ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: Jordan Jefferson #9 of the LSU Tigers rushes upfield against the Georgia Bulldogs during the 2011 SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Well, here it is. Discussion and ballot below:
I know that this week, all of the attention is going to be on slots two through four. I think that all three of the teams with one loss (Alabama, Oklahoma State, and Stanford) have an argument for why they should be playing LSU in the BCS title game. At the end of the day, however, it comes down to this for me: Oklahoma State had arguably the best slate of wins but had, by far, the least defensible loss, to 6-6/3-6 Iowa State. Alabama had a good slate of wins, but by far the most defensible loss, an overtime loss to the clear-cut number one team. Stanford had a solid slate of wins and a fairly defensible loss, to Oregon, but lost very badly to the Ducks, unlike Alabama and OSU, each of whom lost in overtime. I'm no SEC apologist, and I was sickened, to the point of having to change the channel, by the pro-SEC shilling on CBS on Saturday. And I'm no fan of rematches, either. Still, when it comes down to it, of the three one-loss major teams, Alabama has the best excuse for not being undefeated.
As I said above, I'm not a fan of rematches, subjectively, but I think that is a factor that should be used to tip the scales in a very close call, not something to be avoided at all costs. For instance, had Oklahoma State's one loss come to, say, Kansas State or Baylor in overtime, then I might be inclined to avoid the rematch. Had Stanford been more competitive in its home loss to Oregon (53-30), then I might be inclined to give the Cardinal the nod over both Alabama and Okie State. The problem with the "no rematches rule" as applied by many voters in this situation is that it works to penalize a team for having a high quality loss. If the BCS wants to avoid rematches, then the BCS can do so by imposing a rule prohibiting regular season rematches in its bowls, or in the championship game only. The BCS hasn't done that, so my ballot reflects the rules as they exist now.
Consider me also unimpressed by the "they couldn't even win their own division!" argument. Alabama couldn't win its division because, alone among the other contenders, they had the misfortune of sharing their division with the undisputed number one team. Sure, I would rather see two conference champions playing for the title. But the BCS championship should be concerned with matching the top two teams in the country, even if there is an odd scenario where one of those teams wasn't a conference or division champ. For those advancing this line, how far would you take it? Imagine that every other game in college football had played out as it has, except a) Oklahoma State lost to Arizona and b) Stanford lost to Notre Dame (I am choosing non-conference games to avoid messing with conference standings in this hypothetical). In that case, Alabama would be the only major program with only one loss. Would you dip into the two-loss teams in your scenario? If not, then it's not really a universally applicable rule.
So, there it is. I'm far from enthused about the BCS title game, and I almost surely won't stay up late to watch it, but the two teams that are there are the teams that deserve to be there.