After the votes were tabulated December 4, the sports world now knows LSU must defeat Alabama a second time January 9, 2012 to win the BCS national championship. When the Tigers nipped the Tide 9-6 in overtime November 5, some observers felt there was a chance for a rematch especially since Alabama only dropped to No. 3 in the BCS poll. Each week after November 5, all Stanford, Oklahoma State and Oregon had to do was to win their remaining games to receive a selection in the NCAA national championship game. But none of these teams could win all of their remaining games and Armageddon II became a reality Sunday night. Because Oklahoma State beat rival Oklahoma so convincingly in the latest installment of “Bedlam”, many voters had to decide which team to rank #2 in the BCS polls. It was amazing to watch and read some of the comments of college football pundits on how the final game of the season could overshadow the entire regular season. Some voters remember the final game of the season do not take into account the overall body of work during the season.
Alabama received the nod over Oklahoma State because many voters thought since mid-season Alabama and LSU were simply the two best teams in the nation. In one of the closest votes since the beginning of the BCS era (1998) the computers favored the Cowboys by the slimmest of margins .0200 points. However, the human voters representing the USA Today coaches poll and the Harris poll favored the Crimson Tide by .0217 and .0240 points leading to the rematch scheduled for January 9, 2012 in the Mercedes Super Dome in New Orleans. La. As flawed as the BCS system currently is, let’s examine why Alabama was the best choice.
OSU beat more ranked teams than Alabama – This stat is a little misleading. OSU defeated four teams in the final BCS standings – No. 8 Kansas State (10-2), No. 12 Baylor (9-3), No. 14 Oklahoma (9-3) and No. 24 Texas (7-5). By comparison, Alabama had three victories against teams in the final BCS standings, No. 6 Arkansas (10-2), No. 22 Penn State (9-3) and No. 25 Auburn (7-5). However, teams are not the same in November as they were in September. Teams who were beat up and not performing well mature and get healthy later in the season and vice versa. When Alabama beat Florida October 1, the Gators were 4-0, ranked No. 14 in the nation. The Tide beat the Gators 38-10 in Gainesville (one of the toughest venues in the nation).
Victory margin: Oklahoma State scored 592 points in 12 games an average of 49.33 points per game. OSU’s defense which came into the Oklahoma game ranked No. 107 (445.67 ypg) in the nation surrendered 310 points (nearly triple the number of points surrendered by Alabama this season) in 12 games an average of 25.8 points per game. The Cowboys had two close wins 30-29 over Texas A&M and 52-45 over Kansas State. Aggie coach Mike Sherman was fired at the end of the season for going 6-6 and losing to rival Texas 27-25. OSU beat their opposition by an average of 23.5 points per game.
Alabama scored 432 points this season in 12 games (an average of 36 points per game) and the Crimson Tide defense which is number one in the nation in seven categories only gave up 106 points (a nation leading 8.83 points per game). The Tide lead the nation in total defense 191.25 yards per game, rushing defense 74.92 yards per game and passing yardage 116.33 yards. Alabama beat their opposition by an average of 25 points per game compared to Oklahoma State’s 23.5 points per game. Besides the LSU loss, Alabama’s closest games were wins over Penn State 27-11 and Miss State 24-7. The Tide scored 34 points or more nine times this season.
Losses: Alabama: This is simply the biggest statistic in the Crimson Tide’s favor. Alabama lost to the number one team in the nation 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma State was a 27-point favorite over Iowa State and led 24-7 mid-way through the 3rd quarter. However, Cyclone freshmen quarterback Jared Barnett finished with 376 yards passing and 3 touchdowns to bring Iowa State back to tie the game in regulation and upset the Cowboys 37-31 in double overtime November 18. Iowa State finished the season 6-6.
Teams who did not win their conference should not play in the national championship game: The answer to this claim is to change the BCS rules. No rule in the BCS bylaws indicates if a team does not win it conference championship, it should not be eligible to play for the national championship. If that rule was in effect now and LSU (clearly the number one team in the nation) would have lost to Georgia, then the Tigers would not be playing in the BCS national championship game January 9.
SEC fatigue: Jealousy, envy and regional bias plays a big role in the voting for the Harris Interactive poll and USA Today Coaches poll. No question other regions in the nation are tired of seeing the SEC win five (about to be six) BCS national championships. But the BCS’s primary goal is to put the two best teams in the nation head-to-head. Those two teams are LSU and Alabama.
Fans don’t want to see another rematch and a low scoring 9-6 game: Cowboy coach Mike Gundy has accomplished a lot at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have been in the shadow of “big brother” Oklahoma for too long. Ironically, the last time the Cowboys beat the Sooners in 2002 Les Miles was the Oklahoma State coach. However, Mike Gundy’s “in the heat of the moment” comment immediately after the thrashing of Oklahoma 44-10, that fans would rather see a 39-36 offensive display rather than another 9-6 game was preposterous. First, Oklahoma State has not played a team this season anywhere near as physical as LSU or Alabama’s defense. The Cowboys have a very impressive offense, but the Big 12 does not grasp the concept of defense. The SEC has an incredible four teams in the top five of total defense: Alabama (1), LSU (2), Georgia (3), South Carolina (4) and even Florida (9). The Big 12 members ranked in total defense are: Texas (14), Missouri (61), Oklahoma (62), Texas A&M (66) and Oklahoma State (107). Too many fans now want to be entertained. They want to see 63-60 games similar to what the MAC conference plays weekly. Defense still wins championships and the SEC set the cornerstone for this years ago.
Gundy needs to review the scores of the past five BCS championship games. None of the losing teams scored more than 24 points. Gundy feels OSU would score 39 or 36 points against LSU. The Tigers allowed only 35 points …. for the entire month of November.
The sympathy vote: ABC commentator Brent Musburger implied toward the end of the Clemson/Virginia Tech game (and also former Ohio State running back and ESPN commentator Robert Smith on the BCS Selection Show) that Oklahoma State lost the game to Iowa State because the players and coaches were affected by the death of Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna. No question, their deaths (plus two other individuals in the plane crash) were very tragic. However, Alabama players, coaches and the Tuscaloosa community also had to deal with one of the most tragic days in history on April 27, 2011 when 52 people were killed by tornadoes. Carson Tinker’s (long snapper for the Tide) girlfriend was killed in the tornado. Alabama players also had to work through the grief of losing one of their own players, left tackle Aaron Douglas discovered dead of an apparent drug overdose May 11.
In conclusion, the winds of change are blowing in college football after the latest controversial poll. New commissioners and realignment are bringing a fresh mindset and much needed new ideas to college football. The current BCS system is in dire need of a “plus-one” game seeding the top four teams. Alabama officials and fans can’t be smug about being in the national title game. The Tide was one computer result away from being in Oklahoma State’s shoes. Still, there is evidence that the rematch between the Tide and Tigers is the best way to go this season.
Brett Beaird and Harold Bugg co-host the Boomo Bugg Show on WYTK 93.9 FM The Score weekdays from 12:00-2:00 pm and the Sportsbuzz on WZTV weekdays at 5:30 and 11:00 pm CT. Brett is also a free-lance writer for Tiderinsider.com and the Huntsville Times.