And lo the BCS has bestowed unto college football this essential match of two teams from the same division in the same conference, the first game between them already in the books, one of which is neither a division nor a conference champion. If LSU rolls back the Tide a second time, the Tigers — already boasting wins against three of the top six teams in this week's standings — will go down as one of the greatest champions in SEC and college football history. If Alabama wins, there's already a simmering movement to split the championship, ensuring LSU gets its just desserts via the Associated Press poll. (Here's guessing the Tigers would be slightly more receptive to that idea this time around.) But they're going to play this thing, and you're going to like it. At least where the BCS is concerned, we can always be certain about one thing: Every game counts. Some of them just count more than others
"Just look at NFL games. You play all your teams in your division twice. Nobody seems to think too much about those rematches. You always play teams in the playoffs that you played in the regular season. Sometimes the teams that play in the Super Bowl have played each other before and all those games play out differently. It is two great defensive teams no doubt but there was a lot of offensive production in the game but people weren't able to take advantage of the opportunities because of the good defense that was played. There were great plays made on both sides on defense so this could be a totally different type of game. I think there will be a lot of opportunities for the game to be completely different. It could have a completely different flavor than the first game did."
As the power-brokers in college football begin to plot how top-tier bowls will be set up in the future, the 2011 season is once more exposing the flaws in the current system. Oklahoma State and Alabama, two teams with perfectly good arguments to play for a national championship, wound up fighting over one spot, with subjective voters and mysterious computer ratings - the formulas of which are not even publicly known - doing the choosing. Alabama, with the nation's No. 1 defense, won out and will play for its second BCS crown in three years. Oklahoma State, with one of the most potent offenses in the country, gets its first BCS appearance as a consolation prize. "We wanted the opportunity to settle the debate that has gone all year about the offense in the Big 12 and the defense in the SEC,'' Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said on ESPN.
In Sunday’s final BCS standings, LSU became the first team with a perfect rating under the current system. And Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, said the gap between Alabama (.942) and Oklahoma State (.933) was the smallest ever between second- and third-place teams under the current BCS formula. As a result, college football will stage a sequel to the physical, defensive-oriented Nov. 5 game that included zero touchdowns, four missed field goals and four interceptions. "I don’t expect this game to be a rerun of the first game," Hancock said. "Of course, that first one was terrific and obviously drew a tremendous amount of interest around the country and a fabulous TV rating. . . . It will just be over the top. It is the best match."
Gundy was half-joking, but he suggested a friendly "scrimmage" between Oklahoma State and Alabama. "I'm sure Coach Saban would like to do that, too. He likes to play," Gundy said. "If somebody can Google halfway between here and Tuscaloosa, in a couple weeks, we could have a scrimmage. Let's have some fun."
Anyone waiting on Nick Saban to wade into the BCS Championship debate is going to have a long wait. "We are not going to apologize for being in the game," Saban said Sunday night after the University of Alabama's football banquet concluded. "Our players created this opportunity, and they deserve it. That's the system, and according to the system, we should be there."
Before we turn our attention to the postseason, a thought on the regular season. Specifically, LSU’s regular season. The Tigers may not be the best team of the BCS era — that’s for another day (if they win one more game). But it’s hard to argue that any team has ever put together a better regular season. That’s not only because of their record (14-0) or their ferocious defense or their resourcefulness. It’s also because of the teams the Tigers played, and conquered, along the way.
Still, let’s be clear and candid. If Oklahoma State were named "Ohio State," "Michigan," "USC," "Florida" or "Oklahoma" it would be making travel plans for New Orleans. What few of us want is to see a rematch to decide a national championship. It is simple logic in the best of the American spirit: You had your shot, you lost, now it’s someone else’s turn. So this year in particular underscored the flaws in a BCS system that seems to routinely exclude worthy challengers in the name of a less-than-fine part of Americana: Life’s unfair; get used to it.
BCS officials are considering paring down the system to just one championship game between the two best teams. If that happens, the other bowls would go back to the old way of doing business, meaning making deals with schools who travel well and would guarantee large television audiences, such as Virginia Tech and Michigan. The spin from BCS and bowl officials yesterday and last night, however, was predictable. The best two teams are playing for the title, and the other bowls are happy with their matchups. So be it.
As the analysts on the BCS selection show admitted, they just think Alabama is better. Several of them said they applied the eye test. Bama had a better loss, they said. They did not mention OSU's superior record against top 25 teams and against teams with .500 or better records. Apparently, every game doesn't really matter. "Like I said after the game (Saturday night), they (Bama) had their shot," said Gundy. "Give us ours."
Even Kirk Herbstreit, who works for the network that partners with the BCS to try to give it legitimacy, ripped the Sugar Bowl selections. "Virginia Tech could not have looked worse in the ACC championship game," Herbstreit said. "The BCS at-large selections have come down to which teams will fill the most hotel rooms. We can’t get Kellen Moore and Boise State into a BCS game?" No, we can’t. Because Boise State isn’t in a BCS conference and the only way the Broncos or any other very good team that isn’t from one of those conferences can even have a chance is to go undefeated. Once Houston lost to Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA championship game Saturday, the fate of the non-BCS conferences was sealed. TCU? No way. Southern Mississippi? Houston? Or, for that matter, Baylor, which has the most exciting player in the country in quarterback Robert Griffin III? The Bears are in a BCS conference but, as Herbstreit noted, they don’t "travel," like Virginia Tech or Michigan. Clemson, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all belong in what used to be the Peach Bowl. Let them alternate possessions. Of course, that won’t happen. The notion of college football picking a true national champion remains nothing more than a dream. Our long national nightmare continues.
"Rematch, right here in NOLA!" Ingram beamed. "I'll be on the sidelines with them." Asked for a prediction, Ingram didn't hesitate: "Roll Tide all day. If I said otherwise, you'd look at me like I was crazy." Harper, always eager to talk about his alma mater, produced a black notebook with the Alabama "A" emblazoned on it when the subject was broached while he was at the podium. "I"m definitely looking forward to the rematch," Harper said. "Hopefully, the Saints can continue winning games and we can get a bye week (in the playoffs). I'm looking forward to being back in the dome on Jan. 9."
Auburn coach Gene Chizik's ballot this week in the USA Today coaches' poll helped propel his team's top rival into the national championship game. Chizik voted undefeated LSU at No. 1, followed by Alabama and then Oklahoma State.
The last time a national title was decided by a rematch of a regular-season game was 1996, when Florida State beat Florida in its final regular-season game then drew the Gators again in the Sugar Bowl. Steve Spurrier's Gators beat Bobby Bowden's Seminoles 52-20 to win the national championship. Bowden wasn't happy to face Florida again. "If it's somebody you beat, you don't want to play them," Bowden said Sunday in a phone interview. "The team that won, it's just hard to get your boys as inspired as the other team can get inspired."
The Crimson Tide were never flashy on offense, but they were effective enough to churn out yards and points against opponents. But this team was always respected more for its defense. Alabama ended the season ranking first nationally in total defense (195.3 yards per game) and rushing defense (75), and opposing teams moved the ball just 3.4 yards per play. This was a group that was criticized last season for being too raw and young, but completely transformed in 2011.