One and done: Alabama should not get another shot at LSU
By John Feinstein,
Our long national hypemare is over.
The game of several centuries — the last one; this one and, no doubt, the next one, was finally played on Saturday night.
Here’s what we know after the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime victory in Bryant-Denny Stadium: LSU has a better kicking game than Alabama. Both teams have fabulous defenses. Neither team has a quarterback who is going to bring back memories of Joe Namath or Bert Jones or, for that matter, John Huarte. That’s a trivia note: Huarte won the Heisman Trophy in 1964; Namath did not, but that was back when Notre Dame still played big-time football.
There will be much debate about this game. The apologists, who were already lining up Sunday morning, are going to insist it was a great game because there were two great defenses on the field and there’s nothing wrong with that. Others will go the other way: The game was awful. The punters were on the field more than the quarterbacks.
The truth, as is often the case, lies in the middle: These might be the two best college football teams in the country. Certainly, LSU is clear-cut as the No. 1 team. The Tigers have now beaten six ranked teams and walked into Tuscaloosa and won. Anybody out there still think Les Miles can’t coach?
Here’s another question that’s going to come up and, in this case, the truth does not lie somewhere in the middle: Should Alabama get another shot at LSU in the national championship game if both teams win out? The answer is no.
Alabama had its shot at LSU on its home field and lost. Even if LSU loses at home to Arkansas in three weeks, it will still be ahead of Alabama in the pecking order. Both teams would have one loss and LSU would have the head-to-head win — on the road.
There are four unbeaten teams left now other than LSU: Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State and Houston. Oklahoma State will play in the championship game if it wins out because it will have to beat Oklahoma to do so. Stanford will have to beat Oregon on Saturday to have a chance to be the last BCS team standing if the Cowboys falter. OSU certainly didn’t look unbeatable against Kansas State Saturday, when it had to break a 45-45 tie late to win, 52-45.
If LSU, Oklahoma State and Stanford win out, the Stanford people will be screaming (no doubt in Latin) on Dec. 4, when they’re being congratulated on going to the Rose Bowl to play a Big Ten team that won’t be ranked in the top 10.
But here’s the real nightmare scenario for the boys of the Bogus Championship Series: Oregon beats Stanford; Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State. That’s when the BCS apologists will start screaming for an LSU-Alabama rematch.
Is Boise State better than Alabama? Who knows? If college football were a real sport with a real playoff system or tournament, we might get a chance to find out. But you can bet all the TV money in the world that if you were to acquire Nick Saban’s cellphone records you wouldn’t ever find a call to the 208 area code to set up a home-and-home with Boise State.
That’s why the money-huggers who argue that Boise’s schedule doesn’t make it worthy of playing for the championship have no argument at all. All of the so-called big-time schools who have played Boise in recent years — Georgia, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma come to mind — have lost. In fact, Boise’s only two losses in the last four years were to TCU and Nevada, who also aren’t worthy of playing for anything meaningful, according to the money men.
Just to be safe, the BCS bullies are lining up their guns to take aim at the Broncos in case two of the three big-bucks unbeatens should falter. Heck, the BCS would rather see Maryland play in the national title game than Boise, and the Terrapins aren’t even going to be eligible for the Military Bowl this season.
Those who run that bowl game are also sticking pins into an SMU doll, because if Navy doesn’t beat the Mustangs this Saturday it won’t have any chance to be bowl eligible either, and the RFK Stadium bowl game will be stuck with the ACC’s No. 9 team playing, in all likelihood, someone from the Mid-American Conference. With a 4:30 kickoff on a weekday (there is a federal law forbidding MAC teams from playing on Saturday) RFK may look like Byrd Stadium has the last couple of weeks.
That’s not a pretty sight.
Neither was Alabama-LSU. That doesn’t mean they aren’t very good football teams. But good teams can play an ugly game just as bad teams can play an entertaining one.
For more from the author, visit his blog at feinsteinonthebrink.com.