With both Oklahoma and Wisconsin dropping their first games of the season this weekend a few lone calls for an Alabama/LSU rematch for the national championship started trickling out over Twitter, and with the massive hype surrounding the impending showdown (and the fact both have a bye to extend the hype for an extra week) there will likely be even more as the season wears on.
To go ahead and get it out of the way, that's stupid. If a team doesn't win its own conference (much less it's own division), it should have no claim on a national title or even the opportunity to play for one. That should just be pure common sense, but don't kid yourselves that common sense plays a big role in the decision making that goes into selecting the teams that will play for the national title.
We live in an age where the sports media's "narrative" has a huge influence on shaping the polls and perception of individual teams, and their primary aim isn't getting the two most "deserving" teams on the field in New Orleans at the end of the season, but the two teams that will draw the most interest and eyeballs to their TV sets.
Further, the BCS has already shown a willingness to allow a non-conference champion participant to play in the BCS Title Game. In 2003, the Oklahoma Sooners finished the regular season with a perfect record before choking away the Big 12 title game 35-7 against Kansas State. The computers still valued them higher than the Pac-10's champion, Southern Cal, and a controversy ensued when the AP decided to proclaim the Trojans their national champion after a Rose Bowl win over Michigan, while Nick Saban's LSU team claimed the BCS Title against OU. Its not outside the realm of possibility for a similar scenario to occur this season if the SEC is the only league to produce an undefeated conference champion.
For all that, let me say that I don't think we are in any imminent danger of seeing a rematch of Alabama/LSU in New Orleans. There are still several undefeated contenders on the board with a good chance to run the table and leap a one loss Bama or LSU. The computers love Oklahoma State (who moved up to #3 in this week's BCS poll), who can continue to boost their resume with opportunities against both Kansas State and Oklahoma, while Boise State, Clemson, and Stanford are all also undefeated and ranked in the top ten. To quote Al Davis, just win, and for the most part this should shake itself out with the only possibility of controversy coming from undefeated teams on the outside looking in. But those teams aren't necessarily a lock to go undefeated.
Oklahoma State does have to run the table against the likes of Kansas State, the Texas Tech team that just ended OU's perfect season, and Oklahoma to close the regular season, though they don't have to worry about a conference title game. Stanford still has to face both Oregon and Southern Cal during the regular season plus possibly play a conference championship game for the first time.
Meanwhile, Clemson has an easier road ahead of them with only a waning Georgia Tech and the ACC Champoinship Game standing in their way, and Boise has the easiest road of all with only a down year edition of TCU to stop them. Boise and Clemson are certainly in the best position (ranked #s 4 and 5 this week, respectively) to run the table and position themselves for a shot at the BCS Title at the end of the season, but they are so far behind in the computer rankings that if Oklahoma State and Stanford fall (especially if they do so in an upset very late in the season) they may not leap the loser of LSU/Alabama.
As funny as it sounds considering the mid-major conference's lack of access to the title game over the past few seasons, the BCS actually needs Boise State to go undefeated as a safety measure in case the rest of the BCS conferences fail to produce an undefeated champion. An LSU/Alabama rematch might be the kind of chaos and narrative that drives ratings and talking heads, but it would almost certainly be the worst thing that could happen for the BCS if it wants to continue on without any serious push for a college football playoff. Crowning a team that wasn't it's own conference champion as the BCS Champion with one loss conference champions sitting on the outside looking in would certainly amplify calls for a playoff, but having an undefeated Boise make the title game against an undefeated SEC team gives them an excuse to quell any talk of a playoff and its "access" to the mid-majors (everyone's been calling for Boise to put up or shut up, so here's their chance!) and a "David vs Goliath" narrative to sell for over a month.
However it all shakes out, though, rest assured ESPN and the pundit class will figure out a way to spin controversy, and there's no time like the present for we as fans to prepare ourselves for the inevitable controversy and calls for a LSU/Alabama rematch should any of these teams lose over the next few weeks and hope its not a distraction for the team.