Congratulations, BCS. You’ve really outdone yourself this time.
For years, your wacky system of polls, computer rankings and shameless public lobbying by coaches looking for a title shot. There has often been controversy, but there has always been a general consensus that one on-the-bubble team would go and the other team (or teams) just had to chalk it up to tough luck.
Not this time.
When the entirety of the regular season had been played and all the dust had settled, there was a clear No. 1 in LSU and then there was a choice between Alabama and Oklahoma State to see who would battle it out with the Tigers for a national title.
In years past, the BCS always had a tiny bit of leeway to play with in these sticky situations. With common opponents rarely being a factor, the ambiguity of perceived strength of schedule or conference superiority has often been cited as a sort of tiebreaker.
Five different times in the 14 year history of the BCS, a team has gone through its regular season unbeaten only to be shut out of the championship game. In these instances, teams with losses have slipped in under the pretense of playing better competition. That excuse has stuck each time before, but the BCS has finally swung and missed.
Looking at the respective resumes of Oklahoma State and Alabama, there are just too many things going in the Cowboys’ favor for the Crimson Tide to have been given the nod.
The majority of ranking services rate the Big XII — home to Oklahoma State — as the toughest conference in the nation this season. On top of that the computer polls — those things that use data and stats to evaluate teams instead of leaving it up to bias-prone humans — put the Cowboys ahead in all but two of the polls used in the BCS formula.
You can keep digging deeper into the scores and stats. Everything just keeps turning up for Oklahoma State.
— The Cowboys went 7-0 against teams that finished in the top 30 of the final BCS standings. The Tide went just 3-1.
— Among bowl-eligible teams (programs with at least six wins), Alabama has six wins compared to the Cowboys’ nine.
— Oklahoma State won its conference — the toughest in the nation — and did so by defeating an arch rival and fellow Top-10 team this weekend. Alabama spent Saturday on the couch, as it wasn’t even able to clinch its division, much less the conference.
— Alabama took on FBS powerhouses like Kent State and North Texas and scheduled an FCS opponent in Georgia Southern. Oklahoma State played nothing but FBS opponents and also traveled to a non-BCS conference opponent — something that no Alabama team has done since 2003.
Then, of course, there is the elephant in the room. There are no common opponents to compare Alabama and Oklahoma State, but when looking ahead to LSU in the championship game, fans around the country have already seen one of the possible matchups play out.
November 5 was circled before anyone even strapped on the pads this season as the game of the year and LSU and Alabama held serve through the first half of their schedule to set up the showdown. Then — with the entire nation watching and the No. 1 ranking on the line — Alabama laid an egg. In their own stadium, the Tide missed three field goals and failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities before bowing out in a loss.
And now the BCS is telling us that sending Alabama into LSU’s backyard is the best bet for a good title game.
No matter the outcome, it’s a lose-lose situation for the BCS — and for all of the fans. If Alabama wins, what has been proven? LSU fans will be ready for a winner-take-all third game and Oklahoma State will still claim that it deserved to have its shot. If Alabama wins and the Cowboys take care of business in the Fiesta Bowl, you’ll end up with a pair of teams with identical records. One team will have a resume boasting wins against better competition throughout the season. It will have beaten eight teams ranked in the final BCS standings and will be the team favored by almost every formula that computers can come up with.
And — in typical BCS fashion — that team will have missed out on the national title.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.