A Bowl Championship Series system that uses the slogan “Every Game Counts” is looking at an upcoming weekend in which none of the conference title games, including the Southeastern Conference championship, is likely to count for much in the national title race.
Even if top-ranked Louisiana State loses the SEC championship game to 12th-ranked Georgia on Saturday, LSU likely will draw a BCS title game rematch with Alabama. On Nov. 5, the Tigers defeated host Alabama in overtime, 9-6, in the much-anticipated meeting in Tuscaloosa. And there appears little that any of the nation’s other once-beaten teams, including Oklahoma State, Stanford and Virginia Tech, can do to derail the BCS title game hopes of Alabama, whose regular season is complete.
As expected, LSU, the nation’s lone unbeaten team from a BCS conference, and Alabama, whose only loss came against the Tigers, were first and second, respectively, in the latest BCS ratings released Sunday night.
A considerable gap exists in the ratings between Alabama and third-place Oklahoma State.
The top two teams in the final BCS ratings will play for the national title in New Orleans on Jan. 9. The final rankings will be unveiled on Sunday.
“I think everyone knows that we are the two best teams,” Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner said after his team’s 42-14 victory over Auburn on Saturday. “Both are great teams with good defenses.”
Both SEC West foes comfortably handled potentially treacherous situations this weekend. LSU (12-0) overcame an early 14-0 deficit to throttle then-No. 3 Arkansas, 41-17, on Friday. The victory by Alabama (11-1) avenged last season’s painful defeat to Auburn.
With its regular season complete, Alabama is unlikely to be leapfrogged by any other one-loss team. In an odd twist, by not winning the SEC West, the Crimson Tide will not have another opportunity to lose this weekend in the conference championship. When asked this weekend about a berth in the BCS title game, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “I think they deserve it.”
As for LSU, it may remain first, and is unlikely to fall below second, in the final BCS ratings even with a loss to Georgia because its overall body of work is particularly impressive. In addition to pounding Arkansas, LSU also passed two sizable early season out-of-conference tests: a season-opening 40-27 victory over Pacific-12 title game participant Oregon in Texas and a 47-21 victory at Big East title hopeful West Virginia on Sept. 24.
One team with slim hopes to break up the SEC rematch is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys get a high-profile game against Oklahoma at home Saturday. But the game figured to carry more ramifications a few weeks ago, before the Cowboys (10-1) squandered a 17-point lead and lost at Iowa State. The Cowboys’ problem is that they rank behind Stanford and Virginia Tech in the coaches’ poll and the Harris poll, which combine to account for two-thirds of the BCS ratings.
As for the other contenders, neither Stanford, whose lone loss came against Oregon, nor Virginia Tech, whose only defeat came Oct. 1 against Clemson, figure to possess enough quality victories to leapfrog Alabama or LSU.
Virginia Tech (11-1) will play Clemson (9-3) in Saturday’s ACC championship game. The problem for the Hokies, who are fifth in the ratings, is their standing in the six computer ratings that account for one-third of the BCS computations. The Hokies are no higher than eighth in any of them.
Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said during his ACC title game teleconference that for the past several years he has been a proponent of plus-one model, which essentially would feature two national semifinal games followed by a matchup between the nation’s best two teams.
“I am really a plus-one guy,” Beamer said. “I really believe if we could get it down to the four teams and two games — those four play and then you have a championship game after that. . . . That, to me, we’d have our best solution to this whole thing if we get down to four teams.”
Staff writer Mark Giannotto, in Blacksburg, Va., contributed to this report.