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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Once is enough for Alabama-LSU

Loser of the epic showdown shouldn't get another chance in the national title game. It wouldn't be fair to other conferences.

November 02, 2011|Chris Dufresne

No. 1 and No. 2 are still two breathless hyperventilation days away from kicking off Saturday's game of any century in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and people are already talking about a rematch.

It's as though winning five consecutive national championships affords the Southeastern Conference certain inalienable rights and the rest of us need to "hold this truth to be self-evident."

Hold your rematch musket powder.

God forbid Verne Lundquist should be allowed to christen "Oh My Gosh I" before having to worry about "Oh My Gosh II (I know what you did last November)."

Whether Louisiana State and Alabama should play again for the title Jan. 9 in New Orleans is already a drive-time topic and Gannett News Service poll question.

Nobody has bothered to even ponder the score of Saturday's epic in Alabama. What if a team wins by 25?

The retort to the rematch question should be: absolutely not.

This isn't Ali-Frazier; this is goofy college football. You can't play two unless there's the prospect of a rubber match.

Some rematches, like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, don't work.

Let the winner of Saturday's game be exalted with the highest honor and let the vanquished cry in their grits.

It matters not that the SEC is the best conference or whether the Alabama-LSU loser might be the nation's second-best team.

You SEC fanatics can't have it both ways.

Many railed against a rematch in 2006 after No. 1 Ohio State won a 42-39 thriller over No. 2 Michigan in Columbus. Remember?

Even after Michigan lost, the Bowl Championship Series standings entering the final weekend were Ohio State, USC, Michigan and Florida.

UCLA's shocking 13-9 upset over USC threw the title match into a tizzy. It made standings sense that Michigan, which had not played since losing to Ohio State, might move back to No. 2 in the final BCS standings.

The SEC mounted a counterattack in support of one-loss Florida. Gators Coach Urban Meyer would have mowed every Harris voter's lawn that weekend to sway the electorate.

"Florida belongs," Meyer said. "The other team [Michigan] had a shot. We went 12 and 1 and I think the country wants to see the Southeastern Conference against a Big Ten champion."

Meyer may have been shameless, but he was correct.

Voters didn't want to see a rematch and, by the narrowest of margins — a BCS average of .9445 to .9344 — Florida slipped by Michigan into the No. 2 spot.

Thank goodness.

Florida ended up beating Ohio State in the title game while Michigan was roughed up by USC in the Rose Bowl.

It would be the first of five straight BCS titles for the SEC.

Why would logic now be different than it was then?

Alabama will get its chance to beat LSU on Saturday, and LSU will get its chance to beat Alabama. Neither team should get a second chance.

The loser of Saturday's game, in the rematch scenario, would not have even won its division of the SEC. And although there is no BCS rule against a non-champion earning a title berth, there was outrage when Nebraska got to the 2001 title game without winning the Big 12 North and calls for inquiry in 2003 when Oklahoma ended up No. 1 in the BCS standings despite being shellacked by Kansas State in the Big 12 title game.

In a flawed, beauty pageant sport with no playoff, there is no room for second chances.

It's better to get as many different looks as you can at the national-title contenders.

Part of the postseason intrigue is seeing how rival conferences fare against one another. Auburn versus Oregon last year was more than a BCS title game, it was SEC versus Pac-10.

Even Gary Danielson, who will be providing analysis alongside Lundquist on Saturday's CBS broadcast, understands why Alabama and LSU should play only once this season.

"Why have conferences?" he said this week on a conference call. "Why not just let everybody be independent? Because if conferences don't have consequences and conference championships don't have consequences, why are we doing this?

"It's not fair to the team that wins this game to have to play the other team again. No rematch for me."

Danielson understands this opinion may not go over well in SEC land — but it comes with the territory. "In this league," Danielson said he has learned, "you can be 100% right and 50% of the people will hate you."

If multiple schools finish undefeated this season — there are six entering this weekend's play — splitting LSU and Alabama actually makes more entertainment and competitive sense.

It's especially true this year because the BCS title game is being played in New Orleans, which will also host the Sugar Bowl.

Imagine a first game pairing 12-0 Boise State against one-loss Alabama or LSU followed by undefeated Oklahoma State against undefeated Alabama or LSU?

Any undefeated team other than Houston should get a shot at this Saturday's winner before Saturday's loser does.

Understand there are scenarios in which Alabama and LSU might have to play again — Stanford, Boise State and Oklahoma State all finishing with one loss.

If that happens, well, it happens.

The biggest potential political powder keg would be the No. 2 spot coming down to Saturday's loser versus undefeated Boise State. Although you could argue the merits of the SEC West runner-up being more strength-of-schedule worthy, Boise State versus the undefeated SEC champion is the game America would want to see.

You say outrageous?

Just remember what Urban Meyer said about not wanting Ohio State-Michigan again in 2006.

Just substitute "LSU" or "Alabama" in for "Michigan," right?

Michigan had its shot.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/dufresnelatimes

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