L.S.U. Loses, Wins the National Title
By Paul Myerberg // Jan 9, 2012
Leave it L.S.U. to factor heavily into another case of split-title drama. The Tigers were there the last time college football couldn’t sufficiently determine a national champion, back in early 2004, when L.S.U. won the battle but shared the spoils of war. Nick Saban was there, as he’ll be tonight, but Saban was then clad in Purple and Gold, not Crimson and White: then the coach at L.S.U., Saban led the Tigers to a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl — then the national championship game. Three days earlier, in the Rose Bowl, U.S.C. doubled up Michigan, 28-14, to end the season 12-1. What to do, what to do, what to do…
For many, the solution was simple. There’s no taking the B.C.S. title away from L.S.U., of course. The Tigers lost only once all year, to Florida — at home, amazingly, and to Ron Zook — in October, and capped the season in the most meaningful way possible: beating the Sooners, winning the B.C.S., lifting the Coaches’ Trophy.
But there was a voting bloc, a fairly large contingent of media voters, that was convinced that U.S.C. was the best team in the country. Perhaps this bloc wasn’t convinced heading into December, when then-undefeated Oklahoma was already being touted as one of the great teams in recent college football history; the Sooners’ loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game put those thoughts to bed.
Oklahoma’s disappointing loss to the Wildcats — the final high note of Bill Snyder’s first tenure — threw the B.C.S. into chaos. For the second time in three years, the system sent a non-conference champion into the title game; two years earlier, Nebraska met Miami (Fla.) without even winning its own division, let alone the Big 12 as a whole.
The call was for L.S.U. to meet U.S.C.: there was no call for L.S.U. to be bypassed at all, but the general consensus was that the Tigers should meet the Trojans — or the Trojans should meet the Tigers, depending on your point of view — rather than take on the Sooners, then reeling from its conference title game loss.
So what happened? L.S.U. wins the B.C.S.; U.S.C. takes home the top spot in the final A.P. poll. Everybody wins, right? That’s even if the nature of the split title ran contrary to the entire argument behind the formation of the B.C.S., which, in case that’s been forgotten, was to crown one clear, undisputed national champion.
Welcome to fun and games with the B.C.S., part two. Once again, L.S.U.’s in the mix. As is Saban. And the SEC. Once again, The A.P. poll would recognize a team many believe to be – heading into the game – the nation’s best team. Unlike in early 2004, that team would be L.S.U., the undefeated team from the SEC.
So here’s the argument, boiled down to two points:
1. L.S.U. has already beat Alabama. Therefore, if Alabama does win tonight, giving L.S.U. the top spot in The A.P. recognizes the fact that the Tigers and the Tide split their two-game series.
2. L.S.U. has achieved enough already. There are no undefeated teams left; if Alabama wins, L.S.U. will join a long list of one-loss national title contenders. The argument states that the Tigers, having already beat Oregon, West Virginia and Alabama during the regular season, would warrant one-half of the national title even with a loss to the Tide tonight.
Win or lose, L.S.U. gets to add some hardware to its trophy room. In this scenario, the Tigers are already playing with house money. The pressure is on Alabama, which has no such safety net: the Tide need to win to merely take home the B.C.S., and would need to put the hammer down to be the unanimous national champion, based on the above argument.
There’s nothing wrong with the argument. In fact, here’s me getting behind it. Why? I’ll give you another two reasons why I couldn’t care less:
1. If splitting rewards the SEC, then go for it. The SEC rules; all hail the SEC. If splitting the two titles gives the league a little more recognition, I’m fine with that.
2. The A.P. poll is meaningless. It’s less than meaningless. The B.C.S. determines the national champion, for better or worse – in theory, at least, the B.C.S. decides the best team in the country. In 2004, the A.P., of its own volition, removed its poll from the B.C.S. rankings. The poll means nothing. It’s a beauty contest.
The poll is so meaningless it should go to the team that tries the hardest regardless of final record. Or the team with the nicest uniforms. Or the one that exhibits the best sportsmanship – I’d like to see that, actually. The A.P. poll is primarily made up of qualified, knowledgeable voters; it’s also made up of voters like Craig James, which needs no further explanation.
So give the title to L.S.U. should the Tigers lose to Alabama tonight. Why not? Here’s a nice silver lining: perhaps the fact that the B.C.S. might fail to decide the 2011 national champion is the system’s death knell. How better to prove the system’s failures than by muddying its significance with The A.P. poll, a ranking that’s even less meaningful in the big picture?
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