Alabama Slammer: How the BCS Can “Get It Right” with a Rematch
I have sat on the issue of a potential rematch between LSU and Alabama in the BCS game for some time. But a recent article on the website of the “four letter” coerced me to go ahead and write about it.
Let me clear up front: I am an Alabama fan, but I also do not like the concept of a rematch. But also, if you have read anything that I have written on this or other websites then you will know that I am very anti-bowl and anti-BCS.
Nevertheless, given the system that is in play at the top tier of college football, if a rematch were to occur then I would at least “accept” it because that is the system that we are left with due to greed and ignorance in the sport. Because, as the BCS attempted to promote via The State, the BCS works “most of the time.” However, many are bitching about the BCS being “unfair” and how the system is flawed because of what appears to be the inevitable rematch between two SEC teams. But, the system is “working” the way it is supposed to work — matching the two best teams.
Let’s keep in mind the following — the BCS did not suddenly become broken once it became evident that the SEC would hold a monopoly on the BCS game. Remember the snubbing of Miami and Washington in 2000; Nebraska getting into the BCS game in 2001 despite not winning the Big 12 (and snubbing of Oregon); Oklahoma in the BCS game as loser of the Big 12 in 2003; undefeated Auburn left out in 2004; Boise State in 2006 and the avoidance of a Michigan rematch with Ohio State; undefeated Utah in 2008 being ignored; and undefeated TCU in 2010 not even being considered. If none of those have pissed you off, then why is this potential all-SEC final now reason for anger?
Well, along comes some cat named Rick Reilly, who attempts to dismiss the potential rematch with a very poorly argue diatribe against Alabama and the SEC. In full disclosure, I have never knowingly read anything by Reilly and do not really know who this person is (the name sounds familiar, but I cannot place). But, for someone who writes for ESPN.com, I would expect better output.
In an article titled “Been There, Done That,” Reilly attempts to deconstruct the rematch while also taking potshots at the SEC. For someone who is a national sports writer, this piece should be an embarrassment for its asinine and illogical arguments. That, or he is attempting to piss people off simply for the hits (desperation?).
Let’s start with the assertion that the rematch would be boring. I have already admitted that the November game was not exciting and that the hype — driven by Reilly’s employer more than Alabama or LSU — was overblown. But, to suggest that the rematch would boring is ignorant. Recall that the 2010 BCS game (Alabama v. Texas) was supposed to be low scoring (37-21) and the 2011 BCS game (Auburn v. Oregon) was supposed to be a shootout (22-19).
There seems to be a lack of appreciation of defensive football. That is evident in the groaning over a potential rematch. But, “boring” defensive football does not mean there should not be a rematch (and to Reilly’s credit he does not claim that there should not be a rematch because of boredom). However, it is interesting that Reilly references boring games when he apparently follows golf, an incredibly boring game to watch.
Anyway, Reilly next delves into his diatribe, railing against the motto of the BCS — “every game counts” (more on this below) — before ripping the rematch. He brings up the fair question about what to call Alabama if they do win the rematch, despite being 1-1 against LSU and not winning their division.
Well, how about call Alabama “BCS Champion”? Is Reilly so clueless about the BCS process that he does not recognize that the winner of the BCS game is the BCS champion? It does not matter what happened in the regular season, but what happens in the post-season. It is why no one questions sixth-seeded Green Bay’s Super Bowl title last season or the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series as the wild card. Yes, those are playoffs but that is also the system that the NFL and Major League Baseball have chosen in order to determine its champion. The top tier of college football has chosen to use the BCS — this is what we have to deal with. If Reilly is really upset at the fact that a team that did not win its conference could play in the BCS game, then he should have been upset when Nebraska and Oklahoma were pulling this crap. The anger should have existed before this current situation.
And yes, Rick Perry can withdraw from the Republican nomination for presidency and still end up running against President Obama. See Charlie Crist v. Marco Rubio in Florida for one of the state’s Senate seats as an example. It is always possible, Reilly.
Anyway, the point is that the BCS game is what decides the BCS champion and not a game in early November. Regardless of Alabama being 1-1 against LSU, Alabama would have won the game that matter. I mean, did the Washington Capitals argue that they should have advance to the Eastern Conference finals rather than the Tampa Bay Lightning because the Caps won the regular season series (4-2)? Exactly!
The winner of the BCS game is the BCS champion, regardless of if it is from a rematch or not. If Oklahoma State were to beat LSU, the Cowboys are the BCS champion even though LSU would have a better winning percentage.
Next, Reilly lays out other potential BCS match-ups that he rather see, stating that he’d prefer “any team that has not already blown its chance.” Really? Oklahoma State was in prime position to play for the BCS title and blew their chance by falling to a near-four touchdown underdog in Iowa State! The Cyclones, for god’s sake!!!! That the Cowboys only fell two spots after losing to ISU should be questioned just as much as Alabama only falling one spot following the LSU loss…but at least Alabama’s loss was to the top-ranked team in the FBS!
