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P.S.R. Op-Ed

L.S.U. Loses, Wins the National Title

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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  1. SixWinSeason says:

    The biggest argument against a playoff has been that it would render the regular season meaningless. Now the BCS is doing the same.

  2. flynnbw says:

    The AP means just as much as the BCS as far as I’m concerned. It’s just that the AP doesn’t try to use computers and pseudo-science to pretend its rankings aren’t subjective.

    Anyway, I’m sold. AP to LSU regardless of the outcome tonight.

  3. Dave says:

    Just imagine if ‘Bama had gone to the Sugar Bowl to face, say, Stanford. LSU would have had the potential to have beaten the Rose, Orange, AND Sugar Bowl champs, and the Big-12 champ (Ok. State) too over the course of the year. If that wouldn’t have been the finest body of work in the history of college ball, I don’t know what is.

    One more reason to hate the BCS.

  4. OP, Homer Much? says:

    So, LSU fan much? It was clear from the last time these two met that Alabama was the better team, though in the end the score didn’t reflect that. LSU could do nothing to move the ball, and ‘Bama marched. Some aspects of football come down to simple luck and the Tide gave away an easy win with turnovers. I don’t care for either of these teams, but tonight Alabama is going to walk away the sole victor.

    Paul: L.S.U. fan? Been called a lot of things, but never that. Just arguing that The A.P. poll is meaningless. And that folks who are laying out that welcome mat to L.S.U., win or lose, aren’t giving the Tigers much of a present. Alabama’s the national champ if it wins tonight. No argument about that.

  5. Dave says:

    OP, in what universe did ‘Bama prove that it was the better team in November? Where exactly did they “march” to – the LSU 35 yard line? Arguing that the “better” team actually lost is the worst alibi in all of sports. We play games to find out who the better team is – it’s the one with the higher number next to its name when the clock hits zero.

    ‘Bama had a clear path to an UNDISPUTED national title – all they had to do was beat LSU at home – and they didn’t do it. Sure, if they blow out LSU tonight (in what is essentially an LSU home game) it will make up for it, but if they win a squeaker in overtime, LSU has as good an argument as you will ever see for an AP title. Remember, the BCS poll that put ‘Bama in this game – a poll in which SABAN got a vote, but GUNDY DID NOT – is just as arbitrary as the AP poll.

    This is still college football, right? If you don’t go undefeated, you lose your right to complain about not being the undisputed anything.

  6. Dwayne says:

    Who cares about the SEC West championship? Irrelevant, I say. The Alamo bowl provided more entertainment. The Rose and Fiesta more total football as well as higher caliber teams. I agree that LSU is deservingly in the right place, but Alabama shouldn’t be in a BCS bowl. They couldn’t even win their division.

    How would a Stanford-Oregon game look instead if they were both undefeated except for Stanford’s loss to Oregon? Would anyone outside of the West Coast care? Probably not.

    I expect the ratings to this game to be so low that future BCS contracts will be financially punitive to such arrangements in the future. The fans will show that divisional championship games are not commercially viable as national championship games.

  7. DMK says:

    The BCS got it right by matching up the teams who most people thought were the best throughout year.

    How does a team make it to the title game?
    (1) Go undefeated against top competition. (LSU)
    (2) Lose just one and hope there are not two or more undefeated teams in the end. (Several teams)
    (3) Have that one loss be more like an overtime defeat to the undisputed #1 team than an overtime defeat to a .500 team. (Alabama)


    If Bama wins by 4 or more, there should be no debate whatsoever.

    LSU would join the many, many unbelievably good teams who failed to win a championship.

    It has happened, happens, and will happen in every sport at every level of competition.

    What’s the big confusion all of a sudden?

  8. BobJ says:

    The winner of tonight’s game is the national champion, and that is not the same thing as being the best team in the country. We already know which team that is, and the result of tonight’s game won’t change it.

  9. DMK says:

    I’d be happy with a national championship.

    So would have the 2001 Mariners, 2005 Trojans, 2007 Patriots and many, many others.

  10. Andrew says:

    I would have to agree. Whoever wins the game this evening is national champion. They got there, its a whole new game and the winner is the winner, regardless of how they got there. But unless there is a blowout, there is no doubt LSU is the best team in the country. My eye starts twitching when i look at what Oregon has done this year, what Virginia tech has done this year, and then finally at what LSU has done. Absolutely remarkable. Best team in decades should they win tonight.

  11. Any time you lose a game, you would love a rematch! So Alabama gets the rematch which is ridiculously unfair. To rob another team the chance to beat LSU is crazy. I think, just like the pros have changed the overtime rules, the BCS should change their rules to never, under any circumstances, allow rematches. There’s really no way to justify them.

  12. Nathan says:

    So if Alabama wins…the trophy will say National Champs of everything but the SEC.

  13. Andrew says:

    I think occasionally rematches would be fine if they naturally occurred in a play-off system. Nudge nudge BCS nudge.

  14. Dave says:

    Well, so much for that. ‘Bama = undisputed national champs. BCS, AP, heck, gve ‘em the WBA belt too while you’re at it.

    Would love to see that defense against a real offense, though – like Ok. State. Plus-1, anyone?

  15. OP, Homer Much? says:

    As I stated they would yesterday, Alabama walked with an easy win and practically an IDENTICAL replay of the first game; the difference being the absence of two turnovers that gifted LSU their only field position of the day and led directly to points on the board (in November).

    Week three of this season I called Alabama vs. Oklahoma State in the BCS championship game, and after seeing Stanford fall I think that was as solid a pick as I’ve ever made. I think Oklahoma State would have carved up LSU. Maybe they would have done the same to ‘Bama, but the Tide would have had a better shot at scoring back than the Tigers.

    For what it’s worth, I’m a Wolverine.

  16. DMK says:

    The ability of high-octane offenses from hinterland conferences to carve up top-notch SEC defenses will just have keep residing where it always has: in The Imagination.

    Over the last decade, when such match-ups have actually occurred, SEC defenses have proven themselves again and again.

    Over the last decade, when such match-ups were imaginary, High-Octane has put up 70 points on the SEC.

    Weird, huh?

  17. OP, Homer Much? says:

    Here’s a couple of embarrassing losses by SEC flagship defenses to “hinterland” teams, just in bowls in the last 5 years. This doesn’t include any of the losses by LSU/Auburn/Bama/Georgia to ACC or bad Big 10 teams (in bowls).

    As a matter of fact, other than Boise/Georgia I can’t think of a single recent-memory game in which an SEC team HAS actually beaten a “high powered” offense…?

    These were losses to LOW POWERED offenses, lol.

    2011 Outback Bowl – Michigan State 33 | Georgia 30
    2010 Liberty Bowl – UCF 10 | Georgia 6
    2009 Sugar Bowl – Utah 31 | Alabama 17
    2009 PapaJohns.com – Connecticut 20 | South Carolina 7
    2006 Sugar Bowl – West Virginia 38 | Georgia 35

    Weird, huh?

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