But Oklahoma State’s unexpected 44-10 rout of Oklahoma on Saturday night created some uncertainty and stirred debate over whether a once-beaten Crimson Tide team, which did not win its division, deserved a title game berth over the once-beaten Cowboys.
In Sunday’s final BCS standings, LSU became the first team with a perfect rating under the current system. And Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, said the gap between Alabama (.942) and Oklahoma State (.933) was the smallest ever between second- and third-place teams under the current BCS formula. As a result, college football will stage a sequel to the physical, defensive-oriented Nov. 5 game that included zero touchdowns, four missed field goals and four interceptions.
“I don’t expect this game to be a rerun of the first game,” Hancock said. “Of course, that first one was terrific and obviously drew a tremendous amount of interest around the country and a fabulous TV rating. . . . It will just be over the top. It is the best match.”
If Alabama beats LSU, the schools will have split games this season. When asked whether he was concerned about being perceived as the clear champion if that should occur, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said: “Has the Super Bowl champ ever lost to a team in the regular season and then beat that team in the playoffs? That’s what it is, the national championship game.”
Instead of playing for the national title, Oklahoma State (11-1) will meet Stanford (11-1) in the Fiesta Bowl. In the Orange Bowl, ACC champion Clemson (10-3) will play Big East champion West Virginia (9-3). Pacific-12 champion Oregon (11-2) will play Big Ten champion Wisconsin (11-2) in the Rose Bowl.
And in a Sugar Bowl matchup of two at-large selections, a resurgent Michigan team, which finished the regular season 10-2, will play Virginia Tech, which finished 11th in the BCS ratings. The Sugar Bowl chose the Wolverines and Hokies over at-large teams such as Boise State (11-1), rated seventh in the BCS, and Kansas State (10-2), rated eighth.
Paul Hoolahan, the chief executive of the Sugar Bowl, said the fact that the Hokies’ fan base traveled well to previous Sugar Bowls was “extremely important in the whole decision-making process.”
But the most intrigue Sunday centered on which team should meet LSU (13-0) for the national title. The Tigers have beaten eight ranked opponents by an average of 22 points and likely would have earned a title game berth even if they had not beaten Georgia in Saturday’s SEC championship.
The debate over LSU’s opponent, for some, boiled down to what one values most: quality losses or more quality victories.