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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

In the BCS standings, close doesn't count

Alabama edges Oklahoma State in Bowl Championship Series standings for the right to play Louisiana State in the national title game. Is this rematch the right call?

December 04, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Photo: Running back Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and Alabama will get another shot at LSU in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9.
Photo: Running back Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )

This year's Bowl Championship Series motto: "Thought you really had a chance, did you?"

Every game "sort of" counted. The BCS worked in Alabama, but outside Tuscaloosa there's ongoing discussion that it needs to be tweaked into an incinerator.

Oklahoma State fell short in pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in formula-calculation history.

Too bad close doesn't count in the BCS.

They're cheering in Dixie and crying a river in Stillwater because Louisiana State and Alabama are playing Jan. 9 for the national title in New Orleans.

It's LSU-Alabama (Part Deux).

"It sort of is what it is," stone-faced Alabama Coach Nick Saban said on ESPN of the system that delivered his team to the title game.

LSU won the first game, 9-6, meaning we're possibly looking at another Battle of New Orleans to end the War of 18-12.

The Southeastern Conference, the beast with the loudest voice, is assured of winning its sixth straight BCS title and losing its first.

In the end, the BCS could only make Oklahoma State fans hope and Alabama fans sweat.

Outside of a few nervous hours, as computers churned and voters pondered, nothing changed.

Alabama entered, and exited, the weekend at No. 2.

All that's left is the autopsy. Alabama finished at .9419 to Oklahoma State's .9333.

"No. 3 Oklahoma State made a real run at the top this weekend," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said in a statement. "This year the difference between number two and number three was the closest ever under our existing rankings formula."

Yippee!

The BCS, like a pickpocket, almost got away clean. Had Oklahoma State not lost in double overtime at Iowa State, or Stanford not lost at home to Oregon, we'd be sitting here with two undefeated teams playing for an undisputed national title. Boise State, at 12-0, might have earned a shot against Louisiana State.

The BCS' best defense, a good one, is that the teams that were left out have only themselves to blame.

Also, Alabama finished second in the three people polls that matter: USA Today, Harris and Associated Press.

Was a rematch between LSU and Alabama the right call?

Not in my opinion, especially because there was a viable option involving a quality conference champion.

It is reflective of a sport's shamelessness that the SEC, five years after it argued vehemently against an Ohio State-Michigan rematch, argued in favor of a rematch this time.

Don't blame the wacky BCS computers, though, if you didn't like Sunday's result — the computers had Oklahoma State at No. 2

In 2004, the BCS altered the formula to give more weight to the judges with eyeballs.

In other words, BCS voters in the USA Today and Harris Interactive indexes could have prevented LSU-Alabama II if they didn't want a rematch.

But not enough of them did.

Enough voters sized up LSU and Alabama and decided they were the best two teams.

Flawed systems produce flawed results.

Oklahoma State has a right to be upset. The pairing of Oklahoma State's offense against LSU's stellar defense has more universal appeal than a replay of a Nov. 5 game that produced zero touchdowns.

Billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens threatened an investigation if Oklahoma State didn't get to the title game — good luck with that.

Also, if you're Oklahoma State's coach, you can't say you'd vote Alabama No. 2 on Wednesday and cry bloody murder Saturday.

This wasn't a conspiracy — it was convoluted BCS kookiness as usual.

Got a problem with the BCS?

Get in a very long line. The BCS, in its 14-year history, is no more crooked or correct than it was in 2000, when Florida State beat out Miami even though Miami was No. 2 in both polls and beat Florida State.

Oregon's then-coach, Mike Bellotti, deemed the BCS "a cancer" in 2001 when his Ducks finished No. 2 in both polls and No. 4 in the final standings.

You want outrage? USC finished No.1 in both polls in 2003 and didn't make the title game.

The BCS is always at its worst when it affects your bowl plans.

The only cheerful news for BCS bashers is that the fundamentally flawed system, despite being absurdly entertaining, may have run its course.

Commissioners will meet next spring to discuss the format for the next BCS contract, which expires after the 2013 season.

Any plausible suggestion short of an eight- or 16-team playoff will be considered.

Commissioners could revisit the seeded "plus-one" model that was rejected a few years ago. That would have involved a mini-playoff featuring the top four teams in the final BCS standings.

Even that model, though, would have left Boise State out of this year's mix.

A better compromise would be melding the current BCS with an unseeded format in which all the bowls would go back to their traditional ties.

After the bowl games, you would use the BCS standings to determine No. 1 and No. 2 and play one extra game.

In the unseeded format, every BCS bowl would have meaning and extend the national title discussion.

In the unseeded format, Oklahoma State would get another game to make its case in the battle against Alabama. And Alabama would get another chance to prove it was the worthy choice.

Every plan has pros and cons.

You might be saying anything has to be better than this.

But if you think this year was flawed, well, consider it might be worse next year.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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