houston travels to Tulsa.
And then there is the possibility that Arkansas, which has beaten LSU three times in four years, could do so again.
If it happens, then LSU should be judged on its resume like everyone else with a loss. If not, and the Tigers also roll past Georgia next week, then there should be a reward for playing a playoff schedule all season long.