Dec. 3, 2011
When the sun rises on Sunday, the football focus won’t be on the NFL. It will be on college football, more specifically on which team will face LSU for the 2011 BCS Championship.
Many Alabama fans will still be up at that point, having never slept, while waiting out a BCS selection formula that no one understands. It’s a formula so nebulous and confusing that even the BCS experts hired by the major networks are left to throw darts on Twitter and guess whether an Alabama win over Auburn two weeks ago means more than an Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma last night.
Many voters say the choice is difficult. In reality, it should not be.
And the BCS itself tells us why.
There has been some disconnection among pundits between what the Bowl Championship Series was built to do and what they want to see it do. The BCS poll was established to ensure the two best teams in the country met each other in the final game of the season to play for a national title.
It was not established to pick the two best conference champions, two undefeated teams or any other criteria other than the two best teams.
The disconnect comes over the word “best.” To some, if there was any case in which two teams met before the final game of the year, “best” has already been settled. Such is the case in their minds this year, as Alabama has already played LSU and lost 9-6 in overtime. To some, this means Alabama is not only not the best, it is somehow disqualified from being second-best and getting a shot at redemption.
Those same pundits offer instead the choices of Oklahoma State, which lost to Iowa State, and Stanford, which lost to Oregon. If we’re going to get technical about this, Stanford lost to Oregon, which lost to both LSU and Southern California. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State, which in turn lost to six other teams on its schedule by an average of 20.7 points per game. As one Twitterer mused Saturday night, Alabama would have been better off losing to Mississippi State rather than LSU.
Alabama’s sin was losing at home in a game that went to overtime. Like Oklahoma State, a missed field goal put the game there. Unlike Oklahoma State, Alabama didn’t go on to lose to a 6-6 team in said overtime.
There has also been much made about the emotional condition of the Oklahoma State team the night it lost to Iowa State, as a plane carrying two OSU women’s basketball team coaches crashed, killing them. While a tragedy, those same pundits seem to have overlooked a tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa earlier in the year and killed the girlfriend of an Alabama football player, along with dozens more people, some of them players’ friends. Then there was the death of OL Aaron Douglas just weeks later. The BCS Championship Game shouldn’t be about comparing tragedies, but if you’re going to talk about one, talk about them all.
Instead, this process needs to be about what the BCS intended in the first place – a setting of No. 1 versus No. 2, with those two teams being the two best teams in the country. And those two teams are Alabama and LSU.
LSU wins its place at the table by being undefeated in the toughest conference in the country. Alabama gets there by having virtually the same season as LSU. There is no comparing the balanced offensive-defensive resumes of LSU and Alabama with that of Oklahoma State, which was ranked 107th in total defense coming into its game against Oklahoma.
The reason this discussion is even in play to begin with is over something observers have termed “SEC fatigue,” which is codespeak for “I wish the SEC wasn’t the best football conference in the country and I’m going to vote my personal preference because of it and in a desperate hope to change reality.”
This is a concept foreign to the other sports. It’s a given in college basketball that the ACC and Big East are tops most years, and the Big Ten is typically right there in the discussion. SEC, PAC-12 and Big 12 teams know the score come tournament time, when the selection committee loads up on traditional powers at the expense of mid-majors and also-rans from the other large conferences.
Do the non-power conferences deserve to endure the backside of preferential treatment? Perhaps not, but as Clint Eastwood said in “Unforgiven,” deserve’s got nothing to do with it. And the reason is, the ACC and Big East have continually proven that they are justified in the treatment that they get.
The reason, of course, is simple. The selection committee is tasked with taking the best teams possible for its tournament. It isn’t about which team hasn’t been there in awhile, which team suffered the most egregious tragedy or whether the teams selected won their respective conferences. It doesn’t matter in any sport, for that matter. The NFL doesn’t cancel a Super Bowl just because its participants met in the regular season.
This was what the BCS was built to avoid. It was built to take the yeah-buts out of the process and deliver, to the fans, the top two teams in the country.
If that’s what the BCS is about, the participants will be Alabama and LSU. Period.
If it’s anyone else, voters will not only have failed to deliver on their responsibilities, they will have thumbed their collective noses at the entire system they were entrusted to uphold in the first place.
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