Stanford? Blew their chance by losing their only true test of the season versus Oregon. Same for Boise State as the Broncos blew their only late season test against TCU. Virginia Tech was blown out by Clemson. Like Alabama, all three of these teams lost at home.
So, if we are going to talk about teams that have not blown their chance, then the discussion should be on Houston. Where is Reilly’s argument for the Cougars? Nowhere!
Anyway, let’s dig deeper in the teams that allegedly have not blown their chances.
only loss was in double overtime to Iowa State the same week an OSU school plane crashed, killing two women’s basketball coaches
Really? He is going to “blame” the Cowboys’ loss on that tragic accident while also ignoring the tragedy that Alabama and the city of Tuscaloosa faced in April?! The Cowboys did not lose because of that accident — the offense played very well — but because their defense gave up nearly 600 yards! That’s been the story of the season and it caught up to OK-State. End of story!
Reilly’s argument that the Cowboys have beaten more BCS Top 25 teams than Alabama is a sound one (Reilly claims four to two, but technically four to three since Alabama beat Auburn knocking them out of the Top 25…however, if the Cowboys defeat Oklahoma then it would be five to three).
However, it is more about the loss rather than the wins. Alabama lost to LSU; Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. Talk BCS Top 25 all you want, but losing to Iowa State is not the same as losing to LSU and thus cannot simply be dismissed. If we are going to discuss the strength of wins, then we should also discuss the strength of losses.
Stanford. Really? How illogical can Reilly be to offer up Stanford as a better choice than Alabama!? Reilly argued that Alabama does not deserve a rematch because they would not “even have won their SEC division, much less their conference.” Um, hello!? Stanford would also not “even have won their … division, much less their conference.” How can the argument work against Alabama, but not even be used against Stanford?
In the same paragraph, Reilly anoints Stanford QB Andrew Luck the “shoo-in Heisman winner.” Really? The same Luck who played his worst game of the season in his biggest game of the season? That Luck struggled against the Oregon defense makes Reilly’s suggestion that the Cardinal’s QB would have a field day against LSU laughable.
The counter to the Stanford suggestion (not a conference winner) can be applied to Boise State. Although, it is funny that Reilly mentions the Broncos’ victory over Georgia while ignoring the weakness of the Bulldogs’ SEC schedule.
Virginia Tech. So, a rematch is “bonkers” in part because if the loser of the first game wins the rematch, then questions abound concerning the legitimate winner, yeah? Well, what about Virginia Tech, which is facing Clemson in a rematch in the ACC Championship game? In fact, there are two rematches in conference title games (Michigan State v. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game; a rematch of the earlier thriller won by MSU).
If Virginia Tech wins the ACC championship game, then is Reilly going to question the legitimacy of that title? Of course not because that would destroy his argument. Nevertheless, Reilly is arguing for the winner of a rematch to play in the BCS title game to avoid a rematch. Huh!?
The only team that Reilly does not promote is Houston. If any team has a legitimate argument, it should be Kevin Sumlin’s Cougars. They have not blown their chance. Remember that Reilly ridiculed the BCS and its “Every Game Counts” motto. And yet, if that is the case, then the only team that should face LSU (assuming the Tigers take care of Georgia) is Houston.
But not a peep about it! Why? Well, because it would not support Reilly’s argument about strength of scheduling that he uses with Oklahoma State. Now, I am not claiming that Houston should be in the BCS game, but if Reilly wants to discuss what is “fair” and giving other teams a shot, then Houston is perhaps more deserving than any other team.
And this gets to Reilly’s last point — “fair.” He closes his article with the following:
Two-thirds of the rankings are based on humans. Voters, be fair.
Be fair? Hmm, that is interesting because now Reilly is politicking for pollsters to go against their job.
I contact USA Today about how pollsters are supposed to approach filling out their ballots. This was their response:
Voters are instructed to vote for the best 25 teams in order, based on their performance
So, the best teams “based on performance.” That is what the pollsters are tasked to do. Ergo, if pollsters feel that LSU is number one and Alabama is number two based on “performance,” then why does Reilly have a problem with it?
Instead of accepting the results and the work of the pollsters, Reilly is using his platform to lobby these pollsters to alter their task and rank not the best 25 teams in order, but rank them so that Alabama is not number two! How is that “fair”?
Reilly’s anger is misplaced. It is not the fault of Alabama or the SEC that the system is set up to allow for a rematch. It is also not the Tide’s fault that Oklahoma State cannot beat a 6-5 Iowa State team. Maybe Reilly is afraid to criticize the BCS since he works for ESPN, but he’d be much better served focusing his anger at that broken system rather than an Alabama team that is one of the two best teams in the country.
I’ve noted before that no matter how broken the BCS is, it does what it sets out to do — place the top two teams in their poll in the BCS game. So what if it turns out to be a rematch?
For an “11-time National Sportswriter of the Year,” I am surprised at the illogical arguments that Reilly lays out. If the goal of the BCS is to pit the two best teams against one another, it should not matter if it is a rematch.
But, at least Reilly and I can agree on one thing: perhaps a rematch will finally bring much needed reform to the BCS.