November 27, 2011

Alabama blew it; Oklahoma State deserves a shot

The BCS needs to heed its own motto and shun the rematch.

Every game counts.

Right. And the dog ate my homework.

Yet, that simple, smug assertion of self-aggrandizement sits atop both the Facebook page and the Twitter account of -- who else? -- the Bowl Championship Series, the BCS.

Few times has a catchphrase ever rung so hollow.

The BCS giveth. The BCS taketh away.

You need only ask the local guys, the TCU Horned Frogs of the 2008-2010 college football seasons, to tell you that.

But this time the BCS' flawed rewards system has a chance to set a dangerous precedent.

On the night of Nov. 5, the Alabama Crimson Tide dropped a 9-6 overtime decision to LSU. The game was played on the Tide's home field in Tuscaloosa.

Every game counts, the BCS says.

Yet, here the BCS voters are, seemingly ready to reward the losers of that Nov. 5 game and, in effect, penalize the winners.

Alabama's regular season is over. Its 11-1 record, for now, has earned the Tide second place in both the USA Today/Coaches and Harris polls. If the Tide doesn't ebb in next Sunday's BCS standings, it will play for the national championship on Jan. 9.

And No. 1 LSU?

Its penalty for winning the Southeastern Conference's western division is another football game -- Saturday against Georgia in Atlanta for the SEC title.

The 12-0 Tigers have already defeated the then-No. 3 team in the polls (Oregon), the No. 2 team (Alabama) and last week's No. 3 (Arkansas). Only one of those victories was in Baton Rouge.

But now the BCS' bogus system of meritocracy is telling LSU, in effect, that the Nov. 5 victory didn't matter. Do it again.

Just as bad, it could be telling Oklahoma State that winning the Big 12 Conference championship -- which the Cowboys will attempt to do this weekend against Oklahoma -- is a lesser accomplishment than finishing second in a league that, top to bottom, may or may not be as good as this year's Big 12.

A brief history lesson is in order.

Since 2004, when the BCS altered its rankings formula, the two teams that have played for the national championship have always been the two top teams in the system's two human polls.

The computer rankings have not mattered. If they did, computer No. 2-rated Texas might have gone to the title game in the 2008 season (Florida and Oklahoma played instead). Cincinnati, also ranked No. 2 in the computer polls, might have replaced the Longhorns in 2009.

It's the voters -- the coaches and the Harris people -- who have the power to determine the championship game teams.

The aesthetic question is compelling enough. Do college football fans really want to see a Sumo-like rematch between LSU and Alabama?

Of course they do -- in Alabama. Nick Saban and the Tide openly campaigned after the first game that they wanted a second chance at knocking off undefeated LSU.

But the Tide already had its chance. At home, even.

And now the BCS wants to tell LSU that it has to beat Alabama again?

Bowl game rematches are infrequent in college football, and for good reason. Coaches abhor them. The first-game loser only has to win the second game.

In the 2006 season, No. 1 Ohio State and then-No. 2 Michigan played a 42-39 classic, won by the Buckeyes. The Big Ten clamor immediately went up for a BCS title game rematch.

But when UCLA stunned No. 2 Southern Cal, No. 4 Florida and coach Urban Meyer began arguing that Michigan had already had its chance.

The voters listened. The Gators leapfrogged into the final No. 2 spot and then swamped Ohio State 41-14 for the national championship.

This season's argument is not all that different. The '06 Wolverines were a second-place team. Florida won the SEC, beating Arkansas for the league title while Michigan sat idly at home.

Throughout the season, the six BCS computer rankings have maintained that, top to bottom, the Big 12 was a better league this year than the SEC.

If it wins its Bedlam Bowl in Stillwater on Saturday, Oklahoma State will have the same record as Alabama and, I would argue, quality victories over Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor.

Voters also need to consider that OSU's lone blemish is an overtime loss at Iowa State that was played on the same night that the school learned it had been struck by another plane crash tragedy.

If anyone deserves the sympathy of BCS voters, it is Oklahoma State, not Urban Meyer in 2006. And certainly not Alabama, which didn't even win its division.

Every game counts, the BCS has been telling us.

The voters need to heed that motto and prove it.

Your turn, Oklahoma State.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

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